Kindness is one of the most important characteristics a person can posses, yet we’re often so caught up with ourselves that we don’t notice the suffering of others around us.
Being kind means putting ourselves in another's shoes — seeing the world from where they are, and realizing they could perhaps use some help. But to do this, we must take the focus off ourselves and realize there are other people out there experiencing pain, frustration and fear. They’re struggling with the same things we are, and sometimes their struggles are far worse.
The good news? Kindness is something you can easily cultivate on a day-to-day basis. It just takes practice.
The minute we practice mindfulness and are present in each moment, we begin to notice situations where people would benefit from our kindness. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Maybe you just let the mother with two crying children cut in front of you at the supermarket. Giving that harassed parent five minutes of relief might be the kindest thing someone has done for her in weeks.
Being kind adds a sense of unity to our world, making others feel like they’re not in it alone. When others reach out just because they want to help, it gives us perspective on how we’d like the world to be. And we realize that each small act of kindness contributes to the greater good.
Mother Teresa said it beautifully: We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.
Every year I pick one random act of kindness to do every day — yes, every day — to make someone smile. This year it was to let drivers cut in front of me when I see them waiting to pull out. The smiles on people’s faces are priceless, and the thought that such a simple thing can make someone’s morning feels great.
What random act of kindness can you perform today?
I’m grateful to be a card-carrying member of the daily meditation club, but I must admit that my first year of cushion sitting was extremely challenging. Twenty minutes of being with my thoughts felt like hours, so I searched for a practice to take the focus off of me, and onto others; that’s when I found Metta Meditation.
The focus of this popular form of Buddhist meditation is cultivating kindness; to care for someone else’s well being without any thought to what we may gain from their happiness. However, we first send Metta toward ourselves, and then gradually extend a wish for happiness to all beings.
It’s easier to show love and care for those in our immediate circle, but this practice progresses to bring that love to everyone, even those we’d rather not.
Sit in a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths, and begin by reciting the following in the first-person: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.
Once you’ve offered this meditation to yourself, send it to someone you love. This could be a parent, a spouse, or your child. Imagine this person in your mind as you recite the four verses to them.
Next expand your wishes first to someone such as a friend, then to a neutral person whom you neither like nor dislike, then to a difficult person, and finally to all beings.
It’s difficult to offer unconditional love, even to those closest to us. This practice isn’t meant to be a struggle; if you find it hard to send kindness to the difficult person in your life, then stay on the neutral person until you’re ready to move on.
Remember, you never know what type of internal struggle someone may be facing, so be sure to also send your well wishes to people you might not think need them – you really can’t ever “kill” anyone with too much kindness.