Tara Brach

‘If we ask ourselves when meeting anyone – friend or stranger – “How can I be more kind?” inevitably we will recognize that every being needs to be listened to, loved and understood. While we might become aware of this first with those in our immediate circle, it is possible to pay attention and care for all living beings. The more fully we offer our attention, the more deeply we realize that what matters most in life is being kind. As we open to the vulnerability of others, the veil of separation falls away, and our natural response is to reach out a helping hand.’ (Radical Acceptance)

In my running collection of links to articles, there were two that seemed to belong together: this one from the New York Times about social isolation, and this one from the Guardian about how to reach out to strangers. With my southern English upbringing (if you read the comments after the latter article, it is very clear there is a north-south divide in this matter, something borne out in my experience), I found it difficult to be chatty in public with people I didn’t know, bound by awkward social conventions. This, I am glad to say, is one of the constrictions that practice has loosened. By paying attention to what is going on around me as I move through the city, and by not holding onto ideas, I find it much easier to connect with people spontaneously. The other day, walking up Market Street towards Zen Center, I was crossing the road in front of a bus. I smiled at the bus driver, suspecting that she was going to notice and smile back. When she did, the day was lifted. A well-aimed smile, one offered with no expectation, is a wonderful gift. Saying thank you to the person clearing away your dishes, or cleaning the street or a park, is not so hard to do. Even though I still get angry with careless or dangerous driving, any time drivers are courteous or especially attentive, I make sure they feel acknowledged, and afterwards say to myself, twice to make sure it really lands inside me, ‘I appreciate that.’

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