After recently volunteering to work as a mentor for children coming from challenging life situations (which involved a comprehensive interview process to determine a good match between the mentor and child), it was relayed to me that many previous mentors were not willing to work with kids who had poor manners or were not as polite as it was thought they should be.
Now this really struck me as being not only an odd response, but a position that seemed to not get the whole point of being a role model to these kids who many times have been physically, emotionally, and even sexually abused and come from impoverished neighbourhoods with very little familial support or guidance. Although everyone has a right to choose what they are comfortable dealing with, it was as if these volunteers were attempting to place constraints on their commitment to help these children and perhaps were doing it as a ‘feel good’ exercise rather than one with the child’s best interest as the primary focus.
When I inquired about this to the coordinator who was interviewing me, it was shared with me how many of the people who volunteer are doing it to either get credit for a school program, to put on their ‘resume’ for a future job, or as I previously suspected, to feel like they are doing something ‘good’ in a way that is more like checking off a step on a ‘to-do’ list, rather than something that was truly inspired from their heart. She said many times they were ‘going through the motions’ of being a mentor rather than connecting deeply to the kids in a way that can help inspire them to appreciate all they bring to the world.
All the times we do things, like help a friend move house, while in the back of our minds we expect a future favor in return, or as kids we say “I’ll clean my room if I can watch my favor-ite cartoon,” it is setting us up for a life pattern that is destined to need external sources for our inner contentment. The key point here being, if our motivation to do something that should be obvious to support oneself, a family, or humanity at large is based on the need or assumption of getting something in return, we will be living in a way that guarantees a state of unsettlement and certainly not true joy for all that life can offer, unconditionally.
One of the things that contributes to this form of conditional living is how we have been told since childhood that once we get that ‘good education’ it will guarantee that ‘good job’, or that if we find a partner who loves and appreciates us, then we have found love or happiness, as if these are external things that can be attained the same way one goes to the local store to buy groceries.
But why have we bought into this fallacy of being content, loving and joyful only when certain outer criteria are met, and why can’t we simply answer the call for service to others without any need for something in return? My feeling is that it has something to do with a disconnection from our inner selves and a fear of either being rejected or not accepted by others. For how can we be affected by someone rejecting us or not accepting and appreciating how amazing we are if at some level we have not done those things to ourselves first?
We have bought into a belief system that makes it look seemingly easy to have love and joy in one’s life by the simple acquisition of material goods and services. This same belief system puts constraints and conditions on relationships in an effort to make it look easy to have that same love that it touts to be easy to ‘acquire’ without first having connected to it within our inner hearts, where its depth is actually infinite. Therefore, there is a constant need to protect oneself from getting emotionally hurt, and therein lies the birthplace of the conditions that are formulated to gain the security needed. It’s ‘sold’ as an easy path, but in fact it is one that will always result in disappointment and disillusionment, and until we can allow ourselves to be as open and honest about the games we play with conditions in life, we are sure to remain their prisoner.
Something occurred to me the other day when I noticed the U.S. flag was at ‘half-mast’ at my workplace after yet another mass shooting that occurred here in the States. We use this tradition to honour the victims of various acts of violence or natural disasters/accidents who live in our own country, and yet we don’t bat an eye and maintain this tradition when the same type of tragedies happen in other countries.
To me, due to the levels of violence, corruption, domestic abuse, wars, famine, illness and disease that currently exist on Earth, every nation should be flying their flags at half-mast if they truly want to honour that tradition until all these issues are healed throughout the world.
This is not to say that we should go around trying to fix everyone else’s problems when it is each person’s and country’s responsibility to work on and heal those issues that keep them from living with true wellbeing, joy and harmony. But when we become insular and look at life through the lens of ‘me and mine,’ whether it be within our own families or on the grander scale of a country, it creates a scenario where we lose touch with the innate connection, sensitivity and love we have with everyone else, which is the thing we all truly crave, and which is our natural way. This then becomes a fertile ground for calculating actions and abuse of all kinds where we justify our greedy or self-centred ways based on a belief or ideal that we just have to take care of ourselves or our immediate family, business, country, even if it means that others will be suffering as a consequence.
