Tag Archives: compassion

We Are One

 

We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant, or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.

I read an article on Kveller, about a pregnant woman who was menaced by anti-semites; all of whom shared something in common: they are all school teachers.

This is the world we are living in today, in 2017. September is back-to-school month. When I think about all the children going back to school around the country knowing there are open anti-semites out there as teachers, who had so much hate for Jews they felt justified in menacing a pregnant woman and openly admitting their hate, I know that the time is now that we must have a plan of action for standing up to this.

I have a plan.

Ever since I began to notice an increased resurgence in anti-semitism, I have asked myself, “What can I or others effectively do to stop this?”

There may come a time when someone you know is being threatened. What will you do in the face of that fear and threat?

In the Kveller article, the woman who was menaced says, “Now is not the time for neutrality, or blindness, or turning the other cheek. It’s time to stand up on our bar stools—whatever platform we have—and make a scene.”

And yet, she was so struck with fear, that she wasn’t able to speak, even though she wanted to. She was pregnant and vulnerable. I don’t blame her. If I were in her shoes, I likely would have remained silent too because it was probably the safest thing she could do in that moment.

What we know about the Holocaust was that most of the Jews did not fight. Some hid but few were able to fight. How could they have fought? How do we fight now? What could the pregnant woman have said?

We read, the words of Elie Wiesel,  “The lesson of the Holocaust is always believe the threats of your enemies, over the promises of your friends.” But we can change that by making a conscious choice to show up for others on a daily basis, in whatever capacity or to whichever degree is possible. (And let me say, as someone who is disabled and lives with debilitating pain, if I can make time and find ways to show up for others, anyone can.)

When we chant, “Never Again!” We have to do so with a plan of action that will prevent that. Do you have a plan?

I have a plan.

Courage is not something that magically appears when you need it most. Courage is a muscle. You have to use it every day in order to have the confidence that it will be there for you when you need it most.

One of the best ways to use courage is through the daily use of compassion.

You will be more likely to find the courage you need for the big battles if you practice compassion for the day-to-day battles. 

What happens to some people when they try and access compassion is an internal voice that says, “Does that person even deserve my compassion?”

Judgmental thoughts abound: “If they didn’t want to struggle, they shouldn’t have had so many children.” “That homeless drug addict brought his troubles on himself, why should I give him my loose change, he will only spend it on drugs or booze.” “Unemployed and disabled people are just lazy and mooching off the government.” And it goes on and on. The stories people make up in order to justify their beliefs.

If a person has yet to learn how to be loving, gentle, and compassionate with themselves, it is not likely they will be able to be loving, gentle, and compassionate toward others who they may judge as unworthy of anyone’s compassion.

Our compassion extends, only as far, as our perception of oneness. The less you see yourself in another, the easier it becomes to discount that person’s needs.

To have compassion for racists seems almost sacrilegious, but if you hate the haters, you are judging them as inherently different from you, just as they are judging Jews, Muslims, people of color, or anyone from the LGBTQ community, as inherently different from them.

We are not “inherently different,” we merely make different choices to different degrees. Everyone makes judgments and categorizes people as less or more superior than others. What separates an average person’s judgments from a Nazi or Klan member is the degree to which their judgments drive them.

My judgment is that Nazis and the KKK are vile, deplorable, and reprehensible. Their judgments are more harsh, violent, and come with a greater consequence than those of the average person. And yet, they are still human beings made of flesh and bone and hating them isn’t going to stop them; but resistance, solidarity, and education might.

All people have the capacity for the same spectrum of emotions that range from love to hate. Logic and compassion are what keep most people’s judgments in a range that’s nonviolent. If our goal is to end violence, we must employ logic, resistance, and compassion against those who are violent.

Compassion, especially for perceived enemies, takes a great deal of courage. Compassion, like forgiveness, doesn’t mean we invite the people (enemies) who cause hurt, pain, and harm, into our homes and hearts to hurt us more. Compassion is not a statement of approval for poor behavior.

