The Spirituality in the City section of our magazine never fails to move and inspire us. In this edition, taken from our new Spring 2019 issue, six readers tell us what kindness means to them, and how they have experienced it in their own lives.
We wanted to share this powerful article by Amanda Collins from our Winter 2017/18 issue, in which she urges us to stop looking to unknown future events for our happiness, and to live for today instead. She says, “You can choose and claim happiness by living, breathing, and doing everything, every day, from a place of self-love.” The time for us to step into our power and choose our birthright of happiness is NOW.
You are love, pure and simple. Happiness is your birthright. All you have to do is choose it and claim it. “How?” you may wonder. You can choose and claim happiness by living, breathing, and doing everything, every day, from a place of self-love. If that sounds impossible to you, it’s time to begin listening to your self-talk, to look for signs and symptoms of denying the love and self-love that resides at the core of your being.
Do you say things to yourself such as “I’ll be happy when…” and then add an event in the future? When I lose more weight, when I find a boyfriend, when I make more money, when I quit my job: all of these thoughts deny you the happiness you might be feeling in the here and now. You are postponing your happiness when you could be inhaling joy and self-love with every breath instead.
Do you say other things to yourself such as “I wish I were as successful in my love life as I am at my job,” or “If only I were as good a parent as I am a friend”? Such thoughts again deny your ability to bring happiness into every area of your life. Instead of wishing, reframe your thoughts with the belief that you can bring the same ease, flow, and energy to your “weak” areas as to your “strong” ones.
Do you say things to yourself such as “Oh, it’s just my usual bad luck!” or “This kind of thing always happens to me”? Such statements deny your freedom of choice. They make you subject to some past negative idea of fate or destiny controlling your life. Be aware of the ways you criticise yourself or expect the worst. These are strong signs that you do not love yourself unconditionally. At some level you may feel (or have been told) that you do not deserve happiness. If so, you can begin the process of rooting out such self-denying attitudes.
Once you have developed the capacity to hear the negative messages in your self-talk, begin affirming the positive in yourself. Meditate to quiet the chatter so you can hear the deeper voice that knows you are love and that feeling self-love is the first step on the path to feeling deserving of happiness. Then you may choose to be happy. NOW.
Affirmations are a key method of reprogramming your mind— which has the quality of neuroplasticity—by replacing negative thoughts, doubts, fears and expectations with positive ones. State positively, as if it has already happened, your intentions and gratitude for whatever will bring greater positive energy and happiness into your life. Repeat each with full conviction five times in the morning and five in the evening. Here are a few examples to help you create your own:
- I give thanks for my lovely children who bring joy and pleasure to my life.
- I deserve to be respected, valued, loved and honoured.
- I am a magnet of success, grateful that limitless opportunities open for me now.
- I give thanks for my busy career and the clarity to use my time wisely.
- Radiant, vibrant good health is mine in every cell and atom of my being.
- I love myself unconditionally and shine that love into the world.
Examine your morning ritual. When you wake up in the morning, do you immediately reach for your phone or computer? Do you look for distraction or affirmation in the outside world? Change that habit. Tap in first. Tap into your heart and higher self. Ask yourself what you are grateful for. Breathe in and fill yourself with gratitude and the possibilities of abundance that each new day brings. From that place of strength, listen to the gremlins of negative self talk and banish them. Go for a run in nature. Stand in the sun or let the rain bathe you so you can connect yourself with the earth.
Find practices that are really nurturing and nourishing to you: whether it’s reading inspiring books, joining webinars and classes, or perhaps getting the therapy you may need for greater support and healing. If you notice you are depressed or low on energy a lot of the time, that’s a good sign you may need some expert help to heal and grow. I believe that getting expert help is a way of loving ourselves. Know that you deserve that time and that support. Give yourself permission to do what is self-loving by practicing self care each and every day.
Listening to yourself, affirming your strengths, examining your habits, practicing self care: these observances will help you cultivate self-love. Stop looking for happiness outside of yourself. Happiness is an inside job. Self-love is an inside job. Choose happiness, claim it as your birthright. Now!
