When I was a kid I could never quite “get” unkind treatment and judgment of others. It just didn’t make sense to me that we were all so different, and that somehow I was better than you or you were better than me. I didn’t always see that philosophy around me though, and as a kid I felt powerless to change it. So I did what I thought was kind, sometimes even at the expense of my own self...I also knew at some point in my late teens that I wanted to make a difference in our world. I couldn’t quite grab onto how this would all happen, and I had no concept at that time that my kindness campaign should extend to myself! At that time my passions for change manifested in debates about equality, minority rights, war and anything I saw as an injustice. Three majors into college I ended up with a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work, and a Master of Social Work; and I was ready and armed “to save the world one person at a time”, but it didn’t quite pan out that way. What happened instead was I kept thinking- there has to be more than this!!! This is only slightly working for me. Some days it didn’t feel like it was working at all. I thought my mission and purpose in life was to “help” people, but eventually after many confounding years I realized that mostly people don’t actually want to be “helped”. They might say or act like they do, but really they don’t, not way down deep at their core. They really would rather be loved, respected and treated kindly. And it seems that people are most successful in transforming their lives when someone guides them to the solutions that work best for them; because they come from inside them! This is what it means to empower another: to show them that they have the power to hear their inner wisdom, and the strength to follow it to their most successful way of being- for them. Have you ever noticed that? Does that ring true for you? It is a bit comical to me that it took so long it took me to realize that truth!
While my practice of “world saving skills” looks a bit different these days, I still draw from something I learned 16 years ago, and it is the Mind-Body Connection. My favorite class in my Master’s program was called Mind Body Medicine. It was the first time that my eyes were opened to this amazing connection between our minds and our bodies. This was revolutionary for me. I had never really considered this concept before. I really thought they were just separate entities. But as I learned more I experienced the oneness of our minds and our bodies. I saw the way my thoughts influenced my body. I could feel the difference between when I was self-deprecating and when I was kind to myself with my thoughts. I was given the concept that you could actually heal your physical body with your thoughts and visualizations. And that was just the beginning, just a little nugget of truth that took root and began to grow in my mind!
As my life evolves, this thought of our mind and bodies being forever intertwined has become the basis of my whole way of relating to the world around me. Interestingly enough, as my journey has wound around a variety of paths, some things just haven’t changed. While I am no longer am I on a mission to “save the world”, I do have a very strong desire for our world to come to peace.
Sometime in my journey I began to look at my own frustration with the world, and how we do things; I found that my frustration was not the answer. Not at all! No one responds very positively to frustration and anger, or ranting and raving. So I had to come to Love. Now my goal is to Love the world(and people) as it is right now. Out of that shift to learn to give love and compassion I am choosing a new way to Be in my World. Now I am passing on what I have been studying, learning, and experiencing myself. And I have broken it into 3 parts:
HOW YOU THINK- HOW YOU MOVE- HOW YOU EAT
These 3 parts come together to create a holistic approach to transforming your life, and it has become for me- the Evolution of Human Kindness.
HOW YOU THINK: Have you ever taken a moment to notice your thoughts? What are you thinking? What is your internal dialogue with yourself? How we think creates our actions. How we think determines how we feel. What we put our focus on magnifies and manifests. What we ignore with our thoughts disappears. So what if you tried this experiment: Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and write down everything that comes to your mind in the next minute..... Where did your thoughts take you? Can you begin to see the power of your thoughts? What if you could harness the power of your thoughts to work for you? You can, and it starts with how you think about you. Out of that you begin to think differently about your loved ones, and then your community and then beyond. And soon you are acting differently in your world, you are the change.
HOW YOU MOVE: What does this mean? Well, how do you move? What does your body feel like when you move? What kind of movement makes it feel free? What kind of movement gives it a release? What kind of movement makes it hurt? How are you moving your body? Maybe it is walking, dancing, stretching, yoga, gardening, hugging, running, biking, cartwheeling, walking meditation, lifting weights, cleaning house; now you come up with a few... How you move or don’t move translates into information for your mind coming directly from your body. As you listen to your body, moving in the ways it wants you to move, your feelings follow, and you have thoughts about yourself that are positive, and then those thoughts grow, and one day you realize that you are being kind to your body, and your body and mind are happy and one.
HOW YOU EAT: So the big question might be “What does how I eat have to do with human kindness???” Well, there are a couple of answers to this. Of course how we eat affects how our bodies feel, which as you have learned affects how your mind thinks. And how we think about eating affects what we eat, and wether or not we are kind to ourselves with our food choices- it is all inter-connected. When we choose food that is close to nature, full of nutrients, and growing in season; we are being most kind to our bodies. When we give thanks for our food we enjoy the nourishment from it that much more, and of course this leads back to our thoughts. When we are mindful about what we eat- noticing it fully, slowing down and appreciating it, our bodies more fully digest it. All good ideas. But there is a next level too which has to do with how kind we are to other life forms with our food choices. The Native American cultures have a practice of blessing the animals that they killed for their tribes to honor their spirits and the meat that they gave for the sustenance of the tribe. Today we can do the same if your choice is to eat meat. We can also choose to eat kindly treated animals to support the kind keeping of animals as a food source. There are many ways to show your love and appreciation of all the life forms on this Earth. With our Earth we can take steps to replenish the land so more crops can grow. The cycle of compassion is never-ending and is always a circle back to you.
As I began this article I was constantly struck with the concept of Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word meaning “non-killing”, or “non-violence” or “lacking any desire to kill”. This concept is one that has been practiced by many religious and spiritual groups as well as promoted by all of the great leaders of peace in our history. It is really the avoidance of all harm- physical, verbal, mental, spiritual or emotional. In modern day Ghandi was one of our biggest examples of ahimsa; “Ahimsa, non-violence, comes from strength, and the strength comes from God, not man. Ahimsa always comes from within.” - Ghandi
Often we associate the idea of ahimsa with not eating meat, or not killing others. And while this may be a part of the interpretation, truly it is much deeper than this. I would like to propose that it is a concept that comes from kindness. Rather than telling you “not to do this, and not to do that...” I would rather say to you- “Why not try thinking kindly of yourself, why not loving who you are with your thoughts, why not moving your body in ways that bring it joy, peace and strength; why not eating foods that show kindness and nurturance to yourself, the Earth, and all the beings on it? Why not start with ahimsa to yourself first?” I know that as you begin to take these actions of compassion for yourself, you will begin to find a new compassion for others in your neighborhood, then your community, then your nation, and then your entire world and beyond.
And this is the Evolution of Human Kindness.
Jesus: ”But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”- Luke 6:27 &28, NIV Bible
Thomas Edison: “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
Albert Einstein: “A human being is part of a whole called by us, ‘Universe’, limited by time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting ourselves to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Dalai Lama: “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”