Daring Connection

For a few months now the idea of connection has been spinning. A few concepts have been attempting ascendency. Their want – to remain as consistent lenses for viewing the world through. These lenses tinted by the topics of: Shame, Open hearted state, Vulnerability, Listening, Attention and Intimacy. Merging together they have made a mind soup. Appealing in colour. Rich in flavour. Texture silky with some identifiable and unknown contents awaiting discovery therein. It’s the after taste of umami, that has my head to the side – questioning…

Vulnerability – Intimacy
A counselling conversation recently, wandered close to the cliff edge of danger, curiosity and discovery. Most do. My hope with the below is that I can summarise and offer some of what was covered. Many of the counselling engagements I have throughout my working week pull and stretch understanding along a range of different paths. We were observing vulnerability as a component of being with others/another. That being amongst a space of vulnerability, is ultimately a goal often ventured but not soon realised. My mind turbo charged – whispered ‘but what of intimacy?’

Attention Deficit
I shared my understanding of the world’s lurch toward certainty and attention with the client. When the opposite of attention, offers just as many outcomes and rewards. As likely to resolve a few human wants. I’ll share my basic understanding. We have a world focused on assessing and evaluating what can be made use of. What can be managed safely. If there is profit or gain. What can be left, lost or discarded. Veering wildly away from risk. Presenting the unknown unknown as problematic, unchartered and dangerous.
In Narcissus is Us, I wrote about the draw of hiding behind a mobile device that offers the promise of connecting with others, but increasing a feeling of separation and loneliness. Our detriment. By venturing an unknown, new learnings, experiences and appreciations can be gathered. Are these encounters not as valuable as the ones we know and expect?

Switch Tracking
Attention can be useful. By becoming aware of global issues, we can ask ourselves and others difficult questions and be willing to listen for answers. Humanity is curious by nature. Often we want to find reasons for things working the way that they do, or not. We can then find possible solutions. Alternatively flicking between a number of sources, to entertain ourselves is often the outcome of our attention being used. I wonder at what cost?
Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’, offered a useful interpretation of where our global attention is affixed. Our ‘seeing’ a range of images, stories, videos, links to sales and profit for an elite few. Attention is a way of being used to support financial reward for companies globally – not us, the user.

Capturing Hope

Pause for Cause
My interest here is what are we losing, or have already lost? Could our attention deficit cause disconnection? Would we be aware of this trend? The CoViD19 pandemic, the global racial reckoning after the public murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the rise in technological dependency and entertainment, potentially may have instigated a turning away from trusting relationships with each other and specifically within ourselves.
Use of telecommunication devices such as: Google Meet, MS Teams, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp Video Call, Apple’s FaceTime, offer a semblance of remaining in contact with and a newer way of connecting with others. I wonder if “the being with” is the same? Is there an unknown component being lost? In my case, living on a different continent to those I support. I am dependent on mobile communication and working agilely. Does convenience increase or decrease contact?

Vulnerability
I will use Brené Brown’s counsellor’s words to begin this part of the discussion. Vulnerability is both *exfoliatingly excruciating and **excitingly exquisite. Vulnerability is similar to walking a tightrope across a canyon. There is both risk and beauty to be had in both. To know that there could be pain attached to being vulnerable, can make us less willing to share much of ourselves.
There could also be a wonderful sense of release, relief and resuscitation with letting go – the armour and shield.
When we are in a place that we feel is safe enough. That the company we keep can bear witness to our vulnerability. We can get to the next more pleasing experience of being with, with less distance, less fear more empathy and a sense of being held.

Nurturing Touch

Opening
In last years post On Shame I placed emphasis on how to use shame to support growth. Both Hilary Jacobs Hendel and Brené Brown in their books, and interviews, share what living in an open-hearted way, looks and feels like. Another perspective of what learning arrives once Brown’s and Jacobs Hendel’s work takes root. We become engaged with the possibility of daring greatly, being compassionately congruent, and living within the scope of intimacy.
The idea of engaging consistently in an open-hearted way, presents challenge. Would we be able to, with the world sliding towards the solipsistic? I wonder what do we gain from the pretense? That a me-centric view of the planet has us on course to irreparably damage ourselves and the biosphere we inhabit. A rise in mental illness could illustrate that the construct of the world we are living in, is unhealthy. Perhaps there are other ways to be in the world?

