I watched a movie with my son the other evening, called EQUALS. You know how it is when you scan through the Netflix offerings, read through the synopsis and hope the description wasn’t the most entertaining or exciting thing about the movie? Well, for a random pick, this movie hit the mark. It held us from start to finish. I feel on top of the world when a movie…moves me! As well as thinking deeply I also feel very deeply. Well, it certainly feels like it and because there is no real way for a lay person to measure or quantify feelings, I’ll just go with my gut feeling.
So, back to the movie. Aside from the brilliant, subtly
intense and engaging acting (my background as an actress and acting coach, means
I mark hard), the script was superbly crafted. The writer took you on a clever
journey, allowing you to think that you knew exactly where the plot was going
next, only to send you on diversion after diversion of draw dropping
proportions. Yes, I got all that out of a Netflix movie. Don’t judge me. The
movie took us to a future realm, still on planet earth, where everyone was void
of feelings. Taking daily inhibitor drugs was mandatory to dull the feelings. Not
a flinch of emotional expression existed, whether in the workplace, the home
space (yes, all rooms)…EXCEPT for those that were ‘sick’ with an incurable
disorder called SOS (Switch On Syndrome). Symptoms included smiling, crying,
showing affection, active facial expressions etc. Those exhibiting signs of
SOS, which develops in 4 distinct stages, are removed from the general
population, should-in-case they infect the majority with emotions. By now I’ve
probably spoiled it for some of you, but do still watch it, if you have a mind
to. I won’t tell anymore as I can move on with my point now.
I have long held the view that the most powerful medium to ‘reach’ persons that have become ‘numbed’ by the experiences and challenges dealt to them in life, is to re-connect them to their feelings, through thoughts, which spark emotions, that can ignite visions of hope. Repeat. That process is at the core of my Psychodrama Therapy practice. The gunman no longer feels. The mother that abuses her children out of frustrations, dulled by multiple medications, no longer feels. The 15yr old girl sitting in the sea of 400+ high school students & parents, no longer feels. Let me share our encounter.
So there I was, Guest Speaker (for the second time) at the annual Careers Day & Exposition at Old Harbour High School. A school with a beautiful ‘vibe’, under the commanding stewardship of an Idris Elba-esque Principal, Mr Lynton Weir, (I’ll wait while some of you ladies go Google his photo…). Anyway, I’m speaking, which I love to do as-cording to my school reports, which I just interpreted as Careers Guidance. In addition to speaking (briefly) about careers, I injected my usual heavy dose of motivational, thought provoking, ‘many true words spoken in jest’, gentle admonishment, personal parenting experiences and even a guided visualization.
It was after said visualization process, where I’d asked parents and students to close their eyes, visualize a past achievement that made them feel proud of themselves, allowed them to recall, recount and relish the experience, then have them open their eyes and say one word that sums up how they felt in the NOW. After the second and third response of the usual ‘proud’, ‘accomplished’, ‘happy’, I turned the cordless microphone to a girl student near to the front row. What she voiced, with her mother looking on equally emotionless, made me skip a beat…“mi nuh feel nutten Miss” (I don’t feel anything Miss). Her statement jabbed at my heartstrings and triggered a reflex announcement to the crowd that, “that is our problem parents…our children have to feel again…but we have to start feeling first! The communication between me and the engaged parents that followed was nothing short of a rallying call and spontaneous response. They felt the vibe, opened to my suggestion for us to revisit how we relate to our children and nodded in unanimous agreement that the most powerful expression to change a child’s vibration and transform their life, is Love. Love is still the answer. But it remains a cliché until you feel it. Go on. Say it, till you mean it…starting with yourself. “I Love you Makeda Solomon“. Your turn.
A mother speaks of her inspiration to connect with her son.
I’ll let this mother, who was in the audience with her son aged 15yrs, share her feelings. Her sincere expression touched me. I felt her Love for her son. But then again, I would, I feel deeply. I’m happy that I do. While it might have made me more susceptible to waves (sometimes tsunamis) of emotion in the past, I have found that with the mindful management of your thoughts, feelings are the vehicle for experiencing life in its fullest expression of itself. How do you feel?
Someone once told me that I was ‘too deep’…meaning, I presume, that I observed and analyzed, dissected and pondered things far too deeply. On face value, I took it as a criticism, until one day, I stepped back from my subjective position and looked at it from another perspective…and there it was, the revelation that, perhaps, the man in question, was just too shallow :). I make the point to illustrate that as human beings, we have a unique opportunity, to shift our perspective on matters…to look at them from a different vantage point, through another’s ‘eyes’. While this practice might well afford us a fuller, more complete view to a situation, we rarely take that opportunity. Especially when it comes to looking at our-selves.
