Remember when you didn’t get something you wanted and your dad said that’s okay it will build character?
Well, that may not have been part of your childhood, but it was part of mine. The lesson was often about how I dealt with a negative situation or loss and what I turned loss into, more than how to get what I wanted. Not to say that I didn’t get what I wanted – I often did, but the teaching points were about when I didn’t. Building character was defined by being a good sport – both a good winner and a good loser, trying harder, competing with myself rather than another, and building on my losses to make them into wins.
It was perfect for developing mindfulness.
The lovingkindness part seemed to come out of observing how my father applied compassion to his evaluation of circumstances when meting out punishment and consequences. He had different expectations for different people based on his perception of what their capacities were.
Virtue was about doing my absolute best, but also about doing what was right even if it meant that I would not result in being the winner.
My father, without ever having read any Buddhist thought, lived his life through Buddhist principles. I am sure he would say they were Greek principles… and maybe they are when you consider the work of Aristotle and Socrates. He definitely taught through the Socratic method.
I was expected to think my way out of a situation and then take action, both. He taught but, he expected me to have thought about the problem and tried to solve it before he would give me the corrected answer; no blanks on my proverbial answer sheet were accepted.
I had to have identified something as an answer with my work showing about why I thought my answer was right. Then I could be taught to see more clearly all the aspects of the problem to come to the best conclusion. It was torture then, but now I see what an amazing gift it was to be taught by such a powerful thinker.
What these great thinkers had in common is this sense of mindfulness. Viewing and re-viewing the problem from various perspectives. It is a method of gathering information, observing one’s senses and increasing one’s awareness, looking for patterns and describing these to put together a paradigm or picture of the world within which a decision is being made, or action taken.
Building Character through Virtue, Mindfulness, and Lovingkindness is a style of being in the world that allows one to use one’s losses as teaching opportunities, to deeply understand oneself, and to have a style of relating that is empowering.
Character is a deep quality of inner strength, of having an internal center and making choices from that center. It is something that both differentiates a person from, as well as connects the person to, the group and it is tied to virtue, mindfulness, compassion, and lovingkindness.
It is the more difficult path; it leads to what the Buddhists call Right Relationship, and Right Labor. Making choices about partnerships and career that supports the person’s true inner being as well as the community within which the person lives.
It results in a sense of resilience and inner strength that reminds a person that she is able to walk through life connected to source and herself, no matter how difficult the events in her life are to withstand.
I am interpreting loss both in terms of the loss of a situation, relationship or beloved one, as well as loss in competition.
I think that it is great to win. I think it is great to be the best and be chosen. And I think not being the best is the best avenue to develop character so that one can win and be the best from their true center.
Applying lovingkindness, mindfulness, and virtue to all one’s situations and relationships increases one’s character and strength.
See you tomorrow.