Like the article says “Bodies of water, such as oceans and lakes, can help us to easily connect with our state of awe. This promotes mindfulness, reduces stress, and increases our physical well-being.” I can also relate to what it says about how “the rhythm of water can lull us into a deep and hypnotic state of relaxation” because I often find myself lapsing or being lulled into a state of relaxation and meditation when I pause by a river or sea.
I can meditate and experience a sense of being out of time and space for a while, but I need to remember that it doesn’t necessarily make me better or more enlightened than others. The danger is that I can become overly detached or even pompous and lose my humanity and ability to relate to others at a human level.
Yes, I am in the world and not of the world, but still I am in the world and need to reach out to help alleviate suffering and pain in the world as a fellow sentient being. By acknowledging my own suffering and pain and practising compassion towards myself, I can extend compassion towards others.
For instance, I can observe without being involved in an online discussion in a cycling forum, and I find myself making judgments about how people write and respond to one another and share their viewpoints which may come across to me as calm or argumentative or wise and so on. Then again, I have been there before myself, and I may have some blind spots that others can see when they read my posts in the forum. I need to realise and remember that I am both an observer and a participant of life. I can’t simply be an observer and not participate at all because it would be like living in a bubble.
It occurs to me that one paradox of life is that to be free from being bound by the worldly concerns of life, the way out is not to numb myself to not feel the feelings and emotions, but to allow myself to feel the feelings and emotions that a “normal” human being would feel. As much as I don’t like to be held hostage by circumstances and have my moods dictated by happenings that are beyond my control, and as much as I am learning to “respond” like a thermostat instead of “reacting” like a thermometer, I have to acknowledge the fact that I am not above Nature and I am also not beyond being a human being.
Animals, for example, seem to cooperate fully with Nature by being spontaneous with emotions in accordance with circumstances – whether they be joy, fear, sadness or some other feeling. They can be very intuitive in their own ways, sometimes not in the way we humans understand or are familiar with. Whether they are conscious of their own emotions or intuition is another story, as I don’t really know if they are conscious or capable of self-reflection and contemplation. But what I can do on my part as a human being is to practise flowing with Nature as well, and choose to be conscious of my emotions while living and being in this dynamic world.
This comprehensive blog by Elizabeth Dahl Kingery reminds me of Nikola Tesla’s quote about thinking in terms of energy, frequency and vibration if we want to find the secrets of the Universe, for everything is energy which changes from one form to another. Given that the earth is about 4.6 billion (or 4,600 million) years old and the modern human species is relatively young, about 200 million years old, there must be a lot of energy that has been accumulated over millions of years circulating around the world, changing from one form to another, through the continual birth and death and evolution of plants, animals and human beings. As her blog said, there are benevolent and malevolent energies or entities we encounter in life, and each of us has our unique, individual ways of doing “our deep inner work of moving through (our) painful emotions and fears towards enlightenment”, whether it be deep relaxation, visualisation, meditation, certain crystals, herbs and high-frequency food and so on.
This cycle of existence, which suffering and pain is a part of, reminds me of the Buddhist concept of samsara – I googled and found this article by Teal Swan that has a similar view of accepting and embracing and working through our feelings and emotions in the process of doing our deep inner work. Recently, I decided to articulate in a blog on why and how I am learning to feel and express my feelings and emotions in order to more fully experience what it is to be human and to be alive.
And yes, we can trust and allow our intuition to guide us “because (our) higher self knows best what someone needs, and when they’re most open to receiving it.” I also have come to see that “self-love and self-empowerment are the most effective healing modalities for clearing entities” because the highest form of energy and the highest frequency is love, and our true self or identity is essentially and intrinsically love.
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.
When we step out of the matrix of the societal system, we naturally step out of fear, oppression and the illusion of separation. Anything that causes people to feel superior over others, whether it is nationalism, competition, racism, religion or education based on so-called meritocracy and achievements, etc, is an illusion and delusion.