Compassion is the act of caring about the suffering of others.

I guarantee  you that anyone who hates, is suffering; and if we don’t care, how do we expect to change anything?

“The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Cited in Lisa Ulshafer,
Journey with an Angel

To have compassion for anyone, is to take heed to understand how they came to be and where they are now in an effort to prevent them from continuing to hurt themselves or others. Compassion is both selfless and selfish, as it’s a tool for self-preservation.

We rise to action most often from a place of compassion when we see another being in our presence who is suffering. If we choose not to see the suffering of others, who will choose to see us when we suffer? 

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Martin Niemöller

If we have been using our compassion muscle to help those in need around us, on a regular basis, then when the time comes that a complete stranger or someone we know and love, is being threatened, we will have built up the resources and tools for knowing how to step forward with courage, remain safe, and still help another person to survive. 

We will not stand idly by or turn a blind eye. We will come to see and know our oneness. 

Do you have a plan if you are in a public place and you see an injustice occur? How will you defend your friend, neighbor or self against an anti-semantic, religious, racist or attack against someone in the LGBTQ community if you are with your family and children, feeling particularly vulnerable, are disabled, or are alone?

These are hard questions, I know. I have spent many a sleepless night, praying and asking for guidance about what we, as individuals, can do to fight the rising threat of hate, and this is what came to me: We have to have something short and concise that is a factual truth which we can memorize and repeat and stand in solidarity to speak:

“We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.”

Resistance against ignorance requires education, enlightenment, and truth. We can look to the past, to the civil rights movement, to other movements where people were divided, in how to address hate and to extract what worked and find new ways for what might work better.

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in passive resistance, “weapons of love.”

Malcom X was known for the slogan, “by any means necessary.”

When I think about MLK and Malcom X and how to enlighten the minds of racists today, I think about parenting styles through the years.

We have evolved as a society from the days when most parents used spanking as a form of discipline – corporal punishment. Research has repeatedly shown that hitting a child, teaches a child to hit. This is why as intelligent and creative beings we are still solving conflict through war and violence. There are better ways.

Then we moved on to the days of  putting a child’s nose in the corner (an act of public shaming) or making them sit in a “time-out chair” which is a great practice for prison: go in the same way you come out: unchanged. Except now you might feel resentful, angry, bitter, untrusting, and vengeful for being punished for either not having known any better, or having yet to learn impulse control to do better with that which you do know. Neither of these disciplines teaches and corrects the behavior.

The main thing punishment teaches, is how to not get caught. 

Whereas enlightment provides tools and the support and compassion to learn a new way of being.

Today, many parents discipline through empathy and education; through compassionate reasoning (natural consequence meets the broken record technique).

Please keep in mind, your children will likely be your caregivers when you are elderly. Do you want them to treat you with kindness, dignity, and patience? Or with frustration, irritation, and control? 

The simplicity of life is the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Your child is going to remember how you treated her and how you treated yourself, and how you treated those around you, and these will be the guide posts for how she treats you, herself, and others when she is an adult. 

I know that different children have different needs but all children respond to love. 

To become a racist, or a sociopath, or any other type of menace to society,  it seems to me that some part of the emotional understanding in the brain, has yet to be activated. 

Perhaps racists have an arrested emotional development; in which case, they would need to be spoken to with the same confident conviction we use to speak to children, when using reasoning as a form of discipline.

We do that by repeating the same message of love and truth over and over again without engaging with an emotional reaction.

Parents are, at times, called to be broken records. It is in calmly, yet firmly, repeating a message to a child with love in our hearts and voices, such as, “I will not allow you to hurt yourself or others” that they learn to stop hurting themselves and others. 

