Compassion means to recognize the interconnected nature of our being with everyone and everything.
If history has taught us anything, it’s the fallacy of thinking problems will be solved by an external force. Real change is only possible when rather than just pointing out the problem, someone is willing to take ownership of…Continue reading
Growing up in a working class town to immigrant parents, I found myself in the same kinds of mischief common to young boys the world over. And like many children, I was adept at justifying my actions whenever I was caught. Particularly in cases where I felt I was the victim, I rivaled a defense attorney in my protestations of innocence.
No matter what the situation or circumstances, my mother would respond with a phrase that has been etched in my consciousness,
“It takes two hands to clap.”
It sounds much more poetic in her native language, but I think the English captures the sentiment (although I can clap with one hand…sorry Mum!).
This phrase was not heartless. It did not invalidate my experience or ignore my feelings. It pointed out that all of those things were but one hand. The other hand was mine — my reaction, my thought patterns and behaviours.
With this small sentence my mother taught me a valuable lesson. In every situation I am also a factor. What I didn’t know then is that my mother was a heartivist. In her own simple way she was illustrating that while pointing the finger out at the world and those within it, there was also a necessity in pointing inward.
There is no meaningful activism, no lasting social change that can be accomplished without self-reflection. So often, we harbor within ourselves the very things we dislike and want to change in others. To anyone who wants to improve the world, I say: start with yourself. It is only from this vantage point that you will be able to truly serve, and inspire others to do the same.
If ever more of us commit to self and collective evolution, perhaps one day soon the two hands will clap to applaud a world we are proud of.
I have a dear friend who is a gifted biologist. Hiking with her, she always manages to notice a ring snake among the leaves, the curved tail of a salamander just below a river rock, or the fluttering wings of some reclusive bird species high up in the canopy. I imagine a great many people might hike the same path and notice none of these things. In fact, they might conclude that there isn’t much life within that stretch of forest at all.
So often in life, what we find is predetermined by what we are looking for.
On our own unique paths as individuals, how much beauty and wonder are we open to noticing? How alive is our inner forest, and how are we interpreting the experiences we have along the journey?
The stories we tell ourselves about our identities, communities, relationships, and worth can be self-fulfilling prophecies. If uninterrogated, these narratives create patterns in our lives through confirmation bias. And these narratives are not only dangerous, but often untrue. How many of our self-created villains, heroes, or detractors are actually just the shadow puppets of our own fears, justifications, or desire to belong?
I think of the famous quote by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
I think the “power beyond measure” she is referring to is the power to write and rewrite our own stories, change our perspectives, and build a brighter reality. One of the many things that inspires me about The Pollination Project community of changemakers is that their awareness is trained on goodness and solution-seeking. The very act of applying for seed funding means that their personal narratives are expansive; the story they have created for their own lives includes belief in their unique ability to be a force for goodness in the world.
Focusing on light does not mean ignoring the dark. Amplifying goodness is not to assert that suffering does not exist, but is a choice to focus on what we are for rather than what we are against; to be moved by love, rather than fear.
If we find ourselves unable to see anything but darkness we can pause and ask the question — what am I seeking?
Whatever it is, you can be sure you’ll find it