The Practice of Kindness in a Creative Life

 

         This morning I’m reflecting on the power of kindness and how this plays a part in my life and my writing. How can I seek to be kinder to others? Most importantly, am I being kind to myself? Do I beat myself up when my writing isn’t going well or do I uplift myself? So many artists, writers and creative people have issues with fear and self-doubt, and many of them succumb to drugs or suicide. Sometimes, the most incredible talents leave this earth because they weren’t able to be kind to themselves. And when we aren’t kind to ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to be kind to others, at least in a real way.

         I have to start with the premise that being kind should be a universal value, something we must seek to bring out in ourselves and in our children. Many visionaries and spiritual teachers have taught the practice of unconditional love for all, but sometimes I think this is vague and unrealistic for many of us. It’s hard to get there from where we are as a society, and therefore, easy to dismiss. I think the practice of kindness is much more attainable. When we are kind to others, we are being kind to ourselves, for none of us can be joyful when we have been unkind. And same vice versa. But how do we practice this? When do we fail?

         As a person, a friend, a wife and a mother, I can easily identify the ways that I’m kind to others and to myself, and I can also see the times I fail. But as a creative person and as a writer, how does kindness play a role?

         For me, the practice of kindness is that which makes others feel happier when they are near you: you say kind things to others and you help them in the ways that you can. The practice of kindness, then, is thinking of others and opening your awareness to the struggles of all, and then finding ways to ease that suffering. The practice of kindness spreads from one person to another. The practice of kindness is that which makes the giver of that kindness feel strong and confident.

         How do we, as writers and creative people, do this for one another? What do we do when a fellow writer is bummed out over a creative disappointment? How do we cheer on one another during failures and success? Or when a fellow writer is in the writer’s version of purgatory as they wait for feedback from their editor or agent, how do we help them out? Recently, when I was in this purgatory, I had several writing friends sending me uplifting comments and encouragements, and I so appreciated this kindness. It boosted me up and got me writing. We must do this for one another.        

         How can we do it for ourselves? I’ve heard writers talk about walking through a bookstore and experiencing feelings of jealousy, despondency, misery. Do we read something and think, man, I could never write like that?

         No matter what level the writer is at, he/she will experience feelings of inadequacy at one time or another. I guess this is true for any field. Reviews make most writers cringe, especially Goodreads; however, we’ve all been guilty of reading them at one point or another, searching for the uplifting comments and then withering at the negative ones. This is just one example of the ways we can sabotage ourselves at creative people.

         How can we fortify ourselves so that being kind to ourselves is easier? How do we uplift ourselves? So many creative people dive into drugs and alcohol, but I feel that this is such a temporary relief, with very negative long-term consequences. I think the practice of kindness to oneself and to others provides such a bigger reward.

         It’s important to uplift yourself and keep creating no matter what is happening and no matter what anyone else says about your work. We are doing this work because we love it and this is so important to remember. I have found when I push through the self-doubt and say nice things to myself, surround myself with other supportive writers, suddenly I’ve made an incredible breakthrough and I’m writing at an entirely new level.

         I also think kindness involves how we reach out to other writers/artists to help them and uplift them. Do we blurb their books? Do we spread the word about other people’s work? Do we offer to mentor younger writers? It’s fascinating to me that often the people who have the busiest, most successful careers are also the people who are reaching out to uplift and encourage others.

         There are always challenges. I’ve found a morning practice of yoga and meditation helps me set an intention for the day, and therefore, the practice of kindness becomes easier. This is why, nearly every morning, I do yoga as a preparation for meditation and then meditate as a preparation for life. On the days I miss, the practice of kindness is a greater challenge.

         Even 10 minutes can change the course of the day. The easiest meditation I know is to sit breathing deeply and be aware of your thoughts. Let them past. Counting breaths up to ten and then starting again at one. And when you feel the tension in your body sliding away, you can repeat a mantra. An easy one: breathe in the word “love” and breathe out the word “peace.” End with a blessing or a wish for yourself, the people you love and the world at large.        

         May there be more kindness in the world and may we all feel more kindness toward ourselves, for this is where it starts. Peace and love to all.

 

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