Sunday, October 30, 2016

Are You Happy?

That's not a question I ask myself often. I wonder what happiness means to you. I don't know that it is a simple all or nothing thing, at least not for me. So I thought I'd explore it a bit. What is Happiness?

For me it is made up of little pieces of happiness that are present even when I don't consciously identify them. Life is a mosaic. Some of the pieces are unhappy but most are not. Most are little bits of positive everyday experiences. I can choose to focus on a bit of negativity (unhappiness) or a bit of positivity (happiness).

That's not to say I should ignore the negative. It gives me information about what needs changed. And if I ignore it I probably won't do anything about it. And if it is negative to me it probably is negative to others. So if I can change it I can then change the experience for others. Yep, I'm back to changing the world again.

You should know that I'm passionate about changing the world for the better. So it doesn't help to ignore the negative. It also doesn't help to ignore the positives, which we often do. How much better our lives are when we acknowledge all the small positives we experience. We enhance our happiness by noticing the pleasure of small things - a drink of water when we are thirsty, the song of a bird outside our window, the breeze on our face when we are hot, the taste of our favorite food.

Accumulating awareness of those small things can keep our happiness charged and our perspective positive.

What small things do you experience as positive? Would you share them in the comments?

Some of my happy moments? Sewing machine needled threaded at first try; big sewing project completed; cat laying in my lap. Now, what are some of yours from your day?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This Is How It Begins.

An act of kindness creates a ripple that carries out into the world beyond us. Make waves!

What you do today creates your tomorrow.

Color a better world.

What will you do to create your tomorrow. Need inspiration?

Let's get going!

What did you choose to do today to make the world - and your day - better?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I'm Recruiting for a Revolution

"Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come" 
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Are you in?

The time has come for us to rise up and make kindness the new normal. We've been witnessing one of the most unkind political campaigns in modern history. And we have watched how violence and division have spread throughout our country and the world. It is time for a change.

I've written in past posts about changing the world. Well, we can. And it isn't as hard as you might think. Anytime you change your behavior it changes the world that is immediately around you. What you do today creates your tomorrow.

When we sew seeds of kindness it changes things, often changes people. Kindness is contagious.  And it is also provides invaluable teaching for the children who witness it. So you can change the world around you simply by your kindness.

By keeping our hearts and minds open to the possibility of kindness we "come into our power, our personal power - the power of a kind heart with the courage to act on it's beliefs." (Margot Silk Forrest,  a short course in kindness,)

Have you ever considered how someone's world might change as a result of your kind action? Have you ever had one of those days when nothing seemed to go right? Your world seemed really challenging and your frustrations was driving you to anger? Then someone went out of their way to do something really kind and your whole perspective changed. The world no longer seemed so threatening. It was changed by that kind action. And, you became more kind yourself.

Even the smallest kind act sends out ripples of kindness. When enough of us are living kindness we can create a tsunami of kindness that washes away hate and heals the divisiveness. Really.

 Something as small as taking the empty grocery cart you see parked in a parking slot at the store back to the cart corral or the store doesn't seem like much to you. But to the person who has to round up all those stray carts, one less does make a difference. And for the person who tries to park their car in a slot but can't because of the cart someone thoughtlessly left there it eliminates one more thing that frustrates them that day. Often carts are left in the handicapped parking area because those folks can't walk them back to the store. This, though, makes it hard for the next handicapped person to park close to the store entrance. Why not just grab one of those carts when you go into the store and eliminate that frustration for them?

Don't think this would change the world? Consider how many kind acts might result because you are thinking more kindly, looking for opportunities to act kindly. The more kindness you act on the more likely you are to do other kind acts. Each time you take action to be kind it reinforces your kindness action and courage. So even if the other person is unaware of your kind act, you become more kind. And, like drops of water on the stone, your kindness changes your life and that of those around you.

Consider the chain reaction of "paying it forward". Someone at Starbucks pays for the car behind them in the drive through and the people receiving that kindness are likely to pay for the one behind them. It is contagious. Spread it around.

