Mindfulness: The Power Behind Kindness, Guest Post

Today I want to welcome Carol, one of my favorite simplicity writers who blogs with her sister Michele at Ahh The Simple Life. I find myself lost in a world of negativity some days, Carol is here to show us that the world outside our doors is full of love and kindness and how we can find the peace we seek in our lives.

Welcome, Carol.

mindfulness

What motivates us to be kind? What fuels a pay it forward chain?

I believe the answer lies in the practice of something called mindfulness.

Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “moment to moment non-judgmental awareness.” He also identifies nine attitudes of mindfulness, two of which are gratitude and generosity.

Mindfulness fosters compassion and altruism: Research suggests mindfulness training makes us more likely to help someone in need and increases activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others – Mindfulness Definition | Greater Good

Pay It Forward Chains

We can see how mindfulness, along with its attitudes of gratitude and generosity, operate in a pay it forward chain. Here are some of my favorite pay it forward stories:

  • CT Starbucks customers ‘Pay It Forward’ 1,468 times — See Eater National
  • The world’s longest living-donor kidney transplant chain saved 30 Lives — See #4 in 8 Most Amazing Pay It Forward Chains
  • Couple who met in a homeless shelter pay it forward, help others transform lives — See Today.com 

In every pay it forward chain, the mechanics are the same:

  • Person B (we’ll call him Bill) is experiencing a difficulty of some sort.
  • Person A (Anna) performs an act of kindness for Bill. Why? Because Anna is mindful; she is aware of Bill’s situation. And she has an attitude of generosity.
  • Bill is mindful; he is aware that Anna tried on purpose to bring goodness into his life, even possibly at a cost to herself. He has an attitude of gratitude.
  • Bill also possesses an attitude of generosity. He is motivated to “pay it forward.” He performs an act of kindness for Carol.
  • As long as the last receiver in the chain is mindful – aware of the kindness he has received, and aware of another person’s problems, the chain has the potential to keep right on going. 

Pay It Forward Webs 

It’s inspiring to think about individual pay it forward chains. It’s even more amazing to picture pay it forward webs. Each person in a chain has opportunities to fire off new chains. Most people are in multiple chains. Perhaps a web might look like a Tinker Toy project!

mindfulness

How to Cultivate Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn emphasizes that although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. “It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he says in this Greater Good video. “It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”

Loving-kindness meditation, which the GGSC’s Christine Carter explains in this post, involves extending feelings of compassion toward people, starting with yourself then branching out to someone close to you, then to an acquaintance, then to someone giving you a hard time, then finally to all beings everywhere. – Mindfulness Definition | Greater Good

Doing a simple loving-kindness meditation can make us feel less isolated and more connected to those around us. One study showed that a single seven minute loving-kindness meditation made people feel more connected to and positive about both loved ones and total strangers, and more accepting of themselves. — Greater Happiness in 5 Minutes a Day | Greater Good

The Big Picture

I developed the “happiness map” below as part of my post Mindfulness Plus Compassion Equals Happiness. Notice that the starting point is Mindfulness.

This Way To Happiness >

happiness map

Mindfulness is where it all begins. It has the power to transform you, me, and indeed all humankind.

16 thoughts on “Mindfulness: The Power Behind Kindness, Guest Post

  1. This is a great guest post and the pay-it-forward chains were especially helpful.

    I just recently discovered mindfulness through a friend who recommended the meditationSHIFT course to me, and it was definitely a life-changer. Mindfulness has become quite popular lately, and with good reason: it has a ton of benefits which seem to have an unending reach into the different facets of my life. Becoming aware of my thoughts and learning to observe them rather than letting them control me has decreased my stress and anxiety levels and increased my sense of calm and peace. It has allowed me to develop a much broader capacity for compassion and empathy (I have always felt that I was lacking in this area), and it has allowed me to create a space between my thoughts and my actions.

    This has initiated a sort of mental chain-reaction resulting in a plain-out better quality of life. I live in the present moment. I feel more, I notice more, I do more, I ENJOY more. The world would be a much better place if everyone read posts like these and took them to heart.

    Oh, and here is a link to a free guide put out by the mindfulness course I was talking about:

    http://www.thetadprinciple.com/why-meditate-and-how-a-free-guide.html

    Great post!

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    • Chelsea, thank you for the link! I began meditating at age 14 when it was considered a wacky hippie thing to do and found similar results from the practice just as you have.

