Gathering of Kindness

I’ve just returned from the amazing Gathering of Kindness. Thanks so much Mary Freer, Catherine Crock, countless volunteers and countless contributors who gave so generously in so many ways!

I’ve just opened a secret message in my lanyard pouch too.. “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees” -Amelia Earhart.  Thanks heaps Michelle Phillips… your acts of kindness are many!

I’m writing this as a tribute to a fresh community of people who managed to spend an amazing two days together and share so much warmth, generosity, compassion, kindness and love. Mary, your enacting of “trusting” was amazing.

I am thankful for the gift from Rochelle, a Yorta Yorta elder who said to me at one point “Too much opinion!” This was an incredible gift as it encompassed, in three words, a personal struggle I have. What is this blog for example if it’s not “too much opinion?” and how do I rectify that? How much is “too little opinion?” and how can I do “kind opining” whatever that is?

The Gathering of Kindness- So many different experiences brought together! How do we meet and minimalise the effects of accidental practices of invisibling, overentitlement, opining and all those things common to Western Culture?

Thanks to Kate and others who sat silently,  gently modelling of acts of patience, forgiveness, silent deep appreciative listening and humility in spite of the possible or real disempowerment performed by those of us with “entitlement to speak”. I’d love to have sharing of “what kindness is to me” at the next gathering, perhaps with a “deep listening” session. I wish I had been more silent and observant of kindness in action, but I spent a lot of time in relationship with enthusiasm, distracted from communing with and learning from the wise. But I did my best to align my goodwill with my actions.

I was amazed by the lack of conflict, or even when there was dissent, the respect demonstrated by those present when dissent appeared. I was surprised by my own reactions to the rare statements that unintentionally risked “othering”- diagnosing or labelling others, or trivialising their experiences.

Examples were Captain Cook’s “kindness” which when pointed out, was thankfully acknowledged apologetically by the speaker (Billy) as not representative perhaps of indigenous experience of said Captain. How many times have I chosen an example with less than universal appeal when illustrating a point? When we talk about kindness, how can we better consider “to whom” and at whose expense?

I also struggled with the relationship between silence and politeness with kindness. See “Angry rebels are more compassionate than nice people”   for an exploration of this issue- (thanks Gnat Atherden for bringing it to my attention). It has me still questioning “when is it kinder to be silent, and when is it kinder to speak out?”

I was also challenged by the idea that “some people are programmed with a relative incapacity for kindness”, not because I don’t believe it to some extent, but because, (to paraphrase Michael White),  I haven’t found it to be a particularly useful thought from which to proceed. If I believe low -kindness is predetermined, and this deterministic thought diminishes my hope for change of that individual, then how does that not limit my options for interacting with him or her? I prefer the hopeful commitment; “I will learn from this person, engage responsibly and find areas where kindness can be encouraged and nurtured”, relegating “kindness is preset” to the background

And what of the thought-

“because I’m well intentioned and reflective, my acts will be intrinsically kind, as long as I’m in touch with my intentions and I’m reflective, before I act”.

How do I reintegrate the truths in this when this belief didn’t work consistently well enough for me in the past? When my “kind acts” weren’t experienced as such, I integrated “to check on one’s actions is essential” How can I seek feedback from the recipient without it being seen as a conditional act of “self gratification”? Maybe I’m too attached to the checking and I need to dust off “good intentions guarantee the actions” a bit!

Sorry too, Billy, that I failed to empathise with your enthusiasm about mirror neurons because I was unkindly judging this as “science colonising ancient knowledges”!  How dare I use deconstructionism in such an unkind way! As a consequence I ironically missed this opportunity for the warm/fuzzy/oxytocin laden experience of mirroring Billy’s enthusiasm. To miss this was a no-no for me at a Kindness Gathering!

The whole weekend was so positive and kind, it overshadowed these challenges with the hugeness of experience of connectedness, common goals, we-ness, commitment, love, and authentic generosity. This was/is a very special gathering, and in its steadfastness to propagate, I’m sure the inspiration, thoughts, hopes and commitments it has created will infectiously grow in most (dare I say all?) who attended.

It really was kindness in action. I was “elevated to tears” by Rachelle’s gift to Cathy Crock, moved profoundly by Munjed and I was silently appreciative of the love in action by so many people. Mary Freer and Cathy Crock, thankyou so much for starting this! In loving appreciation of all “kindness vectors” (OMG that seems a bit like “velociraptors”!), Thankyou!


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