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Lions Roar : January 2019
be upset, ignoring injustice and cruelty—these are a few manifestations of niceness. If we identify as women or as members of minority groups in this culture, we are often told to be nice when we feel angry, sad, or afraid. It can feel dangerous to do otherwise. In a way, niceness is a “near enemy” of kindness, in the same way that pity is the near enemy of com- passion. Being nice, like feeling pity, can contribute to causing harm. But being kind, on the other hand, is different in flavor and result. It is about knowing deeply that everyone, all together, shares in this human life, full of sorrows and joys. So, what is kindness, really? At its core, being kind is a demonstration of our interconnection, of our shared sorrows and joys. It is a practice in the same way that meditation is a practice. We vow to engage in a never-ending exploration of how to treat everyone we meet with respect and care. From this motivation, we can be warm and accepting of others, and direct and clear in our speech and behaviors. We can work to use words that truly express what we mean, without letting our own selfishness get in the way. MELISSA MYOZEN BLACKER, ROSHI, is abbot of Boundless Way Zen. She’s co -editor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan. As the Buddha says in the Dhammapada, we must all realize that “we’re here on the verge of perishing.” Everyone we know, including our- selves, will die. There is no time that kindness is not the proper response. Because the root of kindness is recognition of our shared human experience of sickness, aging, loss, and death, our motivation for being kind to everyone we meet becomes clearer. How can we find a way to be kind to everyone we meet? Know that kindness is sometimes soft and sometimes bold in its appearance. It’s a way of meeting others directly, without avoiding what is difficult. Being kind demands strength and cour- age. It can take the form of standing up for what we believe, being firm, setting good boundaries, and saying no. There is no set of rules for being kind. Each encounter with ourselves and others demands that we be awake to our interconnection in joy and sor- row. Our responses, thoughts, speech, and actions all come from that awareness. We learn, in our practice of kindness, to honor this challenging jour- ney from birth to death that we are all traveling. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 55