So the other day I was at work and got what I thought was an“ordinary” customer call. Aka a question, problem or order inquiry. Much to my pleasant surprise this particular customer called for no reason other than to tell me he really appreciated the emails I sent out (our company’s newsletters,special of the month and video blogs). While it seems simple, this small act of kindness really made my day, and reminded me to make a greater effort to go out of my way to show others that same kindness.
Moreover, it’s an interesting phenomenon, when we do make that extra effort to smile and connect with a stranger or offer a kind word or gesture, how we in turn find our spirits lifted. Why is that? Well first of all, we are getting out of our own heads and connecting with humanity at large. If we’re having a bad day, instead of ruminating and feeling like we’re the only ones having a bad day, we expand our awareness a little to reflect that we’re not alone in our suffering. And that makes it both a little less lonely and perhaps makes us a little more likely to show compassion and kindness both for others and for ourselves. Second, we are activating what’s called a mirror neuron effect just by smiling. When we smile or give off a compassionate energy, those around us are in turn more likely to smile, breathe with a little more ease and compassion. Then when we see others smiling, we in turn might find ourselves even more compelled to smile again. A chain reaction of mirror neurons. In other words, smiling much like yawning is contagious!
It’s a funny thing when we talk about kindness and compassion, we always talk about how we can show more kindness to others – which we absolutely should – but we should also remember that we are part of that humanity as a whole and show ourselves that same kindness. In other words let’s both show others (and ourselves) the same kindness with which we would want others to treat us. We remember that we’re not so different, so separate, but all always connected as human beings in this planet earth we call home.
A nice little breathing exercise I really love to cultivate that compassion for self and others is with each in breath to imagine you are sending yourself whatever compassion you might need in that moment. And with each out breath to image you are sending out compassion to whoever may need it. Perhaps start with a dear loved one, then moving to acquaintances and finally to strangers – human beings you’ve never met who are just like you in need of a little love and compassion. Breathing in for yourself. Breathing out for others. Always in harmony.
You might also like to offer yourself some words of loving-kindness as you breathe in that compassion for yourself such as “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I live with ease.” And then as you breathe out that compassion for others, you might want to in turn offer them some loving-kindness words, “May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe. May you live with ease.” And perhaps you might notice the in breaths and out breaths flowing together and the words of loving-kindness might melt both the self and others together as one. “May we be happy. May we be peaceful. May we be safe. May we live with ease.”
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama