Welcome to the first story in my series “Making It Count: 7 Weeks of Reflection”. In this series, I reflect and seek inner growth based on weekly writing prompts.
As I said in yesterday’s post, while it’s based on the Jewish custom of “counting the omer”, this is going to be very much secular and widely relatable. Most, if not all, of the Jewish content will be in the writing prompt itself.
That said, here’s this week’s question/writing prompt:
Chesed — kindness and the absence of boundaries
What does it mean to show kindness to the earth and all its inhabitants? The first week of the omer is Pesach. It’s a time of celebration. We count with love, not with heaviness. Pesach is chag ha’aviv, the festival of spring. Use this moment of spring to reconnect with a place that you love, and be inspired — “hiddur mitzvah” — to start to beautify our world…
“Pesach” is the Hebrew word for the holiday of “Passover”.
Warning: This is mostly stream-of-consciousness writing + an edit for spelling and grammar. Other stories will be polished and thought out. However, my usual writing process includes lots of research and over-analysis. If I’m posting to Medium daily, I don’t want my life consumed by it. That doesn’t mean it won’t be edited — I don’t hit “publish” or “send” on any writing without checking it with Grammarly — but I’m sauntering along the path of least resistance.
Find compassion within
“Chesed” — guttural “ch”, like you’re trying to clear phlegm — tends to be translated as “kindness” or “loving kindness”. When I googled the word, I saw, “the attribute of grace, benevolence, or compassion”. The word benevolence comes up a lot in definitions, but I really connect with the words grace and compassion. I’m empathetic and compassionate. Sometimes my empathy seems like a hindrance. I much prefer to see the world through a lens of compassion, love and kindness, rather than hostility or hate or fear. I act with love. I think with love. I connect with love. When people do vile things, I try to find even a grain of compassion within me. Sometimes I have to reach hard for it. My default is, “[Person] must have a mental illness. Mental illness is worthy of compassion.”
I feel that focusing on kindness keeps me from going to a dark place. I believe what Yoda said:
Loving with humility
Saturday was the first day of the first week. Specifically, today is Day 5. That would make the daily reflection about humility within the context of loving- kindness.
Grace and compassion and loving-kindness through the lens of humility.
My thoughts: Love for the sake of love, not ego.
In the late 90s while working in a coffee shop, I found the following on a box of tea:
Loving for the sake of being loved is human but to for the sake of loving is angelic. -Alphonse de Lamartine (French poet b. 1790, d. 1869)
I cut the quote out of the box and pinned it up (camera phones didn’t exist yet). The fact that I remember that quote after 20 years shows its effect on me. I’ve tried to live my life angelically, although I do see that it’s hypocritical that this guiding belief was born partly from my ego.
In loving relationships, our egos often interject. We do this with our parents, our friends and our spouses. We seem to especially do it with our parents and spouses. We have this need to be right, to be loved, to be needed. I think that our ego believes that our heart — the emotional heart — is a weakling. (Or would, if it were its own person with a brain and an ego of its own, but allow me to personify the ego here to make a point, okay?)
We are often unable to forgive. Our egos cause rifts. They cause us to lose sight of love. They make us forget about compassion. They cause us to act in fear. We fear losing control. We fear losing safety.
Healing our fear
How do we heal that? By loving ourselves, by honoring our feelings and by remembering our love for others. Honoring our feelings means to love them. Maybe we ask our feelings where they came from and what they’re there to achieve. “Why do I feel a need to be correct at this moment?” “Are you trying to protect me?” “What are you trying to protect me from?” Why do I fear that I’m lacking control? Thank you, feelings, but I have it from here.”
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.
Fear leads to the dark side. Fuck that. I’d rather love, wouldn’t you?
(And yes, I often do swear while talking about things such as love. Sometimes I end my meditation sessions with, “Namaste, motherfucker.”)
Beautify the world
Use this moment of spring to reconnect with a place that you love, and be inspired….to start to beautify our world…
How can I beautify the world today, this week or this month?
Today I will pick up trash that I see on the ground. By doing so, I’ll show compassion for the earth and for my fellow city residents. The ravine that I often walk in resembles the one in the photo above.
This weekend is the Green Living Show in Toronto. The Green Living Show is North America’s largest consumer show dedicated to simple solutions for leading a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. I’ve been going every year for several years. I’ll go (via public transit), donate e-waste and see what’s new. I’ll only take samples of things that I’m interested in. I won’t buy anything I don’t need.
Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day, with Community Cleanup Days all weekend. I know that Earth Day happens in the U.S. and Canada, but I don’t know if other countries participate. Whether or not I formally participate in one, I will be aware of my waste and pick up other people’s.
Do you have Community Cleanup Days in your city?
So in summary, I will practice
- Loving-kindness (compassion) toward myself and others, with humility and grace.
- Kindness to the earth
How about you?
Edit: Compassion for the win. I approached an infuriating situation with compassion today, and compassion won.