So, let's rise up and change the world. Look for kind actions that you can do. Take action and spread kindness to everyone. Imagine the result of this revolution!

Let's change the world. Are you in?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ten Ways to Be Kind

Sometimes I think we should teach people-skills in the public schools as a way to create a population of peacemakers. And kindness would solve a lot of problems kids face every day. What if kindness was encouraged in the classroom. Bullies would be identified immediately and dealt with in an entirely different way. And if kids grow up with kindness as a most-wanted trait we'd have a very different world.

Anyway, the rest of us can learn to be more kind and to pass that on. Here are ten ways to be kind:
  1.  Think small. Look for the little ways to be kind. They all count. Look for small things you can do, think, or say that are kind. This creates a wave of kindness moving out and beyond you. It is amazing sometimes the impact of a kind word where it is needed.
  2. Follow the Better-Than-Golden-Rule. Do unto others what they would have you do unto them. Do what they need rather than what we think they need. To be truly helpful you must do what they most need. You may think you know what they need, but is it really what they most need? You can only know if you ask. Giving someone food when they really most need gas money to look for work might be nice, but it isn't very helpful.
  3. Listen. Often what people need most is someone to actually listen. Just listen, without judgement or advice or problem-solving. In this "information age" we seldom get heard. Our feelings, or confusion, our distress get rushed past in the effort to fix the situation and move on. We need the validation of being heard. Hold your opinion until it is asked for. Just be fully present with that person - family, friend, or stranger - and you are being the most kind you can be.
  4. Accept the kindness of others. This can be hard for many of us. We avoid appearing vulnerable or needy. But it is a great kindness to accept help from others rather than brushing it off or rejecting it. Refusing someone's kindness stops the flow of kindness into the world. To keep it going we must be able to both give and receive kindness, to let it flow through us. Be kind and say "Thank You", with meaning.
  5. Talk about your hard stuff. This one can be risky. But kindness requires courage. So when it is appropriate, share your own dark times with others. Let them know that you have been through hard times and come out o.k. on the other side. This gives people validation that they are not alone and encourages them to make it through their hard time. One of the most powerful parts of recovery from abuse comes from hearing that others have been there and have become stronger for it. And talking about your own difficulties helps you validate your own journey, too. 
  6. Do it. When action is called for, act! While we may have insight, even empathy, if we don't act on it, kindness doesn't  happen. Action requires your choice, sense of self, and courage. Yes, sometimes kindness requires that we move out of our comfort zone to help someone in need. And that is when true kindness can happen. But we must act on it. Do the thing that needs to be done.
  7. Be There. Companionship is a gift than can be the most needed kindness. Sometimes what is most needed and appreciated it to have someone to share the moments, to be fully present without rushing, without judging, without intruding in any way. To simply be there for someone by sharing the moments, quietly making human contact without any demands for them to respond in any way at all. Sometimes just a touch to show you are with them is enough to show that you care and take the time to be with them.
  8. Encourage laughter. I'm not suggesting you make light of the person's situation. But laughter can be a great gift when it come after sharing personal contact. It can give them a break from their troubles, even for just a moment. It feels good. Kindness can make you laugh with surprise and joy. Laughter can make both the giver and receiver of kindness feel better about yourselves and the world. 
  9. Be encouraging. It is kindness to have faith in others when they don't have faith in themselves. You know how those inner voices can tell you that you can't do something, that you'll never reach your goals, etc. Other people experiences the same thing. And your completely confident encouraging words can counteract those inner voices and help someone keep working toward their goals when they are struggling. Your confidence in them is contagious.
  10. Be kind to yourself. This may be the hardest thing for you to do. But it is vital. Because if you can respect and care for your own needs, you can respect and care for the needs of others. If you only care for others you will eventually be unable to care for anyone. If you only give, you will eventually give out and begin to resent the needs of others as draining you and leaving yu feeling empty. Spend some time paying attention to your needs - physical, emotional, spiritual. Notice your daily needs for rest, regular nutrition, play, solitude,exercise, creativity. Consider what renews and replenishes you and if you are doing those things. Other than sleep, most don't require large amounts of time. They can be built into your day easily. And they can make it possible for you to continue being of service to others.
If you do these things, and others you create yourself, you can help change the world. Kindness is contagious. And the forces of the universe that want to heal and create peace will help you. Join the revolution of kindness and peace.

