Given the tone of some of the political discourse these days, it seems worthwhile to revisit the importance of kindness as one of the primary qualities we can choose to express in our day-to-day interactions with other people. To pay attention to what our words might mean to others, to notice how our actions affect those around us, to give some thought to what qualities we radiate into our environment as we move through everyday activities, offers moment-to-moment opportunities to choose to be kind.
Here are a couple of ways to generate kindness in your own experience, which can support expressing it actively in your environment:
A primary practice I use just about everyday is based on a Buddhist tradition I’ve written about a number of times – Tonglen. In Tibetan, Tonglen means “taking in and giving out”. To do this practice, you’ll focus your awareness in your heart space. The energy of the heart space is the fire of love. To do this practice, you breathe the energy of dissention or unkindness into your heart and allow the fire to neutralize what you breathe in. Then, as you get ready for the out-breath, you infuse this neutralized energy with the essence of kindness. As you breathe out, first fill your own body-mind being with kindness and then, as the out-breath continues, breathe it out into the world. Anytime you feel overwhelmed by the harshness of interactions with people in many different contexts, take a moment to breathe in the harshness and breathe out kindness. It’s a practice that can re-center you in a matter of moments, along with offering to the world the essence and energy of kindness.
Another practice you can do is to consciously commit each morning to generating acts of kindness in your daily life. This can mean something along the lines of smiling at strangers, being kind to shopkeepers, and more significant actions such as offering money to homeless people or buying them meals. Then, as you go through the day, you can keep acts of kindness at the forefront of your awareness, so that you can act on unanticipated opportunities that emerge along the way.
A third practice you might try is to feed yourself stories of kindness offered to others. The Internet is full of videos and blogs that focus on kindness. One source is KindSpring.org, which is has stories and examples of creative opportunities to focus on acts of kindness.
As you move through the week, notice what happens to your state of mind and how your body feels as you engage various practices around kindness. Does it affect the quality of your internal life if you actively express kindness in your daily life? Do you feel better when you seek out news, videos, and articles that reflect kindness? Notice the sensations you feel in your body, along with the tone and quality of your internal dialogue as you become increasingly focused on kindness as an active expression in your daily life.