For more information on Amanda’s work, go to www.AmandaCollins.com or www.InternationalFengShuiSchool.com
Good News from around the Globe
Fairy Magic Blooms
The Magic of Kindness
By Aisling Cronin
Magic blossomed into being at the Bloom gardening festival this summer, after Gráinne Brady, of landscaping and permaculture company Shannon Orchard, teamed up with Jasmine Alkhershi, of crafts website Procrastimake. The two sought the help of their local community in Longford to create a stunning fairy garden and trail that went on to claim a certificate of distinction in the postcard garden section at Bloom.
The garden was dedicated to St. Therese’s children’s ward at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Jasmine said, “We decided to donate the garden to St. Therese’s ward to remind the children, who have already dealt with so much, that there is still magic in the world. Really, we just wanted to put a smile on their faces.”
Gráinne and Jasmine decided to name their garden The Magic of Kindness … and amazingly, the garden inspired spontaneous acts of compassion from Bloom festivalgoers, who began to make unexpected financial donations to St Therese’s ward. “We had a wishing well in the garden at Bloom and the children kept asking their parents for money to throw in it,” Gráinne explained. “We hadn’t planned that, but it just happened, and so we donated that money as well. It’s more proof of the Magic of Kindness that’s out there.” The garden raised ?1,132, which will be used to redecorate the ward’s isolation unit. As soon as the garden was moved to its new home at Portiuncula Hospital, the children were enchanted by it. Jasmine overheard one girl calling her grandmother to say, “I’m on a sleepover at the hospital and there’s fairies everywhere!”
Cards of Confidence
One Mother’s Incredible Birthday Surprise for Her Son
By Aisling Cronin
To a child who has endured a setback, there is no gift quite as precious as the restoration of their confidence. An autistic young boy named Ben Jackson in Southsea, England, was recently thrilled to receive thousands of birthday cards from well-wishers all over the world, after growing accustomed to disappointing birthdays in previous years.
His mother Lisa had been heartbroken to watch her son’s disappointment when nobody turned up to a previous birthday party. The incident had caused Ben so much distress that the family had been unable to organise another birthday party since then. This year, however, Lisa decided to put out an appeal for birthday cards on social media. The appeal quickly went viral, touching the hearts of people from countries all over the world, including India, Singapore, South Africa and Australia. So many people decided to send cards, in fact, that dedicated trolleys had to be set up at Portsmouth’s sorting office to deal with them all! “My other birthday was awful – this one is a big improvement,” Ben said. “I could not believe my eyes. Thank you everyone. I have so many cards, I’m astonished.” Lisa, meanwhile, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. “I would personally like to say a big heartfelt thank you to every one of you for your comments and messages,” she wrote. “It means so much. I never expected to get such an overwhelming response to my post and I am so grateful to you all.”
Feline Found from 1,000 Km away
Intrepid Explorer Cat Reunites with His Humans
By Aisling Cronin
Anyone with a beloved cat knows just how free-spirited these animals can be. Many cats enjoy wandering through their local neighbourhood and seeking out their favourite sun spots … but they rarely exercise their exploring instincts quite as much as Whiskers, a ginger tomcat who wandered through the Australian outback for three months before finally being reunited with his humans. Three months ago, Whiskers was travelling through the outback in rural Queensland with Luke Hall and his partner, when the couple’s caravan broke down. “Come Sunday night Whiskers got a little restless, and he made his way out the fly wire in the middle of the night,” Luke explained. “I woke up to him leaving, so I jumped out and tried to get him, but he was just too skittish and ran off. It was all just long grass and you can never find a ginger cat in long, dry grass.” After waiting in town for a day longer than they had intended to, he and his partner had to return to their home in Toowoomba, one thousand kilometres away, never knowing what had become of Whiskers. Luckily, Whiskers was recently found and brought to a local vet, who was able to read his microchip and contact Luke. “They said they had Whiskers, and I just couldn’t believe it,” Luke said of the moment he received that call. “A lot of people say there aren’t good people in this world, but it just goes to show there are so many good people left.” Whiskers is now back in the arms of his loving humans, being treated like royalty … just as every cat should be.
