We touch lives…

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It was masked in righteous indignation and criticism because they were easier to tap into. The holier-than-thou feeling of ‘how could people not see this’, and ‘how could they be so mean’… The suppositions that everyone ought to see or be, and when they don’t, their actions were intentionally hurtful…

I noticed moments after they arose what IT actually was, this surge of aggression that welled up.

A mentee contacted me seeking help to address a bureaucratic process which compelled her to “prove” she was financially unable to meet a required fee. This fee would impact on whether she could pursue her career or not. Now, providing documentation in support is no big deal, guess we are all so used to supplying proof that we would hardly blink.

The reply she had received was a template email reply, which failed to respond to her request and the reasons she provided. The reasons for her financial hardship told of an estranged relationship, a proud family getting by, a neglectful father, the indignities of abandonment and much more. How does one provide proof of these? Do we require bank statements showing minimal balance? Do we require proof of the anxious feelings of insecurity and sorrow? Do we put a fellow human being through greater indignity and embarrassment? If someone had taken the time to make a phone call, her voice over the line spoke volumes, as I found out.

I needed to know ‘why’ for the impersonal reply and was told it was sent because she could have been lying and that she might be taking advantage of the system. Thus, by implication she was required to overcome this baseline by “proving her case”.

Two days of emotional processing later (subconsciously it would seem as the matter resolved that day and I didn’t think much of it after), I realised over and above the anger, I was sad.

I was sad that we have been “programmed” to expect the worse of another, to have a baseline from which we had to prove we are good and worthy.

I was sad that we are “programmed” to see our work as isolated from our environment, as a means to an end of just making a living, and to not see that our actions however small they may be and wherever we may be located, impact on another person.

When did we learn to disassociate our humanness from the industrious machine we call ‘work’?

As Maya Angelou said,

Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped, that’s your legacy.

If we had taken time to put ourselves in another’s shoes and to mindfully exercise the empathy we are all capable of, we would realise few would create a family story such as that told to me. If we had stopped to have a real conversation, we would not have assumed the worse and prejudged the situation.

And in the failure to attend to the interactions and the relationships, we lose the opportunity to stay true to our humanness.

So in spite my anger and sadness, I believe we are not inherently mean nor are we intentionally hurtful, few are. Yet our unthinking and not-mindful actions can hurt.

We can choose to engage with and to make a positive difference to another’s life.

  1. Pay attention.

Behind every letter, email, text message, and in every conversation… there is a person and a story. Pay attention to it.

Listen, truly listen with a compassionate heart and an open mind. In that moment, be prepared and seek to understand.

  1. Be mindful.

Let go of judgment of another or what they may think of us. Attend to the person, not your idea of the person. Choose to be mindful to every word, every gesture, every pause, … they are meaningful.

Let go of time as the arbiter of our actions, there is always more time. Easier said than done, I agree though it is not undo-able. Perhaps we’ll be inspired by what’s next.

  1. Stop, know this.

What we do is not just about us, our efficiency, our productivity, our task completion. What we do impacts on another person, what we do influences the culture in which we work and how we live.

Kindness shown is always felt, and more likely to inspire kindness.

 

Not everyone has to do “great things” to make a difference; every one of us can do small things with love and that makes a difference to those we come in contact with.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

 

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It is not what it seems… maybe

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I wrote an email, somewhat scathing in tone, a few days ago. Entirely justified at the time, I thought. I felt I was being unduly taken advantage of, that the prospective recipient of the email was intentionally obstructive and perhaps malicious, at best unthinking and uncaring. Well, I had to defend myself, don’t I? I am entitled, don’t I? And anyone who knew the circumstances would see this and I would be justified in my action.

But no one saw this email. I did not send it.

My tapping away at the keyboard was cathartic, but catharsis could only go so far in making the situation “right”.

Thankfully, one of my habits is to never send an email drafted during an emotional flux.

