Bone of Trust, Muscle of Kindness

Today, as the holiday season is in the ascendency for so many, I want to ponder “kindness” once more.

A moment of kindness, given and received.

Sometimes, with the really grand precepts – the ones on which the really big ideas rest, like morality, ethics, trust, faith – the force of the thing is too great to be expressed positively.  Like the word “peerless.”  Or Gandhi’s “ahimsa.”  Ahimsa expresses the complete absence of violence or use of force.  The complete absence.  Gone utterly, from thought, from word, from deed.  The Sanskrit is translated as “nonviolence.”

So, as a blogmate friend has recently written, the absence of kindness may be expressed in hurt, anger, and rage.  She writes:

“[B]eing treated unkindly . . . can break someone, human or animal.  How many broken people lash out and do serious emotional damage (or worse) to themselves and those around them because they were treated poorly for so long that they finally just gave up on others?  How many animals do the same?  Every time I hear about a dog attack . . . or hear the rage-filled screech of a cat lashing out at her handlers, I wonder . . . . How badly did that [animal] have to be treated to be unable to bear the sight of a human being any longer?”

Bugs can’t stand even the thought.

So I ask, again and again and again, what is this “kindness”?  This ease, beneficence, open-heartedness?  This attribute that’s so grand it can most vividly be defined by its absence?

In its absence, are we to be condemned as lost causes? if, in our early years, we were not treated with enough kindness?  Does this mean we must carry that legacy of unkindness forward to this day and into future generations, broken-backed, enslaved and oppressed by this thick, dense burden of hurt, rage, and despair?

For some, this is tragically so.  Many, many more of us do our valiant best not to succumb.

For those of us invited into kindness by our animals’ shining example, though, we are the lucky ones.  We are the ones who have become extra-sensitive to kindness’ absence.  We want kindness and we will accept no substitutes.

Here I want to do more than want.  I want to make that kindness concrete.  I want to think of kindness as a skill, one that can be learned, practiced, and exercised – just as surely as muscles can be built.

My FELDENKRAIS®  background has schooled me to believe that our bones are the bedrock.  It’s my belief that on that foundational awareness, kindness can be built.  I think this is true metaphorically, in the sense that kindness may be in our basic nature – but that’s a  theory that can’t be proven, or relied-on, with any degree of certainty.  Maybe I’m talking more about an idea of core-ness.  We feel things “in our bones.”

But I’m thinking about bones as more than just abstract metaphor.  I mean this also physically.  It’s important to be aware of the perfectly engineered structure that is our skeleton.  With that awareness, in my experience, we can connect with an inner sense of basic trust.  We can rest in that trust, take repose, be at ease.  We can take heart.  Through our bones, we are organized, contained, supported.  Our soft parts are held and protected.  We can “have backbone.”

Kindness, on the other hand, can be thought of as muscle.

Not quite the muscle I had in mind.

Muscle is for movement.  Muscle can be thought of as the engine that drives the intention of kindness, of thought and feeling – of beauty – forward into wise word, elegant gesture, and potent deed.

Muscle more like this.

So kindness, then, like muscle, can be grown.  The seeds of kindness can be cultivated.  They can be planted, watered, fed.  The weeds that grow in their absence can be detected, acknowledged, and then be left unfed, eclipsed.  The flower of kindness can burst into fruit, a hardy nourishing force.

This, Bugsy is very glad to hear.

In my next post (or as soon after as I can swing it), I want to describe more about the nuts and bolts of how this farming project works.  Now, though, I need to go get the clothes washed.  Reminds me of Jack Kornfield’s After Ecstacy, The Laundry.  “Even after achieving realization, we are faced with the day-to-day task of translating that freedom into our imperfect lives.  We are faced with the laundry.”

Bugs does not do laundry.  He leaves that to Nekoka and Sassafrass.

About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
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14 Responses to Bone of Trust, Muscle of Kindness

  1. Love this post! The absence of kindness can do great harm to human and animal spirit alike. When coupled with things like cruelty, abandonment and a lack of love, it can be pretty hard to overcome. Hard, but not impossible. This is seen countless times in homeless dogs who still wag their tails at and happily accept human affection though there were grossly mistreated in the past. I wish I could be as forgiving as those dogs.

  2. Dianda says:

    Love this post too! You’re right, unkindness can harm human and animal. I thought people would be more kind around Christmas, but I suppose I was wrong.

  3. Melanie says:

    Loved the post, Anita. I love the description about how kindness can be grown. Because it can be. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle but I have to trust that it is possible all the same. I look forward to your next post!

  4. littlemiao says:

    Growing kindness… what a beautiful idea.

  5. Love the kindness-muscle metaphor! It’s important to remember that unused muscles atrophy.

  6. Wazeau says:

    Wonderful post. I have had many pets throughout my life. My current cats are the most loving, affectionate cats I’ve ever lived with. Could it be because I daily make the choice to treat them with nothing but loving kindness? I’ve made so many mistakes with other people and animals in my life – reacting with anger or selfishness rather then acceptance and love. It takes a lot of practice to be kind which is why your muscle metaphor rings so true. But the more you practice it the easier and the more natural a response it becomes. And the more kind and loving you are, the easier it becomes for others to be kind and loving back at ya.

    Merry merry!

  7. I hope people everywhere are celebrating the holiday by flexing their kindness.

  8. Pingback: Listening Unto Myself | catself

  9. IsobelandCat says:

    There has been a deal of research about helping identify children at risk of violence through their behaviour to animals, and using animals by helping those same children learn loving and respectful relationships with a dog, cat or horse, instead of relationships built on fear and dominance.
    I am delighted to learn you feed your cat on organic chicken. It makes no sense to me that we give our loved pets meat from animals that have spent their whole lives in misery.

    • nadbugs says:

      I love that perspective, Isobel. I’ve heard, in a darker spin on your report of the studies, that the first sign someone’s headed down the serial-murderer path is frequently their cruelty to animals. As for feeding Bugsy organic chicken, I have to confess that my main reason was concern for food integrity and safety, which is really an issue in this country and also, I believe, over by you, too. But of course! not to increase suffering in the world, either. We live in chicken country here (Tyson headquarters) and it is a regular source of pain, for me, to see the trucks crammed with the poor birds, in open cages, on the road heading toward the end. Awful.

  10. Marcy Benham says:

    Practice, as in Spiritual Practice. Practice makes perfect. Practice is what those seeking enlightenment do best! I DO believe that kindness can be an acquired skill. It’s about making a choice in the moment when we’re tempted to respond to another (human, animal, creepy crawly, plant) in an unkind way…we CHOOSE to respond kindly. And in doing so, we spread our seeds of kindness within ourselves and within others. Practice is one of my favorite words for that reason!

    • nadbugs says:

      Such a deep understanding, practice. Practice makes perfect, as you say. Best practices. He had a practiced hand. Practice what you preach. The list goes on.

      Tourist in New York City walks up to guy and says “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

      Guy answers: “Practice, practice, practice.”

      An old favorite of my dad’s, and my grandmother’s before him.

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