The Little Things
Love in Brownie
A Dollop of Kindness Atop Heartache – Glimmer of Hope
By Alison McEvoy
Moist and delicious, the nourishing sweetness melted down my throat in an instant, though the soothing aftertaste of kindheartedness remained for long after.
It was one of those innumerable days at the desk where I was forehead high in emails and phone calls. Every so often a door would open and a chink of light would lengthen out along the floor, only to disappear a moment later. My father was lying in a hospice bed, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just months before, while I typed and answered calls. My body was there but my mind and heart were elsewhere, flailing helplessly on an ocean of grief, anguish and outrage. New to our place of work, colourful bandana atop her head and smile on her face, Elaine greeted me with a palms-to-heart Namaste. She reached into her bag and pulled out a little sky-blue tin with pink flowers. Inside, wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with a red string bow, were a stack of black-bean, chocolate brownies. Their sweetness, the little bow…filled both my stomach and heart, and suddenly, I was smiling. A real smile. I felt its glimmer of warmth spread through my entire body. I recognised that no matter the circumstances of life, a moment of joy and gratitude is always within reach. And a simple act of kindness can be a powerful avenue for a person in despair to find their way out, even for a day.
The Monks in the Forest
The Magic of Taking It Easy and Following The Feel-Good
By Andrew McAvinchey
Eva and I were married on June 24th this year, in the magical fairyland of Glengarriff Lodge in West Cork. From the outset we had a rule: “If it’s easy, we’ll do it, if it’s hard, we won’t.” We agreed to trust that everything would be taken care of, if we could just follow what felt good and let go of what didn’t. We drew little images of a medieval tent, and a river, a feast and a forest… We didn’t go looking for these things, but when they appeared we said yes, even when we wondered how on earth we’d pull it all off. Every step, little signs and coincidences were like a wink from the universe, like a friend saying “I got this.” The morning of the wedding, I drove to town to pick up some flowers. Coming back, at the entrance to the forest, two Buddhist monks dressed in saffron robes appeared. They were completely out of context, yet belonged to this dream I was in. I stopped and asked for a blessing, which they both chanted in Sanskrit above my car window. Then we all moved on.
The thing is, with Eva and I, things like this happen all the time. It’s like together we’ve chosen to ride this wonderful wave. It takes bravery to live this way and Eva’s one of the bravest people I’ve ever met.
This is an excerpt from our Summer 2016 issue. Read our 4 other stories by subscribing soon so we can post you a copy or picking up a magazine from one of our lovely stockists all over Ireland. Tell them we said hello!
The strange thing about tragedy is how it affects the senses. Smells seem more intense, and sounds that were once pleasant, like carefree laughter, can be stress-provoking instead. I remember a few years back while I was living abroad, on a particularly bad day after receiving some crushing news; I’d taken a walk to clear my head. Strapped for cash at the time, I decided to get a small hot chocolate with no extras. It was not what I usually ordered, but it was all I could afford. When it came time to pay, the barista presented me with a large chocolate topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. At first I thought he’d gotten my order wrong, until he wouldn’t accept any money for it. He said I looked like I was having a bad day, so he made my usual order and told me it was on him, I deserved a treat. That seemingly small kindness impacted me more than the barista probably imagined. Every sip was a comfort to my heightened senses, a reassurance. I had gone from feeling isolated, alone, to feeling cared for. It was the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
I think I’ve always carried out small acts of kindness for others but it never really impacted my life in a big way. Truth be told; doing little things for others used to be a way of trying to fill some void inside of me, even though it never really worked. Thinking people might notice me, like me, tell me I’m of some value etc. Accepting gratitude as a substitute for love. And these things did happen, but I always still had that empty feeling in my heart. Two years ago I reconnected with myself/my heart/ soul/ spirit/Source/God/ Universe, whatever you wanna call it, and now these little acts of kindness towards others have a massive impact on my life. Every positive connection with another soul brings me closer to not only them, but me and Source too. It’s win/win/win. It’s like I’m constantly filling up my soul with something divine, then that shows in every area of my life.
This is an excerpt from our Summer 2016 issue. Read our 4 other stories by subscribing soon so we can post you a copy or picking up a magazine from one of our lovely stockists all over Ireland. Tell them we said hello!
