Scott Langston

Authoring Adventures

Tag: mindfulness

On choosing compassion instead of hate…

I’m currently taking an online mindfulness course offered by mindfulschools.com, and in the material on a section about training for compassion, I found this story which I felt compelled to share.

Mark_Brunner

This iconic photograph was taken in Ann Arbor, Michigan, during a White Supremacist parade in 1996. Protestors had turned out in this progressive University town to send the message that the KKK were not welcome there.  One of the SS tattooed marchers got on the wrong side of the fencing, and find himself surrounded by the anti-march protestors. He was chased and beaten to the ground.

18 year old Keshia Thomas reacted to the shouts of “Kill the Nazi,”.by jumping on the man to protect him from the mob attack she feared was likely to seriously injure or kill the man,

“Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘this isn’t right’… I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me… violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea,” explained Thomas, when asked why she did this.

Months later, she was approached by a young man who thanked her for saving his father (though she never heard from the father). She observed, “For the most part, people who hurt… they come from hurt. It’s a cycle. Let’s say they had killed him or hurt him really bad. How does the son feel? Does he carry on the violence?”

Mark Brunner was the student photographer who captured the image. He observed, “She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her. Who does that in this world?”

Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator Leonard Pitts Jr. offered this in The Miami Herald: “That some in Ann Arbor have been heard grumbling that she should have left the man to his fate, only speaks of how far they have drifted from their own humanity. And of the crying need to get it back. Keshia’s choice was to affirm what they have lost. Keshia’s choice was human. Keshia’s choice was hope.”

Compassion and empathy, as well as a not-small-amount of bravery, are essential tools and skills. I would argue that empowering children to be this way – especially through mindfulness training – is a vital step in turning the tide of hatred and violence. This is something we should be doing in schools. It’s probably more important than teaching Maths and Science (or any academic subject), to be honest.

On gratitude

 

One of the most powerful things I have begun to do recently is a very simple gratitude practice. This began as I was recuperating from a third operation on my back in six months, and spending a lot of time reflecting, reading and discovering podcasts. One was The Tim Ferris Show, and an episode in particular where he discusses keeping a gratitude journal.

 

My initial reaction was of the ‘Yeah, right’ variety. But that is our brain’s default reaction to new and scary. So I decided to give myself a week and stick with it to see if I could detect any changes in myself.

The practice I now subscribe to is very simple. Each morning, following my own mindfulness practice, I write down three things for which I am grateful. I select one from each of the following categories:

1 – a relationship, past or present – or a moment within one

2 – an opportunity, past, present of future

3 – a material object in my immediate vicinity (this one is easy and fun, but also has the serious element of getting me to reflect on stuff and what I need)

With each choice,  I sit down and consider what I’m actually grateful for,  take a moment to picture each one in my mind and ask myself, why am I grateful for this? I try to connect with the feeling of gratitude in my body, as well as my rational mind’s explanation of why I am grateful (which I record in a journal).

 

Can you identity just one thing you’re grateful for, right now? Bring an open mind to it and see what you notice.

 

On giving…

This post title is perhaps misleading. It’s actually about a lot of things. The culmination of some thinking. But also a work in progress.

I’m recovering from an SI joint fusion operation, which you can find out more about here, should you be so inclined. But the point is, I’m having time off work, with now manageable pain for the first time in 15 months, and having this time allows me to reflect.

Kiva

Lending to help build lives

I’ve been doing a lot of mindfulness – (try out www.headspace.com) – and thinking a lot about generosity. Giving. Not just to others, but also to myself. I’ve re-established my habit of giving a Kiva loan a month – (kiva.org) – and giving myself time, regularly and intentionally, to think on where I am going.

I’ve discovered the Tim Ferris podcast, the HiddenBrain podcast and the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast – all of which I thoroughly recommend. This has also led me to Tim Ferris’ book – The Four Hour Work Week, which is fascinating reading.

So where is all this leading? To an epiphany, I hope. Certainly to a lifestyle change. As I near the end of a contract here in Nanjing as a High School Counsellor, I see the future as an open door, full of possibilities. And these may not involve working full time and saving for the future…at least not in the traditional sense, where I’m working a 9-5 in order to ‘enjoy’ a retirement in 20 years’ time…

We’re taking a year off from August and giving ourselves the luxury of a year to travel, to chill out in our place in France, and to be with our kids and each other in a much more intentional and rich way. The year off has been planned for a long time and is evolving into two years… Instead of travelling around the world for 8 or 9 months, we may simply visit Canada and the US and then come home. And then head off again when we feel like it to tour Europe closer to home. And then hit South America sometime in 2017…

Are we sudden lottery winners? No. We’ve been keen savers for a while and have no illusions about the lifestyle we’ll be adopting for a couple of years. Learning about investment has been a big thing over the last couple of years for me as well. We think we can do this. It’s exciting.

So giving in its broadest sense. Giving us time and adventure and life in the here and now. After all, it’s where we always are..

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