Leading with Love

Best wishes to all at this turning of the year, from gradually shorter days to longer, brighter ones.  Each religion has its time to pause, review our conduct and celebrate good fortune, while resolving to do our best in the future.  This is a common time of year for these contemplations.  Being together with loved ones, too, or just holding them in our hearts supports sentiments of good will for all. 

These feelings are the guiding light of Buddhism, the Wise Intent to harm no sentient being – in other words, kindness.  As we go through the coming year, or day, or the rest of our lives, things do go better if we let love take the lead.  A fundamental desire for the wellbeing of all takes root when we regularly renew the intention to be kind.  This can subtly guide us on those hectic days when it’s easy to lose track of all we have to do, and why we’re doing it.

Just holding the intention to be kind can help us in unexpected ways.  Recently, a contractor left a job undone, with a piece of equipment sitting in my back yard.  I had a lot going on, and it took a day to puzzle out the various explanations for the evidence he’d left behind.   What finally moved me to call him was concern that he’d had some emergency while working.  We’ve had a long, good relationship, and I’m glad I didn’t spoil it by jumping to the worst conclusion and leaving an angry message.  It turns out he’s OK and we’re still friends.

Leading with lovingkindness can spare us unnecessary distress.  There’s a great story about a person in a row boat on a foggy day, who saw another boat heading toward him despite his shouts of warning.  He went from worry to anger, until the boat emerged from the fog and he saw that it was drifting empty.  His hostility vanished instantly.  He’d assumed the worst of someone, and took it quite personally, only hurting himself.  When love is the leading attitude, we’re less likely to make hostile assumptions about others and get upset for no real reason.

Jesus said to love others as yourself, which I understand to mean that the intention of kindness has to go in both directions.  Only loving others is just as toxic as loving just ourselves.  A very good way to check our attitudes and intentions is to ask Hillel’s famous questions:  “If I am not for myself, who is for me?  If I am only for myself, what am I?  If not now, when?”  It’s one of those quotes that’s just great to ponder.

Of course now is always the best time to resolve to let ourselves be loving, and loved.  The beginning of a calendar from ancient Rome is as good a time as any.  

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