Saturday, March 9, 2013

Appreciation - the easiest way to practise kindness

This post is probably going to bring back emotions from my past that I couldnt deal with and just buried deep inside my heart. But I have to stare at those old ghosts in the face in the hope that whoever reads this will want to avoid even unknowingly giving someone sad memories to live with all their lives.

Abraham Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs

Lets consider the importance of appreciation in our lives.Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist created a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a "bag of symptoms." The third level of need is “Love and Belonging,” which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others, such as with family and friends.

I will concentrate on the importance of the fourth level for the purpose of this post. At the fourth level in Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for appreciation and respect. When the needs at the bottom three levels have been satisfied, the esteem needs begin to play a more prominent role in motivating behavior.

Simply put, people need a lot more than favorable circumstances and self motivation to achieve their goals, to become a better person or to become better at something. Without the psychology babble, plainly put, just imagine yourself as a child for a while. You've won an award at school for being outstanding at something. Sure, it feels great to have your teachers and classmates applaud your achievement, hear nice things being said about you. Youre feeling just a bit taller than usual. You cant wait to rush home to see what your family has to say about the whole thing.  You rush home at lightning speed and show your trophy/certificate of appreciation. Youre expecting your family to fuss over you atleast for a day and maybe call up relatives and tell them all about your achievement while you stand there, listening. Wouldnt that feel lovely, instead of the usual routine of when your parents are complaining to relatives about something you did/didnt do!

Your mom looks at your prize and listens to you tell her animatedly about what a big deal you were at school today. You wait for her reaction and she says, "hmm. Nice." 

Would that cold reaction confuse you? (whats up with her?!) Would that break your heart just a little? Maybe I am super touchy, because something similar happened to me over 15 years ago and it altered my self esteem for life. It pained my heart then, as a clueless and continues to do so today, as a mother to a lovely one year old. Maybe I am plain stupid to let it affect me so long, afterall, the power to change my reaction to something is in my hands. 

But my point is, it takes next to nothing to appreciate someone. If in the above example the mother would have taken a minute and found kind words to encourage and appreciate the achievement, however insignificant it seemed to her, it would have become a beautiful memory perhaps for the mother AND the child.

Showing your appreciation is a simple and beautiful way of practising kindness in your life. How many times does it happen to us everyday, that we think someone is doing an amazing job, or is looking really pretty, or maybe just deserves to hear what a wonderful person you think they are? Its easier than you think, to begin being vocal about your appreciation. Your genuine compliment or a sincere 'thankyou' could be the brightest spot in someone's day! It could serve to inspire someone to do even better, be a better person.

Decades ago a kind teacher said to her student, " You write really well. You could become a renowned writer someday! Remember me then!". Decades later, that still is the kindest words of appreciation and encouragement anyone ever said to that girl. She hopes, someday, she will live up to that kind teacher's expectations and get to tell her, "I owe this to your kind words of appreciation". :-)

May you find it your heart to go brighten someone's day!

Love, peace and happiness to you and your loved ones.

Enjoyed reading this? You may like Be YOURSELF!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Start a wave of kindness!

I'm just going to thrust this upon your heads, my dears -Shreelaalit S JakaliClifton RodriguesMaddy IyerAnjali Anandand Deepa Shetty. Play along! 

You are my chosen ones to go do ONE kind deed for someone, ANYONE, without expecting anything in return. Once you've done it, please return here and say 'done'. Then go spread this bug on your wall. There is no timeframe but rest assured I will irritate my chosen 5 till I see you've paid this price for knowing me :-)
There is only one rule - dont tell ANYONE what your kind deed was and for whom. Deal?


I recently had one of those days when you feel you’re just invisible to your loved ones. Some days we just feel unappreciated. Like our feelings don’t matter. Women will feel this more, because more often than not we are the ones who end up doing most of the housework and a million other things anyway. It just ‘falls upon’ us, somehow. Even in homes where chores are delegated and the kids (grudgingly?) chip in to reduce the workload of the woman of the house, the woman still does a major chunk of the stuff that makes a ‘house’, a ‘HOME’. And Some days, we just want to sit and sigh about it.

A few days ago when I was caught up between wallowing in self pity and self loathing (ALL of us are entitled to a little ‘me’ time, aren’t we J), I thought about myKindness Project and it suddenly occurred to me, I completely forgot to share the importance of being kind to OURSELVES. How come most of us place ourselves last in our list of people to care for, do things for? Think of it for a bit. Are you kind to yourself?
I am going to begin with SLOWING DOWN. Have you, like I had, forgotten to sit down with a cup of tea and relax, spend a little quiet time with yourself? Go back to doing one thing at a time. When I  felt overwhelmed the other day, I sat down and had a good cry. Guys should try it too, its great detox! Then I decided to do whatever it takes for me to feel better, because really, only you can fix whatever is bothering you. Even if it may be about someone else’s behaviour with you, only you can fix it by either deciding to not let it bother you or by saying something.

