Be kind, be humble…

I have always tried to remain a student – this could apply to literally everything in life from yoga to parenting. I am qualified to teach yoga for example, but I remain a humble student, practising under my own teachers when I can. I work as a brand expert and yet I am continually learning from clients, colleagues and others around me. I can teach others how to meditate and practise mindfulness and yet I aim to remain in my own practice as if I am sitting for the first time. I have worked hard to be a good mum and yet I am constantly faced with new parenting challenges, even though now one of my children is actually an adult and the other is almost there.

Everything and I mean everything is in a constant state of flux and so even when you do feel you know or understand something, it changes. Seeing things with fresh eyes as if for the first time then often enables you to gain a completely new understanding or perspective.

There is a spiritual teacher who I hold in extremely high regard. He has a wonderful sense of humour and adds a lovely chuckle to his speaking when amused. However, after listening to him on a recent retreat he talked to the audience a lot about how those who are ‘unconscious’ go about their lives. The way they perceive this and that, behave and think about themselves and others, fixate on problems and spend their lives stuck in patterns of dysfunctional behaviour. Although I could totally see the point he was making and the examples to which he referred, the fact that he was joking about it in a mocking way and the audience laughing in response, made it seem rather derogatory. It felt very much a ‘them’ and ‘us’ – a ridiculing for the masses of ‘unawakened beings’.

I am aware of course this is my perception and perhaps hitting a trigger within me to bring up those feelings. Nevertheless, it was present while I listened and I was struck by a sudden feeling of sadness for those who aren’t fully ‘aware’ or ‘conscious’. Not so much, ‘poor them’, but just in that, it is what it is. You can only know what you know, right?

I recently experienced what I have since learnt to be ‘innocent perception’, the fourth and final stage of mindfulness, which in of itself is incredibly difficult to articulate because it is completely experiential. For several days afterwards I was struck with a surreal perception that was something akin to the movie, Matrix, where you are wandering around and everyone else is completely unaware of what is going on. After a short time I accepted what had happened and slowly resumed some level of normalcy in my day to day life, without feeling completely separated from myself and everyone else around me. However, it left me with a huge sense of empathy and compassion for other people. People can only be who they are and act and behave upon their own experiences, thoughts and feelings. Until something triggers in your own life to where you embark on a different path, you continue as you are, simply because you don’t know any different.

The point of my post today, and there is a point – just getting there – is that no matter where you are on your own journey of self development and spiritual fulfilment, keep it real….don’t ridicule or judge others. This is not to say that you do, but enlightenment is not entitlement. Be present but know from where you came and the journey that bought you here. Obviously keep yourself out of harm’s way, but accept that people can only be who they are and act accordingly….

I was once completely unconscious, oblivious of my thoughts and actions and the effect they were having on myself, my family and the world at large…it isn’t good or bad, it simply is, it was the way it was for most of my life. Just because I am now ‘awakened’ does not mean I am any better than anyone else and my recent experience of listening to the spiritual teacher talking about those who are ‘unawakened’ brought up within me a much stronger sense of compassion for others who are not spiritually awakened. It has grounded me and I continue to aim to practice kindness above all else and remain a humble student…

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash I love this photograph – I see kindness and humility.

Random Act of Kindness Challenge

One of the practices I incorporate into my day is random acts of kindness. I’ve been doing a 30 day Random Acts of Kindness Challenge that I think I was introduced to on a Tim Ferriss blog. I started this in November and loved it so much, both in the sense of making me feel good and of course extending acts of kindness to others, that I decided to embark on another month.

The challenge is simply to do one random act of kindness each day. It doesn’t have to be some gargantuan gesture. It might be letting someone go in front of you at the checkout line, smiling at someone or donating to a cause that comes your way during that day.

During the first month I found I would forget. That isn’t to say I am not kind outside of these RAOK (we’ll go with that acronym for short) but I didn’t want it to become a box ticking exercise. It is more around increasing my contribution to others, which is something that I believe to be so central to living a more fulfilled life.

I keep a list in the notes on my phone so that I can see how I am doing and over the month look at the bigger picture.

The second month, however, I found I rarely missed a day. Here are some examples of my RAOK during the past couple of months:

  • Gave my Auntie £20 so that she could stay in the guest room of my grandmother’s care home.
  • Picked up a little girl’s balloon that had blown away and gave it back to her.
  • Bought my daughter a bear when she was feeling poorly.
  • Donated money to a dog charity on top of my bill at the pet shop.
  • Gave my gifts to someone at an event because there weren’t enough to go round.
  • Treated my nephew to a football game ticket.
  • Read the bible to my Grandma.

These are perhaps things you would ordinarily do. However, the fact you are consciously embarking on the challenge is a daily reminder. I’ve found the more random acts of kindness you do, the more opportunities come your way to give them. There are days when there are many and then days when perhaps I have been home for most of it I have to remind myself to give. It isn’t about right or wrong, good or bad, just more of creating this as a daily ritual to practice kindness and contribute to others.