      In addition to stress reduction and living in the moment I also gained confidence through the practice. When I was unable to take pain medication I used meditation to disconnect from the pain. I then taught my children the practice and now they are sharing the practice with their children. Most recently my five year old granddaughter was taught a simple meditation to help her cope with the pain of an injury. She took to it so quickly and loved how it made her feel she now practices several times a day. :-)

      I was so thrilled when Carol asked me to share this article, the meditation along with the pay-it-forward chains was so inspiring. I’m glad you enjoyed it and shared your story with us.

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    • Hello Chelsea, Thanks so much for sharing your personal experiences with mindfulness. Thanks too for the link to the free guide. You may like some of my other posts about mindfulness:
      Mindfulness Matters at http://www.ahhthesimplelife.com/mindfulness-matters/
      and Mindfulness Plus Compassion Equals Happiness at
      http://www.ahhthesimplelife.com/mindfulness-plus-compassion-equals-happiness/
      Again, thanks for your comments.
      Cheers, Carol at Ahh The Simple Life

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  2. Thanks for summarizing these attributes of mindfulness, I wasn’t aware of them, particularly the pay forward chains, which are really inspiring to me.
    I come from a traditional buddhist background, and I’ve only started to explore MBSR. I was reluctant at first, thinking that MBSR was just yet another commercial exploitation of the Buddhist path, but I’ve changed my mind since, and I’m more interested in making a difference with those tools.

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    • Gael, it’s wonderful you kept and open mind allowing yourself to expand your toolbox I am also impressed with the pay it forward chains. Seeing the good deeds people do every day gives me hope for our world.

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    • Sue, I was so impressed by the pay it forward links Carol shared with us, especially the kidney donations. I’m not sure I would give a kidney without knowing the recipient (if I could, which I can’t with only one functioning) What an amazing gift.

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    • Carol, I should be the one thanking you. I enjoyed both your writing and the wonderful links. The pay it forward links were impressive. There is so much good to hold on to around us.

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  3. well, this is something along those lines you speak of that I do..

    I do this from time to time, but ESPECIALLY make an effort to do this, when
    - Life has been particularly tough
    - I am feeling truly awful
    - I am at the end of my rope and need something magnificently uplifting (it has never failed me)
    -etc..

    If I am not “out and about”, and need this, I will make myself go out to do something…

    so,

    say, I am in a shop. well, honestly most clerks (where I live) are not too knowledgeable/could care less if you ask a question/need help. Some time ago, I decided to almost never make a complaint, as I always wondered what they were coping with. However, as time went on, I truly felt the need to “do something”..
    so, if I am “dissed” “disrespected””not helped” by someone who should be…I turn to the next “clerk”, and ask them. Almost always they offer some help, if they have seen another be unhelpful..
    - then I tell the helpful clerk, how much I appreciate their help, and mention I would like to commend them to the manager, and ask for their name, and then I do go to the manager, and tell them how helpful/knowledgeable etc the clerk was, and will they please put it in the clerk’s file..

    also, I do not just do this if someone has been unhelpful

    I will look for opportunities when someone has been exceptional/very good/kind and again, ask them for their name/explain, they got to customer service and ask for the manager…

    mostly this goes well, but it is almost always sort of funny. Each time the manager comes up to me, you can see the apprehension on their face, and when I explain, they are always shocked and relieved and pleased (isn’t that rather sad, so few tell of good deeds that it is that shocking)..

    there were two occasions when I had to wait particularly long, and honestly the managers in this did make me rather mad, but I did not let on to them, or say anything..
    - both in different large chain stores/big box stores..
    1) the store had a fast food sort of stop at the front of the store. After I got my groceries, (I had felt very down/tired to start with and..), I was exhausted/depressed/bushed..Decided would treat myself to a snack, and rest before I loaded my groceries and went home..At the end of the line, was a rather elderly woman, clearly looking tired herself. She was in charge of taking folks money. This woman was TOTALLY ASTONISHING.
    I saw this happen to about ten persons in line in front of me, and then to me

    every single person who went through her till…she did this to/had this effect on..

    This tired/elderly woman, someone connected with every person, made each smile and light up, brought huge joy to each, all with a few simple words/smile.

    I was so impressed, I wanted to give her a commendation to the manager.