I decided to stop doing more than 3 things at a time or in quick succession, like I need to tick them off my mental checklist. I decided to let a few chores be postponed to be dealt with whenever I felt at ease. You really should try doing this someday -  break away from your routine ‘duties’ or schedule and spend a day slowing down. Reconnect with an old hobby. Put your feet up and read a good book. Take a well deserved break and rejuvenate, mentally and physically. Remember though, this is completely different from spending quality time with kids or your spouse. Think of this as spending quality time with yourself.
When you do this, a simple truth will become very clear to you. You’ll wonder why you didn’t see it before. You’ll see that people started taking you for granted AFTER you started taking yourself for granted. You’ll see that YOU are most unkind to yourself. More unkind and inconsiderate to yourself than anyone else is. It all started with the way you treat yourself. So really, if you want others to be more considerate of your feelings, first you need to be more considerate to yourself. You need to go easy on yourself and throw away your yardstick by which you measure yourself against your idea of ‘an ideal husband/wife/parent/spouse/friend’ and the many other roles you play in your life.

At the end of the day, when youre feeling much better, resolve to treat yourself with kindness everyday. You can go back to being supermom, superdad and everything else tomorrow. But tomorrow after you wake up, lie awake in the bed for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that you can only be the best of everything if you take good care of yourself. Do not resent anyone for not caring about your more than you care about yourself. Remember to BE KIND TO YOURSELF. During the day, remind yourself to do atleast one thing lovingly for yourself. It could be something as simple as enjoying a leisurely meal, taking the time to savor each bite or spending a little extra time in prayer. Get a nice haircut maybe. Are you forever on a diet? I cant think of a more unkind thing you could do to yourself! Or just watch the sunset. Spending quiet ‘me’ time with nature is like being hugged by your mother. Mother Nature will tell you how much you’ve been missed and that its nice to reconnect with you after so long. You know that lovely serene feeling you get if you really observe the wonders of nature? That’s just her welcoming you back into her coming back to mom’s home where your siblings are already enjoying their day.  Do anything that makes you feel better. Remember not to beat yourself up about silly things. Remember that it is OK to leave a few chores for tomorrow.

Remember to be kind to yourself, everyday.

Happy Women’s Day to you/ the awesome women in your life.
Lots of love, happiness and peace to you and your loved ones!

Liked this? Maybe you'll enjoy reading Appreciation - the easiest way to practise kindness

Monday, March 4, 2013

Joyful giving - a gift for yourself

I live with a hoarder. My DH LOVES to keep things that he may never find any use for in his lifetime. I'm not exaggerating here, I swear! He just finds it so difficult to throw away stuff. I am just the opposite of him in this matter. I go on a 'decluttering spree' every now and then and it gives me immense satisfaction to pile up all the stuff I'm going to do away with, then look at what could be given away to someone else who may find use for it and what needs to be thrown. I suspect a few people look forward to these cleaning sprees of mine, because they benefit. The books, old clothes, old magazines, toys..there is always someone around who will find use for them.
I was a hoarder too, not too long ago. Until I read in a Feng Shui book somewhere that clutter creates negative energy. Stuff that lies around catching dust is not good for the energy in your home. I dont know how much truth there is to this, I just go by the general feeling of well being that follows a good cleaning session that gives me a pile of stuff to give away. I also read somewhere, I think it was something related to psychology, that cluttering up spaces and shelves actually indicates the clutter in your mind. I'm not anywhere close to a cleaning OCD, but I strongly recommend that people try this sometime - find out stuff in your house that you havent used for a long while. Stuff that is still in reasonably good condition and can be used by someone else. Gather a lot of such things, you'll find that when you actually start looking for such things you'll end up with a surprisingly big pile of it. Take a look at each item in the pile to make sure it is good enough to be of some use to someone and then give it away! This is important - Give it away JOYFULLY.
If you still need motivation, let me share my personal experience with you. I find that you'll always have enough to give away and be comfortable, once you start giving with a joyful heart and an open mind. You're creating space for more good things to fill up in your life.
Joyful giving. A way of being kind that feels like opening up your heart to sunshine and love. Its actually a favor you do for yourself.Image
Love. light, happiness and peace to you AND your loved ones!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Make kindness your religion

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama 

Mahatma Gandhi said that you must be the change you wish to see in the world. How simply he put it! Just think of it, change at an individual level, brought on by such thinkers who can influence an entire nation..its amazing!