I remember watching a Friends episode where Phoebe tried to find a selfless good deed..it was impossible. Even if you think you aren’t gaining, you are left feeling good, so technically you are benefitting. It makes me smile when I am faced with something during the day and it pops into my mind that it’s another opportunity for a RAOK. The purpose of this is obviously not to receive, but it adds to the joy of your day when your random act of kindness has helped someone, made a difference or impacted positively on another person’s day.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on!

Mindful of Others

A little background before I begin the story to this post…

I freelance as a brand and marketing consultant, which involves a myriad of different work situations from writing and creating artwork to branding and managing social media. I work for a variety of companies, some regular and some just on a project basis.

Yesterday, I was at a marketing meeting for a business where I’ve managed their brand and marketing provision for the past 3 years.  I enjoy being freelance because I can work from home and manage my own time, but obviously providing regular provision for clients means that I also dip into scenarios where, for all intents and purposes, I am seemingly an employee. I get involved in day to day operations and that includes meetings.

I don’t consider myself conventional in many areas and this lends itself well to being able to work different to most people. I am flexible and can adapt to changing environments and workloads. I like the variety and of having a different ‘head’ on depending who I am working for.

Someone new joined this particular company and although there is great benefit to the business in this person’s role, there is also, in the process, as there often is, a lot of toes being trodden on. Egos are bruised, emotions are high and the meeting became rather fraught. As a parent, it reminded me of when my kids were younger and I would go pick them up from nursery. In this tiny space there would be all these kids jostling for the slide or arguing over who had something first.

Having been through a journey of self development for over 10 years I have come to realise that as we grow into adults, unless we become aware and address our dysfunctions that form from our childhood experiences, they will continue to play out and actually become stronger the older we get.

What better way for them to appear than in the workplace.

I meditate daily, I practice yoga every morning before the birds wake up, I eat a healthy diet, I don’t drink and I have worked on my issues more than I can myself comprehend at times, but this does not make me super human, in fact I would say it makes me more human. It makes me more sensitive and certainly more aware. During the meeting, I too felt a surge of emotions come to the surface around my own role and the benefit of that within the organisation.

I am a constant work in progress and so naturally when I drove home and later mulled over in my mind the events of yesterday, I realised how attached we truly are to things that really, in the grand scheme of things, do not matter.

I don’t say this in the sense of not caring about your job or that the work you do doesn’t matter, I say it in the sense of the way we allow our egos to steer the ship. For when it does, we are allowing our emotions to take control and run away with us. This is what happened yesterday for me and I believe most definitely, for a couple of other people in the room too.

Not only was the meeting difficult, but in jest my beliefs were also questioned. My Buddhist path and the core of what I believe and that which I choose to guide my life with. Together with my role in the business, I not only took these things to heart, but actually questioned them to a degree that resulted in me feeling stressed.

Is it bad to question yourself? Not at all. Tony Robbins always says, ‘quality questions create a quality life.’ I try to avoid good and bad but it came to me in meditation that questioning myself wasn’t the issue. That was just part for the course I was on. The problem was in that I allowed myself to respond unconsciously. I wasn’t present or being mindful at the time. I had slipped into autopilot and the old patterns that had previously for most of my adult life ran the show, were once again in control. You could think of this as your child like self acting out and as I said earlier, jostling for position to keep on the slide or hold the toy. The common saying is known as, throwing our toys out of the pram!

When I am mindful I have empathy for others. I see that often people act out (much like children) their dysfunctions and let their egos run the show. They respond to each emotion as they arise. If you have ever watched children in a playground before, you’ll know the behaviour I am talking about. Adults in a meeting are at times no different.

When we are mindful we are present and aware of our responses. We notice emotions within us, but because we are present we can choose how to respond. We can remain silent, we can ponder on a question or a comment before we say it.

The outcome of being mindful in a situation like I was in yesterday, is vastly different from one where you are on autopilot.

I would not ordinarily question my core beliefs, because over the years I have chosen for them to be there. They are part of who I am and how I choose to live my life. I would not question my value because I have come to know my value and I would not question my behaviour because I always try to be the best I can be and to help others.

However, when you are on autopilot you are not clear and when the ego and emotions run the show there is confusion, doubt and fear.

I left the meeting yesterday feeling all of those things and they plagued me as I went to sleep and during my yoga practice this morning.

Meditation of course brings clarity and during my practice it came to me, that of course I am human (people often need to remind me of that fact), and I can only do my best. To keep on giving, whenever there is opportunity to, to remain humble and keep learning as if a beginner, to continue working on my own personal development so that I can help others, but most importantly to be mindful. Mindful in every moment I can be, because ultimately that enables me to be mindful of others.

When we are mindful of others we can smile and let things go, because we see the humanisms in others that are also present in ourselves. Everyone has their own set of dysfunctions that they play out on a daily basis, everyone is doing the best they can with what they have and who they are. When you are mindful, you are in a place of forgiveness and acceptance of that.

Being mindful of others means you do not need to be right, instead you can choose kindness.

Namasté (I honour that which is in you that is also present within me).

[This beautiful ink and letters image is from Geli. You can visit her blog and read and see more of her work at http://hellogelibee.blogspot.co.uk/ Thank You Geli!]