Radical Kindness

Radical Kindness

on Apr 26, 2016 in Spirit, World We Live In | 2 comments

photo by Katya Lesher / www.pausingturtle.com

photo by Katya Lesher / www.pausingturtle.com

Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better. 
~Maya Angelou

This is an intense time. In almost any space I step into, whether it’s in-person or virtual, it feels to me that people are extremely charged up. Have you noticed that too?

Opinions are flying left and right about presidential candidates, and there’s a palpable layer of fear and nervousness about climate change, racial tensions, economic challenges, and so much more. In this environment, people are acting out and reacting in all kinds of ways – and I include myself in that.

My own emotions have been more turbulent than usual lately as I work through my personal set of insecurities around money, relationships, meaning and belonging… Whew! It’s enough to sometimes send me over the edge.

Recently I saw a remarkable film – Embrace of the Serpent. What a powerful story of the devastating consequences of colonization… and of the potential, always, to come back as a ‘whole person.’ Without giving too much away, I will tell you that one of the characters in the movie offers an act of extraordinary kindness to another person toward the end of the story.

Then I remember the people going through “Waking Up to Your Life,” the online program that Katya Lesher and I are teaching right now. During these 12 weeks, participants commit to nurture a contemplative practice. When they don’t meet their own expectations, it often brings up feelings of guilt and shame. Our guidance to them is to release judgments and be kind to themselves.

All of this has me meditating on kindness… and what it means to be radically kind. Here are some things that came to me:

  • Kindness toward yourself can co-exist with expecting the best of yourself. Kindness doesn’t have to mean dropping your standards.
  • Kindness toward others can co-exist with communicating to others about their harmful choices and behavior … Kindness doesn’t have to mean dropping your dedication to a more peaceful and just world.
  • Kindness happens in how we live in our bodies, what we feed ourselves, how we move or don’t move.
  • Kindness happens when we give ourselves and others space to feel – without having to understand why the feeling is there or what to do about it, and without trying to suppress it and charge ahead with action.
  • Kindness exists between people, and the most radical acts of kindness will require us to drop our ideas about who we are or what we think we deserve, if even just for a moment

I’m curious how all this lands with you… How do you offer kindness to yourself? How do you offer it to others? What would be a radical act of kindness for you, right now? Please leave a comment below and share what this possibility of ‘radical kindness’ brings up for you…


I’d love to stay in touch with you! When you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll receive my monthly newsletter with reflections on life and liberation, as well as my e-book, “9 Keys to a Liberated Life.”



  1. Dear Maia,

    I read your email a few times before responding.

    I’ve spent the last six weeks at Satchidananda Ashram. During my time there I saw so many acts of kindness (random and otherwise) that those acts could fill a book.

    I believe kindness is something you commit yourself to doing every moment of every day. It should not be random to be kind. Kindness comes from the heart and a willingness to serve others. That should be a part of everyone’s daily “routine.”

    While I was at the ashram a family emergency came up and I had to leave for a few days. While getting ready to go I was besieged by hugs and offers to help. Phone calls, texts and emails followed to make sure I was okay and the family emergency was getting better.

    One day a young woman was overcome by emotion and crying uncontrollably. Within minutes she had five people around her comforting her and calming her down. Two people stayed with her the rest of the day to keep her spirits up.

    One girl came to the ashram in obvious distress. Several of us made sure we checked in with her every day to make sure she was okay and to see if we could help. Towards the end of her stay I went up to her and asked how her day was going. For the first time she smiled and said things were getting better. Later one of the others watching over her said she gave her a big hug and thanked all of us for being so caring to a stranger. She said she could feel the love surrounding her.

    From offering to help clean dishes in the kitchen on a busy day to simply stopping to see how a person was doing on the quad, acts of kindness and compassion overran the ashram.

    When one of our guests found out that an Ashram yogi had a special taste for Chipolte bean burritos, he drove for an hour each way to get the yogi three burritos to help celebrate the yogis birthday.

    At first I asked why but then I realized the guests and residents of the ashram simply knew offering a kind word or deed or act of compassion was the right thing to do – always.

    After a few days I noticed I was looking for ways to help, to be of service to my fellow residents and guests. Not because I wanted recognition, because I wanted to serve. I wanted to make a positive difference.

    I think about my divorce about 18 months ago. Instead of showing some compassion and kindness during the end of our relationship, my now ex-wife simply blind sided me, had me tossed from our office and our home with one hour to get everything together. Bank accounts were closed, locks changed and papers served. There was no conversation, no consideration of what was to happen to me (I sat in a park and cried and tried to figure out what happened and what to do for hours).

    I was confused and hurt and angry. A little compassion and kindness by her and her lawyers would have lessened the blow of a life changing surprise event. Many of the divorce proceedings might have gone easier if we both had displayed a little more kindness and compassion to an injured and hurting soul.

    My divorce taught me a huge lesson – no matter the situation, be kind first.

    What we lack in today’s WWE/Pro Football/Video game infused world is kindness and compassion. Today it’s easier to criticize or rip off a snide remark than to take a minute to put your self in the other person’s place and offer something to help them.

    Just because the clerk at the local store is less than courteous to you doesn’t mean it’s a response to something you’ve done. Who knows what’s happening in that person’s life? Your job as a human is to take compassion, be kind and try to make that person’s day a bit nicer. You may be the person that turns the other person’s day, and heart, around.

    You don’t fight anger or frustration with anger – you fight it with kindness and love and compassion.

    The great philosopher Lau Tzu probably said this best:

    “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
    Everyone would agree we need a lot more love in this world. How easy would it be to tame the excesses of politicians, whack job activists and all around ner-do-wells that by each of us being kind?

    Think of all the great things we could accomplish if we simply showed a little compassion and kindness?

    So, to all your questions, the answer is fairly simple. Before you start your day resolve to:

    don’t judge
    be kind to all living things
    show compassion to everyone hurting
    do everything with love in your heart

    Sorry to ramble on and on. Thank you for all you do and for your emails. Getting your virtual sangha to think about their actions and how they live their lives is one of the best gifts you can share.

    Love and peace to you,



    May 18, 2016

    • This is beautiful, Stephen… I especially appreciate the four ‘resolutions’ you shared near the end of your comment. I love those and would like to integrate them into my morning routine.

      Maia Duerr

      October 10, 2016


  1. Practical Wisdom on Success, Sorrow, and Mood Swings - […] What does kindness really mean?  Radical Kindness […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *