I’ve been thinking a lot about best practices, lately. Best practices are not about morality. They are the practices that are most practical, in that they lead the most efficiently, the most skillfully, to use a Buddhist term, to the most optimal results. And I find that many of my best practices could be described by a tarot card. So I’ve decided to look at one best practice at a time, through the tarot.
Kindness is the first, most absolute best practice. Because if it can tame a lion, it’s magic–literally. If you go through life being kind, you will find your progress smoothed in countless ways. I’m not preaching at you; this is just a fact. How is it magic? Am I cynically suggesting that some kind of quid pro quo takes place? Nope. I am not. Kindness doesn’t come back to you just once. It comes back countless times.
Wait, did I get confused? That card says Strength. Nope, not confused. Look deeply into the nature of strength, and you will find that strength is kindness. Kindness is strength. I often also call this card Patience. Again, same thing.
Kindness is also a practical method for reducing conflict. And reducing conflict reduces violence. And reducing violence makes our lives smoother, happier, more peaceful. That matters more than ever now, when we are so divided. Kindness can tame more than a lion–it can soothe an angry heart. Again, I’m not preaching, this is just a fact. Think about it.
In fact, you could classify kindness as a spiritual technology.
Which sort of blew my mind when I first thought about it. But it’s true. It’s actually a multipurpose technology, like meditation. Kindness affects the person you behave kindly to. It affects you, the doer of the kindness. It affects any and all observers.
For many people, if not all, kindness is an arrow to the heart.
And you know this, because at some point, you have been moved to tears by an act of kindness.
But that’s only the beginning. Kindness can act quickly, but it also acts over time. It changes the doer, the receiver, and the observers, over time.
If you go out and make an effort to be kind to every single human being you interact with this week, you will have a better, happier week, than you had in a week in which you were sometimes unkind.
If you go out and choose to also be kind to every single living being you encounter, your week will be even happier.
If you go out and choose to start talking kindly and giving kind pats to inanimate objects, and picking up litter, and doing kind things generally that affect your environment and maybe even the earth itself, your week will be happier still. You may cause amusement to your human observers. But you may also experience a sort of giddy joy when you discover that being kind to inanimate objects ALSO affects you. I don’t know what that is. It probably has some neurochemical basis. It’s what happens when you experience unexpected happiness from what you believe to be a highly unlikely source.
By the way, it doesn’t stop there, either. You will find that a habit of kindness smooths things out, not only with the people you are kind to, but also in ways that you might think could not possibly be related.
Are the results quantifiable? I suspect so. But you would have to be in the habit of collecting data about the levels of happiness and frustration in your week. The results of practicing kindness over the long term are like the results of me optimizing my phone by clearing the cache. It absolutely does make a positive difference, a difference that I notice right away, and the data could be collected, but I don’t take the time to collect it.
Am I being unscientific? Well, not as unscientific as you might think. It’s true that although I have made observations, many of them, I haven’t recorded the data point by point. But, tell me that you haven’t already run a full scale clinical trial in your own life on the effects of kindness, and/or the lack thereof, on you, yourself. Examine the evidence that you have collected in this trial, to date. If you really believe you haven’t conducted such a trial, then go do so.
And then come back here and share your experiences in the comments, if you would like to.
P.S. No, I’m NOT saying that if you had a shitty week, it’s because you weren’t kind enough. That’s not what I mean, at all. It’s not that simple, and you KNOW that. I could clear my phone’s cache until the cows come home, but the cache is not the only factor that affects my phone’s performance, and kindness is not the only factor that affects yours. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t ONE of the factors that affects you.