If every mother were to teach her children the importance of being kind at a very young age, it would get deeply ingrained in their beings. We hardly forget things that are taught to us in childhood. Even if it may not be obvious, your subconscious mind remembers the good things you learnt as a child. Even when you arent explicitly doing something to teach your child a good thing or two, your actions and words are constantly creating examples that they will follow.

As I write this, I just rememebered a few examples of kindness that had an impact on me. One of my colleagues Sunil told me how once every year, he and his wife cook enough food for a dozen or more people and they drive to one of the areas in the city with their 10 year old daughter to offer meals to the poor people there. He told me it means more to them when they cook the food themselves and serve it to those people personally. He says he is more than happy to do it himself. What a wonderful example they are setting for their child! That little girl has been watching her parents do this since years now. I'm quite sure kindness will have already become second nature to her by now. Some day when she starts a family of her own, she will surely pass on those values to her children. It all started to one simple but thoughful kind gesture by Sunil.

I have decided something just as I write this. I may not be ready yet to do what Sunil does. Hopefully some day soon it will be financially viable for me too. But in my own small way I still can do something kind. Starting this week, I will begin to keep aside a handful of rice grains in a separate container every week. I am sure in a few weeks I will have enough to give to my maid so that she can feed her family of five atleast one good meal.

I do not feel that spending money is the only way you could do charity. Its certainly not the only way you can express kindness. Something as simple as resolving to stop wasting food, water, energy today onwards and spreading that message to your children is good enough.

The simplest things are always the best, arent they?

Love, light, happiness and peace to you!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Starting something is never difficult, Its difficult to continue doing something!

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” 
― Mother Teresa

So a few days after I started this little project of mine, as with most of us, I find my enthusiasm waning. Nevertheless, I am happy that I still find many ways to practice kindness even if I am not specifically looking.

I am not averse to charity at all, but I feel that practising kindness by donating some cash to a charitable cause is really the 'easy way out'. It feels impersonal to me. It takes a few minutes and a little generosity. Nut really, finding and doing things to touch a person's life when he or she is least expecting kindness in a situation is what makes this project worthwhile. So in the past few days, I've been busy doing things that demand more time, thought and effort than just a donation I could make to some charity.

Again stressing that my intention in sharing this is to encourage others, not glorify myself in any way (c'mon, all of us are just a speck in a huge universe, I dont take myself THAT seriously!).

I have a friend who is looking for people to join her MLM business. Although I am not a part of it yet, I thought spreading the word on my Facebook wall would probably get her a few good prospects. So a simple post on my Facebook wall letting my friends and family know that I have a friend who is looking for people to join her MLM business generated a few responses, which I forwarded to her. It didnt take anything on my part to do that, I get no benefit really. But to her, it could make a huge difference in meeting targets, expanding her network and doing better in her business.

There are just so many ways you could practise kindness in your life without giving it too much thought. Most of them are pretty obvious and you probably do these things anyway. Let me list a few ideas that randomly come to mind. Maybe you could add a few and pick some of them to do your good deed for the day?

Put out a birdbath or throw a few foodgrains for birds to eat. This is simple enough to do on your morning walk or even just at your window sill.
How about picking an extra grocery item on your grocery shopping trip, something as simple as a loaf of bread or maybe a sandwich that you could give someone. It could be the only meal someone would get all day. Think about it!
You know those old, used things you've put up on e Bay or Craigslist to sell? Are you sure nobody you know could find them useful if you would give it to them for free?
You could find ways to appreciate people make your life easier - your babysitter, your maid, your child's teacher. Appreciation touches the heart of the giver as well as the receiver.

I've got many more days to go, many more kind deeds to do..hoping to touch many more lives.

Love, light, peace and happiness to you!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness

Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.

Scott Adams (1957)

