Kindness In All Directions

Let's be honest, we all believe in basic kindness, but sometimes it gets hard.

Other people annoy us, they say things to us that we wish they wouldn't, they do things we wish they wouldn't and they aren't always kind back.

Extending the same courtesy to others can be a challenge at times, and it's even more challenging when we start thinking about how we treat ourselves.

Trust me, I'm a firm believer in kindness, I always say my "please and thank yous," hold doors, smile at babies...the whole good samaritan bit.  But like I said, we're all human and we all have days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, get stressed to the max, or find out something that is pretty much a day or maybe even life changer.  In those situations it's even harder to find the place in myself where my kindess originates.

If you really think about it though, aren't most of us preaching kindness without really walking the walk?  Obviously the word has been thrown around so often its meaning may even become fuzzy, but how many of us know the true origin of kindness.

It's so easy to think or say we are kind, but the reason it gets challenging is because we aren't being kind to ourselves.

When we judge, criticize, nitpick, and get annoyed and frustrated at other people, we are only doing to them what we do to ourselves or what we perceive that others are doing to us.  Even if we don't recognize it at first, any harshness we feel begins inside of our own minds.

Universal law teaches us that every cause has an effect, and science has told us time and time again that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  So it's natural to assume that any unkindness we have for ourselves, will spill out into our environment and come back around to us in other ways.  Of course this is getting into a whole other discussion, but I'm sure you see where I'm going here!

Kindness should always flow in all directions, and that means starting with ourselves.  Our teachers, parents and for some us, our religion may have taught us that kindness to others was the golden rule, but I would have to disagree.  The kindness you show to yourself is the foundation of your overarching attitude toward the world, and the amount you get back will grow in proportion to the amount you give to yourself.

I know because I may just have the loudest and meanest inner critic there ever was, and I have definitely had to work very hard on how I treat myself.  I say things to myself I would never utter to another...that's how mean I've been to myself in the past!  Not good.  However, I've also done enough self-work to see the effect my self-kindness or lack of it has in the world.

When I take care with myself, and allow myself the space and forgiveness that I would easily grant another, I see everyone and everything as much kinder.  Conversely, when I let my inner critic out of its cage I end up basically verbally assaulting myself silently.  This builds that feeling of harshness that I was talking about earlier, and not only do other people seem far less kind, I find it much more unpleasant to live with myself.

An ancient and very wise Chinese proverb, one of my favorites, says:

A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.

That's so true!  Being kind and helping others benefits us, not just because it makes us feel good, but because any time you put positive energy out into the world you make it a better place for everyone.  When you help another you help yourself, particularly if you see all people as connected.  However, if you're working on this principle and then berating yourself for making a simple mistake, you're kind of negating the effect of it.

So let's all just make a commitment, myself included, to try to be kinder to ourselves.  This will naturally create an inner abundance that we won't be able to help but pass onto others, thus making our own lives more rich and fulfilling.  Let's make sure kindness is flowing in all directions, including our own.

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Just Relax.

We all get stressed out from time to time, and then there are those of us that are prone to being a little more...tense, to put it nicely.

I'm one of those people and maybe you are too.  It's so easy for me to watch myself spinning into stress if I'm not careful.  I have a pattern of overworking, trying to please everyone, do everything by myself, and when I have some downtime I feel like there's probably something else more productive that I should be doing other than making sure I don't go insane.  Fail.

The truth is, yes, we all have things we have to get done, deadlines that we need to meet, places to go and items to check off of our to-do lists.  But, there is also a time to relax.

You don't need me to bring up all those science experiments do you, where they prove that stress pretty much wrecks your entire mind and body over time?  Just Google stress and there are pages and pages of articles that pretty much all say the same thing...chill out!

Stress not only impacts your mind and body, but also impacts your happiness and personal well-being.  Ultimately, nothing is worse stressing out about enough to do that to yourself, and think about this way...if you have a heart attack, it won't matter whether or not you got that promotion or missed that deadline.

What would you say to a friend who was as stressed out as you are?  You'd give them the same to thing to them that I'm saying to you, so why not be your own friend and talk yourself down from that stress ledge.

Today I am choosing to relax.  I am ignoring all the thoughts in my head that are anxiety provoking, and I'm deciding to choose myself over my stress.

I decided a part of this process would be to try something fun that I've wanted to do for a long time, but have put off because I always thought I didn't have enough time...I experimented with watercolor!  

I'm not finished yet, but I can definitely say that even just brushing the watercolor onto the paper has already helped me to wind down a little and prepare for a weekend of calm.

My watercolor experiment.

So, I'm challenging you to do something for yourself, to de-stress and relax this weekend.  Breathe out a little bit, and remember that it's just not that serious.

Are We There Yet? The Myth of Arriving.

If you're anything like me, or most of the planet, you have some future, life-goal that you're striving for.  Am I right?

Maybe you're an aspiring pâtissier (French for pastry chef) but you're finding yourself stuck working as a CPA, and you're not sure when, if ever, you gave up on your dream of owning your city's most adorable macaroon stop ever.  Or, it could be that your goal is just to make more income next year than you did in the previous year.  Perhaps you're just trying to make it through the workday to get home to a nice dinner and some time alone.  It could be that your jeans don't fit, and you're counting down the minutes until you can put on some sweatpants...I've been there, I'm not afraid to admit it.

However you slice it, you're waiting for something to arrive that hasn't come yet.  Wishing for your dream job or thinking about your to-do list for tomorrow are both symptoms of the same issue:  you've lost your presence.

What I'm talking about is the ego-created idea that there is some point in the future (be it in 2 hours or a few years) in which you will be better off, happier, more satisfied, ready to do this or that, etc.  You get the idea.  There is a desired point of arrival, and you're waiting to get there.  Here's the problem...the future hasn't arrived yet, and once it does, it's now the present moment.  Then, just like that, it's gone and you're presented with a new moment once again.

So, why is it exactly that we all spend so much time living in the future (or for some of you maybe the past is more of a focus, but the principle works either way)?  Living in some imagined or repeated scenario that isn't occurring right now not only removes you from the moment, which makes it difficult for you to do whatever it is you need to do, it robs you of your own peace.  Who would voluntarily do that to themselves?  We all do it, but because we've lost presence, we've forgotten what we're doing to ourselves.

Of course Eckhart Tolle reminds of the three most important ways you can deal with the present moment if you find yourself resisting it or wishing you were anywhere else.

“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally” - Eckhart Tolle 

{click here to read a longer version of this excerpt from The Power of Now}

The fastest way to make the journey to your destination a living hell is to continue to tell yourself that you should be somewhere else other than where you are.  Not only is that the definition of insanity, there is also no good reason to continue listening to the thoughts that are creating your unhappiness; you might as well take control and get some new ones.

So, the next time you find yourself asking "are we there yet?" see if you can shake yourself out of it, come back to present, and apply Eckhart's rules to end your own self-imposted torture.  Arriving is myth, because the only moment you can arrive at is already here, so enjoy it while you can!

What are you waiting to do? Is there something you're looking forward to in the future that you really could begin right now?

*This blog post is cross-posted to ZYKR blog.  If you're interested in spirituality, head on over there and follow!  Sterlin is also contributing, so I promise there's fresh content that isn't repeated.

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