“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”
― Jack Kerouac
I have a friend I call Melvin.
I don’t know his real name, but Melvin seems to fit.
He wears a name tag, but I’ve never got close enough to read it.
Melvin works at the Publix supermarket in West Palm Beach, a few blocks from where I used to live.
I’ve loved Melvin a little bit everyday, for more months than I can count.
I’ve seen him hug grandchildren he may not have.
And love a soulmate he may never have known.
I’ve seen him Happy and Healthy.
Smiling and serene.
Fearless and free
I’ve shared all of these magical moments with Melvin in my minds eye, and yet we’ve never really met.
This is the magic of Metta, a timeless technique for connecting with compassion.
A loving kindness of a type and stripe so strong, that it could probably save the world.
(It certainly has saved me)
Of course it takes no great guru to learn this.
And love them.
Start with someone you already love.
See them smile.
See yourself smile too.
Picture their face a slender arms reach away.
Imagine a ray of loving light moving from your heart to theirs
Bask in that feeling
Soak it in.
Hold the gold
Now pick a stranger.
Someone you see everyday if you can, maybe the guy at the gas station – or maybe the girl at the cleaner down the street.
Maybe the doorman in that building you pass on your way to work and nod to as you pass.
(just stay the hell away from Melvin – he’s taken)
Now see them smile
And meet theirs with your own.
Imagine that they are warm, safe and loved.
Send them love.
Say it out loud.
“May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be free
May you be loved”
Just repeat that phrase in your mind while you picture their smiling face
Breath in that feeling – breath out and smile.
This is a transformative practice.
It will make you a happier, healthier and if you are like me – a better person to boot.
This is a practice that dissolves differences and destroys divides.
It well make you see strangers differently – to feel curious – and connected – in a way that nothing else I’ve ever done has.
And curiosity cultivates compassion.
When you are interested, intimacy is only a small step away.
The more curious we become the more we care about the faces and spaces we otherwise ignore everyday.
Of course the real challenge, the hard practice, the one the Buddha taught leads to the true freedom in this life, (and the next, if you believe that sort of thing ) is the act of extending the power of this practice to enemies and adversaries.
And ultimately to all sentient beings everywhere.
I’m not quite there yet .
But I must confess:
Loving people in this way is like the ultimate guilty pleasure.
It feels really good.
It feels like a simple self help secret that pays rich rewards for all the right reasons.
The irony of this practice is that the more you love other people for no reason at all, the more life feels like and act of love.
And the more you love yourself as well.
And it changes your brain, it re-wires in some sort of magical metta that is always there – waiting to widen it’s wings and smile at strangers near and far.
Google it – I’m not joking.
Self directed neuroplasticity is that new age nonsensical idea that turns out to be true.
You can literally think your way to a better looking brain.
And you always get to choose what to think.
So choose to think about this.
Melvin and I had a moment not long ago
I was walking through Produce when it happened.
We made eye contact.
I gave him a little nod and maybe a self conscious smile
He nodded back and gave me a Matt Mcconaughey “All Right, All Right, All Right”
And suddenly everything was alright in the world.
It was everything I imagined and more
It made my month.
Of course I thought about telling him…..
”Hey……you aren’t going to believe this, my name is Ian and I’ve loved you since last February when you were working in Seafood”
But I realize he probably would have called security before I could really explain.
And considering I had a half eaten bag of bulk food granola in my cart that i had no intention of paying for, I thought that was a bad idea.
I used to laugh at the bumper sticker – “There are no strangers – Only friends i haven’t met yet” .
That sort of word salad of new age nonsense felt like the wonky words of someone who had some sort of scam or spammy silliness to sell.
And considering I’ve done the Ginsu knives – the Skin Care, the knock off cologne – the Timeshares and Tupperware…..
With my guard always up – I wasn’t buying again.
But it really can be true
If there is such a thing as the ultimate disruptive innovation – that technological discovery that promises to shake up the world, it ain’t gonna be found in the Tesla, or the concierge car on demand or that magic app only an aha moment and one silicon valley savant away. It’s right here.
And just this. Kindness without a cause. Writ large .
That’s what will change our world in wild, weird and wonderful ways
And we need it.
There are more than enough Melvin’s to practice on.
After all, to a perfect stranger.
We’re all Melvin.
In a world of selfies and superficiality and far too many Kardashians to count
This is the one New Years resolution I’m committed to keep.
And if I’m lucky and you’ve read this far,
So too will You :)
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
-Dalai Lama XIV
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