Parents of particularly violent children have to restrain their child, not with violence, but by holding them in an embrace, sometimes sitting cross legged behind their child, with their legs over the child’s legs and holding them in a tight, restraining (back to chest) hug with love, while repeating over and over again, “I will not allow you to hurt yourself or others.” Until the child calms down and through behavioral modification repetition and modeling of healthier ways of conflict resolution, learns a new way of engaging with the world around him.

Is this not the simple act of resistance without violence? 

Children do not learn to stop hitting by having a “caregiver’s” hand swatting their rearend while saying through clenched teeth, “Hitting. Is. Wrong! Don’t. Do. It. Again! Or there will be more where this came from!”

Neither, I imagine, do violent people learn to stop being violent, by being met with violence. 

If you came from a large family or rowdy neighborhood, you have likely had to break up a fight or two. The person who comes in swinging to break up a fight, only instigates the violence. The person who comes in restraining, sets an example that those around them act on, and helps to end the fighting.

It takes someone calm to remain calm and if we allow ourselves to be consumed with anger it fuels the desire within us to be violent ourselves. 

How do we douse the flames of anger to find our stillness in the storm? Through practice.

The peaceful warrior is not complacent. We practice daily through compassion for the self and others. Through resourcing via meditation, mindfulness, inspiration, support, hydration, nutrition, rest, creative expression, and act, upon act, upon act of loving kindness.

Here is my plan and my answer to those who ask, “What can I do?”

1. Take care of your needs. Practice staying calm in the midst of chaos. Manage your vulnerabilities.

2. Have a plan. Know what you will say in the face of an attack. Use the broken record technique to repeat your own version (or borrow mine), of the We Are One speech

3. Make compassion a mantra. Use restraint in the midst of violence, whenever possible.

4. Resist the mob mentality which can sweep you away. Stop feeding your anger. It only fuels you in the way that alcohol gives someone liquid courage: short term and with impaired judgment. Anger burns off and leaves one burnt-out. Anger helps prevent apathy but can also be counter productive to compassion; which you need for yourself and others if you are going to continue to survive and help others to do the same. Stay grounded by standing your ground. Know the truth, and repeat it often. Be an angel if you can, or at least not an “anger devil.”

5. If you are already comfortable with your image on the internet, you have your picture on Facebook and/or other social media sites, please record and post a video of yourself saying the following message and invite everyone you know to do the same. Share this post. Together, we can create a WE ARE ONE movement that’s similar to the IT GETS BETTER campaign or the ALS ICE BUCKET challenge that will give people a plan, a way to manage their vulnerabilities and something to do that can make a difference.

The message:

“We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.”

The more you hear the message and repeat it the more comfortable you will be with it and the more readily available it will be to you when you need it most. A musician doesn’t practice her playing to reach perfection but rather, she practices to make playing easier when it’s time to perform.

Part of how we prevent ourselves from being victims in society of anything, be it identity theft, harassment, burglary, or physical attack, is by managing our vulnerabilities. Notice I used the word manage versus the word hide. I think our vulnerabilities can be a strength; hiding them might be akin to staying silent.

Managing vulnerabilities is being vulnerable with protection; mindfulness and discretion. We can manage the vulnerabilities we feel by having a plan and knowing what to say in the face of an attack. We say it once, twice, as many times as necessary: We. Are. One.

It’s time to take back the sheets and the streets and resist with the aide of Angels.

When the Westboro Baptist Church, aka the church of hate, protested funerals of victims who were gay, like Matthew Sheppard, volunteers used white sheets in a new way, as angel wings, as they stood together, with arms lifted to protect.

Photo credit 

You can make your own peaceful protest Angel Action Wings here. 

I want to put this message out there to support the woman from the Kveller article and those around her, for all to become so familiar with the simplicity of this message, of this truth, that people have at least a tiny, tangible plan of action for if/when hate erupts in their presence.

My request to you is simple: keep repeating the message, we are one, to yourself and others. This is a way for people all over the world to come together in solidarity. To Have a plan. To be an angel.

