Before I get into my own experience, here’s a little background. Plant a Kiss Day was created to celebrate the message of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s sweet new book “Plant a Kiss,” a “journey about life, kindness, and giving,” illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (available at Amazon).
In the spirit of the book, 16 inspiring and creative bloggers (whom I am honored to join – these are some seriously fabulous women) set out to “Plant a Kiss” in the world on Sunday, April 29. We each did something we thought would spread a little extra joy, color, connection, poetry, or magic in the world. Today each of us is posting about that experience. Click here to visit the main Plant a Kiss page, where you can link to all participating bloggers. For every blog you visit and comment on, your name will be tossed into a hat for a chance to win one of a ton of great prizes, including online writing, photography, or dream-building classes; coaching sessions; artwork, or jewelry.
My Plant a Kiss Day Experience…
The idea of this day instantly resonated with me. Through the lenses of mindfulness and coaching, I think of everything we do as planting seeds – in the form of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take. If we look closely, we understand that we do in fact reap what we sow. Maybe not instantaneously, but eventually, and without fail. Now I don’t mean this in the sense of, “Be nice so you don’t have bad karma,” which misses the mark. I mean it as a simple observation of cause and effect. What we think leads to how we feel, which leads to how we act, which leads to how people respond to us and how circumstances align themselves around us, which either prompts us to continue with or alter our behavior (if we’re able to pay enough attention to catch what’s really going on in the moment), and so on.
So I love the concept of not merely giving a kiss, but of planting one. Because that really is what we’re doing day in and day out with our thoughts and our actions, is planting the beginning of something. It’s not a question of whether things will sprout from the seeds we plant in our daily lives; it’s merely a question of what types of things will sprout. And this is where awareness comes in. Because the more conscious of and intentional about the types of seeds we plant we are, the better shot we have at growing a vast, luscious garden rather than a tiny plot of gnarled weeds.
One of my favorite mindfulness teachers, James Baraz, puts this so well in his book Awakening Joy: “You can’t make joy or wellbeing happen, but you can help create the conditions in which those states more naturally arise.”
And that’s what jumped out at me as the primary theme for my personal Plant a Kiss Day, was joy. Because to me, it seems that we crave and pursue things like beauty, creativity, and connection because they bring us joy. I love the Merriam-Webster definition of joy as “a source or cause of delight.”
So I woke up earlier than usual before my coffee shop shift on Sunday to spend some time setting and sitting with my intention of joy for the day. I wrote it out on a card: “May every moment today be colored by joy.” Which intention by extension, then, would be for all the moments of my Plant a Kiss Day to be sources or causes of delight.
I did some soil-tilling to help the seeds of the day’s delight take root. I carried the card with my intention on it in my pocket all day. I stamped the letters J-O-Y on the inside of my wrist. I set bells on my phone to go off throughout the day reminding me to, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once worded it, “Scatter joy.” I plotted out time every few hours from the time I woke up to sit for 15 minutes and practice heart-centered Metta (lovingkindness), with a special emphasis on the “May I/you/we be happy” piece for the day. I stayed cozy with gratitude, constantly keeping an eye out for what was good or kind or beautiful or fortunate during the day.
In addition to the inner “priming,” I offered up some delight-enhancing actions during the day as well. At the coffee shop we welcomed the day with a coffee mug toast. I’d found some stickers in my desk and added them to the hot chocolate cups of a few little girls to much apparent delight. I made a point of checking in with customers who seemed like they could use a little extra connection that day. A bouquet of flowers a coworker hadn’t wanted fell to me, and I offered them to a stranger in a parking lot who delightedly accepted, saying she loved flowers, especially tulips.
James Baraz says that creating the conditions for joy to naturally arise “starts with allowing yourself to be right where you are.”
And that’s what really struck me on Sunday. That when we focus on just this moment, joy naturally flows more freely. But when we focus our attention on joy (or kindness or beauty or connection…), we naturally feel more present, too.
So which comes first? And does it matter?
I think what does matter is that when we set an intention to appreciate the good in the world and in our lives, we truly start to see it everywhere. And then we start to feel joy and peace and gratitude more and more often and more and more authentically.
On Plant a Kiss Day it was clearly evident that I couldn’t make myself be joyful 100% of the moments of my day. There were certainly instances where I could have been kinder or more generous, or sought out or welcomed more connection. But I also palpably experienced more joy – in me and in others – that day than I normally might have experienced.
Playing peek-a-boo with my baby niece or giving my nephew a piggy-back ride were experiences perhaps infused with a bit more delight than they would have normally had. Maybe I verbalized more gratitude to family members who that day happened to be getting together to celebrate my birthday than I would normally have expressed.
Plant a Kiss Day reminded me how powerful it is to be intentional with the types of seeds we plant during our days, which, over time, grow into the gardens of our lives. Yes, we slip into a sleepy, habitual state from time to time. That’s how we humans are wired. But we’re also wired with an immense capacity for joy and kindness and generosity. And Plant a Kiss Day reminded me of how simple yet profound it is to set an intention, and to simply practice returning to it when we stray away from it, and to bring ourselves back with compassion again and again and again. Because if we stay the course – if we practice “planting kisses” – we get really good at planting positive seeds. And how different might our world be if everyone out there could be reminded in repeated simple ways that they have the capacity to grow gorgeous gardens simply by paying attention and staying committed to their positive intentions?
Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Plant a Kiss, and the thoughtful intentions and actions of people like Sherry Richert Belul and the bloggers involved in Plant a Kiss Day, serve as great fertilizer to nurture things along.
Here’s to making planting kisses a daily practice.
With lots of love (and joy and delight),