Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness, Purposeful Acts of Happiness

Kindness makes your life happier.  Life is a constant choice to be selfish or kind.  How we navigate those choices has a direct impact on our own mood and emotions.  I suspect everyone feels a sense of happiness and self-satisfaction when they do something nice for a fellow human being or animal.  The great religions tell us we need to to do it out of selfless giving to be truly holy.  Is this true, through?  I would suggest that an act of kindness done for any reason, selfish or selfless, is still an act of kindness.  I would further suggest that the receiver of the gift of kindness is still blessed, no matter what the giver’s motivations.

Why, then, do so many spiritual practices command that we be selfless in our acts of kindness?  Is it possible that they are right in their deepest reasoning, even if pious in their posturing about it?  Thus, the real question is, what can we as individuals learn from our motivations even if the acts we do are kind to the receiver?  In other words, we can free ourselves of some of the emotional suffering we cause ourselves unnecessarily if we examine why we are doing any particular random act of kindness.  And by knowing ourselves and our motivations, we can live a life richer in Joy, Peace, and Contentment.

Why our motivations for acts of kindness matter.

Let me build an imaginary situation to try and show why our motivations matter in the the act of kindness we perform.  Let’s say you have a rich, older-aged neighbor.  You know that this neighbor has no family.  In the beginning, you visited them because you felt bad as you imagined their loneliness.  As you discovered their financial status, though, you started visiting with the thought of being the recipient of all that money once your neighbor passes away.

From the neighbor’s perspective, the kindness you show the neighbor is kind, no matter what . Even if the neighbor suspects your motivations, you are still blessing them with your kindness.  However, did you know that as you bless them, you’re probably also punishing yourself?  As you grasp onto the idea of that money coming your way, you glue your idea of happiness to the future idea of receiving that money.  Those emotional bonds become straps that tie your life, dreams, and happiness to a perceived end result.  You are living in an unknowable future while ignoring this present moment.  Your neighbor is blessed by your kindness and you suffer in a small way by not living the only moments you absolutely know you have.  Later, when your neighbors life passes on and they leave the majority of their money to nonprofits, you suffer further because you didn’t get as much money as you had expected to receive.

There is a solution.  It does go against what many of the religions teach, though.  What if you just enjoyed the pleasant feeling of self-approval you experience while performing your random act of kindness for your rich neighbor?  That’s selfish, you might say.  Yes, I suppose it is.  Yet, from your neighbors perspective, they are still blessed whether it be selfishness on your part for perceived monetary gain, or real emotional pleasantness now.  Either way, aren’t your motivations selfish?  However, if you are honest about your motivations now, you are being truthful to your neighbor and to yourself.  It’s a win/win scenario.  In other words, selfishness isn’t all bad if it’s honest and compassionate.  In the scenario I just described, it’s both.  This, of course, leaves open the question of, “What about the negative emotions I feel wrapped around being selfish, honest or not?”  For that answer, you’ll need to write me or wait for a future blog post.

May your day be filled with Joy, Peace, and Contentment.

Letting Yourself Be Happy

Letting Yourself Be Happy by Blair Ashby

Letting yourself be happy, that is the key.  Living a life full of Joy, Peace, and Contentment (JPC) is an exercise in letting go of our emotional survival programs (you can read about emotional survival programs and how they try to control you in my new book, here).  Letting go of our “need” to feel a sense of approval, feel a sense of security, and feel a sense of control gives us the room in our lives to have real approval, real security, and real control.  But there is a catch; it probably goes against everything you’ve learned, been taught, and believe.

Is a life filled with Joy, Peace, and Contentment worth it to you?  Are you willing to begin letting yourself be happy? You will have to unlearn a lot of things.  In the beginning, you will have to frequently override what you feel.  Many times, you will think this is totally against everything you believe about how the world functions.   Are you willing to feel uncomfortable for a while if the payoff is being happy, loving more deeply, and living your dreams?

I realize those are crazy questions.  Of course we all want to be happier, love more deeply, and live our dreams.  “Why would you even ask, Blair?”  I can imagine you thinking.  I ask these questions because, the path to Joy, Peace, and Contentment often doesn’t really feel right in the beginning.  It may feel wrong to you because it honestly does go against everything we’ve been taught or have learned our whole life about how to function in the world.  On top of that, we are emotional beings and thus we think that if something feels wrong it must be wrong.  We have to see beyond how we feel in order to begin letting our deepest desires express themselves.  This subject requires much more explanation than is possible in one short blog post.  Thus, I’ll introduce you to the basics here, and ask you to read my book or contact me about coaching to go further. (Life Is a Lazy Susan: Letting the Law of Attraction Work for You)

Let’s start with the easiest instruction and the hardest task.  Ready?  Are you feeling anything?   Ask yourself this question repeatedly.  Until you know what you’re feeling, and when you’re feeling it, you can’t let yourself be happy.   Some emotion is always influencing your behavior, especially when you’re unaware that you’re even feeling it.

Is the emotion that you’re experiencing positive or negative?  Once you know how you feel about the emotions you are experiencing, you can see beyond the actions that the emotions are driving you to take.  “See beyond” means looking at the action you feel like taking, and looking at your dreams, and deciding if the emotional behavior furthers your goals or not.  Here’s a hint:  usually they don’t.

Start expressing your emotions as how you feel instead of who you are.   When you’re feeling happiness, say “I feel happy” instead of, “I’m happy”.   When you feel anger, tell yourself, “I feel angry” instead of, “I’m angry”.  This next one is an easy one to see why this is important.  When you feel down or bad about yourself, say “I feel depressed” instead of, “I’m depressed”.  Saying I feel shifts your identity from believing that you are your emotions, to believing that you are more than your emotions.

Letting yourself be happy entails some discipline.

Start a daily focus or meditation practice.  Start small and simple.  Pick something to look at, listen to, touch, or say, and focus on that object.  When you notice your mind drifting away to something else, gently refocus your attention back on your object of concentration.  Do this twice a day for three minutes (set a timer so you’re not worried about looking at the clock).  The point of this exercise is to notice when you drift.  This gently teaches you to become aware of your thoughts and feelings, which greatly helps the three previous exercises.  After a week, move the timer up to four minutes, and a week later up to five, and so on.  Science has shown that the greatest benefit comes from 12 minutes or more, twice a day.  If this is a new exercise to you, though, start with three minutes and slowly add more time.

You are created in the image and likeness of God.  You are made exactly as the Universe wants you to be.  You probably don’t feel that way, though.  That is the purpose of these exercises.  As you practice them, you’ll start to see yourself as you were made, and not just as you feel.  Then you’ll start letting the wonder of Joy, Peace, and Contentment fill your life.

May Peace and Joy fill your day.