“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” -Albert Schweitzer
In early January, I sat on my meditation cushion preparing for my regular morning reflection and asked for a theme word to come to me for 2018. I heard, “Kindness.”
My initial reaction was, “Really?! Surely there is a more powerful, potent word for me for this already incredibly intense year?” Honestly, I thought kindness sounded a bit … wimpy.
But as I began to fold this theme into my life and pay attention to how and where it was showing up, it became clear that as psychiatrist/author Theodore Isaac Rubin said, “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”
My dear friend Nicole made this artwork for my January birthday. It greets my entire family each day as we leave and head out into the world and reminds us “people first, things second.”
After coming off a difficult holiday season and a stint of depression, I sat down with Kindness and we had tea. What she revealed to me is there are three ways I can experience Kindness this year:
–Extending acts of kindness to others. When I was feeling down in early January, one of the things that pulled me out of my dark slump was to consciously–but quietly and often anonymously–do something kind for someone else. Every day. Whether it was bringing an unexpected meal to a sick friend, promoting a new small business owner’s work to help her get seen, sending someone who is suffering a beautiful card of love/appreciation or bringing a basket of hot tamales to a group of homeless men–these acts helped me put my issues in perspective and feel more connected to humanity’s suffering as whole. I’m continuing to do this daily.
–Adopting a kindness mindset. Often this looks like giving people the benefit of the doubt, remembering everyone has a hard load they’re carrying and acknowledging we’re all doing the best we can do (and when we know better, we’ll do better). Leaving your house each day with a “kindness mindset” shifts everything. And it’s contagious. Read Are You Choosing to Come from Love or Fear?
To explore this idea, try this popular lovingkindness meditation (thanks Jack Kornfield) before you leave your home each day:
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
Then when you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others. After focusing on yourself for five or ten minutes, choose a benefactor, someone in your life who is suffering or perhaps needs extra support. Picture this person and thoughtfully recite the same phrases:
May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy.
Kindness is underrated. I have been amazed to see how deeply this practice has affected my well-being and those around me when it’s a “front and center” focus. Mother Teresa shared, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Want to explore this theme some more? Here are some upcoming offerings–I’d love to support you.
1440 Multiversity in Santa Cruz County, CA is the newest retreat center to join the legends. Nestled in the ancient redwood trees, it’s stunning, expansive and restorative. Join me here April 20-22–reserve your room today!
Join me April 20-22 at 1440 Multiversity in CA for Embracing the Wild Unknown: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat; ideal for women in transition asking, “What’s next?” Learn more.
Ready to make self-care a priority in 2018 AND find your tribe? Learn more about becoming a RTA-Certified Facilitator and leading self-renewal groups for women in your community. Be the change! (Enjoy $100 off training through 2/28.)
Are you a homebody? Winter is the perfect time to enjoy one of my self-paced teleclasses from the cozy comfort of your own home, bathtub or favorite spot by the fire. Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by mindfulness coach/speaker/author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find their center through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum. She is the author of three books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 15-year-old son. More on her background here.