Thursday, April 28, 2011

Think Small

David Nichtern found the idea in Buddhist teachings. It is probably common to most religions. Link here.

It’s a great piece of advice. If you want to improve your life, improve your relationships, and even improve your mood, do a good deed, make a small gesture of kindness and consideration.

Nichtern explains: “Each day in our lives is made up of tiny and discrete moments. Every relationship is made of specific and particular interactions.”

You do not want life to be a blur. You do not want to feel that you are floating along on a sea of emotion. You are not going to make the success of your relationships depend on how much feeling you express.

You do not want your life to feel like one psychodrama after another. You do not want to exhaust yourself by playacting your life.

And you certainly do not believe that you are going to repair your relationships by having heart-to-heart talks about repairing your relationship.

If you want harmony and serenity, productive relationships, start by making small gestures. Be nice on a small scale.

Nichtern is not talking about going to work for a charity, or sacrificing your life for a cause. He is talking about smiling and saying hello to the waiter. Or holding open the elevator for someone.

He is saying that we should recognize that good human relationship are built on an accumulation of small gestures. If you are cranky, hostile, sneering, and aggressive, you will not feel very good about yourself and others will not feel very good in your presence.

If you raise your voice unnecessarily, in a constant effort to bring some drama into your life, you will find yourself alone on the stage, without an audience.

Even if you are not a politician, you can contribute to the overall civility of society by being polite and courteous, to friends, family, and even strangers.

Being kind to others is a great way to get over yourself. Reaching out to others with a gesture of friendship is a wondrous way to better yourself.

People who are socially successful tend to think of the right gesture toward a friend in need. And they know how to make the right gesture when a friend is not in need. They know how to send the right note to a new acquaintance.

I am led to understand that Buddhist teaching suggests that kind gestures produce a wave of positive karma that is going to produce world peace.

Some people will find the thought motivating. For my part, I have my doubts. Hopefully, you will be able to improve the way you conduct your relationships without thinking that you are thereby saving the world.

All that niceness adds up. It adds up slowly, but it adds up surely. It facilitates your human interactions, builds your character, and attracts positive gestures.

You will have to get over the idea that relationships run on autopilot. You can actively improve yours, and those of the people around you, by thinking about how you can be nice to others. It’s a good way to get over yourself. And it costs less than therapy.

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