The Dalai Lama is a great advocate for kindness and for meditation. So do you become kinder if you meditate?
‘My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.’
The quality of kindness is a strength that involves perception and awareness. When you embody these qualities you notice things without negative judgment. And you’re willing to do something that you perceive could be helpful in some way.
Kindness means you are thoughtful and considerate with a sense of open-heartedness.
‘If we are too busy to feel, we are too busy to be aware, and “busyness” narrows our awareness, not expands it. Some of the least perceptive people I know are that way because they are in such a rush …’
Do you become kinder if you meditate?
Give yourself ten minutes to sit quietly and focus on your breath. This is mindful meditation.
If you practice this regularly, you can develop your ability to go out into the world a little more quietly and with greater awareness. Just as Christine Jette states above.
Kindness is definitely a ‘skill’ you can nurture. And meditation can be a great help in developing your observing skills.
The more observant you become then the more opportunities you might notice to be kinder. And choose to act.
Small acts of kindness
When you’re out and about and more present with your surroundings, you know the kind of thing that can happen!
You might notice an elderly person queuing next to you. Rather than being pre-occupied with your mobile phone, you might share a word with them. They may enjoy this small interaction and you never know whether it cheers them up a little.
Being mindful, you may notice a parent with a pram who will appreciate the shop door being held open. Or you make a cup of tea for a work colleague who you notice is under lots of stress.
Sometimes it’s just little extra gestures. It takes a split second to decide you will do them, or not. Even a smile of support towards a stranger can make a difference.
So yes – the more you are alert and aware of what’s going on around you, the more you can interact with kindness. And that may well evolve from your mindful state.
The less stressed you are, the more space opens up for kinder choices.
Power and kindness
The philosopher and humanist Jean Vanier founded L’Arche Community around the world.
This charity provides help for people with learning disabilities. Vanier pointed out that many people who reach positions of power can become more insecure. They close themselves up within their safe groups. A bit like closing the gates behind you.
He urges everyone to be more willing to ‘cross the road’ and connect with people who are different from ourselves. He suggests that successful and powerful people are in positions where kindness can result in real benefits.
So even for you and me, this means using any power we may have to spread kindness and make a difference. There are so many ways that kindness can be the beginning of real change.
Kindness is an asset
Our children learn kindness if they experience it in their lives. Schools play a big part in fostering an atmosphere of kindness.
Some people see kindness as a weakness. There was an advert out a while back which stated that instead of viewing ‘patience as a virtue’ view ‘patience as an asset’.
Kindness is the same – it is an asset and a learned skill. We can all develop it.
And when you sit and meditate, the first thing you learn is to be tolerant and kind towards yourself.
You learn to be patient and not criticise yourself for getting distracted. Accept the stream of busy thoughts that you may feel helpless to control.
Acts of Kindness are good for you too!
You might be amazed what impact a small act of kindness can have! Another outcome is that when you are kind to someone else, you also feel the benefits – you literally feel great!
‘Studies show that thinking about, observing or practising a kind act stimulates the vagus nerve, which literally warms up the heart and may be closely connected to the brain’s receptor networks for oxytocin, the soothing hormone involved in maternal bonding. Kindness also triggers the reward system in our brain’s emotion regulation centre releasing dopamine, the hormone that’s associated with positive motions and the sensation of a natural high’
Mary Ann Christie Burnside, www.mindful.org
Loving Kindness Meditation
And lastly – the ‘Loving Kindness’ or ‘Metta’ meditation is a beautiful way to develop kindness for yourself and others.
In this meditation you learn to soften your heart and harness the energy of kindness.
Learn the phrases and repeat them to yourself. It involves directing loving kindness inwards.
And then shifting this round to offer love and kindness towards your family, loved ones and neighbours. You can extend this out towards anyone – groups and communities around the world.
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Coach, Place of Serenity
This blogpost updated on World Kindness Day, 13 November 2017