Living into my kind promises (and contemplating writing a new book), I discovered that several of my promises seem to say the same thing. There are shades of difference, but they are very similar. Consider this:
I will surrender patiently.
I will open to each moment.
I will be tender with weaknesses.
All three of them are about opening to what is. Therefore, I am considering creating a new kind promise.
I have been looking at the contributions of positive psychology. Positive psychology, according to psychology professor Robert Emmons, is “scientifically informed perspectives on what makes life worth living.” He identifies three key strengths: forgiveness, gratitude and humility. Humility is the only strength not included in my kind promises. Emmons says there is no easy definition of humility, but it involves an accurate sense of one’s own strengths, acknowledgment of gaps in knowledge and limitations, openness to new ideas and an ability to “forget the self.” Do I want to create a kind promise about humility?
I am taking an online class right now in James Baraz “Awakening Joy. The qualities he suggests as important to a joyful life include intention, mindfulness, gratitude, integrity, letting go, connection, loving ourselves, compassion and the joy of being. From that list, integrity and the joy of being are not reflected in my kind promises. Integrity. By integrity, he means thinking and acting in a way that will enhance the well-being of yourself and others, being true to yourself. Do I want to create a kind promise about integrity?
The Greater Good Science Center has several themes: gratitude, altruism, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, happiness and mindfulness. Of those, I think altruism is missing from my kind promises. They define altruism as “when we act promote someone else welfare, even at a risk to ourselves.” Do I want to create a kind promise about altruism?
Lastly, I considered Brené Brown’s definition of “wholehearted living.” She concludes authenticity, self compassion, resilience, gratitude, intuition, play, calm, meaningful work and laughter, song and dance. That list is very different from any of the others, but I wanted to include it because I am such an admirer of her work. The themes I don’t see reflected in my promises (or integrated into the practice of them) are intuition and meaningful work. At first, I thought “well, I can toss ‘meaningful work’ out, because I am “on disability.” In fact, as my disability increases the issue of how I spend my days gets more important. Do I want to create a kind promise about meaningful work?
What have I learned?
I suspect that “surrendering patiently” is, in fact, practicing humility. Perhaps surrender is about humility and “I will open to each moment” is about mindfulness. Being tender with weaknesses may also be a practice in humility.
So, what kind promise will I practice this month?
“I will spend my days in a way that enhances the well-being of myself and others.” This promise is inspired by James Baraz’ definition of integrity and Brené Brown’s concept of meaningful work. I become concerned, as my physical abilities decline, that I will watch TV all day. I want to remain connected to current events. I want to be a positive presence in the lives of the people around me. This promise will replace patient surrender in the future.
We’ll see how that goes… If you were making a kind promise for the month, what would it be?