I'd really like to hear what ways you know to be kind. Please share in the comments to extend our list of Ways to Be Kind.

*Much of this is taken from A Short Course in Kindness by Margot Silk Forrest. I recommend you read her book.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Is Kindness in Short Supply?

Stories of unkindness make headlines. get talked about, are the stuff of television and movies. They are everywhere - if you only look at the big pictures. But when we begin to look at small things, at the daily kindnesses of everyday people, we can see that it is more pervasive than we thought.

From the many children who raise money with lemonade stands for charity to the many people that choose to grow their hair long enough to donate it to make wigs for cancer chemo patients, we seldom see those acts of kindness. For every small act of kindness there are many other people doing the same or similar things. But these seldom make the news and we tend to overlook them because of the big tragedies that crowd the headlines.

We may see a story of a restaurant donating meals to the homeless, while at the same time there are countless times that other restaurants or individuals give a free meal to someone in need. Kindness is subtle. It's about love and care for another. The impact may seem small to most observers while the impact to those that are recipients of the kindness is great.

If you are wanting to change the world, you must start with where you are, all the small and everyday opportunities for kindness. And we must share the stories of kindness so that others are encouraged to do the same. This can spread kindness across the world.People hear the story of kindness and feel better. Then they change the way they treat each others. Kindness is contagious.

We need to know that good things happen in the world. Children especially need to hear the stories of kindness. That is how they learn to be kind. And they will then teach others to be kind. They are great imitators. They do what they see others do. Show them kindness.

When have you experienced kindness? What have you observed that someone did that was truly kind? When have you be the recipient of a kind act? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

So, Are You Selfish?

I sometimes think I'm selfish when I don't do what someone wants me to or when I choose to stay home rather than attend a meeting. It's hard to say no sometimes. That's exactly how we become used up and cynical. "The world just tries to take, take, take." Then we are used up, resentful, and feel like our tank is empty. That's because it is!

When you car is getting low on gas, you have to go get gas or it won't run at all. Then it becomes pretty useless. With an empty tank it can't do much of anything. It is the same with people. We have to take care of ourselves or we will be pretty useless, too.

So saying "no" can be a survival skill we need in order to get ourselves to the filling station! Build in time for yourself to do things that nurture you. People have various ways of nurturing themselves. It may be simply taking a few minutes each day to be quiet and alone. Or it may be music that fills your soul. Or you may have a creative hobby that takes you out of the chaos for a little while.

We also need to nourish our bodies, get adequate sleep, a balanced diet, and plenty of water. It's like your car. If you do regular maintenance, give it proper fuel, and upkeep it will serve you long and well. If you run it too fast for too long and don't take care of it, it is going to wear out more quickly.

The trouble is that many of us take better care of our car than we do ourselves! Take a minute right now and check your indicators. How's your body doing?  How's your attitude? Are you feeling happy? Are you eating right and regularly? Are you getting enough rest? Are you doing good self-care? Having some leisure?

I know, I know, you don't think you have time for leisure. But you don't need hours or days of it if you build it in on a regular basis. How about half and hour for a leisurely bath or walk in a park? How about just shutting your eyes and listening to some music? How about taking time to simply chat with a friend who always lightens your mood? These don't require a total lifestyle change.

I like to sew and almost always have a project going. I seldom spend hours at it at a time. I do a little at a time. I also crochet, paint, and read. I know, you are thinking that's easy for me because I'm retired. And you are right. It is easier. But even when working and taking care of a family I managed to sew, crochet, and read a little at a time.

