“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Saturday, 9 February 2013

My Granny was a Zen Master!

Well, not really, but as is the way of Grandmothers, she had wisdom, knowledge and a long lifetime of living this precious human life.

I confided in her often. Grandparents often have the benefit of a generation's distance to (hopefully) know how to listen without reacting. 

One piece of advice she gave has resonance now, as it did then. I was maybe in my late teens. I was speaking to her about a decision I had to make, and confided that I was worried that my decision would hurt someone's feelings. 

She said "Well, she has no right to have her feelings hurt!" 

I remember that penny-drop moment with absolute clarity. The realisation that what my Granny was saying, in her own way,  was that all of us are responsible for our own feelings and reactions. We can each of us only choose our own path and make our own decisions. And as long as we do that with integrity and conscience and not from our own place or anger, resentment or hurt -  that is if we act with mindfulness and compassion -  then  we are not responsible for other people's reactions or hurts. 

This is a radical idea when you are 18 and very much caught up in what other people think. And for many of us, the desire to make others like, accept or approve of us lasts a long way into adulthood. I know from my own experience that my younger self would often veer between doing what the hell I liked regardless of the consequences and overt people pleasing. Safe to say that neither of those paths was the one to happiness or enlightenment. 

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a lesson that takes a long time to learn. The biggest obstacle can be that, despite our own mindful intentions,  others do sometimes react to our decisions with hurt, anger or resentment. And if they are not coming from a place of mindfulness themselves, then what they choose to do with those emotions can have a detrimental knock-on effect that we can continue to witness. 

photo by Lee Jordan on flickr.com

But like the outwards ripple of a stone thrown into water, creating interference with the flotsam, its effect will eventually fade. 

What we are left with is knowing that we are living our own truth. If we do so from a place of mindfulness and compassion, then this is the best we can do. 

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