Category Archives: Relationships

Compassion for self, others, nation, world, planet.

Compassion for self, others, nation, world, planet.
I have spent the past 2 weeks travelling around the UK, visiting friends and family. It has not been easy. I have shared in personal tragedy and loss of a loved one, struggles to survive health and economic difficulties. I have also listened to comments and thoughts on the state of our nation after the referendum result to leave the EU. The last weekend I went on a Quaker conference about compassion. The outcome of that has made me think about the nature of compassion, in my own life and in our society and how to harness compassion and kindness for all life on this planet.

Reflection of Woodbrooke in lake
Reflection of Woodbrooke in lake

At Woodbrooke Quaker Centre we were privileged to stay in a room where Gandhi once stayed. Non- violent actions against injustice are part of his legacy. One of our speakers was Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, abbot of the Scottish Tibetan monastery. http://www.samyeling.org/ As a Tibetan he spoke of how he left Tibet and became a refugee. He spoke with an understanding of the joy that can be present in our lives and how his first experiences of the Western world surprised him. We seemed to have forgotten how to experience a deep but essential part of our nature. At the monastery there are opportunities for people to recover from addictions and depression. Lama Yeshe did not intellectualise about compassion. He spoke from a deep place within him where there is compassion for all living things.
Qamar Bhatti Khan gave a lively talk about his own experiences in the Handsworth riots, the aftermath and his role in community cohesion. Michael Barnes gave a lecture on work and studies he has been involved in with Inter Faith dialogues. He compared writings from ancient Buddhist scripture and Augustin. He also touched on work by Joanna Macy. This interested me because it was at a Joanna Macy workshop organised by Transition Ealing that inspired me to start this blog!
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Hannah Gilbert gave an illustrated talk where aspects of compassion in new approaches to therapy and mindfulness techniques were explored. Her father Paul Gilbert has researched and written about how our brain works and how developing compassion can support well being, recovery from trauma, depression. http://compassionatemind.co.uk/about-us
There was also time to talk with a range of people and concerns were often raised about the referendum, challenges of Brexit and the political fall out. My previous post shows my concern about environmental issues. However, I also feel the need to understand the depth of feeling and reaction that led to the vote to Leave the EU. It has seemed like a dividing line has been drawn and many are taking up entrenched positions. Much seems to have been based on fear and mistrust on both sides.
I have begun to feel my anger and frustration over the referendum diminish and by being here I find I can try to understand why people voted to Leave. Am I able to be more compassionate and less argumentative about this?
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Since then we have also had The Chilcott report. From this and I read an article about how the human mind does entrench itself in a certain position and even evidence based thinking does not help resolve this but rather the person begins to reframe the evidence. The article showed how Tony Blair has kept doing this. The danger is that the more powerful we are the more likely we are to do this. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36744911 A bbc magazine article titled ‘\how we cover our ears to the facts’

I am also aware of all the recent gun tragedies in the USA and the potential to cause division between people. Obama returned early from his State visit to Spain.He seemed to wish to invoke calm and compassion for all who have lost lives. He also seems to understand evidence, facts and take action based on that. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela have both inspired succesfull movements to counter great inequality through non violence, reconciliation and compassionate thinking.

I want to end on a sad but hopeful point. A young girl disappeared and her body eventually found along a canal area that I know well in West London. In fact I had been walking with my friend along that route and down to the Thames. The friend had been on the Joanna Macy workshop with me and had encouraged me to blog about nature. It is a lovely and natural place and as we walked on a Sunday busy with cyclists and other walkers. But it can be lonely. Alice Gross lived near here and her body was finally found along the canal.
Her story had been ‘used’ or reframed by the Leave campaign. Her parents felt the need to show her attitudes and ideas through a very thoughtful essay she had had to write in school about the pros and cons of being EU. There is a tragic irony on her comments about criminals crossing borders but she has a very non racist stance. She saw criminals as criminals from whatever country they came from and as human beings .
The black box thinking that has helped to improve aviation safety needs to be a part of all tragic incidences. It helps all learn and improve so that mistakes are not repeated. I am reminded of the Soham murders too. The murderer there was not of another country but another county and the police had failed to link up information across. The parents of Alice in their loss have shown courage and concern . The court inquiry stated that there needs to be an improvement in background checks across countries. It is this procedure that might have saved her life from a man from Latvia who had murdered before.
If I was teaching I am sure I would have asked students to write an essay on the advantages and disadvantages of being in the EU, using reliable sources. I was very moved to read part of the essay of Alice Gross that her parents felt the need to share with the Guardian.
I hope showing some of the extract does not infringe any copyright but shows the careful reflection of a young person. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/11/revealed-alice-gross-argued-against-banning-foreign-criminals-before-her
“It reflects on the good of our country, not only showing the strength and stability of our nation but the trust and cooperation we have to make our world successful, which in turn earns the respect of others,” she says. “Although there are some disadvantages that result in our country having slightly less power over its citizens, but what is power over loyalty and alliance amongst a civilised and peaceful union?
Over 70% of young people voted remain. Perhaps the thoughts expressed by Alice Gross show the concerns of a younger generation with a desire for cooperation, interdependence and non racist approaches to other human beings. A desire to connect, reconnect and be compassionate to all life. Many young people demonstrated their expression of frustration with the vote and their support for their fellow Europeans in a peaceful and non violent way.
We now look forward to some leadership from the conservative party. I hope there will be more compassionate conservatism as Theresa May pledges to address the inequalities that have clearly been shown to exist in our very divided United Kingdom. Maybe the Labour party will have compassion for each other and take a strong role in the new or old road that the country is taking.
Compassion needs courage, a different way of thinking and feeling.It is possibly more than kindness and caring but begins there.
Here are some compassion focus groups that I have encountered at different stages of my life.
The Samaritans. ( And the bible story of the Good Samaritan)
Compassion in World Farming ( A charity started in the 1970s to campaign to end the suffering of farm animals)
Listening with Compassion ( Listening without judgement, from Lew Epstein and Trusting You are Loved)
Compassionate mindfulness ( Paul Gilbert and compassionatemind.org)
Buddhism has no absolutes but if there is to be one it would have to be compassion ( The Dalai Lama)
Joanna Macy workshops on creating compassion for ourselves, others, and the planet.
The hallmarks of a bodhisattva: compassion and insight into the interconnectedness of all beings
http://www.joannamacy.net/

