RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Here's something we invite people to do as a practice during the 8-week mindfulness course. We find that it can really make a difference. Usually it can quite hard to do nice things for people unconditionally; that is, without wanting or expecting something in return. Some people might wonder what this has got to do with mindfulness. Well, we need to consider mindfulness in the context of the world in which we live, work, look after our families, negotiate, argue, play, learn and so on; all of it activity we cannot do alone. To put it another way: mindfulness is more, much more, than simply paying attention; it is also about being aware and this means being awake to the whole world of our experience. Inevitably this includes the social world we inhabit. Mindfulness, ultimately, results in the realisation that we are all connected, all struggling, all trying to do our best. And this is good news because it is the feeling of being trapped with our own contained little selves which drives our unhappiness and if we understand this we have a way out. Kindness and compassion are the antidotes to this feeling of being alone with our selves. Cultivating kindness shifts our brain activity from the left (“me first”) to the right (“we first”). When we humans evolved, nature wasn’t concerned about making us happy; she simply wanted us to be safe for long enough so we could pass our genes on to the next generation. Happiness was a sort of optional extra but it is inexorably linked with our connections to other people and to the rest of the world we live in. I can thoroughly recommend Rick Hanson’s book “Just One Thing” which contains lots of good advice on cultivating this open-hearted attitude to the world. Some of these posts are inspired by it, including this one.
It couldn’t be simpler; just resolve at the beginning of the day, every day this week or this month, to commit at least one act of kindness to another person anonymously. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – washing the tea mugs at work, picking up litter on your daily dog walk, leaving some money at the coffee shop so a homeless person can have a hot drink… the possibilities are endless. You don’t need to spend money but the act will generally have some personal cost for you but one you will willingly pay. There will be an effect on your mood if you are feeling low and on your self-esteem if you are self-critical. It will also make the world a slightly better place and possibly, just possibly, kindness could become infectious. Really resolve to do this, make a serious intention to do something every day for the benefit of others and then see what happens. One point though. You won't always feel well disposed to people. You're human, you get grumpy and annoyed. Don't worry about it. Make a firm intention to do this regardless of how you feel and then see what happens. Good luck!
Let us know how you get along. Another post next month.