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Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category



An Activist’s Penitence

Sep26

by: Simon Mont on September 26th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Bringing shortcomings to light is a form of self-love. (Image courtesy of Ian Chen)

I long to see a world of justice and joy; a world where all people’s material needs are met, and we lovingly support each other’s emotional, spiritual, and creative flourishing. Though my life is directed toward manifesting this vision, I often do things that subvert it. Though I long to be a force of peace and transformation, I often commit violence and perpetuate societal distortions.

As I walk the path back to love, truth, and unity, I have noticed more and more the ways in which I have missed the mark; ways in which I have fallen short of expressing what is truly in my heart. In the spirit and wisdom of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of return to wholeness and connection, I offer just some of the things I have noticed here. My intention is that by expressing them publicly I will be more accountable to changing my behavior. My hope is that others will see themselves in my confession, and join me on the path back to love. My prayer is that this offering will help us all heal and welcome each other in beloved community.

I have hidden.

I have stayed in the comfort of my own mental constructs. I have dismissed worldviews that contradict my own.

 

I have used thoughts to avoid confronting my feelings; used beliefs to cloak my needs and wounds; and used arguments to mask my fears.

 

I have tried to use my mind to control, predict, and create safety. I have fled from the tender power of my heart, and the truths that compassion makes me confront.

 

I have hated.

 

I have hated patterns of oppression. Hated them when they appeared in me, then hated myself. Hated them when they appeared in others, then hated others.

 

I have branded and shunned people who see the world differently. I have done it in my own mind, and I have done it with my language and my actions.

 

I have frozen people in one moment in time, and not allowed room for their growth, healing, and transformation.

 

I have fully internalized a distorted view of myself, believed myself to be nothing more than my unchosen role in an an oppressive system, and hated myself for things beyond my control.

I have diminished.

 

I have reduced people to nothing more than the distorted societal patterns that manifest in their behavior.

 

I have failed to see people’s true humanity and complexity; and then imagined myself insightful for doing so.

 

I have thought the only truths worth speaking about are pain, oppression, and injustice and have failed to make space for love, transcendence, and hope.

 

I have allowed my understanding of my true nature to be limited to what people around me are comfortable with.

 

I have judged.

 

I have seen people only for the harm or threat they pose, and not the wounds they suffer from.

 

I have interpreted people’s different experiences, understandings of politics, and uses of language as character flaws.

 

I have fixated on people’s missteps and failed to see their humanity.

 

I have reduced people to nothing more than their unchosen roles in social systems

 

I have used my words as weapons.

I have gossiped about people’s political or identity shortcomings and by doing so, trapped them in the box of my limited understanding.

 

I have imagined myself as superior to other people, then leveraged politics to put other people down.

 

I have used an analysis of oppression to display intellectual dominance.

 

I have leveraged my access to various forms of education and mentorship to make other people feel stupid, ashamed, unsafe, and unwelcomed.

 

I have worshipped my own self image.

 

I have imagined a world where some people are morally superior to others. I have enforced that vision on others to inflate my sense of self worth, and avoid confronting my own human struggles.

 

I have been infatuated with my self-righteousness.

 

I have idolized my own understanding so much that I could not see the truths of others.

 

I have used the language of revolution to inflate my ego.

 

I have used politics and social movements as a forum to acquire social status.

 

I have feared.

 

I have remained palatable to enforcers of radical left political correctness because I am afraid of being misunderstood or ostracized.

 

I have clung to my beliefs and not allowed room for contradictory truths to emerge.

 

I have failed to speak my truth because I believe I will be judged or shunned by my progressive/leftist/radical community.

 

I have presented myself as a victim in order to be welcomed as credible.

 

I have limited my circle of compassion to only those who agree with me.

 

I have become attached to mental constructs of justice and failed to cultivate the courage to love and act directly from the heart.

This is an incomplete list of what I have done. I doubt any of it will come as a surprise to those who know me, especially those who have suffered at my hand. I welcome folks to add to this list with things they have observed in me, or in themselves.

I am sorry. My actions have hurt people. I have hurt people I care about. I have slowed the cultivation of the compassionate world that I long to see, and I have done it in the name of speeding it up. I cannot guarantee that I will be able to fully stop behaving this way, will commit myself to doing the best I can, knowing full well that next year will be another Yom Kippur, another time for repentance, another opportunity for a more full return.

I also apologize to myself. I have been so hard on myself; constantly aspiring to an unachievable standard and then feeling bad that I don’t meet it. It is easier for me to see and share my mistakes then to notice and be proud of my successes. The gentle heart that motivates my life often goes unrecognized by the mind that sees nothing but how much more work there is to be done. Tomorrow, when the season turns from repentance to joy, I might just follow my father’s advice and write a piece about how much I’ve grown and transformed. Somehow that feels way riskier for me, so today I’ll just bask in the paradox that bringing shortcomings to light is a form of self-love.

