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My friend Laura always pays two dollars to cross the toll bridge on our highway, even though it only costs one. The other day she had her friend Bob with her as she pulled up to the toll and paid her two dollars saying this is for me and whomever comes behind…her usual thing.
Why did you do that, Bob asked her, because it feels good, said Laura.
Does anyone ever say thanks? He asked.
Not really she said. I think I once had someone catch up to me and wave a thank you as he sailed past, but I think for most people they can’t quite work out what’s going on.
Then why do you do it?
Because it feels good.
But you don’t even know the people behind you are.
What if they’re millionaires?
But if they have more money than you why would you pay their toll? She gently explained that it wasn’t about them, it was about her.
Not everyone gets it[success] An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it. ~ Maurice Maeterlinck[/success]
Laura was definitely on to something. A British study from last year showed that, over a ten day period, a group that had been asked to participate in daily acts of kindness recorded feeling happier than the group asked to simply do something new for ten days.
In another study here in the States, researchers asked participants which left them feeling happier, spending $20 to $100 dollars on themselves or $20 to $100 dollars on others. The overwhelming response was that they felt happier when they bought something for someone else. And at this time of year, we all get that, don’t we?
The results, according to the researchers, indicate a ‘positive feedback loop’ between kindness and happiness. So it would seem the more frequently Laura crossed the bridge and gave someone a dollar she would feel happier and be encouraged to continue the practice.
Now that’s got to be a useful piece of information for someone.
Less complications, more kindness
We don’t need to complicate our lives, we don’t need to find ways to occupy higher states of consciousness, we simply need to make kindness a philosophy we live by.
We users of the laws of life knew this already didn’t we? The difference between Bob and Laura is their consciousness, the vibration of energy they predominantly live in.
Acts of kindness stem from the state of mind we occupy, ‘cos all our actions are led by our conscious awareness. In that moment of paying the toll for another Laura is in a great and happy vibrational state, which leads her to have great and happy experiences.
Bob, not so much. He didn’t get that it wasn’t about anyone else, things rarely are, they’re usually about us, and in this case about Laura and how she felt. And, how she felt, allowed her to follow through on a random act of kindness, setting the stage for more happy feelings and more kindness. How about that for a win/win?
Who do you think was having – at least in this moment – the happiest day? We all know the answer to that one methinks.
There are times though when it isn’t that we’re necessarily unhappy, we’re just not aware of actually feeling happy. Bob might not have been an unhappy soul, but Laura’s act of kindness was in harmony with who she was being in that moment, and that makes for happiness. We feel happy when we’re in harmony with life and life is a wonderful gift for us to honour.
Happiness isn’t something we grasp hold of…don’t bother seeking it, it’s not to be found. It’s not a goal to be accomplished it’s a bye-product of what we do, how we live, who we are.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that if in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.
And interestingly enough there’s a wonderful Ted talk on smiling that you can check out below, which basically tells us that smiling can be a predictor of how long we live, it can make us feel good (and we know what that brings into our life) and improves our health and well being. And, yes, it counts as an act of kindness.
I’ve got a brilliant idea. How about a ten day course in kindness for us? One act of kindness a day for the next ten days. Or for those already stressed out with a bunch of things to do for the holidays, how about simply smiling more often every day at everyone you meet?[success] Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. ~ Mother Teresa[/success]
Encourage one another.