Compassion #1000speak

Today I join over 1000 other bloggers and writers to flood the internet with good, to talk and blog about compassion and what it means to me.

When I think of compassion, more often than not I think of the compassion I have towards people who are needier than me. People who are ill, poor, homeless, injured, hurt. And while it’s important to have compassion towards these people, there are two other important people we need to have compassion towards:

1. Ourselves – Believe it or not, we are important and how we feel is important. Most of the time we’re so hard on ourselves, far harder than we’d be on someone else going through the same thing. If I had a friend going through a difficult time, I would message/call her, let her know I was thinking of her. But when it comes to myself, I raise the bar. At least I think I do. And that’s where mama guilt comes in too. We’re constantly striving to do the best for our children and be the best parents (and so we should, our children become us) and we want to put forward the best version of ourselves but somewhere amidst the school runs, lunches, dinners, baths, story time, we need to have a bit of compassion and give ourselves a break. We’re only human, we’re not perfect and as long as we know we’re doing our best, that should be enough.

2. The people who hurt us – This sounds like an odd one right? Why should we be compassionate towards people who hurt us? They don’t deserve our compassion, do they? I think they do. I’m not saying this is always easy. When someone has verbally or physically abused you or when someone goes behind your back to hurt you or isn’t there when you need them the most or let’s you down, feeling compassion for them and trying to get to the source of their behaviour helps you let go…helps you forgive…and helps you move on. So feeling compassion towards them is actually helping you.

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As a virgo, I’d like to think I’m quite a compassionate person. I’m touched by people around me, those less fortunate, those who *need* my help. But in the last couple of years I’ve realised that the compassion I need to feel the most is self-compassion. Because it’s only when we are gentle on ourselves that we can be gentle with our children and with the people around us.

Compassion should not be misunderstood for pity/self-pity. To me, compassion is when you soften how you feel about someone else and try and put yourself in their shoes and understand their reasons for being where they are or doing what they do. It’s not always easy but it should be a work in progress. Because ultimately compassion leads to acts of kindness and we definitely need more of that in the world.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading some beautiful posts today and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful the internet is. How over 1000 people from around the world have come together on the blogosphere to unite in compassion.

Compassion can make a difference, compassion is the answer, compassion matters.

*This post was written as part of a blogging movement, #1000Speak for Compassion, a worldwide link-up, where over 1000 bloggers are writing for compassion.

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So much to be grateful for

A friend sent me the below message today and I couldn’t help but share it.

I’ve had a lot on in the last few months but messages like this are a great reminder that compared to millions of other people out there, I don’t have it so bad. It’s a reminder to be grateful for all that I do have. It’s a little long but definitely worth the read.

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1. Fall and Rise

Today, when I slipped on the wet tile floor a boy in a wheelchair caught me before I slammed my head on the ground.  He said, “Believe it or not, that’s almost exactly how I injured my back 3 years ago .

2. A father’s advice

Today, my father told me, “Just go for it and give it a try!  You don’t have to be a professional to build a successful product.  Amateurs started Google and Apple.  Professionals built the Titanic

3. The power of uniqueness.

Today, I asked my mentor – a very successful business man in his 70’s – what his top 3 tips are for success.  He smiled and said, “Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing.

4. Looking Back

Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I’m working on for my Psychology class.  When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said, “Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile.

5. Try and U shall know

I am blind by birth. When I was 8 years old, I wanted to play baseball. I asked my father- “Dad, can I play baseball?” He said “You’ll never know until you try.” When I was a teenager, I asked him, – “Dad Can I become a surgeon?”. He replied “Son, you’ll never know until you try.” Today I am a Surgeon, just because I tried!

6. GOODNESS & GRATITUDE

Today, after a 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug.  When I tensed up, she realized I didn’t recognize her.  She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said, “On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center.” 

7. LOVE CONQUERS PAIN

Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying.  And just before he died, he licked the tears off my face. 

8. A DOOR CLOSES TO OPEN ANOTHER

Today at 7AM, I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went into work. At 3PM I got laid off. On my drive home I got a flat tire. When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too. A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job.  I start tomorrow. 

