Of course, it’s good to be kind to others. It’s good to be a compassionate person, to be friendly…that’s what we’re taught, by our parents, at school, in our faith traditions, by our culture. Being a good person, a nice person, an appropriate person includes being kind.
But what is kindness? And what does it mean to be kind?
- To do kind things for someone?
- To say kind words?
What if we aren’t feeling or thinking kindness?
There’s something to be said for practicing kindness whether we feel it/think it or not.
- But if we only practice kindness toward others, we’re missing something.
- We may never really feel what we’re doing/saying on the outside if we are not also practicing kindness for ourselves on the inside.
This is the place we need to start. With ourselves.
Are you kind to yourself?
- Think about the last time you did something you wish you hadn’t—it could be something small like unintentionally hurting a friend.
- How did you treat yourself?
- Most of us have learned to judge ourselves in some way: “Why did I do that?” “Messed up—again.” “What’s wrong with me?” “I shouldn’t have done that.” Or maybe something much stronger…
- Is that the way you would treat your friend or a child?
- Is it kind? Is it compassionate? Is it friendly?
Meditation teacher Tara Brach has a beautiful book called Radical Acceptance in which she describes another possible way of living that includes learning to accept rather than resist (judge, ignore, deny, etc.) our experience.
Accepting our experience is the ultimate act of kindness.
I’ve been playing around recently with one of her practices, which she refers to as “This, too.”
- When I unintentionally hurt a friend, I breathe and sense my body and heart and say “This, too.”
- Just by saying “This, too,” instead of moving into a habitual judging or doing response, it gives me a pause.
- What is this “This”? What is my experience from causing hurt? What is actually happening in my body, in my heart?
- Perhaps I feel fear or sadness or disappointment…How does that sense in my body? What are the actual sensations and where are they showing up? …This, too.
- The mind will have a lot of ideas about this and may want to jump in with stories or judgments about me, about what this means, about what to do… I don’t need to try to stop those—that’s futile anyway! I simply keep returning to how I feel in my heart and body when these thoughts arise. …This, too.
- I might notice that from staying with myself in this way, some feelings of closeness with myself, of welcoming myself, of being friendly with myself arise. …This, too.
This is being kind to myself. This is accepting my experience in the moment. And this is what will organically lead me into heartful, mindful action if needed.
As Tara says, “All that matters on this path of awakening is taking one step at a time, being willing to show up for just this much, touching the ground just this moment.” (p. 324)
As I practice this at various times during my day, I feel softer, gentler, more aware of what is actually going on inside me, creating a sense of intimacy with myself. This, too.
Then when I’m kind to others, this kindness feels congruent. It arises from a place of knowing kindness with myself. My inner and outer experience reflect each other. Kindness is real and truthful. This kindness ripples into the world. This, too.
May we all practice loving kindness.
If you’d like some support practicing kindness, I’d be honored to accompany you: