footprints

Photo courtesy Footprints orphanage

I am a strong believer that empathy and kindness go a long way. Even small acts of kindness can have a ripple effect that will transform people’s life. It was certainly my experience in life when I was being helped unexpectedly.  Oftentimes strangers chose to open their hearts to respond to my needs.

This certainly made me decide to live by “paying it forward”, spreading kindness, when possible.

Kindness is necessary for us to make strong bonds within a family, community or a workplace. Kindness is a sheer act of giving without any expectation or judgement. Be it a cup of tea, your attention to other person’s needs or helping your old neighbor with household.

Of course there should be a balance between meeting our individual needs and the needs of others. However, many times, the acts of kindness can be boiled down to a loving attention given to another person/animal/ in a particular moment. Even a smile, a small talk, a truthful compliment can make a difference.

Kindness is contagious.  It inspires us to act kindly to others. It spreads easily because we make others feel good and, as a side effect, we simply feel good.

Kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’.

Kindness is good for the body and mental health

Allan Luks has long been an advocate of kindness, helping others and volunteering. From  his website, we read:

People have known for ages that helping others is good for the soul.  But the study that Allan Luks conducted of over 3000 male and female volunteers has proven it is good for the body and mental health too. His research concluded that regular helpers are 10 times more likely to be in good health than people who don’t volunteer. And that there’s an actual biochemical explanation: volunteering reduces the body’s stress and also releases endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers.

His book: “The Healing Power of Doing Good” explains the relationship between good health and volunteering, and the factors that make it possible to allow individuals to maintain their independence as they grow older and face both physical and mental health challenges.

When we study his book, or the book of David Hamilton, “Why kindness is good for you“, we can conclude that kindness (helping others) contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders both serious and minor.

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From another point of view, the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) teaches that organs have functions beyond the understanding of western medicine. Different emotions affect different organs. Anger and kindness effect the functions connected to the liver. The main task of the liver is to support the even flow of nourishing blood throughout the body. When the flow is smooth we are relaxed. But … when we are angry the flow is constricted. Since liver (through blood) is also connected to eyes, nerves and ligaments, as a result of tension and the blood restriction/stagnation, various health problems can occur. There may be tension, bloating, mood swings, eye problems, muscle spasms, dizziness, migraines etc. So, both kindness and a healthy way to express anger, come hand in hand with a happy liver.

Liver is perceived as an inner harmonizer. A well functioning liver supports the heart (according to TCM), and this may explain why kindness gives us healthier hearts. See also the book of David Hamilton.

***

Why kindness is good for you?
Because it is an act of deep connection to another person. It is ultimately human,  a recognition of her as your fellow traveler in life.
By helping her, you help yourself.
By giving freely, you free yourself.

You become a seed of gentle expansion of happiness.

Are you ready for an act of kindness?

If so, Kerrie Watson needs one. She is an English lady, I have just met, with a mission far bigger than herself.

Some years ago she worked as a volunteer in Kenya. She was so touched by poverty and limitations of the orphans there that she decided to make a difference. She started an orphanage in 2010. She did it alone. By her own money, persistence and against all odds.  She is now a “mum” to 24 kids, aged 0 to 18 who would have been abandoned, otherwise. Three years ago she started a school, which has now 140 pupils.

What a task! She feeds all the kids. Many of them from outside sleep at school on mattresses during a week. She runs it with the support of locals: Kenyan teachers, cooks and so on.

Life is really basic there.
No water.
No electricity.
No toilets.
If you want a piece of furniture, such as a bench or a bed, you have to make it yourself.

The majority of your time is spent of fetching water, cooking and washing. You have to walk 2.5 miles to fetch water from a river. There is a well, but the water is not always there, and even though they collect rain water, it’s gone in the dry season. Yet, kids’ clothes and bedding  have to be washed by hand, rubbing in a basket of water. Not even mentioning the amount of water you need to cook meals for all pupils and adults.

Some kids are HIV positive and their illness is manageable when they are provided with daily medication. It costs 100 pounds a month/child.

They lead a simple life, yet the changes Kerrie makes to these children are profound. They have a lifetime chance to grow in love and learn to spread kindness.

Kerrie runs this thanks to the financial support she gets from people. She has a well-founded charity and her family members in the UK support her behind the scenes. They take care of formal issues, the running of charity, accounting, Facebook presence, website etc. But money is short. She is a no-nonsense lady, very practical and highly optimizing her spending. Everything goes directly towards food and the running costs.