9. LOOKING BACK

Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother’s hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died. She simply said, “I feel so loved right now. We should have gotten together like this more often.” 

10. AFFECTION

Today, I kissed my dad on the forehead as he passed away in a small hospital bed.  About 5 seconds after he passed, I realized it was the first time I had given him a kiss since I was a little boy. 

11. INNOCENCE

Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling. I chuckled and asked, “Why?” She replied, “So you can help me save the planet.”  I chuckled again and asked, “And why do you want to save the planet?” “Because that’s where I keep all my stuff,” she said. 

12. JOY

Today, when I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient laughing hysterically at her 2-year-old daughter’s antics, I suddenly realized that I need to stop complaining about my life and start celebrating it again.

13. KINDNESS

Today, a boy in a wheelchair saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me.  He helped me all the way across campus to my class and as he was leaving he said, “I hope you feel better soon.”.

14. SHARING

Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe.  He said he hadn’t eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy.  Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating.  The first thing the man said was, “We can share it.”

Happy Tuesday 🙂

The first phone call from Heaven by Mitch Albom: A review

I heard about Mitch Albom’s new book, The first phone call from Heaven, only a few weeks ago. As I’d loved his previous books Tuesdays with Morrie, The five people you meet in Heaven, For one more day, etc. I was very excited about his new one. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and waited patiently until it’s release yesterday, the 12th of November.

As with his other books, I devoured it and finished reading it in a day. Mitch writes in a way that is very easy to read and the suspense kept me turning each page faster than the last.

The question you ask yourself throughout the book is “What if the end is not the end?” One morning, in a small quiet town in Michigan, people start receiving phone calls from their loved ones…in heaven. Right from the first few paragraphs, the hairs on my arm were standing alert.

As with most Mitch Albom books there was an underlying theme of life after death, regret, compassion and love. He takes us through the story of about 5 people in this town who receive these calls and the following media frenzy that ensues. What I liked about this book is the easy way it’s written, the connection I could instantly feel with the characters and the message he was trying to put across. That what we think of as the end is in fact not the end and that heaven exists in all our hearts and minds.

Despite the title and inclusion of the Church in the book, I didn’t find it religious or preachy. In fact I quite resonated with the message he was trying to portray. There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about The first phone call from heaven (I finished it in a day!!). But I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I’m going to end here with a few of my favourite lines from the book:

“Fear is how you lose your life…a little bit at a time…What we give to fear, we take away from…faith.”

“Knowing Heaven is what heals us on Earth.”

“Sometimes, love brings you together even as life keeps you apart.”

“There are two stories for every life; the one you live, and the one others tell.”

“Heaven…is the same feeling…no fear…no dark. When you know you are love…that’s the light.”

“Desire sets our compass, real life steers our course.”

I’d love some recommendations for any good books you’ve read lately.

Relationship Based Parenting 1

A couple of weeks ago I signed up to listen to a telesummit (21 interviews) on Relationship based parenting by Abby Bordner.

Abby Bordner understands that family life can be tiring but all parents want what is best for their kids. We don’t always have the time to read books or attend parenting workshops. She set up a series of interviews with professionals in the fields of child psychology, child development and famous authors of childcare books. You can sign up for these free interviews here. The idea is to give us advice that will help us deepen our understanding of children’s behaviour, improve our relationships and find balance in our lives. All of which will make us better parents.

In case you don’t get a chance to listen to them, over the next few weeks I’ll be giving you brief outlines of some of the interviews.

The first one is with Emily Plank. She’s an early childhood professional who started her career teaching Middle School.  She wanted to make a difference to kids and realised that the younger the kids, the more impact she’d have on them. She’s now doing research and writing and working with adults (educators and mothers). It turns out she says working with adults and working with children aren’t very different. If we become better people as adults, it’d easier to then model the behaviour we’d like our children to have. Being a parent forces you to look at and improve yourself.

From the ages of 0-3 children’s neuro-pathways are developed which impact their later life. Skills developed long before children enter formal schooling help shape their future.

