Stick Compass
Stick Compass

A Pocketful of Compassion

I read an uplifting story about how a sickly Korean woman overcame illness by helping others. Her story gave me the inspiration to use a similar tactic in my own life.
The woman began practicing Buddhism and was encouraged to tell other about the philosophy, and to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. She gathered several pebbles and placed them in her pockets. Every time she told someone about Buddhism, she removed one stone. In three months time all her stones were gone, and so was her debilitating illness.

The word for introducing others to this particular sect of Buddhism is shakabuku. Proselytizing can be an uncomfortable practice – even when an individual has experienced absolute proof that chanting works. With that in mind, I decided to experiment with a whimsical icebreaker at my next Buddhist meeting.

I purchased a number of colorful glass stones and placed them in a large, glass vase. I passed the vase around and told the members to take a few stones. They could take one, two, or a handful, but they would be using the stones at a later date.

Everyone participated. Some folks carefully selected a single stone. Others took a handful. After everyone had their rocks I told them about the story of the Korean woman. I asked each person to carry their rocks around to remind them of the importance of telling others about their Buddhist practice.

A week later, I was at a different meeting, and since I still had plenty of stones, I did the same icebreaker. One of the men, a fellow named Rich, had been at my previous meeting. He told the group that when he came home from the first meeting, he told his wife, Kathy, that he had a shakabuku rock. He was going to carry the stone with him to remind him to share Buddhism with others. Unfortunately, Rich had discovered that he never had the opportunity to have a casual conversation with anyone at work. He also knew religious discussions at work were a taboo subject.

However, the following day, a coworker discovered Rich lived close to his house and asked if they could carpool to work. Rich gave the young man a ride and they wound up discussing philosophy. This unlikely event made it possible for Rich to tell the fellow about Buddhism. Rich told the folks at the meeting that the stone was a good reminder to take the time to share Buddhism with others – especially those who are suffering.

While I believe in the importance of spreading Buddhism, I thought that the stones don’t need to be limited to only religious introductions – or shakabuku. I thought to myself that I could carry stones to remind myself to practice other good deeds as well. I try to be a thoughful person, but it never hurts to have a little physical reminder.

Since I have a habit of sticking my hands in my pockets anyway, I can use this simple act as an opportunity to nudge me in a kinder, gentler direction. The act can be as simple as a smile to a stranger, opening the door for someone, or simply a kind word.

I’m using my shakabuku rocks to create a shift in my thinking. Rather than making a mountain out of mole hill when things do not go my way, my determination is to take a mole hill of kindness and turn it into a mountain – one beautiful, glass stone at a time.

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