"Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth,
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
~Naomi Shihab Nye
Sharon Salzberg presents kindness in a book about life lived with love and a CD to introduce kindness meditations. Through her work, you can learn how to bring more compassion into the world. She presents her ideas in six chapters:
Compassion in Action
Kindness Toward Ourselves
How We See the World
Ethics and Kindness
The Intention of Kindness
Sharon Salzberg teaches us how to see the good inside us and to reflect on things we have done in the world that are positive and nurturing. She recommends spending 15-20 minutes a day on doing something to be kind to yourself. You can also repeat phrases like "May I live in safety," and "May I have mental happiness." She also shows how a natural sense of morality can be born from a sense of empathy and in understanding that hurting others will cause your own suffering.
How can we feel liberating joy?
What is an enlightened being?
Can you dedicate your life to kindness?
How can you become a bodhisattva?
While we all seem to move from unhappiness to happiness on a daily basis or a minute-by-minute cycle of life's ever changing circumstances, this book helps to bring us back to a more centered existence. Sharon Salzberg's teachings encourage you to live with an open heart and be a place of calm in the midst of the world's storms.
"Kindness is the foundation of unselfconscious generosity, natural inclusivity, and an unfeigned integrity. When we are devoted to the development of kindness, it becomes our ready response..." ~Sharon Salzberg
~The Rebecca Review
Sharon Salzberg shows how to open our hearts and radiate the force of kindness in her powerful book "The Force of Kindness: Change Your life with Love and Compassion." She uses stories, insights, guided exercises and meditations to help us cultivate the foundation of inward peace and empathy. She says, "Kindness is a force that breaks open your heart even as it heals - and in that healing sets you free." Metta or loving-kindness and friendship is a cornerstone of Buddhist happiness.
Salzberg says the Dalai lama's quote, "My true religion is kindness" illustrates how kindness is a deep and abiding understanding of how we are all connected. Kindness helps us develop a certain kind of faith in ourselves and in our ability to meet difficulties. Our potential to grow, understand, love and connect is nourished by what we believe about ourselves. If we truly loved ourselves we would never harm another because if we harm another it diminishes who we are.
The Buddha said within our body lies the entire universe. When we understand our own experience and connect to it, we can connect to all life, to the whole universe. The world is no longer experienced dualistically for there is no sense of "us" and "them." When a person becomes an "other" kindness dies.
To find the power, confidence and release in kindness we must transcend belief systems, allegiances, ideologies, cliques and tribes. Kindness inspires a sense of ethics and requires finding how we can be smart and strong and still be kind. Kindness is not just being nice it has great forcefulness.
Salzberg explains the difference between remorse and guilt. Remorse is considered a skillful state of mind as we recognize we have done something wrong, we experience pain but essentially forgive ourselves and avoid making the same mistake. Guilt is considered unskillful as we remain stuck and continually blame ourselves until we are drained. It's a form of self-hatred.
Salzberg says there are five Buddhist precepts for living. Refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants. She also shares ways to weave kindness in our lives and intentions: Notice the intentions underlying actions. Take responsibility for the intentions we act on. Forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. Practice greater restraint in speech. Follow through on strong generous intentions. Wish for love, peace and happiness for ourselves and others and all beings.
Each chapter has expert instruction and valuable teachings. They include: Compassion in Action, Kindness to Ourselves, Overcoming Cruelty, How We see the World, Ethics is Kindness and The Intention of Kindness.
Salzberg also includes a CD with four guided meditations to develop loving kindness towards ourselves, to others, for all beings and gives practices that uplift and benefit both.
Salzberg has been a student of Buddhism since 1971. She is the founder of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. She is the author of several books.
What a Lovely little book! (Normally you would not hear me say or write something like that, but in this case It's TRUE!).
Sharon Salzberg has put together this amazingly small book that seems Stuffed with help for one to "Learn" or to "Expand" his/her outlook, actions, etc., to become more kind and compassionate towards others, which in today's world certainly Seems and Is difficult to "keep under control".
At the age of 63 I find that even though I no longer need to deal with the everyday workforce stuff, I still seem to be "short" or out of patience, etc., with many, and in some cases specific people who tend to "ruffle my feathers" for one reason or another. As hard as I try not to become irritated and respond in an unfriendly or unkind manner, it still sometimes comes up or out that way, and then I feel badly afterwards.
Salzberg gives us short, but thorough, chapters dealing with the following aspects:
Compassion in Action
Kindness Toward Ourselves
How We See the World
Ethics and Kindness
The Intention of Kindness
Along with her helpful and enlightening text, there is also a CD with practice guides for us to more easily get into this thought process in metta meditation as practiced in Buddhist thought.
I have been working through this now for a couple of weeks, and I find that even though I do not always apply these ideas each and every time, I DO seem to apply them more, and think about others more often with a different feeling or approach to them and or their situation(s) than I did previously. So, while I might be slow to change, I know that I WILL get there. And, you know what? I am a much more understanding and compassionate individual than before (or on the way to be) and I am very pleased and love myself more for it!
This little book is truly wonderful and I cannot fail but see where anyone could benefit from Salzberg's "course of treatment" to become more Kind and Compassionate towards others. So, I heartily recommend it to any and everyone even remotely curious about this issue that not only makes others feel better and better about you, but you yourself become more full of love and kindness for yourself.
