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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

Our Common Humanity Connects Us

Dr. Zan’s Thoughts:

Thursday night I had the honor of teaching a session in the Mindful Self-Compassion course based on the work of Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer. This particular session invited participants to recognize the criticism they receive on a regular basis from an inner critical voice. This notion of having an inner critic can be powerful, and everyone in the room could really get their arms around this idea. In fact, the resonance in the room was palpable. I was keenly aware of the connection that this shared human experience was creating, right before my eyes. Observing a group of people open more fully to one another and to their own stories is both touching and humbling. This is one of those moments that makes life feel truly meaningful.

I was still basking in the glow of our class connections on Friday when I heard of the tragic loss of life in the Christchurch, New Zealand mosques. Having just spent an evening feeling the love that naturally emerges when a group of people gather in recognition of their common humanity, the contrast of this tragedy spawned by hate was particularly potent. My heart aches for those whose lives are forever changed by violent expressions of hatred. Words cannot begin to express.

This weekend many vigils were held around the world, and my local community was no exception. Ours was a beautiful gathering of caring people who represented a wide variety of backgrounds and faith traditions. One rabbi who spoke described how members of his synagogue “felt held” by neighbors in their larger community as they mourned the tragic losses in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue. His urging to continue to help others to feel held during times of loss, grief, fear--this moved me deeply.

I would like to join the many voices that ask, can we help our fellow humans feel held, valued, cared for? Can we be continually on watch for how we can make this so? If we make it our practice to honor others in small ways, surely we can shift the tides. While it is difficult to stay present with the pain and suffering that exists in this world, when we can turn toward those who are experiencing pain and suffering, offering kindness and care, we are embodying compassion and living in a way that matters. We are creating the world we want to leave to our children and the generations that follow. These are the lessons I have been taught my whole life and which have been crystallized for me in Mindful Self-Compassion training.

Another practice in Mindful Self-Compassion is to create phrases, expressed as wishes, that capture intentions for loving kindness and compassion. These wishes can be offered for self or others. For me, they are most impactful when they include both. In the wake of yet another violent episode that flies in the face of whom and how I believe humanity was created to be, I am contemplating words that might begin to express my wishes for humanity--wishes that I happen to believe most of us share, despite the continual reminders of the few who would set out to do harm. Please join me in offering these or your own version of words that uplift in a time of sadness:

May you and I recognize that our humanity connects us.

May you and I know that we are more alike than different.

May you and I feel that we belong.

May you and I seek to live in relationship with one another.

May you and I know that we are created to connect, to love, to care.

May you and I accept that who and how we worship need not divide us.

May you and I see that the way we treat our neighbors is what defines us.

May you and I embrace all as our neighbors.

May you and I experience the healing power of love.

May you and I reject all violence.

May you and I open our hearts and our arms to all who suffer.

May it be so.

Dr Nadine’s Reflections:

Dr. Zan’s heartfelt words capture the shock of yet another two incidents (New Zealand and the Netherlands) that we are pressed to make some sense of, as we continue to live our lives every day.  We go about our daily routines, investing ourselves in becoming better people, hoping to improve our situations, and attempting to improve the world around us, the world that we personally can influence.  And then---this happens.

I had a potent conversation with my Dear One recently.  He often comments on his sadness and frustration about our society, our government, our institutions which seem to be broken and ineffective.  As we talk, I find myself struggling to hold on to the hope that we as individuals are more noble than those societal institutions that are often self-serving, divisive and destructive.

Yet, I still truly believe in the goodness of humanity.  It’s precisely Dr. Zan’s description of sharing mindful self-compassion with others that shows the way I continue to buoy my spirits and keep myself inspired to think positively about the world we live in.  Let me be more precise. I’m really talking about thinking positively about individual people, not the collective institutions that people form. Those constructed institutions often take on a persona of their own, and can become twisted.  I want to go back to basics: I want to touch one person at a time. My hope is that one person can influence and empower more people, and then each one of those individuals can spread goodwill and caring on to others in an exponential way.

There will always be the destructive outliers that cause devastation and havoc.  But I will not give up on who we were created to be. I will work to fill myself with positive thoughts; I will work to find examples of people that care about others, who offer themselves in order to better someone else.  Notice I said I will WORK to do this. A positive paradigm isn’t granted, it’s cultivated. So if you’re going to live a life that’s fulfilled, satisfying, productive and one of integrity, you must find your way back to hope.  Dave Brubeck, the great jazz pianist, wrote a spiritual piece entitled “To Hope! A Celebration”. My Dear One was one of the musicians who performed it with Brubeck, and was incredibly moved by it. So we can, and must, follow that example: find whatever spiritually feeds us and keeps our souls full of love and hope, despite what happens around us.  It’s in the face of despair that we might offer others our greatest gift -- hope.

#trueheightsconsulting #mindfulselfcompassion #hope


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