1. Connected & Present
Our constantly connected digital culture doesn’t have the greatest rep. Great things have happened because of technology but it can draw our attention away from the present moment. But are retreats where your precious phone is ripped from your tightly clenched fist for three days the best way forward? Or is there a more graceful way to have it all? Chris Flack of UnPlug and London based Vinaya’s CEO Kate Unsworth believe we can.
Vinaya are the creators of Altrius, a smart-jewellery range that notifies you of only the most pressing alerts. Chris Flack who’s a big a fan of the idea gave a lovely example. A husband and wife go out for dinner, they want to spend time together away from the kids and the phones. But if something serious arises back at the nest, of course they want the babysitter to get in touch. According to Chris, even leaving a phone in sight, screen down, impacts the dynamics of a conversation. Altrius is programmed to alert you only to calls from chosen contacts. Pop on the uber-stylish ring or pendant and forget about Facebook notifications pulling your attention away from your partner’s lovely eyes and smile.
Flack is also reworking the idea of digital detoxes to offer people something we can use even when we turn back on the phone. “UnPlug teaches you how to manage your technology instead of letting it manage you.” And it must be working because they’re running sellout retreats. Just as we shouldn’t need to rid every shred of negativity from the world before we find happiness within, so must we find a way to become present – with or without the phone.
2 The Kindness Trip
You’re a cafeteria worker in a University. Every day, you chat to the students, ask them about their classes, see how they’re doing and keep track of them throughout their time at college. It probably makes your job a little nicer and you’re a caring, loving soul, so you enjoy it. The last thing on your mind is probably that these consistent, daily gestures of loveliness are going to end up taking you on your dream holiday, but such was the case for Vicke Davis of Barrett College. In January, over 100 students showed up to surprise her with news that they had raised enough money to send her on what they knew was her dream holiday – a trip to see the Northern Lights – and presented her with a camera too so that she could bring some of the magic back with her. Her response, “See, that’s why I love my babies,” tearing up as she makes her way through the crowd to hug as many of them as she can on her thirty minute break and exclaiming, “I’m gonna bring back a lot of key chains!”
3 Kids These Days
Once again, kids are showing us adults up for their huge efforts in goodness, kindness, generosity, perseverance and dedication to positivity and helpfulness the world over. What’s lovely is that their ideas are always really simple, and have an instant and direct positive effect. A pair of Australian best friends were named Young Australians of the Year for their laundry for the homeless project. A little under two years ago, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett converted a van into a mobile laundry unit, it had two washers and two dryers and began bringing the van to parks, homeless shelters and anywhere else they thought they could be of use. Now, the boys oversee five of these vans and at absolutely no charge, have washed over 75 tonnes of clothes. Across the oceans to Florida, some even younger kids are getting active to help out the homeless. Inspired by a story they’d seen online (proving good news stories in the media have a nice knock-on effect!) , a group of girls from a local church collected over 100 jumpers and coats before an upcoming cold spell in the area. The girls tied the clothing to lamp posts with messages explaining that it wasn’t a lost coat, but one that could be taken and used to stay warm.
Positively Newsworthy – The Little Things, Brought to you by By Niall Mac Giolla Rua.
Beautiful events and moments are happening all around us. Look around, smile, see kindness everywhere you go. If it’s not there, you have been gifted the wonderful opportunity to be the person to introduce it to that space and time, create it, watch the ripples…
One day I dropped into Bewley’s on Grafton St. for a quick coffee. I sat next to a table where a woman was just leaving. All I remember about her is that she didn’t eat her amaretto. Bewley’s always sat a delicious little amaretto biscuit next to your coffee on the saucer, and I was a greedy monster for these things. I adored them; how anyone could just leave one there and not eat it was incomprehensible to me but it didn’t matter; that amaretto was going straight into my mouth the moment she was out of sight.
I wasn’t fast enough.
Before the woman got to a respectable distance a waitress came and cleared the table. I couldn’t help it—I let out a clearly audible “Aaw!” When the waitress turned to enquire there was no way out; I had to explain myself. “It’s just…I was going to eat that amaretto. What? I can’t help it. I love them so much!” I was working perhaps a bit too carefully on appearing non-embarrassed.
