It took a long time for my business friends to convince me a had a brand. Eventually though, I came to accept that it wasn’t a marketing/sales thing as much as it was defining who I am, what I offer, and where my passion lies in service. What are my obsessions ? Mindfulness, compassion (including self ) and brain functioning/behaviors as it pertains to positive change. So if you are interested in my opinion regarding how we got to the place where many of us feel so alone, disconnected, frustrated, and disheartened to the point of despair, please read on.
Judgements. We all have them unless we have suffered brain injury or disease, are very young children, or are in a constant state of mindfulness matching that of a monk. Our brains are geared to judge and discern and do it with expedience.
From birth, we have experiences which form our opinions, likes and dislikes. Things as innocuous as broccoli is gross, sweaters are itchy, and marshmallows are yummy. The people surrounding us play very heavy parts on their development and continue to do so throughout our lives. Nicely put into the recesses of our minds for later use, when the choice arises the next time. Our brain just does not want to have to approach every experience, every moment, of every day, with a new perspective. This categorizing helps us get through the day without lamenting for hours which way to go, what to think or how to feel. Primitively to have information on something or someone being safe or dangerous was of high value and these responses arise at a lightening speed, many times subconsciously.
The issue becomes problematic when we are not aware or unwilling to openly examine this very natural phenomena.
Most troublesome are the biases when it comes to people, their color, sexuality, gender, religion or political affiliation. This is worsened by labels and one dimensional interactions on screens. It has dehumanized human beings to the basic level of disembodied caricatures in a seemingly make believe, disassociated world.
Just as powerful is the normal human brains desire to victim blame in tragic situations. It allows us to feel the atrocity has a reason, and it will never happen to us. For clarity, I am not saying it is right. I am saying it is common, and we need to always, always be alert to its callous misguided arrival.
It also takes tremendous insight to understand your opinions and ideas are based on your own experiences and upbringing, and may, just may, be incorrect, incomplete or outright wrong from another’s perspective. It takes mental fortitude to actually seek out those contrary voices. And this is becoming more difficult each day as conversations have ceased. Everyone talking, no one listening ,with the written word on social media attempting to replace rapport and real connection. Assigning motivation to others statements and actions without ever beginning to attempt to even understand our own.
Furthermore the power of opinions and information, no matter the truth and insight of the content, will be rendered useless if not sought. Change the willing, willing to change. And if willing, we need to get a hell of alot better at asking more questions of the people who lived an experience instead of jumping all in to offer our perspective.
Presumptions misunderstandings and division. It all makes me so very tired and just plain sad. Heartsick sometimes. Speaking up misconstrued. Staying quiet misconstrued. All the while the ones not incessantly proving their inherent goodness on social media are actually out there in the real world doing and being kind.
Many have done so long before our feeds became the measuring stick to assign the value of our characters.
Do I believe one should express themselves using a platform? Of course, as I am possibly, hypocritically, doing so now.
But as with most things I write, I am pretty certain of my intention.(I think)
I like to consider, is it my intent to attempt to change other’s behavior? Calls for laws, punishment, boycotts and regulation often will get the job done. For example with laws, our taxation system, and its compliance. But many times this tactic, while sometimes needed, just causes shut down, shame and a continuation of the issue, but now it is underground where it can not possibly be resolved.
Is it my wish to change hearts and minds? Then a compelling human experience, relatable commonality, presented in an honest way will better serve the mission. This is the case with the spirit of charity. Humans giving by choice from a place of love, to ease suffering. Heart change.
My dream is always people actually being together, in communities, organizations, churches and places of work. People of all backgrounds side by side, truly living together and sharing similarities of burdens and celebrations.
I am not proposing I know what is right or wrong. For this is far above my level of intelligence or world wisdom. I am instead, just offering a place to ponder.
Because even the shouting voices we agree with, will eventually be filtered down or out. We as humans, simply can not sustain rage and function well within our families and society.
Please also consider, even children pay much more attention to what we actually DO versus what we say.
When I was a kid I watched Romper Room. Miss Sherri looked in her magic mirror and said aloud the names of the people she could “see” who were there. I never understood why she didn’t say my name. I think the news has become that. A magic mirror picking and choosing who, and what to reflect. Missing the thousands and millions of people and stories there all along , hoping for their names to be heard and seen. There are many names of tragedy. But also exists names of individuals offering humanity, compassion, love and service to all in their daily lives, no matter the identity by any ascribed label.
And politicians .Well politicians necessarily survive with division. All of them ‘fighting” for our sides and causes. If we all agreed, all their powerful positions would cease to exist.
So as I finally wind down.
I have worked in every nursing arena from newborn to hospice.
Lives always held sacred and fought valiantly to save.
But we also had the privilege of face to face, hand to hand, eye contact, needed to compassionately bear intimate witness to human suffering. How else could one possible respond but to offer comfort?
And now we come to the awkward point in the story where a white, educated, heterosexual, woman talks about all the color, religion, political and sexual diversity in her life. But I will not. And some of you will believe it is because I have none. That is okay too. Because I decided a long time ago that people who are interested in believing the best about me will do so, and those that are not, will not. I know evidence exists to be found in my light and my dark, for I am a messed up, far from perfect, still not grown human, practicing at being.
But I like to believe I am getting a little better.
Mindfulness and training demands I approach each person with benevolence and this is an ongoing practice, which on my wisest of days, serves me outside of my office. Curiosity, openness, with each sacred encounter. What is someone trying to convey today? It is up to me to listen, really deeply listen, and offer a stark blank canvas for their textured colorful stories.
Assuming inherent good and far far more often than not, finding pain and struggle.
With all things,
Truly seeking to see and hear others, as though for the very first time.
Watch your blindspots
Let life and a quieter attempt at understanding,
Inform your soul.
Then let your footsteps follow.