According to the Eight Limbs of Yoga, Kindness, or Ahimsa, is one of the Yamas (5 social ethics). Ahimsa is often translated as “nonviolence”, but that is in truth just one aspect of the sense of the Sanskrit word. It also encompasses in a sense the idea of positive kind action towards others and all things.
It’s worth remembering that yoga is a practice that, according to the great sage Patanjali, Chitta Vritti Nirodha. Patanjali’s definition of yoga tells us that: Yoga quiets the mind. In that restful state we can experience ultimate reality without the distraction of our minds and their prejudices, biases and filters. We can understand that all things and beings in the universe are connected and that we are part of that. This means that any harm we inflict on others is also harm we inflict upon ourselves.
So Kindness, what and why? Whilst it isn’t too complicated really, it is aspirational and not so easy to practice in reality. Mind, ego and perceived self-interest easily interfere and cause great suffering in the end because we forget, or have no concept in the first place, that being kind is self-care and love turned outwards. Something to reflect upon.
I find reassurance that I can be kinder to myself and others in trying consciously to do one or two little acts of kindness on a daily basis - that gives me hope when sometimes the bigger picture is too overwhelming and too much to comprehend. They’re manageable and really cost nothing at all. Smiling at someone, offering a hand, sending a text to let someone know you're thinking of them (or better yet calling), even putting the spider outside the front door rather than squishing it in fear, being kinder to yourself in your head, celebrating small successes and being positive, and radiating that out to the people around you. The nicest things that have happened to me recently have been a hug I was not expecting and someone saying I smelt nice. It's very easy to overlook little small kindnesses and fixate on the negative. I suppose you could say that kindness that way can become a habit that is built over time, or even a mindset.
That’s not to say that we all need to turn into Pollyanna overnight. That would be just as unkind to the world – a state of perpetual denial about the reality of things from where there would be no way to move forward. The next Yama is Satya or Truthfulness and they all work together, tempering each other, balancing …..
But it’s worth to remembering – the next time you have the chance to be kind take it. It’s a small random act of healing and hope in a mixed up, crazy world and may just make someone’s day, month or year. It may even give you greater peace of mind too. Peace and Namaste.