I decided to pot two evergreen trees in containers at my front door with flowers bordering them. I almost didn’t buy the trees because the tag said, “Grows up to 8 feet tall.” But a container garden book claimed they grow “to fit”–that is, only as big as their surroundings allow. So an 8 foot mature tree can remain 3 feet for years in a pot. (That’s probably very obvious to you gardeners out there, but I confess I’m a novice at this.)
This got me thinking about another topic I’m interested in–personal and spiritual growth. Do I plant my thoughts in small containers, limiting their growth, or do I give them expansive space and good soil to grow to their full potential?
When I review my list of spiritual “to-do’s” I think about practicing the power and potential of love and kindness in my life. Do I share love in a BIG way every day or do I limit it and “containerize” it?
I’ve decided I want love to be a habit in my life. I want it to be my first response–over anger, disappointment, frustration. I want it to have a lot of room to grow and spread itself, rather than sticking it in a small space for special occasions. Believe me, with a family of five I have a lot of opportunities to practice this! But over this past year, I think I’ve seen my “love habit” grow.
There are obvious health implications to responding with love over anger–among them, lower stress. There are studies that have shown people who have less control over angry emotions tended to heal more slowly from wounds. Harvard School of Public Health studied hostility in men and found that “those with higher rates of hostility not only had poorer pulmonary functioning (breathing problems), but experienced higher rates of decline as they aged.” (Effects of Poorly Managed Anger).
David Hamilton–author of “How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body” and “Why Kindness is Good for You”–lists 5 beneficial side-effects of expressing kindness in his Huffington Post blog. Expressing kindness: Makes us happier, Gives us healthy hearts, Slows aging, Makes for better relationships, and It’s contagious.
Of course, if we are kind simply to reap the benefits, that’s hardly a good motivation. Kindness comes from selflessness and from a commitment to being loving, even to those we may feel are unlovable or in circumstances where it seems impossible to dole out even the tiniest dose of love. That’s where the work comes in, but I’ve found that as I’ve committed myself to the habit of kindness in my interactions, it gets easier.