I have been thinking about kindness a lot lately. The conclusion I've arrived at is that kindness is one of the single most important qualities we can embody with each other. This is not to say that other qualities aren't important; it's just that I've come to believe that kindness is the most essential quality to call forth when it comes to any relationship. Kindness is the cornerstone of love, the harbinger of awakening, and our most powerful touchstone when we're tempted to stay stuck in our smallness.
Our kindness engenders gratitude in others and the kindness of others magnifies our own experience of gratitude; not only that, the more kindness I express for and to those around me, the more grateful I feel. Gratitude bursts forth when we share or receive kindness… and living a grateful life engenders more kindness in turn.
Whether we're chatting with the clerk at the grocery store, greeting our partner after a long day of work, visiting with family members, getting on the bus, or looking in the mirror… every interaction is an opportunity to bring kindness to whatever relationship we're in at that moment.
I am tremendously present to the fact that I have an opportunity to choose kindness in every moment.
And, let me be perfectly honest, there have been many moments in the past when I didn't. I feel like I've gotten so much better in the last few years, but time and stepping into a committed partnership after years of being single will, I'm sure, give me many more opportunities to practice making that choice.
Consider that we've all acted on that hankering to say something unkind or to make a snide remark. Consider that we've all left kind acts undone – the ones that might require a little more effort on our part, like smiling when we don't "feel like it" or asking how someone's day is going. Sometimes it feels like going just the slightest bit out of our way to make someone's day better is more than we're up for. I've done it more time than I can possibly count… we're human and we forget who we really are – often. But what if we chose to practice being kind to the best of our ability every day?
Often, the person with whom we have to practice kindness with more than anyone is ourselves.
This morning as I was sitting in meditation I realized, on a deeper level than ever before, that all the energy I spend feeling like I haven't done enough, made the kind of progress I want to make (whatever that means) or contributed enough to the betterment of the world has been an act of incredible unkindness to myself. In that moment, a wave of kindness for myself washed over me and I felt as if a huge weight had been removed from my shoulders. What if simply being a loving presence is enough? What if sharing this beautiful life with the people I love, trusting that doing my best is always enough, is all that's required? What kind of kindnesses could I offer the world living from that place?
The level of freedom I experienced as I sat there was phenomenal. I feel like I was given one of the greatest gifts I have received in a very long time.
And, now, here we are… stepping into another New Year – an infamous one at that – 2012. It holds infinite possibilities for each of us to contribute to the people in our lives and the world around us. It holds endless opportunities to remember who we are and choose kindness as our customary behavior for every interaction. Regardless of what you choose, here are some questions to consider as you release 2011 and step forward into the coming year….
What if, in choosing to live from kindness and appreciation…
…it became the norm to express appreciation and kind words and deeds rather than put-downs?
…we felt the pain of others and reached out when we were able?
...we laughed together with shared, spontaneous enjoyment of life rather than at each other's expense?
What if all it took was a shift in our consciousness… to BE Love rather than get love (as coined by my friends Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Cafe Gratitude)? What would we choose?
The truth is we always have the opportunity to choose kindness, to choose differently if we don't like the choices we've made before. Instead of being in reaction, we can choose to be "response-able" with our words, thoughts, deeds and attitudes towards others and ourselves. Instead of choosing out of habit or default, we can choose with a conscious awareness of the outcome of our choices.
In this new year, I commit to choosing kindness as often as I possibly remember. And I invite you, if you see me being unkind in any way - or holding back and playing small - to call me out and remind me of who I really am. We need each other to be reminded of who we really are, so I invite you to ask the people in your life to lovingly, kindly remind you when you forget.
At this momentous time, we are all - every one of us, as a species and as a civilization - being asked to step up our game. We are being asked to expand, stretch and grow into the larger expression of ourselves. It's time to get that we matter, to be the ones we've been waiting for, and to do it with kindness. What will you choose?
May 2012 be your best year ever!