My apparent propensity to think widely and deeply was further fueled by an introduction to the concept of ‘automation’ (through my study of Neuronet Therapy), as it relates to human brain function. You may have heard the phrase “it’s like riding a bike…you never forget”? Well that’s because the action of riding a bike, like driving a car, becomes an automated action, requiring minimal conscious thought. Our taxi drivers take this phenomenon to another extreme, but that’s another story! :).
Now just think how many things in our lives have become automated. How often do we question the reasons behind our daily thoughts, words and deeds? Well, while many around the globe are pre-occupied questioning the rationale behind Donald Trump’s behaviours, or distracted judging the actions of others in our ‘external’ world (even soap opera characters!), we are invariably missing valuable opportunities to look at the man/woman in the mirror. Countless studies, self-help gurus and sometimes our own consciences often point to the healthy practice of self analysis and reflection…beyond the annual job appraisal! The big question in these chaotic times should surely be, ‘how am I performing in the job of living my best life?’ Time to get INside deep and personal!
Curious about my own level of automaticity, in recent years I have undertaken to consciously observe myself more closely; in terms of what I do in awareness as opposed to what is an ‘auto-pilot’, learned or even triggered response/behaviour. Let’s call it a programmed response, because that is ostensibly what it is. How does one go about ‘observing oneself’ I hear you asking. This relatively uncharted journey of self analysis calls for tools that are both easily assimilated and robust. Allow me to share a strategy I am currently applying.
PUT YOUR AUDITORS HAT ON
Since we are approaching the end of the first quarter of 2019, let’s take an auditors approach. It can start with a simple question. Let me go first…
WHY AM I DOING THIS? [That’s me asking myself, about writing this feature].
Honest answer(s): The feature, because I’ve committed myself to writing a monthly blog for Sarifa Insurance Brokers. The subject matter, because I am currently conducting my own life audit and it’s amazing what it has uncovered! Overall, I really love sharing life uplifting strategies that work for me, with others.
I must also declare up front (as it seems like an advantage), that my being a woman who is gracefully (I hope) and mindfully starting the somewhat reluctant, and seemingly premature ascent on the staircase of chronological maturity, or in shorter Jamaican parlance…mi a go up inna age’, my ability to be super honest with and about myself has been naturally boosted.
YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE IT
If you’re in, it’s your turn!
We’re calling it our ‘1st Quarter Life Audit’, ok? So, I now invite you to start your personal audit, through the following stage by stage exercise. Like learning to ride that bicycle, it will be challenging at first, but after practice and repetition (key to automaticity), your level of self-awareness (‘awokeness’, to use a popularly used word) will increase many-fold. Off you go!
TESTING: First practice the big question. “Why am I doing this?”
Ask it now, out loud [HERE]. Ask it again [HERE]. Let it reverberate until you feel your own authority. As in, you feel compelled to answer your-selfJ. Good.
Imagine, yes, really imagine. I know it’s hard for some of us to delve into our imaginations, especially in these times of mass distraction. Too many adults, drifting into our head space may seem like childs-play or for those ‘with time on their hands’ (read nothing better to do). Unfortunately we have been dissuaded from using our creative minds, in many instances by well-meaning parents and brainwashed-out-of-all-creativity teachers when we dared to daydream. Let me explain. There is no judgement here. It is what it is. But it’s important that we look at ‘it’ from time to time. Yes I’m going to digress a little. Stick a pin at STAGE TWO…
I remember when my childhood friends would say, usually with excitement, “mek wi play priten!” or “let’s play pretend!” (depending on which group of friends I was with), and my mind would race to come up with the first magically created scenario to role play? I used to love those moments! [That must be why I am so into theatre]. I really hope that you can relate, wherever in the world your childhood took place. There was real magic in those moments. Even better if you read lots of fairytales and fictional story books. Without the shackles of adult issues (or perhaps because of them, for some), we the child-selves were able to escape into far off lands in our minds’ eyes, vicariously experiencing the excitement, joys and even love of the characters in the music filled stories. [Sound of vinyl record being scratched by a needle – those of you under 25 might have to google that sound…and image] No time for childish fantasizing now hey? Sadly, that’s why so many of us are stressed to the back teeth…I mean literally, feeling pain in the nerves of our teeth, because we have become toxic with an overdose of ‘busy-adult-ness’ that has smothered our imaginations and strangled our reflection time. So in a quest to restore both, let’s get back to that question.
