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