Blogs >> Kindness will help us through difficult times - Satish Kumar

Kindness will help us through difficult times - Satish Kumar

Satish Kumar in Henri's Field

If there is one thing we have learned over recent months, says Satish Kumar, it is that kindness is everything. Ahead of his forthcoming course, Nourishing the Soul, he explains why.

Q: The coronavirus pandemic has presented many difficult challenges but it has also offered an opportunity for reflection.   What has it meant for you personally?

The pandemic has been a paradox! On the one hand so many of our fellow humans have either suffered the illness themselves or they have suffered the loss of their loved one. On the other hand the pandemic has also offered us a chance to re-think our relationship with the natural world and reflect on our way of life. Due to reduced industrial and commercial activities the natural environment has experienced reduced pollution and waste.

For me personally it has been a time for spiritual retreat and reflection, a time for walking and gardening. This pandemic period has shown me that we can live well with less and gain more joy by reconnecting with nature, with our family and friends and with our inner selves.

Q:  In such times - why is it so important to pay attention to our inner selves?

The outer and the inner are intricately connected. Without a soul a body is useless and without a body the soul cannot function. So, as we feed and look after our body we also need to nourish our soul. If we pay attention to our outer needs only and ignore our inner needs we are bound to suffer from discontentment, dissatisfaction and disharmony. Personal happiness is the foundation for total fulfilment and healthy relationships all around. To accomplish total fulfilment we need to cultivate compassion to ourselves and build inner resilience in order to live well in the world.

Q:  How can meditation help us?

Meditation is a very good way to nourish the soul. As we feed our bodies with food, we feed our souls with meditation. The time for meditation is time for ourselves. Through the practice of noble silence and stillness every morning we prepare ourselves to embrace the day. We welcome the outer world with inner peace and strength. In our moments of meditation we resolve to remain calm and equanimous whenever we come across the ups and downs of life. A regular practice of meditation equips us to be mindful in every moment of the day throughout the day. Meditation is the medicine for the mind. For peace of mind we need meditation.

Q: How can a nourished soul be more creative?

Creativity is a quality of the imagination. A malnourished soul is incapable of imagination. As a malnourished body is incapable of functioning properly so a sick soul is incapable of acting creatively. In order to be creative we need to be free of worries, confusions and illusions. A nourished soul has the strength and energy to transcend burdens of mediocrity and think outside the box! A nourished soul can rise above the quagmire of conflicts and seek creative and positive solutions. 

Q: What is Soul Food?

In one word, compassion. Compassion is the food for soul. Compassion to oneself, to other humans and to all living beings. Compassion is born of empathy; an understanding that we are all humans and we all have our limitations. Therefore we respect, cherish and honour everyone and be kind to everyone. Kindness is everything. Kindness dissolves anger and fear, ego and anxiety. Out of kindness the qualities of humility, dignity and magnanimity grow. When we are kind to others we are nourished within and we are happy.  Through empathy we develop sympathy. We always carry the thought that “I am here for you, I understand your sufferings, your suffering is my suffering, and you are welcome to lean on me.” It may sound like a paradox, but through compassion for others and caring for others we feed our soul! Soul seeks to swim in the sea of compassion.

Q: How can spending time in nature nourish our soul?

Because we are nature. When we are in nature we are at home. The fragrance of flowers, the magnificence of mountains, the wonders of the wild and the abundant beauty of the natural world lifts our spirits. In its ignorance, modern civilisation considers nature as a ‘resource’ for the economy. This is a mistaken view. In truth nature is not a ‘resource’ for the economy, nature is the source of life itself! And life is a miracle. Therefore when we spend time in nature we are rejuvenated, revived and yes, truly nourished. We are nourished in our body and soul. Our imagination is nurtured by nature. When we spend time in nature we have deep experience of nature and that leads to deep commitment to protect, defend, conserve and take care of nature. In return nature nourishes our soul.

Q: You often talk about the importance of love in our lives – how can love help us navigate these challenging times?

The Sufi poet Rumi talks about the transformative power of love:
“By love, bitter becomes sweet;
By love, copper becomes gold;
By love, dregs become clear;
By love, pain becomes healing.”

We face challenging and difficult times because we are suffering from the loss of love. Under the influence of materialism we have cultivated a culture of production and consumption of material goods and services at the expense of a loving relationship with nature, with people and with ourselves. People and nature have become a means to an end. The goal of contemporary society is economic growth through production and consumption of goods and services. It should be the other way around. Our goal should be wellbeing of people and the planet Earth. Production and consumption should be a means to that end. The confusion of means and ends is the root cause of our contemporary crisis. If wellbeing of people and planet is our goal then we can create a culture of love because it is in the ground of love that the tree of wellbeing grows.

We need to learn to love ourselves first. Loving oneself is not selfish. Love and ego should not be confused. True love of oneself is to recognise the profound potential of oneself and then focus on the realisation of that potential. Thus love is a way of self-realisation. And as I love my self I love all living beings unconditionally. My love is extended to all people and to the entire natural world. I bathe in a monsoon of love. Love helps me to walk away from being merely glamorous to being gracious.

Satish Kumar will lead and teach a weekend course on Nourishing the Soul from September 25-27. You can find out about all our courses here.