the power of kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life -piero ferrucci
Each month, I'll share a book that relates to current posts on Yoga Off the Mat. Of all the plans in store for YOTM, this is something I'm over-the-roof excited about! I'll share a few quotes and talk about what I took from the book, and then you may decide to go read it, too! This first month's read is called The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci.
I first read this book about a year ago, and had the sweet opportunity to revisit it with this month's dedication to Seva, or selfless service. When I read a new book, I highlight, fold corners, underline and star pages. Sometimes I write down the middle or the sides of the book or note favorite page numbers in the front or back page. Reading my highlighted portions of this book gave me chills. It's so good. Read it, read it, read it!
The book is broken down into chapters, or necessities for kindness. They are:
- sense of belonging
Hell yes. This is the stuff that gets my heart racing.
The introduction of this book includes some facts about how kind people are healthier and live longer, more successful, happier, and live more fulfilling lives. It explains that while kindness usually involves giving to others, it is ultimately the greatest gift that you can give yourself. It explains that:
"Kindness is actually a way of making less effort. It is the most economical attitude there is, because it saves us so much energy that we might otherwise waste in suspicion, worry, resentment, manipulation or unnecessary defense. It is an attitude that, by eliminating the inessential, brings us back to the simplicity of being. Kindness has to do with what is tenderest and most intimate in us. It is a part of our nature that we often do not express fully -- especially men in our culture, but also women -- because we are afraid that if this vulnerable side comes to light, we might suffer, be ridiculed, be offended or be exploited. We will find that, rather, we suffer by not expressing it. And that by touching this nucleus of tenderness, we enliven our entire affective world, and we open ourselves to countless possibilities of change."
After years and years of research and experimenting, Ferrucci says that the best thing you can do to transform your life is to "be a little kinder." I'm in.
#1 HONESTY: everything becomes easier
This short and sweet chapter asks us to look at honesty in a much bigger way than speaking truthful words (which is an obvious one, I hope!). We are asked to say yes only when we mean yes, to maintain integrity within ourselves. We are asked to be honest with ourselves about how we are feeling and to confront difficult conversations with honesty even when it's unpleasant.
"Lying has a thousand faces, the truth only one. we can pretend to have many emotions we don't really have, to be many people we are not. but if we stop pretending, all the artifices and the efforts to hold our life together fall away. What a relief."
We are reminded that kindness is not genuine if it has falseness as it's base.
#2 Harmlessness: Not harming is the highest Law
This is talked about a whole lot in the yoga world. The sanskrit word for harmlessness is Ahimsa, or nonviolence. Like honesty, this has an obvious connotation. Don't hit somebody when you're angry with them. However, the goal to do no harm runs much deeper than physical violence. When referring to ahimsa, we may start to adjust our diet and lifestyle to one that is less harmful to animals and to our environment. We are encouraged to speak in kind, but honest ways, both to others and to ourselves. We are also asked to begin noticing our own harmful thoughts. If we find ourselves immersed in negative thought patterns, even if these are nasty thoughts about others, we are hurting ourselves.
"Let's take a look at the general direction of our thoughts: are they hostile and belligerent? are we surrendering to an orgy of malevolence, condemnation, or downright paranoia? Are we implementing a dreary inner monologue? if so, we are a prisoner of our own negativity, and the consequence is damage to ourselves and to others."
#3 Warmth: The temperature of happiness
Bottom line, be a little sweeter. Take down some walls. It is incredibly vulnerable to warm up and be intimate with others because there's always a chance when we open up that we may get hurt. Do it anyways, it's always worth the risk, and there are irreplaceable lessons to be learned from either outcome.
#4 forgiveness: Live in the present
Ferrucci speaks of forgiveness as a doorway to radical transformation. This includes forgiveness for others and ourselves. It is a way of living in the present moment and not letting past hurt interfere with a happy now.
"It has been shown that our thoughts influence each cell in our body. thought affects blood pressure and therefore blood flow to every part of the body. the quality of our thoughts is felt throughout our organism. will we make them thoughts of hatred and revenge, or of love and happiness?"
This chapter also reminds us that we cannot be kind if we push our anger under the rug and do not confront it. If we have unresolved anger, it will remain deep within us, and we cannot be kind if we are carrying resentments.
#5 Contact: to touch and be touched
Did you know that lack of contact with other humans is linked to many illnesses and a shorter life expectancy? Memory loss, cardiac disease, depression and other serious conditions occur more often in cases of social isolation. It makes sense that oftentimes an elderly couple will pass away within a short time of each other, and that babies literally cannot survive without contact with a parental figure.
"Contact is the door through which kindness can flow."
#6 Sense of belonging: I belong, therefore I am
It has been obvious to me for a long time that everything important to us is so because of connection. We as humans do nothing in complete solitude, even those who are fearlessly independent. We are all intertwined, and because of this we have a basic need to belong somewhere in this big, crazy world. Ferrucci says that "Where do I belong?" is a very similar question as, "Who am I?" And these are incredibly important questions to examine along the human journey.
We make decisions every day to make others feel included or not. If we want to be a little kinder, maybe we start here: invite the co-worker sitting alone into your conversation. Say hello to the others in the yoga class you go to. Acknowledge the homeless man on the street rather than putting your head down when you walk by. We all need to feel this connection to others, and we all have the power to give that same connection to others.
Okay, let's pause. I'm breaking this month's Book Club post into two, as I think this information deserves to be pondered and absorbed. It's filled with sweetness. Watch for part two over the next couple of days!