A useful exercise to practise and increase the amount of compassion in the world.
A useful exercise to practise and increase the amount of compassion in the world.
Social activists need to grow as humans as well because the greatest enemy isn’t outside, whether it is white supremacy or colonialism or patriarchy; it is the untamed ego or shadow side of us. (We can have a holistic t’shuvah understanding of ourselves, recognising that while we bear the image of the divine, we have a capacity to do tremendous good or terrible evil.)
When we succeed in bringing about a revolution and challenging and dismantling white supremacy, for example, the question is “what’s next?” Is the response “who’s the next enemy?” If so, it can become a means to not deal with our interior life and stay preoccupied with fighting against an external perceived enemy all the time. This can lead to infighting in social activist groups or movements as the members begin to turn on one another. But if the response is “how can I continue to create a better and more humane world?” then one can find creative ways to bring about or facilitate restoration and reconciliation. It might mean working through one’s own pain and suffering to experience healing and peace more and more; it might mean reaching out to help the oppressed heal from their pain and suffering; it might mean working with the white people who are aware and willing to bring about equality in real and tangible ways in society, and so on.
To be sure, social activists are human and have their own fears and egos and insecurities. But are they going to allow these to override their primary motivation in activism, which is a love for oneself and others and working towards their emancipation? If others’ freedom and well being are their top priority, they can choose to not their own hurt pride and wounded ego get in the way of their mission to alleviate the oppressed of their pain and suffering.
Social activists have to learn to develop a thick skin and a willingness to be open and receptive to questions and criticisms. They have to realise that as public figures who have a platform that is open to scrutiny from the rest of the world, they cannot be shielded or sheltered from opposing views or different perspectives. Instead, they can choose to learn from the criticisms and different perspectives to do their own soul searching, to grow and expand, to become stronger and bigger persons.
Social activists need to create a space for themselves to embrace their own brokenness, weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as that of others. Only then can they live an honest and authentic life, and continue to inspire others with their humanness.
Social activists can choose to learn from other role models who have been through struggles and upheavals themselves and who are open about their struggles. People such as Rob Bell and Carlton Pearson, who have suffered and been ostracised in their work to challenge oppressive systems and mindsets and who have worked through their struggles and shared openly about them, can serve as such role models.
Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in New York. She received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University, New York. She is the author of the multi-award-winning, The Conscious Parent. Heralded as a game-changer in the parenting genre, this book turns the traditional parenting paradigms on its head and revolutionizes how we raise our families. She has been exposed to Eastern mindfulness at an early age and integrates its teachings with Western psychology. This blend of East and West allows her to reach a global audience. Her ability to appeal to both a psychologically astute and consciousness-driven audience establishes her as one of a kind in the parenting field. She lectures extensively on mindful living and conscious parenting around the world and is in private practice. She resides with her husband and daughter in New York.
“Parents, few hold a greater power or more immense responsibility. And this is why I’m here today, to propose that we occupy the role of parenthood in an entirely different way, with a renewed curiosity, a heightened awareness, a transformed commitment. Because nothing like parenthood that needs to be at the forefront of our global consciousness. It’s the call, the linchpin that affects how our children will thrive. Everything: how they take care of themselves, each other, the earth, show compassion, tolerate differences, handle their emotions, create, invent, innovate. This is where global transformation begins. We cannot expect our children to embody an enlightened consciousness if we parents haven’t dared to model this ourselves. It all starts with us and how we parent.”
To a large extent, this observation is true, although I would add that children who did not experience conscious parenting from their own biological parents are also able to embody an enlightened consciousness when they decide to listen to their own heart and devote themselves to conscious living and philosophy as they grow up, and choose to learn from other conscious people who serve as their role models.
“You know, we don’t hurt our children because we are evil or ill-intentioned, certainly not out of a lack of love. We hurt our children for one reason only: it’s because we are hurting ourselves and we barely know it. It’s because we are unconscious, because we have inherited legacies of emotional baggage from our own parents. We’re sitting on the emotional baggage that lies dormant unconscious, waiting to be triggered at a moment’s notice. And who better to trigger us than our children? They just know the buttons to push.
Through our children, we get theatre seats, orchestra seats to the theatrics of our emotional immaturity. You know when we lose our temper with our children and believe that they’re devils and monsters, chances are it isn’t because they’re that, but because they’ve triggered an old wound within us. They’ve made us feel feelings that we don’t care to feel. They’ve made us feel powerless and out-of-control, helpless, and in order to regain a sense of supremacy, we lash out at them in reactivity. You know when we pick on our children nonstop, we nitpick at them, ‘Why aren’t you like this? Why don’t you do that? Why couldn’t you be more like her?’ chances are it’s not because they are inadequate, but because we come from a place of inner lack, and we ourselves live under the tyranny of a severe inner critic. You know when our children are disrespectful to us and cross our boundaries and we fret and fume, and commiserate with our friends about our evil children? Chances are it’s not because they’re wild and chaotic, but because we ourselves have a problem with our leadership, with consistency, with order, with handling conflict, with saying no.
