Kindness seems to be a hallmark of human evolution; a sign of social maturation. As we evolve socially, we come closer together as an ecological whole, harmonising with one another rather than destroying each other and ourselves in the process. Over history we have seen changes occur in the way women and children are treated, with kindness and rights being extended to them. The same has occurred with racial groups who were previously at the mercy of more powerful conquering nations. The pinnacle of modern social interaction is based on equality, fairness and kindness. Our next great hurdle to overcome on this journey will be speciesism, where our human-centric sense of entitlement justifies our abuse of power in relation to other animals.
Evolution requires cooperation, and whole-self integration. This cooperation not only needs to occur between different genders, races and social groups, it needs to occur between humanity and nature. We need to work with nature, in harmony with it, rather than blindly destroying the Earth’s ecosystems and thereby destroying the environment we are a part of and hence dependant upon for life. Whole-self integration is about integrating the heart and higher consciousness with our basic self-preservation instincts on a personal level, while also recognising that our concept of ‘self’ can extend beyond the individual self to include others.
Much of my work as an empathic healer and counsellor revolves around facilitating mindfulness, reconnecting people with their emotions and teaching people emotional intelligence. As mind-body disconnects heal and childhood wounds are addressed, many people find that their sense of self naturally expanding outwards to include others. With whole-self integration comes a core stability that makes us feel safe enough to extend ourselves in kindness and empathy. I teach my clients how to balance kindness for others with kindness for self; empathy and compassion with healthy boundaries.
The web address for this site, SelfCare4Me, reflects my empathic sense of being connected with the world around me and the joy I derive from caring for my ‘self’ by extending kindness into the world around me. I was raised by a mother with strong empathic values so I have good grounding in this art as a personal discipline, but over 20 years of meditation experience have blessed me with multiple experiences of expanded awareness in which I felt I was ‘one’ with everything. Modern science refers to this as ‘loving-kindness meditation’. These experiences have strongly shaped my sense of connection with the world around me, to the extent that helping others feels like helping myself, and harming others would be like harming myself.
Modern science is discovering the psychological and physiological benefits of altruism, generosity and positive psychology on both individual and social levels. We don’t lose anything by being kind: we gain. Here are some great articles exploring the benefits of compassion and kindness:
Some quotes from an Article from the Association for Psychological Science:
“It is not surprising that compassion is a natural tendency since it is essential for human survival. As has been brought to light by Keltner, the term “survival of the fittest,” often attributed to Charles Darwin, was actually coined by Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinists who wished to justify class and race superiority. A lesser known fact is that Darwin’s work is best described with the phrase “survival of the kindest.”
“Though economists have long argued the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that, at our core, both animals and human beings have what APS Fellow Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley, coins a “compassionate instinct.” In other words, compassion is a natural and automatic response that has ensured our survival.”
“Finally, one additional way in which compassion may boost our well-being is by increasing a sense of connection to others. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure. On the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50 percent increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system (research by Cole shows that genes impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation), helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.”
Some quotes from an article about the benefits of loving-kindness meditation, from a scientific perspective:
“Decreases Your Bias towards others:
A recent study (Kang, Gray & Dovido, 2014) found that compared to a closely matched active control condition, 6 weeks of Loving Kindness Meditation training decreased implicit bias against minorities.”
“Decreases Chronic Pain
A pilot study of patients with chronic low back pain randomized to Loving Kindness Meditation or standard care, Loving Kindness Meditation was associated with greater decreases in pain, anger, and psychological distress than the control group ( Carson et al., 2005).”
“Decreases Telomere length – a biological marker of aging
We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of your genetic materials – chromosomes – that are a biological marker of aging). However, Hoge et al (2013) found that women with experience in Loving Kindness Meditation had relatively longer telomere length compared to age-matched controls!”