Thursday, 15 January 2015

It's social, it's tribal: 7 steps to survival

I'm not.

We are designed for community. We humans rely on each other for our very survival. We have powerful emotional needs to feel connected, to conform, to be part of a group.

We are designed for separateness. We've only gotten here thanks to countless individuals taking initiative, standing apart from old ways and thought patterns, exploring creative ideas, experimenting with solutions. We have powerful emotional needs for our achievements and our rights to be recognised, to love and be loved by others based on who we are as individuals, and to express our point of view.

Therefore throughout our lives we all have to navigate our best possible way between opposite impulses:
* You want to start a family vs you also want a life and a career of your own* You want to speak up about something vs you want to fit in
* You want to do the right thing for friends/family/society vs you want to pull back and preserve your time/resources/energy
* You want to be understood by others vs you want others to respect your differences
* And so on...

It's up to each of us to work with our wonderful, confused, conflicted, intelligent, original, creative human brain. Only you can sift through millions of years of conditioning (that's not to even mention your individual, family and cultural circumstances), and find your own solution. This you can add to your very own personal bag of experience and wisdom. Ready? Let's go:

1. Figure out where the uncomfortable feelings are coming from
Stick to the facts, and how the facts are making you feel.

2. Know that your feelings are normal and fine
They just are. Remember you're hardwired to experience conflict between your desire to be part of a tribe, and your desire to be yourself. You don't need to justify your feelings or push them away. You just need to look at them and recognise them. There's no need to create extra layers of guilt, resentment, anger by adding toxic thoughts to the mix.

Meditation helps with this, but then I would say that because I'm a Buddhist. Mindfulness is a more universally palatable concept at the moment, either way it's about stepping back and cooling the boiling brew of self talk and thoughts about your feelings. This gives your intuition and wisdom a chance to emerge. 

3. Be kind to yourself
Self compassion is strong and fair, not weak and self-indulgent. Remember- your feelings are fine, and you can respond to this situation as you see best. Be patient with yourself as you go through this, and make the best decision you can. This is all you can do.

4. Be kind to others
This doesn't mean being a doormat! Often the kindest thing for everyone concerned is to draw a realistic boundary (based on your own abilities and limits) and then keep to it. Or, you may notice that your thoughts and presumptions about someone could possibly be inaccurate, or unfair. Well done!

5. Figure out what you're going to do
Do this as calmly as possible. If it helps, write down your solution so you can look at it. Check in with someone else if you can and if that's appropriate in the circumstances. Thank your feelings for alerting you to the problem, then step as far back as you can to find the best solution for all parties including yourself.

6. Act
Go do it.

7. Reflect
You can think about how things are going, and adjust your actions if you need to. Remember: this stuff is difficult- don't beat yourself up!

And for what it's worth, remember that all human beings struggle with this stuff. Some are better at hiding it than others, but it doesn't take much scratching of anyone's surface to discover fragile, hurty or judgy bits. You're no different from anyone else, and you are entirely in charge of your own decisions and responses- how wonderful!   

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Romance: Letter to my son and daughter

She's right.
Dear son, dear daughter,

Romance, awwww people love it! Think Valentine's day! Couples' holiday packages! Romantic reality TV! I mean, what could be more heartwarming than these things?

Yet as you'll know from the experience of cohabiting with me and your dad, he and I just don't buy it. We show all outward signs of being happy and in love, and yet we spurn Valentine's Day! He doesn't give me flowers! We aren't even married, fer Chrissake!

So in the interests of explaining your dear weird ol' mum and dad to you a bit more, I've written this blog post. Read on if you dare. I promise I won't mention us "doing it" eeeuuuw gross hey?! Haha got ya!!

You may have gathered that your dad and I aren't big believers in "romance" as it's currently flogged to the punters in our society.

In order to help you to "get inside my head" a little- and better understand my views on romance- let's do a visualisation. I'd like you to summon an image in your mind of "Romance" as a great pus-filled heap of festering dogshit encased in a sugar crust and wrapped up like a bon-bon.

"Surely you are joking, Mum?!" you say. 


Romance it is that tells girls- both little and big- that they must be "special" and "chosen". They must be objects of desire so that men will pick them. After they're picked, pregnancy and babies follow like night follows day, unless something's wrong with you, in which case we all get to speculate about what the problem might be. Note: make sure you remain gorgeous and desirable throughout the pregnancy and early motherhood, ladies, or otherwise the special man in your life may un-pick you! And who can blame him?!

Romance it is that tells little and big boys that a man must be strong and pursue what he wants. It tells them that women "belong" to their special man. It tells them that he should expect that a woman be beautiful, desirable and also "pure", otherwise she's not special. If he's won his woman and she doesn't follow this script, he has every reason to be miffed about that, right? Right?

