Since the last blog post on Kindness I have had the experience of true kindness in action. This was kindness of a practical and unselfconscious nature. There was nothing sentimental, reluctant or even ‘special’ about how it was expressed. It was simply what is, how it is and part of this household’s living arrangement.

That the average age of these kind, strong and creative people was about 30 added to the delight of it all. Whoever thinks that the 30-somethings of today are self-indulgent, lazy, disinterested or inept have not met enough 30-somethings.

In my book ‘Personal Magic’ I write a little about the digital age:

We live in an age where friends are found and made on the net, and many of our interactions, dialogue and socializing occurs through a medium that precludes direct human touch, sound and visuals. Personal Magic becomes more valuable as well as possibly more elusive.

I visited with Teresa in Santa Fe last week, and stayed in her house shared with other young people. Even though there were computers and a TV, the expression of direct human interaction daily in that environment was visceral, real and natural.

Teresa is a vibrant, beautiful, smart and creative 28 year old woman. She is also quadriplegic, on a remarkable journey of healing. Teresa, like many of her age, shares a house. In this case it is a spacious Santa Fe house with 2 others; Jen who is a long time Yoga instructor and studying massage, and Jafari, a young man returned from service in Iraq studying Somatic Polarity. Regular visits from other young women – most of whom are also practicing or studying in similar areas – allow Teresa to be at home, with people of her age, engaging in meals, discussion and work as well as her therapy and healing.

From the moment I arrived I felt welcome and as if I had landed in some kind of protected space. I had driven many miles up from Arizona, leaving the beaten path to camp in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. It had been a small adventure, deliberately invited, instead of making a straight-line trip. After circuitously arriving at a place I had never been and didn’t know existed, I hiked for an hour in the moonlight, bright enough that no hand-light was needed. Snuggled into my sleeping bag, car-camping in an area of absolute silence, I slept with the moon on my face through the windows.

Waking to incredible cold, the sun rising almost before the moon had left, I had to find my way out before heading on to Santa Fe. It was a long way and I was glad to land in the sunlit house, with its aura of peace and power.

The work that Teresa and I did together was not easy. There is much sadness and struggle when you are finding your way back to wellbeing from such catastrophic injury. We did some guided writing, healing with essential oils and Shamanic Chakra work. We also addressed the needs of the nonprofit organization that Teresa is founding and on whose board I am honored to serve. (Check her site, Our Nerve To Breathe and offer your support.)

Another unique young woman that I know from my theatre days in Oregon had, barely 3 weeks before, moved to Santa Fe. I introduced her to Teresa. Turned out they live less than ½ a mile apart! The spiritual practice and personal journey that Teresa follows offers much to Cecily as she explores and grows her capacity for facilitating healing and her spiritual journey.

We read a short play I had written and needed to hear, sitting around a table, laughing and being ‘actors’. Another shining young woman who is apprenticing to be a midwife and is also a musician, came by. We sat in the sun on the porch, talking about fundraisers using music and writing. Teresa is creating her story as a performance piece with Cecily as her actress until such time as Teresa is ready to perform it herself.

This house, with its wooden floors and cabinets, group artwork canvases waiting to be completed and hung, opens its doors from the front and the rear, with people moving into the space and out again in easy flow. The fridge was thoughtfully stocked with good healthy food, and bursts of sustained kitchen activity – knives chopping, pots boiling and yes, the microwave beeping – brought meals made by hand and offered to whomever was there.  Coffee in the morning, chocolate after dinner and hot tea during the day. The entire place hummed with kindness and energy, independence and solitude, balanced with community and care.

Personal Magic can be expressed in myriad ways. When you bring it to community the power of magic is enhanced and nurtured even as you are giving out. When you offer your hands for lifting and cooking; when you hold someone’s hand and let them cry out their sadness; when you share your laughter and joy in life, then you share the magic together.

I define Personal Magic as:

“… the uniqueness that you, and only you, bring into the world. It is the tangible expression of your connection through your Soul to the Great Spirit, Creator, Higher Power, God, whatever language you wish to use, by which we are all connected. It can be directly accessed through the creative endeavor. Personal Magic both encourages and is encouraged by Awareness of Self, leading to true Empowerment and Freedom, most of all, freedom from fear.”

 The less than 48 hours I spent with the household in Sante Fe gave tangible expression to the words above. I wish for you all to experience such simple, straightforward magic in your daily life. Please share your story of this kind of Personal Magic with us!

