I’m not good at gentle. Once, when my older son was still in elementary school, I apologised to him. I’m sorry you don’t have a mother more like Dirk’s, I told him. You deserve a more nurturing mother – someone who is kinder & gentler.
That’s all right, Mom, he reassured me. You’ll go to the principal for us. And I would. And did, more than once.
For all its soft reputation, kindness is hard. Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama make it look so simple. Somehow you ‘be’ compassionate. On them, it looks like a soft grey pullover – warm, kind of comforting. I’m afraid I’m pricklier than that…
But I’d still like to be a soft grey sweater and not a prickly Shetland pullover. For me – Chinese Year of the Dragon: hot-headed and impulsive, stubborn and given to pride – love is hot and red. Fierce. Sung out loud and clear. Fire, not fog.
I’d like to be gentler. I’d like to be more nurturing, less antagonistic. Meet intolerance and injustice w/ kindness and compassion. Like Dirk’s mother, long ago, I’d like to be the woman who soothed broken hearts w/ cool hands, and knew just the right thing to say. But it’s harder than childbirth…
So I’m studying Beginner’s Heart. The great Zen Buddhist Shunryu Suzuki made ‘beginner’s mind’ famous in the West. It is, as Richard Baker notes, having ‘few preconceptions’ about Zen Buddhism, ‘being open to it,’ and ‘believing it can help’ our lives. Wikipedia (the source of quick windows into everything!) says it’s “having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”
I have no idea how to learn love. In that respect, I’m like the students who came to Suzuki and asked just to practice w/ him, so they could see Zen in action. Sometimes I study the great lovers of history: Jesus, the Buddha, St. Francis and Kuanyin and the poet Rumi. There are many more, who seemed able to love like rivers ~ freely, smoothly, w/ unbroken constancy. I love more like a flood, or a tidal wave. But most like a fire that sweeps ahead of itself. (See how even metaphors desert me?
I’m open to hearing how the rest of you manage compassion, kindness, gentleness and love. That’s what I hope to explore ~ how to cultivate Beginner’s Heart. How to learn to love ~