You know, our children come to us whole, complete and worthy. They’re happy with two sticks, a stone and a feather. But because we’ve been conditioned so deeply in an unconscious manner, so severed from our own sense of presence, wholeness, attunement, and sense of self and whole and abundance, that we project a sense of lack onto them, and we teach them, ‘Do not depend on your sense of self for worth and value, but look outward. Look to the Ferrari, the corporate corner office, to the casino, to the pill, to the bottle, to the needle, to spouse number one, two and three, to where you live, to where you graduated from.’ Because we are severed from a sense of being, we are consumed by doing. This is how we know self value. We teach our children, ‘You can’t simply play, you must achieve. You can’t have a hobby, you must excel at it. You cannot dream, you must dream big, and why really dream if you can’t succeed?’
It’s time for us to change the spotlight, to turn it inwards, and change it from being the child who needs to be fixed, the child as the one with the problem, and parental evolution as the solution. … The time to awaken is now. The parenting paradigm needs to shift. No more the parent as the greater than, but now we need to look at our children as equal if not greater transforming agents. Our children are our awakeners, they are our teachers.
It is time for us parents to answer the call, to pause, to reflect more, to connect to our own abundance, to trust our children, to understand their brilliance, to follow their lead, to self-love, to create purpose, to enter worth, to be in gratitude. For this is how our children will absorb wholeness and abundance, fullness and spirit. And from this place, they can fly free. It is time for us parents to answer our call to our own awakening. The moment is now and our children await.”
An inspiring and impassioned speech indeed, full of insight and wisdom for conscious parenting and conscious living, which I believe will result in a greater healing of humanity and the planet. I would add that each of us can be that conscious parent because “family”, as a concept and social construct, needs not be confined to blood relations only.
Each of us has the power to be that example, that role model, for other children to learn from, so each of us – whether we have children or we are childless – can choose to awaken to who we really are intrinsically – spiritual beings on a human journey who are already whole, beloved and abundant.
We are not defined by our actions, and neither are we defined by our age nor gender. The concepts of “father”, “mother”, “son” and “daughter” are only applicable in the physical realm that are tied to gender, age and biological relations, but our true self is genderless, ageless and formless. Therefore, each of us can play the role of a father, mother, son or daughter to someone else. Just as it can be said that each of us has a divine feminine and a divine masculine side, it can also be said that each of us has a sacred call to being a parent and a child. We are all parents to someone else, and we are all children to someone else as well. This is because we are all interrelated and we are all one in the deepest essence of our beings.
I have tried a radical experiment recently. I call it: THE EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT.
Whenever I have a dark thought — a “forbidden” thought, like anger, jealousy, resentment, lust, shame, contempt — I immediately say to myself, “I love the part of you, Liz, who is full of anger right now.”
or: “I love the part of you who is ashamed of yourself right now.”
or: “I love the part of you who can’t stop judging yourself right now.”
or: “I love the part of you who feels weak and helpless right now.”
or: ‘I love the part of you who just had an explicitly violent fantasy about watching that person who is talking loudly on her cellphone suddenly have her head blow up.”
or: “I love the part of you who is still having an argument in your head with a man you haven’t talked to in 15 years.”
or: “I love the part of you who broke your New Year’s resolution on January 4th.”
or: “I love the part of you who believes that she is such a spiritual hypocrite, it’s ridiculous.”
or: “I love the vain/insecure part of you who stands in front of the mirror lifting up the dangly flesh on your neck and wondering if there’s some kind of plastic surgery for that.”
or: “I love the part of you who is jealous of that other novelist for winning that big award.”
I used to try to banish all those parts of myself. Because they were BAD. They were WRONG. They were UNEVOLVED. They were NEGATIVE.
But banishing the parts of myself that I hated has never worked. The more I try to banish them, the stronger they grow. The more I hated these parts of myself, the more they multiplied. It’s like my self-hatred was fertilizer — creating a dark, warm, nourishing environment for all those “bad” thoughts and impulses to grow…and as they grew, they destroyed me.
Now I just say to the dark thought, “I love this part of you”…and the dark thought loses its power.
I understand now that I am not a SELF. I am SELVES. I am thousands of different selves — and all of them are worthy of love.
To say, “I love you,” is the only force strong enough to diffuse darkness.
And here’s the crazy thing — this habit is starting to spread out of me, and I can now do it toward others.
For instance, I now have the capacity to think: “I love the part of my husband who is constantly interrupting me. This is just his weird humanity at play.”
