3 Dec 2015
When we feel connected, loved and we love, we see life with the clearest eyes. We see and feel the bigger ocean of awareness that is within us, we experience ourselves beyond fear.
We are also aware of the multiple benefits in being kind; but are we at times just kind for our own sake? Might the science of kindness take some of the magic and true meaning of it away?
Acts of Kindness to inspire
Before I arrived in Denmark three weeks ago, my brother had gone to where I was staying bringing bread, cheese, fruit, flowers and my favorite licorice. It was a beautiful gesture.
A couple of weeks prior my eldest son and I were at a cafe in Canberra when an elderly couple sat down at the table next to us. The man used a walker, and was clearly unwell, in fact they booth looked a little challenged by life. When it came to paying my son said to the waiter: ‘I will pay for table 17 as well.’
Both of these acts of kindness have inspired me, but also made me question how kind I am and what it takes to act in truly kind ways?
What kindness is and what it is not
A friend’s husband had parked his expensive car outside a coffee shop where he was waiting for a coffee, when someone placed a five dollar note attached to a post-it note in his hand – saying: ‘random acts of kindness please pass it on’. He felt puzzled; he did not need $5, as in a monetary sense it, meant nothing to him.
So what are the ingredients of kindness? Somehow it is not enough that the person felt kind giving $5 away. It might make him feel good but kindness exists within a relationship.
Kindness involves consideration for the other person, thoughtfulness and a little effort where we put aside our own agenda or preference for another human being.
It is easy to smile, open a door and be generally helpful, but a deeper kindness requires more than that. It requires me to put aside where I was heading and consider someone else and be prepared to alter my agenda for the day accordingly. In other words, stepping out of the drive system and into the contented system.
Paul Gilbert observes that we have Three Emotional Regulation Systems –
- The Threat System is anger, anxiety, disgust (panic); and is about fight, flight, faint or submission. Sounds like: ‘that is so unfair, I don’t know what to do, help!’
- Drive is about excitement, vitality, reward and resources, this is a motivating factor in moving towards what we think will give us pleasure. This state also involves the drive to avoid feeling bad (the state encouraged most in the West).
- Finally in the Contented state is where we feel safe, connected, calm and have an affiliate focus. When in this state there is a feeling of ‘enough,’ ‘of not wanting’, and of ‘all is well’.
The two first responses are often compulsive and self-centric; it is about what I need or what I want. In this space there is little concern for others. We might act with kindness, but it is often from the perspective of wanting to experience ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘kind’ rather than truly having tuned into the needs of another human. Mindfulness helps us to notice what state we are in and to shift into and stay in the Contented state.
To stay in the Contented state during Christmas, try the following:
- Turn off your mobile, don’t check your email and do not do Facebook (there is very good research showing that we become more miserable when we do Facebook – and of course it takes us away from the present from where we are and who is around us).
- Sleep in.
- Enjoy the food and eat it mindfully.
- Focus on how you are going to be together, what would be some good-shared experiences?
- Consider people around you who may not have family around and include them in your Christmas.
Merry Christmas all