Shin Mei Spiritual Centre

Omoiyori: Proactive Kindness

This week I’m combining the columns on Shinto and on Great Nature, because there’s a lot of interesting overlap.

The term omoiyari (oh-moh-ee-ya-ree) 思いやりis Japanese term that embodies empathy and consideration. The verb omo(u) is translated as “to consider, ponder.” But the meaning is actually very complex and rich and does not translate well into a single English word.

Omoiyari is having an anticipatory sensitivity to another’s situation. Similar to empathy, it implies being able to consider the feelings and needs of others. But it also is about acting on the empathy. It is being able to deliver our thoughts with action.

As an example, a person with omoiyari might give up their seat on the bus to an elderly person without being asked. Similarly, I still vividly remember 50 years ago being in Hiroshima when a rainstorm suddenly began. A woman ran out of her house and insisted I take an umbrella. She embodied omoiyari, and her proactive kindness remains with me many decades later.

Omoiyari is more than just reacting sympathetically to the visible needs of others. It is actively anticipating and preventing discomfort or difficulty for them.

This attitude comes from a depth of heart, and narrows or removes separation between us. It brings us close.

I take this concept even further—beyond the confines of human interaction.
We can also anticipate the needs of Nature. And we can be proactive. Pick up the trash on the trail. Remove the invasive plants from the forest. Be gentle in our interactions with Nature. Conserve water and other resources. Reduce our consumption and waste that impacts our precious Earth.

Shinto teaches us to live in harmony with Great Nature. This includes humans as well as the natural world. And it is the foundation of Shinto practice and our life actions.

Anticipate needs, and provide service with warmth and sincerity. With this, we can improve our families, our community, and the world.

Listen. Really listen. And anticipate the needs of Great Nature. And of our descendants. And act on that insight. Where might this lead you?