Tag Archives: compassion

Year of Self Compassion #36 #messy

Somewhere between life and death lies a river that has a few rapids and stones and even the odd waterfall as it cascades into an eternal ocean. Along the way tears turn into tributaries as they are indeed a tribute to love and an act of gratitude for the shared ride in whatever vessel has carried you in the first place.  Lir, ruler of Time and Deep Space commissioned his son, the Lord of the Sea, Manannan Mac Lir to be ready for his responsibilities of safe passage for his charges.  Watching a loved one make this journey is one of the great privileges of life. To be witness to the labour, to be witness to their story and to their love is a forever gift.  So I come to this Sunday with another experience under my belt of this time in another’s life. The transition is yet to be complete and there is not a foot in the boat, but the ticket has been bought and the passport stamped and there are people gathered on the wharf to wave goodbye.

These are the times when the compassion revolution is offered up for strength and for guidance – to help with all the choices to be made. For every moment offers a choice of your best self to step into the space. This is a revolution inspired by wanting the best of our health and social systems and those who administer and work in them. It is a revolution fuelled by disciplines of empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and courage. It is a revolution where the revolutionaries drill with tools of mindfulness, curiosity and finely tuned listening skills. It is a revolution where the heart opens and the brain re-wires.  At this time I am being invited deeper into this revolution and am getting a masterclass from the staff at the Hospice, who connect with ease, confidence and clarity. They pay attention to the tiniest of details so expertly an untrained eye or ear would not even notice, I suspect they are so experienced they don’t even notice their own micro-skills so embedded in their practice.  There is still never enough for those with an insatiable appetite for anxiety, yet staff just seem to use this as an opportunity to practice their discipline.  It is a great lesson for me and while I am a reluctant learner I am taking in the opportunity to learn from them.  I did turn to the colouring in pencils and chose a series of feathers to invoke my beloved Hildegard who said of herself, she was a feather on the breath of God. I am never a great one for small talk and my level of irritation of unworthy conversations gnaws at me, this is my Achilles heel (which I have reframed into my Achilles hell!).  I don’t want to talk trivia.  I have said many times before “life is too short for crap conversations” and in these moments my tolerance of them is at its lowest. With practice, I am learning more about the transformational nature of curious enquiry as a way to unlock and reveal something deeper – a bit like Michelangelo – I chip away to find the lion in the marble. It is a craft and an art and I am very much an apprentice. In the company of Stephanie Dowrick earlier in the year, I sat at the feet of a master and I am invoking her wise counsel in the moments I need to find more compassion for others and ultimately myself.  Being a revolutionary requires discipline in the field of battle and daily practice to be ready for surprise attacks!

The re-wiring is beginning to be visible, but embedded and new neuronal pathways are not fully formed or even mapped out, so I am getting tangled up still from time to time. Making better choices mostly, but not always, is another reminder of the power of self-compassion, to give myself a break. I was distracted by a three year old’s classification system of which animals belonged where – essentially his advice was binary – in a farm or in a jungle.  Such truth in this analysis – we are tamed or wild – and the process of domestication can take generations.  The exotics roam free and find places of camouflage in their surroundings, the conquered are at the service of the system.  A mix of both is what sustains me, and remembering that is an act of self-compassion in these mega-moments where Time and Deep Space is passed over to the Ferryman for another experience to add to this often messy, revolutionary pilgrim’s journey.

 

 

Promise to tomorrow #12 Compassion

Cutting through virtual paper with the open blades of vertical fingers mimicking scissors singles the beginning of a debate. It is so hard to be binary in these complex times and the introduction of just three simple variables in this most ancient of games. And while there are three choices there are still only two players. Having choice brings the potential for strategy through observing your opponents behaviour and it is a little less random than being subjected to the toss of a coin. Building in explicit choices may begins the process of self-determination yet the winner and loser divide keeps the real choice of success binary. This temptation to feel like you have agency over your decisions, yet you may well be in a simple us vs them or me vs you set of circumstances over and over again. Sometimes it will be the rock over-riding and smashing scissors, the paper covering up the rock we don’t want to see, the scissors cutting through the red tape – these are choices open to us before many debates.

