Furthermore, the foundation for kindness comes when we practice being kind to ourselves. It is not selfish to take time to be loving and kind with yourself, but rather wise and critical. We can’t give anything to anyone else that we don’t have within ourselves. We can’t expect to show up in the world offering kindness to others if we are continually beating ourselves up. We also can’t expect to create a ripple of love if we continually come from a place of anger or fear.
I noticed what happened when I jumped in to defend my son from someone who was upsetting him. Filled with anger, I began to call that person names and attack back, even though the person wasn’t here. I watched and felt the ugliness brew inside me and then ripple outward to everything and everyone around me. It infected my attitude so that I was interacting with grumpiness to anyone within striking range – both of my sons, and my poor husband who was only just waking up.
After I took my younger son to school, he exited the car quickly without his usual “I love you. Have a nice day,” and my first response was, “What’s wrong with you??” Then I realized it wasn’t him at all. It was me. He was merely mirroring my energy back to me, and he was trying to save himself by getting away as quickly as possible. Who could blame him?
Thankfully, yoga was an hour later, so very quickly I was brought back to my senses and sent on my way to lead a better rest of the day. We began with a discussion of loving kindness and then practiced a brief loving kindness meditation at the beginning and end of class. It reminded me of the practice I learned earlier this year in a Mindful Self-Compasssion workshop with Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff*.
Throughout yoga class we were encouraged to offer ourselves and our class mates kindness and gentleness as we moved through the various poses. Instead of beating myself up if I wobbled or skipped a pose, I was able to lovingly be there for myself and honor what was right for me today. I also sweetly appreciated the beauty of a well-executed pose by someone else. No judgment. No criticism. No comparison. So powerful.
If we want to create a kinder, more peaceful world, we must begin with ourselves and with those closest to us. We must cultivate this practice of being kind, gentle, and loving on a regular basis and from a place of inner peace, we can silently and anonymously send it out to anyone, anywhere in the world.
If you would like to be part of a kinder world, I invite you to try this today – begin with yourself and offer a simple meditation, such as, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” Repeat these phrases (or come up with whatever words resonate with you) over and over at your own comfortable pace for just a few moments and notice what you feel inside. As you go through life’s happenings, when you find yourself feeling frustrated or upset with yourself, step back and again offer a phrase or two that you really need to hear to bring you back to peace.
Then take this show on the road - practice sending this silent offering to others. It’s a little easier to begin with someone you really love, someone who makes you smile, or someone who has shown you great kindness. However, with practice you will find yourself offering loving kindness to strangers who bump into you in the grocery store, drivers who cut you off in traffic, and even people who hurt you or your loved ones.
When we come from love and compassion, then we have the power to change not only our own lives but the world at large.
Thanks to Amy Jo at Bodhi Tree Yoga for offering this teaching to her classes and thereby touching the world with a little more love, kindness, and grace.
*you can get more information and free downloadable meditations at their websites by following these links