Romance tells all of us loads of other utter crap too, but I have to stop typing now while I retch a little.

OK I'm back! But surely, since we're smart, and our society is modern, we have nothing to be concerned about?! Modern romance is about equality, awesomeness and freedom, right?!

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about, even in our very modern, equal Australian society of 2015: 
* "Women's" magazines- every headline and article about who's gained weight, hooked up with a man, gotten pregnant, broken up with a man, gone out of their house without makeup on, worn a dress to a party, "stolen" another woman's man, had a disagreement (often charmingly referred to as a "catfight") with another woman, and so on.
* The media in general- please bear in mind that this is where most people get most of their ideas from. 
* Every fairytale you've ever heard, even in this day and age, which involves a princess and a prince. 
* Many modern movies (Twilight sagas spring to mind) and most old ones. 
* While we're on the topic of film- Do me a favour and Google "Bechdel test". 
* Marriage ceremonies (do some googling about why traditionally the bride wears white and gets led up the aisle by her dad). 
* Common terms for women who fail the purity test, like "slut" and "ho" (is there a male equivalent? No.).
* Many many others. Look for them. Be aware of them.

There's your insight kids, this is why romance can go jump in your Mum's humble opinion.

Be kind if you meet people- including prospective partners- who want to do romantic things with you. Participate fully and wholeheartedly, if that makes you and them happy. Consider this point of view and reject it, if that's what you want to do. Maybe it doesn't apply to your life, who knows? Only you.

Just please take note- and think about what you see out there. 

I love you :-) <3

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Mummy's lecturing me about fear again
Fear is a huge thing in my life, the more I notice it, the clearer it becomes to me just how big an effect it has on my thoughts and actions- if I let it. 

From a Buddhist perspective we're driven by attachment (greed), aversion (fear) and ignorance and as usual I can say the Buddhist take on things is accurate in my observation of my own inner & outer life.

I guess that's why I'm a Buddhist.

It's hard to watch my kids experiencing fear, anxiety, shame (by which I mean fear of social exclusion) and it's hard not to project my own feelings on to them- to try to "save" them from experiencing these negative feelings. Of course my job as their mum is to stand back and offer them support and love as they meet with life and find their own way. And I must trust and respect them as fellow human beings who are entirely up to the challenges of living. Sometimes this is hard when my own fearful thoughts are jumping around in my head like mad chattering monkeys.

It helps me to remind myself and them that their minds are hardwired to be fearful, and that's OK. Here's what I mean:

We all come from an unbroken line of life, millions of generations stretching back into time, in which every single individual in that chain of life survived long enough to reach maturity and create offspring.

I don't know about you but I find this fact absolutely mind-blowing. And in my opinion, fear would have played an absolutely critical role in making this happen. 200 generations back in time, Og decided not to jump over that crevice in order to pursue the escaping deer. That's good, because the crevice was deep and wide and Og was right to be frightened of falling instead of reaching the other side. He went home that night without meat for the family but he clearly felt so bad about it that kindly Uga gave him some berries and then they made sweet sweet love under the stars because what else is there to do when there's no TV or internet?!

If you look at it in that way, then I don't know about you, but I feel that fear is put in a context, and in fact... I feel some kind of gratitude for this ever-vigilant fear in my mind.

So yep... feel the fear and do it anyway. Unless "it" is something really stupid or dangerous to yourself or others, in which case thank the fear and decide not to do it after all.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Don't get mad get intelligenter

Oh yes I can
Mohammed El-leissey is right, particularly the part about:
"as the West becomes more nuanced in its response and Muslims are finding their voice against Islamic State, there's a real hope that together we can deprive them of the blood bath (the radicals) so desperately crave."
In the above quote, I'd like to give a special shout out to the words "hope" and "together" - they are critical. 

This guy has an unpronounceable name and a very big brain. In fact I have no idea what he's talking about in the last few paragraphs of this article. But I am really intrigued by this idea:
"What (the terrorists) obviously lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the US: the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the non-believers’ way of life. If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by non-believers, why should they envy them? ... In contrast to true fundamentalists, the terrorist pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued, fascinated, by the sinful life of the non-believers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation."

This makes sense, at least to me. And if it's true, then it's a great illustration of why a military response, while at times practical and necessary, will also strengthen the terrorists on an idealogical level, by giving them attention and making them feel important. As many of us know from our school days and beyond, what really slays bullies is withdrawing attention from them and refusing to be intimidated. So aside from what we are doing on a military level (and regardless of how we individually feel about that), individuals, societies and groups of nations have an opportunity here. By looking after each other and getting on with our lives, we demonstrate our humanity and potential. 

There are many folks out there whose lives are being devastated by these fundamentalist shitheads. For the sakes of the victims, and in the interests of not letting the terrorists win, let's all keep calm, communicate respectfully with each other and respond intelligently.