Category Archives: Compassion

Space to breathe and contemplate life

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I’m back from a few days on the Gold Coast after presenting a paper at an education research conference and have been reflecting on my leisurely and rambling rumination whilst there …

Sitting in the cool lobby of a hotel I had the pleasure of inhabiting for the four days of my stay, I was waiting for my shuttle to the airport. I had just walked along the magnificent Queensland coast where Surfers Paradise meets the sea, and had surrendered myself to the gently rolling ocean waves.

I’m not a great fan of the area and it’s high tourist trade, but was incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’d had to engage in deeply stimulating dialogue with an international community of my peers, and to sit in my 19th floor room overlooking the panoramic vista. The setting of our research gathering amongst the proliferation of high-rise apartments of Surfers Paradise saw us bordered by the endless coast on one side and Tamborine Mountain beyond the Hinterland on the other.

It reminded me of a beautiful book I bought for my boys years ago. Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker (1987) is described as a tribute to her love of Australian wilderness and fierce commitment to protecting it from destruction http://www.jeanniebaker.com/wtfms.mov Also http://www.vintagechildrensbooksmykidloves.com/2009/07/where-forest-meets-sea-guest-post-by.html. It is a book created from original artworks that depict the unfolding story of change through the imaginings of a young boy, telling the story of a place further north where the incredible Daintree Forest meets the sea. It predicts how this space where the elements and forces of nature come together might be irrevocably changed to accommodate our desire to appreciate and access such places of beauty. I remember that I took my boys into the Melbourne Art Gallery at a time when they were young and dreaming their own dreams of possibility, and we were privileged to see the original artworks for the book.

The television is playing in the background in the lobby, and from a distant place I can hear The Last Post sounding. Young men and women walking along the street in front of me are wearing war medals, returning from a local ANZAC Day march, and I am taken in my mind to scenes of heart-wrenching death as beautiful young lives are lost on the sandy shores of Gallipoli. Another coast, another place where the rich landscape meets the sea. Another place where the elements and forces of nature have been witness to and changed by the desires and ambitions of ‘progress’ and ‘protecting’ and promoting what is ours.

In the odd news reports that drift across from the television I hear about plans to purchase massive instruments of war that will cost billions of dollars and contribute to a culture of alienation and intimidation, and I consider how all these stories collide.

I am ruled by a government, overseeing a population, overwhelmingly out of touch with the key issues we are facing. Even as I sit in my air-conditioned lobby, having enjoyed the sights from my eagles nest perspective, waiting to board my fume-belching plane back home, I am overwhelmed by the impact of our decisions. Decisions to bulldoze protected forests; dump oil in unique marine environments; cull exquisite sharks in their homes; refuse critical assistance to people and creatures who need it most. Decisions to buy exorbitantly priced instruments of war and protect our borders from those we fear who come across the sea to share what belongs to all of us, and send them away to be imprisoned for being ‘illegal’. Decisions to support the clearing of more irreplaceable ‘spaces’ and re’place’ them with concrete jungles filled with constantly revolving editions of ever-new technology, and retire on massive tax-payer funded pensions … but we will tell those in dire peril we have no money to support them in their need.

And I wonder what we can do to change it.

In the lobby people are coming and going, some excited to be launching into their holiday adventures, others like me preparing to reenter the ongoing story of their lives. Two young sisters are using the couches as mountain ranges, climbing and navigating their way through imagined adventures.

From all corners of the world, people are going about their business, while in so many places, where the landscapes meet the sea, where mountains overlook winding rivers, where forests embrace their rich environments, the planet and her dependent inhabitants are struggling to survive due to the heartless, thoughtless, senseless decisions and actions being taken now. It is my observation that in most cases assaults on living creatures and our planet stem from our inability to open our hearts and make choices grounded in loving wisdom. Greed, fear and suspicion do not create sustainable solutions. Answers will never be found in instruments of war. Loving compassionate hearts, working collaboratively and open to each others’s truths, are the only foundation on which humane, sustainable decisions can be made for our collective future. A government working secretly at times, blindly at others in a seeming time warp is not sustainable for people, planet or anyone’s profit.

So what to do … I seem to recall a song from my childhood about shining a light in my little corner of the world … that if we all shine our light in our little corner we can illuminate the world. I guess this means we need to polish up our strengths, open our hearts and step out to use our loving influence and our compassionate example in all instances. Share whatever we can, grow whatever hope and capability is possible in our little space so that we can heal and prosper collectively … as one interconnected organism.

