Tag Archives: altruism

I Am

I get angry and irritable. I criticise myself and others. I complain. I get depressed and cynical. I lose hope. I cry. I have unkind thoughts. Fear blocks me. I envy others their good fortune. I gossip. I need. I desire. I try to control. I resist what is.

I love. I share. I feel empathy and compassion. I give. I help. I donate. I listen and understand. I open my heart. I feel joy. I appreciate beauty. I am affectionate. I meditate. I laugh. I am present.

Which list is nicer? Should I feel pride about one and shame over the other? Is one list worse or better than the other? Is one good and the other bad? Is either list more or less human? Does any of it define who I am?

Do I dislike myself when I dip into the ingredients of the first list? Is there such a thing as a negative emotion? And should I attempt to dismiss it as soon as it arises? Or do I allow? Welcome? Embrace?

It is what it is. And I am everything. Good and bad. Darkness and light. Ugly and beautiful. Tears and smiles.

It all moves through me. I unhook, detach and observe. I peel off the layers and labels and I see that I am human and more than that. I am indescribable. I cannot be named.

I feel and experience. I judge and then I remember not to judge. And it ebbs and flows and ebbs once again.

40.media.tumblr.com

40.media.tumblr.com

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Happy

Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary called Happy. This film explores what makes people happy. It was a welcome reminder of what happiness really is and all the ways we can work on and maintain happiness in our lives.

Interestingly, our genetic makeup determines 50 per cent of our happiness. Some of us are just born happier! Circumstance (where we live, our job, life events) only contributes 10 per cent towards our happiness. So we have a whole 40 per cent to work with. We have the power to boost our own happiness. It’s a personal choice. And one well worth making.

So because it’s always good to be reminded of how to be happy, and especially coming up to Christmas, I’m going to share a few of the best ways to promote happiness.

1. Gratitude: Recalling all the things you’re grateful for really makes you appreciate all you have. I’m currently keeping a 30-day gratitude journal where I write 10 things each day that I’m grateful for and the reasons why. Afterwards, I read them aloud. So by day 30, I’ll have 300 wonderful things to read. I’m only on Day 6 but already I’m feeling the change in my mood and my energy. And it’s making me more aware of the abundance of things I have to be grateful for as I go about my days.

2. Compassion: Caring for others is guaranteed to make you feel good too. Try completing a random act of kindness. Give a stranger a free parking ticket, donate clothes to the homeless or volunteer to work with the ill or the elderly. Helping others unites you with your fellow man. Doing meaningful things with your time fills you with a sense of purpose and pride. Another way of bringing compassion into your life is to do a Loving-Kindness meditation where you focus on sending love and kindness to yourself and to others. This form of meditation has even been known to help with depression.

3. Flow: Do things that bring you into a state of flow. When you’re in flow, you’re totally in tune with what you’re doing. You’re present. Time stands still. For some people, this could be painting or playing piano. It could be scuba diving or upcycling, surfing or sewing. Uncover your passion, get your creative juices bubbling and enter the flow.

4. Dopamine: Dopamine is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In simple terms, it’s a feel-good chemical. We release this chemical when we perform rewarding activities like eating and having sex. However as we age, this hormone is produced less and less. The good news is that the more we show our bodies that we need this chemical, the more our bodies will continue to make it. It’s like a muscle that gets bigger the more we exercise it. Aerobic activity is great for stimulating dopamine release. Interestingly, if we work out in novel ways, even more dopamine is released. So instead of your usual jog, sign up for The Color Run. Rather than hitting the gym, go rock climbing or white water rafting. Replace walking around the estates with a hike to a spectacular location.

5. Mix it Up: Following on from the previous tip, another way to prevent yourself from sliding into monotony is to change things around. Take an alternate route when you’re walking your dog. Try out a different café. Attempt a fresh recipe from that book that’s been collecting dust ever since you received it three Christmasses ago. Join an adventure club. Attend a Meetup outing and make new friends. Travel to a destination on the opposite side of the map. After watching Happy, Bhutan is now on my bucket-list. Bhutan is a place located on the slopes of the Himalayas that officially uses Gross National Happiness as an indicator to measure quality of life in holistic and psychological terms. Now that’s my kinda country!

As you can see from the list above, the road to happiness is simple. And it’s free. In fact, once our basic needs are met, money does very little to increase happiness.

Happiness is sharing a meal with your loved ones. Happiness is laughing over a latte with friends. Happiness is being present with your children. Happiness is being astonished by the beauty of nature and the miracle of life. Happiness is when you realise  just how rich you really are.

