I think it’s a little too early to claim that sincerity is dead, but it might stand a good shot in the arm. We can all aid in sincerity’s recovery by practicing a little loving kindness. Loving kindness is a term that means doing kind things because you have love in your heart. Yes, this means doing nice things for your family and dear ones, but also for acquaintances, strangers, enemies, yourself—for everyone—simply out of general respect and generosity toward your fellow human (or heck, animals and the environment too!) You can practice and experience loving kindness in big and small ways each day. Avoiding gossip at the water cooler, acknowledging a coworker for a job well done, reaching out to welcome a new employee are three simple ways to incorporate loving kindness into your workday.
Loving kindness comes from a place of sincerity, but also of confidence and balance. Stress is one major opponent of loving kindness. To put it in a work context, stress contributes to an unfriendly office environment, encourages and proliferates office politics, and reduces our ability to maintain equanimity. But when we are active in reducing stress, we are able to rejuvenate sincerity through loving kindness. Luckily it’s a positive feedback loop: the better we manage stress, the more loving kindness we feel able to practice, so the more balanced we feel and the less likely we are to become over-stressed, making us more open and loving toward others.
During the holiday season, and beyond, incorporate a new exercise into your week. Begin practicing loving kindness meditation. It’s simple and there are many ways to do it. You can use it like a mantra whenever you need a boost, or set aside specific times or situations in which to try it out.
After settling into a comfortable meditating position and bringing your focus to your breath, call to mind the image of a person you love and respect. In your mind, slowly repeat something along the lines of “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.” After a few moments, bring to mind someone you feel neutral about, or perhaps don’t even know (like the grocery bagger or a stranger on the bus). Again repeat “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.” Next, visualize a person you’re feeling hostile to—a longtime enemy, your teenager who’s driving you nuts, the douchebag who cut you off on the highway. With sincerity, repeat “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.” Lastly, think of yourself at some point in your past, present, or future. Again, with deep sincerity repeat “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.” Loving kindness is often hardest to practice with ourselves, so you may be surprised how uncomfortable you feel wishing yourself well.
Loving kindness meditation can be a wonderful way to center yourself, diffuse stress and anger, and stimulate gratitude. Combined with small acts of friendliness toward yourself and others, loving kindness meditation could fundamentally shift your point of view and make you better able to cope. Then you’ll really have something to write about on John Hockenberry’s facebook page.