It is misleading somewhat to evaluate people based solely on presentation skills, public speaking skills, and so on in formal education because if someone has the passion, vision and compassion to promote ideas that liberate and empower others, they will naturally find ways and means to get their message across, regardless of how well they score in academics or how well they perform the eyes of the establishments. In addition, degrees, diplomas and doctorates do not measure a person’s character as these paper qualifications tend to denote mainly how indoctrinated and conformist they are to be accepted by the system. Rather, it is kindness that matters, as it has a lasting impact in our hearts at the end of the day.
A system or country or institution that emphasises achievements and material “success” only tends to breed the fear of “failure” and fear of being rejected or ridiculed, and as a result, it tends to limit or inhibits personal freedom, creativity, and potential to develop one’s gifts.
“When we begin to breathe mindfully and listen to our bodies, we become aware of feelings of suffering that we’ve been ignoring. We hold these feelings in our bodies as well as our minds. Our suffering has been trying to communicate with us, to let us know it is there, but we have spent a lot of time and energy ignoring it.
When we begin to breathe mindfully, feelings of loneliness, sadness, fear, and anxiety may come up. When that happens, we don’t need to do anything right away. We can just continue to follow our in-breath and our out-breath. We don’t tell our fear to go away; we recognise it. We don’t tell our anger to go away, we acknowledge it. These feelings are like a small child tugging at our sleeves. Pick them up and hold them tenderly. Acknowledging our feelings without judging them or pushing them away, embracing them with mindfulness, is an act of homecoming.
Our suffering reflects the suffering of the world. Discrimination, exploitation, poverty, and fear cause a lot of suffering in those around us. Our suffering also reflects the suffering of others. We may be motivated by the desire to do something to help relieve the suffering in the world. How can we do that without understanding the nature of suffering? If we understand our own suffering, it will become much easier for us to understand the suffering of others and of the world. We may have the intention to do something or be someone that can help the world suffer less, but unless we can listen to and acknowledge our own suffering, we will not really be able to help.
The amount of suffering inside us and around us can be overwhelming. Usually we don’t like to be in touch with it because we believe it’s unpleasant. The marketplace provides us with everything imaginable to help us run away from ourselves. We consume all these products in order to ignore and cover up the suffering in us. Even if we’re not hungry, we eat. When we watch television, even if the program isn’t very good, we don’t have the courage to turn it off, because we know that when we turn it off we may have to go back to ourselves and get in touch with the suffering inside. We consume not because we need to consume but because we’re afraid of encountering the suffering inside us.
But there is a way of getting in touch with the suffering without being overwhelmed by it. We try to avoid suffering, but suffering is useful. We need suffering. Going back to listen and understand our suffering brings about the birth of compassion and love. If we take the time to listen deeply to our own suffering, we will be able to understand it. Any suffering that has not been released and reconciled will continue. Until it has been understood and transformed, we carry with us not just our own suffering but also that of our parents and our ancestors. Getting in touch with suffering that has been passed down to us helps us understand our own suffering. Understanding suffering gives rise to compassion. Love is born, and right away we suffer less. If we understand the nature and the roots of our suffering, the path leading to the cessation of the suffering will appear in front of us. Knowing there is a way out, a path, brings us relief, and we no longer need to be afraid.
Understanding suffering always brings compassion. If we don’t understand suffering, we don’t understand happiness. If we know how to take good care of suffering, we will know how to take good care of happiness. We need suffering to grow happiness. The fact is that suffering and happiness always go together. When we understand suffering, we will understand happiness. If we know how to handle suffering, we will know how to handle happiness and produce happiness.
If a lotus is to grow, it needs to be rooted in the mud. Compassion is born from understanding suffering. We all should learn to embrace our own suffering, to listen to it deeply, and to have a deep look into its nature. In doing so, we allow the energy of love and compassion to be born. When the energy of compassion is born, right away we suffer less. When we suffer less, when we have compassion for ourselves, we can more easily understand the suffering of another person and of the world. Then our communication with others will be based on the desire to understand rather than the desire to prove ourselves right or make ourselves feel better. We will have only the intention to help.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Art of Communicating”
We are all multidimensional in the sense that most of us, if not all, are ambiverts – we are neither fully introverts nor fully extroverts, as we are usually somewhere in between the two polarities, and we may lean towards one end in some situations and towards the other end in some other situations. I think it is also true that the personality type profiles are limited because even though they may represent or match some or most of our individual traits, they may not be able to fully describe our uniqueness or represent the multidimensional aspects of ourselves. At best, the personality type profiles may help us understand ourselves in terms of why we may respond to situations differently from others in social situations, and at worst, the personality type profiles may unwittingly result in stereotyping or over-generalisation of people.