Taking a large step back from the finished (but then unsent) email, these were what I realised:

  • Obviously, I was emotional. Of its own, perfectly acceptable and normal. But what happened when the emotions took over …
  • I turned inward and my mind took over. My thoughts revealed me at a low ebb – “I was being unduly taken advantage of”? Really? Have I in that one thought buy into a belief that I was a victim? That I had no say in this? Have I in that one thought about to give way my power?
  • Then, the construction of the “baddie” who was “intentionally obstructive”, “malicious”, “unthinking and uncaring”? This is judgment with a capital ‘J’. I’ll grant that my thoughts, being the rational person that I am, could be correct. Or they might not. But in the moments when I was drafting that email, my mind was closed to any other possibility. It was closed such that I (unconsciously) chose not to see an alternate perspective.
  • And really, what did it matter, if she was or was not? I was there to solve a “problem” not to make judgments about another’s motivations. Why would my actions be guided by anything other than respect for another human being, integrity and compassion?
  • Moving forward in a positive manner requires me to maintain a constructive relationship, moving forward requires me to let go of any and all of the history that could bind me, moving forward requires me to be able to look at myself in the mirror and not cringe or feel compelled to be defensive.
  • And that little voice in my head (?) or my heart said, “you are better than this.”

We have been there, this “feeling small” and “feeling helpless” place.

We have imagined the architects of our misery, rubbing their hands in glee with a malicious grin and gloating.

Well, in those moments we have also handed over responsibility for our self to another and blaming them for not looking after or caring or loving us.

So, this story ended with a phone call, expressing my concerns and being open to a response. The response – the words at least – was as I had expected but there was something else. The response was not “intentionally obstructive”, not “malicious”, not “uncaring”, perhaps a little “unthinking”. Okay, I can live with this, for now. And I (or my ego) would like to say that I had modeled an attitude and a behaviour which hopefully encourage reciprocity. Only time will tell.

What matters most to me is that, it felt right, it felt good, as the email if sent would not.

The lessons, which I keep close to me?

  • Be open to different perspectives and possibilities. There is a world beyond our experiences.
  • Proceed with the empowered self. Our words and actions will reflect this.
  • Let go. We can’t control the future.

 

Namaste.

~ FlorenceT

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Life lesson: I am a human being

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I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.
~ Terence circa 170BC

 

I stumbled upon this. My takeaway is… okay, here’s an aside. ‘Takeaway’ refers to ‘lesson learnt’ or ‘light-bulb moment’ – a term which is rather common in therapeutic circles in Sydney.

So my takeaway from this video is that we, no matter the sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, religious beliefs, nationality, age, talents and abilities, are the same.  We are all capable of the horror some have inflicted, or the love bestowed, or the pain suffered. We are the same in our humanness.

I recall the exuberant youth I was, die-hard feminist exclaiming to a classroom that ‘all men are potential rapists’ – to parrot the words of a renowned radical feminist whose name escapes me now. Marilyn French?

Now, before you get all a-fluster, upset or angry, hear me out.  Firstly, that statement does not suggest that women can’t or won’t. Further, that statement was made in the context of socio-political and legal discourses. The legal definition, at least in Australia, for ‘rape’ is such that only a male person can do so… so yes, the penetration of Y into X.  So, the ‘potential’ part refers to the capability by reason, in this instance, of the male anatomy. It does not suggest probability nor is it definitive. Okay, If you are to return to the provocative statement, can you see what I was referring to? Thirdly, then the corollary was perceived as some to say that ‘all women are potential victims”.  Again, true if taken at face value. Again, it doesn’t mean men can’t or aren’t.

And how did I get here?  Oh right, we all as human beings have the potential to inflict pain, to be cruel, to be selfish… Our shadow follow us. And so does our light. We have the potential for kindness, compassion, generosity, love…

This is humbling. I keep reminding myself in moments of righteous indignance, of snobbish intelligence, of wallowing sadness,… that we are the same.

I know what I can be, and I know who I am.

We are each on our own journey 🙂  What do you make of this quote or even Maya Angelou’s video?

In light and shadow,
– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

And the bully?