Another outplay of this protected way of living can be the harmful expression of supremacy, where through a judgement of one person or group (namely ‘me and mine’) being more important or better than another, there develops a mode of protection, favouritism and eventually persecution of other groups of people. It usually begins with some kind of undealt-with emotional hurt that has never been healed. This can show up within families first and then spread to work and eventually to even government policy as one aspect of life cannot be disconnected from another because everything affects everything else. This is something that tends to be overlooked, as if people’s family life has no impact on their work life, which is the same as saying, “If I remove someone’s left kidney, it won’t have any effect on the rest of their body’s physiology.”
So as long as we maintain an individualistic and nationalistic approach to the world, to me this will guarantee that there remains an ‘us and them’ attitude, which will spawn all sorts of division and eventually sustain the wars that are still so prevalent, and which really start out as the wars within ourselves when we are resisting and fighting our true nature within.
There is a real irony in the way in which flags have been used for thousands of years to designate certain tribal groups and eventually whole countries. And that is because even though the intention may have been to symbolise a sense of unity and brotherhood among these groups of people, in the end it has often resulted in a classification that has actually separated people and further cemented the divisions that eventually lead to the wars previously mentioned. It’s just another way to say, “We are different to you” instead of approaching life in a way that realises that we are all the same and from the same source. Perhaps through the acceptance of this true knowingness of equality, we will someday let go of any need to mark separate lands or separate people in any way by adopting our true heritage as Universal beings.
While contemplating which tea to order at my favourite tea shop, I began to wonder about how we describe the taste of things and asked the owner how she would share what a certain tea tastes like, to which she replied, “If they asked for a Rooibos tea, for instance, I would say it pretty much tastes like, well, Rooibos!” I asked this question because what occurred to me is how we tend to use all kinds of descriptive words to describe things like how a tea tastes, such as ‘floral,’ ‘woody,’ ‘rich,’ ‘earthy,’ ‘smooth,’ ‘crisp’ and we can take on the subjective nature of these words as our truth in a way that removes the most accurate sensor of Truth that all of humanity has… the human body.
What unfolded from there was a philosophical discussion with the purveyor of the tea about how predominant this type of communication is in all walks of life, from the description of foods and drinks, what it feels like to watch an eagle soaring above you, to other things like flying an airplane, how it feels to pet a fluffy dog, or even lying on a sandy beach as you watch a golden sunset, and if there is a deeper form of experiential wisdom we can have in our lives. Of course we want to use our language to convey to others the sense of something we experienced, but my feeling is that at some point we give more significance to what others have said about something rather than honouring the power of what our bodies can feel on a deeper level once we directly experience something for ourselves.
It’s almost like we trust our brains and what others think more than we trust our bodies and what they know. Another example of this just came to me, where last night at work we were looking for an inspector we needed to check our work and were asked to find the next shift’s inspector (let’s call him Tom for the story). When we asked the manager what he looked like, he hesitated and said, “Well, he’s kinda short and chubby,” to which we all laughed as that was quite a generic description that matches a lot of people, really! He really had a hard time describing him and I can totally understand that because there really is no substitute for meeting someone in person, looking into their eyes, and allowing not only our five senses to take in the image of the person, but to feel their presence and the quality of their personality and all it offers as well.
When we honour these direct forms of experiential wisdom we are actually recognising that there are deeper levels of energetic communication happening that go way beyond the words used to describe something. Anyone who has listened to an inspiring or touching story can attest to the fact that they could feel something within them that was being communicated from the other person on a level that was not expressed merely by the words being used.
Therefore, we can easily be fooled by words alone, such as when someone makes a claim of something being true but we just read the words being used and don’t give ourselves the chance to read the underlying energy that these words were transmitted with. This also applies to verbal communication, for instance, when we listen to a politician’s speech and believe what he or she is proposing but fail to consider the motivation or force behind those words.