I enjoy creating things. And I even can often combine this self-caring activity that I enjoy with helping others when I have a project that will benefit someone else - as long as I don't set an unreasonable deadline for getting it done. No pressure, just pleasure. Doing for others is sometimes a self-caring activity for me as I get such pleasure from helping. But it can become a drain if I give more time or energy than I have.

Doing things that feel good which don't have negative side effects is important for our well-being. What good can we do if we are worn out and feeling resentful about all the demands we feel on our energy?

Don't forget to explore how many of those demands are ones we make on ourselves. Are you trying to do too much? Give up on becoming Super Woman or Super Man and find good balance in your life.

As well as doing things that feel good, self-care means NOT doing things that feel bad. For me it means limiting the amount of time I am around negative people, not going to violent movies, and staying away from places where people tend to become argumentative and loud. For you it may be different. You may want to stop activities that leave you feeling bad about yourself. You might look at your expectations of yourself and decide that you are being a bit unreasonable. Sometimes doing less can mean more time and energy for the things that really matter for you.

And another way of caring for yourself is to change the way you talk to yourself. Monitor your self-talk to see if you are being negatively critical. Do you hear yourself saying things like "That was stupid" and other similar phrases? Do you tell yourself you look awful or that you never do anything right? Listen to what goes through your mind and ask yourself if you would talk to someone else like that or if you'd want them to say that to you? Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others! Try promising yourself that you will never say to yourself anything you wouldn't say to another person. I suspect that is a tall order for many of us. But it is worth working on.

So, are you selfish or are you taking care of yourself? Think about it. What did you do today to be kind to yourself and take care of you?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Feeling Powerless? Be Kind

Kindness and power are related. No, not the "power over" kind of power. The power that is exercised with kindness is the power within. Our inner power gives us our sense of being. Kindness shows us we have power "over ourselves and our choices, and over whether this world is a cruel or wondrous pace to live." (A Short Course in Kindness by Margot Silk Forrest.)

Exercising the capacity for kindness strengthens our power to change our thoughts, our behavior, to reach out to someone we've wronged, and the power to treat ourselves more kindly. Personal power is all about choice. When we are aware of our choices and our ability to make different choices we are truly in charge of our lives.

Viktor Frankl learned this truth in Auschwitz where he was imprisoned during WWII. In his book Man's Search for Meaning he wrote: "the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way... Fundamentally . . . any man can . . .  decide what shall become of him - mentally and spiritually." [If you have never read this book, I recommend it. He tells the story of his imprisonment as an inmate who was beaten, starved, deprived of sleep, worked beyond endurance, humiliated, hated, and his friends massacred in the cruelty of concentration camp and how he survived as a whole person.]

How often do we find ourselves feeling powerless over situations because we cannot change them. And our attitude toward those situations cause us great distress until we decide to change our attitude to become more positive. We are not asked to like the situation. We are charged with the responsibility to determine what to think, feel, and behave in the face of it. This is our personal power.

To be kind to ourselves and to the world around us we are charged with the chance to live fully in every moment and to look at all that is with eyes of compassion. To do that we let fear and anger and resentment drop away and see ourselves and others as creatures with the same needs and desires, dream, and vulnerabilities.We have more in common that differences.

And this isn't an instant conversion. It is a process of constantly exploring our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and choosing how to respond. It is an evolution. And it requires that we be truly kind to ourselves. Personally, I find this to be the hardest part.

I look in the mirror and instantly see all that I consider to be wrong with how I look. I feel remorse for things I've said or done, or failed to say or do, and have difficulty forgiving myself for unkindnesses in the past.

Why has kindness for ourselves turned into a bad rap? It is labeled self-indulgent, selfish, self-pitying. However, being kind to ourselves only means taking care of ourselves as we would take care of anyone we lived. Without self-care we don't have the energy to care about others. Self-care is the root of kindness to others. If all we do is give to others we are soon empty and eventually rather pathetic.

