Did you give compliments lately?
XIII century Japanese Zen Master Dogen, also a Samurai, used to teach the following. I am editing :
“As often as you can, think about someone close to you: family member, friend or even coworker and give them a simple genuine compliment….. w/o expecting something back. The closer the person to you, the better. Also, the more specific the compliment is, the better the impact. “
This is a strange advice and yet it is an integral part of Zen teaching.
Over the last 17 years I was asked, many time, if I was giving compliments once a while.
When I was asked for the first time, I even did not understand the purpose and meaning of the question considering the question…..to be , as usual, an enigmatic Zen question.
Think about this:
” When was the last time you did you compliment someone, why? and how?
How often you are expressing good words to someone”?
You will be surprised of your findings, even among your loved ones and best friends.
We do compliment our pets but almost never our human contacts.
We are not educated to give compliments and many of us are reluctant to do so because they fear their compliments would not be genuine.
Our Western society is not helping us to compliment someone especially if that person is not the same gender than you. You may be sued for harassment.
In most companies now, giving non-work related compliments is prohibited by HR.
If I say to one of our Oakville Zen ladies: “ Wow, you are very well dressed”. she maybe offended and, subconsciously, questions my motivation behind the compliment.
“What Arnaud has in mind; this is not appropriate for a Zen Master?”
In fact, we are groomed to behave the opposite side: that is judgmental, remarking problems and flaws of others.
In Zen teaching, giving compliment is not limited to others but also includes self.
This is very important in respect to achieve equanimity.
We talked already at length about self-compassion and self-forgiveness without falling into narcissism.
Finally, become mindful of any compliments other people are giving you and assess their positive effects on you.
Being mindful to the practice of giving compliments here and there will help you greatly in the control of your negative state of mind.
It will promote good feelings to others and to self, free of charge.
To finalize this short talk:
Dogen wrote the following:
“Kind words bring kind and compassionate minds and kind minds bring kind words.”
This is a great catch 22 scenario.
We should become familiar to the practice of kind speech to others and to self.
It is not praising the merit nor kissing their bums, it is free recognition.
Also, it has the power to turn restless minds into more peaceful ones to the giver and to the receiver.