There is Light

Recently, a friend asked if I wanted to join her in giving gifts to the homeless for Christmas. As soon as she suggested it, I knew that this would be my priority for the day.

I bought socks, hats, gloves, scarves and chocolates and we set out one cold, windy evening. I hoped that the heavy rain would disappear before we wandered around the city but then I realised that this was just one evening out of my life, unlike every evening that the homeless had to endure. The following Feed the World lyrics came to mind: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”

For the next couple of hours, we handed presents to the homeless. We were greeted with smiles and thank you’s. One man was so surprised, he continued to shout his thanks long after we’d left. It broke my heart and opened it in one fell swoop.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the Win/Win Paradigm of Human Interaction. This is the mindset that sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. It’s based on the principle that there is plenty for everyone, that one person’s success isn’t achieved at the expense of others. “It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”

Many people have become jaded with the ways of our world. There is war and violence, theft and abuse. There is illness and death, grief and sorrow. But there is also love, connection and altruism. There is laughter, joy and sharing. The opening speech of Love Actually says it so perfectly:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

What if it’s not you versus me, and us versus them? What if we came together, helped one another, and recognised that we are part of the same whole? What if we gave love to ourselves and others? And accepted the love that is all around?

Last night, I attended an amazing gig – Paddy Casey and The Secret Light Orchestra featuring the Shannon and Dublin Gospel Choir. The song Paddy started with was There is Light. I’ll finish with his beautiful words:

“We are everything, we are everything. And we have wild and precious songs to sing. We are lights that shine, throughout all time. We have all of this and more to bring… And the love that moves between us all knows we are the same.”

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Random act of kindness

Last week, I was presented with an interesting assignment: give something to a complete stranger. I loved the idea! Little did I know how difficult I would actually find it…

I gleefully pondered the many wonderful things I could bestow upon a stranger. I could buy someone a coffee or hand a child a large, coloured lollipop. I could pay for someone’s parking or help an elderly person across the street. I could saunter up to a solitary diner in a café and present them with a beautiful lemon cupcake. I could purchase a bus ticket for the person behind me in the queue.

But I repeatedly talked myself out of each idea. They’ll think I’m crazy. My motives will be questioned. It’s easier to just look after myself. I marvelled at my own hesitation.

Three days later, I still hadn’t completed my mission, and I was having a pretty horrible week. Money worries, strife with a loved one, and a serious dose of PMS. I was hardly in any form to accomplish this random act of kindness.

Today, after a triathlon of tears, free-flow writing and meditation, I dragged myself out the door. And someone from a passing car fired an egg at me! Its insides dribbled across my runners. I wanted to cry.

I considered going home immediately as I silently wailed: Who would want to make someone cry? Then, I wondered: Was the energy I was giving off attracting all this negativity? The car had long gone and I hadn’t reacted. I sent the goon with the great aim some loving thoughts, took a deep breath, and made up my mind to be strong and turn things around. It was now or never.

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I popped into a shop and bought a Cornetto. A man wearing sunglasses walked my way.

I tried: “Hi. Can I give you an ice cream?”

“I don’t want it,” he muttered as he side-stepped me.

I felt bad but I recognised his scepticism towards my altruism, and moved on. A few others approached me.

“Would anyone like a Cornetto?” I ventured.

“Why?” asked an elderly lady.

“Because I’d like to give this to someone.”

She took it and queried,” How much do you want for it?”

“Nothing,” I answered. “I just wanted to give it to someone.”

With that, she beamed and said: “Thank you. That’s very kind.”

I walked home with a renewed light in my eyes and a smile on my lips. As I neared my flat, a young boy grinned at me and bellowed, “Hi!” The negative energy I had been wallowing in melted away in this child’s generous greeting.

This once-assumed easy task taught me a lot. It showed me that I still care what people think of me. It confirmed that what we’re thinking about the world will be perfectly mirrored back to us. I realised how suspicious people can be of simple acts of kindness but that is merely because these acts are so rare. When you do something with a pure heart, the self-protective barriers will subside, and the results will be extremely rewarding for both giver and receiver.

Now, I have an assignment for you, my lovely readers. Give something to a complete stranger. Take note of what happens and be aware of how you’re thinking and feeling before, during and after the act. It will teach you some valuable lessons and it will make a lucky stranger’s day.

"The universe is exactly the way we think it is and that's why." John Woods

Featured image: Painting by Pamela Cisneros