It was about a week into my training of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee’s martial art style, and my Sifu (teacher) asked me if I made my bed each morning. Sifu had a lot of good energy to him. He would jump up when I arrived and move around a little bit showcasing some dynamic moves, while excitedly asking me if I was ready. It was like a celebration. His knuckles had been flattened over time to prevent damage when he struck hard objects and his kindness and generosity were tangible.
He was like a Winnie the Poo, if Winnie the Poo could kick your butt. He was obsessive about our development of martial art movements, and placed a priority on the sincerity of our sifu-student relationship. His mind was razor sharp, and his questions each seemed to be intentional in the opportunity they gave me to transcend my reality if only in a small way. So, I wasn’t surprised by the question, but I wondered were it would lead.
“Sure, I make my bed before I leave every day. I’m a military college guy.” He liked that answer. He felt that it defined me as honorable, purposeful, and appreciative of the small details. When I asked him why, he wrinkled his brow and for a moment I could see the color rush to his face. He said that he had lived many hard days, and at the end of these days he would look at his hands as if waiting for something to magically appear. He felt disappointed and empty, but one day when he awoke he decided that he would have a good day; a day he could be proud of no matter what, so he made his bed. That changed his life. He said from that moment on he had much more success. He leaned into his teaching, made room for the universe to send him someone to love, and later met that special someone and had a son with her eyes and his warm smile.
I acknowledged that he had done well, and like his teachings he lasered into his point, “The bed,” he told me. “I make the bed every day, so no matter what happens I can always tell myself that I did something.” Making the bed was sifu’s way of giving himself compassion despite a very hard life. The kindness he showed himself every morning with one simple act eventually bore through the bitterness and dread until he had space for hope and love.
We all have hard days, so many sometimes that things feel hopeless. Our life feels hopeless, and we feel empty inside wondering when we will feel full and hopeful again. This is the time to honor our experience and do something kind for ourselves. In my life, I have had many mentors that have all said the same thing. They do what is important first (usually in the morning) because that ensures that it will get done.
So, as soon as you can show yourself some generosity and warmth. Do something for yourself that gives you the feeling of accomplishment and hope first thing, and honor that experience because no matter what the day holds it cannot take that away from you. You are deserving of hope, companionship, kindness, warmth, self-acceptance, and ease.
One year I was sleep deprived every single I day I went to work, and I struggled mightily until I found some self-compassion music. I would sit in my office chair and turn on the music first thing and close my eyes and simply let feelings of warmth and kindness build. Sometimes I actually fell asleep, but I always woke up in time to work. Those days I did some of the best work of my career, and I attribute a lot of that to a daily dose of self-compassion and kindness.
Start the day with a daily dose of self-compassion and kindness, and see if it doesn’t help.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 38. In the Books.