I was down with flu this weekend. And cancelled all appointments.
I recall not wanting to take medical leave in the past. I had responsibilities… Who would pick up my work? Nobody could replace me. My boss needed that document. I would also be missing out on what’s happening.
But two years ago I had a fall and badly injured myself. I had to depend on others to get dressed, do simple things etc. I had to take medical leave from classes at Columbia. I think that fall woke me up to a new ability to be vulnerable, depend on others for help more than I was used to and be at peace with showing myself compassion.
When I look back, I can see that Life had been trying to teach me the lesson of self-compassion for a while but I hadn’t heeded it until I got enough of a big wake-up call…and was “forced” into practising it…
We are often asked to be compassionate to others. My experience is that when we have compassion towards ourselves, we are able to be more compassionate to others; more than we imagined.
Dr Kritin Neff’s website is a great resource on self-compassion and a video featuring her is a good introduction. She defines self-compassion:
Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment? Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.
More then once when I have discussed this idea with others, they have said, “If you encourage self-compassion, won’t you get selfish people?” Dr Neff explains that self-compassion is different from self-pity and self-indulgence. Self-pity, she says, focuses on one’s egocentric experience whereas self-compassion connects one’s suffering to others. Self-compassion also has the elements of being happy and healthy in the long-term unlike self-indulgence.
You know, this has been one of the most transformational lessons in my life. How can I expect others to show me compassion if I don’t show it to myself? How can I show others true compassion if I don’t know what that feels like in a palpable way?
There are different ways to show ourselves compassion. Slowing down to a healthier pace might be one for some of us. Perhaps slowing down will slow things down for our bosses and the office and give some people space to breathe, to learn to accept delays with grace, to accept our vulnerabilities and honour our common need for wellness. If we think that’s impossible, then it is. If we can see the benefits of it and want to be part of the change, it starts with us taking responsibility for our health and wellness. In any case, I tend to work better when I’m happier and healthier. Don’t you?
My shoulder’s mobility has been affected and I still have pain. I share this in the hope that you don’t have to suffer a fall like me or a heart attack like the increasing number of Singaporeans – before you step back and realise the importance of self-compassion and self-care…
So if you do need to take medical leave or go on a retreat or slow down in a bigger way, I hope you will…Maybe you can write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) about how it feels to practise some self-compassion….I’ll celebrate with you…:)
I was going to continue with the issue of texting while driving and did some research on that but as Allen Saunders said, “life is what happens to us when we’re busy making other plans”. And this is what happened today because of an unexpected little turn I had taken earlier.
I saw a woman hitting a child in public. I don’t know if she was his mother but he was under her care. She was twisting his shoulder till it was in an odd position, slapping his face and body and shaking him by both shoulders violently. He tried to hit back, weakly. He was crying badly. The younger child looked very tense. Both looked gaunt. Quite a few of us watched for a while.
When does one report something and when does someone walk away?
My intuition told me this was not an isolated smack (which I’m not a fan of anyway). Someone asked me to call the police. Another told me not to call the police as she was just hitting her child.
Anyway two of us went up to the woman. I asked if she was ok and needed help. I said I guess she must be stressed and to take care of herself. She didn’t speak English so I couldn’t communicate. I spoke to the boy and asked if he was ok. He just cried. I asked if he went to school and he shook his head. I said to tell his teacher if he did.
Anyway, upon the suggestion of the other concerned woman, I finally followed the woman and the children and called the police and waited for them to arrive. I came home and called the MCYS Child Welfare Unit.
I don’t think I’ll ever know what happened. But I do know some things.
When in doubt, I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.
It’s easy to point fingers at others and say, “How terrible”. In the past, I would have been very angry with the woman and the world. But I read in a book (forgot the name, sorry) that when we point at someone to take responsibility, one finger is pointing outward and three are pointing towards us.
It starts with you and I. How violent are we with our thoughts, speech and actions to people in our lives and importantly, to ourselves? I see many people use a quotation attributed to Gandhi on being the change we wish to see in the world. This is a chance to do that…
I think those who hurt others are probably hurt too (or ignorant and conditioned to be a certain way). We tend to inflict our hurts on those weaker than us unless we heal the hurts consciously. Our hurts are like a snowball hurtling down the foodchain, gathering momentum and strength so those at the bottom are hit the hardest.
I witnessed a spider web today morning, glistening quietly, hardly visible. If we weave and radiate love, it spreads through our personal networks and if we weave hurt, that spreads too. Spider webs may not be very visible but they are very strong. The tensile strength can be stronger than steel.
Cases with evidence of child abuse in Singapore have been rising:
If you would like to report an alleged case of child abuse (within a family), please call the Child Protection and Welfare Helpline at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports at 1800 777 0000 or the Police.
Want to know more about child abuse or reporting it?
(By the way the brochure says to not handle an alleged (sexual) abuser but you’ll note that I did approach the woman hitting the child. I took a risk. She could have hurt me too and I’m not encouraging you to do this. I was only moved to do that because I wanted to protect the child.)
I recently watched a film, “Forgiving Dr Mengele”, about a Holocaust survivor who forgave her torturer and the Nazis. She was not popular with other survivors who were offended that she could forgive such heinous crimes. I know that my take on abuse may not be well-received by all circles. I understand other views people may hold. I just ask that we try and experiment with what works deeply. I also acknowledge that child abuse is a complex issue and that my take is just one piece of the puzzle.
The boy’s crying face is etched on my mind in a haunting way. But you know what’s most in my heart tonight? The suffering the woman must be undergoing to do that to him. I’m holding her in my heart with healing intention tonight. Join me?
I had an uncomfortable dream last night and it’s just hitting me now. A few days ago a car veered towards the taxi I was in. It almost hit us. I looked to see if the driver was ok. He was using his mobile – either texting or dialing. It was a near accident and on the expressway. My taxi driver said he sees his fair share of drivers sending text messages while driving nowadays.
