Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing
- Giving to others is one part of the spiritual practice of kindness. Another is being able to receive graciously the gifts of others. Which are you better at? Why?
- Who has taught you the most about generosity and kindness? Do you think they are given enough attention in our society? Explain your views.
Most of the religions recommend a daily review of your behavior. One part, often called "The Examen of Consciousness," identifies those times when you have become aware of the presence of God. The other part, "The Examen of Conscience," looks at your behavior and whether your actions have moved you closer or farther from God and others. Deeds of kindness, of course, are part of this movement.
A variation of the examen includes the correcting of behavior. When you see something that you want to change, you enter into it imaginally and change it, thus signaling your inner self of your desire to act differently. The following exercise, which is to be done at the end of the day, enables you move closer to God and others through such acts of correction. It is based on the "Nighttime Reversing" exercise created by Colette Aboulker-Muscat that appears in books on imagery by her student Gerald Epstein.
Just before going to sleep, lying in bed with your eyes closed, review your day, moment by moment, moving backwards in time. Start with the last event of the day and relive it in imagery. Continue in reverse order, reliving again your activities and conversations. Notice how you responded at times when you felt God's closeness. Watch for moments when you were kind to others in thought, word, or deed. Feel again what you felt when others were kind to you. See yourself showing gratitude for any experiences of kindness.
Also notice the times when you failed to be kind to people, animals, things, and the Earth. Recall each event slowly and carefully, correcting your attitudes and behavior in those situations where you had difficulty. Continue this reversing and correcting process until you are back at the moment when you woke up.
When you have finished giving thanks and making corrections, you can go to sleep. If you find that you fall asleep before finishing, do not be discouraged. Repeat the exercise every night until you are able to finish it.
Write a portrait of "The Kindest Person I Know," including specific examples of this person's kind deeds. Tristine Rainer in The New Diary makes an interesting observation about the value of writing portraits, especially of someone you admire: "By writing diary portraits of people who intrigue you, you enter their qualities in your book, in your space, and begin the process of recognizing and taking possession of those qualities."