Random Acts of Kindness

It’s pretty amazing what’s happened since I developed the ability to connect with people directly in the instant of a glance. It’s mainly about maintaining the gaze in a firm-but-agendaless way until you get through, then staying with the person in a non-judgmental and non-intrusive way irrespective of their reaction. The main trick is staying present enough to observe one’s own judgements and simply let them pass instead of identifying with them. About 90% of the time when I get a bad reaction, it’s because a judgement snuck in and came across on my face. This entire exchange, in what scientists who study this call “micro-expressions” happens so fast that most people can’t see it even if they’re consciously looking for it. But they still participate in this flurry of subtle facial expressions and react accordingly.

One common reaction is a spontaneous show of gratitude or kindness. A man offering me his seat at a nearby table prompted this post. Another randomly interrupted his very focused walk to talk to me about watercolor pencils, a favorite tool I had forgotten about. In common in all of these is obvious surprise on their part about what’s happening. Even when I get negative initial reactions, if I manage to stay with the person anyway, there’s still this surprised double-take, and then often a genuine smile, that bubbles up afterward. Not every time, but nearly every time.

This is probably the source of part of the great vibe I often get from Buddhist clergy. One of the many sources that led me to this was Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton. He talks about how each person in a conversation is either relating to the other person’s mind (what most if us do most of the time), or to the person themselves (what I’m talking about.) If either person is relating directly to the other, there’s a chance at real connection. If minds are talking to minds, it leaves us with the oddly disconnected feeling that pervades so much of modern society. A disconnection, we’ll note, that’s very similar to the one that occurs between people when one pays the other for something in money.

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