“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” — Dalai Lama
In these distressing times, kindness and gentleness can be an antidote to stress, a balm for body and soul.
When someone is kind to us, especially when we’re feeling vulnerable or it’s unexpected, it feels like Grace. We breathe a sigh of relief and begin to release accumulations of tension that have built up throughout our tissues. We can even feel ourselves expand from a contracted state and resume our natural shape, come alive in our senses and become more fully present, more fully who we really are. As we release inner tensions, air and blood circulate more freely throughout our bodies, bringing fresh nourishment to our cells and removing toxic debris.
If lack of nutrients and the presence of toxins are the two sources of all disease, tension and stress increase both. No wonder stress is linked to so many diseases.
Dis-ease is the absence of ease. Ease comes with that sigh of relief that we are not deserving of punishment. We are not “bad.” No, we are good and deserve good things, including good health.
Human beings thrive on approval and compassion like flowers open to the nourishing rays of the sun and the blessings of rain. Friendliness encourages us to grow and bloom, while impatience, harshness and judgmentalness make us pull back and shrink into ourselves, becoming tight, rigid and unyielding . . . and impatient, harsh and judgmental ourselves.
Much of what we see in the world around us—the overly severe judgments of public figures, the angry opinions, the desire to assign blame or defend from blame—comes from a place of stress and distress.
How can we bring more kindness into a world that sorely needs it?
It seems to me that the first step is to take time to consciously be kind to ourselves. Whether it’s called meditation or prayer or just being quiet, or doing something we truly love to do—something that allows us let go of the cares of the world, and immerse ourselves in an activity that renews and nourishes our souls.
For one example, my women’s support group starts our meetings with a 10-minute meditation which is preceded by one of us reading aloud: “Can you become a little more quiet? Can you take things a little more easy?”
Becoming a little more quiet—letting our busy minds come to rest and be less poised to chase after every thought that comes along; allowing more ease throughout ourselves by becoming aware of and releasing places in ourselves where tension has grabbed hold—feels like a kindness we do to ourselves that also tends to make us kinder towards each other.
For another example, when I sit in meditation, I will often say to myself, “Here I sit. Free from Evil. Free from Good.” To me, this means that I am safe and that I can drop self-judgments and be forgiven for any known or unknown transgressions so I feel as innocent and free as laundry hanging outside to dry in the sun, flapping in a gentle breeze. Accepting myself makes it easier to be tolerant and patient with others.
What ways have you found to be kind to yourself? We would love to hear about them.