When to do a Random Act of Kindness, Part II

Last week, I had a revelation. Before I went to bed one night, I told the Universe I wanted to shift from being a “love-seeker” to being a “love-giver.” I was visiting Ashland, Oregon at the time, and the next day I wandered into a spiritual bookstore downtown. My heart led me straight to two books: The Kindness Handbook, by Sharon Salzberg, and , by Pam Grout. Of course. That’s my style these days – Buddhist-inflected wisdom, on the one hand, and Law of Attraction books, on the other. The Universe was talking back.

Immediately, I opened to a section about falling in love with the world. Grout’s method is to provide spiritual “experiments” designed to put you on an energetic par with your object of manifestation (love, money, spiritual growth, etc.). This experiment was called “love-bombing,” and it involved writing love notes to the world on Post-its and decorating your cityscape with them. I just happened to have a pad of yellow Post-its in my purse. I sat down and got to work.

Every single part of this experiment was fun. I loved scribbling the mirthful phrases on those little squares (“you are AMAZING!” “The world is SO LUCKY to have you in it!”). By the time I got to sticky note #20, I felt delirious with love. More fun was walking around Ashland scouting out places to post them. I visited the public library and stuck them in the middle of popular novels – ones that were sure to be checked out – and in the pages of the huge Oxford English dictionary on display in the reference room. I stuck them on post office boxes, community bulletin boards, and in stacks of free newspapers. I posted one in a dressing room in a clothing shop, and in the menus of the restaurants where I ate. The most fun by far was imagining the happiness these notes might inspire in the people who found them. That’s what made my heart sing. I knew how tickled I would be if I found one myself.

The Kindness Handbook reminded me of my intention to do more random acts of kindness, which I blogged about earlier (coincidentally – or not – that method also involved Post-its). In a coffee shop in Ashland, when the coast was clear and there were no other customers in earshot, I handed two dollar bills to the cashier and asked her to put them towards the next order. Back in Santa Barbara, I taped some “love-bomb” sticky notes to the backs of dollar bills. I walked down State Street and stuck them in random tip jars on restaurant counters, and in plastic racks with tourist brochures on the pier. All told, I went through about three pads of sticky notes in those 72 hours (Grout’s recommended time frame for the experiment).

After the experiment, I wrote up my “research notes,” as Grout suggests. I rated how I felt on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after the experiment. I noted that I went from a “3” to an “8” in a span of four hours. Best of all, I had inspiring, heartfelt conversations with total strangers: a family at my hotel pool, and two different groups of people at a wine bar in the San Francisco Airport (I did a “flight” while I was waiting for my flight. Only in Cali!). During those discussions, I felt attached to nothing: joyful, magnetic, and totally myself.

There was also some icing on the cake. Two days after my experiment ended, I pulled into a parking lot near the beach in Santa Barbara and prepared to pay at the kiosk. The young man in front of me was staring at a piece of paper, looking confused. After he had bought his own 2-hour parking pass, he found another paid pass in the dispenser. He graciously offered it to me. By then I was so firmly on the kindness wagon that my first inclination was to turn around and offer it to the mother and son waiting in line behind me. But before I could open my mouth, I realized that this was actually my time to receive, since that’s what keeps the energetic cycle charged. “This is your lucky day!” chimed the woman behind me. And it was. I happily accepted.

The amount of the windfall was $6 – around what I had blustered into the economy during my “love-bombing.” It was a near-perfect match. While this is indeed how karma works, we can’t go around expecting that to happen, or it would defeat the purpose. As bodhisattvas, we simply maintain a knowingness inside of us that if we keep on giving from the heart, we ourselves will always be provided for. Everything will always come out in the wash.

While $6 is not a huge amount by any stretch of the imagination, we start small when we begin experimenting with giving freely. We train our kindness muscles just like we train our body’s muscles. We don’t begin by lifting the 25-pound weight. We start with a 5-pounder and work our way up. And then one day, we realize we’re bench pressing 1000.