Fran Peavey, in her book Heart Politics talks about an experience she had at Stanford University. She was walking on the campus one day when she came up to a group of people carrying recording equipment. They were recording a male chimp who was loose and a female chimp on a long chain. The scientists and spectators (mostly men) were trying to get them to mate. Every time the male chimpanzee approached the female chimp, she whimpered and backed away, to avoid his advances. Peavey says as she watched this scene, a wave of empathy swept through her. In the next moment, the female chimp, yanked her chain out of the male chimps grasp and walked through the crowd of people standing directly to Peavey, and took her hand. Then she proceeded to take Peavey back into the circle towards the only two other women there and joined hands with 1 of them. The 3 of them then stood together in the circle. Peavey says the chimp had formed her own support group.
This story affirms how we instinctively seek support, look for cues of safety and have the deep need to be seen, heard and recognized. Paying deep and focused attention to others allows us to be attuned to their experiences, creating space for the person to feel seen and heard. As Peavey stood there, feeling empathy for the chimpanzee, the chimpanzee sensed this support and found her safe space.
Listening deeply to others requires stepping out of our own constant inner dialogue. When we listen and attune our inner selves to the other person we also reduce the gap of separation of “us” and “them”.
“One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen” ~John Donohue
“There is a force in the universe, call it God or spirituality or whatever you like, that wants the victory of truth and justice. This force will help you if you are steady, humble, brave, and patient. Never, ever give up, however bad things get.”
“The source of love is deep in us, and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy. One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation. One action can save a person’s life or help him take advantage of a rare opportunity. One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions. If love is in our heart, every thought, word, and deed can bring about a miracle.”
I read this recently and it explains so much of what is happening within relationships around the world. I have been concerned about the amount of hatred that is present in speeches given by leaders and the actions being taken against groups of people globally. Courage rooted in hatred and fear will eventually dissolve, but after having harmed people and the earth. We have seen this happen over and over again in our history. In destroying others we invariably destroy ourselves too.
Removing fear and hatred within our own minds takes courage. Because we are left feeling vulnerable without the protection of the monsters face to scare others with. As that monstrous face peels of, the authentic, genuine and compassionate face is revealed to ourselves and the world. In the process we alleviate our own suffering and of those around us.
Cultivating peace, promoting well being and harmony in good times is easier to do. When there is anger, fear, hatred, greed and intolerance around us, it takes clarity, discernment, and sheer focus on actions enveloped in love. Courage that leaves us feeling vulnerable and wanting to protect ourselves and others from harm is rooted in love.
There are so many people all over the world who are looking for food, shelter, safety, and belonging. We can choose to turn away from their suffering or alleviate their suffering. We can choose to destroy them because of our own fears or choose to protect them from harm.
For a few months, I left this quote on our kitchen wall as a constant reminder:
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage ~ Lao Tzu
I believe in order to live an authentic life, we have to be vulnerable and in order to be vulnerable, we have to have courage. To be courageous, we also need to feel safe, which is intricately connected to love and trust.
Brené Brown has spent years doing research on vulnerability, shame, worthiness, connection and belonging. In this You tube clip she talks about moving past the critics, including the inner critic that don’t truly serve us.
Brené quotes Theodore Roosevelt in this talk as being pivotal in shifting her own perspective about critics. The quote is poignant and sheds light on what resilience looks like and the courage it takes to keep trying.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
Cultivating mindful awareness and compassionately viewing our experience is a way to step out of auto pilot. Although meditations can be done at any time of the day, a morning meditation can set the tone for the day. Words and phrases from a guided meditation can serve as reminders to bring awareness to our thoughts and actions. From todays meditation, the phrase “Dance of Aliveness” resonated from me. To be aware and at ease in this world. To be rooted in the present moment and be flexible in each moment.