What is kindness? I always think of this little face when I think of this word: Kindness.
Merriam-Webster defines kindness as "the quality or state of being kind." However, I used to be an English teacher. That means I can't leave well enough alone, because no student of mine was ever allowed to define a word with a form of the word itself. So.......Merriam-Webster defines the word KIND as "of a sympathetic or helpful nature." (Meaning that I was dead on with my picture definition of Riley above....)
Now we're getting somewhere.
Kindness: The quality or state of being sympathetic or helpful.
The dictionary didn't mention anything about being "nice" or about treating people the way we'd like to be treated ourselves when defining KIND. Interesting. Let's break that down.
Many of us don't treat ourselves very well. We belittle ourselves (or we give other people the permission to belittle us). We think badly about ourselves if we don't move fast enough, don't think smart enough, can't find our keys immediately, or gain a pound or five. Many of us are constantly thinking about how we should be better at lots of things. What kind of a Golden Rule is that? I don't want many people to treat me the same way they treat themselves. Do you?
And even more intriguing, "nice" doesn't even mean what I have thought it did. For all these years I've been using it as the vanilla sort of word to describe someone as mildly kind with the absence of being "mean." When I looked up "nice," its definition ranged from "exacting precision" to "socially acceptable" with "pleasing" thrown into the definitions somewhere toward the end. I must have been some English teacher if it's taken me until now to learn that.
So, KIND is all about putting oneself in another's shoes and being helpful. That means we have to listen and observe in order to know how to truly treat someone with kindness. Otherwise, how could we possibly even know what sort of kindness someone needs or desires from us?
Here's something I feel confident about: Treating others with kindness begins with treating ourselves with kindness. And to make matters tricky, I don't think that true kindness discriminates. I have a sneaking suspicion that the universe means for us to be kind to everyone (even the people who we accuse of making us feel anger or frustration or fear.....so complicated!).
Don't you find, though, that when you are being kind to yourself, it's easier to share the kindness with others? It sort of just flows out. Not to get all new-agey on you, but wouldn't it be great if we increased that flow of kindness amongst us? The world really seems to need it from all angles, if you ask me. More than usual, even. Riley is doing her best to spread kindness, but she's just one dog in a big world. She needs an army of kindness warriors to help.
If this resonates with you and you'd like to practice increasing the flow of kindness in your daily life, I have an exercise for you. It could help make a natural habit of being kind to yourself, thus paving the way for you to be in a good place to share kindness with other people and the world in general. It only takes 5 minutes each day. You can do it just about anywhere and any time you can spare 5 minutes in a row (cheat and do it for only 4 minutes if you must or do it for 15 or 20 minutes if you'd like).
Step 1: Take a seat in a position that allows you comfort in your body.
Step 2: Lightly close your eyes and place your hands in either the Kashyapa Mudra** for balance and protection against negative energy
or in the Apana Mudra** for inner balance, patience, confidence, and grounding.
Step 3: Breathe easily and evenly through your nose. As you do this, allow your shoulders to relax.
Step 3: Allow your thoughts to drift past you like clouds. Attach your attention to none of them. (This takes practice. Be easy on yourself and keep trying without forcing it.). Continue your peaceful and even breathing.
Step 4: Gently come out of your meditation (Yep, you knew that's what we were doing, didn't you?!) by opening your eyes and releasing your mudra by bringing your hands to your heart space. Make a promise to yourself to be KIND to yourself and to all other living beings today.
Sending you Peace and Kindness,
P.S. And now the next time someone tells me to "Have a Nice Day!" my brain will instead process "Have a Socially Acceptable Day!" Sigh. The struggle is real.