I feel a discomfort in sharing all this, but I feel no shame. We are all missing the mark of what we could be; we are all trying our best to return to our loving and compassionate natures; and we are all walking this path on a landscape scarred by the violence of our times in a world we did not choose to be born into. I feel healing in offering my missteps into the light of repentance. Today, I recommit to loving myself, to loving you, and allowing the light of our hearts to warm us during this cold night of history we find ourselves in.

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Simon Mont is an Oakland based artist, healer, facilitator, and organizer. To learn more about Simon’s work consulting to support collaborative leadership for just, joyful, and strategic organizations visit www.Harmonize.work. Simon welcomes opportunities to connect, collaborate, and explore.

Do Unto Yourself: The Power of Reciprocity

Jul17

by: on July 17th, 2018 | Comments Off

How do you treat yourself as compared to your habitual ways of treating others?I’ve been thinking about the dangers of self-exploitation.

I’ve always thought my radar for being exploited was keenly sensitive, even hyper-sensitive. I always attributed this to the way my young self was used by my family, constantly urged and deployed to live for others as I was entitled to no needs and desires of my own. I thought I was over that form of self-punishment, that I could no longer fall unawares into situations that made me feel used. But not long ago, I found myself talking about my own life-choices – particularly my proclivity to stick where I am needed long after it serves me – and the voice of my mother came into my head. “Do it for me,” she said nearly every day, “it will cost you so little and mean so much to me.”

The shock of realization was visceral, the epiphany loud and clear. No one had coerced me. Driving myself, my fuel had been the very same message I’d worked so long to reject. I had been using myself in precisely the same way others had used me long ago.


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Some Spiritual Lessons from the Rescue of the Soccer Boys from the Thai Cave

Jul16

by: Matthew Fox on July 16th, 2018 | Comments Off

U.S. Airmen advising the Thai military in the operation to save the trapped Thai soccer team. Photo courtesy of US Department of Defense.

The world breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing that the first four—and weakest—of the Thai boys were rescued from the cave where they have been trapped for 14 days. Today four more boys have been rescued; tomorrow the rescue is slated for the last four and their coach who, we are told, is himself very weak having shared his meager rations with the kids before himself.

There are deep and perhaps even archetypal lessons in this powerful story which has captured the attention of so many people around the world and brought many people together in the midst of so much chaos and disturbance in the world. Amidst the disunity, unity. I wish to offer a few reflections on these lessons in this essay.

The power of the feminine.
A cave is an archetype of the womb of the Earth (Francis of Assisi loved to pray in caves). A cave is alluring and fascinating—but also dangerous and even deadly. Mother Earth’s beauty is intoxicating but it can also be dangerous; she has her own laws and must be respected—consider Pele now asserting herself in the wild volcanoes exploding in Hawaii, and the monsoons and floods faced by the boys and their coach.


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Goodbye to Time

Jul16

by: Adam Fagin on July 16th, 2018 | Comments Off

As a result of President Trump's "zero-tolerance policy," thousands of immigrant children have been detained and separated from their parents for indefinite periods.

Detention centers for the children of immigrants have again raised the specter of the Holocaust in mainstream civic discourse. As a Jewish-American with a strong sense of cultural identity and an even stronger belief that what’s past is prologue, I have frequently wondered what my relationship and responsibility to the reemergence of these images should be, whether it’s tiki-torched white nationalists shouting “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville or swastikas raised at rallies in criticism of the current administration.

In response to this question, I’m reminded of a recent reading of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the graphic novel about his father Vladek’s survival from the outbreak of the war through his time at Auschwitz. The work brings together a past of unimaginable physical and psychological torment and present-day New York where an elderly Vladek bears witness to his son.

In one scene, Art and his wife, Francoise, wait in the car as Vladek enters a supermarket to return several opened but unfinished boxes of food. The two are mortified by this attempt. But they know it’s useless to intervene. On the way to the store, Art and Francoise had listened as the old man continued his story of the camps. His survival was a miracle, says Francoise as they watch Vladek arguing with the manager through the store window, to which Art responds: “But in some ways he didn’t survive.”

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Healing the Heart of this Country

Jul5

by: Dr. John Goldthwait on July 5th, 2018 | Comments Off

Those who disagree politically often demean, blame, and criticize those who differ from them and the result is the climate of divisiveness we see in this country today. Each political party believes they are the “good guys” while those in other party are the “bad guys” who must be defeated. Members of both parties believe this is a logical and desirable way to proceed and act accordingly. However, to do this is to accept and act on the “us versus them” understanding of how the world works.