Anyone can perform a certain act, but what quality of energy is it being accomplished with? I can hammer in a nail while building a house with anger, frustration and resentment, or with love and appreciation for the opportunity to build a lasting ‘nest’ that is supportive for the occupants for a hundred years into the future. These energetic imprints are lasting and we actually do have the ability to feel the difference between the two when we allow our bodies to observe the truth of this, as we are feeling it all the time whether we acknowledge this or not.
Our history of accumulating facts and knowledge and owning it as if that is going to help advance us as a humanity has simply not worked.
All one needs to do is look at the current levels of exhaustion, mental illness, disease, famine, poverty and war in the world to see that one may have the ability to regurgitate a million factoids and have 10 doctorate degrees, but he or she may not be one step closer to living a life filled with the love, harmony, stillness, joyand vitality that is our natural way. I feel that a more practical approach to life and a focus on feeling the truth of a thing via direct observation provides a more real and lasting form of wisdom that can be shared with others.
Have you ever been in a situation, like being in an elevator with someone you don’t know, of feeling the awkwardness as you both are looking forward at the door as if the other person isn’t there: you suddenly break the silence with the profound observation of… “Nice weather we’re having lately, huh?” to which they reply “Yeah, it sure has been.”
I’m pretty sure most people can relate to the previous example if not a hundred others we have experienced at the grocery store, in school or at work where we have relied on ‘small talk’ as our go-to form of communication, saying things like “Hi, how are you?” to replies like “Fine, and you?” only to end it there and carry on your merry way when in fact you are feeling like hell that day and it would have been really supportive for you to actually express that with honesty and perhaps have a conversation with someone about what choices have led up to that current state of being.
So why do we continue to play this game when we all feel to some extent that it is not truly serving us to do so and we can feel there is so much more for us to share with the world, learn from, and grow by?
Are we afraid that someone will judge us for what we have to say or that by exposing how we truly feel we will be too exposed in that vulnerable state and be either rejected or hurt by how the other responds? It feels to me that there are so many things that happen to us as we grow up where we are not really honoured for what we have to say (especially when adults consider their views and knowledge to be more important or worthy based on their age or experience in life).
In fact, I feel it is our duty to not hold this wisdom back as we all bring such a unique aspect to the world based on all these lived experiences, whether in this life or past ones. It would be a shame to hold back sharing this with the world, would it not? And even though we may not have conscious memories of all these experiences, we can move our bodies with self-care and love in a way that allows that innate wisdom to come through us, knowing that even the smallest gesture of concern or expression of how you truly feel from your body with another can change someone’s day and allow them to not only know that other people care, but that through sharing honestly how we feel it allows others to feel safe about doing the same, thus bringing more awareness and truth to their lives.
There have been countless times where something inside me gave me an impulse to spark up a conversation with, for instance, the check-out clerk at the grocery store, and what unfolded was a beautiful sharing that resulted in our both feeling very connected to, understood, and expanded in a way that carried that lovely feeling into the rest of our day. You can feel someone’s eyes light up when someone takes the time to appreciate something about them and show them that you care. It truly is a catalyst that can trigger a transformation in us when we drop our protection or guard – that is based on a previous difficult relationship or past hurt – and give people a chance to be themselves without any feeling that they will not live up to our expectations.
Relying on ‘small talk’ as our typical mode of communication really does keep us ‘small,’ but allowing ourselves to be open by going a bit deeper each time we interact with people can lead to an evolving form of relationship that may surprise with just how much we all have to offer each other.
So, by making the effort to not settle for ‘small talk’ but instead be willing to take the conversation to the next level, we can all move towards a form of relationship with each other that brings us closer together and makes life more about evolving as a humanity and less about merely existing and getting through another day, week and year without that connection and expansion that we all can feel in our hearts is our true way.