An Excerpt from After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield's book on spiritual practice includes the following excerpt on kindness.

"Whether we stand up politically or work in our schools, whether we meditate for a year or live for a year in a redwood tree — as the young woman named Julia 'Butterfly' Hill did to stop the logging of the old-growth redwoods in Humboldt County — we need to offer our voice, our way. It may be that our particular gifts manifest as caring for children, or in law, commerce, or music, in computer networking, or gardening. It is not a matter of what the building block is, but of allowing our unique and singular voice to move in harmony with a living purpose.

"For if we are not able to remember our part in the cathedral, to offer our particular gifts, contribute our particular voice, our life becomes a great sorrow. Losing that vision, our spirits shrink and deaden. Even in the simplest tasks, we have this choice. I have seen certain toll takers on the Golden Gate Bridge evoke the spirit of St. Francis as they welcome each car to San Francisco. The expression of our gift need not be grand. Everyone who writes poetry does not need to publish ten volumes and win the National Book Award. The farmer in rural Asia who works his family's meager land for survival can plow with a song on his lips, can bring his inspired prayers to the mosque, can add his poetic voice to the village. He too is transforming the world.

One meditation teacher describes the impact of each small contribution as a 'trim-tab effect.' When an ocean liner is under way, its momentum is so great that it cannot be steered by moving its rudder. Instead, a series of adjustments is made in the flaps at the edge of the rudder — the trim tabs. These small changes begin to shift the direction of the ship until the rudder itself can be turned, and the ship takes another course. Like trim tabs, our deliberate actions, however small, can change the course of life around us. To use our life to move the world toward compassion and away from suffering is the only thing that matters."