My thoughts are with the people of Nice and perhaps the outpourings help and remind us of how interconnected we are.

Skies over Cropredy, Oxfordshire, UK.
Skies over Cropredy, Oxfordshire, UK.

Other sources
matthewsyed.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/BBT-sampler.pdf
1.
Black Box. Thinking. The Surprising Truth About Success. (and why some people never learn from their mistakes). MATTHEW SYED. JOHN MURRAY.

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A poem on the loss of my First Friend and our wild childhood in West London

I have been inspired to write this poem because of two posts on the loss of friends and the importance of making sure in our busy lives that we spend precious times with those we love and care for.  These are Victoria Slotto and A Poetry Pub Post.

It is almost a year that I lost my oldest friend. She was just 60 but we had known one another for almost 56 years. We were neighbours  and friends in our childhood and were neighbours again when my children were young.

In our childhood we were always playing outside and there were many open spaces for us to discover. We grew up in a place that was not so popular and posh then by the river Thames. We had the streets, alleys, allotments, reservoirs and Barnes Common when older to run off to with friends.

MY FIRST FRIEND

My first friend is the first, of my friends, to leave me,

And how I miss the mulling over of mindful memory.

Different understandings of the way things were.

Unlocking distant sounds, intensifying colours

To share for tea or coffee in our November years.

First, we would have played inside each other’s houses.

In mine, there were the many furry beasts to care for.

In hers, we taught and tended to the tiny dolls.

With mothers close by, ready to prepare our tea.

From the inside to the outside, first, we went into our gardens,

Or were these more just backyards behind the tall terraces.

A sparkling outside toilet I got locked in.

A perfect patch of grass was all we had to sit on.

Further first we ventured, out beyond the gates,

Into a shared back alley and a ruined place.

A building for our nightmares an alley for our games.

Budge, In the River, Hide and Seek and planes.

A first to wander further, faster up the street,

Legs pushing scooters or roller blading skates.

Further on we ventured towards the open skies

Into the green spaces of our childhood friends and games

First we wandered near her father, digging deep into

The turf of his allotment, just up the terraced street

Dodging folk along the paths to our mysterious marsh,

To the deep dug out waters of the then so many laughs

Further first when we were older with guide dog pups to walk

From Surreyside to Middlesex, to Hammersmith upon

the bridge of dreams, suspended from its mighty girders,

Staring through the gaps down to the swirling currents.

First to go together to Saturday Morning Pictures.

First to take the bus to different swimming pools.

First to take ourselves to picnic on Barnes Common.

First to wander wild along the river’s Surrey side .

We shared a kind of childhood that we think should be remembered,

A childhood that was free to explore green and vibrant spaces,

Letting us run so far and deep in the breath of the wild.

With the passing of the years we pray we don’t lose that child.

Spring, Weddings, Blessings and Blossom

Cherry Tree in Brentford and isleworth's Quaker Meeting House Garden.
Cherry Tree in Brentford and Isleworth’s Quaker Meeting House Garden.

Have been away from blogging and spending time getting married! Quite time consuming too! I would  like to share some of my experiences, not least the cherry blossom tree being in full bloom on our wedding day. Very apt for us and for this blog. A week later and there was no more blossom. I can only take from this that marriage has to be like a tree, with many phases and blossom like a honeymoon, short lived!

I also  heard the Apache Indian Marriage Blessing for the first time at our own marriage where  we both felt very blessed and supported by friends when back in the UK for our wedding at Brentford and Isleworth Friends Meeting House. There was some deep silence before our declarations and some spoken words later on. I am putting more about this on a page on my blog about light and love . I also  hope to make  some reflections on how we often seem spiritually and emotionally challenged by relationships and support from others can be so helpful.

The blessing read out by Madeleine seems very appropriate to the nature focus of my blog and the inclusive nature of Quaker values. Although the blessing may not originate with American Indian  culture it may be popular in the States because it resonates with our need to reconnect with nature and acknowledge many  indigenous people who did live closely with nature and with a deep connection and respect for how to live sustainably in the natural world and with each other.

The joy of having a Quaker wedding was to be able to embrace diversity within a Christian tradition, to be silent and reflective and to make declarations not vows.  All present at our declarations were all also able and invited to sign the Quaker marriage certificate.

Apache Indian  Marriage Blessing

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.  Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives- remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

On  researching some of the background to this blessing which apparently is popular in the USA I also found one that is attributed to the Cherokee. Again the forces of the natural world are linked into a respect for all that is sacred. Am also hoping we may grow forever young.

Cherokee Blessing.

“God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship — that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony as we grow forever young together. Amen.”