One of Emily’s passions is the extent to which parenting and our interactions with young children is culturally embedded. The way we raise our children is often the way we were raised and conforming to our cultural norms. In the US, independence is important. From a young age Emily would encourage her children to sit at the table and eat by themselves. Use their hands and feed themselves. In Portugal however, it is highly offensive to use your hands to eat and so children are spoon fed until they are at least 2-3 and can use a spoon and fork by themselves.

So often we feel like how we are doing things is right but when we take a step back we realise our values are not unanimous. Different cultures have different values and norms. She started a project called “The Global Voices Project” where she puts various questions out there and people from all over the world give their take on things.

There are so many things we assume are universal when in fact they’re not. It’s not that one way is right or wrong but it just gives you some humility with regards to how you raise your children because you realise there are people who raise their kids completely different to the way you do and they are smart, successful and happy.

“There’s no expert out there who knows how to manage your child. You are the expert for your child”.

Back in the day kids were not praised constantly, praised was earned. As time went on and we moved into the new century, we wanted kids to grow up with a strong self-identity and so we lavished praise and rewards on them. Now what we’re learning is that all of our praise and rewards for children is actually having the opposite effect. When we praise kids for things that they should be doing anyway, there are some negative consequences. Kids look outside of themselves constantly for self validation. They constantly need someone else to reassure them rather than knowing themselves what feels or is good. Praise puts a lot of pressure on kids so if you’re constantly praising them, children have a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations of others.  We need to give children feedback for what they are doing rather than evaluation. E.g. if your child tidies their blocks away, rather than say you’re such a good girl for tidying your blocks away, you could say, thank you for tidying your blocks away, that was very helpful.  So then they internalise the idea that they can be helpful. The more we offer feedback to kids and describe what they are doing, the better. We should praise and comment on kids effort, not their product. E.g. I noticed you were helpful at dinner, that made me happy. Children who are constantly being told they are smart don’t feel the need to make an effort when they are doing things.

We praise kids for very nobel reasons but what we don’t realise is when we praise them, research shows us they become less likely to do it in the future. So rather than say good job, comment on what they are doing. Make your child feel proud by showing you have noticed what they are doing.

If a child comes to you showing you a picture and says “what do you think of my painting?” You could say “I saw you work very hard on that painting, tell me how you did it.” Put the ball back in their court and get them reflecting on their painting.

Kids need space, time and materials to play. Emily Plank teaches parents and educators that to play, you don’t need toys or things that light up and make noise. You need materials that are multipurpose that children can use and play with which then help them move from one developmental stage to another. We always think we need to give our children cognitive skills to do well in the world when in fact we need to allow them to have unstructured, open-ended free play. Children then learn skills of self-regulation, focus, engagement and independence. And these are the skills they need to help them later in their life. We’re constantly trying to get our children ready for the next stage when actually readiness comes from just being in the moment. So when children want to play and we provide them the space and materials, they will automatically get ready for what comes next.

Spending time with your child is allowing your child to be the leader and doing what they want rather than what you want. Many people talk about children’s behaviour as being attention seeking but when we are with our children we need to think about how much attention we’re really giving them. Are we sitting on our smart phones the whole time? We need to be able to give them 100% undivided attention. Not all the time but at least while they are playing. When we really pay attention we can see what they are fearful of, what they are struggling with and then work together with them to help them. Show them that what they are doing is valuable and important and more important than your phone or to do list.

When you have materials that are multipurpose and not just toys with one purpose, it encourages creativity.

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The last question Abby asked was “What are the qualities of healthy, successful kids?”

Emily responded saying she thinks the most important qualities have nothing to do with their cognitive intelligence but children who will be successful long term are children who are capable, confident and compassionate. As parents, we have to look at children and say what you are doing right now is what you should be doing right now. Trust that your child’s inner development is exactly as it needs to be. This makes children feel capable of doing anything. Confident children are children who know who they are and know that their opinions matter. They tend to seek out meaning in life. This goes hand in hand with praise and rewards. Kids who have a strong sense of who they are can approach life with enthusiasm. Compassion; she hopes to raise kids who find out that they can have their own needs met while making sure that other people’s needs around them are met as well.