Living Well

My Religion is Kindness

Just after Mother’s Day, a friend (thanks, Annie) sent me the link to a video of a conversation between Krista Tippett, host of the public radio show “On Being”, and Sylvia Boorstein, Jewish-Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, mother and grandmother. I love “On Being”, but don’t get a chance to listen very often. So when I received the gift of some unexpected open time, I clicked on the link and settled in to watch and listen. It was a lovely, attentive, authentic conversation between two mothers about the experience of being a parent.

Tippett opened the conversation by saying the topic of this particular episode of her show is raising children. She had considered many possible guests – experts on child rearing, child development – but ultimately chose Boorstein – for her wisdom, and because Boorstein has lived this experience of parenthood.

558As the conversation unfolded, Boorstein regularly referred to the Buddha – the wisdom and deep, unattached presence that he taught – and how she has incorporated Buddhist practices into her life in order to stay grounded and clear on what is most important. While she is clearly a deep and experienced practitioner, she is also quick to laugh at herself and at the ways in which we, as humans, fall away from our best selves and need to return again and again to that quiet center of wisdom and grounding.

I found resonance in what they were saying in light of my own experience as a mother. But there were two things Boorstein said, in particular, that captured my attention.

Tippett invited conversation about the instinct of children to say ‘it’s not fair’ when they have an experience that feels unjust to them. Boorstein went on to talk about how we, as parents, can model this value and thus confirm it . . . or how we can model something different, something deeper, and thus nurture a broader, wider, kinder way of being. Boorstein recounted that when she had this ‘it’s not fair’ experience, she began to ask herself: In this moment, is it more important that I am pleased, or that I am able to care? Stunning. What a profound turn of heart.

The conversation continued, and then Boorstein offered a second nugget of wisdom that is still dwelling in me. She said, “a measuring stick of how clearly you’re thinking . . . is if you’re able to be kind.” She went on . . . “kindness subsumes tolerance, forgiveness, patience, graciousness.” Tippett followed . . . “It’s doable . . . and unlike those virtues that you have to cultivate . . . you can actually be kind even if you don’t feel compassion, etc.”

“You can actually be kind even if you don’t feel compassion . . . “ Boorstein went on to remind the listeners that, when asked what is his religion, the Dalai Lama always replies ‘my religion is kindness.’

What would it be like in our relationships, our families, our workplaces, communities, our world, if we held these two ideas as our grounding guides:

*In this moment, is it more important that I am pleased, or that I am able to care?

*My religion is kindness.

I’m going to write these on my heart, and pray that I can return to them again and again. What would it be like . . .


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