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Sending the right signals
September 6th, 2013

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Sending the right signals

Parental example

A classic parental mistake is described thus: when a kid misbehaves, (s)he gets a lot of attention (in order to 'fix' the situation). When a kid behaves nicely, the parent uses the opportunity to do other stuff, possibly get some 'me' time, etc. This all seems very logical… except what kids crave for is parental attention. So what's the result? Kids misbehaving in order to get what they truly want!

It requires a lot of mindfulness for parents to understand that a good educational strategy is to be present, play, take time to be with the kid precisely when it's not 'needed'… and to ignore the kid when there's the strongest temptation to step in.

Some parents struggle for a long time, only to end up talking to a therapist who's quickly wondering how it's possible to be so blind to the basic incentives of showing appreciation!


I often present karma in societal terms rather than individual terms. This is not to reject the individual aspect of karma, but simply to keep in mind that the individual doesn't exist in isolation.

What I see in many societies (and it seems worse with a long financial crisis that heightens the competition between people) is the disappearance of appreciation. It somehow accompanies the rise of consumerism and the distortion of consumer rights ("I paid, therefore I'm entitled"… "you didn't pay me and you gave me something I didn't buy, I don't owe you anything!").

Fewer and fewer people truly say "thank you" if you do anything for them (hold the door, give your seat, help them, give something to them…): they easily take it for granted, or they think you're a loser and they got "one up" on you, or… they simply don't pay attention!

Some people will say the words but nothing in their behaviour actually embodies appreciation, they simply get rid of the obligation to say socially-correct predefined words; they don't actually take the time to appreciate, the time to enjoy the abundance of the world graciously manifesting… They "move on" when the world is good to them (and, often, the same people will easily complain for a long time —definitely not moving on— when the world is not so good to them).

What world do you want to live in?

Even if it is indeed 'normal' or 'expected' that people do whatever people do for you (and this is based on social norms, there's nothing intrinsically making it 'normal'), if you understand causality and/or karma, you will be mindful and manifest appreciation.

The more 'normal' the behaviour is considered, the more it requires mindfulness to appreciate it, but what's 'normal' should never be taken for granted! Nothing is ever 'acquired' forever. If you don't nurture the wholesome tendencies, they wither away!

Simply think of parental education: which behaviour do you want to promote? Do you want to promote a world where people respect each other, help each other… or do you want to promote a world where the Law of the Jungle rules?

Which world you promote is your choice here&now.

And you will live in this world you promote: this is not some divine justice or retaliation mechanism, you'll simply live in the world you create because the world you create is based on tendencies: what you create will endure for some time, and will most likely "be around" when you experience your future!
[tendencies = karma…]

There will be no point in badmouthing the "others" who don't show respect, or don't help, or can only compete and never collaborate, or don't stand up for victims (i.e. you, one day or another), or let the hungry starve because they build some sick narrative about why they don't "have to" share their wealth… There will be no point in badmouthing the "others", if you don't take here&now the responsibility of actually, simply but practically, embody appreciation of the behaviour you want to see.
It starts with a heartfelt "thank you", it doesn't stop there! Whether you call it appreciation, generosity, "paying it forward" doesn't matter, what you do creates the world you'll live in. When you take time to help a neighbour, you lead by example… When you stay put when someone is abused (e.g. due to fear for your own safety), you also 'lead' by example (and you'll regret it the day you're attacked, and people pass their way, looking intensely at the pavement, and nobody helps you: it won't be supernatural 'justice', it will be the tendency you set in motion by example)…

Appreciation is one of the strongest spiritual practices you can have.

General ignorance

The reason for the above is that most people are not buddhas at this point in space and time. They're like children!

They crave for your attention. They post images of their lunch on Facebook, and clever posts on g+, and slick one-liners on twitter all for your attention. They hope you'll remember their birthday, they hope you'll reply quickly if they contact you… People want your attention, they're still kids!

And how do you educate a kid? By giving attention when they do what you'd like them not to do? Or by giving attention when they do what you know to be wholesome?

The choice you make now, when you give attention to something or someone, promotes particular tendencies which will —strongly or weakly— put in place the world you will live in (in a moment, in a year, or possibly for many generations).

Which world do you want to live into? There will be no point saying "I didn't know" when you pay the consequences of not thinking about the legacy of your acts here&now? Refusing to think of consequences will not exonerate you from the responsibility to act.

A classic advice on the web is: "don't feed the trolls…"
It extends way beyond the web…
and way beyond trolls…
But it also should be positive: "lead by example, and feed what is aligned with the world you'd like to live in!"

unattributed photo, via