That said, I will make only one comment further. This is a very thin (as I said earlier small) paperback book, with a plastic sleeve for the enclosed CD to fit into at the back cover. It thus is not as durably constructed as it could/should be. It would have been better to attach the sleeve for the disc directly to the face of the back cover...perhaps the manufacturer will do this...one can hope!
Regardless, Five Stars for a very instructive and helpful little book that everybody can use!
Let's ALL become more Compassionate and Loving of others!
Being a reader of Baba Ram Dass' "Be Here Now" when it was ORIGINALLY published (really dated myself there!), and a believer in the same "philosophy" ever since, I enjoyed this book very much. It does lean heavily on Ms. Salzberg's Buddhist teachings and training, including meditations and a continuous, constant effort on our part to keep ourselves focused on BEING open, kind, sympathetic and compassionate toward others. (Metta is a "lovingkindness" meditation/concentration practice to assist in achieving this focus.) What I like is, throughout the book, she realizes that we are all too human, and this probably isn't going to happen overnight or all at once (especially in a busy, hectic life), but gently reminds us not to expend negative energy and to try to constantly keep an open mind and to re-focus on obtaining that positive energy needed in order to BE kind and compassionate - not only to others, but to ourselves.
Everyone knows that you can't like or love someone unless you like or love yourself, not in an egotistical way, of course. Towards that objective, the longer we strive for insight into our own inner self, our individual pleasure and pain, desires and fears, knowing ourselves and learning not to build walls, it becomes natural and easier to keep an open mind about the plight and suffering of others, as well as being kind and caring of them. We learn and develop empathy for others, as we no longer view them as distant, removed objects, but rather as people. (It's a lot easier to harm an object than another person, wouldn't you agree? I would.) Ms. Salzberg also stresses the importance of STAYING connected to this presence and state-of-mind, which again makes it easier and natural to constantly BE kind and compassionate with ourselves and others, as we then see ourselves in them.
I like her pointing out that we need to stop reinforcing the sense of "us and them," which leads to dehumanization, separation and disregard of others around the world (I believe that to be true locally as well as globally, as I'm sure she does.) She is not passive or complacent (and suggests we not be, either), where deliberate wrongdoing occurs, but to seek change very forcefully, with our whole heart. (Or in my case, signing petitions and/or writing personalized letters to those involved in the "wrongdoing" at any level.) She stresses the importance of NOT containing the resentment and anger within ourselves for those who hurt us (or what we believe in), and letting it define us, rather, letting go of it while taking peaceful action, and practicing "lovingkindness" toward them. A tall order? Sure, but while NOT condoning the hurt or wrongdoing, it also shows the greatest respect and compassion for ourselves that we are even able to let it go. (Of course, after taking that "peaceful action" or writing those letters!) :)
Ms. Salzberg also states the excellent point that, "compassion and kindness doesn't imply that we define someone solely in terms of their victimhood, their incapacity, disability or their troubles, as if they were nothing more than that," but we should never forget to look at what is WHOLE in a person - what's intact, vital and generative" about them as well. And that, to me, is very important and something most of us tend to forget quite easily, and I quote: "With the force of kindness, we can look at someone else and see those things as well as his or her pain. This helps us look at ourselves and see those same things within. Then, compassion and kindness connect us to a bigger picture of life. We can see pain but also love, loss but also movement, sorrow but also togetherness."
To summarize the above and point out one of the most important messages of the book, Ms. Salzberg reminds us, "This is an immense vision, one made real by our conscious practice of love, compassion and kindness for all of life without exception. At a fundamental level, our connectedness to others is expressed by our wish for the welfare of ALL, as well as our dedication to their happiness, safety and peace. This is how we remember what our OWN lives are about."
"If we follow this inspiration through constant practice, then we can carry it into our everyday interactions, encounters and relationships. We also can practice this awareness by connecting it to the boundlessness of life and beings EVERYWHERE - all beings, all creatures, all individuals, all those in existence."
To commit to kindness and compassion, we need constant mindfulness as well. Will I (or you) be able to achieve that, always and all of the time? Of course not. But we CAN always come back to it, which leads to the constant, conscious choice of being a "force of kindness." This book's tenets and principles are among those I strive to live by, and as you can see from my review, I enjoyed it very much. You will, too!
Four and 1/2 stars.
Right off the bat, this book is not for someone who doesn't have the ability to read complicated and complex writing. As a professional writer, I found myself lost amid all the involved details for trying to make some simple points, and what I would classify as advanced words scattered here and there.
I felt this book would have been more usable as a study guide for a course, or the materials for a seminar. The information is good, but it needs the impact of a speaker.
There are many references to Buddhism and other non-Christian approaches. While this doesn't bother me as a Christian (since Buddhism, in my opinion, is not a religion but a philosophy), it's not something you can understand over night. It would be like jumping in a car and taking off to drive - without having a bit more information about what a car involves. (That's a very basic analogy and not meant to minimize the author's knowledge in this area.)
The book is short and does come with a CD. Yet, again, if you're not someone who meditates, you're probably going to find that you'll walk away from this book.
My rating of 3 stars is that that book is so specific that the average reader will not get far into the wisdom the book offers.