Dive
Of late my concerns are about the bare-naked truth of limited interaction with others. Telecommunication has limits. Hearing and seeing, can be experienced from afar. But what of the sense of felt presence of being in the same space/room with another, with others? What happens to the intimacy of non-verbal communication? The hand gesture that is not seen as a result of the glitchy nature of WiFi, or the LAN cable disconnect, power outage?
My client wondered if vulnerability was similar to a person going for a swim at their local swimming pool. Bathing suit on. Walking out carefully along the mid level diving board. Bouncing up and down. In full view of everyone else, but not piking and diving into the pool. Vulnerable yes. Intimate not yet.

Clay Hands

Listening
To experience unity and no degree of separation, the pool into which we dive is to be receptive. We were vulnerable bouncing up and down on the diving board. We move from vulnerability to intimacy when we leap forward into the pool. The water, willing and able to embrace us well. With the capacity to support if we were poor swimmers. The want to be intimate and vulnerable with others is linked to the spaces and people with whom we could share our tenderness and theirs.
If the listening environment is primed and ready to accept, hear, understand, sharing will be an easier happening between those in the room/space.
A few examples of altered listening were provided whilst I was training to become a counsellor/psychotherapist. We were asked to share a story with another student sitting opposite us. Who showed obvious signs that they were not paying any attention to what the storyteller was saying. Yawning, feigning sleep, mouthing the words this is so boring. I witnessed one student, stand and walk off! The vibe of these encounters felt uncomfortable for both the teller and the listener. A listening environment, in time becomes as valuable to a personal exchange as the “what” is shared in those spaces.

Unity
Intimacy being the submersion. The hitting the water. Pushing up from the bottom of the pool. Bubbles. Breaking the surface. Gasping. Ejecting water from the mouth. Treading water. Feeling the cool. Spreading fingers and swishing the water in full play. Swimming the full length of the pool.
Intimacy then, is bringing oneself into an experience of being with. Recognising self as separate from and yet being willing to fully commit, engage and be for however long enmeshed and inside of. Willingly being embraced and held by that other. Looked after by many trusted others. And you them. Intimacy is an act of trust. An act of faith that they, you, can exist as a oneness. Separation the umami taste of the soup. Within an intimate encounter, an ingredient that aims to dissolve union. Or possibly to enhance it.

Pixel Balance

Algorithm
To move from distrust to intimacy, I wonder what the way of growth would be? Distrust, Dislike, Disappointment, Ambivalence, a positive experience, many positive experiences, Questioning throughout, Acceptance of what is, Testing self, Testing others, Failure and willingness to starting again – many times, Independence, Pauses, Building Resilience, Empathy, Compassion, Disciplined hope, Trust, Vulnerability, Intimacy…?

Event Horizon
The path I propose to intimacy would likely be non-linear. My guess would be that the journey would be with a number of restarts from various positions listed above. I believe at our core, we seek connection and are excited by the prospect of being intimate (honest, open, collaborative, risking vulnerability) with others. 2020 was a beginning of a different way of living for many on the planet, perhaps there is another pull, daring us towards –  

Resources
The Anthropocene and all that is to be discovered in an ever changing human/non human landscape are subjects that Ayana and Dr. Bayo sit down to discuss. Dr. Bayo conjures in discussion with Ayana, a plethora of viewpoints through which to learn, question and revisit our understanding of spaceship earth.
Masterpieces and Messes with Brené Brown and Jason Reynolds observes the up and down nature of discovery, loss, heartbreak and getting suspended from school for doing the right thing! A wonderful dance to listen to.
Mistakenly Seeking Solitude uncovers a long-held myth. Being by oneself, holding oneself in abeyance does not make us happier, talking to strangers does. Dr. Laurie Santos with guests explain.
Maya Shankar uses this podcast to investigate how significant events in hers and her guests lives leads to break through’s discoveries and successes. Failing can lead to break down and break through and intimate connection.
For the Wild podcast with Ayana Young and Dr. Bayo Akomolafe
Unlocking Us Brené Brown and Jason Reynolds
The Happiness Lab – Mistakenly Seeking Solitude with Dr. Laurie Santos
A Slight Change of Plans – Meet Maya Shankar in Conversation with Michael Lewis

