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Natural Awakenings National

Rules of Kindness: These Simple Truths Can Change Our Lives

Mar 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Sharon Salzberg

I was leading a meditation group in the Washington, D.C. area, and we had rented an elementary school auditorium for the day. All along the walls of the corridors were posted rules for being kind. During the breaks in the day, I would just stand and read them, again and again.

The rules posted there rest upon principles like dissolving the rigid boundaries we hold between ourselves and others, including rather than excluding, recognizing that our actions and words are consequential, and being thoughtful. They seemed so simple, yet like many simple truths, if we were to live them, rather than merely admire them, they could change our life, whatever our age.

Carderock Elementary School Rules for Being Kind
• Treat people the way you would like to be treated.
• Play fair.
• Respect everyone—other students and all staff.
• Everyone can play.
• Help others when they need help.
• Don’t hurt others on the inside or the outside.
• Honor all of the pillars of ethics.

One of the most provocative and poignant of these rules for me was “everyone can play.” As I practiced this tenet, I noticed more hints of loneliness in those I encountered than I had seen before, more subtle echoes of that forlorn child than I expected. Including others was often like watching something unfurl and begin to flower. In making a point of including others in conversation, with real regard, in a fullness of attention, I felt some subtle walls within me dissolve, as well. There was a growing sense of rightness, of balance, because after all, everyone should get to play.

Each of us will do well to experiment with these rules, perhaps one a week or one a month, to emphasize them. Even if you already live your life according to these tenets, consciously choosing to focus on them can be enlivening, opening and, at times, surprising.

Adapted excerpt from The Kindness Handbook by Sharon Salzberg. Connect at

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