Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of that is the beginning of wisdom.
– Theodore Rubin
Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.
– Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology
Rejoicing in the love of family and friends and expressing that love through the generosity of gift-giving is a treasured part of the winter holiday season. Giving the gift of kindness, toward others and ourselves, can be among the most nurturing gifts of all.
Mark Coleman, senior mindfulness teacher at Spirit Rock and founder of the Mindfulness Institute, has just published a marvelous resource for cultivating more kindness toward ourselves and others: Making Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Your Inner Critic. Easy to read and generously packed with practical exercises and tools, I’ll probably write a newsletter about in in the next month or so.
Here’s a sample:
FINDING THE POSITIVE IN OTHERS
This is a practice you can do as you go about your day and encounter people. I try to do this whenever someone enters my presence, whether in the office, the bus, a café, or a store. It shifts my perspective from on of fear, caution, or anxiety to one of greater warmth, interest, and positivity.
Next time you are in a public place and you look at someone notice first what your normal, habitual patterns is. Do you see their faults, what is wrong with them, and all the ways you might critique their dress, weight, hair, conversation, and so on?
Then, to shift the negatively oriented judging habit, try to see one positive quality about the person. What attribute of theirs – a skill, quality, action, or something in their speech, dress, or manner – can you appreciate? Observe what happens when you turn your attention to that aspect of them. How does it make you feel? Does it feel genuine or forced? Is there any judgment that this is naïve or doesn’t take in the whole picture? Or does it allow you to move from a critical orientation to one that is more life affirming or positive?
Try to do this for a specific period of time, such as ten minutes, or for an entire bus ride, or throughout a meeting at work. You can also try doing this while at a family diner, or when shopping, standing in line, or at a sports event. Notice how it can change your mood and the way you feel about the people around you.
Try brining the same perspective to yourself as you go through the day. What would it be like to turn your attention to your positive qualities, actions, and strengths? Notice how this too shifts the bias from what is wrong to what is actually okay and positive.