She laughed and took my order. A few minutes later she came back looking very happy with herself. She proudly presented me with an Americano coffee on a saucer packed full of Amaretti. Her smile had that endearing “Look what I made” quality and I couldn’t thank her enough. There are very few times in my life when I’ve felt so truly loved.
She took the opportunity to be beautiful that day and to show who she really was behind the anonymous waitress role. Opportunities like that don’t always come along, but obviously beauty must have already been strong in her to seize this opportunity with such expressive flair. Looking back I realise I was aware of her inner beauty before we spoke, which is why I was so relaxed and honest with her. There’s always a beauty there waiting to express itself. I’ve been learning that when I’m aware of this beauty, when I’m tuned in and listening to it, the world finds more and more extraordinarily beautiful ways of presenting it to me. Now, looking back, that girl was being perfectly normal, I just hadn’t quite learned to see at the time. She was one of my teachers.
Washington DC high school students, Josh Kennedy-Noce and D’Mani Harrison-Porter attended a leadership camp a year or so ago and left inspired to start a community service club for their school.
One of the club’s activities is Sandwich Days, where teens gather to make sandwiches for homeless people and they have made thousands! As temperatures got chillier, the kids decided to collect and distribute coats. Not content with that gesture alone, they wrote kind, encouraging notes and placed them in the pockets for the recipients to find later. We may say it’s the thought that counts but these kids showed us that action is powerful.
Taken from our autumn 2015 issue, subscribe to have the next four issues delivered to your door in print.
If you asked Jorge Munoz what he does, he’d probably tell you that he’s a school bus driver. That’s definitely one truth but doesn’t really tell you much about what he’s doing the rest of the time. For over five years, every day, he’s come home, rested for ten minutes, had a coffee and then gets to work on job number two. A job he puts not only a lot of time into but also a large percentage of his own earnings.
In his small apartment, he sets about cooking up a storm with some help from family and friends. Then he heads out to a street corner by a subway stop in New York to dish out 120-140 dinners to whoever needs them. He’s been doing it so long he says the people he meets feel like part of his family now.
“When I started there was just like, eight guys. Two weeks later there was twenty four.”
He says it kept growing but there’s been sharp jumps in numbers in the last six months and he says that that’s not due to word of mouth anymore, it’s the economy. The economy of Jorge’s own life is that he earns about $700 dollars a week and spends about half of that on food, drinks and packaging. Why does he do it? “God and my mom. She taught me to share…and when you see them smile, that’s the way I get paid.” But others have paid testament to his efforts too, receiving a Citizens Medal from Barack Obama in 2010 and named a CNN Hero in 2009.
When you think of a bunch of old ladies, it’s nice to let a number of very sweet stereotypes come to mind initially. Grey haired women in pale colours who smell of baking and lavender, with soft faces that are lined with the wisdom they’ve learned and the kindness they’ve chosen. What may not pop to the fore of your thoughts is an incredibly organised, secret, well run operation. Which is why it’s good to not let stereotypes affect our estimation of people, because for over 30 years, nine women in Tennessee have been running what is basically a kindness gang, without even their husbands finding out.
“What if we had a million dollars? How would we spend it?”
“MaMaw Ruth would read in the paper that someone had died and she’d send off one of her special pound cakes. She didn’t have to know the family. She just wanted to put a little smile on their faces. And we started thinking about what we could do to make a difference like that. What if we had a million dollars? How would we spend it?” Together they came up with a plan to spread a bit of happiness or relief.
They begin baking at every day at 4am, ensuring they have enough treats for anyone who could do with one, but have also paid utility bills, bought clothes and more. They find out who’s in need of something often by eavesdropping on conversations as they go about their daily lives. To afford it, they cut down costs in their own lives where they could and began clipping coupons.
To date, they have contributed nearly $900,000 of happiness to their local community. That’s pretty close to their “If we had a million dollars” start, and all it took was secrets, the best kind of mischief, absolute loveliness and a whole lot of time and effort.
This is taken from our summer 2015 issue. Subscribe to have each issue of Positive Life delivered direct to your door.