What have you done this week to cover up, smash up or cut through? When were you a winner and when were you a loser? And what would happen if you through your hands up in the air and decided not to play – resistance and civil disobedience are back – although they never left the scene for those on the margins who had already opted out or offered the rest of us cultural alternatives.

Building a culture of compassion goes beyond two players and three choices and necessarily embraces complexity and ambiguity. The maxim of leaving no-one behind, in the vernacular of the military, is an instruction for our times. The pleas from our Senate by a woman once on welfare who was also a soldier somehow captured the mood of the nation this week by those who were the least likely to look to her for leadership and guidance. Yet she spoke from the heart and called out her peers in the chamber. The cuts to women and children as they are the losers always in these decisions are significant. The day the cuts to single parents went through in a past administration was the same day the only female Prime Minister of our country gave her famous misogyny speech – so this is not a political point I am making. This is a point about building a culture of compassion. To bring heart, head and soul to decision making has to be an act of engagement of all those parts. As Atticus Finch told Scout:

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (3.85-87)  To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee

We need more climbing into each other’s skin to feel what it is like to be in it and walk around in it. Then the choices may not seem so obvious, the place of resistance will appear before your very eyes and the false dichotomy of winners and loser will evaporate. If we aren’t all in this together on this little blue planet, then we will all be losers.

Holding on to the promise of building a culture of compassion starts at home, right close in with yourself and walking around in your own skin and noticing the decisions and actions you take each day to leave no one behind. This is a big ask, a big promise and a lot of everyday practice.

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Dancing with speeches #18 Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent a life in exile and lost a lifetime waiting and working for change in her country. She drew on the spirit of her people and the practice of nonviolence to keep her focused on her desire for liberation from military rule. The epitome of grace under fire, Aung San Suu Kyi always appears with a flower in her hair, beauty inside and out, a poetic defiance against tyranny.

Fearlessness maybe a gift, but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’ – grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.

From Freedom for Fear speech, 1990.

The antidotes for fear are truth, justice and compassion and a relentless application of them in the deepest ethical application, even to the cellular level is a vocation for the bravest of souls.  To be brave with yourself first is the first step or perhaps we are just ‘half a shade braver’ as David Whyte suggests.  There is an invocation, a litany of invitations to go further with our truths and stop being delusional – the oppression and failure of human rights is down to us as well, those who are free, it is our privilege to act and address.  We are not separate from the equation, an unholy symmetry until all are liberated.  Fear is the order of the day where human rights are being violated and the stock exchange in fear is alive and well in our nations and in our own hearts.

The fear of betrayal and rejection in our every day lives, hold us to ransom, call out our terrorist traits, bring sabotage and conspiracy.  When there is darkness, and fog it maybe hard to find the sunlight to shine on us and purify our hearts and support our steps to courage born of vulnerability. The spark and flicker of the candle can be enough to hold on to, the half a shade of bravery might inspire others to be a little bit braver too. Never under estimate the smallest act of breaking open the ground for others to follow and add their weight to the ground – every collective action begins with one voice, one simple act.

The fears that kept our ancestors alive throughout the ages have disappeared, yet we are still afraid of the metaphorical mastodon and we haven’t necessarily made our fears as extinct as creatures they were designed to protect us from.  The deepest fear, Marianne Williamson says is fear of our own greatness. Imagine liberation from fear what wonders might be visible, what humanity might unfold and evolution be aroused.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Marianne Williamson

The fear of the other is alive and well in our time, in my country and the fear of a little one on the shores of our land seeking asylum speaks to me of an irrational fear. Speaking truth to power, working for justice and making compassion visible will be both inoculation from further fear mongering and a cure. Freedom from fear is a daily practice and discipline.

Arriving for conference Credit:http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/aung-san-suu-kyi-tells-myanmars-peace-stakeholders-to-prepare-for-conference-04272016163531.html

Arriving for conference to prepare for government Feb 2016 Credit