Lighting A Lamp For Somebody, Will Also Brighten Your Own Path – The Buddha

We often talk of doing something good for someone else, we often think of doing something good for someone else, but more often than not life just ‘gets in the way’.  Lets face it, we feel we have enough of our own problems to cope with.   We feel as if we have very little personal free time to enable us to commit ourselves to doing something outside of our regular ‘remit of life’.   “It’s hard enough fitting in some ‘me time’, let alone adding more commitments to my to-do list to stress me out even more” If we are honest, most of us have had this conversation inside our own heads.  Life can often feel like a constant struggle and we are here to enjoy ourselves, right?

Of course we are, and that’s the exact reason why today I decided, my remit needed to change.   This afternoon I signed up as a regular volunteer for a charity that helps women with cancer.  A charity that educates women that are undergoing radio or chemotherapy how to feel womanly and beautiful, despite their sometimes aggressive treatment.  Qualified therapists (like myself) attend workshops at local hospitals and teach patients skin care routines, product knowledge and make-up techniques to help them feel better about themselves on a physical and emotional level.  My own mother had breast cancer and I unfortunately lost my mum-in-law to cancer, so it’s a subject that’s very close to my heart.

Many scientific studies have demonstrated that acts of kindness towards others result in a strengthened immune system and increased serotonin levels for both the person receiving and the person extending kindness.  Serotonin is the chemical produced in the brain which contributes to feelings of calm and peace, it is commonly known as the happy hormone.  Bottom line is this, when we show unconditional kindness to others, it ultimately brings us happiness in return.  It is truly good for the soul.

I also strongly believe that volunteering to any kind of charity also helps to keep you incredibly grounded, it can act as a reminder of what is actually important in your life and what isn’t.  We tend to think our problems are the worst.  When we are feeling down, or have wandered into a spate of bad luck, in our little world we believe no one is suffering as we are.  That is until we are reminded of the truth.

Take a little time each week to consciously spread a little kindness in your world, no act of kindness is too small or ever wasted.   Take an elderly neighbour a few flowers picked from your garden,  offer a friend a lift even if it’s out of your way or like me,  find a charity you can spend just a few hours a month or just a few days a year offering your skills and time to help someone who truly needs that bubble of kindness in their lives.  Do it unconditionally, and with an open heart and before you know it that bubble of kindness will bounce back to you.

For more details of  Look Good Feel Better please visit their website http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself – Wayne Dyer

Lets face it, judging others is a natural human trait.   I try my hardest not to make assumptions about others, I really do,  but sometimes despite my best efforts I will find myself exploring feelings of negativity towards someone else or even making judgements about them.  On the flip side, I sometimes find myself on the receiving end of such perceptions and thoughts.

One thing I strongly believe is this,  every person we encounter in our lives, be it for a short or long period of time, has actually been sent our way to teach us something.   Even if we find this person challenging or so far away from how we view ourselves, they potentially may have arrived to teach us something valuable. One of the worlds most renowned Buddhist teachers Pema Chodron once said   “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”   

Just the other morning,  I was walking to work as the beautiful dawn breaking sun shone down brightly.  A young lady who works near to me just happened to pass by me,  I don’t know her personally but I have seen her on many occasions.  As our paths crossed I welcomed her with a huge beaming ‘good morning smile.’   For whatever reason, my beaming smile wasn’t returned,  in fact, in it’s place was an unwelcoming glare,  a glare of such magnitude, you would have thought I had just committed a inexplicable crime.  Initially I felt saddened that someone would feel the need to openly display such distaste to a stranger.  As she strutted off up the road, it was if her act of unkindness had in fact empowered her.  Wondering what I had done to cause her to react this way, I continued on my walk to work.  As my footsteps padded along, I started to consciously make the effort not to judge.  This lady may have just been having a bad day?  She may have just received some bad news?  Or she may be doing exactly what I was trying  so hard not to do, maybe she was being judgmental about another human being.

I think there are many reason why people judge others.

We don’t like the way others act, or disapprove of their manner and traits, believing we would never behave in that way.

Sometimes exploring  why others behavior can irritate or annoy us, can actually be a true reflection of the aspects we actually dislike about ourselves (although we may find it challenging to admit it).   Jack is a quiet, shy man, and dislikes Bill because he is loud and constantly seeks attention, everyone looks up when Bill walks into a room.  If Jack took a long and honest look within his soul, he may in fact discover, that due to his shyness he sometimes finds it awkward or difficult to express himself in certain social situations. Actually, if Jack was truthful to himself, he may in fact find that during such times he would probably welcome having a little bit of Jacks confidence.   None of us are perfect, and our different qualities and faults are actually what makes us unique.

Jealousy and resentment

Jealously stems from our own insecurities of how we see ourselves and how we think others see us.  We are envious of what others have.  In my twenties I lived in the typical western rat race of working ridiculously hard,  desperately trying to obtain as many materialistic possessions as I could.  I wanted to show my parents, my friends and the world just how successful I was. If I got a nice expensive dress, it would show I must be successful.  If I got a beautiful new car, that would mean I was successful.  If I got a huge house, everyone would know I was successful.  I also spent hours in the gym, pounding the treadmill day after day, determined to get that perfect female body, the type of physique we see so often on television and in the women’s glossy’s.    In my twenties, I just didn’t get it.  This constant, relentless striving simply left me feeling incomplete.  ‘If I just get that new pair of shoes, the one’s like Carole’s, I know I will feel happier’.  I would strive to get the shoes, and admittedly when I initially skipped out of the shop with them under my arm I would feel happier – that was until I started focusing on the next thing to make me happy again.  

In my thirties that all changed, my priorities shifted and suddenly I understood.  When we constantly compare ourselves to others, craving what they have or how they look, we are constantly searching for happiness outside of ourselves, instead of from within.   There is nothing wrong with having any of these things, in fact being financially successful means you are potentially in a position to help a lot of people, if you chose to invest your money wisely, but don’t kid yourself that focusing so much on attachment brings you true  peace within your soul.  It’s all about balance, don’t become so attached to your attachments that you in fact begin to judge your worth or status on this planet through them.  Or if you begin to question your ability to be happy without them, it’s time to stop and reflect at what’s truly important to you in your life.

This also applies to others wealth or abundance.  If someone you know has just purchased a lovely new car, even though you are still running around in your beat up old Ford, be happy for them.  If you feel someone is more successful than you because they earn £5k more a year, be happy for them.   Resentment and jealously just eats up inside of you, it will affect you more than it affects the person your jealousy is aimed towards.   Controlling these emotions, will also help control your own level of happiness.

We loose sight of our journey being simply that – Our journey.

We have to remember is this, our choices and decisions in life are part of our own personal path or journey.  If we disagree with a decision made by another, or how they have behaved, that is fine, we are obviously entitled to that opinion.  However we should always be mindful that we aren’t that person.  We may not share their view, or may not think we would behave in a particular manner, but before we become frustrated, irritated or annoyed and maybe even begin to judge that person,  we should take time step back from the situation and remind ourselves that we are walking our path and others are walking theirs.  Our path’s are different, sometimes they will run parallel and sometimes they will meet a cross roads, it’s just simply part of the whole glorious journey of life.