“Love is the fruit in season at all times and within reach of every hand.” ~ Mother Teresa
Many years ago I attended a training and was taught that there were three ways of handling a negative situation. The trainer used a basketball to illustrate his point. He told us to recall a time when someone was angry or hostile towards us and made a negative comment.
The trainer then asked one of us to come up onto the platform and handed this person the ball. He said that the first way to handle the situation is to take the comment, feel the pain, and then retaliate. He asked the person to throw the ball hard at him and he caught it in the stomach, made a painful sound, and threw the ball back even harder at the other person. Does this response sound familiar?
The trainer explained the second example by asking the person to again throw the ball even harder. When the ball was thrown, the trainer moved out of the way and just let the ball go by. He explained that we do not have to take in those words, but can let them just go on by and watch them vanish with no response.
I used to keep this image in mind whenever a situation became hostile. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, however, especially in close relationships. Sometimes as hard as I try, some comments remain painful and it takes time to heal.
The third method of handling these situations, was also demonstrated. The trainer had the person again throw the ball and this time as he caught it, he smiled, ran over to the person who had thrown the ball, said thank you, and helped him throw it again. He seemed to truly appreciate the hit he had received.
This method was much harder for me to understand in my practical life. I could not really find a way to use this until just recently. I had two colleagues that made negative and hostile comments toward me when we came back to work after the summer recess.
I suddenly remembered this training from many years ago and tried to apply the techniques that I had learned. It would be a difficult year if I didn’t find a resolution within myself. At first I tired letting the words flow by me picturing them vanishing away; however, the energy of the hostility remained behind.
I took a long walk in the Redwoods to clear my head and my heart. I began to feel the immense gratitude for having a job in these current economic times. I then thought of each of these colleagues one at a time and realized what a gift their comments had been to me.
From one of them, I realized by listening to his comments, I was actually witnessing my own feelings of overwhelm by the new work load as many others are also experiencing with cut backs in personnel. I had a chance to look at my attitude about my assignment and completely re-focused my energy in an entirely new direction. I looked at how much I love this school, the staff, and the children with whom I will be working. Together, we will make this a wonderful year. I am truly grateful for the jolt his words had given to me.
For the second situation, as I was walking, I began to focus on my heart and to hold her with love and appreciation. I suddenly recalled that one of the things I needed to add to a book I am writing is personal stories to illustrate the specific concepts of my book. Wasn’t this a perfect example?
I realized what an incredible gift this amazing person was to me. I had a perfect example presented to me about how to use the power of love and gratitude by centering on my heart. I was truly grateful.
I finally understood how to use the third method of saying thank you to the person who has “created” the hostility. These situations were presented to me to provide invaluable lessons that I had actually requested. “Love is the fruit in season at all times and within reach of every hand.”
Throughout history we have spent most of our lives defining our differences. We have different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, religions, etc. Even when we find ourselves within the same culture, we define ourselves by sub-cultures, different groups. If you look at a group that appears the same, under closer examination, you will find a variety of ways they have defined themselves differently.
Take a high school, for example, that is located in an area that appears to have the same cultural background. When we go into the high school, we soon discover there are many different groups that have formed. They might have divided themselves by labels such as rich/poor, popular/nerd, bright/slow, athletic or by physical characteristics. The list could be endless. In reality, these teens are far more alike than different; that is, insecure, scared, wanting to belong, trying to find their identities as they all fight their way to maturity, etc.
What would the world look like if we focused on how we are the same. As a species, we are 99.9 percent genetically identical and only .1 percent different. We also long for the same things in life, which is to love and be loved and to have positive relationships with those in our lives. If this is who are as a species, then why, we ask, do we spend so much time and energy defining the .1 percent of our differences?
We can choose to transcend these historical patterns of behavior and begin to acknowledge who we really are as human beings. The heart is the natural vehicle to bring us together as one human family. When we use our hearts to guide our actions, we can experience each other as the same and our differences will slowly disappear.
Let us examine how we relate to each person we meet or have in our lives. What do we experience when we see that person? We can then take a moment to see if we are viewing that person through our hearts. If we are, a spontaneous smile will automatically appear. If we are not then we can re-direct our thoughts to do so and the smile will come.
Experiencing each other from our hearts may seem like a small, insignificant action but when these actions are added together it becomes a giant wave of harmony. This is our “Yin Spirit”, our humanity, which will ultimately break the illusion of separateness and we can truly become one human family.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived as a powerful example of being courageous and taking a stand for all of us to finally come together as a community of people living in a world with true equality and social justice for all of us. Each of us as individuals can take that stand now as the world is calling us to “To be the change we wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.
This great awakening can only come when we finally come together as one human family. We can finally begin to find our abilities to listen to each other with respect and compassion. As we share our different points of view, we need to listen and speak from our hearts. When working with young children, I used to teach them to listen to each other with their ears and their hearts.
This is a lost art for many of us. We are so dedicated to our own points of view that we are unable to listen to another side. How are we ever going to come together in our society and expand our thinking process to include our different points of view?