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As I sit down to write about bullying and to be part of the collective voice of #1000Speak on ‘Buildin1000speak-blankg for Bullying’, I can’t help but ask, “what about the bully? Let me say this first up – bullying is unacceptable. It is hurtful, it is harming… it has potential long term effects on those involved, including the bully. It can be traumatic. What constitutes bullying?  It is as much the fear-inducing acts of harassment, violence, coercion, intimidation, as it is about the target’s perception of the acts themselves.  It is a two-way street – what is considered bullying by one, may be perceived by another as a mere ‘pain in the butt’ because bullying is about fear.  Our individual relationship with fear is different. ‘Bullying’ is a behaviour – when we use THE word, IT gives colour, tone, images of certain actions which cumulatively and subjectively become acts of bullying.  The word ‘bully’ also has a certain flavour – when used, IT goes from being a subjective description of a person doing certain acts to an absolute ‘objective’ definition of a person.  Isn’t it usually the case, when we refer to a person as a bully, we see an immovable, unchangeable ‘thing’ called a bully, whatever the essence of that ‘thing’ may be in our minds? When someone calls me a control-freak and often enough, I am looked upon, assessed and seen through the lens of ‘control’. The theory of reflexivity suggests that we are constructed by our being in the world, that is we are changed by the expectations, norms, rules, technologies etc. of the world we live in, and we also construct the world by being in it.  Our presence – all that we say and do – contributes to change in our world. So, as we label someone ‘a bully’, are we as part of his world contributing to a process  of solidifying the abhorrent behaviours he has exhibited? Are we somehow creating a certain acceptance that those are the behaviours we expect from her?  Are we giving the impression that that is all we can expect of him, that that is all she is capable of? What becomes of the bully?  When one is labelled a bully and often enough, what is one to become but the label? I know there is no simplistic model for the bullying phenomenon – no ‘if i change this bit here, then all will be well’.  It is complex.  Though perhaps if we begin by refusing to label a person a bully though condemning the actions, our compassion is a step towards a direction of change, and hopefully a positive one. What I have said so far by no means undermine the person experiencing bullying.  This is a look at the other side of the equation, and to show some compassion for the actor who has learnt to express his or her anger, hurt, fear, unworthiness etc. through harming others. To show compassion is not to condone, but seeking to understand and to love.

We can learn the art of fierce compassion – redefining strength, deconstructing isolation and renewing a sense of community, practicing letting go of rigid us-vs.-them thinking – while cultivating power and clarity in response to difficult situations.                       Sharon Salzberg

– FlorenceT   As an aside, I cannot resist this video of a 4-year old’s response when she was told she looked ugly.  That’s a ‘high-five’ from me! 🙂

 

  © 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Practicing compassion #1000Speak

heart compassion
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heart compassion

I had left this post rather late for a myriad of reasons. And so when I sat down to begin, my initial thought was ‘how about something quick’ then swiftly followed by ‘it won’t do this post justice’. It would seem I am not one who take shortcuts. So, what to write about compassion – which worldview shall I extend.

Compassion is defined in Dictionary.com as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering”. By its very definition, compassion engages the HEART and it compels ACTION.

Compassion is not empathy nor altruism. You see, empathy does not require action. I can sit with someone in their grief, knowing and understanding without the impetus to act. Whereas altruism’s reference point is the self, such as the act of selflessness though it benefits another. Unlike them, compassion is about the other, pure and simple. It requires us to step into the shoes of another, to be fully present in their space, to feel their pain and suffering AND to take action to reduce or eliminate that suffering.

It is comparatively easy to feel compassion for physical suffering that are apparent. We see a man who has lost his legs, we feel for them, we contribute how and what we can.

What of those with psychological illnesses – what of the well-dressed woman on the bus having a loud conversation with herself? Do you avoid her? Do you look at her ‘oddly’ with a frown? Or do you take a seat beside her because others won’t?

What of the fit-looking man, who stutters? Do you look away in embarassment? Do you speak to him in a tone and at a pace that condescends? Do you assume because he can’t speak fluidly that he won’t understand? Or do you still see the man who is intelligent and wishing to express his views? Will you smile and encourage?

