people are falling off the planet

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Walk any city in the evening and you will see people in shop doorways settling for the night. Huddling, or lying prostrate. Walk any side street or back alley and the stench of stale urine will rise to greet your nostrils.

Travel early in those cities and you will see, wrapped in sleeping bag cocoons or under piles of cardboard, those not yet risen. Some you will see with large bags or shopping trolleys to transport their worldly belongings. The lucky ones may have been left a coffee by a passer by or by a charitable agency.

Walk any city during the day and you will see an array of cardboard notices outlining each individual’s plight; some held, some lying by cap or cloth on the pavement. Or you will encounter those seeking some loose change or perhaps a spare cigarette.

This seems to me to be getting worse. More people with less. More living at the edge of humanity.

Yet, for the most part, we walk by. Perhaps increasing our pace or looking away to avoid eye contact. Maybe it’s shame? Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s security? Or maybe we simply can’t face what is happening around us?

What has gone wrong?

 

 

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trapped in my own mental construction

lifts

Yesterday I was at a conference. A hotel in central London.

Part way through the day I headed for the ‘facilities’ (strange how we invent words to hide our embarrassment of a normal human function – I needed a pee), only to discover that it was being cleaned. I wandered around the ground floor looking for alternatives. A man dressed in a ‘hotel concierge’ style approached and I sought his guidance.  He directed me to the reception area and the bank of lifts, suggesting I travelled to the first floor, where I could exit, turn left, left again and find the required room.

I headed off, conscious that I would soon be missing the start of the next break out session.  Finding the lifts, I pressed the button and the lift on the right of four opened its door. I entered and pressed the button marked 1. The lift door closed and it surged into life; well, actually it dribbled into life, but I could sense movement. I stood reflecting on the conference so far.

The lift juddered to a halt.

The door didn’t open.

Panic flashed into my body. Surely the lift hadn’t broken down? I glanced at the panel seeking the alarm button. I’d seen them before, but never had cause to use one. Into my mind came the conversation I would need to have, ‘yes lift on the right’, ‘yes, between ground and first floor’…

Thoughts swam in an ever quickening whirlpool in my mind… ‘how long might I be here?’ ‘what would I miss?’, ‘did I have water in my bag?’…

Then I turned around.

Behind me was an open door and an expansive empty corridor.

The lift had doors on both sides.

I tutted to myself, gently chastising my stupidity, glancing around to ensure nobody had noticed my tardy lift exit, or worse still witnessed my elementary mistake. I felt so silly.

Of course I have been in a lift before with doors that open both ends. Tube stations, hospitals. Usually large lifts, never a small 6 person lift in a hotel though. Lift doors normally ‘ping’ or are noisy enough for your attention to be drawn.

I noticed how my thought stream had moved from the panic of entrapment, to masking my embarrassment, to rationalising and justifying my inability to spot an open side in a four foot by five foot space.

For a moment, only a moment,  I had been trapped in my own mental construction – the lift and where its door should open.

Now I was trapped in a different mental construction – the need to hide and the need to make sense and justify.

 

life’s guest house

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This being human is a guest house.  Every morning is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…

Welcome and entertain them all.  Treat each guest honorably.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

Each thought, each feeling that arrives in your awareness, greet it, thank it for its wisdom, its desire to speak to you. Each is a messenger. Each a mentor.

Do not turn them away or shun them. Do not hasten to compost them. Be curious about their story. Enquire of their intent; how they seek to serve you. Each has a purpose, each a meaning. We’re usually just too busy to notice. Too dismissive of this errant thought, this unwelcome sensation in the body, this repeating voice.

They seek to help us grow.

emotional replenishment

emotions shopping

I need to shop for food today. Saturday isn’t a normal shopping day for us – too many people in the aisles. The aimless people.

Anyhow, it occurred to me, what if I could shop for emotions? What would be on my list? What do I want more of and what do I have enough of in the cupboard?

Do I want more joy? More caring? More trust? More serenity? Do I need a little more sadness? A big pot of empathy? Do I need to refill my anger? Maybe I would like to take some lonely back to the shop?

Am I baking a relationship cake and need some extra courage? Some more selfishness, a little daring, some strong, rather than medium, fun? A big box of compassion perhaps, a soupcon of adventurousness and a large tin of hurt? Plus a garnish of warmth?

Maybe I’m about to change role and I need to stock up on thrilled, thoughtful and excited, buy a refill pack of embarrassed, but also purchase some ashamed and not good enough seasoning?

Or maybe I’m being forced to change role and need some hope, a little vindictiveness and a splash of inadequate, to go with the large supply I have at home of feeling used?

What would be on your emotions shopping list?

the hidden art of hiding

hiding dyslexia
In recent months I have spoken to a number of people with dyslexia.

One common aspect of our conversations has intrigued me. The tension that is created between a need for some support, balanced with a desire not to be marked out as different. I want some help, but I don’t want to be seen to want help.

Those I have spoken to have talked of their shame. A sense that in some way they are inadequate. Unable to do things that others find straightforward. Many hide their dyslexia for this reason. Preferring to find their own coping mechanisms. Choosing roles and work where the challenges arising from their dyslexia aren’t exposed.

Whilst my dyslexic confidants have shared their fear of judgement, their desire to hide their ‘condition’, they have also shared heart wrenching stories of the efforts required to cope. To stay afloat. Many are desperate for some simple supports.

The reality here of course is that these dyslexic individuals have other strengths, other capabilities which are more developed and stronger than their non-dyslexic colleagues. Just as with any human being, we are all different. All unique.

We all hide too.

Sometimes we hide a part of ourselves from those around us. Often we hide a part of ourselves from ourselves. Yet we think that the hiding is hidden.

Honesty and truth seldom bring blame, judgement, criticism. When they do, it is those criticising, judging, blaming who are the individuals who are really hiding. Hiding behind judgement, criticism and blame.

We need to come out of the shadows.
To learn to be, in all our unique glory.
To stop hiding.

image by: Sally Green

 

wounding each other

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I nearly wounded someone today. Thankfully, only nearly.

We all have those moments when, perhaps even before we’ve thought about it, we’ve wounded others – with a well-chosen barb, a dose of sarcastic humour, by locking them out or turning away, by reminding them of their bad habits or inabilities, by yelling or insulting … by shaming.

All too often we are wounding other people because we just got wounded ourselves, sometimes by a thought or a memory rising quietly inside; a thought that nobody else can even see. We deal with our own pain by swinging it out onto somebody else.

And sometimes we wound others because, to put it simply, it’s what happened to us repeatedly along our life journey and now it’s their turn for a share of it.

But perhaps even more often than we wound others, we wound ourselves.

… and more deeply.

When faced with a situation, an opportunity, a challenge we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not attractive enough, not talented enough, not powerful enough, not important enough …

We shame ourselves into not trying, or giving up, or playing small…

Maybe the next time you sense you are wounding yourself or wounding another human being, pause and reflect on where that comes from?