Remember? Why am I doing this? Firstly, imagine you are doing what you were doing just before you started reading this article. It can be big or small. This is like the strand test before you dye your hair, only you ARE going to do this test. Now in that moment, ask your-self. Why am I doing this? Ask again if you feel to. I’ll wait. If you can, write down the first answer and/or feeling that rises in response.
NOTE: Really, the best time to ask is when you are just about to or in mid process of ‘doing/saying/thinking ‘it’. You catch yourself in the act so to speak, giving rise to a somewhat more intense realization. As in the test above, this can also be done in retrospect i.e. Why did I do that? But my gut feeling is that it is not as impacting. The chances of stopping an unhealthy, unwholesome, self-sabotaging or toxic behaviour are enhanced by the shock factor of ‘catching yourself’, mid flow. In a Psychodrama session, I might have the protagonist (client) sitting in a chair facing and questioning his ‘behaviour’, seeking answers to how ‘it’ serves him. But that’s another exercise. 😉
Now, starting tomorrow and in real time, repeat the above process 10 times each day for 7 days (Minimum); Before, during or after a meal, just about any time you remember and feel you want to question a current life situation or action.
Whether it is something you are about to do, or in the middle of doing, simply:
i. STOP (if you are driving, indicate and pull over first!)
ii. CLOSE YOUR EYES and slowly ask WHY AM I DOING THIS?
iii. FEEL when the honest answer comes to mind.
iv. Have a notepad nearby for instances when a long barrage of reasons flood forth. Or not.
v. There will sometimes be very clear, short answers like, “Because my bladder was full”. Remember, you choose when to ask the questionsJ. Have fun with it!
vi. If the answer is honestly, ‘I don’t know’, simply put a question mark against that ‘thing’ and give it further thought later, perhaps before you go to bed.
vii. Check up your answers at the end of each day and reflect further if necessary.
When you are in the swing of the exercise, gradually increase the dosage from 7 days @ 10 times per day to 28 days straight @ 15 times per day…one behaviour or thought at a time, until the habit of auditing is automated. Like riding that bicycle, you reach a point when you can take off the safety wheels and discern, in an instant, without having to ask the question, what is for you and what is not for you. That vibrational moment I understand to be resonance, or as the elders say…’your spirit tell you’.
The objective of this exercise is to become so honest and truthful with and about yourself that you trace the origin or source of your actions/reactions, thought patterns and beliefs. Many habits are formed from parental, cultural and ever-more-so, global influences, over many years, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It is said to take at least 28 days to curb/override an old, or form a new, habit. “Old habits die hard”, they say, because those aged habits are often well rooted, commonly practiced and…well, habitual. You may just be surprised which toxic habits, self-sabotaging/abusive behaviours, unrequited relationships will be red-flagged during this process. As you become consciously aware, try not to get vex with anyone else, or even me for that matter. Just focus on the fact that you now have ‘the handle’ and can make any required life adjustments.
On the positive side, in these instances of clarity, there are many re-ignited passions, re-affirmed truths and re-kindled creative expressions that will also present as audit outcomes. The bottom line is whether the habits you choose to break and those you (re)assume were/are in harmony with your best life and in the best interest of your authentic self.
It’s like taking a bird’s eye view of your life and making yourself accountable to YOU! You know the saying, wherever you go you will find your-self. So you might as well work at making your-self as pleasant and fun to be with as possible. I’m just saying.
WHY WOULDN’T I DO THIS?
Finally, be aware, as you conduct the audit, that your mental state, impacted by your biological state, as influenced by your dietary and sensory intake, will impact your ability to focus on and succeed in this mission. To optimize your audit results and achieve the best solutions, a simultaneous ‘health audit’ is highly recommended. You service your vehicle, right? Say no more. Self-development takes commitment and consistency. Believe me, as one who has fallen off the wagon from time to time…and again. So, in the same spirit that many of you got caught up in the social media challenge of having a bucket of ice water thrown over you, let me challenge you with something less traumatic! At this point, ask yourself another question…Why wouldn’t I do this?
BOB MARLEY GAVE US A CLUE…
In closing, just in case someone accuses you of being ‘too deep’ during and after this audit process, remember, only YOU are authorized to determine your own depth.