Please post your video to your Facebook, twitter #WeAreOneInfinitely, and other social media accounts and send me a copy as well. Thanks.

Sage-living.org

WeAreOneInfinitely@gmail.com

“We are one. When you, your child, your parent, or someone you love is in need of a blood transfusion, an organ transplant or a helping hand; I promise you that the color of my skin, the religion I was born into or the people I love, will not matter. We are one.”

#WeAreOne Videos:

Melody Strong Grace IMG_1959

Www.AndrewEffingHicks.com

 

 

Compassion

Compassion in Action

We speak a lot in our home about mindfulness and compassion (metta).

Compassion for self, as well as for others can completely turn our perception of a situation around in an nano second.

But compassion without action is like loving someone and never telling them.

My family and I were at a loud food court in a mall. A young mother with five children was struggling to order her food and pay for it while wrangling her children. Her son, who was probably seven-years-old, was yanking, twisting, and pulling on the arm of his younger sister, who was about three.

The toddler began to cry. Her cries became louder and more persistent. People began to shoot annoyed glances toward the family. My daughter and I said a prayer of comfort to the child and sent compassion to the mother.

After five minutes of increased high pitched scream cries, people began to shift in their seats with concern. I began wondering myself if the child’s arm hadn’t been broken by her brother. My daughter and I stopped what we were doing and began to direct all of our energy toward sending loving kindness energy toward the family.

At least 10 minutes of scream crying had now passed.

When a child cries that hard, for that long, sometimes it’s because there is something they need to express and be acknowledged for and sometimes it’s because of momentum. They want to stop crying but nothing is interrupting the pattern to help them. They are caught up in the moment, in the expression, and don’t know what else to do but more of the same.

We decided to approach the family.

I asked the mother, “May I offer you some support?” She looked at me with a kind of appreciative confusion. My daughter came with me and started playing peekaboo with the little girl who was scream crying.

Within a few minutes of just standing near the family, lending them our energy, acknowledging their struggle, engaging with kindness, and offering to be of service, the child stopped crying and even smiled. The mother was grateful. The entire food court in the mall was grateful. We walked back to our seats and life carried on; but with a gentler, kinder frequency and energy in the air.

It takes courage to act on compassion. Our minds get cluttered with questions:

“Should I just mind my own business?”

“Is it even appropriate for me to go over there and say something?”

“Someone else will show up to help or be of service.”

If fear stops you from acting on compassion, shift the paradigm from doing an act of compassion for another to doing the act of compassion for your self. 

Reaching out to strangers with compassion is not just something we are inclined to do to be of service to others, but it’s a choice we make to be of service to ourselves.

If my daughter and I did not break away from the mob mentality of annoyance with the child and mother for all the commotion, we too could have found ourselves caught up in the same wave of anger and irritation.

Instead, we made a conscious choice to have compassion for all concerned and act on that choice.

Compassion is the quickest, easiest, most straight forward healing agent, of which I know. When people talk about resisting neutrality, making scenes and fighting for the rights we feel are being stripped of us, I think of compassion; first for the self and then for all.

The courage to take a stand

begins with the compassion of standing our ground.

May we all make more room for compassion in our hearts and may our compassion give us the courage to act when to do so will make a positive difference.

What to Say…

One of the worst parts about being diagnosed with a medical condition that came with a life expectancy and is considered an “Invisible Illness” is how people took the news once I shared it with them. Nearly every person I told made the situation exponentially worse from a seeming lack of knowledge or etiquette for how to react in a situation such as this. I realized that there was no go to article to teach people what to say and so I wrote what I hope will change that.

What do you say to someone when they tell you they are dying or that they are suffering?

There is no perfect answer but there is one giant faux pas: silence!

Whatever you do- do NOT remain silent. When someone tells you of a tragedy they have experienced and you say absolutely nothing- it can feel like the tragedy is happening all over again because no one has acknowledged it.

