Noah Levine: 5 Ways To Develop Kindness
Noah Levine's spiritual path began on the floor of a padded jail cell at 18. A veteran of the punk movement, he spent his youth addicted to drugs and rebelling against pacifist parents whose peace approach seemingly resulted in a world of capitalist propaganda, government corruption, and fascist oppression. As detailed in his best-selling book “Dharma Punx”, once Noah hit rock-bottom, meditation was his last hope. Now, with almost 30 years of Buddhist practice under his belt, Noah has created a Buddhist approach to addiction recovery called Refuge Recovery, and is a founding teacher of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society with centers in SF and LA.
Here are 5 tips on cultivating Loving Kindness from his recent workshop:
1. Be Mindful
Training in mindfulness is the practice of moving toward an unpleasant experience we'd normally seek to avoid. Mindfulness is what allowed the Buddha to turn pain into compassion. Once we utter, “I hate pain,” we add a whole new level to our suffering. What if, instead, we meet pain with caring and openness? This alters our experience. Buddhism teaches that we will still have all of the pain in our lives, but through this practice we are able to develop a wise relationship with it.
2. Practice non-attachment
Likewise, our natural tendency with pleasure is to cling, resulting in a mind always in search of the next fix. We do not need to avoid pleasant things, but we can find the middle road of enjoyment without getting attached.
3. Don’t Take Ourselves So Seriously
We all have the same mind, filled with craving, aversion, and selfish tendencies. While we all have our own set of challenges and circumstances, we are not so unique. When Siddhartha woke up and became enlightened - now that there was no clinging, now that he didn’t take his mind so personally - he saw all that was left was kindness.
Let’s face it: when we hear one dharma talk, we know what to do. But to develop these skills takes practice, often years, decades maybe, to really embody these teachings. So until we arrive, we have the goal to practice these skills.
One way to practice is to systematically extend loving kindness. We start with ourselves. Sometimes this is challenging. If there are any dormant feelings of unworthiness in oneself, this practice will make them very present. Just keep practicing. Next we offer love to our mentors or benefactors, neutral people, and eventually, those we once saw as enemies.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” - Buddha
5. Study the Buddha’s Words on Kindness
To become more kind, we can study the Buddha’s words on Loving Kindness - The Metta Sutta:
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
For more study on this and other Buddhist teachings with Noah Levine, visit Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society.