“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
“Teach your children well,” wrote Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and I believe these are some of the wisest words ever written. It has been said that the future belongs to our children, and the future I envision is one where all people—young and old—across the world can live in peace, well-being, and happiness.
My purpose in life is to spread a message of peace to all who will listen. I believe deeply and say regularly, “Outer peace begins with inner peace,” so I teach tools for cultivating inner peace in our lives in my book The Practice. When we feel peaceful, strong, and loving, these feelings permeate everything we do and have a ripple effect on those around us.
We all know that children pick up our vibes and copy our behavior, so what better way to instill in them a sense of inner peace than to reflect that within ourselves? I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach parts of The Practice to high school students in my area and in other workshops geared for young people. I love how receptive they are to the idea that each of us has a steady source of inner peace that we can turn to throughout the day for support. I have even convinced some of them to sit in silence for one minute when they wake up before using the phone or computer!
As a child and a young girl, I didn’t have tools for cultivating inner peace, and so I found myself looking outside to the world for peace and happiness rather than within. It was a long, difficult road for me to find my way “home” to myself. For many, the times feel different in this age of technology and kids really do seem to have more stress and issues facing them; however, the desire for peace, courage, and happiness is never changing.
It Is Never Too Soon to Start a Practice
Whether or not you call it meditation, it is never too soon to teach children the idea of sitting quietly with themselves first thing in the morning and learning to allow their thoughts to come and go without judgment or engagement to start their day at their best.
Helping your child select a Sacred Mantra—or as I often call it with students, a Focus Phrase—gives them a positive, calming word or phrase to turn to when they are feeling stressed, scared, angry, or sad throughout the day.
As the day comes to a close, teaching your child how to reflect briefly on the day and then leaving it in peace can help them sleep more soundly, knowing that they did the best they could.
Teaching young people these three simple tools and helping them to develop a regular practice of using them will lead to a cultivation of their inner sense of peace. The vibe and message they will be sharing out in the world will be one of peace and love. How amazing it is that their generation has the potential to become the generation that brought light to all.
“Together we can change the world, one good deed at a time.”
To give pleasure and joy—this is exactly what we are doing when we do something nice for someone. Isn’t it such a wonderful gift, a great feeling, to brighten another person’s day? Often, all it takes is a few kind words, a thoughtful deed, or even a smile. When we do something for someone from that place in our heart where love and compassion reside, our good deed can be transformational and far-reaching.
Kindness also tends to have a boomerang effect, right? A person for whom we have done a kindness is likely to pay it forward to someone else as they journey throughout their day. And if they do, who knows, perhaps our one good deed or statement will get carried on a wave of kindness that might make its way right back to us..
As Princess Diana once said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” So kindness isn’t something we do so that we will receive a favor in return. Rather it is a selfless act that will nevertheless have a positive affect on our own lives.
I’ve chosen this topic for today’s blog post because October 5 is National Do Something Nice Today. How wonderful to have a whole day dedicated to this idea! But can you imagine if we dedicated a whole month or year . . . or even a whole lifetime to this? That’s what Mother Teresa did through her work with the Missionaries of Charity. While not everyone can dedicate their lives to selfless service as this great woman did, there is certainly something each of us can do every day to make life a little easier or brighter for someone else, even if that is as simple as a friendly smile.
Kindness takes many forms, both large and small. As you go about your day, try to notice opportunities to do something nice for the people in your life as well as for strangers you encounter throughout the day. Below I offer a few general ideas that can fit many different types of situations. I encourage you to get creative. Think outside the box as you spread kindness today!
- Lend a helping hand
- Offer words of encouragement
- Give a sincere compliment
- Support another’s efforts
- Donate your time
- Say hello to passersby
- Be present and listen closely
- Give a thoughtful gift
- Make a comforting gesture, such as a hug or smile
- Bring levity and laughter to a situation
- Spend quality time with others
By spreading the seeds of kindness, our good deeds and words will bloom like flowers. Everywhere we go, the fragrance of our love will be carried on the wind. This is such a beautiful thought to imagine: the whole earth as a bountiful garden of kindness! Doing something nice goes a very long way. . . .
To some people, the idea of being alone doesn’t sound very appealing. In fact, many people view it as something negative and to be avoided. If I’m alone, they think, there must be something wrong with me. In many instances, they may even seem to prefer other people’s company to their own. The truth is, they might actually be afraid to be alone with themselves. I know this because this had been true for me many years ago.
When being alone is too difficult, some people will turn to a harmful distraction to avoid it such as drinking or drugs—or, as was true for me when I was in my twenties, an eating disorder: bulimia. Overeating and purging kept me numb. This addiction is how I avoided being alone with myself and facing my feelings. However, during recovery, I discovered that our alone time is essential to connecting with ourselves.
Being alone gives us a chance to really experience who we are with authenticity and complete honesty. In solitude, we see ourselves from our own perspective, free of concerns about how we might appear to others and what they think of us. Little by little, we peel away those outer layers. In this alone time, we discover our true nature, who we are when no one’s watching—beautiful, kind, and loving—and then connect within to that source of strength, support, and love that assures us we are perfect in this very moment.
In my life today I am no longer afraid of being alone. I actually treasure quiet time and love going on silent retreats! I enjoy many solitary activities, but my morning meditation is the most precious to me. It is in this quiet time with myself that I know, at a deep level, that even though I am sitting alone, I am truly one with everything. This feeling remains with me throughout the day in all my interactions—with others as well as with myself. I feel deeply connected.
In my book The Practice, I talk about my early days of feeling lonely and alone, like I was the on the outside of life looking in and thinking that I would just love to be “somebody,” to be needed, to matter. In treatment for my bulimia over thirty years ago, I learned to meditate. For the past eighteen years, I have been meditating first thing every morning, knowing that in each quiet “sitting with myself,” I am connecting within. I am overcoming my feelings of separateness and aloneness. This brings me great comfort and a beautiful feeling of being connected to myself and everything around me.
What is your story of finding yourself and feeling strong in your own skin—feeling connected?