Written & Photographed by A Wild Dove
How can you create a chain reaction of kindness? Think of yourself not just as a filament within a bulb, but as a glowing light meant to radiate past its own shell. It’s about sharing, about thinking of more than yourself, and about paying attention to the opportunities that the universe keeps sending your way.
For the final summer installment of Hamptons-infused wellness panels by A Wild Dove and Five Pillars Yoga, hosts Lynn Levoy and Karen Mehiel brought Transcendental Meditation, acts of service, and neuroscience into the spotlight. Coined “The Kindness Reaction,” the conversation joined voices from experts including The Ladies of Hope Ministries founder Topeka K. Sam and Bob Roth, author of New York Times bestseller Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation and yogi and author of One Simple Thing, Eddie Stern. For each, the path to kindness has been paved in real change—and important choices.
Sharing is the Key
“I worked for Bobby Kennedy,” Roth shared Wellness Coach and Energy Mover, Jamie Graber opened the topic as moderator for the evening. “I saw Bobby Kennedy speak in San Francisco, and then four days later he was gone. I went to college with the plan to become a United States Senator. In my upbringing I wanted to change the world—I realized politics would never heal the soul of the nation.” It was this realization that brought Roth into modern service, teaching Transcendental Meditation to those in need across the globe via the The David Lynch Foundation. For Stern, too, it was about sharing a veritable wealth of knowledge in the form of mindful movement. “In America, about seven billion dollars a year is spent on yoga, yoga clothing, yoga workshops,” he notes of the powerhouse industry. Now, he empowers the next generation. “I thought let’s shortcut that and give young adults and kids access to become yoga teachers— and entering into that economic stream.” And for Sam, her journey to redemption was exactly what it took to help other women regain their rights under the law. Thanks to her experience in the prison system, she was able to change the lives of incarcerated women across the nation through dignity provisions. “I do believe there’s a chain reaction to kindness,” says Sam. “I believe that what we put out we receive back on many levels in the universe.”
Service is Paramount
“I meditate, but for me, I think one of the secrets is service,” Roth shares of the kindness concept. “There’s a beautiful proverb- the world is my family. People need us. Whether it’s one hour a week, it’s amazing to give anonymously.” And aside from clocking hours, it’s a matter of making sure you’re in the headspace, and heartspace, to be truly illuminated for others. “Everyone has deep within ourselves access to a reservoir of a field of light,” Roth explains. “When you light a bulb, you’re lighting a filament, but it doesn’t stay within the bulb, it radiates out. When we light up from within ourselves in a genuine way—not in a moody way of pretending kindness, but in that we do the work—then it has a profoundly transforming effect on our environment.” It’s this attitude that’s led Roth and The David Lynch Foundation to open an office two blocks away from the Supreme Court, where they’re teaching transcendental meditation to members of congress on both sides of the aisle. “I use a broader vision. Nothing good can come out of two angry people talking, nothing good can ever come out of a disruptive, divisive, hateful dialogue—so nothing good can come out of our political climate as it is.” Instead, the focus must be love. “I think kindness is the spontaneous result of love,” Roth admits. “Ultimately, kindness is the expression of love and that expression can take many forms. A parent can feel complete love for a child and really reem the child because the child needed, as you all know, firm stern language. Kindness is a beautiful expression of ones’ love that you feel within.”
Train Your Brain
For Stern, a little bit of awareness, even pessimism, can be helpful in understanding how to master the positive. “To actually train the way your brain functions, to be positive, takes work. We learn from threat very, very quickly,” he shares. “We don’t learn as quickly from positive experiences. A negative experience will go into our long-term memory in under a second and stay there with us—and that’s how we frame all experiences. But a positive experience can take up to 20 or 30 seconds or more to actually soak into your long-term memory.” So what does training really look like? You keep your mind as calm as possible on a daily basis. “Yoga is a preventative medicine for your mind,” he notes. “We should exercise a few times a week, keep our bodies fit because we want them to carry us through the rest of our lives.” The same goes for your mind. “We need a bit of pessimistic thinking ‘something’s going to happen later, I need to prepare for it.’” Don’t get so comfortable that you don’t maintain a consistent check-in with your thoughts.
Uncomfortable Opportunities Are Still Opportunities
It wasn’t easy to accept an invitation from President Trump, as Sam explains. On the first offer, she took her friends’ advice and declined. When it came up again, she knew that God was giving her a signal. When she arrived at the White House, she realized why. “I was the only person who had been incarcerated so I was happy to have been there or an authentic voice about what was going on and conditions wouldn’t have been heard,” she shares. “Though I wanted to feel this level of disgust, this level of hate I had for the administration, it wasn’t there. People feel our energy and get on the defense and they end up behaving a certain way—if we focus on giving kindness, that can permeate through people.” Thanks to following her instincts, instead of her misgivings, real change spread to the women who need it. “Through that experience we worked on the First Step Act. The bill passed and we were able to get the dignity provisions into the legislation.”
Kindness Will Shape Our Futures
Ultimately, the way that kindness is spread today effects every generation moving forward. “The most impactful years that really determine the trajectory of the child are conception to three years old,” Roth shares. “They have something called ACES- adverse childhood experiences—that’s when a child is growing up and there’s a rough divorce in the family, or there’s a death in the family, or there’s violence in the neighborhood. Neglect is more traumatizing to a child than physical abuse,” he notes. “So children are coming into the world traumatized. If someone is sick, what do you do? You have the person rest and the body’s own repair mechanism can heal the body. So when you give a child or an adult the silence of meditation, when you give a child or adult the ease and flow of yoga, when you give a child or adult the love and wisdom and guidance of a mentor, then you’re giving them a safe space for that nervous system to heal itself and grow.” For Stern, part of that growth is in moving forward. “Kindness needs to be coupled with forgiveness,” he says. “Forgiveness toward yourself, what you’ve done to yourself, what you’ve done to other people, and what other people have done to you.” And for Sam, it’s about including gratefulness. “I’m connected to so many women who are still incarcerated, so the pain and suffering and trauma that I see them experience on a regular basis is something that allows me to motivate myself to remain in a space of gratitude,” she shares. It’s with gratitude in all practices that the change can really happen. “People need to be able to shift their darkness in order for them to be able to be in the light.”