Compass

Orienting Your Life Towards Kindness

Author: Michelle Noehren

Every single day I think about how I can make life better for others. I strive to have positive interactions with everyone I encounter, even those who are upset or angry. I believe in my heart that life is meant to be lived in service to others, and I let that guide every aspect of my day.

But I wasn’t always this way.

I have always had a penchant for kindness, but it wasn’t until about 12 years ago that I intentionally began practicing it in my daily life. The shift occurred for me when I was searching for a way to feel more inner peace because I was in personal situation that was very confusing and was challenging my sense of self. I remember very clearly driving through my neighborhood and seeing a sign advertising meditation classes that happened to be taking place 2 miles from where I lived.

It felt like exactly the “sign” I needed and I wholeheartedly followed it. I was very nervous attending my first class since I had never done anything like this before, but in retrospect, attending a Buddhist meditation class is probably one of the silliest things to be nervous about, because everyone is so loving and welcoming.

The Odiyana Center, located now in East Hartford, Connecticut, made me feel at ease immediately. I quickly fell in love with the teachings and the structure of the classes, so much so that I joined their Foundation Class to do a deep dive into a book about Buddhism.

During that class the teacher challenged us to begin looking at every situation as an opportunity to deepen our compassion and to send caring thoughts to everyone we came across. I was working at the Connecticut Legislature at the time and remember setting up a display in the Legislative Office Building and intentionally sending loving thoughts to everyone who walked by. It felt strange but also exhilarating.

Starting a daily practice of kindness is truly that simple. It begins with a strong wish to be a source of joy in other people’s lives. That wish is then planted in our minds as a seed that grows every time we intentionally think about the well-being of others. Eventually, living our life in service to others becomes completely natural and is no longer something we need to set an intention to do, because it’s ingrained in who we are as a person.

If you feel a pull towards living a more meaningful life, try starting out by setting a daily intention to be more thoughtful and loving in your interactions and in your own mind. Based on my own experience, I promise that you will quickly feel lighter, happier, and more at ease.