What’s this got to do with happiness? Well, for one, I wouldn’t be here writing on happiness.sg if I had been hit!
I see roads and streets as passageways of life.
They can be spaces to demonstrate The Big Four. Spaces to say Thank You, Sorry, I Forgive You and I Love You.
Spaces to demonstrate our patience, kindness and mindfulness.
Spaces to show what we value – breakneck speed or making sure our necks don’t break.
Spaces to show how we handle conflict and how we respond when others act thoughtlessly.
Spaces to show whether we only care about the business contacts, family and friends we are going to meet and disregard millions of anonymous strangers we meet “on the way”.
Spaces where we make someone else’s day more joyful or miserable, along with ours.
I personally think road safety is about whether we care about the journey as much as the destination. The roads just reflect to us the values we hold outside the roads.
So if your life and my life is worth less than a text message, however big a business deal you’re making or however eagerly your friend wants an immediate response, then hmmmm….we have a problem…
If our paths meet on the road, help keep me alive, please. I’m not anonymous. I have a name, a life, a family and a future I am excited about, which, you never know, might be tied up with yours.
In the meantime, I shall work on being more mindful too. I can’t ask you to be mindful if I don’t strive to be the same. A few weeks ago, I lost my bag, probably in a taxi. And a few days ago my camera flew from my bag into my friend’s fish pond. :( She had to dive in and rescue it.
Anyway, to the motorists who have been kind to me, thank you! On the days I am mindful, I hope you see me raise my hand to thank you when you slow down or stop for me. I dedicate Geggy Tah’s “Whoever you are” to you! :)
Oh, thank you for all the birthday wishes and encouraging emails on the blog!! You made my day! Here are other things that made my day other than of course time with family and friends…
My mum made me such a wonderful card. It was special to me because she knows I gave birth to my blog yesterday and the theme of the card was my blog.
One of my cousins, Sarah Shakun, had instructions for the whole family! Picking up on my blog’s name, “awake. happy. kind”, she is passing around a blank notebook to each family unit for them to write what is awake in them, what makes them happy and gently urged them to write about one kind deed they will do in the coming weeks. Wow!
Here’s another unique card from a friend:
To celebrate imperfection (releasing perfectionism is one of my aims this year), the scarf I brought out with me was a special one I had bought at Baan Sanook (House of Joy) in Chiangmai years ago. It’s made by disabled persons and it uses the “saori” method of weaving.
“Saori is an art of weaving by hand that is dedicated to free expression and self-development for everyone, regardless of physical or mental ability, age, or artistic aptitude. Saori weaving is pure improvisation from the heart, with no premeditated pattern in mind. Colors unfold, designs emerge, and beauty blooms directly from the genius of each unique individual working in harmony with loom, thread, and the spark of the moment. Saori is a profound inner journey, yet we can enjoy it socially, working alongside others….
The “sa” in “SAORI” (“ori” means “weaving”), is a Zen Buddhist term that means “each thing has its own unique quality” or “each person has his or her own unique quality.” So, because of these spiritual roots, as experienced and expressed by founder Misao Jo, SAORI is more than just a technique. It is also:
~ A philosophy that all people are artists: each of us has a latent intuitive power that SAORI can awaken
~ An aesthetic that embraces the natural beauty of unintended “mistakes” and encourages exploring the unknown.
~ A social movement towards bringing diverse people together to learn from one another. It is especially a movement to include within a larger community people who may be isolated or marginalized because of disability, age, income, overwork, caregiving, ethnicity, or other reasons.
~ An artistic yet practical path of meditation, therapy, rehabilitation, trauma recovery, stress reduction, identity-building, community-building, economic self-reliance, and holistic human development.” (Source: http://www.saoriworcester.com/what.htm)
And to top it all, there was this gorgeous moon…
If you do/receive something special for your birthday that is uplifting, share with us? :)
I’m so happy to be giving birth to this blog on my birthday today.
This year I wanted to do something transformational on my birthday; something of service to others and myself …and the timing of me getting ready to release the blog just fit in perfectly.
This year I celebrate IMperfectionism! I am striving to release my perfectionism and this blog is testimony to that. It doesn’t look like what I would ideally like it to, there’s not enough artwork, it still has some technical issues and I haven’t fully learnt wordpress/facebook/twitter yet. But I trust it will all evolve as we go along! And I’m learning to be fine with that.
Here are other ideas for celebrating birthdays..
~ Angela Koch shared with me about Mardhiah, a friend of hers, who made appreciative cards for her loved ones on her birthday.
Here’s what Mardhiah had to say: “For sometime I had been thinking about the people who make my life special. To honor them I decided that on my birthday I would be giving out birthday cards to those special people rather than simply receiving cards.
So at 6am on the morning of my birthday I started by crafting my own cards using whatever stationery I was at home. I wasn’t worried how the cards would look, more important was to get the words just right. I wanted people to know what a positive influence they had had on my year and therefore my life.
In the end I wrote 6 cards and spent my birthday seeking out my “special six” and presenting them with their cards.”
~ Jazz vocalist, Michelle Chua, sent me a text with another beautiful idea: “First, we can give something to ourselves…like I am giving myself a year off to pursue my dream full-time. Second, I extend the gift I give myself to others. For example, I give people a safe space to recall a childhood or lifetime dream and I amplify their power to dream through my whole-hearted listening. ”
One reason why I haven’t been into birthdays much in the past is that they sometimes feel like meaningless rituals to me where we are going through the motions. But I’m learning that we can make them creative, meaningful, transformational and celebratory of not just our lives but lives of others.
Do you have any ideas to make birthdays special and more meaningful?