022 – 5 Ways to Cultivate Kindness
“Be kind to everyone and everything” is one of the 7 guidelines from the book Living a Life of Harmony – 7 Guidelines to Cultivate Peace & Kindness.
Kindness to ourselves, other people, animals, insects, even things that we may not believe are alive like our homes are part of kindness practice. The opposite to kindness is to cause harm. As spiritual practitioners, we are moving away from causing harm, and moving towards love, peace, and kindness. These three things are one.
Our ability to be kind is dependent upon past conditioning along with our ability to be mindful. The transcendental connection (the + in the Mindfulness+) will guide us if we are open to it.
If people have had kind upbringings, kind teachers, kind friendship groups etc. this helps them to be kind. The flip side, is that unkind past conditions make practicing kindness more of a challenge. If we measure our progress we should take this into account. Measure how far you’ve travelled rather than where you are now in comparison to others.
Whatever your level of kindness, the good news is that you can cultivate more of it. Deeds of kindness work best when they’re spontaneous. When this happens, our actions (kind thoughts, words, deeds) come from a place of love and are likely to feel pure to the recipient.
Another option is to sit down and consciously think about how you can be kind to people, then plan activities to do so. This approach is really being led by the ego and is likely to feel impure or a bit weird to recipients. It comes from a craving for an outcome rather than a pure act of kindness. It can also be used as a way of manipulating people. You cannot plan to be kind. However, you can plan to cultivate kindness…
Personally, I’ve had to work hard at cultivating kindness. It’s not been a quick or easy process for me and I still have much work to do. This is for a variety of reasons including an inflated ego and past conditioning. These days, I’m more often described as kind, and I put that down to the work I’ve done to cultivate kindness through spiritual practice. I’ve also been inspired by lots of other kind people I’ve met along the way – this is part of practice too.
There are five ways of cultivating kindness that have worked for me over the years and I’d like to share them with you:
- Practice loving kindness meditation– also known as Metta Bhavana. This kind of love is not romantic love, or love that’s dependent upon something. This is a formal meditation practice that involves bringing to mind yourself, people to whom you can express kindness easily, people you have problems with, strangers, and everybody else in the world. As you do this, you use your imagination to send them love and kindness. This meditation trains the subconscious mind to create kind thoughts. This then leads to spontaneous kindness being generated outside of meditation. Having tried it for years and met many other people who have done the same, I can categorically state that this meditation practice does work. There are plenty of books, courses, apps and Internet resources that can help train you in this meditation. Sharon Salzberg is an internationally recognized expert in this area.
- Do only what needs to be done – This is another guideline from Living a Life of Harmony – 7 Guidelines to Cultivate Peace & Kindness. By following this guideline, we end up needing to do less for ourselves. We let go of spending time doing stuff that isn’t helpful spiritually speaking. The time that is freed up from this practice can then be used for the kind service of others. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, when we’re too busy, it can be virtually impossible to bring awareness or consideration to other people or things. Doing less provides more energy to allow kindness to flow through you.
- Be around kind people – Kindness is propagated by people. Everything else being equal, if you’re around people kinder than yourself, your kindness will increase. If you hang out with people that are generally speaking, more selfish than you, there is a fair chance that the kindness you do have will be diminished. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hang out with people more selfish than you. That can be an act of kindness in itself as they may become kinder through your presence. To cultivate kindness, it helps if your close friends are kind. It also helps if groups of people that you frequently mix with are kind. This may include people at your place of work and social groups you engage with. Remember you can be around kind people just by observing them – an example maybe somebody inspirational who is being featured in the media or on the Internet.
- Work on Mindfulness+ – When you’re mindful, you’re aware and accepting of yourself, others and situations. In this peaceful mode, when you’re open to what transcends you, loving kindness is channelled naturally. You will be connected to an infinite source of intelligence that will guide you towards kindness.
- Take opportunities to be kind – There will be many times when acts of kindness enter your consciousness. It may be giving some food to a beggar on the street, or randomly texting a friend to wish them well. If you’re present, you’ll know instantly whether these opportunities should be acted upon, and most of the time they should. Each opportunity to be kind is unique. If you’re conscious of an opportunity for kindness and know it should be acted on then just do it!
Copyright © 2018 Darren Cockburn. All Rights Reserved