What my mother taught me…

Mum at 21

During one of my recent yoga classes I was walking through the maze of students who were spread out on the floor, lying in Savasana, and I tripped over a block, narrowly avoiding landing spread eagle on top of an unsuspecting body!

Unsuspecting? Or so I thought!

Then I heard the words ‘pick your feet up’.  I chuckled to myself as I was transported back into my past and heard my mother (Pauline) saying exactly the same thing when I was a languid teenager, though she generally attached ‘for God’s sake’ to the sentence.

Along with…. ‘don’t chew gum or you’ll look like a cow’; ‘stay out of the sun or you’ll shrivel up like a prune; (I ignored that piece of advice), ‘stay out of trouble, (I did, most of the time); ‘don’t just sit there, do something’ (there is an irony to this comment as I now teach meditation and do just sit there!); ‘put your shoulders back’; ‘put some colour on your face –  you look as though you have just been dug up’ (white lipstick was in); ‘look on the bright side’; ‘swear and I shall wash your mouth out with soap and water’; ‘do the best with what you have so that others will be proud to be in your company; and, ‘if you think you are going out looking like that then you had better have another thought coming’. (This latter comment came with her physically blocking the doorway).  I could go on and on.  Couldn’t we all?

But what I remember mum for most of all, and certainly with great gratitude and love, is her advice to:

Always look deeply into the eyes of those you meet and try to understand what is behind them.  She often spoke about not understanding another until you walked a mile in their shoes which of course was adapted from an old Native Indian proverb.

Fabulous, heartfelt advice from a woman who was so beautiful on the exterior but suffered so much on the interior with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Clinical Depression.  On a superficial level often she would be fine, especially when she was laughing…but often I would look into those eyes, and see the sadness, pain, vulnerability and fear behind them.

Her words prompted me to write this little mindfulness practice:

In your eyes,

I see you in me

You see me in you.

But rarely do I realise this is how I am seeing you or you are seeing me.

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

If I see you clearly, my heart shall then recognise your heart

My mind will recognise your mind

My spirit will speak to you – for you are me and I am you.

We are not so different – we share similar emotions, joy and pain, sadness and laughter.

We hurt as each other.

We laugh as each other.

Our tears come from the same place,

Our kindness stems from the same depth.

I honour you…please honour me,

so that there is little distance but much love between us.

 

 

Namaste.

Annemaree x

 

P.S. This picture was the one my father carried with him.  She was 21 in the photograph.  When he died I asked mum if I could have it. She was taken aback that I would want it….and would be surprised to know that I look at it every day, to this day, constantly being reminded of her courage and wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Losing My Way

I have been struggling recently to stay the course.  Overall, I have managed to keep myself Cool, Calm & Collected. Apart from a school holiday disruption I have maintained my yoga and meditation practise and managed to emotionally negotiate a sudden job change for my husband. I have picked up a couple of new clients myself and everything is swimming along nicely.  My children are fed, healthy and on time for all of their various appointments. Our family schedule is brimming, but we make time for quality time with our expanding extended family. We would like more time to spend with our friends – but everyone’s in the same boat.

The struggle I am having right now is with handling judgement and OPOs.  OPOs?  Other People’s Opinions. I have been on the receiving end of OPOs recently and I have not handled them well. The Yogi in me knows that opinions are like belly buttons – everyone has them. The Zen part of me understands that opinions are a reflection of the holder of the opinion rather than the recipient of it. My Buddha nature knows to smile, be tolerant and accepting of all opinions and recognise the Buddha nature in everyone else. But when I am facing OPOs “in the moment”, my Yogi, Zen and Buddha nature leave the building.

I take full responsibility for my role in losing my banana. Both of the recent, most painful occasions were over the dinner table after sharing much wine – but when Person A told me that staying home with the kids full time and not contributing financially to the household was copping out, well I nearly leapt over the table and pulled his throat out. In this moment I discovered that I, in fact, had not fully come to terms with my domestic situation and he had clearly hit a very raw nerve. Buddha was nowhere to be seen, but Ego was right on my shoulder screaming “ATTACK!” I was deeply humiliated and offended by the comment and deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the way in which I responded.

I talked it through with Annemaree Rowley when I returned from holidays. She reminded me that when we are angry with others it is always a reflection of what we do not like about ourselves. This is a phenomenon known as “projection”. After more talking I came to realize that it wasn’t the CONTENT of what he said, it was the JUDGEMENT. If I look back to all of the major conflicts and arguments I have been involved in – those ones that still make me wince when I recall them – it is when I have felt judged. Judged, or offered mostly unhelpful, unproductive OPOs about parenting, my children, my intelligence, my family, my financial status and on and on. When OPOs don’t match my version of reality, conflict arises. This is where it starts to get interesting.

This is the playground of the ego. This is where being right becomes more important than being happy (kudos to Dr. Phil for that one). In “biting back” to an uninvited, unhelpful OPO is in itself an expression of judgement thereby perpetuating the violence of judgement. This is the sort of stuff that the Dalai Lama has internalized completely so if he had been at the dinner table he would have giggled – which would have made me want to rip his throat out too. But I think you know what I’m getting at here.

It is mind-bending stuff really. My intolerance of intolerance is itself intolerant, so I am what I loathe. I told you.  Mind-bending. Whilst I may not always have the ability to take on this concept in a cool and calm manner, being aware of it means I can recognize it arising. This is mindfulness. So my second encounter with another unhelpful, uninvited OPO last week – whilst not handled perfectly, was recognized as it arose and handled…. better. Mindfully.

I came across a quote by Alain de Botton quote recently  which helped me identify the conflict:

“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.”

This defines the turmoil I have found myself in because not only is this what hurts me the most, it is the way in which I have both knowingly and unknowingly inflicted the most harm. I have raised snobbery to a high art form at times! I can be extremely judgmental – it’s an acquired skill as a marketer! You have to make broad assumptions about sweeping chunks of the population based on piecemeal evidence in order to generate profits. This concept, whether in the personal or professional realm, panders to our egos by creating a feeling of inclusion or exclusion. If you’re in you’re in, if you’re out you’re out – like those horrible days in the playground.

As if by magic, I was lying on the floor of Annemaree’s deep relaxation class and she read the following from a meditation she had written herself:

Judgment of yourself holds hands with unrelenting fear you know.

Judgment of others stops you from attending to yourself!

 Of course, when we succumb to this form of behaviour, we then project onto others.  We seek fault in others and criticize so that we don’t have to look at ourselves.  We fill in the gap in our hearts with judgment, often being so totally self-absorbed that we don’t understand just how detrimental unkindness can be to another.

 Often it comes in the form of ‘ribbing’ or ‘teasing’ with an insidious camouflage of mate ship or friendship.  Often it is recited in little quips across a dinner table which although delivered under the guise of humour often humiliates and undermines the receiver. 

 Or judgment may be delivered in the form of a compliment with a ‘but’ beginning the next sentence!

 We become critical of everyone and everything, never realising for one moment that everyone around us need kindness and compassion too.

Having felt that I have lost my Yogic way recently, that I disappoint other people, that I do not live up to their expectations, that I disappointed myself, I gave myself an hour this morning to sit down and eat some worms about it all. Then I gave myself permission to just drop it and move on.

So I return to my breath, I live in this moment and – without taking it all too seriously – I will TRY to be the best version of myself within each moment and speak only with kindness – and not rip the throats out of ignorant sods.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.