Do you know what I mean? We’re often nice to others out of social necessity—because we work with them, or they live with us, or because people really frown on letting the elevator doors close on someone running down the hall (even though we're also in a rush and tempted to push the close button).
Social norms dictate that we act and respond certain ways in our daily lives while we are in the presence of others. That’s not to say that we don’t act kindly naturally: Some of us, of course, would be caring no matter what the situation. While others might be more tempted to hit the close button if no one were there to record or report their actions.
What about when someone is randomly compassionate to you, for no apparent reason? They don’t get credit for it, it’s not recorded or reported, and you often never even get a chance to thank them.
This is, of course, one of those incredible random acts of kindness. We hear about them all the time: Someone pays for your coffee at the drive-through. A stranger hands you a flower on the street, a quick smile their only acknowledgement before they are gone, lost in a sea of commuters. For me, someone anonymously donated $3,000 to my puppy’s emergency surgery fund (p.s. kind stranger, I think of you every day).
How can we begin to pay back—or pay forward—these kindnesses?
If you have a teacher or mentor who you admire, I encourage you to pay it forward to them. Chances are that they have no idea just how much they impact your life, or how greatly they move you. These kind actions don't need to be random or anonymous—since you know the teacher or mentor—just make them intentional and compassionate.
By paying forward acts of kindness, even in small ways, you can make a significant change in the quality of their days and lives. Think about it: The last time you received an act of kindness, it was probably something small. A cup of tea, a compliment. It didn’t take much for the giver to give. But as the receiver, I bet you felt like a million dollars. So pass that great feeling forward, with love and your heart and pure intentions. Below are some tips to help get you started paying acts of kindness forward to your teacher or mentor.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money, or any at all. You can gift a crystal or your favorite yoga book. It could be something as simple and sweet as leaving a flower that you picked on your way over on their mat or blanket. Something that will make them smile, and let them know that you were thinking of them.
Do you super-dig them and think they’re the best yoga teacher since sliced bread? Then your friend probably will too. Bringing a friend to class shows the teacher that not only do you think they’re awesome, but you think so enough that you’re willing to risk your friend’s regard, time, and money—which is a big compliment to a teacher. Make sure you introduce them.
Doesn’t it feel good when you get that little dopamine hit from being tagged on social media? “So-and-so has mentioned or tagged you”—ooh, what did they say?
Why not tag your favorite teacher or mentor and call him or her out for an amazing class or for an inspiring message that was shared? You love being called out when you do something great, and your teacher or mentor is sure to appreciate it as well.
Want to pass along a compliment, but you're feeling a little shy or aren't socially connected? If you want to be anonymous, you can leave a positive review for your teacher on his or her studio’s website.
Do their words inspire you to greatness, or their asana cues make your handstand sparkle? Let them know! This seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many people will just leave a class without saying a word. Not feeling effusive? A simple, “great class,” goes a long way, especially when the teacher undoubtedly worked incredibly hard, not only on preparing that class, but on the years of training to get there.
Similarly, offer a sincere “thanks.” It feels good to be thanked for our time and our energy. Whether someone is guiding you through a class or offering you their time and mentorship, they will appreciate your acknowledgement of the exchange (and you'll feel good too).
All of those mats, props, or chairs (if you’re in a meeting with a mentor) don’t put themselves away. Help fold up a couple of blankets or tidy the pile of blocks. Your efforts will go a long way and it's a simple way to show your appreciation.
This is something you don’t need to tell someone you’re doing. The next time you meditate, offer a loving-kindness meditation to your teacher or mentor: “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful, and free from suffering, and may my actions in some way contribute to the happiness, health, peace, and freedom for all.”
Not a meditator? Dedicate your next yoga practice to their happiness: Picture them being happy, feeling healthy, or however you want them to feel (good things!). Send out your gratitude and your kindness in happy, loving vibes. They’ll receive them.