Kinship embodies a host of teachings, values and practices that can foster spiritual growth, particularly when applied in one’s relationships with others. For Kinship is based in friendship. Starting with befriending oneself and gradually expanding outward, the path of friendship offers rewards and challenges that carry powerful potential for transformation. Five features of this path follow:
The first is being respectful to all whom we encounter. This begins with recognizing deep value in ourselves and then extending this to others. Doing this in a world teeming with negativity can be a daunting task, so we practice close to home. In our personal friendships we learn to overlook shortcomings and to focus on what is beautiful. Once we do this we can learn to extend this same courtesy to all whom we meet.
The second is cultivating sympathy, that quality that allows us to reach out and experience the condition of another. It acts as a balm or lubricant that eases the natural friction of relationship, especially with those who upset us. It is developed by considering the feelings of others. Sympathy opens the door to deeper understanding and closeness, and resonates in the hearts of those with whom we connect.
The third is deepening our understanding. Increased capacity for respect and sympathy enables us able to see more deeply into people and situations. Enlarging our understanding allows us to expect no gain from a relationship and to be constant in our connection. In doing so we raise ourselves and others to a condition that transcends differences and enmity. Seeing all beings and conditions with the eyes of friendship can change the world from a hell into a paradise.
The fourth is practicing tolerance and forgiveness as a way of life. Our understanding and sympathy provide a vantage point so broad and compassionate that we naturally extend the hand of love and support to others, tolerating their shortcomings and forgiving their indiscretions.
The fifth is developing a practical and very real sense of unity with each person we meet. We begin to recognize the seed that blooms in the heart of all, the spirit of friendship, and we see it everywhere. Our thoughts and actions spring from this source, and we easily and freely accept it from others in turn. In this manner we learn to see ourselves in others.
The sixth is manifesting our unity through selfless acts of service. By acknowledging and acting on the awareness of our common unity through service, we create an atmosphere of love and caring that not only enlivens the server and the served but benefits the whole world.