On Kindness

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
— Mark Twain

Kindness has gravity

A young woman recently experienced a series of tragic events: a bad break up, a loss at home and a career crisis. All this within six months. It's enough to emotionally cripple anyone.

Walking down the London streets, she sees a homeless man sitting up against a concrete wall, still in his sleeping bag. She sits beside him and says hi. He responds. Soon they are engaged in talking about where he's been, when he last ate and who he considers as friends.

They shared a meal and a series of smiles over the next hour. Both left changed.

Altered Courses

Here's a little science for your day: Newton's First Law of Motion. It says that a body in motion (or sitting against a concrete wall) will remain in motion (or seated) until an outside force acts upon it. In other words, we keep going as we go until something smashes into us.

What's wonderful about this law is that both objects are forever changed. Sometimes it's cataclysmic what happens. Sometimes it's so subtle that we barely register anything at all. But, sometimes, when the cosmos is aligned, the alterations create an unexpected magic.

We've all experienced this. A serendipitous meeting turns into a love affair or a business venture or a lifelong friendship. A chance encounter changes our core values or gives us renewed compassion or inspires us to new heights. It's the story of "Romeo & Juliet", Lennon and McCartney, Jobs and Wozniak. It's the plot line behind every movie you've ever cried at and every book you've ever recommended to your chardonnay-drinking book club. Sometimes we're in the right place at the right time, and we're open to what "could be". And, sometimes, that's all it takes.

 

The First Law of Kindness

When one person shows kindness to another, both are offered a gift.”

This is the power behind Reiki, massage and sex magic. All require intimate kindness, faith and trust. While the person getting the massage feels good, the person giving the massage tends to take on their energy. Reiki practitioners often speak of the double transference of energy. And tantric sex magic embodies the manifest flow of energy between lovers.

And, yes, all three of these intimate examples demonstrate and require kindness. Kindness at the intimate level asks the giver to be vulnerable, and it asks the receiver to be humble. Giving a gift is often touted in our society. But it's in the receiving that we show real honor. Receiving makes room for the giver to express their feelings for you. It asks that you be gracious, that you allow this action to take place, and that you open your self to it.

Kindness at its most effective requires both giving and receiving.

 

The Second Law of Kindness

Acts of kindness magically change our lenses.”

One unexpected thing about kindness is that it shatters our myopic views. When someone shows kindness to us, we are forced to consider their humanity in a new light. We can continue to see the world as we did before only if we willfully choose to delude ourselves. It's the Flat Earth Syndrome. We choose to believe whatever challenges us the least no matter the evidence.

What I've discovered is that even when kindness is rejected at first, it has a way of burrowing into the heart. Bigotry, hatred, indifference and numbness of heart all fall at the feet of kindness. Yes, beliefs and traditions are slow to change. Often they take two generations to truly shift across a society (my own observation from reading and studying history). But at the personal level, we open to others when they show us kindness. And we seal this adjustment when we reciprocate. A kindness returned is evidence of common humanity.

The homosexual who perpetually shows kindness in the face of ignorance. The neighbor who brings food to a sick elderly widower next door. The adult child who visits patiently with her dementia-engulfed father. The parent who embraces the angry child.

Kindness equals confident authority, not door mat. (Read Mark Manson's article on this as it pertains to romantic relationships.) It is the power to be pro-active in your own space. It is the will to honor the humanity in yourself and in others.

It shifts realities one gesture at a time.

 

The Third Law of Kindness

When someone experiences kindness, it has a way of multiplying.”

Kindness inspires us to remember our own humanity. It bridges social gaps. It rebuilds broken relationships. It rekindles the spirit.

And when this happens, we automatically see new ways to be generous with others. After all, that's what kindness is: generosity. It's thinking ahead about the preference of others. It's giving the student in the checkout line ahead of you the dollar he's short. It's holding the door for a young mother. It's offering your seat on the train. Or your coat to your lover. Or half your waffle to your friend. Or smiling at and holding the gaze of an older person.

Kindness is about being aware of others at every turn and asking "What do they need right now?"

And when we do this, the intention multiplies. The act spreads the impulse, sometimes to the receiver, but often to the silent observer of the act. The man across the bus who saw your action is moved to act as well.

This unquantifiable compounding ripples though the cosmos. And while you can't know it, you can count on it.

The Kindness Challenge

Kindness has gravity enough to alter courses, to change perspectives, to multiply out like ripples.

It can brighten an otherwise dark day. It gives hope in secret ways we cannot comprehend. And it reflects an equal portion of magic back on the giver, especially when you hold these acts close to the vest.

Today, I invite you to be mindful of your surroundings. Start first with yourself. Walk to your mirror (or put your phone's camera on Selfie mode) and say this to yourself. Yes, out loud. Trust me.

  • "I love you. You are worthy of kindness today. And I choose to be generous with you at every turn, especially when you need it most. Your needs and preferences are important to me, and I will listen to you and respond without judgment today."

Your inner voice is dying to be heard by you. And now that you've set the intention to listen to and be kind to Self, you are capable of doing and being so to others.

I invite you to simply be aware. Be alert. Be awake.

Don't force kindness on anyone. In fact, don't even go out there trying to be kind, because you'll end up looking like a jerk. Simply be observant of others. When you practice this form of mindfulness, you'll be amazed at how many opportunities there are to practice generosity in the smallest of ways.

And that's the real challenge: be awake. Kindness comes easily once you're awake. It's the stepping outside the tunnel vision that's hard.

Practice this mindful art for three days, then send us an email and let us know what magic you encountered.