Practicing Non Dual Judalism – Chesed (Loving Kindness)
by Nancy Aron
Compiled by Kevin Morgan.
a. Pick one or more of these practices and focus on cultivating it (them) in your life)
- Zoom Out
- Reconnect and Release
- Zoom In
- Catch the Small Stuff
- Tune in to Change
- b.Practice ho’o-pono-pono in your life specifically around people or situations where you have not been patient
- I’m sorry
- Forgive me
- Thank you
- I love you
- c.Practice Self Inquiry: “Who is it that desires?”; “What is it that is really at stake here?”
- Alan Moranis, from his Jewish Pathways Course Series, #11 Chesed
What does your God ask of you, [except] that you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) Jewish tradition elevates deeds of kindness to the highest possible ranking among soul-traits. Only some problems have solutions, but all are alleviated by the loving response of those around us.
In Pirkei Avot (2:1) we learn: “The world stands on three things: on Torah, on service of God, and upon chesed (acts of kindness).” The fact that chesed is one of the three pillars on which the world stands underlines how important this soul-trait is. Chesed is a primary attribute of God. In fact, of the 245 times this word appears in some form in the Bible, about two-thirds of these instances speak of God’s character and actions. God is the Master of chesed: He has no needs whatsoever, so for God to have created the world at all was nothing short of an act of total chesed! As the Psalm states, “The world is built with chesed” (89:3).
God is also constantly engaged in sustaining all of Creation, which is another form of chesed. Even though it may be hard to see, there is great love extended to us at every moment. We are weak, and we fumble, stumble and fall. We transgress against others, against ourselves and against God. And yet we are not snuffed out like a feeble candle, as well we might be. Our hearts go on beating and we find the strength to rise again – because God sustains us. That is God’s chesed.
We see from here that a key to chesed is that it sustains the other. In the Mussar view, there is little value in fostering goodwill in your heart and wishing someone well. You have to tap those feelings and reach out to another person with real sustenance – by way of money, time, love, empathy, service, an open ear, manual assistance, a letter written, a call made, and on and on.
Chesed is a sustaining action, but it has to come out of kindness and compassion, and no other motive. Even though paying taxes enables programs that sustain people, it would be a big stretch to call paying taxes an act of chesed. Or we might be repaying something done for us, or helping out with an expectation of getting something in return. Acts qualify as chesed only when they are motivated by a spirit of generosity.
With these considerations in mind, I’d now translate chesed as “generous sustaining benevolence.” That’s more clumsy than the already clumsy “loving-kindness,” but it conveys so much more than just being nice and wishing well.
Chesed requires that we go beyond the boundaries that are familiar and comfortable to us. We have to stretch into chesed, or it isn’t chesed. Now we can understand why the Jewish tradition accords attending to the dead as chesed shel emet – “true” chesed. Only with a dead body can we have absolutely no hope or chance of a payback for our generosity. I’d add, too, from my own experience, that kindness done for non-human creatures falls into the same category.
People who free whales trapped in fishing nets, or nurse injured birds back to health, are not doing it because next Purim the bears and the beavers are going to send them a basket of hamentashen.
I can already hear somebody saying, Yes, but what of the warm inner feeling people get when they know they are doing something good? Isn’t that a “reward” of sorts? Of course there is a joy that comes from doing a mitzvah. But unless you do the act specifically to get that feeling, being joyful in chesed does not invalidate your having stretched beyond the boundaries of comfort to offer benevolent sustenance to another, i.e., chesed.
Mussar points out that some people are moved to acts of chesed whenever they encounter someone in need of help. Others, however, don’t wait for the opportunity to come to them, but rather search out any chance to do chesed. This is what the Sages meant that “the way of those who do chesed is to run after the poor” (Talmud – Shabbat 104a).
