Ajahn Brahm a well-known Buddhist monk, spiritual and humorous author, and all around philanthropist says that one of the most common problems people report in his meetings with them is anxiety. Brahm tells them without hesitation to stop thinking about themselves, and get out there and help somebody. This seems like very forward advice, but it is both clear and accurate. As it turns out, it is also an act of kindness or self-compassion towards the self.
You see, as humans, we start as little blobs and worry about how to become less blobs. We have several milestones that we have to meet and the doctors and parents chart them, and let us know whether we are on pace or woefully behind the pack. This work continues into adolescence for school and later in adulthood in our jobs, relationships, financial arrangements, and many worry about their social status.
As mostly good but diligent people, we find ourselves stressed with all of these obligations, and the mind and body race to keep up with the ongoing demands. Realistically, all these demands cannot be met because let’s be honest most of them are crazy. So, as former blobs, who want to make it in our unblob world we become preoccupied and therefore anxious about the milestones we have met and those we have yet to meet.
The good news is that no matter where you are or what you do, the losses or the gains, you are infinitely lovable. While your body, brain, and social successes may have their ups and downs, your spirit (the very core of you) transcends all of this stuff and remains whole. You are already whole. Where your self (who you love, how you love, what you love) is concerned, you cannot be halved. That is reassuring, especially when we come by honestly moments of feeling like we fall short.
The way back to this feeling of wholeness and restored sense of stability is to take time to do a kindness towards others. The act of kindness will give you a break from thinking about yourself. The love generated by this act will reset your system, giving you the opportunity to realize your competency as a person, but also the goodness that has been there all along.
On a neurobiological level, helping others (at least when done with good intention and without sacrificing our own well being), provides oxytocin, a chemical that nourishes the body and helps the systems working so hard to keep us alive to go back to homeostasis or a state of well being. This helps with anxiety, sleep, and tends to remind us that while we are coming by stress, we are also capable of finding well being. The Dalai Lama calls this selfish compassion.
So go out there and do something nice for somebody just to do it without any thought to what will come of it besides allowing someone to feel that there are people who care. Strangely enough you will be programming your brain that there are people out there who care about you and voila a little more ease and compassion in the tank.
Wishing you all some selfish compassion!
365 Days of Kindness. Day 4. In the Books.