Remember, the point of all of these awareness-raising exercises is to give you a rewarding and enjoyable life. And for the people doing them, it’s working. Whether it’s the morning gratitude meditations from week one, or giving the opposite sex more serious consideration, or by being more grateful for the kindness already shown to us, people are using these exercises to enhance their ability to feel good.
Kindness is helpful in this pursuit because it is a form of direct link between beings. Kindness nurtures support and engenders cooperation and defense. Kindness is the basis for our societies. The old capitalist idea that we’re all fundamentally selfish was proven wrong many decades ago. It wasn’t hard to see that a cooperating group would always defeat a selfish group, so kindness is like the glue that holds us all together and it therefore deserves our respect and attention.
Who are the kindest people you know? Who is kindest in your family and how? Who is kindest at work or school? Again, how? Who is kindest in your social group? What is the kindest organization you’re involved with? Ask yourself very seriously how these people express their kindness. A decent act done out of obligation loses its kindness. Look at these examples in your own life to see the results of genuine generosity.
Like many of the others this might seem like too simple a mental task to undertake. But there’s the challenge for a lot of you: you say you want to feel better, you start things with an aim to have them help you feel better (like, for instance, reading this blog), but then you’re half-hearted or undedicated to the actual “work” of creating a better life.
Now by “work” I mean doing the things that will feel more rewarding, less taxing and more beneficial to your soul. These things aren’t really work because they’re easier than what you’re doing now–it takes a lot of effort to suffer. That’s where the people who have really suffered have the advantage and it also might explain the idea of the meek inheriting the Earth.
People who have been through a lot always value feeling better like it’s a life and death question–which it very much is. You either live your life consciously or you never actually come alive much at all. But to do it consciously you have to endeavour to make yourself conscious. It’s what you always did as a kid so it isn’t difficult, but you do have to do it. If you’re going to use all those words to get yourself lost, then you’ll have to put some effort into being found again.
I’m getting great emails from people who are simply doing the exercises. They fit into gaps in their day without too much trouble and just by earnestly doing each one these people are noticing real benefits. So I can’t save you. I can guide you. But ultimately everyone saves themselves. And you do that by being open and loving and supportive to people. It turns out that feels good, and it also makes people want to act that way toward you. It’s a good system.
So look at your life. Find the kindest people in it and call them–don’t text, let them hear the meaning in your voice. And thank them or go see them so they can see see the genuine appreciation on your face. Look at their lives and ask–how do they do it? Is it that they don’t judge? They’re funny? They can be silent and give you space when you need it? They stay in regular touch? Ask yourself exactly how they’re kindness-smart and what you can learn from them.
Find the three kindest people you know and write down what makes them particularly kind, and then before the end of this week do each of those three things for someone else. And be conscious of how you feel when you do it. It will be those good feelings that get you to continue, because as any happy person knows, kindness is a beautifully selfish act. Enjoy.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.