When I was a child I used to equate love with the feeling of warmth. Being cuddled and appreciated.

When I was a teenager I used to see love as a special gift from God, as a power to influence the life of others.

As a young adult, I saw love as a power of transformation. I was able to discriminate between falling in love and being in love.

When I got married I understood that love was a choice.

When I became a mother I understood that love was responsibility.

My understanding of love has evolved a lot over the years. However, it was only when I have become a mother that I looked deeper. In all the years I have seen love as a relation. And in a sense, it is.

Love is a relation with myself. It begins inside.

Love is self-acceptance.

Let me explain.

In the famous 1st letter to the Corinthians, in the Bible, NIV, we read:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Think about this now.

If I accept myself, who I am, without any pride or disgrace, I have no need to prove myself to others. I don’t need to gain respect from others or please others. Love (self-acceptance) sets me free. I give myself permission to be the way I am, odd or weird, either norm or deception. It does not matter.

I do not bother if others like me or reject me as I do not need the approval of others. It is nice to have it but if I appreciate myself, I am OK with life. As I am content with who I am, I stand for the truth.

When I accept myself I become responsible for who I am. It is about knowing myself, all my sides, the glorious one and the ugly one.

I can love (accept) another person if I am free to give and receive. I used to see love as a relation to another person, my kids, my mother or my countrymen, but this aspect is secondary. The primary aspect is to know whom I am and accept myself. When I do this, I become mature.  The love to another emerges naturally from the love to self, as I am capable to stand up and create a partnership relation.

This sets me free from dependencies and conditionals. “I love you, because …” , “I love you, but …” This sets me free from expectations. “If only you do this or become that…”

This gives me personal power in any relation, because my relation is a reflection of my relation to self. So, if things do not go well, I am in charge to change myself in order to change the relation. So, to love means to accept myself, and to love means to accept the other in my co-operative relation.

When we read another famous quote from Mark 12:30-31, NIV:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

So I am to love God, accept the graceful hand in my life, and I am to accept my neighbors as myself.

Once I accept myself I am able to take responsibility for myself and my decisions. So, indeed, love is a choice, a transformational power.

It is also worth to say that in this context a child cannot love, simply because he is not shaped yet to be in a position to take charge of who he is. Of course kids fall in love with parents. He is nice, sweet, cute and adorable. It is great to give them cuddles and receive them. But in reality kids are dependent on parents, the social must’s and do’s, school life and so on. The child is not free to take responsibility of who he is. Not yet.

But a child is growing in love to learn what love is. It is therefore of a paramount importance for a parent to radiate own self-acceptance and create an environment of trust for the kids to grow.

Kids do things to please themselves, please their parents or sometimes because they are afraid of punishment. At some point, with age, they will get angry about the dependence they hold to the parents. They will rebel the norms and attempt to establish their own identity. This can be a painful process, as we know, where the Self is vulnerable to be heavily influenced by peers and external circumstances.

The crisis so prevalent nowadays with low self-esteem of kids and young adults reflects the lack of role models who loved themselves and the others.

Let us appreciate who we are. Let us be the role models for kids to learn to love.

 

 

 

 

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.

***

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:

***

Do you want to be a norm?

You want to be perfect.
Balanced. Harmonious. Spotless.

That is what you think you want. To follow the perfect dream.

You want to have a great family.
(Obviously, a great house and a car too.)
You want an easy and smooth life.
You want to make a great carrier.

That is what you think you want. To follow the standard dream.

Do you want to be a deviation?

Luckily, you are much different than the norm.
You are strange, perhaps odd, colorful and spotty.
You are a masterpiece in creation.

***

It is the differences, not the norm, that shape interest and curiosity.

They make us think.
They make us look for answers.
They make us change and grow.

What is known and explained becomes boring.
What is different and standing out becomes interesting.

Have you ever thought that the greatest inspiration comes from the parts that do not fit to a model?
These are the ugly parts, aberrations, defects, imperfections, or surprises.
Indeed, we push towards a new development because the deviation is there and demands attention.

***

Harmony and elegance are powerful. They create a comfort zone.
As much as we want it and love it, we become lazy and purposeless when we dwell there for too long.

The norm, the model, the comfort zone is a place of rejuvenation. For a short while only.

***

The parts of yourself that are elegant, polished and worked-out make a great cover.
They help you shine. Yet, they likely stand on the way to your progress.

The parts of yourself that you wish to dispose of, change or hide are the sources of great power.
The imperfections are a potential for growth and purpose.

It is where you don’t fit and how you differ from others that becomes your strength.
It is the difference that is an inspiration for change.

***

Dare to be a Deviation, not the Norm.

***

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