There have been situations in life in which I find myself opening up and interacting with people in social settings, and I usually tend to do that when I am comfortable with them, and sometimes it can also be easier to talk and get to know new people because in such social settings, everyone is eager to be friendly. I was googling about “infp introspective conversation” earlier on since I find myself leaning towards this particular personality type, and I found this article which I kind of resonate with on some ways INFPs can improve their social interaction skills. Like what the article says, INFPs sometimes over-scrutinise themselves and avoid small talk, and the writer suggests that sometimes small talk can be helpful when it comes to meeting new people because it can help them feel more at ease, and I agree with that in this aspect.
On the other hand I quite agree with this article that when it comes to determining between traits such as sensing and intuiting, “most people don’t fall at the extremes – they fall in the middle”. I also agree that people’s personality traits tend to change over time, so their MBTI types may change over time as well. I would add that people may respond differently to a similar situation they responded one year ago or five years ago. For example, when checking out a MBTI test earlier, I came across statements such as “You feel at ease in a crowd”, and for such questions, my answer may be “yes” in some situations, or “no” in other situations, as it depends on several factors such as the kind of crowd I am in, my general mood and disposition during that time, and so on. I agree with the conclusion in the article that “finding out my personal strengths and weaknesses is a process that can take a lifetime, and is most likely not going to be reflected in any one set of numbers from a personality test”, and such tests may only serve as a useful tool or guide so long as I am aware of their limitations.
“I am large, I contain multitudes.”
– Walt Whitman
Recently, I was reading up on Freud and Lacan psychoanalysis, and I learnt from this article that Lacan has built on the foundation of Freud’s works and developed his theories on the real, imaginary and symbolic.
According to the above-mentioned article, the real is always necessarily outside experience, and denotes what we might imagine as the blissful state of pure being, whereas experience is only possible in the symblic. To me, this implies there is something deeper beyond the surface of life on earth. After all, there has to be more to life than just the physical activities such as being born, eating, walking, and so on. As the article noted, “we start off as no more than mindless animalistic subjects awaiting access to the world of meaning”. Perhaps this is where literature and psychoanalysis come into the picture, to serve as tools for us human beings to uncover deeper meanings beyond the surface of life itself.
The article also says “The human imaginary begins with the mirror stage. What this means is that a child identifies with another (an image of itself in the mirror or some other similar figure like a child of the same age). The ego is made up of successive layers of such identifications but is fundamentally nothing in itself.” This reminds me of the similar theory of Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, which can be positive or negative, depending on whether it develops into mimetic love or mimetic rivalry. Maybe the gospels in the bible is meant to be a mirror in which people see themselves and understand their true nature of love, when seen through the mirror of Christ, and vice versa.
I think it is especially helpful to see the bible through a psychoanalytic perspective because it helps me to see Jesus as a physician/psychoanalyst who came to help humanity embrace their own brokenness and pains. I was reflecting that perhaps like Jesus himself, I am also battered, brusied and wounded by the societal system of the world. His life and teachings encourage me to tune out from the distractions and delusions of the world system, and tune in to the frequency and sensitivity of the spirit within, to recognise that life is suffering since we experience pain and sorrow when we encounter loss, death, harsh words, callous treatment from the inhumane system. I learnt from this article that the attitude adopted by the power structure is called “triumphalism”.
“Triumphalism is the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, religion, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others. Triumphalism is not an articulated doctrine but rather a term that is used to characterize certain attitudes or belief systems by parties…”
Such societal attitudes in power structures (principalities and powers) often hurt us and inflict emotional wounds, and hence psychoanalysis can help us heal from our wounds, when we identify the sources of our hurts, and acknowledge and embrace our wounds. We can also take comfort in knowing we are not alone in our sufferings as Jesus has gone through similar sufferings before too – this is something I would remind myself as a consolation.
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)