This is an exercise that I began doing in Bilbao on my walk to my office job. At 8.45am in any city you pass many hardened faces, people dragging burdens behind them and carrying worries across their foreheads, stressed because they’re late or they spilled their coffee that morning or whatever. One particular day, I had a great soundtrack playing on my ipod and a good morning routine, so I was feeling pretty positive on my walk to work, enough that I was smiling away to myself. I started smilling at people I passed, and it was like a little secret was shared when someone smiled back. Ever since then I try to do this as much as possible and I feel as though it's really brightened up otherwise banal moments of the day.
Often when we bump into someone, or get cut off, or whatever, our immediate reaction is agitation. So now I try to substitute that with something kinder. I often think of the saying:
"Anger is like grasping a hot coal to throw at someone else, you are the one gets burned."
We have no idea about the battles that other people are fighting. You can never know what that passerby might be going through at home, at work, wherever. Offer them up some kindness. And when you are feeling low, open up to the kindness and compassion that other people might be trying to show to you.
Here in Margalef, a sleepy town in Catalunya, it's noticeable how friendly the locals are, in particular the shopkeeper and the lady who runs the bar. They are constantly in good form and greet you as if you were old friends. They have the most infectious smiles and personally I always feel better after an exchange with them. That's something to aspire to I reckon, that the people you meet in the day walk away feeling better for having met you.
“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh