“Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.”
This yogi prayer translates to: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and that freedom for all.”
My daughter, who is four years old now, knows this prayer by heart. Though she may still be too young to truly understand, my hope is that she will recognize the intention of the words one day soon. Though the yogi prayer is ancient, it still applies to the world today. Being the reason for another person’s happiness is a beautiful experience.
I believe that raising a kind and happy child is an important part of my contribution to happiness and freedom in the world. I have been focusing not only on treating my daughter with kindness, but also on modeling kindness as a way of being. The yogi prayer inspires me to foster kindness through what I think, say, and do. And I hope to teach my daughter to do the same.
My Acts of Kindness:
Be kind through my thoughts: My “monkey mind,” the restless and seemingly uncontrollable thoughts that chase each other through my head, can often distract or discourage me from doing what I know is right. I’ll admit I was shocked by how exceptionally challenging parenting is, and I’ve found that the stress of everyday life often tempts me to lash out at myself or those close to me. But a loving-kindness meditation has helped put my thoughts back on the right path—the path to kindness. Here’s how I practice a Loving-Kindness Meditation:
· I choose a standing or comfortable upright position (such as sitting in a chair, sitting cross-legged, or sitting back on my heels while kneeling).
· I like to close my eyes when I meditate (not everyone who meditates does), and I begin to tune in to the sound of my breath.
· After taking a deep breath, I slowly exhale for five counts.
· I take another deep breath and imagine filling myself with love as I exhale. Sometimes I think of the color red enveloping my body.
· On the next exhale, I think of sending love and kindness to someone close to me.
· Then on the next exhale, I think of sending loving kindness to someone I have a difficult relationship with at the moment.
· Then I send love and kindness out to the world around me—the animals, the trees, my neighbors, and my city.
· Lastly, I send out love and kindness to the entire world.
· I finish my loving-kindness breath by coming back to breathing naturally.
· I open my eyes when I feel ready.
Being kind starts with kind thoughts. Taking time every day to cultivate positive thinking and listening has helped tame my wild monkey mind, and being kind has become a habit.
Show kindness with my words: When I’m frustrated or feeling bad about myself, harsh words are likely to follow. When I feel myself beginning to get angry or frustrated, I stop and take a deep breath. I allow my breath to calm my emotions. Then I think about saying something positive and constructive to be kind to myself and others. Problems are easier to solve when I’m calmer.
Family members are often the ones who hear my unkind words. I try to make a habit of expressing kindness to my family every day. We’ve created a ritual of sharing gratitude to coincide with family time, and I use a chalkboard filled with kind words as a visual reminder. As a parent, I am my child’s best role model. She notices when I am polite, give compliments, and comfort family or friends. Words shape how we view our world. I think it’s important to help children express their kindness and compassion through language.
Demonstrate kindness with my actions: The law of karma says that for every action, there is a reaction. Even science tells us this is true. I have found that when I do something kind for someone else, it comes back to me. Kindness seems to attract more kindness—spreading it out to the world.
Kind thoughts and words will build a strong foundation for kind actions. Teaching my daughter to engage in service projects is important to me. I hope that by getting her involved in choosing the project that inspires her, I can create more positive associations with doing good for others. Doing service projects as a family during special holidays—like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Veterans Day—is an excellent way to introduce them to projects that work towards a greater good. Once she begins to understand the purpose of our projects and how our actions make a difference to others, then she can begin to understand why volunteering is so important.
We started a yearly holiday pajama collection project with another mom in town. By going to the store to pick out the pajamas, counting the pajamas dropped in the collection box at our front door, and driving the bags of pajamas to a less-fortunate school nearby, my hope is that I’m planting a seed in my daughter to think of others. We talk about how some children don’t have new comfy warm pajamas and what that might be like for them. We aren’t saving the world, but hopefully a little positive action can help make another child’s life a little better.
I look for opportunities for acts of kindness all year round, too. Random acts of kindness are often the most fun and free-spirited ones, and children are spontaneous creatures. Holding open a door for someone, thanking a veteran on the street, or buying flowers for a neighbor are kind acts that need no preparation at all. If children keep their eyes and hearts open, opportunities abound to spread kindness.
I would love to hear how you bring kindness into your life today through your thoughts, words, or actions. Does your family have a special kindness ritual? Has one of your small kindness projects ever become a big one?
“People ask me what my religion is. I tell them, ‘My religion is kindness.’”
~ Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama.
Author: Giselle Shardlow
Editor: Travis May