    I went to customer service and asked to please speak to the manager..I frequently “checked in” to see if manager would be much longer. After One and half hours, I asked the clerk to please bring me a chair, as I was waiting for the manager, and could not stand any longer. Oddly enough, when they realised I was STAYING until I talked with the manager, the manger showed up in litterly half a minute.
    – the look on his face HE did not want to talk to me
    —- the look on his face when I told him,what I wanted to tell him, how appreciative me/all the customers were/how amazing/excellent this elderly cashier was, PURE shock.

    2)a store I often buy groceries had, had a most horrible/nasty/mean cashier. honest to God, she was. on at least two occasion hubby or I actually left a cart of groceries as she was the only clerk when we went to check out… The bag boy (a man of seventy plus who often chatted with me) also feeled me out, would I make a complaint ?
    well, following my “custom”, I did not/would not make a complaint..
    however there was a point I did something..
    I was going through the checkout…my cashier was a lovely/efficient young woman of about sixteen or seventeen. next cashier over/right behind my back was the WITCH.
    well, the witch, felt the need to make some very nasty comments to they young cashier I had, and they hurt….
    I felt it would not accomplish too much to go over to customer service and complain (as the witch had much senority in the union, etc).. However
    Customer service was right beside the tills.

    I told the young girl, I was very pleased with her work, and would like to comment to the manager, got her name.

    I asked (at customer service) for the manager, and the clerk there paged him/ ten minutes later again. then clerk ran around store till she found him, explained customer would like to talk to him/ well you get the idea. MANY apologies/pages later, I again asked to please get me a chair.. Clerk went over to manager and mentioned this / again manager showed up soon/looking like he did not want to talk to a customer..

    well, I told him what a wonderful cashier the young woman was, etc etc.. And, asked him if he might put it in her file/give her a promotion etc. Shocked he apologised/ assured me he would put in file/make anote ect..

    I could see the witch’s face throughout this, and she did not look happy (is it small of me to note that? )

    few weeks later the young woman was gone, and the bag boy told me she had been promoted…

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    • Lynn, I don’t know if I would have stuck around and waited as long as you did how wonderful of you. I try to give a direct complement to the person who impresses me. I have been known to complain about an employee though.

      Many years ago I had a cashier insult my child. We had previously lived in the city where boys got their ears pierced. My son wanted his pierced and since I could only come up with a refusal based on his gender I said yes. This woman complained that his parents were horrible and so was he. I asked her to direct these comments directly to me, but she continued to insult my son. As soon as I paid my bill I called for the manager. He was wonderful and asked me to wait there a minute. He walked over and confronted the cashier who admitted what she had done. The manager returned to thank me and let me know she had been fired as he would not tolerate such behavior.

      You are a bigger person than I am when it comes to tolerance for bad behavior.

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      • oh.. truly I am not a bigger person. If someone had insulted my kid/as yours was, I too would have complained.

        however, honestly it is rather selfish of me…truly.

        (grin)

        I am merely trying to create my own good Karma, but this act. Funny, too, these incidents usually seem to happen when I am totally exhausted. However, to my mind, this adds to my “good Karma”, if I make the point to persist in waiting for the manager to make the good recommendation.

        The incidents I told you about, in waiting for the manager to give an employee a very good recommendation, are not the only ones I have done. I have now done it often enough, that if my son is with me (as sometimes happens), and I say, oh you can wait in the car, I need to do something, he knows right off what I am going to do, and it just might be a long wait. I think it is also a good way to make an impression on him. So, that too is worthwhile. He is pretty darn polite, but it never hurts to make the point to “value” people’s good behaviour enough to recommend it to the manager.

        What has shocked me, and I hve given this more thought since I first wrote this, and I think it is so…Every single time, the manager has ended up surprised/shocked at why I wanted to speak to them. To me that does seem sad.

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        • I don’t think it would shock me after working retail for a while. All anyone wants to do is complain anymore.

          I too give complements to those around me, but it’s more about spreading happiness than karma redirected back to me, but if everyone I greeted or complemented decided to follow suit I would guess the karma would be returned to me. ;-)

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          • oh, I think you should already be getting some extra good karma, due to this blog..I have learned a lot, and much enjoyed it.

            it isn’t even just about spreading happiness etc.. .. I have to tell you when I do this, (especially on those times I have to wait and wait), I get a serious kick out of helping some one in such a practical way (giving them a boost to their career, etc). and, it costs me nothing but time. I always go away smiling. They have no idea, but from the “lift” it gives me, I easily gain as much as I give. all good.

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          • Now see, that is good karma by not telling the person you plan to complement them to management. Too many would only make the effort if they knew they would have recognition for the good deed.

            Like

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