Acts of Kindness

When things are not going well for us, we tend to go inside (both physically and literally) and huddle.  There, in our state of misery we stay until we think that things will get better and we can emerge from under the covers and re-engage with life.  Yet the longer we stay in that cover, the longer we take to heal.  Reaching out and opening up to others helps to make our own sorrow go quickly.  It is not simply about positive thinking.  It is about taking action.  When our own heart is full of sorrow, it is then we need to reach out and help others overcome their own.  In doing so- whether by listening or helping with chores- this active engagement with others and with life, helps us to overcome our disappointment and sadness.  In such ways, our problems become our ‘mission’- they are no longer obstacles but they are opportunities for growth and renewal.  After going through the pain of several miscarriages, I went on to help others who had suffered similarly.  When finally my son was born, alive and kicking, I realised that even if I had another miscarriage, I was already healed.  Kindness towards others helps us heal mentally and physically-

There are many new movements around the world, calling for ‘Random acts of kindness’- latest trends on twitter is about someone leaving money in secret locations or buying coffee for others. However, we don’t always have to spend money.  The kindest act someone has done for me which I will never forget consisted of being there and being silent. She just held out tissues while I cried after losing my fifth baby after five months of pregnancy.  This woman did not say irritating  or hurtful things like, “Don’t cry”- “You can always get pregnant again”- “it was only a miscarriage”- “At least you are alive” etc etc which others did in misguided acts of kindness.  She did not have children of her own but yet understood how difficult it was for me.  I bumped into her two days ago after ten years.  I only had to say, “Do you remember?”  She nodded and I squeezed her hand silently. One never forgets true kindness.

the creative activist

I have always been an activist- political, social and environmental.  There is much I have been involved in and very proud to have done so.  But at what cost?  Activism has taken up a lot of my creative time.  I know when I am writing those emails and letters about some global issue, I am not doing creative work.  After all these years, I now realise that one can be a creative activist, i.e. someone who changes the world by ‘creative doing’.  Creative  doing is about leaving a lasting legacy,  a visible mark and making something that speaks without shouting.  I had been shouting too much and now my throat was hoarse, I could not sing.  So here is my plan-

1. Listen more, speak less- this is so difficult for me as I tend to speak so much, volumes of it because I love to communicate.  Now I am going to choose my words carefully.  Like Confucius who would bind and unbind his hair nine times before speaking, I must restrain myself and only give the best.

2. Spend 90% of my day doing something creative or useful- like writing this blog which I love instead of writing those complaint letters or campaigns.  Can I speak through my creativity?  I need to trust that I will change the world for the better by my creativity, not through confrontation.  Sometimes of course we need to complain but often our entire time can get sucked in by that negativity instead of changing the world through our positive energy.

3. Write a 30 second summary of something I read or heard today that touched me- I got this idea from a Linkedin article.  Whereas that article referred only to speeches, I have added written materials as well because we don’t hear speeches every day.  This will help to do the above two things- communicate wisely and better and get inspiration for more creativity.

The most important things

Nichiren advised us in May 1273, “The most important thing in practising the Buddhist teachings is to follow and uphold the Buddha’s golden words, not the opinions of others.”

I have taken this to mean that one should follow one’s heart, not what the world may say.  As ‘Buddhahood’ is about demonstrating your highest potential, one can be assured that if one bases herself or himself on the most positive thoughts, their actions are bound to be positive too.  This is similar to many of the world’s religions, cultures and thinkers- “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Christianity); “Allah sees you, and is with you, wherever you are, whatever you do” (the Koran); “Hold on to what you believe, even if it is a tree that stands by itself.  Hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here” (Pueblo saying); “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray” (Rumi); and from Steve Jobs-

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition”

I am a very sensitive person and brought up to listen to others, so this journey has been difficult to follow.  Further, being a woman has its own problems in trying to express yourself, even in the 21st C!  So my strategy has been to-

1. Keep a list- I have a list of inspirational men and women who are my ‘spiritual buddies’- people who have followed their hearts and succeeded.  I read about them often- right now I am reading about Helen Keller.

2. Listen- to advice but listen to yourself- by listening to yourself I do not refer to the ‘inner critic’ but the ‘inner mother’ who nurtures your soul and your ‘inner father’ who guides you along. By being true to yourself, you can shine in your life’s work and all critics will be silenced!

3. Reflect- critical people attract critics (whether inner critics or external critics), so take a good look at yourself. Surround yourself with positive and caring people. I sound out ideas with my close friends but in the end make my own decisions and take responsibility for these decisions.