One morning, after a snowstorm the day before, as I walked across Central Park to my office, a young woman caught my eye and told me to be careful, as I was approaching an area of black ice that wasn’t obvious. As I walked on, moving safely around the area of black ice, I began to think about all the small acts of kindness that can make such a difference in the unfolding of any given day. The fact that this young woman paid attention not only to the black ice she had just navigated, but also to the fact that I was approaching from the other direction resonated deeply with me, as it’s something that I also do as I move through daily life. And, living in a place like New York City, there are countless opportunities to offer small moments of help and support to other people just about every day.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to play with offering a small act of kindness to someone, perhaps a stranger, perhaps someone you know, perhaps a completely different life form, a few times in the coming week. There are a couple of things I particularly like about this kind of experiment. First, it asks you to be aware of the environment, the people, and what’s going on around you, which is a way to support a sense of connection with your world. Secondly, it orients awareness to what others may need, or to help you might be able to offer in small, seemingly-unimportant ways. So often, our acts of kindness are fleeting and unremarkable, except to the people or other life forms that need our attention and support.
Then, as an important part of the experiment, take a moment to notice what you feel—in your body and in the tone of your thoughts and emotions—as you engage in these small acts of kindness. Allow yourself to experience what these moments touch in you, paying particular attention to your heart. The heart is an organ of perception and intelligence, and our culture tends to ignore this powerful source of awareness. Give yourself an opportunity to notice the quality of your heart intelligence and perception as you play with this experiment.
As with all these experiments, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. Curiosity opens us to experience and can support engaging it without the burden of judgment. And, speaking of judgment, be sure to allow any that may arise to move through and move on, just as birds or clouds move through an open sky.