Welcome to the last Week of Awakening. As we bring 2021 to a close this month, we are called upon to reflect on the life we’ve led and the life we want to lead. We can do that by grounding ourselves in the present moment, tuning into our bodies, and opening up to the wisdom of our hearts.
This week aims to support your exploration of what kindness means to you, what it looks like in your life, and how it can be a powerful guide to growing your voice. I might also explore how growing kindness inside out is often missing from the well-intentioned preachiness of “just be kind.” Ok, let’s wake up!
I love Kindness Calendars. I love these daily ideas to cultivate and spread kindness. I used them a lot when my kids were younger. Here’s a post from 4 years ago about creating these calendars in your family and classroom (if you’re a teacher). They are also wonderful for adults. You can print this one out and post it somewhere people will see it – by the front door, near your office computer, on a bathroom mirror. It’s a great way to begin bringing kindness into consciousness, as a daily intention.
Kindness matters! But saying it, posting it is not enough. We must take action! We must begin cultivating it within ourselves, toward ourselves. We must open our eyes to see it. It’s so easy to miss kindness when there is so much suffering in the world. I have learned that in order to meet suffering, we must know kindness.
Here are some questions to help you begin exploring:
* How can you cultivate kindness today?
* How are you being kind to yourself today?
* How can you show kindness to another today?
* Where have you witnessed kindness today?
Small is significant. Pay attention to all the kindness that may go unnoticed this week. It will surely warm your heart. It will inspire the snowball effect. We need a kindness storm.
Kindness requires awareness. It requires intention. It requires cultivation within ourselves toward ourselves so we can show up with kind intention.
I find it illuminating how we as adults struggle with self-kindness and yet engage in external acts of kindness all the time. Why? Well, I think one reason is because our society neglects to guide children in how to be kind to themselves. In fact, we teach that their needs for self-kindness are secondary by over-emphasizing kindness to others. Of course, treating others kindly is very important, but it is not more important than treating oneself with kindness. This is where we go wrong.
Take a moment to consider what it feels like, looks like to be kind to yourself and where you learned this.
Back to the children…Consider the typical adult response to a child who does not want to share something. The child is typically told that they should share because sharing is kind. They are sent the message that being kind makes you a good person, even if it makes you feel sad or disappointed. In other words, give up that toy you really want to play with to make this other person happy (which may really mean make the adult who has to manage this conflict happy). Who doesn’t want to be a good person, to gain approval from the adults in their lives? How many of us adults are still trying to feel like a good person, to gain approval?
What is not often explored is that the child, in refusing to share, is actually trying to meet a need, perhaps one of playfulness or connection. The child is enacting self-kindness by trying to meet their need. By not exploring the child’s refusal to share, a critical opportunity is missed. Perhaps the child can meet their need and still share and needs adult guidance to see this. Perhaps standing up for themselves is a great accomplishment for this child and should be celebrated.
Instead, we socialize children to be compliant, such as by putting others’ needs before their own in the name of kindness. The consequence is a society of adults who do not know genuine kindness. This can lead to self-serving behavior – being kind in service of promoting oneself. Or self-abandonment – tending to other people’s needs at the expense of one’s own – in the name of kindness. There is an imbalance in meeting both our needs and the social environment with kind intention.
Hmmm…no wonder we have a kindness crisis. It’s never too late to cultivate self-kindness within ourselves and our children. We need to begin by letting go of the shame in being kind to ourselves. We can pay attention to the messages we send our children about kindness – it needs to be balanced – kindness to self and others.
So, how can you show yourself kindness today? I encourage you to pay attention to how it feels to engage in self-kindness. We need a kindness revolution!
As shared in the October Week of Awakening, self-compassion requires self-kindness. This week is dedicated to exploring kindness for the self a bit more. I think this is particularly important during a time when we are asked to give so much of ourselves to others. We know intellectually that we must nourish ourselves in order to flourish. To be of true service to others, we must take care of ourselves. This is more than ordering take out instead of cooking or watching your favorite t.v. show with a yummy snack or beverage. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these things and they can be a useful way to support ourselves, but they are not enough. They do not cultivate the healing nature of self-kindness, which “provides the resources to cope with hardship…” Life is hard. Life is real hard these days. When many of us are in a consistent state of disregulation, embodying self-kindness is imperative to both our emotional and mental well-being, and that of those we care about. Will you finally choose yourself? You are worthy.
So this is what it means to choose yourself – treating yourself as you would treat others. Scan your day today and recall an experience where you met someone’s need, where you cared for this person. Now what would it look like to give yourself that same care? Are you willing to choose yourself? What is getting in the way of caring for yourself?
Here are a list of various ways to show yourself kindness. What would you add? What can you do for yourself that can help you through a challenge or hardship you are experiencing? This is self-kindness.
As we begin to practice self-kindness (and it is a practice, not a one time thing), we begin to honor our inner experience. We begin to listen to our bodies, to our hearts. We begin to see our lives more clearly. We begin to see others and our relationships with them more clearly. We find ourselves growing our capacity to meet the moment, as difficult as it may be, with care and compassion. Below you will find a self-kindness meditation I call “Hand in Hand.” I was first introduced to this practice by Kristi Nelson.
Hand in Hand: A Kindness Meditation (5 minutes)
On this last day of December’s Week of Awakening, I invite you to sit with these words from Audre Lorde. What does caring for yourself as an act of survival look like, feel like for you?
I have spent this past year on a deep journey of inner growth and healing. I decided to make some major changes in my life beginning in January 2021 because I realized that no one was coming to my rescue. I had to put my oxygen mask on first before I could really be of service to others, especially my loved ones. I have spent this year cultivating deep kindness for myself. It felt strange, awkward and eventually liberating. To know myself through kindness, I had to come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. I had to release the guilt for choosing my well-being over someone else’s comfort. While it doesn’t always feel easy or comfortable, I know now that it’s a necessity for my life to flourish.
What does coming to your own rescue look like or feel like to you?
As we grow the roots of self-kindness, we grow connection from the inside out. It’s interesting to pay attention to how we meet our inner experience – do we show up for ourselves or do we abandon ourselves. Sometimes we have to get real quiet to notice. Once we grow awareness, we empower ourselves and others to harness kindness and thrive.
Will you choose to harness kindness? What might this look like or feel like for you?