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This is the 3rd and last in this series of three blogs where I am exploring the opening sentence of my Personal Magic book:
You can be someone who is resilient, optimistic and kind while being realistic in the present world.’

Last time I offered a way into being a realistic Optimist  and the blog before encouraged you to embrace Resilience.  Today I consider choosing to be Kind in your interactions in the world.

Kindness, or compassion, is an action and attitude that is most useful when directed both out to others and also toward your self.  Like Resilience and Optimism, it is not befuddled by avoiding facts, and sidestepping reality in a syrupy wash of ‘feel good’ babble.

Kindness is marked by the capacity to both see the reality without emotional attachment or the need to prove something, and at the same time with a generosity of heart. A kind person can offer support without dismissing the others’ experience or behavior nor using that as an excuse to exact a lesson. Kindness expects nothing in return and is independent of outcome.

In many ways, kindness is a gift that we can give to another. In the book I write this about Gift giving:

When you are empowered, you can choose what to receive  (allow in) and what to give (offer out). The feelings – and indeed the tangible outcome of giving – often elicit a smile on the face of the giver as well as the receiver, a sensation of warmth, peace of mind. Most of us want to feel good, to be at peace. Giving a welcome gift with an open heart and with no expectation of ‘reward’ brings its own reward – of goodness, of peace and of honorable power.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, you are most empowered when you give, and the gifts that have the greatest capacity to stimulate empowerment are those that are created with courage and truth, offered as gifts with no expectation of reciprocity. A gift is only a gift if offered as such. When we place a condition or price on it, it becomes a ‘deal’ or a sale.

You can see how kindness must be offered with a clear intention, distinct from your fear and needs.

Earlier in the book I write about Attachment, Detachment (really the flip side of attachment – it is still hooked into the drama) and the only powerful place of all, Non-attachment.

Non-attachment – the state we are in when we are not caught in the drama. We have nothing to prove, win, defend, get or make happen. So we can pay attention to the entire interaction because we are not blocking or manipulating the material.

Ultimately true kindness, offered without expectation of return and clear of personal agenda, empowers others. Especially with regard to the children/youth with whom you engage, kindness and compassion that does not excuse nor blame, offers a foundation from which they can gain their own empowerment.

In the final chapter of the Personal Magic book I write about the role we all have in empowering the children we meet.

No-one empowers another. That is something each person must accomplish for him/herself. However, as parents or teachers, you can (and, in fact, must) seed opportunities for that Empowerment of Self to arise in others.

Those opportunities will vary widely based on age, ability and circumstance. It does mean that you find ways to expand the horizons, broaden the activities and environments, and widen the range of relationships and activities for each individual. Through your efforts others may find ways to attempt, fail, succeed and finally experience the true exhilaration of well-earned pride and the empowerment that struggle and outcome can bring.

Kindness as the foundation from which you engage the world allows you to be both honest and supportive, hold others accountable and forgive their mistakes.

As valid as all that is, most importantly is to practice kindness toward yourself. When you provide the same kind of clear, honest and compassionate support in your own journey, so you will be more able to truly shine your Personal Magic for others.

KINDNESS EXERCISE

• Take a moment and consider who in your life has been kind to you. Define ‘kind’ as something that encouraged you to grow, supported on you in your journey.
• Write a short description of something they did that stands out for you.
• Write a short letter of thanks (even if you do not send it or that person has passed on.)

• Now, write a letter of kindness to yourself.

Looking back on the last two posts and this, take a moment to pull them together for yourself.  How do they relate for you? ResilienceOptimism – Kindness. Your Personal Magic will bring you to this place. As you negotiate and embrace to opportunities of 2012 and beyond, that empowerment will be the strongest foundation from which sustain, evolve and participate fully in your life.

Please share your thoughts with us by posting in the comments below.

I have been thinking about women and kindness lately. It has been a VERY busy two weeks (yes that long since I posted) with many insights, thoughts, events and struggles. However, it is the question of kindness and women that seems to be sticking as I finally sit down to write today

As I wrote in a post a few weeks ago, I am in a reading of the play SEVEN. It opens this Saturday. Being with these women on a regular basis has maybe sharpened my attention for how women with a common intention interact. Hearing over and over the stories of the 7 women whose stories we tell has seeped deeply into a well of admiration and respect for women.

