I’m a bit behind with my blog entries at the moment eek! Sorry Readers. I went to this great event by Action for Happiness a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been meaning to tell you all about…
It was called ‘Kindness Behaviour Training (KBT) – How to live a more meaningful life’ (an interesting title from the off) and it was a lecture by Dr Paramabandhu Groves who is not only the founder of the technique but an experienced NHS consultant psychiatrist and mindfulness teacher.
KBT uses ancient Buddhist principals (fundamental practices in Buddhism are the development of mindfulness and the cultivation of kindness (also known as metta bhavana)) with practical modern science and evidence based techniques. As far as I was concerned, this mild mannered man at the front of the room was more than your average yogi offering – this is a man of Science.
(I felt it was apt that the stage he was on had the words ‘to thine own self be true’ written in gold calligraphy above it. No better stage for a bit of self- discovery then.)
According to the literature – ‘Mindfulness and kindness have been practised by millions of people for over two and half millennia to create states of well-being, emotional resilience and inner freedom.’ I frequently lack any sort of emotional resilience so for that alone I was willing to give it a bash.
So what is Kindness Behaviour Training? (Sounds like it belongs in a Nintendo?!)
Although the basis of the technique is far deeper than what I learnt in the seminar – usually the course takes 8 weeks – the most basic principal is that all human beings (in fact all warm blooded animals) have the ability to care – it’s evolutionary. (Some animals eat their young, we are programmed to love, nurture and provide.) With this noted it is safe to say that everyone has the genetic ‘kit for kindness’ – we all have the ability to care for another being. KBT reinforces this ability/behaviour and builds it into all areas of your life.
But what exactly is ‘kindness’? When I went along to this event I didn’t realise that it was such a loaded word for so many people – and that there are lots of negative connotations as well as positives such as pity, sentimentality and weakness which go along with it.
True kindness, we were taught that true kindness comes in three forms:
- Emotional kindness – shown through sympathy, (different from sentimentality which is often the rights noises without true depth of feeling or action) and empathy.
- Wisdom – kindness does not mean blindly being nice to everyone or being a doormat and saying yes to everything. It’s about intelligently understanding what is going on and have the courage to act on that understanding.
- Action – this includes concern for our own and others well-being – It’s not about being a martyr. More though, it’s a willingness to act on the concern for ourselves and others – if you can make a positive action you should.
Yes I know it’s all very well and good knowing we should be kinder to our fellow man… but it’s different when you’re pressed up against said fellow man on your daily commute – or listening to your fellow women whinge on and on in a meeting. Putting kindness into action takes work. It ain’t called training for nothing – it takes practice.
Part of this practice comes through meditation – we did a couple of exercises together in the room – imagining breathing out kindness is harder than you think! But choosing a friend and sending kindness to them was a genuinely lovely experience which made me appreciate the people in my life. (The poor guy sitting next to me fell totally asleep though and woke up just as we were told to share our feelings with the person you were sitting next to. We had a giggle as his main experience was ‘that is was very relaxing’)
So, the big question. How do we start putting kindness into action?
- Practice being content in your life. (This is one I should probably practice the most!)
- Take a genuine interest – when was the last time you were on the phone ‘listening’ to your friend while actually watching TV or being online? Or your colleague is telling you about their weekend when all you can think about is what you’re going to have for lunch. We’re all guilty of it.
- Put kindness into what you say – were you actually a bit harsh in that last email?
- Be less judgemental – We all have stuff going on in our lives. Even that guy at work who tried to make every day more annoying than the last. Or that young chap on the bus who likes to play his music out his phone (ooo, that’s a tough one not to want to punch isn’t it?!) We were told to imagine that most people are doing the best they can. Try to remember this.
- Do a kind act. Dr. Groves made us all think of something we could do after the talk and the audience fed back. People’s answered ranged from buying flowers for their wife, buying a sandwich for a homeless person – but the biggest round of applause went to the girl who said she’d take out the wet washing for which ever housemate had left it in the machine in her shared house. See, it’s the small things in life!
If we cultivate this kindness then the effects are enviable: self- acceptance, positive empathy for others, having a kinder internal voice (ladies, this is particularly for you as we are often our own worst enemy) and an increased interest for others.
What it comes down to is the idea that if we are ‘kinder’ then we become less rigid in our expectations of others and have a wider perspective of people. We appreciate our universality. In each person there is so much more than what we see. (Yes probably even that guy on the bus) And by taking this outlook – it makes life easier!
Who doesn’t want an easier life?!
After the lecture I text my friend Lydia to say I’d dedicated my meditation to her because she was one of my dearest friends…. and she text back saying I had made her day. It took 5 seconds to send that text and I had made someone else feel good.
What could you do today or this week in an act of kindness?
Try it and let me know how it goes!
More soon! (Last night I went to an awesome drumming circle which I can’t wait to tell you about!)
To learn more about Kindness Behaviour Training at Breathing Space (a centre which teaches Mindfulness Based Approaches to help people look after their mental health) – click here