Saying nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing can cause more suffering. There is a type of cowardice when someone is more concerned about being wrong than about being present. Telling yourself or others, “I said nothing because I didn’t know what to say.” Is a cop out. Take a moment, pull yourself together and find some words of comfort and care. It’s not that difficult.

When someone you love is in need, I think it’s more important to show up, even if you do so in an awkward way. No one is perfect or an island unto themselves, but we might all metaphorically be the Island of Misfits from Rudolph.

When someone tells you they lost everything in a Hurricane, or their child has been sexually assaulted, or they have a deteriorating disease, or they just lost their life savings, or any other matter of distress, you don’t have to fix the problem or offer suggestions to be of service. Offering unsolicited advice actually usually makes it worse because it presumes the person hasn’t already thought of what you are suggesting and only adds insult to injury.

However, to remain silent is an act of denial and can compound the pain another being feels.

When you don’t know what to say, it’s perfectly acceptable to simply say that, “I want to say something but don’t know what to say.”

Here are 21 more examples of what might be helpful to say:

1. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

2. “I don’t know what to say but I want you to know that I hear you when you share and I’m sorry for your suffering.”

3. “What can I say that will most help you feel heard?”

4. “How can I help?”

5. “I love you.”

6. “You matter.”

7. “I care about you.”

8. “You’re not alone.”

9. “I will keep you in my thoughts/heart/prayers/meditations.”

10. “How can I best support you?”

11. “If you have any literature on this issue I would be happy to read it. I care and I want to know more about what you are experiencing.”

12. “I don’t know how to help but I want to offer you my complete presence, if only for a few moments (because we all have busy lives and no one is expected to drop everything to show up indefinitely), to let you know that I care deeply and I am present for you even if I don’t have the answers or resources to change your situation.”

13. “How are you coping with this, today?”

14. “That really sucks! You don’t deserve to go through this. I’m really sorry for all you are suffering through.”

15. “Would you like a hug?”

16. “I’m willing to listen if you need to talk/vent or if you just want to be distracted.”

17. “I know that everyone in the world suffers but I also know that when we personally suffer it IS our whole world. You have my compassion.”

18. “This is horrible and not fair but I know you and how strong you are. I know you will rise like a lotus flower out of the muck. I know that you of all people will find the light in the darkness of all of this and that you will end up helping others in the process; because that’s who you are and that’s what you do!”

19. “I’m here.”

20. “I stand with you.”

And

21. If you can’t think of anything to say at all – mirror back what you just heard – that’s polite recognition at the very least.

I have spent most of my life in caregiver mode whether as a volunteer to those in need, to children, to elders, to friends, and to family. I am the person others defer to when they don’t know what to say. When something bad happens to me, many people don’t seem to know what to do. Before my sister died she said, “The reason our family checks out whenever you are in need is because we don’t feel like there is anything we can do to help. You are the one we come to with all our problems. We can’t even deal with the reality of you needing anyone because you take care of everyone. It’s too scary for us to imagine you as weak  or in need when we all depend on your strength. We ignore it until it goes away because that’s all we can do.”

What is helpful- is to be heard, seen and acknowledged. To know that someone in the world cares as much for me as I care for them. I don’t need to be rescued, or to be offered well intentioned yet ill-informed suggestions.

We suffer in silence when what we share has not been acknowledged.

I may not have been blessed with a family of origin who were able to care or show they care, to the extent I would have liked but I have been blessed with a handful of wonderful friends. I am so grateful for all that I do have.

I absolutely believe that most people are doing their best. I do not harbor bad feelings toward anyone who has chosen silence as their response to our situation, but I used to feel hurt as a result.

I’m grateful to those who have reached out and been present and I do my best to make sure my friends know that I value them.

It’s really been a master class in life- to go through so many years in physical pain and suffering from seemingly every angle. Perhaps I was always the giver because I was so much in need. Maybe we give most what we most want to receive.

