on being careful of each other

The Mower 

by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found   
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,   
Killed. It had been in the long grass.


I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.   
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world   
Unmendably. Burial was no help:


Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence   
Is always the same; we should be careful


Of each other, we should be kind   
While there is still time.


I woke up this morning thinking about this poem, its last lines in particular and the idea of being careful with one another. I chose the word "tend" for this year to frame what I wanted to pay attention to, what I wanted to invite: tenderness, watchfulness, care. I don't know that I always do a good job. I have, in the past, been careless with people and their feelings. And it's a habit I've been trying to break for some time now. On Valentine's Day I posted my favorite poem by Emily Dickinson that talks about bringing your heart to others. Imagine facing situations with kindness, open-heartedness, instead of assumptions or selfishness. One of my favorite meditations is Metta Bhavana, the development of lovingkindness. The meditation focuses on ourselves, good friends, people we feel neutral towards and people with whome we have a difficult or challenging relationship, and all sentient beings. In the meditation I do, I move through the phases, focusing on one during each meditation and then choose one day to do a longer focused meditation trying to move through all of the phases. Sometimes M and I do this together. 

The thing I have learned is that emotions don't just come over you out of nowhere; we're not always conscious of them. Emotions can be cultivated, grown, tended. As I learn to cultivate positive emotions, I am better able to express them instead of choosing the emotions of anger, pity, self-righteous indignation. For me, lovingkindness is about creating a pattern of how I think and feel about others. Some days, I do better than others. The point is awareness, watchfulness, tending. 

 we should be kind
 while there is still time