Followed by: “And I love the part of me who gets so freaking irritated about how my husband is constantly interrupting me.”
Followed by: “I love the part of me who doesn’t really BELIEVE that I love the part of my husband who is constantly interrupting me.”
Followed by: “I love the part of me who is saying that this EXTREME LOVE EXPERIMENT is total bullshit, and it will never work.”
Followed by: “I love the part of me who wonders if I will ever truly love myself.”
And it goes on like that. But I go on, too. I just keep throwing love at everything that comes up…until finally it all gently quiets down.
And it does all finally gently quiet down.
I love all these dark parts of myself not because they are wonderful and adorable and perfect and fantastic, but because they are THERE. My dark bits are with me and they will likely always be with me. Just as your dark parts are with you and will likely always be with you. All that is there needs to be loved.
As they say: “It’s not a bug; it’s a FEATURE.”
Our humanity is not an ERROR. Our crazy thoughts are not MISTAKES. Our scary longings and giant failures and ongoing disasters are not ABERRATIONS.
This is merely what it is to be a person — messy, weird, inconsistent, doubtful. This is how we ARE, and that has to be OK, or else nobody is OK.
We are not some early Dell Computer Operating System, here to be de-bugged. We are not some new product for sale, here to be perfected. The goal is not to become an immaculate golden orb. The goal is to return to a place of kindness, where you can be gentle with yourself and others, no matter what arises. This requires, I think, a friendly sort of loving humor about who you are and who we all are. Why does the Dalai Lama have such a twinkle about him? Because he gets it. He gets that it’s kind of funny, how we are. Even when it’s terrible. The whole thing is…very, very strange. And that’s OK. It’s strange, but it’s sacred.
And I believe there no is gentler or safer place to stand on this earth than in a place where you can say to yourself, “I love every bit of you, you beautiful freak.”
The Buddha said it better, of course. The Buddha said, “You can search the whole world over and never find anyone as deserving of love as yourself.”
In other words: Be good to you, OK?
Please put down the knife you have been holding to your own throat. You don’t deserve that kind of abuse, and it won’t help.
Just try it. Try saying to your scariest bits: “I love this part of you.”
And then say it again to the next part…and the next part…and the next part…and the next part…and ONWARD.
Good luck in there.
I have read this in-depth post by Elizabeth Gilbert and found it both amazingly timeless and timely – timeless because loving and accepting ourselves in the fullness of our humanity is an ongoing process for time and eternity, and timely because I have been exploring my shadow lately as I continue to delve deep into my soul to experience greater intimacy and authenticity with myself, and also with others as a result.
I realise the more we awaken to who we really are and free ourselves from expectations of society and organised religions, the more we will come to appreciate and accept ourselves completely regardless of what we do or think because we no longer measure our worth based on our actions or accomplishments or mistakes, or based on what other people think of us, or based on what we think of ourselves; instead we simply rest in the wonderful truth that we are worthy simply because we are Love, and therefore we are worthy of love every moment of our lives.
I like her suggested meditation or practice or experiment of extreme love because it is immensely practical and relatable as we all would have experienced or done or said something that society or religion or our own inner critic would frown upon at any point of time, and it is indeed vital that at that very moment we think we fall short of any kind of self-imposed or others-imposed “standard”, we can choose to love that part of ourselves that “falls short”, and it would lose its power over us, and we will indeed experience a deep sense of peace within ourselves, like taking a warm relaxing bath of endless and unfailing love.
A few members of the black community have liked a particular post from Gospel of Grace and Peace Facebook page today, which is a quote on success by Maya Angelou. Come to think of it, maybe there is a reason why this quote resonates with them so much, as much as it also resonates with me. When I consider the context of how the white supremacy system has sabotaged the entire lives of Africans through slavery and oppression down through the centuries, such as uprooting their families from their Motherland during the colonial period and enforcing structural and institutional racism which makes it difficult for them to make a living, as well as propagating a narrow one-track definition of success in the name of capitalism and imperialism, I now see her quote as a revolutionary and subversive act of creative rebellion and defiance to divest oneself from the mainstream view of success by boldly declaring that “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
Let’s deconstruct this amazing quote and see how it is so liberating and empowering to us who are seeking to challenge and dismantle the oppressive white supremacy system:
1. Success is liking yourself.
This is the first major step to regaining our sense of true identity and self-worth. The white-washed media has sought to devalue and dehumanise non-whites, especially the black community, by portraying white people in a positive light and casting non-white people in a less than positive light. Studies on the influence of the mass media on black children have revealed shocking but perhaps unsurprising results: they grew up hating themselves or their own skin colour. Being impressionable at a young age, it is no wonder that people in the black or non-white community grew up struggling with a sense of unworthiness and inferiority complex. It is therefore of utmost importance that we, including the black community, regain our dignity and establish ourselves in self-love and self-acceptance, and dare to shine in the full glory of our original identity.
