Today I’d like to share a story, something that happened to me yesterday that really touched me. I was working at my current job which is for a railway company, so I was at a railway station, handing out information and talking to customers. When I work I’m always trying to meditate, trying to stay with Loving Kindness (Mettā). My aim is to contribute something to the atmosphere there. I know that many people are stressed, so I like to be there, just relax and just smile at people. I want to uplift them and contribute something. At some point a homeless man came up to me. He had two shopping bags with his stuff and he looked a bit rugged. Then he asked me something, but I had difficulty understanding him. But then he mentioned the name of a shop and I pointed him towards it. He thanked me and went off. I didn’t think much of it. But about 10 minutes later he came back and again he stopped. He put down his bags and looked at me. He was smiling at me and said something I couldn’t understand, as he didn’t speak german. He seemed to be emotionally touched and he was giving me a thumbs up and signaling me that he wanted to appreciate something about what I was doing. I didn’t really understand at first. Then he put his hand into his pocket and took out a few coins, which he had probably gotten from begging. He signaled me and then gave them into my hand. He gave me the money. He was really happy doing that. He gestured me that I should buy something to eat with the money. I had the thought of not accepting it, because clearly he didn’t have much. But then I felt that I really wanted to accept that gift from him. So I bowed down and thanked him. That really touched me. On one side there is this guy who has nothing, who basically has two shopping bags with his stuff. Then on the other me, being dressed in somewhat new clothes and it’s clear that I’m not suffering from poverty. Yet still he was so generous and wanted to give me that money. That really touched me and made me think about the power of kindness. How much power there is in that. When we can stay happy with ourself and then be be compassionate and kind with other people as well. To be really kind to them and smile at them. Because when he first came up to me I was smiling at him, I was feeling a loving feeling and welcoming him. He probably often gets judged by people, and I wasn’t doing that. I was just seeing him and being kind and that really seems to have touched him. This is so beautiful. When we can touch people… Many of us live in a city and there is a wall between people. We don’t really communicate. If you can break through that wall and actually reach people and touch people’s heart. That’s a totally beautiful thing to do that. I had to cry a little bit after that incident. I just couldn’t believe it. Why would a homeless person who basically has nothing give me something – give me money. He probably didn’t have enough to eat and still he was doing that.
For many years I thought that kindness is something that we do to other people. “You should be kind, you should be nice.” But what I learned is that being kind is actually something that you feel in your own heart and you carry it with you all the time. If you’re angry or judgemental then likewise you are carrying that in your own heart. It is you who is going to feel the effect of that primarily. Other people are going to feel it for sure. But you are the first “victim” of your anger, of your judgement and your hatred. On the other hand you are also the first benefactor of your loving, kind and compassionate attitude that you’re having. This is so powerful. I remember back when I went to school. In the mornings I always was in a mode of resistance. I thought: “School is so bad. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t like my life.” I carried this resistance in my heart. So I was feeling it all the time. When school was over, I still felt the aftereffect of that resistance. Now, as I’m cultivating more positive states and thoughts, where I’m cultivating acceptance and loving-kindness, practicing Mettā meditation that’s so different to back then. I carry that attitude with me all the time. It’s a gift for me, and it’s also something I can share with other people. It’s so beautiful when you can see that you can pierce through that wall, that often seperates people, and that you can reach someone. That you can touch another person. Like this guy who is living on the street. Just touching him. I could see his eyes alight. His heart opened. And that is so beautiful when you can do that.
What is connected with this is the concept of Re-Actions. I view most of the things we are doing as reactions to our environment. Many people think they are “acting”, but most of the time we are reacting. Something happens, we interpret it in a certain way and then we respond in the way we usually respond in this situation. We respond with anger, maybe with judgement. Maybe we respond by tensing up thinking: “Oh, there’s a problem.” or “I did something wrong, I failed”. These are patterns and this is when we are reacting. We are acting once we choose our response. Once we choose a wholesome response that is actually good for us and others. This is where the power with meditation lies. To recognise which things actually are (or create) a problem for us and where we should react differently. So what we can do is:
- We can take a look at our thoughts that are coming up. These thoughts are triggered by external events or even just by other thoughts we are spinning in our head or as a response to a memory. Then we see if the thoughts which are coming up are actually negative and harmful, positive or neutral. We check for their nature. Then:
- We can notice our reactions to these thoughts. This reaction can also be negative and harmful, positive or neutral. Because when we have thoughts, we usually react to them with different thoughts. The external event that prompted the initial response might long be over. At the point of reaction is where we can really change our character. Reactions to things in the outside, to our own thoughts and to our emotions. These reactions we are doing are moving (in increasing strength) as thoughts, internal self talk, external talk and finally actions with our body (of course if we are really angry we might skip straight to insulting someone and might not notice the thought-component at all in that moment.
Now regarding the consequences: I like to view this like a music record or tilling a field. It’s like you’re recording all the time what you are doing. What reactions you are having and at the end of the day you are going to feel (hear) the sum total of what you recorded during the day. Then on the next days, months and years that follow. That’s the conditioning that you put into your mind. You’re either putting in good seeds or bad seeds. Now if you put in seeds of kindness, love and compassion that is going to give you a corresponding “harvest”. It’s going to make you feel completely different than before. It’s also going to affect other people. It also makes your mind function much better. If your mind is not stuck in tension, resistance and you’re not fighting with yourself or things in the outside. If you’re not doing things where you’d get a bad conscience then: Your mind is calm. You’re at peace and you can actually do something that you find meaningful with your life. You can contribute to other people’s lives or you can fulfill your own goals and what you want to do in your life.
I really wanted to share this story of that homeless person that came up to me and that started resonating with that loving kindness which I was beaming at him. Where I noticed his heart opening and that he even wanted to give something although he had so little… and that made him so happy. It really touched me. I want to encourage you to also pierce through this wall, to not be afraid to smile at people and be kind and to touch people. To really make a connection with people. You don’t have to talk much, it can be only a smile and a nice and loving attitude in your mind. That makes all the difference.