The latest sticky note on my computer screen reads : ‘remember to be kind in feedback’.
Do you ever fire back an email to someone only to read it back and realise you missed the etiquette of a polite ‘hello’ ‘how are you?’ I do. I’m hoping it’s just a symptom of a busy work-focused mind.
This week I did just that but in a person to person situation. Mind busy and preoccupied, thinking ahead, there was a disconnect between me and the other, a very me-centred exchange occurred.
It was during a teaching session with my peer group – we are all learning to deliver mindfulness, taking turns to lead, followed by a ‘feedback session’.
I gave my feedback and immediately I realised I had not been kind. It wasn’t that I had been unkind, just not kind. We follow the trainee teachers meditation guidance and then we feedback, something that went well, something interesting, and something to be developed. My mind had jumped straight to the action section – ‘something to be developed’ – my egoic specialist subject!– especially when it comes to how others can improve. I dived in. I delivered the news. My Inner Mindfulness Alert APP Noticed Something. Where was the kindness? Inner Me groans. I’ve caught myself out again. It doesn’t feel good. I felt how that might have landed with the other person, and listening to the following feedback from others which was so kind and supportive, made me feel quite awful inside.
Sometimes a small insight can bring a lightness and joy – at the seeing; but this was more of a heavy dull thud as it hits the ground of my being. I was not kind. This is a pattern. Then, the thought “I am not kind”. I know that this thought is just a thought. It feels real and true and painful but I suspect I should observe it as just a thought! And let it go. But I am now curious. It’s a hint, a glimpse of something that goes a bit deeper. Not being kind? There’s no joy in that realisation, and precisely because there is no feeling of joy in that particular realisation it is the start of something. A moving towards something. Which needs to be followed up by a sitting with it to see what’s there.
I’m still in the session as this realisation arises (I am happy that ‘embodying mindfulness’ has occurred during a session!) …I find that knowing what’s happening, while it’s happening is hard to do when trying to remember what I’m supposed to be saying and doing and listening and watching – but the next part of Rob Nairn’s quote says we must be aware of what’s happening but without preference. I feel a strong preference here – I would rather not be this way – I would rather have ‘Being Kind’ as a default setting, but it clearly isn’t. Not in this situation.
I remind myself that ’without preference’ is part of the mindfulness deal; without preference means without making judgement about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong – it allows me to look at it objectively ie. notice it as a habit – a pattern, that is not me.
It makes room to slip in a little bit of kindness towards myself as I prepare to look at this not-kindness a little more closely. Krishnamurti says ‘the seeing is the doing’ and I have felt that before but it’s not ‘doing’ it for me this time. Tara Brach’s RAIN practice comes to mind. It’s my go-to practice for this kind of thing. – I seem to have already Recognised and Allowed, so the next step is the Intimate attention. I need to look at this kindness blindspot. Feel it.
Experience has taught me that this can be a bit tricky – wading deep into the mud, and I need to proceed with caution here. Why am I not kind? Sometimes these biggies take a few approaches and retreats. Slightly scared of this one. The Mindfulness training has given me a toolkit to deal with this. Before I look at it I need to engage kindness so that I may direct it towards anything that I see; kindness to myself, a knowing that this is not my fault, whatever it is, and notice too that the mind can make a drama out of this too and suddenly I’m not only unkind I’m also a terrible person.
(I can smile at this now, but sometimes this is delivered to the mind in a way that is distressing and is painful). This awareness takes time, much practice and it’s good to be really grounded and rooted in the body when contemplating these tricky arisings. Then it becomes really fascinating, as we learn to disengage from the storylines and look with clarity, unclouded by the minds’ self-sabotaging tricks.
I am in the session so I write on a sticky note REMEMBER TO BE KIND IN FEEDBACK and stick it on my screen. After the session I share to my peer group that I have noticed this tendency in myself and apologise. Of course everyone is kind.
I do wonder is it normal to have to write this kind of message to yourself on a sticky note? Am I that self-obsessed? Disconnected? Rob Nairn would probably laugh and say yes! We all are, at times.
As yet I have no resolution to this. There be many reasons why I need to remember to be kind in certain situations. The Memories of Kindness practice came to mind – so I have decided to focus on that practice this week.
Memories of Kindness is teaching me that yes, there are situations where I have been kind, so I do have a capacity for kindness. That’s a relief! Bringing to mind kindness from others towards me has also really helped me to connect with how warm-hearted kindness feels and what it can bring to the heart. I wish that I might soak in those qualities and embody them myself.
When I connect to the feeling I had when making shortbread with my kind and loving nana; and the loving kindness that shone out of her eyes it certainly charges up my kindness battery. I hold that memory and I wish that I too might shine with kindness like she did, for myself and for others too – knowing that this kindness is the heart of compassion.
This week for the Weekly Challenge notice small acts of kindness in all its forms.
Activate an intention to be kind towards yourself – just one small act of kindness to yourself. What will it be? How does it feel to think about it. How does it feel to act on it?
One small act of kindness toward another. What might it be? How does that feel?
Maybe telling someone about the 31 Day Challenge could be an act of kindness – a gift that keeps on giving.
You can listen to the memories of kindness on the Mindfulness Association’s free APP.
I wish that this week your days are full of kindness and especially to yourself; fill up your kindness tank so that you have enough reserves to spill out and share it with those around you.
It’s lovely to hear from you so please do share anything you feel moved to share with Jacky and myself.
And a massive thank you to my peer group for their neverending kindness!