Just have a look at these lovely kids, and please support this mission of the Heart. Even 3 or 5 pounds will make a huge difference.

Make a Donation or spread the word. Allow yourself for a small act of kindness.

Many thanks 🙂

***

 

strange_world

Photo credit Leandro’s World Tour, available undrer Creative Commons on Flickr.

I look around and I see people.
I look closely and I recognize the unbalanced self.
I look at the world and I perceive gossip, curses and unkindness.

They stand out.
They shout.
They paralyze.
They hurt.

Yet …

Love is stronger than hatred.

It shines continuously in spite of everything. The rays of love are there, as always. Beautiful and strong. Just become silent and notice them. On your face and in your heart.

When you listen to and understand others, love comes naturally as the recognition of yourself in the other person.
Her struggles are your struggles.
Her challenges are your challenges.
Her blessings are yours too.

Let us pay attention.
Let us respect each other.
Let us be kind.

And by changing ourselves we will change the world.

***

Music comes strongly to me at times and it is such a time now. The music of a great Polish composer and musician, Czeslaw (Cheslav) Niemen, has been with me for some weeks now, especially the song “Strange is this world”. Niemen was hardly known outside the Slavic countries, yet he was a very special guy. I’ve grown up with his songs.

 

Strange is this world

How strange is this world
where still it seems
there is so much evil.
How strange it is
that seems so long
man despises man.

How strange is this world
of human affairs,
sometimes I’m ashamed to admit
a man can kill a man
with a bad word
as if with a knife.

Most people are of good will,
and thanks to them
I believe strongly
that this world
should never, never, never die.
And now the time has come,
the final time
for hatred
hatred to destroy in oneself.

 

This is the original Polish version from 1967:

 

 

This is an English version from 1973, a very different interpretation

 

 

***

And finally, the latest interpretation of this song by his daughter Natalia. It sends shivers down my spine.

 

***

 

 Obviously, we all need love. This post, however, is not about love, but about compassion and its complementary.

Compassion is when you see a person in misery and you begin to feel with her.

Compassion is when you pour your heart out, feel her pain and cry with her.

Compassion is when you you take the time to listen to, console and comfort her.

When does it happen?

It happens when you shift your focus from yourself to the others, when you make the time to stop, pay attention and take care.

Compassion is your empathic ability to respond to the needs of others and join them on their level to help them grow. Yet, compassion, is perhaps a moment too late. It is inspired by an outside event or a call.

What comes before that?

It is the very act of noticing the other person as she is, perhaps even at the peak of her strength.

Acknowledgement is about showing gratitude for her beaming attitude, praising her for diligent work, efforts or smiles.

Acknowledgement is about encouragement when the attitude, energy, mood or performance are still high (or at least not lacking).

Acknowledgement is about approval when things go well, when her will is strong so that she can go bravely through difficulties.

It is very important. 
Why?
Because we all have a basic need to be heard, seen, acknowledged and understood.

A smile or a sign of appreciation can go a long way, much longer than you can imagine. Their actings have a cumulative effect. Gratitude and appreciation leverage support a person receives for her job, learning new skills or going through hardships. It is much easier to fuel the fire of motivation and keep her going than to overcome the inertia when she fails and stops.

Open your eyes and begin to notice.
Express what you value in the efforts of others.
Show appreciation.
Spread kindness.
Not this day only, but every day.
It’s never too much.

In compassion you recognize the sameness, the other person becomes a part of you.
In appreciation you recognize the difference, the individual power and uniqueness of the other.

Compassion is reactive.
Appreciation is proactive.
They make a lovely pair together. A dance between similarity and difference will help you to flourish and grow.

***

Kindness and appreciation. A great book on kindness is Why kindness is good for you, by David Hamilton. Highly recommended.

Compassion. You may listen to a short talk on compassion by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional intelligence:

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***

This is my journey
and that one is yours.

The destination is important
yet the journey even more.

***

I am – We become.
I observe – We are.
I learn – We observe.
I discover – We learn.
I understand – We discover.
I become – We understand.
My better Self – Our conscious life.

***

No silence without words.
No freedom without structure.
No music without soul.

No growth without acceptance.
No expansion without limits.
No love without choice.

***

You are well equipped
to travel your path.

Be present in this moment.

This is all you need 
to follow it
with all your heart.

***

Accept what is
and what is not.

Test the limits, 
and the other side.

Choose to love
God, yourself and others.

***

Yes.
It is really that simple.

***

My path is my alone.
Chosen
to travel it with joy.

***

Your path is your alone.
Chosen
to travel it with joy.