Another way to understand this distinction is to recognize that there are deeds of chesed, and there are souls totally infused with the spirit of chesed. That’s the profound quality pointed to in the quote from Micah: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
We are not told that one fulfills a spiritual destiny by doing acts of loving-kindness, but rather by loving those acts. Of course, if we love them, we will engage ourselves in doing them, so the doing is still covered, but really only as a spin-off. Our focus is not on the doing, but on the quality of the heart that lives within us. Love lovingkindness. What a profound demand!
The words of tradition unremittingly remind us that life is not to be lived every one for himself or herself. As Hillel put it, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” (Avot 1:14). To sustain one another, we must strive to love the very act of caring for the other. At that high level of perfected chesed, we become pious people. Appropriately, in Hebrew, a pious person is called a chassid. Succeed in this way and your world will be totally transformed, within and without.
3. Chesed in Kabbalah
Chesed is the fourth of the ten sefirot, and the first of the emotive attributes within Creation.
Chesed appears in the configuration of the sefirot along the right axis, directly beneath chochmah, and corresponds in the tzelem Elokim to the “right arm.”
Chesed is associated in the soul with the desire to embrace all of Creation and bestow upon it goodness. As the expansive force which impels the soul to connect with outer reality, chesed inspires, and thus implicitly accompanies, all the other expressions of emotive force which succeed it in the soul.
for all. The first day is called in the Torah “the day of one” (yom echad) (Genesis 1:5). The Divine consciousness of this day is that all of Creation is one as embraced, in love, by the Oneness of the Creator (echad, “one” = 13 = ahavah, “love”).
Of this day is said: “Day[s] God commands His lovingkindness” (Psalms 42:9). The unique form of the word “day[s],” yomam, implies, in the words of the Zohar: “a day that accompanies all days.” From this we learn that the first day, the day of lovingkindness, “accompanies” and radiates its light to all the other days of Creation.
Chesed = 72 = 2 x 6 squared. 6 squared represents the perfected state of the six emotions of the heart which correspond to the six days of Creation. The 2 x 6 squared represents the perfect love and harmony within Creation, “as one’s face is reflected in water [the basic physical symbol of chesed] so is the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:19).
The Zohar speaks of 72 “bridges” of love (corresponding to the 72 hidden Names of God) that connect together, in perfect harmony, all of created reality.
The spiritual state identified in Chassidut as corresponding to the sefirah of chesed is that of ahavah (love).
4. Early Hasadic Master: Rabbi Simcha Bunem
This teaching comes from Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pershyscha. It was said of Reb Simcha Bunem that he carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one he wrote: Bishvili nivra ha-olam—“for my sake the world was created.” On the other he wrote: V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes.” He would take out each slip of paper as necessary, as a reminder to himself.
– Rabbi Toba Spitzer
5. Nisgardatta Maharaj
When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom
When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love.
And between these two, my life turns.
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
6. Martin Buber in “I and Thou”
Spirit in its human manifestation is man’s response to his You. Man speaks in many tongues—tongues of language, of art, of action—but the spirit is one; it is response to the You that appears from the mystery and addresses us from the mystery. Spirit is word. And even as verbal speech may first become word in the brain of man and then become sound in his throat, although both are merely refractions of the true event because in truth language does not reside in man but stands in language and speaks out of it—so it is with all words, all spirit. Spirit is not in I but between the I and You. It is not like the blood that circulates in you but like the air in which you breathe. Man lives in the in that spirit when he is able to respond to his You. He is able to do that when he enters into this relation with his whole being. It is solely by virtue of his power to relate that man is able to live in the spirit.
7. Shabistari – Sufi Poem
“I” and “you” focus light
like decorative holes cut
in a lampshade.
But there is only One Light.
“I” and “you” throw a
thin veil between
heaven and earth.
Lift the veil and all
creeds and theologies disappear.
When “I” and “you” vanish,
how can I tell whether I am
in a mosque, a synagogue,
a church, or an observatory?
– from The Sufi Book of Life;99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish by Neil Douglass-Klotz; #21, Expanding Boundaries
8. Metta or the Loving Kindness Meditation (“Metta Bhavana” –Pali for kindness cultivation)
May I be filled with lovingkindness
“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.”
