In March, I had the pleasure of seeing Kristen Graves perform during the Listening Room Festival showcase concert in St. Pete. While she was interacting with the crowd she mentioned that she wanted to start her own political party – the “Just Be Nice” Party. It’s pretty self explanatory… (I should probably mention that she’s a pretty kickass musician as well. Check out her music!!) And, I feel, much needed in a political system dominated by fear, antagonism, a mentality of every man for himself, a lack of respect for human rights, etc… It’s amazing how far a little “Just Be Nice” would go in this crazy old world.
I feel that “Just Be Nice” ties in nicely to the idea of living daringly. Sometimes it’s hard to “just be nice.” We have our own worries about student loan debts, paying the bills, changing diapers, the car breaking down, passing that class, hoping we are liked, making that deadline, working out… One thought after another, all day long. It’s hard to extend the hand of compassion to that woman who cut you off on the way to work, or that guy who has a cart full of groceries in the 10-and-under line, when you are thinking about all of those other things.
But what if we could quiet the mind, while cultivating understanding and compassion into our daily lives?
The teacher of the meditation retreat I attended today suggested that meditation can be a way to do this. We practiced quite a few breathing meditations during the retreat. Essentially you find a quiet place to sit with good posture, and you focus on your breath. In and out… Here and now… Thoughts sneak (or plunge) into your consciousness, but you patiently and forgivingly pull your consciousness back to your breath. Repeat as necessary…
Focusing on the breath is such a simple concept, and you don’t have to do it for very long until your mind feels calmer and more focused. Patience and forgiveness are more challenging, but very important concepts that we must extend to ourselves as much as we extend them to others! “Just be nice” to yourself too!!
One of the things I like about both meditation and yoga is that they are almost always referred to as “practice.” I practice yoga. I practice meditation. Yoga and meditation do not fall under Yoda’s statements, “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s all you do in yoga and meditation. You try. You practice. You roll out your mat or plop down on your cushion, and you practice. Which means you have to constantly “just be nice” to yourself in both.
Which is one of the points that was emphasized in the retreat. That as we start to take care of ourselves by creating a space for quiet and compassion, we can then begin extending the hand of compassion to others. We are able to step back from a defensive reaction if someone cuts us off in traffic and empathize instead. If we are able to look at scenarios from a place of compassion and understanding, we aren’t so quick to assume that a friend’s comment was meant to be hurtful. What happens in meditation begins trickling out into real life.
And we begin to “Just be nice” to those we hadn’t before.
I’ve been meditating on and off for quite awhile now (and I admit that I am certainly no expert). I can say that when I meditate regularly that I sleep better, am generally calmer, and am better able to handle stresses that come up. I feel that yoga is a form of moving meditation, so the combination helps. Both meditation and yoga have helped me to “just be nice” to a lot more people, where once I carried anger. Yoga and meditation have both helped me to living daringly in more areas of my life…
So, what do you think about the “Just Be Nice” party? How do you try to “just be nice” in your life? How do you deal with daily stresses, or those ones that feel a whole lot bigger? What about the idea of practicing not only meditation or yoga, but life?