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Random acts of Kindness are the Gift that Keeps on Giving
Let Kindness be your Guide
Kindness seems to be a word that people kind of take for granted. While most of us if asked could define the term, it is a word that often get's lost in the translation. It's one of those words that has a very basic definition but means something quite different to each person.
Let's look at kindness in it's simplest form; the act of being caring toward another human being. I'm not suggesting that we create a ritual of practice that requires many hours a day to practice. Rather, I'm suggesting that we learn to cultivate an attitude of kindness and carry it with us in our daily interactions with the world.
I'm thinking of the saying "do unto others as you'd wish to be done unto". A very simple concept but one that is often missing in many people's increasingly harried lives. But, if we were to take that simple sentence and then behave in such a manner there would be a lot more peace between people and a lot less negativity and strife.
For the most part, we as human beings have very basic needs and one of the most basic is the need to be treated with respect and a modicum of kindness. I'm not suggesting really anything other than to give to others that which you would like to receive yourself; a kind smile and a willingness to help another when the opportunity arises. If each and every person did one kind thing for another person each day the effect would be awesome!
Let's look at some ways that each of us might practice being a kinder version of ourselves on a daily basis and how that might in turn bring more kindness into our own lives as well.
It's an Inside Job
Kindness, like love, begins within. Just as we must first learn how to love ourselves before we can truly love another, we also must learn to be kind to ourselves. That sounds like a very simple and easy step to take, but let's look at common pitfalls and problems that occur for many people.
Probably being able to truly love oneself and behave with kindness to oneself is one of the more difficult challenges we can face. Many people simply fail to recognize that how they feel about, and behave toward themselves is directly related to one's ability to direct love and kindness outward. For whatever reason, many of us find self love and the resulting kindness to be very difficult to achieve.
There are many possible reasons for this. One reason is that many people feel it's egocentric to focus love and kindness on themselves. They feel that to lavish this kind of attention on themselves is to detract from what they might share with others; or that they are being selfish or self absorbed. But, to try to feel love and share kindness with others without first feeling it toward oneself, is like trying to get a car to go 60 mph in first gear! It's not going to happen, and it will just cause you to "spin your wheels".
Just as we start the car in first gear and slowly increase our speed to the higher gears, so we must take the steps to plant seeds of love and kindness within. It's like planting a garden, then being sure to water it and nourish it.
We must water the garden of our own heart and plant seeds of kindness and tolerance; of love and patience. As we do this, our inner garden will flourish and it will become much easier to want to and be able to share that loving kindness with others.
There are many people and books and other resources all dedicated to the notion of this practice of self love and kindness. One can open their computer and search and find hundreds of places to start from. I can tell you that the work of Louise Hay has been very helpful to me in finding self love and appreciation. She shares with us daily affirmations that one can practice and in the practice develop a real and genuine self love.
Another wonderful place to find some help with self love is with the Deepak Chopra Meditation center. Deepak and Oprah have been teaming up for a couple of years and together they share 21 day meditations free of charge.
There are centers for meditation that are free for open meditation and there are endless books and handouts written about this very subject.
I encourage you to make self love and appreciation a priority in your life. Not only will you benefit greatly as you find a true, abiding love for yourself, but you will then also be able to share loving kindness with the people that you encounter on a daily basis. This is where the real magic begins!
The Magic of Practicing Kindness
In the past, I've written about practicing daily Gratitude. What I discovered was that the more I make an effort to express any type of gratitude, the more I will find to be grateful for.
Practicing random acts of kindness is just the same! I have discovered that there is a very real Karmic relationship between the loving kindness we put out there and the kindness that we receive. I'm not suggesting that we behave kindly toward others only for the kindness that we are hoping to receive. However, it would still be very effective, even with a selfish motive, if the kindness shown was genuine.
It's like saying "If you want to experience kindness, you must first give it away". Its really that simple! It's not an exact equation either; not that I will give out 10 expressions of kindness on Tuesday and expect to have received 10 acts of kindness in return by the day's end. Rather, it's that once we start the karmic flow of giving kindness, we've opened up a sort of metaphorical bank account. We now have some room in our account to take in some loving kindness that we've made possible by giving it out first.
Kind of a cause and effect relationship if you will.
For me, the more I'm open to smiling at a stranger, speaking to somebody who first speaks to me; helping a stranger with a question or with a heavy load, the more I feel the reward!
For instance, I was in the grocery store and an elderly woman asked me if I knew where the lotion was. I did not know, but decided to go looking with her. This way I validated her question and together we both found out where the lotion was. It didn't take much time for me to stop what I was doing to help her, and I was rewarded by being able to have a small chat with her and to receive her gratitude for the time I took to help her.
I walk my dog several times a day and in my neighborhood I will often pass a group of people who are homeless. Often these people will be very friendly and speak to me and my dog. On more than one occasion I've felt like maybe I'd rather change directions and avoid dealing with these people. But, on the occasions I've pressed on and swallowed my discomfort I've been rewarded by some lovely conversations. I've been asked what my dogs name is; what type of dog is she, and just general type questions. I've had people volunteer their own names and to engage in light conversation that have really been pleasant and made me feel pleased that I didn't avoid them.
On another occasion, I was walking the dog and a woman called out to me. She wanted to just ask after the dog and to have a moment to talk to somebody. She actually took my hand in hers to greet me and it was a very moving experience. She openly shared her name and I shared the name of my dog and of myself. I didn't give her or the other group any money, and I was not asked for a penny. All these people wanted was to talk to somebody and to engage meaningfully. It was very easy to extend this small kindness and it made me smile and encouraged me to be open with anybody who is willing to be open with me.
I do believe in giving back as I am able. For instance, when I'm out walking if I find any money I'll ear mark it to give it away. The next time I see somebody panhandling for money, I'll give my "found" money to them and know that was why it was in my path. It is not a huge amount of money, but it's in the gesture of kindness where the power lies.
We all have this ability to give unconditionally to another. Whether it's a big gift or something as simple as a smile, it's in the giving that you make the magic happen. I assure you that the more open you are to being a kind person who shares a smile or kind word, the more you will find yourself on the receiving end of kindness.
Why not try it today? You have nothing to lose, but oh so very much to gain!