I was a freshman in college when Sinéad O’Connor’s song, “Nothing Compares 2 U” was released. Her album was often the backdrop to my commute to Towson State. I’d feel empowered and brave just by listening to her voice. I remember thinking she was such a badass… a female musician who shaved her head and didn’t care about what others thought of her. To me, that was the epitome of what it meant to a strong, independent woman!
When she ripped up a photo of the pope on the stage of Saturday Night Live, I was surprised, but also curious. Was it the shock factor that made her do an act so brazen, or something more? At the time, I was unaware of the abuse Sinéad O’Connor had endured from her mother, as well as what was happening within the Catholic church. We didn’t have the internet in the 1990s, but even if we had the ability to search for information about someone’s life, as I did when I found out she died on Wednesday, would we really have known her entire story?
Do we ever really know what someone is going through, has dealt with, or is feeling? Does the smile your neighbor greets you with at the mailbox mean she’s really feeling happy? Is the driver behind you angry because you stopped at the yellow light, or is he frustrated because he’s coping with a sick parent? Could your boss be short with you because she’s dealing with her child’s mental health issues? We don’t know, nor do we need to know everything about what other people are dealing with or have experienced. But there is something we can do… we can be kind!
Are you kind to yourself? How do you talk to yourself when you make a mistake? What words do you hear in your head when you don’t finish everything on your to-do list? How about resting when you’re tired? Do you choose foods that nourish your body? Are the boundaries you set appropriate and helpful?
It’s easier to be kind to others if we show ourselves a little empathy, compassion, and thoughtfulness.
See if you can begin to notice if the way you talk to yourself is the same way you’d talk to a friend, child, or pet. If not, consciously make some changes in your internal language. It will probably feel weird to show yourself grace and empathy, at first, but the more we practice it, the easier it becomes.
The ripple effect
Can you remember the last time someone did something kind for you? How did it make you feel? What did you do in response?
One of my yoga students recently gave me some of his homemade rhubarb jelly (and it was delicious!!!). I felt so grateful for his kindness that I wanted to keep it going. So, I took my neighbors some fresh eggs from my chickens.
Kindness encourages more kindness. It creates a chain reaction. The next time someone does something kind for you…pay it forward. Who knows what the world might look like if we were all a little kinder?!?
What’s the take-away? Lead with love and kindness.
Sure, sometimes people can just be jerks! My mom used to say, “Give them the benefit of the doubt.” The reality is, our interaction with the rude driver or the snippy grocery store clerk is a small portion of the day. And we get to choose how we respond to their behavior. Let’s choose peace and kindness.
Yoga teaches us to pause ~ to take a breath and notice how things are feeling in the body, both physically and mentally.
We can take the pause off of the mat with us and use it to remind ourselves that we are only seeing part of the people we interact with on a daily basis. We don’t know that whole story, but we can be kind, caring, and helpful. That may be just what they need!
Putting kindness into action
The yoga mat is a perfect place to practice showing yourself some kindness and grace. We might fall out of balancing poses, be frustrated by challenging postures, or not get to the mat as consistently as we’d like. These are opportunities to speak and think with empathy and kindness.
Let’s practice together! I teach two live-streamed classes and one in-person class each week. Want to find out more about my classes? Click here for my current schedule.