“Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.” (Rollo May)
[As we approach the most important election America has ever faced, amidst a global pandemic and critical cultural tipping points, I am revisiting and reexamining some of what I consider the most important elements of kindness, as well as exploring them in context of where we are today.]
I first wrote about the power of the pause in the earliest days of this blog. I marveled at how something so simple could have so much influence on our attitudes and our interactions, and so much power to change us and our world. Instead of responding instantly with knee-jerk reactions to presumed slights or insults—which generally escalates a situation—if we can cultivate the habit of pausing, we can produce the outcome we seek, and not perpetuate bad behavior or exacerbate an adverse encounter.
The pause offers us the gift of grace.
Rather than being an empty space, it is an expectant moment, filled with promise and possibility. It’s up to us, in that fleeting gap, to decide what comes next.
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go
~John Prine, Angel from Montgomery
John Prine, Wikimedia Commons
I was saddened to learn this morning that the great John Prine died yesterday, another casualty of the coronavirus. I have loved John Prine’s music since I was a teenager. His voice is as piercing as his lyrics, illustrating why Rolling Stone proclaimed him “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
I wanted to link back to a post I wrote in 2016, which talked about my very favorite Prine song, “Hello in There.” It describes the isolation so many elderly people feel in our society, and it’s particularly poignant today, in the midst of COVID-19, as isolation confronts us all in different ways. I hope you’ll follow the link and listen to Prine’s song and then think about who in your life, or in your neighborhood, could use a “hello” from you.
“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)
I’m not big on making New Year resolutions (What’s she talking about, Leonard? Doesn’t she know it’s nearly April?). But what I do try to do at the beginning of each year is think about who I want to be, what I hope will be different, and what I want my life to look like at the end of the year. Then, I set my monthly, weekly, and daily intentions with that vision in mind.
It’s very organized and kind of nerdy (and maybe a tiny bit OCD). It works for me.
But, here at the end of March, 2020—a month during which the world changed in ways that were unimaginable a short time ago—I find it’s time to rethink my priorities and reset my intentions for the emerging brave new world (which, I hope, will not resemble the one imagined by Aldous Huxley).
I wonder, as we hunker down—giving colossal thanks to those on the front lines who cannot hunker—if it would be healthy and wise to take some time to think about who we will be and what the world may look like once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. Continue reading →
A year from today, may we look back and say, “We’ve made the world a kinder place … together.”
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions in the traditional sense. I prefer to think about the year ahead and what I hope will be different at its end, and then set some intentions to help bring about that change. That’s how this blog was born five years ago, and ultimately how the book, A Year of Living Kindly, came into being.
This year, as I ponder the year ahead, I think about our planet, our values, and our interactions with one another. I think about the epidemic of incivility now swirling around us, and the pandemic it will likely become in the contentious months ahead.
I want to “be the change,” as Gandhi counseled. To do that, I’m recognizing that I need to step up my kindness. I need to: Continue reading →
“We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested…. Here is the exercise: find one wholly unexpected kind thing to do tomorrow and just do it. Notice what happens to your mood.” (Martin Seligman)
The holiday season can be stressful. It’s a time when another year is hurtling toward its close—often reminding us of unmet goals and the swift passage of time. It’s also a time when expectations and obligations collide with excess, and unless we’ve learned to set reasonable boundaries, stress is often the result.
Multiple recent studies show that one great way to counter stress is to spread some kindness. Research by Elizabeth Raposa, Holly Laws, and Emily Ansell, from the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University’s School of Medicine, showed that when people extend small acts of kindness, such as holding a door, offering assistance, or waving a car into a line of traffic, they experience less stress than on days when they don’t perform these small kindnesses.
The aim isn’t to be the kindest person in the room, it’s to be the kindest version of yourself. Continue reading →