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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

Is it making you kinder? + How to ruin a good question.

Some years ago I read this line, and I don’t even remember where. But I’ve never forgotten it, and it strikes me as brilliant.

“Why ruin such a good question with an answer?” – Jewish proverb

I love open questions, and letting them percolate in my consciousness, never quite resolving themselves, but bringing light to aspects of life. I’m reminded of Rilke’s fantastic way of putting it:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

A few questions are here with me this morning as I sit down to write; good open questions that have been hanging around me for weeks (one) and years (the other.)

The first is the one that’s been having its way with me for several weeks, inspired by a passage I read in one of Seth Godin’s books.

 “A fundamentalist is a person who considers whether a fact is acceptable to his religion before he explores it. [While Seth says “religion” I can substitute many other words. Is this idea acceptable with my colleagues? With my teachers? In my community? How does it fit with what I’ve learned as a Feldenkrais practitioner, a yogini, a mama oriented toward attachment parenting, someone who has the ideas I carry about food and nutrition?]

As opposed to a curious person who explores first and then considers whether or not he wants to accept the ramifications.

A curious person embraces the tension between his religion [or worldview] and something new, wrestles with it and through it and then decides whether to embrace the new idea or reject it.

Curious is the key word. . .

It’s easy to underestimate how difficult it is for someone to become curious. For seven, ten or even fifteen years of school, you are required to not be curious. Over and over and over again, the curious are punished.” – Seth Godin

So my first questions are –

Am I curious?

When and how am I a fundamentalist instead?

Do I consider how and whether new information fits with my existing worldview before really letting it in?

Or do I let reality in, and allow my worldview to be changed in the process?

And the second question that is here this morning….

 (There’s Blake & baby Mesa)

I remember it well. We were down in Boulder, Utah, and I was sitting on my friend Blake’s grassy lawn and she and I were chatting about life. We’ve known each other through Buddhist circles for many years, and I respect her opinion greatly. Mesa was just a wee babe at the time, crawling around the lawn. I was sharing with Blake some of my struggles in my practice and with one of my teachers at the time – and she asked this great question.

“Just notice. Is it making you kinder?”

Is it making me kinder?!

Oh baby, my heart and belly and whole body got such a tuning fork kind of resonance with that. If I would’ve been standing I might’ve gone weak in the knees.

Such a good question.

So simple – why hadn’t I thought of it as my own litmus test?

Is it making me kinder?

And I had to honestly say, at that time – no, my practice was not making me kinder. Ouch.

It was making me more uptight (about needing to be more perfect somehow, about trying to follow my teacher’s instructions in some perfect way, though no matter what I did, it was never quite right.) Embarrassingly, I have to confess, I noticed I was becoming more judgmental. Quietly so, but it was judgment just the same. (I had inherited some wonky ideas from one of my teachers about the inferiority of other approaches to human unfolding.)

And actually, I noticed that I felt rather critical of myself much of the time. Not so kind.

Ouch.

That was painful to notice, but in that moment, everything began to change. My heart values came back to center.

And I keep living my way into the answer…

I love this question with regards to so many things. . .

My way of working with my body – Feldy, exercise, yoga, – is it making me kinder?

The work I do with clients – is it making me kinder?

My approach to my own unfolding through meditation and related practices – is it making me kinder?

In the years since Blake asked me that profound question, I can say with relief that YES!

I am becoming kinder, within and without.

And that feels SO good.

I recently resonated with this quote from neurologist Daniel Siegel. (Check out his “Healthy Mind Platter” and other resources.)

“Integration made visible is kindness and compassion, within and between.”

 (a self-portrait inspired by this post)

And does it really matter what path one walks to “integration made visible?” To kindness and compassion, within and between?

When we were with our teacher Reggie Ray in Boulder earlier this year, he said something compelling.

“There is absolutely no template for how you will become yourself, unfold your practice, and live your life. Because no one has ever done it before.”

Of course!

And that brings me full circle to a poem which relates to all this for me. A short little poem I adore and have carried in my heart for years. It nourishes me greatly.

This one is from Octavio Paz.

“No one behind, no one ahead.
The path the ancients cleared has closed.
And the other path, everyone’s path,
easy and wide, goes nowhere.
I am alone and find my way.”

I am alone, and find my way.

And how much easier that bushwhacking journey of walking my own path becomes when I keep curiosity and kindness alive as essential ingredients in my heart.

And now I’m wondering about you.

Are you curious?

Are you becoming kinder?

Are these compelling questions for you?

Wishing us all greater kindness – within and between – and the courage to find our own way.

With my dearest wishes,

Erin

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Shalan Hill June 7, 2013, 9:49 pm

    Hi Erin –

    I loved this article about “Does it make you kinder?” I used that as the mantra of a whole yoga class this week where we did every movement with the intent to purely listen, then ask if we could allow a little more kindness in the moment. It was a magnificent experience! Thanks for sharing!

    • Carl Rabke June 11, 2013, 4:10 pm

      Hi Shalan –
      I’m so delighted to hear that this wonderful question made its way into your teaching this week! Beautiful. Thanks for sharing! xoxo Erin

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