ADITYA BARRELA is inspired by the recent “Rising with Kindness” international youth conference in Kanha Shanti Vanam.
When a student asked the renowned archaeologist Margaret Mead to share the earliest evidence of civilization in our history, she did not refer to tools, religious idols, or clay pots. She instead referred to a 15,000-year-old broken female femur bone that had been healed. She advocated that this healed femur is the first evidence in recorded history that a person was taken care of and protected by others. Kindness is an inherent trait, helping humanity thrive. But it is more than that. Kindness is behind some of the greatest inventions of mankind, be it agriculture, medicine, or otherwise. Generosity is also resplendent in nature when we take a closer look.
Since the pandemic lockdowns, we have stepped out into a world marred with unprecedented challenges – climate change, health-related crises, economic volatility, and conflict. Unfortunately, we are increasingly conditioned to prioritize self-interest, rendering kindness as an unaffordable luxury.
Deep in our hearts, we are acutely aware that we need kindness toward ourselves, toward each other, and toward nature. It is time to reconnect with the intrinsic quality of kindness, and to refocus our attention on the many invisible acts of kindness, unity, and friendliness seen around the world as we rise together from disruptive global events. Thankfully, millennials and Gen Z seem to know this.
Today’s youth truly and deeply care about human society and ecology like never before, and we do something about it. Celebrities and sports stars like Emma Watson, Leonardo DiCaprio, BTS, Virat Kohli, Deepika Padukone, P.V. Sindhu, and hundreds of others have championed causes and role-modeled kindness. Young activists like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousufzai, Tahsin Uddin, and HaaziqKazi have demonstrated the power of youth. Thanks to such inspiration, and the unprecedented awareness of broader social and ecological issues, today’s youth are proactively kind.
While kindness is naturally the right thing to do, it is not the easy thing to do. For a start, we cannot be kind to society or nature without first being kind to ourselves. Kindness is not a source of weakness but rather a sign of true strength and resourcefulness. And kindness toward ourselves does not come easy. Often we hold ourselves to very high ideals and are merciless with ourselves. While such ideals are good for self-development, without contemplation and willpower to change the very same ideals can become a barrier. Self-destruction instead of self-transformation is the result.
This is where practices like Heartfulness, Mindfulness, etc. come into the picture to bring clarity, compassion, and courage. We realize that when we dive into the depths of the love and light in our hearts we find infinite resources we can share with the world. Meditation gives us the equanimity to respond to life rather than react.
Only in times of crisis do the compassion and unity of humanity stand tested. To celebrate kindness, foster camaraderie, and learn to “self-care,” the Heartfulness Institute in association with AICTE and UNESCO MGIEP hosted the Rising with Kindness International Youth Conference at Kanha Shanti Vanam from August 12 to 14, 2022. 15,000 students attended in person, and an additional 20,000 attended virtually from 55 countries.
They were inspired by luminaries, learned yoga and meditation, and were able to scale-up their impact, network with like-minded people, and enjoy the kindness concert by Ricky Kej. The event was free of charge and so accessible to many youth. Food and accommodation costs were sponsored for all delegates.
We have witnessed millions of incredible acts of empathy and compassion that have brought relief, created and strengthened bonds, and helped build lasting solutions as the world accepts a new normal. Together, let’s continue that momentum by Rising with Kindness.
To watch videos of the activities during the conference, go to www.youtube.com/c/Heartfulness/videos