2. Success is liking what you do.
For too long, the capitalistic and imperialistic system has been imposing their ideals on us, telling us to conform to the norms in order to be accepted or recognised. These norms tend to revolve around status, power, class, material wealth, possessions and so on. These ideals are based on an illusion of separateness and do not nourish the soul, nor do they engender compassion for oneself and others. Conversely, when we choose to listen to our heart and follow our dreams, we will find ourselves doing what we really like (and thus liking what we do), in a way that honours our spirit and the natural environment we live in. We thrive when we are empowered to express our gifts and fulfil our callings that serve to heal ourselves and the world around us.
3. Success is liking how you do it.
Similarly, the white supremacy system tends to breed many “white saviours” who want to run and control the whole world, telling others how to do what they are doing and expecting them to listen and obey and submit to them. But when we choose to think for ourselves, we will find that we need not have to follow the practices of the system, especially if they do not serve us or others or bring about the highest good. We can like what we do and how we do it, whether we are doing high-profile or low-profile work, or whether we are helping a large group of people or helping them one-on-one.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says listening can help end the suffering of an individual, put an end to war and change the world for the better. Watch as he explains how to practice compassionate listening.
“In our work to end modern slavery, we must find the time to take care of ourselves, and to take care of the present moment. By doing so, we can find some relative peace in our body and mind to continue our work. We need to recognise and embrace our own suffering, our anger, fear, and despair so that the energy of compassion can be maintained in our hearts. When we have more clarity in our mind, we will have compassion not only for the victims, but for the traffickers themselves. When we see that the traffickers have suffered, we can help them wake up and stop what they are doing. Our compassion can help transform them into friends and allies of our cause.
“In order to sustain our work of compassion, we all need a spiritual community to support us and protect us – a real community, where there is true brotherhood and sisterhood, compassion and understanding. We should not do this work as cavaliers seuls, as lone warriors. The roots of modern slavery run deep, and the causes and conditions, the networks and structures supporting it are complex. That is why we need to build a community that can continue this work to protect human life not just until 2020, but long into the future.
“The world in which we live is globalized, and so too is this new form of slavery, that is connected to the economic, political and social systems. Therefore our ethics and morality also need to be globalized. A new global order calls for a new global ethic. We have to sit down together, as people of many traditions, as we are doing now, to find the causes of this suffering. If we look deeply together, with clarity, calm and peace, we will understand the causes of modern slavery, and we can find a way out.”
(From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Speech at the Vatican, December 2, 2014 – SUMMIT OF WORLD FAITH LEADERS TO END MODERN SLAVERY & HUMAN TRAFFICKING)
“I spoke about our relationships as flowers that need watering with love and communication to grow… we all need a friend to remind us…. Nourishing and healing communication is the food of our relationships…. We may not even know what we said or did that started to poison the relationship. But we have the antidote: mindful compassion and loving communication. Love, respect, and friendship all need food to survive. With mindfulness we can produce thoughts, speech, and actions that will feed our relationships and help them grow and thrive.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Art of Communicating”
I have checked out the video and I resonate with Drew Sumrall’s message on what it means to be a militant of truth, and I learnt that Paul was a militant of the universality of truth by maintaining a steadfast fidelity to the event of the cross, or the death and resurrection of Christ, through faith, hope and love, which are the three things that remain. I noted that love is the work of maintaining fidelity to the event in the here and now, and love is over and above all other things such as spirituality, faith, charity and hope, which, while having their place, are worthless without love, for “the greatest of these is love”.
According to Drew, the mystery of love is our incompleteness reaching out to love the other, for love is about the other, hence the work of the militant of truth is to love the other. He added that love is what faith is capable of, which means faith is only the beginning of the work of love. He also said that they hanged Jesus on the tree not because he preached hate or he preached love but because he lived love, and his death was the consequence of his love. Love is the narrow road and the small gate, which paradoxically leads to life.
I noted that true love doesn’t foster acceptance as it foments rejection, and just by loving another, who is the other, we will risk a great deal, and as Drew said, to have everything without love is nothing, for the greatest of these things that remain is love. This is a timeless message to me that is worth remembering and meditating upon.
According to Dr Brene Brown, empathy is feeling connection. It involves seeing from the other person’s perspective, staying out of judgment, recognising the emotions of the person, and communicating that.
Empathy is entering into that sacred space in which we say to the other person “I know what it is like down here. You are not alone.”
Empathy is a vulnerable choice in which in order to connect with the other person, I need to connect with something in myself that knows the other person’s feelings.
Sometimes it helps to not draw a silver lining in the clouds to try to make something better at that time. What makes something better is connection (of love and understanding), which may involve admitting that we do not know what to say or do too.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:15-16)