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Lions Roar : September 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2011 62 unnatural, and awkward. We have to keep thinking about what we are doing and what we should do next. But as we get more experience, it is as if our body and reflexes automatically know how to go about it. Deliberately trying to cultivate kindness and compassion can feel forced and even hypocritical. It means doing things we do not necessarily feel like doing. But that is the point. Instead of waiting to feel kind, we should go ahead and act kind any- way. We should pretend. One way to work with this practice is to try to do one kind gesture each day, whether you feel like it or not. It can be something as small as picking up a sock or putting the slightly better morsel of food on your spouse’s plate rather than on your own. Mini-practices like that are great opportunities for really getting to know the pain of the habit of always looking out for No. 1. Spontaneous gestures of love or compassion surprise us from time to time. When you experi- ence these moments of spontaneous compassion, it is natural to want to hold onto them, but like thoughts in meditation, it is better simply to note them and let them go. BABY STEPS TO KINDNESS Mahayana Buddhism is all about stretching. What are we stretching out from? From our small- mindedness and self-absorption. To do so we need to engage in the world. But it is amazing how often we think we are out in the world interacting with others, while actually, we are robotically act- ing out our preconceived internal storyline. Our vision is clouded and we can only take in what feeds into our plot line. One way to begin to soften this kind of pattern is by exploring some basic steps that can lead us in the direction of kindness. Instead of trying to will ourselves to be kind—presto! all at once—we can create an atmosphere congenial to the devel- opment of loving-kindness. The following are five small steps you can practice that may be helpful in this regard: Settle Down There has to be a here to be a there, and a connec- tion between the two. So the first step is to slow down and let your mind settle enough that you are able to drop from the heights of conceptuality back into your body, a simple form in space. Can you really feel present, in your body as it is, right where you are? Be in the Moment Now that you are more solidly somewhere, you can let yourself be more clearly sometime. When your thoughts drift from the past or the future, from True love in every moment praises God. Longing love brings a sorrow sweet to the pure. Seeking love belongs to itself alone. Understanding love gives itself equally to all. Enlightened love is mingled with the sadness of the world. But selfless love bears an effortless fruit, working so quietly even the body cannot say how it comes and goes. — M ECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG