"What matters is creating the space where people feel safe to share their truth and support each other."
-Deepak Chopra, M.D.
As I looked around our group this week, I saw people from many different backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, gender, sexual orientation, and professions. It amazes me still that peace and common ground can be found in such diversity. I am not sure why it surprises me; nature thrives on variety. Certainly, my creative ideas seem to come from places that my imagination reaches but my logical intelligence cannot always access. I believe that Brent Cameron (founder of Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning) is onto something when he says that creativity is human kind’s best bet at getting out of the problems we’ve gotten ourselves into; the same thinking that created the problems will not get us out of them.
In our group this week, I set my intention to sit in my heartspace while being with people and listening to them. I didn’t always agree with what they said or how they did things, and yet I understood where they were coming from with their words and their actions. There is something interesting that happens with deep listening from the heart: all those differences evaporate and don’t actually matter anymore. I think it all goes back to a principle that a wise kindergarten teacher once shared with me when I was a student teacher: all behaviour makes sense. A ten year old girl I worked with when I was a teacher in public school once threw a chair across the room in my direction when she was frustrated and angry. Needless to say, it got my attention. I knew I had a choice to make in that moment. I could have chosen to ignore her pain and go about punishing her by giving her a detention or sending her down to the principal’s office. Or I could do something different. Truth be told, I didn’t know what that something would be or if I was even qualified to deal with the reprecussions of what I discovered by doing it differently. So I said nothing and just gave her my presence while she worked through what she needed to work through. When she calmed down, I asked her what was going on for her. She said, " I was stuck with some of my work and I needed your help but you were taking so long with Raymond. I was scared I wouldn’t finish before the bell went and I didn’t want to take the work home with me because no one there would be able to help me." What I was hearing is that she really wanted to do a good job and she needed support so I let her know that I appreciated those qualities in her of excellence and being willing to ask for help. I asked her if she could think of another way to get my attention next time she felt like that. She was blank, which told me she could not think of any new strategies to deal with this problem. So after a long wait time of seeing what she could come up with, I asked if she wanted some suggestions. She said yes. We came up with a list of things:
-you can come over and put your hand on my shoulder while I am finishing up with the other person so I know you are waiting for me and so that you know that I know you are wanting my help with something.
-you can ask someone else that you trust and feel comfortable with in the class if they wouldn’t mind working with you.
– you can skip the problem you are stuck with for the moment and go onto something else that you do understand how to work with.
-if you don’t finish, you can request some extra time with me after school where I can work with you before your bus comes to pick you up.
I found out at the end of the year that this child lived in a foster home and was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I am glad I didn’t know that about her beforehand. Although files were available for me to read, I always wanted to go in with fresh eyes and make my own mind up about the kids I worked with. This child had some challenges and she had some gifts like all of us. So the information about FAS helped me to put her behaviour into another context but I believe what really caused the transformation was my choice to come from a place of compassion and to offer her tools she could work with for next time to make different choices. For the rest of the time I was at that school, she volunteered to come help me at 3 pm each day preparing anything I needed for the next school day. We used that time to bond with each other and her outbursts in class diminished steadily throughout the year. I felt good that a kid who really needed some one on one time and love from an adult that could really "see" her spirit got that care. If I had continued modeling the violent strategies she grew up around, nothing new would have been birthed.
And this week, I saw that with our group. The angel card we drew for our group was SUPPORT and I really saw people holding each other with openness in their hearts during some pretty rough moments. And I think that is really what brings about peace. Can we leave room for people to show up exactly as they are and hold a loving space where they have the possibility to transform a pattern in their life that is not working for them? We were proof this week that this could be done cross-culturally. And I find myself sending up prayers that world leaders, nations, and citizens of the planet wake up to this way of deep listening in order to access creative solutions to the problems that threaten to wipe out the human species. As Brent said, these are human created problems. We got ourselves into them and I know from experience that we can get ourselves out of them with knowledge, creativity, willingness, and putting our love in action.
"To end the cycle of violence and bring peace to our families, communities, and the planet, we need to expand our ‘I’…and connect to the compassion of the cosmic….The ancient wisdom traditions of India offer three powerful principles for transformation and peace- one loving thought, one loving word, and one loving act at a time."
-Deepak Chopra, M.D.