Are you familiar with the term “gateway drug”? A drug, of course, is a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, and prevention of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental wellbeing. The term gateway drug refers to a substance, such as alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, which is thought to cause users to be at an increased risk of using other more dangerous and illicit substances.
Like a drug, the subtle energy of kindness improves wellbeing and boosts the body’s ability to ward off disease. The tiniest drop of loving-kindness has exponential healing power— a soft, quiet power that can melt the heart, calm the mind, and soothe the soul.
Take a moment to explore the inner quality of kindness. Close your eyes, . . . take a deep breath and exhale making the sound ahhh . . . focus your attention on and sense the quality of kindness, . . . recall a time when someone was especially kind to you and remember how that felt in your body. . . you may also recall, or imagine, the feeling of being kind, gentle, and tender with yourself, or with a small child or beloved pet. Notice how you feel in your body, and notice your breath as you generate these images of kindness. How does kindness feel? Is there a softening in your body? Do you feel lighter? Do you notice a change in your breathing? Did you inhale? Or, did your breathing deepen? When you recall someone being kind to you, how does that feel? Did you feel understood? accepted? loved?
In addition to increasing feelings of wellbeing, research has shown that acts of kindness have substantial physiological benefits for the giver, the recipient and even an observer of an act of kindness. These health effects include improved functioning of the immune system, which protects the body from disease, and increased serotonin production. (Most anti-depressant medications are thought to work by raising serotonin levels.)
Am I stretching the gateway drug analogy too far? Can the energetic frequency of kindness really open the door to, and make the kind person more likely to develop and embody, the even more powerfully healing and transformative energy of unconditional love? I believe that kindness can do just that. Being of kind heart creates harmony, and builds bridges to the self and to others, creating pathways for the energy of love to flow. And yes, if the pharmaceutical industry could find a way to manufacture the energy of kindness, distilling its subtle essence into the form of a pill or potion for people to swallow, it would be a blockbuster drug. Fortunately, unlike most medicines, kindness is available to everyone for free and it has no toxic side effects.
Although kindness is readily available, at times, we find it difficult to be kind, especially to ourselves. We can be harshly self-critical and self-destructive. And, it is sad to say it, but some people are filled with self-loathing. So, to move from those dark places to the light of self-love can seem like an impossible leap. But, taking the foundational step of choosing to cultivate kindness and befriend the self is within reach.
There is a Native American story of an elder who is teaching his grandson about life that I want to share with you. I’ve adapted the story just a bit to fit the topic of this Essential Balance Principle “Be Kind.” Here it is:
An elder Cherokee tells his grandson, “A fight is going on inside of me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is unkind - he is angry, impatient, irritable, arrogant, resentful, prideful and superior.” He continued, “The other is kind - he is patient, accepting, peaceful, loving, humble, benevolent, generous, empathetic, and compassionate. The same fight is going on inside of you and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
A beautiful way to nourish the seed of kindness within the self is to practice Buddhist Loving-Kindness Meditation. You can use the meditation to cultivate a kind heart and direct kindness to your self and to others.
Buddhist loving kindness meditation
May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy
* * *
May you be filled with loving-kindness
May you be well
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you be happy
Although the teaching “be kind” may seem simplistic, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to consistently apply in one’s life, nor does it diminish the healing and transformative power of kindness. In fact, all of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions have teachings on the virtues of kindness, compassion, empathy and love. The Dalai Lama has said, “My religion is kindness.” So, please don’t overlook this Essential Balance Principle. Be Kind.
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. —Mark Twain
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. —Leo Buscaglia
Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. — Author Unknown