I’m listening to an excellent audiobook called The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, by Michael Puett. This is one of those books I’m going to have to read as well because there is so much content I want to digest.
Here’s the thought for today. We know that much of what we do is based on habit. What time we get up. What we eat. When we eat. How we get to work or school. How we function there.
Habit even shapes many conversations. I say this. You say that. And on we go with our day.
If you want to make changes to your world, you have to think of inventive ways to break habits because they are powerfully engrained in our day-to-day life because you repeat them over and over!
I think of habits as functional tasks. Michael Puett looks at them as ritual. For him, a ritual is something you do and repeat until it becomes the norm. And you mark it in some special way to treat it as unique each time.
And here’s his question: Can you make a ritual of being kind? You could also think of this as a “kindness habit” but the idea of ritual carries sanctity and reverence. This isn’t a kind gesture; it’s a new norm.
- What if you made it a ritual of sitting down and paying attention without distraction when you see that someone is upset? Your habit may be to listen, but can you sit and focus to create a unique time?
- What if you always jumped to open a door for someone who is struggling? If “always” becomes your ritual, then you don’t even question if you can help.
- What if at your next family dinner you introduced whimsical napkins and lit a few candles? What if you added a ritual blessing? Or set aside time for storytelling to help define this time?
- What if you sent out a card every month to someone who has had a positive impact on your life? And you did those by hand? And on really nice stationery?
- What if you made a point of finding something delightful about the people in your life and then told them on a regular basis? “You know what I really love about you?” 🙂
I deeply believe that you find what you look for, and if you’re on the lookout for ways to practice a kindness ritual you’ll find them. Starting a new habit or a ritual takes brain power at the start, but once you put them in play, they flow. And that helps make a good life for everyone.
Here are the two pups on the property being kind to each other in a quiet moment of reflection. The wrestling started right after 🙂 Photo by Shirley Maxwell. Thanks, Shirley!
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3 thoughts on “Starting a Kindness Ritual”
There’s such a lot to be said for what used to be labeled “chivalry”; opening doors, taking hats off at the table, carrying heavy things, just a check-in phone call to say, “Hi! Need anything?” And the reward is to feel pretty darn good about it. s;)
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Thought for a future post: I remember reading “women’s magazines” – you know the ones – which would claim to tell you how to have great hair, lose weight, good skin, nails that would stand up to hauling cement blocks, how to interact with your children and make them want to become doctors, scientists, engineers, billionaires and still stay nice and humble… and I’d read the articles and add up the time each of these things required and then go take a nap ’cause hey, that stuff is exhausting!
These days, I’ve given up on the hair, the skin, the nails. The weight/exercise piece is in pretty good shape, but the philosophical/humanitarian/political piece is hard to get a handle on. With SO MANY things happening (read: going to hell in a handbag) on a daily basis, I feel like a duck in a shooting gallery a lot of the time. It’s tempting to just unplug a while… “turn off the TV, throw away the paper, move to the country, build me a home, plant a little garden, eat a lotta peaches, gonna find Jesus on my own” you know? But at the same time, I feel a responsibility to those who come after. Looking for balance!
Oh, my gosh, Sam. Great stuff here. I will add this to my “think on this and write!” folder. Thank you! I love how you think.