Images
Inspired by Connection
Cover Photo Light rays by Federico Beccari on Unsplash
1st Inlay photo Hands on Trees by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
BW greeting Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
Fist bump Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash
Potters Wheel Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
Face Photo by Paulius Andriekus on Unsplash

*Exfoliatingly (Excoriatingly works too) was not used. It is an addition.
**Excitingly also was also not said by Brené Brown’s counsellor. This too is an addition.

Ubuntu, Recovery – White Supremacy

My Summer season of writing has definitely taken a bent towards topics that involve racism writ large. In this post I am looking to establish ways forward, beyond White supremacy. The system corrupt and broken is to be erased, like a Buddhist Monk’s manadala, in the rivers of time and re-written. For me this onward journey is about revolution. Those who identify with a Frail, Pale, Male, Stale (F.P.M.S.) aesthetic and outlook on life are to be discarded like the idea of the baby and the bath water. The infant, the tub and the water we are all swimming in is diseased, poisoned and grows corrupt crop.

Light in Illness
Another way of living – benefitting all – makes sense to begin insisting on. I have had these ideas since I was about 4 years old. Sick with a bad cold having an out of body experience, where I felt like I was experiencing what those who take the mushroom Hiawatha report. A sense of overwhelming love, compassion and connectedness with all. Taking time away from the machinery of work can support learning in a way that grows awareness. I have spent the last month, August, unwinding, watching a wide variety of TV shows and movies, as well as reading and listening to podcasts. The most recent book ‘Work Won’t Love You Back’ by Sarah Jaffe that I will attempt to summarise in a following blog, has stretched my appreciation of the month spent taking time back.

Light Mandala

Capitalism kills
If the organisation of work is ultimately a largely European concept. A system turning humans into labor devices. Transforming raw materials into something profitable, for other human’s consumption and monetary wealth. Can we then, identify the paucity and fallibility of both work and capitalism overall? It will take for all, to dismantle the current appeal of getting (buying) more, working more, earning less and feeling bad about how little we possess. Other’s  (F.P.M.S.) largely benefit from those at the lower tiers of the system. Tirelessly working at pulling from the hearth both product and illness. The whole system completely depends on those at the very bottom of the pyramid to support the shaky construct.

Strangled
Ingenuity, time, creativity and sensitivity are mangled lost and drained from the human who is tethered to the machine of work. What are the alternatives? We need to work to pay the bills, the mortgage, clothe and feed the children and the family, to make peace, or take our piece from life. How can much be enjoyed whilst one hand is in the noose tied to the unequal system and the other tied to hypocrisy lies and corruption? For how much longer can the system continue to rip the essence of life from bodies that are on the planet for so much more?

Mis-direct
I ended last weeks post by inviting critical thinking. By becoming analytical of all we experience and are investing time with, we can start to imagine and build something different. One of the films I have enjoyed watching that then linked to a few other Netflix documentaries was the Biggest Little Farm, Kiss the Ground and Fantastic Fungi. The book The Hidden Life of Trees (still to be read!) shows how symbiotic, integrated natural systems all support the living organism to function. What has caused humanity to lose sight of our role of our interconnectedness and stewardship of the resources our planet has? Did seeking financial gain, interrupt our curiosity playfulness and wonder? Did capital gains limit our human potential and wanderlust. Some who are (F.P.M.S.) appear to know how to control and manipulate the masses with ever increasing ideas of potential risk, loss, and death. Queue: War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death.

