We can all change the world in gentle ways.
Kindness is one of those ways. Kindness can change the world, in small ways and big ways. We know this, we feel this ourselves. A kind gesture or a kind word can completely change someone’s day. And if you believe that we are interconnected at deeper levels of consciousness, you can see that all acts of kindness are like ripples spreading out into the collective consciousness and subtly making the world a little brighter each time. Imagine the cumulative effect of multiple acts of kindness! For yourself, and for others.
Every single person on the planet has the power of kindness. You just have to practice it, spreading kindness in whatever way you can, with no expectation of anything in return except for the joy and satisfaction of doing something nice for someone else.
These 7 practices from yoga, meditation and mindful living can help us to cultivate kindness and to spread joy, healing and comfort to others. What could be more beautiful and aspirational than that?
Make kindness a daily practice. And please start by offering yourself the kindness you would easily offer others.
1. Smile and communicate kindness
Let’s start with a small but powerful kindness exercise - just smile!
It’s an easy thing to do. And seems especially important in this pandemic era when we are avoiding close contact with others, and when half of our faces are covered with masks. Even if your smile is covered, you can smile with your eyes. You will feel happier yourself, and you will radiate kindness out to everyone you see.
2. Write yourself a love letter
The act of self-kindness is possibly the hardest of all forms of kindness. We tend to be very hard on ourselves, critical and judgmental, and forget to offer ourselves the kindness and compassion we easily offer to others. Here is a simple way to remind yourself what an amazing, unique and accomplished person you are. This is one way to take care of yourself so that you can better take care of others.
Write a sweet note to yourself to carry through the week to remind yourself of how far you have come on your journey. It could be simple words, or could be explicit and detailed. Don’t hold back the love and admiration for yourself! Don’t feel embarrassed, you’re the only one who will read it. You could write it on a post-it note somewhere you will see it, tuck the note into your wallet to carry with you, or keep it on your altar table.
Take it a loving step further and write your self-love letter on a beautiful card then mail it to yourself. And rejoice in your own goodness when you open it again.
3. Practice loving kindness
The Buddhists have a beautiful practice called “metta bhavana” to send loving kindness out into the world. This meditation is a way of looking at ourselves and others with kindness and caring instead of with our habitual criticism. It’s a very powerful meditation.
Once you are comfortably seated for meditation, summon up some authentic feelings of love and kindness and compassion. You send it out to others by chanting or repeating silently the following incantation (or any adaptation of this that feels good to you): “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from harm. May you be free to grow and thrive.” Leave comfortable space between each phrase, really focusing on the intention.
Start by sending loving kindness to yourself: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free from harm. May I be free to grow and thrive.”
Then send loving kindness to a friend or loved one: “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from harm. May you be free to grow and thrive.”
Then think of a person you are having difficulty with at this time, and send them loving kindness as well: “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from harm. May you be free to grow and thrive.”
And finally send loving kindness to all beings: “May all beings be happy. May all beings be well. May all beings be free from harm. May all beings be free to grow and thrive.”
Each time, repeat the wishes 5-10 times, or as many times as you need.
4. Send love and light out into the world
This simple visualization meditation is a my variation on the “metta bhavana” practice. In a comfortable meditation position, close your eyes and visualize your kind wishes of love, light, peace and wellness as a beautiful golden glow.
Start with yourself - see that glow start as a tiny flame in your heart, then watch it grow and grow to flood your whole body with healing, loving light.
Now imagine that loving, peaceful glow continue to grow and expand, out to the others in your home, then out to your neighbours, and to your wider community.
And then expanding out and out and out into the world. Allow yourself to visualize sending that golden glow of love and kindness all around the globe, connecting you to everyone you know and then to everyone you don’t know. Remembering that we are all ONE. We are all the same. We are all in this together.
And when you are done your visualization, take a moment to notice how you feel.
5. Breathe out comfort and healing
This is a casual meditation based on the formal practice of Tibetan Tonglen meditation, which means “giving and taking”. Pema Chodron explains this powerful practice often and really well. It’s a way of sending kindness, compassion and healing to anyone who is suffering.
You can do this practice thinking of a specific person who you know is experiencing physical pain or mental suffering. Or you can do it for groups who are suffering in world, for anyone, any being, anywhere who has experiencing suffering in any way. You could even do it for the earth itself.
This meditation is about receiving and sending that is synchronized with your breathing, in and out.
When you breathe in, take in the physical pain or mental suffering of the person or group with the wish that they may be free of that suffering
Breathe out and radiate relief and healing, safety and comfort, happiness to those very same people.
Breathe in completely, taking in the negative energy. Hold that pain and suffering in your heart for a moment.
Breathe out and radiate pure positive energy completely, through all the pores of your body.
Do this practice for as long as you like.
6. Radiate love through an intention-based yoga practice
We often set an intention at the beginning of a yoga practice - I highly recommend it. Your intention is more than the way you want to feel - it’s about the higher vibration that you want to embody and carry with you, off the mat and into the world.
To help you hone your intention, we have created a series of 6 Intentions-Based Yoga Practices, each designed to cultivate a particular kind of energy or state of being. Each one is a gentle merging of yoga poses, meditation and a suggested ritual into a complete, yet very easy practice.
To help you cultivate kindness, I invite you to discover I AM LOVE. This is a quick and easy practice sequence to help you cultivate the high vibration of LOVE, to embody it and carry it off the mat. It is is intended to open your heart centre, tend the sacred flame that’s always there, and to allow you to shine love out into the world.
And as you are practicing, be kind, patient and loving to your body, just like you would be to a dear friend (because it is a dear friend!) Use your own body to cultivate the qualities of loving awareness, patience, kindness, and compassion, and you will have more of these gifts to share with others in your life.
7. Dedicate your practice to someone else
Consciously share the positive energy and the benefits of your yoga and/or meditation practice by dedicating your practice to someone else. You can declare it to yourself at the beginning or end of your practice. This is a way to amplify the benefits of your practice, to send positive energy, love, healing and compassion to others, even if they are not aware of it. It’s also a way to remember that we are all connected.
What simple acts of kindness can you think of to share today?
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