Opinion: Mindful moments on kindness

POSTED: 09/4/14 10:56 PM

When one sits or walks to practice mindfulness, there is a pivotal part of the practice than promotes kindness. As you sit with full attention to feeling your breath in your body, as you ride the breath from inhalation to exhalation and your mind starts to wander; the patience and gentle resolve one must use to bring back attention to the breath, teaches kindness to self. If one’s erratic, disobedient mind like a mischievous monkey seems to climb from one branch to the next, the training of the brain to bring the focus back to the breath with kindness teaches one to be patient with things they cannot control. Remember, this is not religion this is psychology. If I compare it with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) your psychologist would have you see the behavior you needed to work on without judgment and change your thoughts about the behavior or the situation. A shy person has difficulty starting a conversation. CBT works by helping a person identify unhelpful and unrealistic beliefs and behavioral patterns and makes friendly or safe his focus on sticking his neck out to socialize. The practice of loving/friendliness gives self-respect as one will not claim his “being” with bad habits/phobias or biases as permanent character but step away and address the behavior at hand. Another complimentary practice that is done in conjunction with mindfulness is “loving-kindness”, this powerful practice has you visualize a loved one and send them thoughts of; peacefulness, safety, joyfulness, self-acceptance and wellness. Then one has to visualize that the love one is reciprocating these thoughts to you. It gets even more interesting when it is required to visualize an acquaintance and even a person with which the relationship is difficult. The power of being open to this visualization, whether one feels these well wishes or not, a steady practice of this brings into our awareness how connected we all are, how human we are and that we have the power to take responsibility for our emotions and behavior. So a father wakes up to prepare the children in the morning and it usually turns into a screaming and threatening episode, if he has a practice of loving/kindness, slowly but surely he will learn to stop taking responsibility for the children’s lackadaisical behavior and beating himself up (it takes practice though). If he practices mindfulness he will ensure procedures that work for the individual needs of the children (have them participate in the planning) and use distance and ownership of his feelings as the children struggle to take responsibility of their task. Let’s say the ages are 4 and 12, dad could assist them with laying out clothing the night before and probably making a list for the older child, but being mindful of unrealistic goals. A father that judges and practices patriarchy, would either ignore the children or walk around with his whip. Mindfulness and loving-kindness are not just about finding solutions to harassing situations, though it is in those challenging situations that we watch for the opportunity to practice self-awareness. It is about who we are/how we’re feeling and keeping an eye on our intentions as we are experiencing a situation, thus not about the goals but about the quality and inner experience we dance through to attain those goal. Mindful decisions are not based on authoritative position, or competitive modus, or habits or any other behavior that supports the ‘I versus you’ ideology. It is attunement with you to get our goals/needs met or discussing it. The powerful practice of kindness, whether by imagery, sensing or color and light will cultivate compassion for humanity on a whole but remind us to do the same for ourselves. One can recognize people’s hurt and struggles, offer support needed – yet always offer oneself what is needed to remain strong, assertive and protective of oneself (as in caring for an sick love one). The epidemic of self-hatred that has climaxed around the world, so self-criticism (I should have aced that test, I’m so pathetic, wow loser), self-hatred (I’m ugly, I have the worst hair) self-judgment (I’m not smart enough, I’m fat, I’m too dark, I’m too …), would not inspire us to investigate the root causes as a therapeutic approach to caring for oneself changes the outcome in societies. Its opposite, self-adoration is narcissism by degrees a personality disorder but also stemming from the same mindset (hierarchy). (I am not an idealist with beliefs in utopia, I am seeing an imbalance towards highly individualistic tendencies that are causing a lot of unnecessary dissention and would like to see it challenged). In a class filled with 6th graders whom had been practicing loving kindness for a week, they spoke of being able to do more work when they initially weren’t interested in finishing. They were able to complete homework and chores without stressing. Some mentioned refraining from engaging in fights with siblings and one even said she was cussing less. If we attend to treating ourselves kindly, we would notice when others were not and that is the key to building a mentally healthy society. Practice showing yourself kindness by saying encouraging things the next time you feel like beating yourself up.

Debbie Zwanikken



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