“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” -Albert Schweitzer
One of my favorite teachings in the Buddhist tradition is how love is transmitted between a teacher and a student. It is often described as a seed of loving intention that is planted in the heart and mind of the initiate, which, with attention, will grow into a life of the dharma. In truth, this is probably what sparked the idea of creating love missions. I don’t think it is a stretch to consider most of the missions that Love Agents will carry out as teachings in kindness. Bringing a gentle willingness to the ways we think, communicate and show up for our relationships doesn’t take much more time or effort than our usual interactions, yet it is often something easily overlooked. Deliberate acts of kindness teach both the giver and receiver by helping them to recognize how love feels in the moment. Love Agent missions are designed to create a heightened level of intentional attention to these moments so we can become cognizant of the visceral shift that occurs in the moments we experience love.
Just yesterday, I witnessed how something as small as an organic head of cabbage could make such a real difference in my relationship. I had been buying bags of pre-shredded cabbage for a new salad I like to make and my husband was always balking about supporting the huge agribusiness behind the bag. For me, it was a time thing, so I kept buying the bagged cabbage. Yesterday, I brought home his choice and he was so happy that I cared enough to do what he asked that it palpably changed the mood between us. That mission might have been called, Do It Their Way and could have been about any number of small changes that would be easy for me to give up, yet matter so much to my husband. Most of us, when we stop to think about it can probably come up with a short list that would speak volumes of love to our partners, and would pay dividends that would surprise you.
Although love missions are designed to create concise and discreet moments of loving transmissions, their real power is in the lasting impact or the ripple effect that kindness instigates. Recent scientific research on mirror neurons is demonstrating how our emotional intentions are contagious. Love begets love; kindness creates kindness, especially when it is deliberate. Reciprocity is a natural instinct and so, as I was shredding the organic cabbage by hand, my husband stepped forward to change the light bulb that had gone out over my head, without my saying a word. Before long there was tenderness in our voices that allowed us to talk about other much more emotionally taxing issues like kids and money.
As a Love Agent, the mission is not completed until it is recorded and submitted as a video, audio file or short paragraph. This recording process is more powerful than you might imagine, because taking your loving acts public commits you to them in a way that perpetuates the behavior. This is why people join exercise clubs and go to AA – participating in a group helps us to honor our intentions. For me, in my quest to become more positive, it was the daily blogging that kept me true to my original inspiration. Knowing that your loving acts will inspire other people to improve their own relationships is a ripple effect that will keep your own love stronger.
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