Does Kindness Make You Stronger?

"When we wish and seek to help others, our attitude is more positive and relationships become easier. We are less afraid and have less anxiety. Otherwise we remain shy and hesitant, and feel the need to take a thousand precautions before we approach people. When our intentions are good, we have greater self-confidence and are stronger. This is how we learn to understand how precious and valuable kindness is."  -- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I am not sure I have ever understood compassion in quite this way before.  So practical and verifiable. When a great teacher makes a statement like this, I always appreciate being able to test it to see if it is true. Obviously, one can take this and try it out quite easily.  If I consciously extend good intentions toward everyone I come across today, will I feel more confident in myself and become stronger?  Only one way to find out.

It's possible that even though everything is getting really horrible around the world, and all that I hold sacred in my own nation is under attack from self-righteous fear-mongers, I still have control over much of what I experience in my life.

Beginning today, I will be trying out this process as a way to test the theory that kindness makes you stronger, and occasionally writing about it here. If you want to try this experiment too, please do, and then share your results on the comments section of this or subsequent posts.

This kind of experimentation is part of what I try to practice when I teach the Alexander Technique.  F.M. never asked anyone to take what he said on faith.  He demonstrated what he had discovered about human psychophysical functioning, over and over again, and asked his pupils to apply his teachings and experience for themselves if what he said was true or not.  

The ability to test the truth of something through direct experience is important to me, which is one of the reasons I am a Quaker.  George Fox, who founded the Religious Society of Friends in the mid-17th century, preached the radical notion that God can be experienced directly by each person, without the need for ritual or an intermediary like a priest or minister. (As you can imagine, this was not a popular message with the Church.) Fox and his followers demonstrated repeatedly that each of us can hear the Spirit and be guided by it if we only listen, and that whole groups of people, if gathered intentionally, can experience God and know how to act together.

My expectation in working with what the Dalai Lama has said is that it will be true. But I think that, like a lot of us, I still have some lingering notion that kindness and compassion are "soft" or even "weak" somehow.  Intellectually, I know this is not so, that it takes courage and strength to be kind and to allow oneself to feel sympathy. But I often behave as if I don't know or believe that, so I am interested to see how intentionally extending positive thoughts toward every person I encounter might prove to be an effective method of restoring self-confidence.  I certainly would love to stop being so afraid of other people all the time.

The first thing I will have to do in this experiment is remember to try it!

I would really appreciate any feedback that might come my way during this process.  Feel free to share your comments!