One of the most necessary liberations comes when you discover that what other people think of you is not the same as who you are.
When you can stop identifying yourself with the stories, mistruths and assessments of others, you can also free yourself from a constant inner pressure to appear as you think people want, or expect you to.
But once you know this, another wisdom must be taken on.
You have to understand that other people are not the same as your stories, perspectives or assessments either. That means that whatever you think you know about them can only ever be partial; one aspect, a single angle on a situation way more complex than you’ve allowed for. Whatever you see, know you are blind.
Once these truths are mastered, know also that the story you tell yourself about you, about your own limitations, your acceptance in the world, your abilities or inabilities, is also not who you are. They too are a judgement, blind to the whole you; distorted tales from long distant memories or unintended fabrications from your past. Knowing this allows you to silence your inner critic. It relieves you from the self imposed weight of expectation, the burden of disappointment, the constant sniping at your capability, your value, your contribution, how you come to this world.
This awareness makes space for compassion. Compassion for others and compassion for self.
How often do you think showing vulnerability is weakness?
We hide our own vulnerability so that it cannot be judged by others; and also by ourselves.
Yet, how often do you see someone else show vulnerability and see it as pure courage?
How in the face of so much difficulty, pain and suffering can this brave individual reveal to the world the extent to which they are hurting or not coping? Generally we don’t beat them up, we don’t pick on a weakness, rather we are inspired by their strength, warmed by their compassion, moved to support.
Vulnerability is not weakness.
Let’s bust that myth once and for all.
Free your vulnerability.
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Now it’s 34 degrees, I yearn for the cooling currents of a winter’s wrath
I sat the other day with about fifteen like minded people.
We were invited to share something we wanted more of in our lives.
We were sitting in a circle.
I have on several occasions been invited to share my story or something significant about me in a group environment. The most successful of these has always been in a circle, facing each other. It is no accident that village elders often sit in a circle; indeed many cultures do this. Sitting in circles, around a fire, in a yurt, on the desert floor. Children often do it in our primary schools at reading time.
Seeing the faces of the speaker and your fellow listeners builds a bond, draws you to the story, generates a trusting, safe environment. Nobody is in a position of power, authority, dominance. Or in a position of inferiority, subjugation, minority. Everyone is equal.
Strange then that in our places of work, many meeting tables are square or oblong and we are so often organised in rows. Face to face, back to back, side to side.
No wonder we find it hard to be heard.
We spend a lot of time going.
On a bus the other day, gazing backwards out of the rear of the vehicle as it trundled up Park Lane, I noticed this. All around me were cars, buses, bikes, vans, lorries. All the occupants, driver or passenger, going. Where wasn’t clear, but they were all going. As was I. Glancing to the side there were pedestrians and cyclists on the path. Also going. An inline skater eased between these goers, also going? Peering skywards, an aeroplane could be made out, high in the clouds, going. Going further perhaps, but nonetheless going.
We are not often still.
When we’re not physically going, we’re mentally or emotionally going.
Going from here to there. There to here. Going forward, going backwards. Sometimes going sideways. Going round and around. Sometimes going, in order to go. Going to familiar places and to new places. Going to be with, going to be away from.
Or maybe we’re coming?
What’s the difference?
Are these people around me going or coming? Coming or going?
However they might describe their orientation of travel, of movement, one thing is clear. They are not still. They are not simply being. They are not just in the present. They are going, or coming, from or to. Past or future. Was, will be. Then, when.
This is a new footpath. Not far from my home.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times that the infrastructure for our modern means of communication takes precedence over walking side by side?
A metaphor for our physical separation?
In our modern world there is much complexity. With that comes contradiction. An either or, pros and cons, do and don’t do. We face everyday life with a heavy burden of choice. A weight of expectation, of responsibility. How to spend our time, our money, our energy? Lots of ‘what if?’ Lots of ‘if only?’.
I heard a story the other day which resonated with this world truth of contradiction and complexity.
The story teller, a young African boy at the time of the story. Living in a village in remote Nigeria.
The villagers kept goats. The goats served many purposes. They provided work, endeavour, a sense of purpose. They provided food. They provided milk. They were a currency of prosperity.
But the goats also ate things. Anything. Everything. They destroyed much of the fabric of the village.
The elders of the village met to discuss this complexity, this contradiction. In order to decide.
The young boy observed the elders meeting. Their long discussion about the goats.
The elders sat and debated this contradiction. For days.
After a while, the young boy asked his father why they continued to discuss the goats. Why they were not deciding.
His father said, there is a wisdom in not deciding. A wisdom in living with the contradiction. And so there emerges another truth in the complexity.
It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.
G K Chesterton
Sometimes the bounty we seek is on the inside.
Sometimes it lies in a direction we are blind to.
Sometimes we need someone else’s mirror to help to look where we need to look.