When was the last time you experienced kindness? I mean the kind that touches your heart and elicits a blessing. When was the last time you were kind to someone? Kind in a way that would have set them thinking," Wow! Who does something like that anymore?!"
Truth be told, today if someone, especially a stranger, were to do something kind for me, I'd probably get suspicious unless I have always known that person to be kindhearted by nature. Isnt it sad? Please get off your high horse and stop nodding your disapproval of my suspicious nature. You know you would get suspicious too, if someone unexpectedly did something kind for you. You may be gracious, sure, but more likely than not the thought would cross your mind atleast briefly..about what the kind guy could possibly gain from being kind to you. Its just the times we live in!
Recently I was watching another heartwarming episode of 'Band Baajaa Bride', that lovely show on NDTV in which the wonderful designer Sabyasachi makes a vegetable vendor's daughter's dream wedding come true, designer trousseau, bridal outfit, designer clothes the groom and family members et al. I was so touched seeing the lucky girl's joy, I said to my better half, someday when we do really well and have lots of money to spare on my frivolous wishes, I'll send this lovely designer a bouquet just to appreciate his kindness. What would you have said to that? I got told that I am naive (tell me something I havent heard before!), that all these seemingly 'random acts of kindness' are pre-planned, scripted and played out to increase the show's TRPs. Tell you what, I cant wait for the day I'll send Sabyasachi that bouquet anyway! If doing so even out of naievity would make someone smile briefly and hold that happiness in his heart for a while, and maybe radiate that joy for just a while - affecting people in his immediate surroundings positively for just a while, I'll consider it worth the money I spend on that bouquet and the time spent arranging it. I like to let my imagination loose so I'll imagine him being nicer than usual to be around, making his staff happier too..maybe those people will take a bit of that happy feeling home..maybe it will rub off on the spouses of those people..maybe their kids will..Oh sorry, you're still there! You get my point though, dont you :-)

At the bearable risk of being called a fool, yesterday morning I decided to try and spread the word the only way I know currently - through writing. The world needs more kindness to make it a better place for our future generations. If I can get even ten people to CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE to do one kind deed a day atleast on the day that they have read this post, I will be a very, very happy person!

Most of us arent unkind people. Atleast nobody  I know is unkind, thankfully. But most of us are kind only when a situation arises in which we can practice kindness. How about if we CHOSE to go looking for opportunities to touch hearts and lives with random acts of kindness? What if we chose to do this everyday? Remember the lovely feeling you get whenever you have been kind to someone, particularly strangers, expecting nothing in return? Kindness is a reward in itself. 

It takes nothing, really. Offering your seat to someone else in a crowded bus. the classic 'help someone cross the road' (be careful with this one!). Helping clear the table after meals. Offering to babysit for free, yes, FREE! Something as simple as installing a birdbath for those poor little birds. Who said giving has always got to do something with money? Donating cash or kind is definitely not the only way to practice kindness. In fact, that is the most impersonal way that you could be kind to someone. Its not without its uses of course, but really, there are a million other ways to bring joy to a heart other than spending money.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.

By writing this, I hope to share with you my attempt to consciously choose to practice kindness, for atleast 21 days. It is said that when you do something for 21 consecutive days, it becomes a habit. So really, by the end of this little personal experiment, I hope to make it a habit to consciously look for opportunities to be kind, without expecting anything in return. I'd love to think that it will have a ripple effect and spread kindness. I hope to be able to report here everyday, atleast one act of kindness that I will have consciously chosen to do. If I fail to find even one such chance a day, I will shamefully start from square one again.
You must have also heard that the left hand should not know what the right one is doing, when it comes to charity and giving (Matthew 6:4). So then why am I being so pompous about my little project and blog/brag about what a kind person I am, how I made a positive difference to someone's day(/life, I dare say?). I can assure you, I have no intentions to run for President. My sole aim is to inspire atleast a handful of people to think about what they can do with this intention of spreading kindness. If I can get each person who reads this to think about it even for a few minutes and maybe decide to do one kind deed for today, I will be ecstatic.
I began my little project on 26th February 2013, wanting to see what effect it has after 21 days. Will I have formed a new habit of being consciously kind?
The first day of my practice, I decided to surprise my maid by washing the dishes instead of letting her come to a pile of dirty dishes lying in the kitchen sink because she didnt turn up to work the previous day. I think I did well, going by the expression on her face, which was a mix of surprise, relief and happiness! She probably walked in expecting to be told off for not showing up to work the previous day. She dosent talk much the day after she calls in sick but I am hoping my gesture made a positive impact that lasted long enough to rub off on atleast one other person in her immediate circle.
Yesterday morning I remembered my intention to find ways to practice kindness. Grabbing the first chance I got, I made a mad rush to the door to catch the lady who collects garbage for disposal from our building, just before she left the floor. I handed her a packet containing a brand new saree that I had intended to give someone else, but changed my mind. It wasnt a very expensive one at all, barely worth the grateful smile and the pleasant disbelief in the eyes of the woman who accepted it graciously. I'd like to think she kept that happiness within her glowing long enough to let others feel she is nicer to be around, atleast for the day!
Today is Day 3. I wonder what I can do. And I wonder whether you will try doing something nice for someone too, preferably for a stranger who cannot give you anything in return. Just so that its clear on both sides that your gesture is selfless and that the world is still a wonderful place if you want it to be!
Love, light  grace to you :-)
Go spread the word!

I'd love to know more about the chances you got to spread kindness and made the most of!

Liked this? You may like Starting something is never difficult, Its difficult to continue doing something!