A couple of months ago, I attended a workshop on mindfulness conducted by a Buddhist monk at The Kadampa Meditation Center in New York City. He guided meditations and supported them with profound teachings from the Buddha. Topics included being present, kindness and ultimately staying connected to wisdom through mindfulness.
He explained that mindfulness is about being present and integrating Buddha’s teaching into our daily life moment by moment. It is remembering that all human beings have the same basic wish, the wish to be happy and maintain a peaceful mind especially during difficult times.
At the end of the talk, a student raised their hand and asked, “You’re a monk — you don’t live in the urban environment that we live in here. How do you practice mindfulness?”
The monk responded with a few simple things he does to cultivate mindfulness in his own practice. Part of his nightly practice includes meditation and reflecting on the kindness he received from others throughout the day. He gave simple yet profound examples of this kindness — the driver who drove his cab to the temple, the people who built the cab, the engineers who designed it and so on. He said, “Without these acts of kindness — without others — we would have nothing.”
I felt inspired by the simple idea of reflecting on kindness and took his teaching to heart. While doing something nice for others will often make me feel better, I don’t typically think about all the kindness I have received throughout the day.
In fact, if I’m totally honest, I don’t typically pay attention to all the things others are doing for me at all! Typically I think something along the lines of “There’s this world ‘out there’ and then there’s ME (isolated, separate and alone).” Especially as an entrepreneur, I work from home and often have very little interaction with others and the “normal 9 – 5 routine.” Sometimes it gets lonely during the day!
Having this view was leading me to feel disconnected, so I created my Kindness Journal and I started to take notice the acts of kindness I experience every day.
Before I go to sleep, I reflect and write down 5 acts of kindness I received throughout the day.
My list looks something like this: Thank you for the kindness I received from…
The person who drives the subway, which enabled me to meet my friend
The person who took care of the apple tree, picked the apple and transported the apple to get to my apartment
The person who built my computer
The yoga teacher that taught class and gave me corrections
All the people that came before me that took care of dogs, so that I could have a dog
Here are a few things I realized:
When I focus on kindness, I am instantly filled with gratitude (being in gratitude is an empowered state). I realize it is because of others I am able to have so much. I feel less isolated and feel interconnected to everything.
Interconnectedness is the definition of love and the opposite of ego. Ego thinks that there is me and the rest of the world.
It has been an amazing experience to begin to see life this way. I never before had this feeling and I began to appreciate things I never even thought about or noticed before.
In my own home (where I work too), I started to feel more connected to others just by bringing to mind how everything I have comes from others.
I even started to find kindness in the grocery store. People grow produce and package food then ship it and put it on the shelf and now I am able to have food! How kind! It could be the subway driver or even the electricity you use — someone else is working to provide this service for you!
And of course, there will be people who will not be kind to you. Those moments are opportunities for you to notice and realize that maybe they are struggling or having difficult issues in their life and you send them compassion and return to your focus on the people who are kind.
I encourage you to reflect every night on the kindness you have received throughout the day and write down the 5 Acts of Kindness you received.
This practice opened up a whole new way of looking at the world. And you only can benefit from this practice. It can shift your thinking and feelings to a level of awareness of appreciation that you haven’t ever experienced before. It is a path to greater joy, connection and positivity that can make your life richer and more valued.
If you are feeling lonely, disconnected, and like you live in a cruel and unkind world — maybe even feeling tired from feeling like you give and don’t receive — I highly encourage you to take this practice to heart.
What acts of kindness have you received today?