Kindness, Do Unto Others or Quid Pro Quo?
What does it mean to move freely in the world? How does it feel, look, to give freely and receive with gracious gratitude and no strings attached?
We are taught from a very young age to ‘do unto others as we wish to be done unto’ or some variation on that theme. Implicit in this, though never really spoken, is the notion that if I do treat you well you will reciprocate. You will treat me in kind, with the kindness shown you.
This is an implied quid pro quo but as we come to find out rather quickly, sometimes rudely, often painfully, we do not all play by the same rules or have the same meaning attached. Ah language!
Does this mean I need to change my desire to treat others as I wish to be treated? Or do I act freely, give freely in the face of any response because it feels right to move from my heart’s value even knowing others may not reply in kind, with kindness?
Moving freely, giving freely in this manner then means we are not attached to the fruit of our labors. It is the Karma Phala Tyaga of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the underlying principles of Gandhi and other heroic humans. We are entitled to our labor, our purpose, but not its result. Yes, he sought, desired deeply, a particular outcome but understood that his actions would not always be met in kind. Yet he moved through the world in what he deemed to be right, righteous, despite the immediate fruit of his labor.
The herculean response of high individuals indeed. And we live in a relative world. We are human and it is right that I pay attention to how I am treated, what I am given back. It would be foolish to continue to throw energy where it is not well received or even wanted, right? To a degree yes. Modification, and a certain personal protection is necessary in life. Refinement is using intelligence and we need intelligence of absolutely every sort.
What you sew you reap. If not immediately on the surface of life, certainly in our deepest hearts. We know what feels right, ignoring it hurts. We risk damage to ourselves. This then is a way to freedom. Forging a pathway to the heart, opening our most tender understanding of deepest value and then living from this place takes courage and commitment. But it’s rewards are great.
I am not saying just ‘turn the other check’ and all will magically work out. No, there is work to do and some actions are more appropriate than others. Knowing which to choose is wisdom in action. Again, the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga is Skill in Action. That said, I have no control over others. To truly know this means I do not act in a certain way so others will respond in kind even though I hold deep desire and commitment. That would be quid pro quo and ultimately the building blocks of a painful self imprisonment. I do it for me, for the me I wish to be more and more. It is challenging but I choose to do so because above all I desire freedom.
As more and more space is opened for me to see, to contemplate before I act, I more naturally choose to respond with what feels right and it is closer and closer to kindness; not only to others, but to myself. This is perhaps most challenging of all. To treat myself with true kindness. But it’s getting easier.
The more cumulative time I spend in meditation, in the spaciousness of my heart the more anchored I am to my truest self and the more naturally I move through the world acting as I know myself to be, free to choose.
Make no mistake, it is hard and I do not often like my choices but they are there if I have the eyes to see. I know that every action I take leaves its trace on the world and more directly in me. I want that trace to be the best possible one because it matters. Do unto others leaves its mark no matter the subtlety or gross nature of the response.
Meditate. Meditate and forge a pathway to the heart, settle and expand awareness and watch perspective increase. Meditate, clear the clutter that prohibits us from seeing choice and render the capacity of the mind, like a more powerful microscope, to peer deeply into the matter at hand, whatever it may be. Meditate, anchor awareness and in that, build a ledge of freedom that permits space before we do unto anyone or anything. Meditate, know your self and move more freely in your choice even as the world sometimes does its best to pin us down.
Experience freedom for yourself and build on it as you choose to move through the world rooted in the marriage of heart’s desire and mind’s intelligence. Make skill in action a reality.