Derech Eretz

Derech eretz is, in its broadest sense, acting with consideration and kindness to one’s fellow human beings, and in so doing, fulfilling the will of God. It is something observed in Orthodox Judaism and of course comes with varying interpretations.

A friend of mine recently wrote to me and spoke of dharma, friendship and derech….and reflected on their inherent presence in every footstep. And we both seemed to agree that although each of these may be ‘inherent’, awareness and attention are also needed in the recipe.
And then I happened upon reader reviews of a book about a person striving for ‘derech eretz’ in every day life and journaling about it for 1 year.
And so I ponder………

What is it to be ‘good’?  ( And for me the word ‘good’ has been the victim of unfortunate manipulation and laden with subjective perspective and judgement. For this reason I tend to not engage it and feel weary when people speak of ‘doing good’.)And when we ask how it is that each of us can go about treating others with respect, consideration and compassion…….what do these things mean to each of us? These are questions that cannot be answered by the Bible or any scriptures. The answers lie within each of us and in symphony with one another.

Would you only act with respect and compassion towards others if it is the will of ‘God’ ? Why wouldn’t you engage these qualities simply because they exist and you exist?

Perhaps the golden rule of ‘do unto others as one would wish be done unto oneself’ is a great guide or springboard. (In the Talmud it is written: “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor.) But is it not possible that with so much conditioning towards shades of abuse and self deprecation that even this has lost its ability to guide us intuitively?

And when we are able to navigate our awareness and authentic expression of compassion and kindness with self and other……how do we maintain keen clarity of motivations and the tempting concepts of ‘success and failure’ (ie: moral one-upmanship or evidence to feel poorly about oneself)?
How do we engage and enact these qualities (soul level qualities) even with our differences and incredible diversity? How do we meet as humans?

I personally feel we need to put all of our rich experiences and feelings of ‘God’ aside and ask ourselves in our own hearts what is kindness and compassion….what is ‘good-ness’? What is the world we want to dwell in?
If I take time to look at my own self and ask what gets in my way of being considerate, compassionate and respectful, both equally of others and myself, then perhaps I can find how engaging these exact qualities might guide me back to them.

Is it truly so difficult for each of us to reflect upon our own behaviors and conditioning so that we might unwind our tendency away from compassion and kindness?
I know the answers to these questions are not so simple as it is not simple to be human. It is quite intricate and mysterious at times.

Self reflection is an amazing gift and when done without a whiff of judgement or imbalance it can give in the most amazing and unexpected ways. (The emphasis here being on ‘done without a whiff of judgement or imbalance’ otherwise it becomes only a facade without true dimension )
Perhaps ask yourself to reflect throughout your day on your canopy of continuous emotions & thoughts and just be witness and NOT judge. See what you can learn about the different aspects of yourself and even ask yourself what these parts of you might need to come more and more into balance. More and more into synchronicity with compassion, kindness and equanimity.
Let go of judging others or writing stories about their motivation or intentions. We truly never need to diminish ourselves or others…..never. I find this to be a reaction that serves nothing but to feed a process that doesn’t support our being fully enlivened individuals. So why do it?
Well, probably because it is what we learned as children and what was modeled by generation upon generation. But we do get to shift it. We get to develop a new way of existing in our thoughts, feelings and actions.
All it takes is personal self reflection.  Breath.  This awareness is where compassion and kindness can grow if you simply plant the seeds.
And then, perhaps, these qualities come naturally and without effort.  Kindness and compassion are not separate from you….but inherent in every footstep and breath you take.

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