Please Note: This is a guest article by a very dear spiritual soul and someone I truly admire – Janice Lynn Lundy. Please read more about her at the end of this article.
In 2008, the Gallup poll revealed our choice of the world leader we admired the most. I was not surprised by the result—His Holiness the 15th Dalai Lama—but the creators of the poll were. Apparently, this was the very first time that our top choice was someone who was perceived as both a political leader and a religious leader. This made me wonder, what is the common thread woven through each of these roles that this esteemed man plays? The answer came quickly: Kindness.
In fact, the Dalai Lama himself has said this repeatedly, “My religion is kindness.” He has also been quick to add that he believes kindness—along with its cohort, compassion—is at the root of all the world’s spiritual traditions. In fact, even if you do not consider yourself to be a particularly religious person, kindness would likely still form the bedrock of how you relate to others.
Kindness transcends all boundaries and borders; permeates all walls and wounds. Kindness connects us, no matter what we believe, where we live, or how we earn a living. Kindness is the common language we speak as human beings. A smile, a generous gesture, an act of caring transcends all our differences. Kindness is the key to a life well lived. Kindness matters.
Do you consider yourself to be a kind person? Do you generally respond well to the people you meet on a day-to-day basis? Are you open and receptive, hospitable, especially when others do not seem so kind themselves?
These are important questions to ask ourselves now, especially with the state of world as it is—when communities and families are struggling to maintain equanimity. It is easy to lose focus and move away from kindness. We become self-absorbed, stressed, overwhelmed, worried, or fearful. Our first thought in any number of situations may be, ‘What about me?’
In truth, taking the focus off ourselves and placing it on the well-being of others can shift our preoccupation—and our own pain. Thinking of another first and how we might enhance his or her day can brighten our own. This is what I understand His Holiness the Dalai Lama vows to do on a moment-to-moment basis. His focus is not upon how he can make himself feel better, but how his presence or words might uplift another. Kindness can be the cure for what ails us.
So how can we be more kind? What can we do to keep our hearts open to one another, to keep the well-being of others in the forefront of our thoughts? I’d like to offer these heart-opening suggestions:
Notice the “I”
Beginning first thing in the morning, notice what words you speak. How often do your sentences begin with the word “I”? Try and catch yourself doing this. Then try to stop yourself from speaking about you. When we use “I” so often, that’s a tip-off that we are thinking an awful lot about ourselves and, likely, not about others. Set an intention to speak about yourself less often. Minimize the “I” in your vocabulary.
Take a Good Look
Eye contact seems to have become a scarce commodity these days. I recall when I visited New York City a well-meaning friend offered a piece of advice about staying safe. “Don’t’ look at anyone,” she said. “You’ll be fine.” Well, I took her advice and avoided all eye contact, looking down at the sidewalk the entire time. I felt as if I was insulating myself from the world, literally, cutting myself off from my fellow human beings. I believed that the most important thing was to keep myself safe, that other people did not matter. They became invisible to me. I hated the whole experience and couldn’t wait to get back to safe little Grand Rapids where people looked at one another and smiled. Or did they? I began to take notice …
When we’re engaged in the busyness of everyday life we may be moving so quickly that we do not really see one another. We do not greet each other eye-to-eye. I witness this most often while in the grocery store. The check out person may not even look at me, nor I her, if I do not make a concerted effort to do so. Though we in close proximity, we are amazingly invisible to one another.
I invite you to slow down, take a good look, and truly see the other. Make eye contact, smile, or acknowledge his or her presence with a genuine ‘Hello.’ An act as simple as this can put us back in touch with the unique presence and well-being of another.
Random Acts of Kindness
Once we have begun to slow down and really notice people, we may feel compelled to offer a kindness of some kind, especially if we see that they themselves are disconnected from others. By reconnecting through a kind act, we may facilitate an opening of their eyes, their heart, by a demonstration of our own.
Simple gestures speak boldly of kindness. A door held open; a hearty ‘Thank You’ when one is held open for you. Offering up the closer parking space. Randomly putting change in someone’s expired parking meter. Providing the small change someone doesn’t have to pay his or her grocery bill. The list is endless. Be creative and create a kindness list of your own. Ask yourself, what very simple thing could I do right now to show kindness to this person? Then, do it!
I try to keep myself attuned to acts of kindness by rereading these powerful words by Mother Teresa daily …
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of (God’s) kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”
Kindness does matter. In fact, in the grand scheme of life, it may be the only thing that does …
About the Author:
Janice Lynne Lundy is an Interfaith Spiritual Director, retreat leader, magazine columnist, and the author of four self-help/spiritual growth books, the newest being Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be. She is also the woman behind Buddha Chick™. Visit her website, AwakenedLiving.com, and her award-winning blog, AwakeisGood.com, recently named as one of 2010’s Top 50 Buddhist Blogs. You can find her and Buddha Chick™ on Facebook.
Dearest Janice, Thank you for sharing your Wisdom, your insight and your pure soul here. I just know, what you share here will touch many hearts.
Dearest Reader- Now its your turn to share what you think about this beautiful article. How has kindness mattered in Your life? What ways do you use to induce kindness in your life? Share your wisdom in the comments below.
With Immense Love & Gratitude,