This approach has absolutely no hope of succeeding because it is based on an invalid premise. This premise is that there are good people (us) and bad people (them). If the “good” people fight against and defeat the “bad” people, then everything will be just fine. So how well is this working out? Are we a loving and peaceful country?

The history of our country and the world confirms that trying to attack and defeat those we perceive as “bad” has never worked. Yes, there may be times when the “good” guys succeed in defeating the “bad”guys and things may seem better for a time until, once again, there are more “bad” guys we must attack and defeat. They perceive things in the same way, of course, and set about defeating us. What ensues is mutual blaming, criticizing, demonizing, and attacking that only results in more suffering for everyone involved.

Despite the failure of us-versus-them thinking to solve our difficulties, this does not stop people from thinking it will work. It is so tempting to blame someone else for one’s difficulties in life. A convincing case can always be made that “they” are responsible for our suffering. “They” may be people with the wrong political and/or religious beliefs, the wrong skin color, the wrong national origin or who have other unacceptable characteristics or behaviors that differentiate them from us. The delusion is that once we defeat those we blame for our problems and suffering, everything will be just fine.


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Planetary Parenting

Feb27

by: Stan Charnofsky on February 27th, 2018 | Comments Off

Children are on the march.

Our planet has been around for some three-and-a-half billion years, and wehave received countless devastating blows from space debris–some of it destroying vastsegments of the earth anda variety of life species.

We now have evolved to where a given species has the intelligence to prevent such collisions and it becomes our choice whether or not we apply our resources to do it.

Therein lies a lesson.

We live with many earthly anomalies,human and planetary issues that clamor for correction, that range from inhumane treatment of children to violent warfare against entire populations. We now also have the technology and know-how to banish these practices; we have not, alas, mustered the courage or the willingness to do so.

It might be a vacuum of leadership, or perhaps a failing in people, that we do not rise up in Peace and Acceptance nearly so well as we do in Combat and Criticism. My personal lean is toward a Humanistic philosophy which eschews the sense of an innate negativity in people, but rather that we are wounded by early hurts. Itfollows that if we do have a failing, it has been absorbed over time, has become an applique on our psyches as protection against any new hurt and pain.

To counteract those protections and intercept future hurts, we must consider ourchildren and offer them a legacy of love-that-leads-to-safety by cleansing our own hearts of prejudice and aggression.

Since children are our future, we must focus on their parents.

Our world culture does not parent well; therein lies another lesson. Almost every other species nurtures its young more fastidiously than the human. We are often neglectful. We are sometimes assaultive. A world in turmoil is the product of neglected and assaulted children.

Thirty years ago, children eight to fourteen years of age, from twenty-four countries, were surveyed about what they wanted from their parents. The top several responses were: Harmony, Love, Honesty, Acceptance, Closeness, Attention (to their questions), and Appreciation of their friends. We need to provide these picks for children everywhere, whether as biological parents, cultural parents, or–grand notion–planetary parents.

Our loftiest task might be to behold our precious children in their honesty and innocence, learn all we can from them, and meticulously incorporate their zest, spontaneity and keen potential into our adult personalities. Ironically, only when we have lovingly absorbed our children’s humanity can we turn and be effective adult examples to those very same children.

If we do decide to apply our ample technology to keep meteorites from collidingwith our planet, it would be nice to think our world civilization is worth preserving.

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Stan Charnofsky is a professor at Calif. State University Northridge, a licensed psychologist, and past President of the Association for Humanistic Psychology.

Transcending Barriers while Life Meets Death

Feb20

by: on February 20th, 2018 | Comments Off

In this time, so full of pain and challenge, I was unexpectedly nourished by an email I received from someone who is consciously, purposefully trying to live applied NVC and Conflict Transformation in work and life, currently doing it in Eastern Sri Lanka. I am sharing an abridged version of her words here, with her permission, because I continue to be inspired and transformed repeatedly by her description of an encounter with a strange man dying of a violent act. I bolded the part that is most inspiring to me, in case you want to go straight there.

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Belonging Cuts Like A Knife

Feb16

by: on February 16th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I’ve heard it said that belonging sounds kind of soft, but to me, it’s a knife that cuts straight to the heart of our collective challenge. How do we cultivate a society that embodies the right to belong, that offers full cultural citizenship: justice and love, equity and compassion, the right to feel at home in one’s community, to feel safe in one’s school? To belong.

It’s not clear whether school shooter Nikolas Cruz actually trained with the white nationalist militia Republic of Florida (the group’s leader claimed Cruz, then said he’d mistaken him for someone else. But Cruz had been aligned for years with white supremacist views, according to a high school classmate and others: “He would always talk about how he felt whites were a bit higher than everyone,” Charo said. “He’d be like, ‘My people are over here industrializing the world and starting new things, while your people [meaning blacks and Latinos] are just taking up space.’”