Now that I am home from my sojourn, I need to figure out what that next step will be for me … might just go and polish my heart and my courage while I give it some thought …

Words to inspire

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Today I’ve been reading, researching and immersing myself in the theory and practice of Satyananda yoga, as part of my yoga studies. These exquisite words from Swami Satyananda Saraswati were lying quietly, awaiting my discovery. After losing myself in their poetic beauty, I would like to share a small extract with you.  I hope they inspire and lift you as much as they have me.

I am an invisible child of a thousand faces of love,
That floats over the swirling sea of life,
Surrounded by the meadows of the winged shepherds,
Where divine love and beauty,
The stillness of midnight summer’s warmth pervades.

Life often cuts at my body and mind
And though blood may be seen passing,
And a cry might be heard,
Do not be deceived that sorrow could dwell within my being
Or suffering within my soul.
There will never be a storm
That can wash the path from my feet,
The direction from my heart,
The light from my eyes,
Or the purpose from this life.

I know that I am untouchable to the forces
As long as I have a direction, an aim, a goal:
To serve, to love, and to give.
Strength lies in the magnification of the secret qualities
Of my own personality, my own character
And though I am only a messenger,
I am me.

Let me decorate many hearts
And paint a thousand faces with colours of inspiration
And soft, silent sounds of value.
Let me be like a child,
Run barefoot through the forest
Of laughing and crying people,
Giving flowers of imagination and wonder,
That God gives free.
Shall I fall on bended knees,
And wait for someone to bless me
With happiness and a life of golden dreams?

No, I shall run into the desert of life with my arms open,
Sometimes falling, sometimes stumbling,
But always picking myself up,
A thousand times if necessary,
Sometimes happy.
Often life will burn me,
Often life will caress me tenderly
And many of my days will be haunted
With complications and obstacles,
And there will be moments so beautiful
That my soul will weep in ecstasy.

I shall be a witness,
But never shall I run
Or turn from life, from me.

Never shall I forsake myself
Or the timeless lessons I have taught myself,
Nor shall I let the value
Of divine inspiration and being be lost.
My rainbow-covered bubble will carry me
Further than beyond the horizon’s settings,
Forever to serve, to love, and to live
As a sannyasin.

~Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Saraswati, S., 1993, p.29)

Contemplating learning styles, mindful meditation, compassion and happiness

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I’ve just been on one of those fascinating trails of discovery one is able to undertake through the incredible rabbit-hole that is YouTube. For those of you who enjoy watching/listening to some of the great minds of our time, you might like to have a look/listen while you play on your laptop or phone.

My curiosity was activated through an online discussion (in LinkedIn) about the validity/currency of theories of learning preferences and styles. I followed a link into YouTube to look at work being done around learning, personality and brain activity: Authors@Google: Dario Nardi – Neuroscience of Personality.  Dario Nardi has discovered that people of different personality types don’t merely rely on different brain regions — they use their brains in fundamentally different ways http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGfhQTbcqmA

This led me to another on the brain and emotion The Neuroscience of Emotions by Dr. Phillippe Goldin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tShDYA3NFVs&feature=related, from a  Google series Search inside yourself (SIY), Google’s Mindfulness-based emotional intelligence course. It begins with a background on emotions, and then examines the neural bases of emotion, emotion regulation, emotional reactivity and emotional intelligence. His talk includes the increasing interest neuroscience has with emotional intelligence, cognitive behavioural therapy and practitioners of mindfulness meditation as they study the impact each has on emotional reactivity and behaviour in individuals. The questions and answers at the end of his presentation contain fabulous reflections on the value of compassion and stillness in life – work, personal and family. Living consciously as we engage with life. For more information about Dr Goldin’s work on meditation, see Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf6Q0G1iHBI

Transform Your Mind, Change Your Brain. Richard J. Davidson explores recent scientific research on the neuroscience of positive human qualities and how they can be cultivated through contemplative practice. The evolving field of contemplative neuroscience http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tRdDqXgsJ0&feature=relmfu

My final treasure was from a biologist turned Buddhist monk, author and photographer Matthieu Ricard (interestingly, referred to in the previous YouTube), who speaks about the inner state of happiness – Change your Mind Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peA6vy0D5Bg&feature=relmfu

 My hope is that one of these contains a treasure for you