I was walking down the street in our neighborhood and came upon a small painted river rock, about three inches in diameter, leaning against a fence adjacent to the sidewalk. The word ‘kind’ was painted on a blue background with a bright yellow sun above. In my mind I saw someone’s heart painted there. A smile washed through my body as I continued to walk.

The next day, I took my camera to take a photo of this small inspiration. After snapping a few pictures, I noticed a young girl walking toward me. She was carrying mail back to her house from an adjacent group mailbox. Asked her if she knew anything about the stone. She replied, “My sister and I made several stones like that and placed them around the neighborhood.” I gave her a hearty smile and said, “Good work! Thanks for your kindness and good heart.” She seemed to appreciate it.

It turns out her name is Sophia, a word of Greek origin that means wisdom. Here we have a wonderful example of the Dharma at work. The teachings say that our true nature is the effortless union of wisdom and skillful action(compassion). Sophia and her sister put their natural wisdom to work quite skillfully, helping transform a neighborhood with kindness. Anything that mirrors our naturally good heart has a profound affect on us. We are reminded of something that sometimes becomes obscured by darkness in our mind.

I have moments of darkness when I watch my mind move toward old habit patterns that, in the past, led me to depression. When our routine is disturbed we sometimes fall into old habits—like trying to rekindle old relationships we once found comforting but are no longer helpful. This is just the mind. Mingled with awareness of those habits, paradoxically, is the clear light of our original nature. This is called rigpa (spontaneous presence) in Tibetan. It is the pure and total presence of our original wisdom mind. 

So, there is always a beautifully painted river rock emanating light as we walk though our darkest times. That light never diminishes. We just have to slow down enough to see it.