Gardens of Kindness & Compassion
I recently came across a quote (can't figure out exactly where!), that is a great follow up to last week's message about Powerful Agreements.
It's possible to "Create Gardens of Kindness and Compassion wherever we are - this is our act of resistance."
I've been thinking about that idea ever since I found it. There is something truly powerful about the metaphor of the garden. Gardens aren't just created by chance - they are planted with purpose and intention. Consideration must be given to things like the soil, access to water, sun, shade, types of plants, and even how something as nasty as fertilizer can be used as a source of goodness and growth to allow the garden to flourish.
If we take that idea of the flourishing garden and realize the "plants" we want to grow and develop are Kindness and Compassion, that pushes us to have to think about what we need to pay attention to in order for those "plants" to actually be healthy. Allow me to mention two environments where we can pay attention in order to help our Gardens of Kindness and Compassion flourish.
Hard conversations are inevitable in our lives. Sometimes we just have to "go there" with someone, and for a person like me who likes to avoid conflict at all costs, they can often feel like walking through a minefield rather than a stroll through a garden. But if I pay attention to how I can plant kindness and compassion in this hard conversation, it may help it be a garden instead of a minefield. For example, maybe it's something as simple as the tone I am using. I need to say something hard to someone that I know is going to be difficult for them to hear, but if I approach it with a tone of kindness and compassion, there's a better chance that's what will grow through the conversation. By paying attention to something as simple as my tone, I can create a better environment for a minefield to be transformed into a garden.
You know who I am talking about! All of us have those certain people who are just hard for us. Most of the time it has more to do with personalities and backgrounds than anything else, so it really isn't about me being right and them being wrong - it's just about us being different. Two of the tools I have found help me plant kindness and compassion with these individuals are curiosity and boundaries. If I can approach an engagement with them from a place of curiosity rather than pre-judgement (prejudice), sometimes I can learn something about them that helps me see our shared humanity, which in turn helps kindness and compassion grow. It's also possible there are times it's better for both of us if we maintain healthy and appropriate boundaries with each other. Boundaries aren't barriers to growth, but sometimes are absolutely necessary to allow what's on either side of the "fence" to really flourish! By paying attention to how I use the tools of curiosity and boundaries, I give my relationship with those hard individuals a better chance for the garden of kindness and compassion to grow between us.
Perhaps you have to engage in a hard conversation (or two!) this week, or you know you are going to encounter one (or more) of those hard individuals. How could you approach those situations with the intention of cultivating a garden of kindness and compassion there? What do you need to pay attention to within yourself that will create the best opportunity for a flourishing garden? Are there ways you might be able to see even the hardness of those conversations or individuals as fertilizer to help you grow into a more healthy person yourself?
One final thought. Gardens don't grow overnight (through one conversation or encounter with a person), so maybe one of your greatest cultivation tools you can use is the gift of patience. A willingness to be patient while you engage in regular tending to this garden, will eventually produce something extraordinary!
Here's to creating Gardens of Kindness and Compassion wherever we are this week!
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