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Be Benevolent by Rick Hanson

What are your intentions toward others?
The Practice

Be benevolent.

Why?
Benevolence is a fancy word that means something simple: good intentions toward living beings, including oneself.

This goodwill is present in warmth, friendliness, compassion, ordinary decency, fair play, kindness, altruism, generosity, and love. The benevolent heart leans toward others; it is not neutral or indifferent. Benevolence is the opposite of ill will, coldness, prejudice, cruelty, and aggression. We’ve all been benevolent, we all know what it’s like to wish someone well.

Benevolence is widely praised – from parents telling children to share their toys to saints preaching the Golden Rule – because it has so many benefits:

* Benevolence toward oneself is needed to fulfill our three fundamental needs: to avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others. When these needs are met, your brain shifts into its Responsive mode, in which the body repairs and refuels itself, you feel peaceful, happy, and loving.

* Benevolence toward others reduces quarrels, builds trust, and is the best-odds strategy to get good treatment in return.

* Benevolence within and between nations promotes the rule of law, educates children, feeds the hungry, supports human rights, offers humanitarian aid, and works for peace. Benevolence toward our planet tries to protect endangered species and reduce global warming.

Of course, this is just a partial list of benefits. Bottom-line, benevolence is good for individuals, relationships, nations, and the world as a whole.

The fact that benevolence is often enlightened self-interest makes it no less warm-hearted and virtuous. And at this time in history when individuals feel increasingly stressed and isolated, when relationships often stand on shaky ground, when international conflicts are fueled by dwindling resources and increasingly lethal weapons, and when humanity is dumping over nine billions tons of carbon each year into the atmosphere (like throwing 5 billion cars a year up into the sky, most of which stay there) – benevolence is not just moral, it’s essential.

But easier said than done.

How can we sustain benevolence in ourselves and in our relationships, nations, and world?

How?
* Know what benevolence feels like in your body, heart, and mind – Bring to mind a sense of warmth and good wishes toward someone. How does this feel? Try on other kinds of benevolence, and toward other beings, to sense what these are like as well.

* Realize that benevolence is natural and normal – In the media, we are so bombarded with words and images of anti-benevolence that you can start to think that ordinary decency and kindness are somehow exotic. But in fact, as we evolved, our ancestors stayed alive and passed on their genes by caring about themselves and others. And given the gratitude and reverence for nature commonly found in hunter-gatherer bands today, they likely also cared about the world upon which they depended.

* Take care of yourself – When your core needs are met – when you’re not stressed by threat, loss, or rejection – the brain defaults to its resting state, its home base. From this home base, most people are fair-minded, empathic, cooperative, compassionate, and kind: in a word, benevolent. While it’s possible to sustain goodwill in a state of fear, frustration, or loneliness, it is sure a lot harder. An undisturbed, healthy brain is a benevolent one.

* Take a stand for benevolence – Establish your intentions formally – perhaps at the start of the day, or during a contemplative practice, or at a meal – to wish yourself and all other beings well. In challenging situations, take care of your needs while also asking yourself, “How could I be benevolent here? How could I restrain any destructive thoughts, words, or deeds? Can I wish for the welfare of others? Can I express compassion and kindness?”

* Step out of your comfort zone – Not doing anything foolish, consider how you could stretch a bit (or more) in your good intentions toward others. For example, seeing people you don’t know, try wishing them well. Or with someone who’s irritating, try looking past the surface to sense this person’s own stress and worries; without waiving your rights, can you find more patience, can you let go of recrimination or payback? Or could you extend yourself with friends or family, maybe doing more dishes or giving someone a ride? In the larger world, consider volunteering some time or giving more to a charity.

* Last, appreciate some of the benevolence that buoys you along – We’ve all been nurtured and protected by friends and family, humanity altogether, and the biosphere. In some sense, there’s an exuberant benevolence in the physical universe itself; consider that most of the atoms in your body – any that are heavier than helium – were born inside an exploding star. Afloat in these gifts, who could not be benevolent?!

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The High Cost of Anger

The High Cost of Resentment and Anger
By Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.

Many spouses carry heavy suitcases filled with a collection of anger and resentment from their marriage. Periodically, they unpack these suitcases and review every situation in which they feel they were treated unfairly.

“Resentment is an extremely bitter diet, and eventually poisonous. I have no desire to make my own toxins,” declares Neil Kinnock. Hanging on to anger and resentment is toxic, and the resulting sludge can slowly poison you and your relationships.

It’s easy to lose your perspective about the bigger picture and to become obsessed with how things “should” have been and how others “should” have treated you. In your mind, you may visualize yourself zapping the other person with the perfect verbal comeback or having the opportunity to get even in some way. The more you let your mind gallop in this direction, the angrier you get and the more you feel self-righteous and justified in your reaction.

When you become mired in anger, resentment, blame, and revenge, you are only hurting yourself. In the process, you put yourself at risk for experiencing health problems, sleeping difficulties, depression, relationship rifts, and daily agitation. You automatically increase your stress level and decrease your enjoyment of life. And the longer you carry a grudge, the heavier it gets.

Nothing you do to try to find inner peace will be effective when you are filled with anger and resentment. “If we have not peace within ourselves, it is in vain to seek it from outward sources,” states Francois de La Rochefoucauld. As long as you hold on to bitter feelings, you are sabotaging yourself by destroying any chance that you can experience peace of mind.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, in 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, states: ” It’s your ego that demands that the world and all the people in it be as you think they should be.” He continues by saying, “It is perhaps the most healing thing that you can do to remove the low energies of resentment and revenge from your life completely.” Dr. Dyer compares resentment to venom that continues to circulate in your system long after the snakebite has occurred. He emphasizes that it’s not the bite that kills you; it’s the venom.

What Is the Antidote to Anger?

How can you find peace of mind? How can you handle your feelings of anger and resentment from the experiences in your marriage? How can you create a peaceful marriage now?

The answer lies in letting go of resentment and practicing forgiveness. You can’t change what has happened, and you can’t control what your spouse chooses to do. But you do have control over the choices you make.

You can choose to cut the emotional bond that is keeping you tied to your anger and resentment. Instead, you can decide to experience the joy of freedom from the heavy burdens you have been carrying around for so long. To get the help you need in letting go of the past, you always have the option of asking a therapist or minister to assist you.

Thomas Fuller observes, “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” Without forgiveness, your life becomes an endless cycle of anger, resentment, and retaliation.

You practice forgiveness so that you can stop ruminating about the past and put your energy into the present moment. And you practice forgiveness so you will be free from the poisonous effects of resentment.

Then, you can experience peace of mind and bring inner peacefulness into your marriage. You will never have a peaceful marriage until you are at peace within yourself.

Mheyah @ Connection Point Counselling & Coaching
www.connectionpointcounselling.com