3 Degrees of Kindness

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This month’s focus has been kindness, specifically LovingKindness. Until recently, I wasn’t even away of this word, LovingKindness. I was recently listening to a Tim Ferris Podcast featuring Sharon Salzberg, which discussed the practice of LovingKindness. Salzberg is a leader in meditation, and focuses on using meditation, to increase happiness. LovingKindness is a type of guided meditation, but also a way of life. A way of utilizing compassion and tenderness to increase happiness within yourself and those around you. LovingKindness is derived from the Buddhist belief Metta, of benevolence, friendliness, LovingKindness, amity, good will, and active interest in others.

During the Podcast, LovingKindness wasn’t just discussed as a concept, but a practice. This is something you do, and work at every day. And some days this work will be easier than others. At times, giving LovingKindness to those around you will be something that flows easily and naturally; at other times this will be more difficult. Just as giving grace is more easy at times than others, kindness and compassion can be difficult as well; and when kindness and compassion are most difficult, they are often most needed. An exercise was discussed during the podcast which I found interesting. Each night, before bed or every morning upon rising take time to “wish them well.” Pick two people who you love, and for 5-10 minutes, do nothing but wish them well. Wish them happiness, love, peace, prosperity, whatever positive thoughts you can. Wish them well. And as you practice this, move beyond your immediate circle. Wish someone well who you are indifferent towards, then move on to someone whom you don’t generally care for. The more you can move into compassion and caring, the more you can train your thoughts towards the positive and decrease these negative feelings. While discussing this exercise, Tim stated he tried this exercise for one week, without changing anything else in his routine, and by the end was able to discern a noticeably different, happiness in his overall outlook.

Additionally, Salzberg stated during the podcast “Stay close to your intention.” In order to do this, one must understand what their full intention truly is; Is your intention to give LovingKindness to everyone you encounter? Is your intention to live your best life? Whatever your intention, you must stay close in order to live authentically and within your purpose. So ask yourself, what is your intention and what is it’s influence. In her TedX talk, Dr. Emma Seppala says that our happiness has 3 degrees of influence. On a cellular level we are able to influence those around us, as our bodies instinctively mirror those in which we interact with. When we smile at someone, even a stranger, our brains are automatically wired to try to connect with others, and whether or not we choose to smile back at someone, our brain still registers this positive emotional influence. Let’s say that hypothetically we smile at one person, and this helps brighten their day; This leads them to wave hello to their neighbor, who in turn says something kind to their spouse. Our positive influence, though measured to the third degree, could actually be exponential.

And yet the exact opposite could also be true. If you can positively affect those around you to the third degree, I think you can negatively affect those as well. Our actions influence those around us, either positively or negatively. And it is our choice and our responsibility to stay true to our intention and decide what kind of person we want to be. We can be the type of person who negatively affects one person, and allows that negativity to influence all those future interactions, or we can choose to be better. We can choose to be the bigger person, the more positive person. We can choose to hold ourselves to a higher standard, which creates a greater, positive impact; Or we can allow ourselves to thrive in negativity and create an impact that is not only detrimental to our own well-being, but those around us. The choice is ours. Today, I choose to try to cultivate happiness in myself and in those around me, and I hope you do to.


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