Ride Side Saddle
The alternative to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse could be Emotional Intelligence: Critical Thinking, Emotional Awareness, Compassion focused teaching and learning. To move beyond a persecutor, victim rescuer triangle. We can live at the space of the observer. From a position of remaining compassionately aware, choices to behave differently whilst living can be applied. Outcomes could include benefitting the planet and each other with kindness first, as opposed to judgement.

Supportive Sources
‘Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti has a number of parallels with the African ethic of Ubuntu. Published in October 2020, the encyclical has drawn attention to the social consciousness on solidarity between different members of society based on social-interdependence. The African concept of Ubuntu largely refers to inter-connectedness within humanity and between its members, and asserts that “my humanity finds its fundamental definition through your humanity.”

This definition of Ubuntu is founded on three fundamental values. First, that humanity is essentially designed to co-exist in a cosmological friendship; second, that the core values of humanity cannot only be realized through the recognition of the intrinsic pristine nature of the other person’s humanity; third, that humanity is designed to safeguard and realize the common good that binds it together.

The cosmological friendship within the concept of Ubuntu puts emphasis on relationships and mutual co-existence. In other words, one’s humanity is only fulfilled through a relationship with other closely connected human beings, as well as with those who are remotely connected. This concept of relationship in a sense implies a cosmological friendship that grounds itself in a communal attitude working towards the development of the society. Source: article on ‘Fratelli Tutti’ and ‘Ubuntu’ on Cosmological Friendship in La Civiltà Cattolica’ subscribe@laciviltacattolica.com

Baton Pass
My father-in-law Dr G Warner sent the above to me, as a perfect illustration of Ubuntu. Humanity looking after the whole human community because overall we benefit from compassion kindness and sharing. We always have. We could still. As a human-doing we perhaps get snagged inside the doing part, rather than the being a part of a living planet. The 3 paragraphs above, (italicised) offer an understanding and a way to begin experiencing our planet Earth differently. The answers for ending White supremacy as Martin Luther King Jnr said ‘are along the long arc of time, that bends towards justice’. However we can begin speeding towards the bend by, willfully engaging, interrupting and destroying White supremacy’s hold over us. Moving from pure observation to questioning and persistent resilient activists. The journey ahead is not going to be easy. But I feel that challenging journeys are by their nature both life changing, life affirming and infinitely more interesting. The River Runner documentary on Netflix is testament to this idea, another of Summer’s offering.

Resources
Resmaa Manakem discusses below in detail, revolutionary thought and how to engage with healing and then appreciating cultural wealth. Kori Carew discusses a number of challenging and revolutionary ideas about Listening, Having Curiosity, Being Vulnerable, Engaging in Action as well as Belonging and becoming aware of community, in Kori’s T.E.D. talk she understands and shares insights about Having Courage to do what is right even whilst this may disrupt everything. Tricia Hersey introduces a wonderful insight about the mechanism of capitalism and how to fight back and win. Baratunde Rafiq Thurston discusses ideas about deconstructing racism that involve breaking headlines into 4 components – Subject, Action, Target, Activity. He shares his reasons as to why his approach provides clarity. Lastly Brené Brown Interviews Dr. Susan David on the need for improvement of appreciation of language, interpretation of feelings and compassion. Ultimately the idea is about a community of humans that can use language to truly see, understand and hold self and others compassionately. Those who push at the limits of possibility and what seems impossible are the free radicals who invite others to imagine beyond the horizon. As mentioned above, The River Runner captures this idea very well.
Resmaa with Charlemagne and Angela On the Breakfast Show.
Kori Carew Ted Talk
Tricia Hersey Rest and Care as Tools for Liberation
Baratunde Rafiq Thurston How To Deconstruct Racism
Brené Brown and Dr. Sarah David Dangers of Toxic Positivity

Images
Inspired by Mandalas
Cover photo Live Together by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Lights photo by nibras al-riyami on Unsplash
Wall manadala photo by Fabio Santaniello Bruun on Unsplash
Mandala Sea photo by Jayshree Sharma on Unsplash