Where is our compassion then? How easy it is for you and I to only see suffering from our worldview, our own experience and understanding of pain and suffering. To be compassionate, we walk in another’s shoes, we see their pain and suffering from their lens. Do we do that? I know I don’t, not always. I can think, analyse and rationalise, so I delude myself that what I believe and perceive must be true.

Have you ever been told that you are exaggerating, that your finger couldn’t possible hurt because what has happened couldn’t possibly hurt? He who proceeds to tell you that it had happened to him and it didn’t hurt him, so it couldn’t hurt you. Compassion requires us to accept another in their pain and suffering, notwithstanding its severity or whether it is temporal.  Until then, our action would likely be inappropriate, unsuitable and condescending.

Compassionate action lifts another up, it encourages and supports, it enables. It does not rescue, it does not excuse, it does not correct, it does not seek to create a dependency.  The everyday ‘little’ acts of compassion counts, and it only takes a pebble to create a ripple.

According to Buddhist tradition, we are all born with the seed of compassion within us. To nurture and grow this seed, I suspect we must practice. Neuroplasticity suggests as we keep doing something in repetition, it becomes a habit; our brain create ‘new’ neural pathways. And so it is with compassion. Compassion is a trainable skill.

Compassion can become our default way of being. Imagine that!

So how about we practice, you and I… 🙂 practice being compassionate every moment of our lives, one moment at a time.

Namaste!

– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

My world is set to right despite…

WSW #illridewithyou
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I am Australian, and no matter how much I tried to avoid the sensationalism of the news of ‘the siege’ yesterday, well it hit me.

Disbelief at first, then the sensation which I have since identified as anxiety.

1. The fearful realisation that the city I live in, part of my world, is not immune to violence of this nature.  The rational part of me says, ‘wait a sec, it’s a lone man in a cafe’. It’s not a ‘terrorists attack’, is it?  What constitutes a ‘terrorists attack’ anyway?  I have no idea but I can not fathom it is decided upon religious lines only. Nevertheless, naive or otherwise, bad things happen. The question is how do I (or how do we) respond?

2. The dreaded certainty of the media circus that would ensue, making  the feeling of ‘unsafe’ worse The notion of ‘one man in a cafe’ was quickly dismissed in the media for more ‘attractive’ words like terrorism, Muslim, siege etc..  And through it all, I could not dismiss the sense perhaps this is being ‘talked up’.  My anxiety surrounds the almost certainty that ‘hate’ would somehow flow.  True enough, calls were heard for tighter migration, deportation of certain migrants, derision for the rule of law, accusations of ‘wrong-doing’ by those within ‘law & order’…the list goes on.

3. The frustration, anger and sadness that once again I am confronted with the ugliness of humanity.  Not just of a person for whatever reasons choosing to take the life of another human being, but also the thoughtless, ill-considered and hateful comments thrown around during and post-incident. I will not repeat them here.  I guess if I could I would hide under a very big rock because I prefer not to expend energy on negativity, to bring attention to things not worthy of attention such as this ugliness. I also know I live in this world and sometimes, I am called to add my voice.  So here it is.

4. The heavy sense of loss and sadness for the lives affected by this incident, and the loss of love and innocence perhaps.

THEN out of sombre mood, this appears on Twitter.

WSW #illridewithyou

This comforts me.

This inspires me.

This, I hope, overrides the many ‘shockjock’ comments on the radio and the fear-mongering appearing in the media.

This is compassion.

This is loving kindness.

 This reinforces my trust in humanity.

 

Fear and Love

When someone warns you that your compassion may not be reciprocated, that is fear.

When someone tells you that you are naive for choosing to believe in the goodness of others, that is fear.

When someone makes you choose between ‘them’ or ‘us’, that is fear.

When someone ridicules your kindness as stupidity or ignorance, that is fear.

When someone treats your loving actions with suspicion and doubts, that is fear.

 

Our compassion and kindness must never be dependent on reciprocity, they are given freely and with love.

So, Fear or Love?  What do you choose?

– FlorenceT

 

© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.