Today I heard Rachel Lloyd on the Diane Rehm show, talking about her book Girls Like Us. She is the founder and executive director of GEMS, an organization that helps girls and young women escape the USA sex trade and recover enough to live healthy lives as adult women.

I was as appalled by what is done to young girls as I was humbled, inspired and profoundly grateful for the services and support offered to those same girls. The difference, I couldn’t help but notice, was that those who harmed these female children were mostly men, and those who brought care and love were mostly women.

I also came across this quote by Aldous Huxley:
‘It’s a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’ (1894-1963)

Finally, there is the new book by David Brooks, The Social Animal. I have not had time to read it yet but heard him on NPR. I did read his most recent little piece in the NYT on Kindness.

Mmmm…. kindness. What is Kindness?
Synonyms: humane, benevolence, grace, mercy.

I think real kindness requires a couple of things:
• Clear vision; seeing individuals and behavior for what is.
• Courage to accept what is and to speak out.
• Compassion to relate to a person and behavior through an understanding of their unique context.

Kindness comes when we can do all that AND stay in our personal center. In fact only by finding and holding your center can you behave toward another in relation to their behavior without your own agenda or fears coloring that interaction.

So, the remarkable women that I meet each time to do SEVEN are each KIND in their hearts. They exhibit qualities of compassion, courage and clear vision. They have a firm center and sense of self. They bring a determination to transform that kindness into action.

The woman who founded GEMS came through her own story of abuse to realize her given soul and heart – to stand in her kindness in the world.

A line started to tickle through the memory. So I stopped and brought it to the forefront.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

I attended a Church of England all girls boarding school in Australia, and the school chapter was 1. Corinthians.13. We all learned it and recited it en mass at any event or function. That was years ago but it is indelibly recorded in my brain and I realize now perhaps in my heart. Certainly as I have explored my connection to spirituality and how to be in the world this resonates far more than it ever did when I was a daffy teenager!

Remember that ‘Charity’ is Love. From WikipediaLove, in this sense of an unlimited loving-kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit,

It is worth reading the entirety of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 to begin to really feel what this charity/love/KINDNESS is. The opening passage is particularly applicable in today’s world I think:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

The women I have been meeting, both literally and figuratively, exhibit the spirit of kindness in their work and personal lives.

Maybe these times of upheaval are an opportunity. Whether or not you subscribe to any of the various 2012 prophecies you must agree some kind of change is underway. Maybe it is a shift to a way of being predicated on kindness and cooperation. Brook’s The Social Animal explored just that theory as rooted in biological imperative. Is it in living cooperatively that we have the best chance of survival? And that means also with our planet as well as all living creatures and forms.

Returning to my roots in Australia there is the Australian Kindness Movement.
Here I read:
When we carry out an act of kindness it is a message from one heart to another, an act of love, an unspoken “I care” statement.

Gender has nothing to do with it really. I have simply been exposed to a wide range of powerful, compassionate, kind women of late. There are many men who are kind and embrace that aspect of their being as they engage in their work and life.

The Australian Kindness Movement site goes in to say:
The world population comprises about 6 billion people. If each of those 6 billion people were to think that they could have a positive influence on enhancing world kindness, there is nothing that could prevent this from happening. Great power is generated when the citizens of the world band together in a common cause. This phenomena has been recently referred to as “the other world power.”

‘Other world power’’ – indeed all indications are that the current one is not working so well. If the male energy of outcome focused competitiveness has underpinned  so much of the formulations and expressions of power for so long then perhaps in is time for a change. It is time for substantial sustained female energy, the power of kindness to lead us forward, in the spirit of cooperation and community.

Ultimately all acts of kindness begin with kindness to self, with open heart and understanding, honesty and compassion. In my work and explorations of personal responsibility and empowerment as articulated by my concept of Personal Magic I have come to know this.

When you reach into your deeper self and meet your full potential, you are at your most empowered. Kindness is a foundational way of being. Kindness is both a function of and basis for strength, truth and wisdom. As the bumper sticker says ‘practice random acts of kindness.’ I add ‘to the extent that it is never random but a constant.’

Kindness can be a way of being in the world, both in your heart and action. Like the sun that rises everyday, the breeze that carries earth particles, the air we breathe, the hum of the solar system, kindness feeds the individual and connects us to something far larger than the self.

Practice constant acts of kindness both in your heart and in your actions. Begin by  being kind to yourself.