Here is an example of language, describing the same thing in two different ways.
“I was 15 when I started to suffer with mental illness. I went to see a psychiatrist who told me that I had something called Schizophrenia. For a couple of years my symptoms got really bad and people were afraid I was going to hurt myself so I was hospitalised. They stabilised me on meds and shock treatments and sent me home. For a long time, I didn’t get sick again.
Later, as an adult, I started to get symptomatic again. I got pretty psychotic and once again got put in hospital. They told me there that I was really sick and should go on disability. For a long time, I was pretty sick but then started to be able to manage my symptoms.”
“I was 15 when I started feeling different than others and really alone. For a couple of years after that, I would do things in pretty extreme ways. They made sense to me based on what I was thinking and feeling but I guess it was scary for others who didn’t really understand what I was thinking and feeling. I got put in a hospital. There I really lost hope and beliefs about being a ‘regular’ person. They put me on a lot of medication that made me sleepy all the time. After I left, I threw out all the meds and put my intensity into music.
Years later, coming out of a difficult marriage I started to have similar kinds of experiences as the ones I had as a kid. I had really strong feelings and felt pretty separate from others. I got put back in the hospital again. I was told I had a major mental illness and that I should go on disability. Though I did that for a while, I realised that I was just going along with their beliefs rather than looking at how I’d come to think in certain ways. Little by little, I figured out what to do with my intensity and I’ve been really growing ever since.”
Each one of us is simply at a different place in our growth and development. Using language that is personal and descriptive of our experiences enables shared understanding. It forces us to think of ourselves and others more broadly as human beings, free of labels and assumptions.
When I first came to the UK, I thought of myself as nothing more than a human being, a doctor, a mother. I came here with one suitcase full of books, inappropriate clothes and lots of dreams. Over the years, slowly, through events good and not-so-good, I was made aware that I was a ‘female doctor from ethnic minorities’. Others may see me thus but I still see myself as a human, a doctor, a mother.
Before our world was invaded by a microscopic organism, we were divided. Identity politics dominated all conversations. ‘Vegans’ wanted to convert me to their religion. ‘Vegetarianism’ just wasn’t good enough. Fingers were being pointed at seemingly evil ‘middle aged white men’, as if they were all the same. I found myself defending them in public as I am on the inside. I am married to one of the nicest of them. The ‘transgender’ community was making its presence felt in a big way. The BME and the LGBTQ++ and the sexists and the racists, the liberalists, the socialists, the nationalists and the list is endless … were firmly rooted in their fenced off, defensive little territories.
Then came the virus and we were all united in the knowledge that we were fragile creatures and we needed each other to survive. We needed to look after ourselves and each other, in ways that were more meaningful and different from before. We learnt that the mind needed as much attention if not more, than the body. We found out that we are related to everyone else on the planet whether we liked it or not. We needed to rise above our little ‘Me. Me. Me’ voices and make decisions in favour of what was good for everyone.
We found out that small things are big things. My lovely neighbour, M, left a bunch of flowers outside the door for me every week. I arranged those flowers the best I could and sent her the pictures. I wrote hand-written letters to friends from my childhood with whom I was starting to lose connection. I discovered the joy of sleeping for a few nights in a row without setting the alarm. Si and I discovered the joy of being in the house together for days, doing normal things – baking, gardening, meditation, going for a walk, reading, watching ‘The Crown’.
I say, let’s not go back to our ‘normal’ divisions and our frantic passions. Let’s take this opportunity to re-invent ourselves and the way we meet the world. Let’s not be driven by our fears and insecurities but by a sense of deep connection with ourselves, each other and the planet. Let’s take this new learning into the world we want to live in. It’s up to us.
She’s my friend. She sees hearts everywhere – in candle flames, on flower petals, on unevenly toasted bread, on random clouds and other unlikely places. Basically everywhere. She actively seeks them out as though they are quietly waiting to be discovered, playing hide and seek with her. They fill her with child-like wonder and glee. She goes on to excitedly share her hearts with the rest of the world. It’s infectious and now I see them too.
The heart is the ‘chakra’ that balances the body and spirit, with 3 chakras below and 3 above it. It is also known as ‘anahata’ in sanskrit which means ‘unhurt, unstruck and unbeaten’. It is green in colour.
This morning’s yoga session was about opening up the Heart chakra. It made me aware of the sensations in and around the chest. At times it felt like a flutter and others like an ache. It brought up the tears easily and induced a sense of expansion where I felt like all the kids in the world were mine and all I wanted was for everyone to be happy and free. My spirit seemed to have taken wings, soaring high while my mind and body stayed centred right where I was.
I am free to just be.
I am free to be happy.
I am. I am. I am.
Now, more than ever before I feel the need to explore the meaning of being human. While on the one hand I can see the frailties, failings and fragility of humans, on the other I can see the light that shines through some of them that can provide strength, hope and inspiration to others. Sometimes I see both attributes in the same individual at the same time. Other times I see someone completely transform from one end of the spectrum to the other over time.
Who better than Rumi to look to for some answers:
“I am not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen.
Not any religion or cultural system.
I am not from the East or the West,
not out of the ocean or up from the ground,
not natural or ethereal,
not composed of elements at all.
I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or any origin story.
My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless.
Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human being.”
“We are pain and what cures pain, both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
I want to hold you close like a lute, so that we can cry out with loving.
Would you rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror and here are the stones.”