Tag Archives: compassion

Yes, Virginia, People Hurt Each Other

I was sitting in my high school Sociology class. I was right in front of one of my crushes and that certainly helped make the already fascinating class one I looked forward to. We were learning so many aspects of how people are when they are in community, how we evolve (or not) socially when we aggregate. How sometimes when we organize ourselves there are disparities and differences. I learned about “socio-economic status,” a concept otherwise shielded from my consciousness in my homogeneous middle class suburban town of 5,000 including the cows. I learned about crime, recidivism and “social deviance.” All these new concepts. Not many pictures in the textbook but fascinating concepts and it didn’t take me long to wonder, so where are these crimes? Where are these deviances (at the time I’m guessing they referred to different lifestyle choices or aberrent behaviors, “criminology”)? Where are the black people? I lived near a metropolitan steel town and I knew that there were folks of color there and I had no idea what that meant though my dad had some opinions about that and they were not flattering. He was from Gary, Indiana and it wasn’t where we were right now. Eventually I wasn’t getting any answers about the seeming disconnect between the Sociology textbook and my day to day world. I wondered if the world was bigger, perhaps a little more like the black and white t.v. images I was seeing. Surely.
In the spring of my sophomore year I decided I needed to see the world in some constructive way and I competed for an international exchange student program through Rotary. I remember that there were 5 of us and only 2 were going to be picked and one of the applicants was a Freshman who was a good friend of mine. It was exciting thinking of going to France or Italy. When I got the news I was shocked. I didn’t get picked. I was mad but moreso sad. I wasn’t going to take this sitting down.
I mulled it over with my mom and finally we both came up with an idea, perhaps there was a way to stay in the country and go for a half year instead of a full one? How could I do that? Then we thought about who we knew in more urban areas of the country: I had an aunt in Houston and one in Sacramento. No brainer. In 4 weeks we worked out a plan and wrote a letter to my prinicipal, connected with the principal at the Sacramento school serving my aunt’s neighborhood and ta da! I was going to spend the first semester of my Junior year in Sacramento, California! My Sociology experiment was about to ensue!!
Flash forward to the chapter pertaining to my post today. I’m sitting in my American History class, not sure what the topic was but I think it was World War II, and two black girls in my class started yelling at each other and hurling intense swear words at each other and in seconds they are escalating to the point where desks are being pushed around and before I know it they are on the ground, kicking, hitting, scratching and screaming at each other. I had never seen anyone that wasn’t on t.v. actually fight each other in my life. I looked away and buried my head in my arms and started to cry. The teacher broke them up and called the school security (not something I had been exposed to either) and had them hauled out. I can’t remember how soon until class was over but what I do remember is I couldn’t move. I was hiding my tears from view, embarrassed at how it had impacted me. What happened next was so touching as my teacher, Mr. C, walked to his bookshelf, took a book off it and held it to his chest. He said something like “First fight? I bet that’s not something you see everyday.” And I said, “No, it isn’t.” And then he said, “You know, people can do some crazy things to each other; it’s happened many times in our history. Here, I want you to read this story, this account of something that happened to people who were thought to be outsiders and some stories about how they handled it.” He handed me a thick book with the title “Neisi” in big letters and I forget the subtitle. I had no idea what it was about, but I trusted my kind teacher and went home and started to read it. I read all about how the government of our country and this state participated in setting up internment camps to put Japanese families in to keep them away from the rest of the population. They saw the Japanese people as enemies, as threats to our safety and livelihood and thousands of miles away in Poland and several other countries another government and another leader was shuttling away millions upon millions of Jews in concentration camps. I’d heard about the Jews and could not make sense of it and I felt like someone had lied to me by not telling me about this before my teacher decided to come up to me and place a book in my lap to taste the bitter disappointment of man vs. man (in the broadest sense). That humans were capable of doing these awful things to each other. My eyes and heart were both opened but not exactly “resolved” about this. I felt the cognitive dissonance between learning about something and then attempting to process it. Do you know I still haven’t quite done that. I’ve watched films and attended lectures about both the Japanese internment and the Holocaust, visited museums for each, attended lectures for each, still look for information about each because at 16 and to the present, I have tried to make sense of the world. Of cruelty. Of fear. And it bombards my being to the core. The miracle of that pain, I think, is that from that exposure, from that experience on, I have had a deeper conviction around the importance of shared humanity. That I am at first a spiritual person having a human dress rehearsal; second I am a human in the anthropology of things and humans were given hearts that connect to minds that connect to souls and back again and with those special tools it’s imperative that we use those gifts to co-exist, to share our stories and seek first to understand before we start picking up any sticks or stones. I can’t possibly know the story of another across from me merely in isolation or even if I read a ton of things about them. I will only really know their story if I dare to connect. First. Understand them, first. The only interment and concentration camps we need are ones where we park our misunderstandings, untested assumptions and myths that have no direct, visceral, human experience to back them up. Humans create oppression, humans can un-create it and that would be a great use of our hearts, minds and souls.

Tired of Hardship?

IMG_0746Bless my client today.  With sheer ease he just let the word fly off his lips like it was a real word: “soft ships”.  Brilliant.  The inquiry for the day was,  “What is a pattern interrupt that you can introduce into your life right now?”  To kick start the conversation, I threw in the example that I was going to do a pattern interrupt around being hard on myself.  That when I catch myself making something harder or being harsh, critical or judgmental in the vast expanse of my over-functioning head (See? I snuck one in RIGHT THERE!!! This stuff is relentless….so yay for pattern interupt!!!), that I need to stop, drop and roll into my heart space and see what is really going on.  I make up that this is part of my spiritual warrior training.  I do not make up, because the evidence is clear, that this is a long-standing behavior.  Once brought into my consciousness as a mechanism to protect me (if I am hard on myself, I’ll do something good, better or best and then I will be accepted and loved and maybe even sought after), after years of Chinese water-torture, it becomes not just dysfunctional but sheer betrayal.  Pattern interrupt offers us the opportunity to move toward life affirming behaviors and ways of being.  It brings us closer to self honoring and self love which, when you think about it,  is pretty much where all of our therapeutic, coaching, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, rock-worshiping, tantra, counseling efforts are attempting to get us.  Big secret, right?  Yeah, no.   After sharing his insights on his observations about my obsession with this behavior I already copped to, and, encouraging me in all kinds of ways to cease it immediately….he said something like “You need to change your hardships into softships.”  To which I replied “I’m done giving my example here, it’s your turn!” (Good grief, clients coaching their coaches? Heresy!).  So his pattern interrupt was that he was going to proactively take on the air quality issues with governmental agencies in our area.  Sweet.  I want to get back to the soft ships.

Let’s just make stuff up about what soft ships are.  I make up that soft ships are instances where things move around smoothly and easily.  They are times when the energy in the field is full of allowing and devoid of resistance.  A time worthy of comments by loved ones, like this: “She’s been relaxing into her new role as a single parent and seamlessly goes from work to home and curling up with her journal as if it were all in one breath.  I think she’s going through a soft ship right now.”   Will people use this?  Will people want to comment on others who are not struggling or having a hard time?  What will people do if soft ship is an option?  How wild would it be to say to someone, “I”m really going through a soft ship right now and I’d love your support while I go through it.  I need loved here too”? I like it.  I’m going to go set myself a big fat intention around generating a soft ship.  I love my clients, they bring me new material every day!  What is your take on what soft ship could be?