– Walt Whitman
This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a lovingkindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. With each recitation of the phrases, we are expressing an intention, planting the seeds of loving wishes over and over in our heart.
With a loving heart as the background, all that we attempt, all that we encounter will open and flow more easily. You can begin the practice of lovingkindness by meditating for fifteen or twenty minutes in a quiet place. Let yourself sit in a comfortable fashion. Let your body rest and be relaxed. Let your heart be soft. Let go of any plans or preoccupations.
Begin with yourself. Breathe gently, and recite inwardly the following traditional phrases directed toward our own well-being. You being with yourself because without loving yourself it is almost impossible to love others.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
As you repeat these phrases, picture yourself as you are now, and hold that image in a heart of lovingkindness. Or perhaps you will find it easier to picture yourself as a young and beloved child. Adjust the words and images in any way you wish. Create the exact phrases that best open your heart of kindness. Repeat these phrases over and over again, letting the feelings permeate your body and mind. Practice this meditation for a number of weeks, until the sense of lovingkindness for yourself grows.
Be aware that this meditation may at times feel mechanical or awkward. It can also bring up feelings contrary to lovingkindness, feelings of irritation and anger. If this happens, it is especially important to be patient and kind toward yourself, allowing whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and kind affection. When you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others. After focusing on yourself for five or ten minutes, choose a benefactor, someone in your life who has loved and truly cared for you. Picture this person and carefully recite the same phrases:
May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy.
Let the image and feelings you have for your benefactor support the meditation. Whether the image or feelings are clear or not does not matter. In meditation they will be subject to change. Simply continue to plant the seeds of loving wishes, repeating the phrases gently no matter what arises.
Expressing gratitude to our benefactors is a natural form of love. In fact, some people find lovingkindness for themselves so hard, they begin their practice with a benefactor. This too is fine. The rule in lovingkindness practice is to follow the way that most easily opens your heart.
When lovingkindness for your benefactor has developed, you can gradually begin to include other people in your meditation. Picturing each beloved person, recite inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of lovingkindness for each person in turn.
After this you can include others: Spend some time wishing well to a wider circle of friends. Then gradually extend your meditation to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings, the whole earth.
Finally, include the difficult people in your life, even your enemies, wishing that they too may be filled with lovingkindness and peace. This will take practice. But as your heart opens, first to loved ones and friends, you will find that in the end you won’t want to close it anymore.
Lovingkindness can be practiced anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in buses, and on airplanes. As you silently practice this meditation among people, you will come to feel a wonderful connection with them – the power of lovingkindness. It will calm your mind and keep you connected to your heart.
– Jack Kornfield https://jackkornfield.com/
9. Mantras and Chants for a Practice of Loving Kindness
Phrases to Use in Lovingkindness Practice
Here are some phrases that may be of help to you in this. Choose one or two phrases that are personally meaningful to you. You can alter them in any way or use ones that you have created for their unique personal significance.
“May I accept my pain, without thinking it makes me bad or wrong.”
“May I remember my consciousness is much vaster than this body.”
“May all those who have helped me be safe, be happy, be peaceful.”
“May all beings everywhere be safe, be happy, be peaceful.”
“May my love for myself and others flow boundlessly.”
“May the power of lovingkindness sustain me.”
“May I open to the unknown, like a bird flying free.”
“May I accept my anger, fear, and sadness, knowing that my vast heart is not limited by them.”
“May I be free of danger; may I be peaceful.”
“May I be peaceful and happy, at ease in body and mind.”
“May I be free from anger, fear, and worry.”
“May I live and die in ease.”
– Sharon Salzberg, The Kindness Handbook
10. Exercise: Mantras and Chants for a Practice of Loving Kindness
11. Practicing for a Month of Loving Kindness
a. Pick one or more of these chants and say it for ten minutes or more every day. Repeat it whenever you find your mind drifting
b. Practice acts of loving kindness and keep a journal
c.Investigate where the loving-kindness you share comes from. “What is source?”