Have you ever noticed how life’s little messages often come again and again . . . and again. In small ways, big ways, and every way in-between, these messages persistently find us until we finally wake-up and say, “OK, I’ve got it, I’m with you, I hear you . . .”
This has happened to me over the past two weeks with one simple phrase: Be Kind. I’ve heard it everywhere and in every form — as answers to my prayers, from friends, through my coursework, even through my nightly television escape — this message tirelessly comes through. Be kind. Simple.
Yet is it? Kindness can feel like a tall order. I often find it easier to be kind to strangers than those closest to me –specifically my family and myself. There are times when I am defensive with my husband, impatient with my children and when these times inevitably happen, I feel ashamed and am relentless in reminding myself how I shouldn’t have been defensive or impatient. I sometimes think that I am being quite kind, yet when I examine my thoughts, I find them to be just as judgmental as ever. Not kind.
So, now that I’ve heard the message, here is what I am doing about it. I guess you could call it The Kindness Project. These steps work when you find yourself in a situation — with yourself or with others — in which the last thing you want to be is kind: when you feel frightened, threatened, justified or attacked.
1. Listen to my body. When I notice that I am starting to get upset about something, whether it is a conversation or a situation, I notice what is happening in my body. My heart rate might be quickening, my chest might tighten. Basically, I notice that I am building my armor, building my defense, preparing for an attack. Once I notice this, I wait . . .
2. And then I breathe. Whatever uncomfortable conversation I find myself in, I always have a few moments to pause and take a few breaths. Trust me, the other person will not mind if you take a beat. By focusing on your breath and taking a moment to recenter, your conversation may just turn from an attack to a blessing.
3. Notice judgment. I find that judgment (which creeps in when I don’t expect it!) can turn any situation instantly negative and is simply toxic. If practicing kindness is your thing, there is no room for judgment, period. When I find myself being judgmental I say a prayer asking for the judgment to be lifted and transfigured into something that brings peace.
4. I let the grievances go. This is a hard one for me. I hold on to my feelings as if it were my protection. If I perceive an attack, I feel a physical shell come around me and then I retreat into it. I withdraw. And I hold on. Yet, this is the silliest thing I do because the instant I let my guard down and let the grievance go, I feel lighter, happier, I feel free. By holding on to hurts, I realized that I wasn’t protecting myself after all. I was the jailor keeping myself in jail!
5. I laugh. My husband taught me this one. A few weeks ago, we were having a silly argument and I was in it for the long haul. I was entrenched. And he was in the trenches with me. Until he laughed. It was a genuine laugh. Not a mocking laugh. A laugh that said, “Isn’t this silly! We love each other! What are we doing?” And the laugh pulled the plug on the whole fight. It was a wonderful laugh, a loving laugh, a kind laugh.
6. I forgive. Unkind moments will pop up. They are bound to and with some frequency. When they do, I forgive them and then set them free. I forgive myself. And hopefully with time there will be fewer unkind moments and life will be a little lighter with a lot of laughter.
I invite you all to embark on The Kindness Project with me. Let’s see where it takes us!
With abundant love and gratitude,
A TDL Reader
# # #
This was shared with the author’s permission. We take your privacy seriously and would never publish something without your consent. Share what you’re going through by sending Mastin an email: [email protected].