Kindness and Generosity
We all love to be treated with kindness and generosity. We experience the warmth of human connection and receive the direct benefit of someone else’s energy. It also feels really good to be kind and to be generous. Being kind sets off a series of reactions in the brain. We release endorphins such as Serotonin, and Oxytocin. Additionally, being kind reduces our stress and distracts us from our problems. Engaging in this activity creates an oasis for both the giver and the receiver. The moment of generosity opens up our experience of the world creating a broader more hospitable place. We drop out of selfishness and out of our ego state and land in the realm of the common good. We feel more connected to our purpose and to others in the community.
Many of us think of generosity in the material sense of – things or – money, but there is a deeper meaning to the energy of generosity. We find this meaning in how generous we are with our time, energy, and attention. Our listening skills come in very handy with this kind of generosity. When we engage in deep listening, we are allowing the moment to expand as we take in their words. At times, we can also give people something we call the “benefit of the doubt”. I see this benefit of the doubt, as the way we can discipline our thinking and judgment to allow room for more possibilities outside of our preconceptions, outside of our doubts. This is how we suspend our disbelief and allow for additional insight and knowledge to come forward in the moment. This form of generosity makes it possible for us to experience the point of view of the person we are interacting with. To really feel what they are transmitting in a more complete way. This opens up our hearts and creates empathy and connection. The other person is felt, heard, and seen where they are, at that moment.
Kindness also opens up our internal experience in small ways during our day to day interactions. When we send out signals of support, approval, and smile at someone, they experience something beneficial and we feel better too. The reason for this is the oxytocin release, which causes a chemical to form in our blood vessels called nitric oxide. This helps dilate our blood vessels and lower our blood pressure. Oxytocin helps reduce inflammation in our bodies, which helps us maintain a strong immune system. Reducing stress is one of the great benefits of kindness and generosity. The beauty of it is that it happens to everyone involved. Kindness can be as simple as holding the door open for someone or smiling at people.
Consistent practice of kindness and generosity has enormous ongoing benefits to everyone involved. Have you heard the expression, what goes around comes around? While we usually associate this with negative effects, it is also true of positive intentions. There is the expression, “pay it forward”, and another saying that “kindness is it’s own reward”. Which we can now see even more clearly, given how it impacts the body of giver as well as the receiver with better health and immunity.
What does it mean to “practice” kindness? Consciously put our attention on how we treat others. To be mindful of the impact we have at every moment. Well, practicing also means that you have to recognize some days you are not running enough energy beyond your basic needs to make the extra effort. No problem, we all have days like that, but the idea is to keep practicing. Even when you feel a little below your normal energy level or even feeling depressed, just give kindness a try. Take a deep breath and give someone a smile, or a wave. You just might find that it amplifies your energy and leaves you feeling better than you did before. The practice of kindness often benefits from taking a moment and bringing in a deep breath, expand your chest and your awareness of the world around you. Can you find some source of gratitude for your life? Some sort of recognition of how blessed you are to be where you are? Even if you are struggling emotionally, you can decide to expand your generosity consciously. Just think about what you’re going to do with your life, how will it be remembered? What is your intention? Is it about you feeling your ego, and being proud of your self, or could it be something that directly relates to the person you have your attention on? Generosity is about the other person, not about our ego.
In my coaching lately, Kindness and generosity, has been coming up a lot. We are exploring it as a path for men to create more connection and intimacy in their relationships. We, men, tend to think of kindness and generosity in the material sense, giving something we bought, or doing a task for our partners. There is nothing wrong with this in it’s basic sense, but, there is a deeper level. When you go beyond this material aspect and start to connect at the emotional level of generosity and kindness it really starts to open up the heart.
Intimacy lives in this open space in the heart, where we feel safe and relaxed enough to share our truth with each other. Emotional kindness opens up this space, as does being generous with our attention. It is powewrful to go beyond listening for the moment to gain something, into the power of listening in order to hold space for and receive the other person’s true heart. Doing so, creates a timeless feeling for both people. I coach my clients to breathe deeply, stay conscious, and look into the eyes of their partner, and relax their need to respond. When we can do this and be generous with our quality of attention, we are able to receive the full spectrum of what is available from our partner in that moment. When there is a pause in the conversation, men can learn to hold their tongue for a moment and use their intuition to track what is being said. Find the thread and ask the kind of question that encourages our partner to reveal even more about themselves. Then, once our partner has stopped speaking and feels complete, we are able to offer a simple thank you, which can be the perfect way to recognize them and honor what they revealed in the communication. Sometimes, it may be useful to recap and reflect back what they said and affirm it as well, or if there is some need for further clarification we can ask for more detail, or simply confirm to them that the communication has been received.
What happens for a person when they receive this kind of exquisite attention is that they slow down and feel even more deeply into their own experience. It’s funny, and kind of crazy, that we don’t do this more. Our interior lives are such rich areas of experience. Our hopes, dreams, and moods are whole worlds unto themselves. Well worth exploring and discovering together. But it can feel very vulnerable to open up like this. So, it is essential to allow the person time to reveal themselves slowly and be patient for them to get at their inner being, the deeper meaning for them. Once they have access to that deep pure emotional expression, we will gain so much from hearing it. Conversely, when it’s our turn to reveal ourselves, when it is our time to be generous with our inner experience, we may notice it feels uncomfortable to reveal. I know it takes courage, but I endorse being as radically honest as possible. Don’t try to pretty it up or make a story out of it. Share the emotions in all their complexity and paradoxical nature.
One of the other ways it is difficult for us, may be when we are presented with people on the street who are asking for help. We all react differently, but for most of us there is a desire to make an impact. If you are at all like me there is some hesitancy. I ask myself, is this person scamming me, are they a drug addict, will my giving them money enable them or perpetuate their relationship with drugs? Is this helping them to remain victims in their mind? How does this affect their self-esteem? Normally these thoughts all happen in a nanosecond, and I end up asking myself, what if it were me? That is usually all it takes for me to give a smile and be as generous as I can afford at the moment. I decide, that it really doesn’t matter if any of those thoughts are true, I can be generous with my thoughts, as well as my resources.
So much of what happens in the world that is toxic or causes trauma is about people being unkind to each other or being stingy. Imagine the difference we could make in the world if we all practiced more kindness and energetic generosity. Imagine the warmth that we would feel socially, the good we could do, the suffering we could abate. Imagine the good feelings we would create in ourselves and others. Now that’s the world I want to live in.