autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Advice from the heart – smile and speak kindly

Today’s advice from the heart:

Always keep a smiling face and a loving mind, and speak truthfully without malice.

I suppose you can imagine this one is sometimes difficult for me. I know quite well the wisdom of it, but between good ol’ monkey mind and the various emotional tides that comprise day-to-day humanity, this is often something over which I stumble.

Generally speaking, I am a remarkably jovial and happy person. Others tell me frequently that I put them at ease (context: friendship and shared time) and I find myself confident and keeper of more secrets than you might imagine. I know that, most times, I manage to be kind. I know as well that I smile much more often than I frown. But on the matter of consistently smiling and speaking kindly, no, I cannot say I always manage it. In fact, the two areas in which I seem to have the most difficulty with it are (a) at work and (b) when I feel abandoned, rejected, or taken advantage of/for granted.

It’s ego, of course. The contrast between the enlightened state of equanimity and what constitutes my usual existence is (cough) more than a little like an abyss apart, or like a few galaxies or universes away from one another. Heh. As you can see, I’m learning not to beat myself up quite so much for it. I mean, it’s a process, right? No one (well, no one with any compassion, kindness, or sense) would expect the movement from intellectual grasp and understanding to active and organic integration to be quick, let alone instant. I know I sure don’t.

I find that the most important aspect of managing this at all is figuring out how to take “myself” out of the equation. Literally. When I can catch ego, id, and emotions fast enough, I can remind myself they’re transient things that shouldn’t have any bearing in the moment. It’s not ignoring them, but acknowledging them and then refusing to allow them to get in the way of doing or being what I want to do and be – more helpful to others, less disruptive or destructive, and generally a more positive presence in the world.

I have an excellent example from just last night, but it is going to be difficult to share it without compromising someone else who deserves their privacy. I will try….

I have a good friend who lives in the downtown area. We are very strong friends and have skated the lines of trying to be more, but it hasn’t been a thing either of us can truly engage because there is a decided lack of that mystical thing called “Attraction”. It has become something of a wry amusement between us, with one or the other (sometimes both) sighing and telling each other, “If only ol’ croc brain would get interested, this could be an amazing and beautiful thing.”

The odd part is, sometimes, it really bothers me. As in hurts. Mostly because my own attraction to this person is being consistently allowed to float away (transient thing that it is, ultimately) every time it arrives, but also because when (on those rare occasions) it is present in me at the precise moment that he decides to mention his lacking it, I feel a sense of sorrow and frustration for how it always seems I’m good enough to be the friend, but never more than this.

It happened last night, as we were laughing over coffee and dessert. I wasn’t expecting it and it was all I could do not to cry. I mean, here is this really good, thoughtful, gentle, smart, and lonely fellow… with whom I have so much in common that it’s sometimes rather frightening. And he’s as attracted to me as he would be to a fence post. Less, actually. I suppose I could get all bent out of shape and let my ego and id spin up a full on shit-storm about it all, but what would that do other than wreck an otherwise wholly wonderful and beautiful relationship?

I think that’s what really shifts my mind out of monkey mode. How could I possibly, truly care for this person if the totality of my care is bound up in how or if he “wants” me? It would be rather obviously hypocritical and dishonest, wouldn’t it? More importantly, how kind or beneficial would it be to and for him that I let this one, small thing tarnish and corrupt all the wonderful, beautiful, utterly pleasant gifts we so freely share with one another?

When weighed on these scales, the reality that sharing kindness and smiles are so much more important is kind of a no-brainer. I delight for how happy he is to spend time with me. I like that his contentment is increased for being able to share himself with me and I like also that, very precisly because I place no weight on him, he can be who and how he is and I can savor it all just as it is and know beyond all doubt that this is a positive, beneficial, helpful, and lovely state and way of being. For him, for me, and for everyone we encounter while enjoying it.

I wish I could manage this kind of thing more often with more people. I do better with it than once I did, but you know how it is when you can conceive of a state but can’t quite reach it? It always feels like you’re not quite good enough. (Recurring theme, that, and a heavy one in every moment. But even this is ego…. and sometimes, ego just isn’t helpful. I mean, when saving your skin or keeping you out of life and death situations, sure… ego rocks. But for this? Not so much.)

But I think the thing that makes the situation with my friend so much easier is that I can actively see him doing the same things I am. And I can actively see him kicking himself around over how and why he’s not more interested in me. It’s kind of curious to watch, albeit painfully so. You see, I can see that it hurts HIM to think there’s something “wrong” with him (and he’s expressed that here and there, although obliquely). When I consider that, I understand in all too visceral ways how my own lack of kindness could very easily create more pain for him. I mean, who sees someone actively kicking themselves around and wants to join in? Not me.

So I find it easier than normal to set my ridiculous ego to the side and point into its face and tell it to stay the hell out of the way. It’s easy to not give into all that hunger and grabbiness. I know for a fact that doing so would hurt my friend. My friend for whom I have care. My friend who I do not want to ever see hurting; especially not because of something I did.

What I’m driving at with this example is simply that this piece of advice points out that this kind of care and kindness is supposed to be what we hold for all others. And I can see and understand why this is the mandate, given how thoughtlessly and carelessly I have known myself to be at times; being so without any consideration whatever of how it will land with others, whether or not it will hurt them, whether or not it will seriously injure or perhaps even break them.

I never want to be the person who does this to others. Never. Which is why I think this piece of advice is a lot more complex than it reads and very likely something I will spend the rest of my life practicing. But it is a happy practice; I can see moments in which I do not react as I might once have, and I can see in some of those moments how things are nourished and grow and bloom because of it. It is delightful to enjoy the enjoyment of others, free from the imprints of my grabby self. Heh. Mudita rocks, ya’ll. It’s not always simple, but I begin to see how and why it truly makes a difference and, therefore, how and why it matters enough to make it a piece of advice that is both from the heart and incredibly heartening to practice.