After showering kindness onto others, take time to rest and take care of yourself. Otherwise you will burn out and not have any energy for others.You will end up angry and resentful and see only the bad in the world and in other people. Putting yourself first in your life is vital to your health. And it is better for others if you do. It is the reason the flight attendants instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on first so that you are better able to help others with theirs. Life is like that.

How do you take care of yourself? What replenishes you? Do you struggle with feelings of guilt about taking care of yourself first?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

It's Something You Do

It's action. It's a noun, but it is action. Kind of breaks the rules of grammar, right? Verbs are action words. But "kindness" isn't a verb, not grammatically anyway. This noun "kindness" requires action.

It isn't enough to think kind thoughts, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing. That is sure better than thinking unkind thoughts. But kindness requires that you actually do a kind act. Not just a "nice" behavior, but a kindness.

This means that you first of all have to care. You have to care about the situation where kindness is needed, not just about how you will be perceived or recognized if you do it. Kindness comes from the heart. You feel the need for kindness.

Then you think about what you can do. So, yes, you need to use your brain to decide what to do. This is important because you want to consider the consequences of your behavior. You may care about the situation but not every behavior will help. Sometimes our choice of behavior can harm someone or make the situation worse. So we have to consider the possible consequences before we choose to act.

Sometimes a little research is necessary to know what will do more good than harm. We need to know what will or won't help, what is going to potentially make things worse. We need to consider if our behavior will enable someone to continue in a harmful path. Finding a down and out person who has lost all he or she has gambling might not benefit from a cash gift with no support for dealing with their gambling addiction. So kindness often means getting to know the situation better. It would be kinder to spend time with that person to find out what brought them to this state of being and to encourage them to seek help for their addiction.

Kindness is often more than a one-shot gesture. To be truly kind one must make personal contact with and sometimes a commitment to where the need is. To be truly kind it must make you stretch a bit out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you can only donate money. Money can be an important part of helping in a situation. But to be truly kind you need to give enough that you have sacrificed something yourself. No, you don't have to give up everything you have to be kind. But do stretch. Make the gift meaningful by investing part of yourself in it.

It's wonderful to have good intentions, beliefs, thoughts, and words. But what matters, ultimately, is what we do, the actions we take. "Our deeds are with us wherever we go. For good or ill we cannot be free of them. We are the beneficiaries of our deeds. We inherit their effects. We suffer - or enjoy - the consequences of our deeds."*

"Help your sister's boat across the water, and your's too will reach the other side.Kindness is its own motive. We are mad kind by being kind." (Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind)

* A Short Course in Kindness, Margot Silk Forrest.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What Debate?

I don't know a lot about debating. One of my daughters was on a debate team so I had a bit of an idea. But watching the presidential debate the other night didn't seem much like anything the debate team did. So I thought I'd look it up.

The Oxford Dictionary online read like this:

  1. a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.
    synonyms: discussion · discourse · parley · dialogue · argument ·

  1. argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner: "the board debated his proposal" ·

    "the date when people first entered America is hotly debated"
    synonyms: discuss · talk over/through · talk about · thrash out ·
According to San Francisco University "A debate is a structured argument. Two sides speak alternately for and against a particular contention usually based on a topical issue. Unlike the arguments you might have with your family or friends however, each person is allocated a time they are allowed to speak for and any interjections are carefully controlled. The subject of the dispute is often prearranged so you may find yourself having to support opinions with which you do not normally agree. You also have to argue as part of a team, being careful not to contradict what others on your side have said."

O. K., that sounds more like what I am familiar with, school debate teams. But what I saw on television the other night was more like the argument you might have with family or friends. Debates have structure and interjections are controlled. There was little control evidenced by one of the opponents who interrupted frequently and spoke over the other person's allotted time. Yeah, it was more like a debater trying to debate with an arguer.

So will the other two debates end up the same, arguing without structure or control? Guess we will just have to watch and see.

Did you watch the presidential debate last week? What did you think?