Consciousness. This word is thrown around left and right these days. Conscious living, conscious eating, raising conscious children, having a conscious relationship, etc. etc. etc. I bet it means different things to different people. I bet some people use it because they passionately think it will change the world, while others use it on a more superficial level, some use it medically to refer to themselves or others as awake (up and talking) and maybe some people just use it to use it… I probably do that with a few words 🙂
I recently started a 30 day yoga challenge. I was planning on setting an intention for each week and bringing that to my mat each day. The first week my intention would be KINDNESS. Kindness to myself, to others, to people I was angry with, to strangers who were driving with their heads up their ass, to people who had been cruel to me, etc. It’s not that I’m not kind in my everyday existence, however, lets be real… sometimes I loose my patience and want to throat punch the innocent person next to me. Even in these moments, I know that those feelings have nothing to do with anyone but myself.
So, that first day I stepped onto my mat and focused my attention completely on kindness. I allowed myself to focus on the word and then let it drift out of my head as I not so gracefully moved into my practice. At the end of class, I went home, sweaty and clear. I wasn’t exactly sure what setting my intention on kindness would bring, but now I realized I simply wanted to expand my kindness…. this is how it looked for me:
8 Way to Practice Kindness Daily
1. Put yourself first. Personally, if I am run down, sleep deprived, I haven’t been eating healthy foods or I’m slacking on my workouts… I’m not very fun to be around. I know that. I know that my mood is directly affected by how well I am taking care of myself. Putting yourself first in not selfish, it’s quite the opposite. A well rested, healthy physically and mentally person has more patience and more of a capacity to be kind and compassionate to others. Honor yourself, putting your needs first doesn’t mean putting others to the backburner. It means that when you are with those people you are more present. On the flip side, honor this for others. If your friends/family cancels plans on you because they need some extra sleep, honor where they are at and don’t take it personally.
2. You haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes. I know this sounds super cliché but it’s true. Sometimes I find myself slightly annoyed when people don’t say hi to me, or when someone isn’t paying attention on the side walk and runs into me… or whatever. Kindness is having compassion for the unknown. Their unknown. Sure, they could just be a huge asshole, but also they might have had a pretty bad morning. Maybe they have a sick child, maybe they themselves are sick, maybe their dog died and they are sick with sadness. It’s so easy to jump to conclusions but stop for a minute and think before you react. Send love and compassion to them instead of anger and annoyance.
3. Life is what you make it. It was so perfect that on this first day of my challenge, the yoga teacher was talking to the class about how life is what you make it. She told the story about a time when the Dalai Lama was in town and her friend had a last minute opportunity to meet him. Rushed to make it on time, she raced over to the venue and waited in line. As she got closer to the front she realized “holy shit! I should be giving him a gift” (she may or may not have said it like that). She reached into her bag and the only thing she could find was an un-opened pack of those delicious chocolate caramel candies, Rolos. As she approached the Dalai Lama, she gave him a giant hug and then handed him her gift. He looked puzzled at first and then his face softened into a giant smile and he said to her, “how did you know?!? These are my favorite!” Who knows if those are actually his favorite, but in that moment he chose kindness, he chose to make the person in front of him feel special and received. That’s a gift and it’s easy to do.
4. Put down your barriers. This is hard one, some of us have been covered in layers and layers of armor since we were children. Taking off the armor is uncomfortable at first, feeling similar to walking around naked and exposed. But as you peel those layers away, it becomes normal. You become vulnerable. Vulnerable, often seen as a weakness, is actually quite powerful. When you walk around with barriers all around you, you not only shut down your energy to gifting but also to receiving. Nothing can get out in of the fortress you have created. Open up, you would be amazed at what might happen.
5. Only give your advice when asked. So basically…. Shut up and listen. I have found that most people just need someone to talk to (or at) when they are upset. They need to feel like they are being heard and they need to get it all out. It’s a way of processing in their own way. They can usually just sort their own thoughts out if you give them the space to do so. The kindest thing you can do in those moments is be quiet and present. If they ask for your advice or opinion, go for it.
6. Sometimes kindness means letting people go. People come into our lives at certain points for certain reasons and they exit our lives just as easily. When we look at certain relationships that are feeling heavy, sometimes it’s just time to say good bye. Ask yourself if the relationship is contributing to you and to them. If it’s not, let it go.
7. People’s judgments of you are only a reflection of how they feel about themselves. And vice versa. Think about this before you begin to judge someone or gossip about something. Look inward and ask yourself what you need to work on in your own life to not be affected by the actions and judgments of others. This next part is a bit more challenging… if you are on the other end, being judged or gossiped about, remember that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. Send that person love and compassion, they might be dealing with some pain that they are taking out on others.
8. You don’t need to start a 30 day yoga challenge to practice kindness. Sometimes on the second day of your challenge you wake up late and find out that your dog barfed on the bed in the middle of night and yoga just isn’t in the cards today :/ Your daily practice doesn’t have to be extreme. Sure, if you have the time and means to attend yoga each day, go for it. If you don’t, find something that works for you. We all have 5 minutes a day to get silent and reflect. As with everything, kindness is a choice we chose moment to moment.
Last night I was signed up for an Orange Theory class after work (HIIT workout). However, I was tired, my entire body ached, my feet were sore, I was hungry and I had just been stressfully working at my computer for 9.5 hours, getting up only to pee. What I am trying to say is, I didn’t want to go. I could barely stand the idea of walking next to another human on the street as I made my way home from work… let alone being in a small stuffy room with 23 sweating strangers hi-fiving each other. So I went home.
One of the most valuable gifts you can receive is being “called out” by a friend or loved one. I’m not talking about being judged or accused of something based on someone else’s emotions, insecurities or points of view. I’m talking about your loved one having an awareness or noticing a limitation you are living in and having the courage to “call you out.”
A couple weeks ago I was walking to brunch with my friend when I started ranting about not being able to get anything done on the weekends because I always brunching with friends or doing something besides laundry and errands. (Poor me) I was directing my rants at him as if it were his fault. He nonchalantly said “don’t be a blamer or anything.” His response instantly made me giggle and I realized I wasn’t taking responsibility for my own life. And he was right, I was being a blamer.