Regardless, I can soothe myself with a sense of pride that I have always done my best to be a good listener and a fully present witness to anyone in need. I now know, in a way I did not before, that I have made a comforting difference in the lives of many, just by acknowledging their suffering. I know that I helped people feel less alone. This gives me a sense of peace that I didn’t have before. I may have many flaws but a lack of demonstrative compassion is not one of them.

On that note: here are some things NOT to say:

1. “You must have done something really bad in a past life to deserve this karma.”

2. “Have you tried (fill in the blank- vitamins, essential oils, collagen supplements, visualization, reiki, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, hypnosis, meditation, medication, fasting, vegan diet, paleo diet, yoga, exercise, going gluten-free, etc)?” The answer is yes to all of the above and much, much more.

3. “Me too! Listen to what I am going through.” (While I do care what others are going through, hearing about it as a first response to what I just shared doesn’t make me feel heard. Not as the first sentence right out of the gate, at least. One-uppers can’t help themselves. This is how they relate to others. I’m guilty of it myself. I get it. Doesn’t make it OK. A good balance might be to say, “You have my empathy because I suffer from chronic pain too. Tell me more about your personal experience so I can better understand. I’m curious because I care.”)

4. “That can’t be right. Are you sure?” (Um, yup! Three geneticists opinions sure.)

5. “What were we talking about before you just said what you said?”
(Translation: I am a narcissist and can’t be bothered with information about anyone but myself.”)

6. “I have a friend who has that same disease and she is just fine.” (Then she doesn’t have the “same” disease.)

7. “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? That’s all you have to do and this will disappear tomorrow if you just have faith.” (There are many Christians with EDS- who are not cured. There a battlefields full of Christians. Faith helps us through life but it does not preserve our life. I was born with a faith that is deeper and more profound than most can imagine but faith is not analogous to religion and for that matter- religion may have little to do with Christ- chew on that for a minute.)

8. “Your beliefs create your life. Read Louise Hay. You have a victim mentality and you brought this upon yourself. Haven’t you seen the movie THE SECRET? Don’t you know about THE LAW OF ATTRACTION?” (Yes, I have and yes, I do. I have spent over 30 years studying world religions, spiritual practices, quantum metaphysics. I think it is you who is confused about how these philosophies work. We are co-creators of our lives, not sole creators. My body may not be in alignment with, or a reflection of my spiritual beliefs but maybe my soul is; the law of attraction is working both with the earth body and the higher self. This is a complex theory that is too often over simplified, misunderstood, and used as a tool to be abusive to self and others. I’m not playing that game.)

9. “Bummer, Dude! What’s for lunch?” (AKA I’m not in the business of compassion. $h/t happens. Life goes on. You are just a tiny, meaningless blue dot in a massive universe. Get over yourself and hang loose, catch a wave, have a toke, get a grip, move on!)

10. “You think you have it bad? Do you know what’s happening in third world countries? With global warming? To honey bees?” (Yes. I know that there are problems bigger than my own but I am living one life. I am not in a third world country. I am not a honey bee. I am not a melting planet. I am me with my own issues and a full plate of problems just doing the best I can with what I have, one day at a time.) A little love can lighten the load.

EDS is not my identity, it’s my job, the thing that takes up the majority of my time. I am not EDS, but EDS is a part of me. The minute I stopped fighting it, everything in life became easier. There are times when it’s overwhelming, especially when my daughter suffers from it. Then there are times when it’s just background noise.

My motto in life is, “The only constant thing in life is change.” I’ve learned to manage the waves of discomfort and enjoy the tides of bliss. I have a large tool box for managing the challenges in life like EDS. I practice metta (loving kindness), meditation, gratitude, acceptance, raising my frequency, intention/visualization, choosing my thoughts, spending time in nature, loving and being loved, and indulging in all facets of artistic and creative expression.

EDS sucks but life is still good.