***

Neither is worse or better.
Just different.

***

 

serendipity

James at loss

James is a very smart and creative guy. He has grown as an independent thinker and prepared himself for a university carrier. Fast and original thinking was his main asset. It was clear that James was a good fit. Not only was he able to conduct high quality research, but also enthusiastically teach and supervise both students and PhD students well. James applied for a position at a good university.

It was not an arbitrary position, but a specific position toward which he had grown for years. The position was created as a continuation of work that was close to his heart and expertise. He was not only experienced with the work, but more importantly he adored it and was good at. Everybody knew about it.

One day there was an interview for this position. The interview went OK, but despite all the hopes, James was rejected. There were many international candidates. All smart guys. He made a good impression but not the best. He was simply judged to have been missing both managerial and networking skills. Indeed, he was not good at promoting, or selling research or project proposals. It was something to learn.

So, although he hoped for this position, it turned out it was not for him.

It was a hard pill to swallow for James. Much harder than he had imagined.

Disappointment was real and touched James deeply. Very deeply. James did not know what else he might have been doing. It was a dream position he hoped for and prepared for.

What else was to happen to him?

Letting it go

Slowly, he started to look for other positions. And again it became clear to him how much the managerial skills were important. “Too much” he was thinking. After many enquiries, he finally found a job as a college/university teacher. This gave him some joy as he loved to teach. It gave him challenges too. Many students were unmotivated and usually unprepared, unfortunately. So, oftentimes, he had to behave like a policeman forcing knowledge on students. What a pity!

He gave everything to have become the best teacher. He was liked and appreciated there. Yet despite the good results, he was missing the joy of creative thinking. He knew that he was capable of much, much more. He was a scientist in every cell of his body. He wanted to do research. He wanted to create.

And at the moment he thought he was destined to work as a teacher, a little miracle occurred to his surprise.

The little miracle

Thanks to the contribution of few people at the first university a new position was created especially for James. It was an exception on all levels. A specially crafted position. It was created in a way that seemed impossible within the university structure, yet it was possible. As a result, James has become both researcher and teacher doing the work he has loved so much.  He has been fulfilled ever since.

Isn’t that great?

Jack at a crossroads

Jack is a very smart and creative guy. He has grown as an independent thinker and prepared himself for a university carrier. Similarly as James, he was working as a college teacher, but he did it for an additional experience. He choose to work at a university.

His path toward a fixed appointment was long and adventurous, even though he was delivering and producing high quality research output. Much higher than many professors around. Yet, similarly as James, Jack did not like to promote himself. He was a modest person.

After many years at the university, Jack was offered a fixed appointment. It was OKish but not just with respect to the quality and quantity of work Jack was delivering. Jack was simply very good.

Yet, when Jack inquired about the conditions necessary for a promotion he was told it would impossible for him. There was no way for him to fulfil the key responsibilities for the department and it was unclear for Jack why it was so. These were the managerial tasks.

It was a hard pill to swallow for Jack. Much harder than he had imagined.

Disappointment was real and touched Jack deeply. He really wanted to continue at the university where he was. Jack had already gone through may trainings, multitude of university tasks and managerial responsibilities. And it seemed impossible to continue it further on.

What was he to do about it?

Letting it go

After some deep thinking, Jack decided to apply for a higher position at another university. This would have introduced additional challenges for him, including extra travelling, but he was prepared for that. He went for an interview and was judged as very good. And when he was about to have been offered such a job there, the interviewing professors asked for references at his current university.

Surprise

And then, to his surprise Jack was considered as a pure gold at his own university, not to be lost to another one. What a surprise!

Jack was offered a promotion. A promotion he clearly worked for, longed for and fully deserved. And he has been enjoying it well.

Isn’t that great?

***

Moral

What is the moral of these stories?

When you really, really, really want something badly, you must give the best of yourself and, yet, be willing to accept the loss. You have to want it desperately and work towards it, but when the time comes, you have to let it go. Push hard, yet withdraw from the outcome.

You may live through the loss and perhaps investigating alternative routes before you are ready to enjoy the gain.

Why?

Simply because you can only truly win when you are emotionally detached from the outcome.

Intention, passion and action are necessary.

Yet, it is the detachment from the outcome or letting it go that is the last ingredient in the ultimate formula of success.

It does not guarantee the final achievement or result, but it keeps you at the center (between the opposites), where happiness is practiced through the learning and the journey and not because of the results.

When you detach from the outcome, you add some degrees of freedom to your life. And this freedom, counterintuitively, increases your chances of the result.

***

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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