When we debate who belongs – about how belonging must be earned and which categories of people are entitled to a say – we had better be ready to tussle with history.Consider a few scenes from the annals of belonging.


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On the Receiving End of Hate

Jan24

by: Phoenix Soleil on January 24th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

My cousin and I were texting about Trumps insult towards Haiti. She said: He’s so disrespectful it is really upsetting and I’m trying to emotionally block him out

This was my response:

 

It’s like a blow

I felt kicked in the stomach,

I felt shame

And then I felt shame about feeling shame.

I know this isn’t true so why am I hurt?

the capitalist life

Many of us give this materialistic socioeconomic system our time and energy so we can stay alive.

I play the game

I try to win

Most of all I want to safe,

And then the spiritual life

Most of us can only give a portion our non working hours to the spiritual life

For most of us that amount gets smaller every year

Of course we get entangled in the material way of seeing things

And when the leader and representative of our economic system insults an aspect of ourselves

We feel it

We’re suppose to better than this

Ideals values integrity

The stuff of children movies, 50s sitcoms and comic books

Believing that good will triumph

That hard work and integrity mean something

But this economic system is rigged

What he says hurts me because he’s voicing a shadow in this culture. From a purely economic perspective, many people can and do dismiss Haiti. It’s because of the popularity of a “might makes right” attitudes like his and historical oppression from the west especially from France and America that Haiti is poor. Because that way of thinking is so prevalent. In this country we’re brainwashed to see things from that kind of materialistic point of view. In most disney movies or superhero stories wining at the end is proof that you are magic, right and good. It’s natural that I would feel anger sadness and shame. It’s painful to be around that ideology and to see it in myself.

Deep down we know that the spirit and spirituality is more important than the money. The art and culture of Haiti is special. Every culture is special. It hurts because that’s not the way a lot of people think. Trump is encouraging people’s worse natures. No one thrives in a culture of bullying and materialism. And the people who are economically disadvantaged will suffer the most.

I understand the urge to block out his words. I encourage you to cry it out and feel the pain because pain has more power the more it’s repressed. Please cry, rather than insult Trump. Strive to understand your feelings. Honor the pain, rather than strike out. By condemning we replicate his emotionally stunted way of being in the world. By crying we release. With time, a more evolved response full of intelligence, action and compassion can emerge.

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Phoenix Soleil is an artist, activist and teacher. She is passionate about the intersections of community, emotional intelligence and trauma.She is a partner at LIFT Economy where she helps businesses increase their emotional intelligence and collaboration skills.She has led trainings in communication, racial justice and emotional resiliency for individuals, groups, and organizations such as Google, Kellogg Foundation, UC Berkeley, and Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Check out her website for upcoming trainings, and more info on her artistic endeavors:phoenixsoleil.com.

Anti-Ageism: The Next Big Social Movement

Dec7

by: Ruth Ray Karpen on December 7th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

A Review of Ending Ageism or How Not to Shoot Old People

By Margaret Morganroth Gullette

Rutgers University Press, 2017

 

Forty years ago, Erdman Palmore, a senior fellow at the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, published a series of questions – the Facts on Aging Quiz – designed to provoke group discussions about aging and old age.  To his surprise, the quiz revealed that most Americans knew very little about the aging process and harbored many misconceptions, most of them negative. Among the most common misconceptions were that the majority of old people (age 65+) were bored, angry, irritated and unable to adapt to change and that at least 10% of them lived in nursing homes.  For years Palmore and other gerontologists, used the quiz in classes and public forums to educate people about the facts of aging.  They knew from previous research that the more knowledge people gain, the less negative and the more positive attitudes they hold about aging.

In 2017, Americans still need to be educated, perhaps even more so, if the proliferation of negative behaviors and hate speech toward old people is any indication.   Of all the prejudices that divide us, ageism is still the most universally shared and tolerated.  It can be hostile and overt, like the Facebook comment that “anyone over the age of 69 should immediately face a firing squad,” or more subtle and passive aggressive, like the birthday card that makes fun of getting old, the comment that a retired colleague has “let herself go” or your own disgust at the wrinkles and brown spots on your face.  These are mere bagatelles, however, compared to the most serious forms of age bias.

Consider these facts of contemporary life in America:

  • Midlife men, especially those once considered at the peak of their ability and experience, are now widely discriminated against in the workplace.  In some places, such as tech companies in Silicon Valley, discrimination starts at the age of 35.
  • Among the Facebook groups that focus on older adults – approximately 25,000 members – 74% “vilified” older adults, according to one study, and 37% thought they should be banned from public activities like driving and shopping.
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