Stephanie Dowrick Talks About the Presence of Kindness

Stephanie Dowrick is one of Australia's bestselling writers, and she has just published her latest book, Everyday Kindness. In it she explores the importance of kindness in our lives, and how healing the practice of kindness can be, not just when extended to others, but to ourselves as well.

Kindness makes an extraordinary difference to the quality of our lives, and this book of brief chapters, each exploring a different aspect of kindness, teaches us how we can offer uplifiting responses to the people and situations we encounter.

This is Stephanie's third book in three years, the final product of a period of extraordinary productivity.

In this book Stephanie writes about how kindness, far from being an indicator of weakness, is in fact a signifier of great strength of personality.

Are the messages we give out intrinsically uplifting?

We need to return to the idea of developing strength of character, says Stephanie, and we need to make an effort to bring goodwill to our encounters with others. She writes a lot about food in Everyday Kindness, and the difficulty of dealing with the conflicting messages of a consumer society which tries to tell us that the only nourishment we need is that served up to us on a plate. We need to return to our essential kindness, for it is kindness that "brings us lasting experiences of happiness."

She identifies a particular stream of unkindness in our culture based around the assessment of our own bodies. We are conflicted about food, and we are also umindful of mental and spiritual food, "the food that we put in our minds and chew over."

And along with expressing kindness, Stephanie reminds us to make ourselves available to receiving the kindness of others, for this is the essence of grace.

During her talk at the Stanton Library this week, Stephanie described herself as "a very frustrated fiction writer," and her impulse towards storytelling is expressed in her books through the true stories she tells about people and their own experiences of being kind.

Stephanie Dowrick's Suggestions for bringing more pleasure into the lives of others:

1. Provide new ideas and inspiration to our networks - be seen as an active and positive force for good among our friends and family.

2. Resist the culture of dissatisfaction- we are encouraged to whinge and moan, and are proud of our ability to complain and criticise. Avoid the impulse to bitch, and be counter-cultural in your happiness and appreciation.

3. Love our bodies as we age - models get younger and thinner, and to measure ourselves against this false standard is foolish and, at heart, unkind. We should cherish our health, our mobility and our own unique beauty at every age, and our culture needs to value the elderly more. Stephanie describes herself as "an advocate of very positive ageing."

4. Cultivate an open mind - this allows us to be fresh to each new day, and to expand our intellectual and cultural repertoire. We become so obsessed with our own small world that we forget to cultivate curiosity and respect for the lives and works of others.

5. Appreciate what others do - this includes those closest to us. How often do we take our partners our our parents' acts of kindness for granted? If we could be more alert to the great richness that surrounds us, we could be more grateful for the kindness that is constantly being extended towards us, and which is all-too-easy to overlooked.

We need to appreciate our own lives more, and recognise that what we have and who we already are constitute a miraculous and precious gift.

I only received my copy of Everyday Kindness today, but having heard Stephanie speak so passionately about its ideas I look forward to reading it and sharing some of its insights with you all.

Walter Mason & Stephanie Dowrick at Chatswood Library


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