It reminds me of the tale of blind men and an elephant. “It is a story of a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant's body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest and they come to blows. The moral of the parable is that humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people's limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true.” (From Wikipedia)
I don’t know how we are ever going to find a way to live in a new sustainable reality unless we take a broader look and begin to think outside of the box for better solutions. It seems obvious that the solutions we have tried are not working.
What I am committed to do is to begin listening to other points of view using my heart as well as my ears. What has been their experiences, their pain, and beliefs? What does their piece of the elephant look like, knowing that this piece is as real as my own version? Maybe when we all share our perceptions of the elephant, we can create a beautiful whole and finally become one human family. This is my dream.
I discovered a Zen story that I would like to share. It conveys a powerful message.
One day the Master announced that a young monk had reached an advanced state of enlightenment. The news caused some stir. Some of the monks went to see the young monk. “We heard you are enlightened.” “Is that true?”, they asked. “It is,” he replied. “And how do you feel?” “As miserable as ever,” said the young monk.
Sometimes we long to reach a state where we no longer have to feel our shifting emotions. We would love to find that state of eternal happiness and peace. I have finally come to realize that, as human beings, emotions are part of our physical structure and as long as we are lucky enough to keep living, we will cycle through these feelings.
Maybe we were meant to feel fear and sadness at times, to appreciate happiness and joy? Does up exist without down or light without darkness? What I do know is that my emotions are fluid. Sometimes I can feel on top of the world and at other times I can feel overwhelmed, sad, and afraid.
Sometimes I can find the loving spirit in all of nature and feel the beauty, and at other times I cannot. I know that we hold the capacity for all emotions and sometimes they can be created by our own thoughts. What was I thinking just before I became so anxious? Can I alter the way I view this situation?
Sometimes emotions, for example, sadness from a great loss, must be grieved and lived through in order to get to the other side. Other emotions, however, may come from our perceptions, the lens from which we view things. Let us try to view our situations through the lens of our hearts. Bring love and compassion to whatever is happening, and be gentle with ourselves and others. And, always remember the fluidity of emotions and hang in there for the ride back up. Our lives were not meant to be easy, but “it sure beats the alternative”.
“Hunger in the United States. it is said, is as great as that of India and is harder to resolve. It is the hunger of the human spirit.”
“Spiritual deprivation is the greatest plague of our time."..................Mother Theresa
We are about to launch into a new era of change after this global experience. The real change we seek, however, may not be an outside political one but rather a personal change from within each one of us. It is the return to our spiritual nature, our hearts, that is now required to transform the harsh landscape in which we find ourselves living. I once heard an Indian story that remains close to my heart and it brings this concept to life.
A grandfather and his young grandson were walking down a road after a tragic event had happened. The boy asked his grandfather how he felt about what happened. The grandfather answered that there were two wolves fighting for his heart. “One wolf feels love and wants to be kind and forgiving.” “The other wolf feels hatred and wants revenge.”
The boy asked his grandfather, which wolf will win the fight in his heart. The grandfather said, “The one that I feed.”
Love, kindness, and forgiveness are found within our hearts but there are always other emotions fighting for our attention. Living within our own spiritual nature requires us to nurture and feed our hearts and appropriate action will follow. This is the true change that is now needed in the world, which is to fight “spiritual deprivation, the greatest plague of our time.”
Which wolf are you feeding?
Dr. Laura featured my book, Who Am I?, on her radio show and talked about the attributes of the heart, which included: “being tenacious, hard working in spite of having challenges, having grit, commitment, loyalty, and striving, and being brave.”
The heart is almost forgotten in our society until we become aware of health issues surrounding the heart. We exercise our bodies and our minds, but do we exercise our hearts? What if we as a society began to lead more from our hearts? Would our priorities or what we need or want change in any way? As an illustration, I offer the following story:
I worked in a school district and once was asked to work with a group of children after an incident had occurred. Eight third grade, honor roll students, (seven of which had never before been in trouble), surrounded a kindergarten student with special needs, who could not communicate. They took his glasses, broke them, and began taunting him as their classmates stood by and cheered.
A teacher quickly came over to stop these actions and the eight students were brought to the principal for discipline, which included suspension. Their classroom teacher was shocked and dismayed as were all of their parents.
Upon their return to school, I was asked to find out why they chose to behave in that manner. I gave them a brief lesson on the different aspects of the human being; that is their physical, their emotional, their mental and their hearts (spiritual) aspects and asked each student to describe the incident. They were then asked to explain why they had participated in the behavior. As they each took a turn to respond, these were some of their answers:
“They made me do it!” “I don’t know but my parents said that I now have a record.” “I just stood there!” “My body was out of control!” Until, finally one young girl answered, “I didn’t listen to my heart!”
There are too many incidences of bullying behavior in our schools today with many programs trying to prevent these actions. If each one of us could take a moment to listen to our hearts and teach this skill to the children in our lives, then maybe they would have the courage to stand up in the face of these behaviors and demonstrate the actions of their hearts. One by one each of us could lead the way to become more of a society with heart.