Last week Thursday, I was gifted the opportunity to flex my creative muscles via an adapted and stylised presentation of the 30 Articles making up the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. You see today, 10th December 2018, marks the 70th Anniversary of the implementation of this UN drafted and adopted collection of rights, agreed upon to be the most basic and fundamental rights afforded to every human being on the planet earth…without exception! Apparently, so the story goes/suh dem seh (a phrase I will henceforth use by way of a disclaimer, in case what I share with you today turns out to be based on fake news at some future point), a group of people from around the world, appalled by the atrocities that took place during the second world war, decided to take proactive measures to ensure that human beings would never again be allowed to descend to the levels of barbarity, evil and wickedness as was seen during the six year war. Yeah right, I sense some of you thinking.
YOUNG PERCEPTIONS OF WAR!
Growing up in England, my perspective of that war was always influenced by media images of valiant Englishmen and their allies, risking their lives for the rights and freedoms of their fellow countrymen.
Each November, as a child through to my teens, I would customarily wear the purchased poppies that my whole family wore in memory of those brave souls that sacrificed their lives for a noble cause. The only bad guys in that war story were the Germans, or to be more specific, a particular group of deranged Germans called Nazis. Apparently taking the life of another was only evil if, according to the rules of war, the lives were those of the bad guys. The fact that both sides of the cass cass saw the other as the bad guys was irrelevant to those writing the history books I studied. Bloody, valiantly fought battles and atom bombings were mixed in with stifled tales of torture, sexual abuses, murder of civilians and other unclaimed acts of barbarity…on both sides. No doubt the saying that “all is fair in love and war” could well have been coined during the said conflicts.
In the aftermath of that war, an estimated 60 million human beings were dead. WWII was dubbed ‘the worst war in modern history’, by the time it ended in 1945. The United Nations emerged through unification of 58 country states, officially forming in 1948, with the primary purpose of bringing peace and upholding the rights of citizens in all lands. They drafted and agreed to the Declaration of Human Rights, the details of which most of the world’s citizens, I would hazard a guess, are oblivious. I hazard that guess on the basis that BBC World News reports (one of the few news sharing establishments I still have some level of trust in), consistently highlight unprecedented atrocities happening daily across our planet. As if on cue, as I drove home from my Human Rights presentation to the Mandeville Graduates of the Sutherland Global Microsoft Training programme, I felt a deflating blow when I tuned in to my radio to hear about the ‘alleged’ daily executions taking place in the African country of Burundi. The chilling report, as told by the BBC news correspondent, based on first hand intelligence obtained from eye witnesses and former perpetrators, stunned me. The pitch and inflections in the voice of the young sounding reporter, gave away a frustration that I presumed came from the fact that no decisive action was being taken by the UN nations, despite the submission of solid evidence to the UN leadership.
JAMAICA ON HUMAN RIGHTS?
Having become privy to and played a part in sharing the 30 human rights articles to an audience of Jamaicans, what now? Surely the scale of the global human rights breaches might suggest that those rights are destined to remain mere words on paper, while even the heads of states that are signatories to the declaration are themselves perpetrating, at worst, and turning a blind eye to, at least, gross human rights violations against their citizens. Closer to home, here in Jamaica, a modern day tropical paradise, the Tivoli Gardens ‘incident’ of 2010 still echoes a cry for justice that will ring in our ears for generations to come. Though I am considered an eternal optimist, the international and local news on any given day lends support to my concerns, that since the 1948 scripting of the declaration of human rights, matters have in fact gotten progressively worse, rather than better.
So, is it worth building the hopes of ordinary citizens by spreading the gospel of human rights to which they are entitled, yet potentially have little recourse if the state and its officers refuses to honour them? I say yes! Let the people know their rights! Armed with knowledge of what being a human being should afford them might at least empower some, and then more and more, to stand up for their individual and collective rights. Around the globe we are seeing and hearing of unrest and mounting frustrations among ordinary citizens that are saying enough is enough to leaders that have lost sight of their responsibility to serve and support all its citizens equally and fairly. The youth in particular are rising up to protest the disparities in treatment for segments of the society and blatant corruption within both government and private sectors.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN PLAIN LANGUAGE
All that said, given the energy of the youth of this world to clean up the messes of prior generations, I will do what feels right to me and proceed to sensitize my fellow Jamaicans and other world citizens to the 30 rights they have on the global stage, by virtue of the fact that they are human. The link below is to the Youth for Human Rights web page, which features a simplified version of the 30 Articles, as I shared with the young graduates.
Learn them, as one day, you may need to demand or exercise one of them, in the face of some violation. You do, after all, have the weight of the now 192 member states of the United Nations behind you. Let us trust that this is heavyweight enough when put to the tests.
As our island’s reggae icon, Bob Marley sang…”Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!” Knowing them is the first step.