This is the 11th post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link.
I’m in the middle of writing about the five transformative daily practices lead to a contented and happy life:
- Spending time in solitude
- Adopting simplicity
- Engaging in kindness
- Cultivating self-expression
- Respecting the body
Today I want to address the third of the daily practices, Engaging in Kindness.
Daily Practice #3 – Engaging in Kindness
In 2012, I wrote and published a spiritual memoir, The Practical Buddhist. In that book, I delineated my three-fold spiritual practice that was composed of:
- meditation – spending time in silence each day
- mindfulness – performing periodic awareness check-ins throughout the day
- compassionate-kindness – acting on the compassion I feel and performing regular acts of kindness
Today’s post is about the third daily practice for a contented and happy life, The Practice of Engaging in Kindness and it’s very similar to the third bullet above.
About Engaging in Kindness
“My simple religion is kindness.” -His Holiness the Dalai Lama
There is a popular aphorism that encourages the performance of random acts of kindness. I’m in favor of that, of course. However, to adopt a daily practice of kindness involves more than being kind in a random manner.
The practice of engaging unkindness can be thought of in the following ways:
- Kindness is a mindset – one only needs to look at the world today and see that certain leaders have quite different mindsets. Imagine what the world would be like if the majority of its leaders were concerned with kindness?
- Kindness is a response to compassion – when compassionate people are exposed to an expression of need, often our first knee-jerk response is to look for a way to help. Kindness is the go-to gift in most cases; it often costs us nothing to express kindness to one in need.
- Kindness can indeed, be a religion – I have no beliefs in any religion-based precepts. Beliefs, as I define them, are concepts that require us to exercise hope and faith regardless of their truthfulness and verifiability. Kindness is very different from belief; it requires nothing but a sensitive heart and a willingness to help.
- Kindness is the mark of a sensitive heart – most people have a sensitive heart that predisposes them to empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. People who are devoid of empathy (Donald J. Trump is an example) rarely if ever practice kindness.
Why You’d Want to Engage this Practice
Kindness is an admirable practice. Nearly everyone benefits from frequent practice.
When we feel compassion and extend our kindness to one in need, the benefit is two-fold; both the giver and the recipient benefit. The recipient experiences the benefit of compassionate human contact and the giver experiences no small amount of self-love and self-gratitude.
Our children need to see us being kind. Most us of us teach our children that being kind is a virtue, and rightly so. We want them to grow into empathetic, caring, and kind adults. When our children catch us being kind, they are more inclined to be kind as well.
Become a Kindness Bodhisattva – There is perhaps no higher calling than to practice kindness on a daily basis. In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is a person who is capable of achieving Nirvana (a state of supreme consciousness, like the Buddha) but delays doing so in order to help alleviate the suffering of others. When we choose to practice kindness on a daily basis, we are like the Bodhisattvas among us.
How to Engage Kindness on a Daily Basis
It’s quite easy to engage in kindness each and every day. The following suggestions will help you to practice kindness wherever you are.
- Spend time in solitude – as we discussed in the first post in this series, the practice of spending time in solitude is a way to make contact with your deeper self. By doing so you will also heighten your sensitivity and predisposition to feeling compassion, which I think of as the seed of kindness.
- When you see one in need, resist turning away – it isn’t always possible to physically or financially help all those we see in need. There are simply too many out there and we are only one person. But instead of turning away, do what you can, even if it’s limited to offering the homeless man at the corner a smile.
- Prepare for showing kindness as often as you can – some are reviled at the sight of need and never act on their inward impulses. Others can see that a little preparation can go a long way. For example, keeping some $1 bills in your car in a secure but readily accessible place can offer the man or woman at the corner some temporary reprieve.
- Let go of judgment or condemnation – it really doesn’t matter if your donation goes to cigarettes or alcohol. Our isn’t the responsibility to judge and not act on kindness. Give anyway knowing that you’ve done what you could. It’s good karma.
- Look for opportunities to be kind – they are everywhere. For example, I often observe elderly men and women shopping in the grocery store. I offer to reach items they can’t help them with loading their bags in their car. They often refuse, and that is their right. But it’s an easy place to be kind as are fueling stations, department stores, or any place the public gathers. There will be needs present and moments that are ripe for the practice of kindness.
- Actively choose to be kind – Each of us faces numerous situations daily where we could respond with our middle finger (driving in southern California), a harsh word (ditto), or some other unkind utterance or remark. When you don’t the appropriate response to a situation, choose to be kind.
Engaging the daily practice of kindness is one of the most beautiful habits we can choose to cultivate. The highest compliment I can be paid is to be called kind. (Karen recently did this and it brought me to tears.)
I hope that you will look for an opportunity to practice kindness today. 🙂
These daily practice posts are requiring longer than my 30-minute limit, but I’m sure you can see why and will forgive me. 🙂