Notes on “The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice”  by Rabbi Rami Shapiro

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I have not always been kind. 

I assumed that “truth” trumped “compassion” and cared more about being right than loving. I am determined to changed that this year. It doesn’t mean that I am expecting to evolve into a kind butterfly before January 1st, 2018. Rather, that I am investing my time and energy in actively planting a radically different seed in my consciousness, and following it with actions so that one day this seed may blossom into a character trait. Whether that takes place next year or 20 years from now is not the point. The process is.

Having said that, this is a wonderful book replete with helpful nuggets and practical tools. 

Hence, I highly recommend. Although the Rabbi uses Jewish texts as the skeleton for the 13 Attributes of Lovingkindness, he also draws heavily on Eastern teachings (Zen Buddhism, for instance, or Hinduism) as well as the Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Islam).

Here’s a summary and brief, personal notes on the 13 Attributes of Lovingkindness:
(1) Realizing the divinity of the self and (2) Realizing the divinity in others = basically letting go of “narrow mind” which believes itself to be separated from the world. “It is isolated, often alienated, and sees the world as a zero-sum game in which its success depends on another’s failure… fear is its primary emotion and anger its most common expression.”

(3) Cultivating creativity = which has nothing to do with “being able to draw, paint, write, dance, or any other activity.” It is rather acknowledging that we are creative acts; that each of us is a unique expression of life force. We can only benefit the world by tapping into our genuine potentials instead of imitating others. Such a view of ourselves removes us from our pasts “out of the known, beyond the labels of gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and the like.”

(4) Harvesting kindness through compassionate honesty = which is more about fearless, compassionate honesty. Not merely being nice. Never cared about being nice myself, I opted always for “the ugly truth” thinking that was what “fearless honesty” required, missing the “compassionate” part in the middle. Shapiro writes, “The greatest kindness one can offer another … is to allow the other to see the consequences of her actions without imposing any judgments or prejudices of your own.”

(5) Finding grace = also known as being present, or “the ability to engage life as it is without wishing it were other than it is.” (6) Acting with equinamity = when wanting to understand what is happening to us (whether good or bad), always separating our self from our sense of self, what we interpret our feelings to mean within the narratives we tell about our lives.

(7) Acts of kindness = “doing right by the powerless, the disenfranchised, those who can be of no use to you and your quest for success,” and this starts by making room for “the suffering of others.” 

(8) Sharing the truth of our stories and (9) Preserving kindness by making it the focus of our tales = it begins with something I struggle with immensely, namely, allowing “not-knowing” to operate within a larger paradigm of certainty in God’s unconditional and unbounded love. “Not-knowing leads to genuine humility and humility is the prerequisite for Lovingkindness.” The Buddha reminds us of identity: “All that you are” he says “are the stories you tell.” Memory (and what you do with it) determine your story, your sense of self. Shapiro writes, “So ask yourself, what do you remember? What memories are the building blocks of your self?” For me, to get out of the victim-version of my story-self I need to commit to telling narratives of proactivity and kindness (while they are many, they never seem important enough next to their sibling tales of betrayals and abuse).

(10) Forgiving iniquity (11) Forgiving willfulness (12) Forgiving error = these three attributes focus more on reframing feelings that arise out of unjust actions or events that we commit against ourselves and others or that we are subjected to, and Shapiro writes, “It is one thing to remember that the last time you touched a hot stove you got burned; it is another to avoid stoves altogether.” 

(13) Cleansing yourself of delusions = which is “not a matter of changing from one state into another, but of realizing that all states are part of God’s manifest reality.” It is learning the difference between consistently choosing to turn away from negativity and expecting to be “rid” of it.

Hope you get the book. And if you have other recommendations for expanding lovingkindness, please share. 

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