Positive Is Perspective

I could say SO much about this amazing, wonderful, awesome quotation…but where to begin!?

This was, by the way, posted by someone I’ve met in my pursuit of my passion (to help individuals with disabilities maintain a joyful, active life.) This gentleman has Cerebral Palsy and is one of the most positive people I’ve met. ūüôā

We are all – as human beings – entitled to tough moments and emotions. If we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves, complain, worry, huff and puff…I’d argue that we weren’t human beings at all! Our limbic system is enough of a whirlwind on its own, but paired with the most advanced evolutionary neocortex on the planet, we are susceptible to torrents of push-and-pull internally…including the huff-and-puffery!

What matters at the end of the day, though, is our overall approach to life. That approach is founded in our attitude and behaviors – we can either do our best to focus on the positive and strive ahead as best as we are able with what we are given… OR, we can be miserable, blame the world, and do nothing to better a bad situation. (It’s like someone saying that a given circumstance is unfair when they have invested zero effort in trying to turn the tables.)

I have to say that the majority of individuals with disabilities whom I’ve had the honor to know are among the most enthusiastic, positive, and inspiring people I have met. To be fair, I’d say it is actually 100% of those I have encountered, and this includes friends I have lost to illness (such as ALS.) The overwhelmingly gracious attitude and perseverance in the face of adversity is enough to have altered my life forever – I simply am a changed person because I know these people. My DNA is fundamentally geared towards being empathetic, compassionate, and positive…but like everyone, I have my “ugly moments” too. That said, I’ve made it my business to count blessings every single day, and to see the light in all situations…even if it means I’m squinting with all my might.¬†While I was programmed to do so anyway, I have also made a commitment to live my life this way going forward.

This quotation hit home for me because I see so many people in the world who don’t value gratitude and appreciation…and yet they have so much to be thankful for. And then I see individuals for whom life would seem to be a dark and terrifying place…and they not only thrive, but live joyfully, and to the fullest that they are able.

It shouldn’t have to take a jarring image, nor the suffering of another individual for us to “get with it.” But when human beings are exposed to the courage of those who actually HAVE the right to complain, it tends to strike a chord – for that I am immensely grateful, because it is a reality check some people need.¬†

Gratitude, thankfulness, happiness, positivity…they are founded in one’s perspective. They aren’t handed to us. They aren’t up to anyone BUT us. As such, that also means they aren’t out of our control.

We have a choice in how we view the world and our lives. If we make a decision to shift our lenses in favor of gratitude, that “rose color” some people go on about? It may suddenly blossom into view. . .

 

Bullying, Disabilities, and The Empathetic Heart

I don’t have children, but this would very much be top of mind if I did. To raise a child to be sensitive to others, to have compassion and empathetic view, is one of the most important traits they could have.

I’ve had the fortune to participate in a training on bullying and harassment recently (though this is a long-time hot topic for me, and one I regularly talk about with the kids in our Martial Arts classes. I myself was bullied and harassed growing up, and with the prevalence of cyber methods, it is even more insidious for children these days.) The training focused on bullying as it pertains to all children within a school setting (primarily public in this case), but also with some particular data regarding bullying and children with disabilities.

It might seem alarming to some of you that children with disabilities are bullied approximately 1.3 times more than their neurotypical (non-disabled) peers. (George G. Bear. et al. Differences in Bullying Victimization Between Students With and Without Disabilities, School Psychology Review. March 2015, Vol. 44, Issue 1 cited in Rose and Gage, Exploring the Involvement of Bullying Among Students.)

Bullying in and of itself is horrifying, but the prospect that it is happening even more to children with disabilities is difficult to grasp. My passion lies in not only empowering others by helping them to discover their own inner strengths, talents, and abilities, but to equip them with the tools necessary to manage challenging situations. Martial Arts is my current vehicle – as ¬†one of the instructors under my Sensei, I am able to impart values and knowledge to the children during class. Naturally it isn’t always easy to keep the attention (by the way, not AGE-dependent so much as child-dependent…and time of day!) It is therefore crucial to be both consistent with messages, and to repeat them with frequency. It’s amazing to hear the kids respond to “what is our goal with a bully?” with “TO CONTROL AND NEGOTIATE!” (We encourage the idea that we aren’t learning Martial Arts to injure anyone else – the key purpose is to know how to protect ourselves and others, should we need to, but also to use our skills only as a last resort.)

For children with disabilities, the concept of bullying can be more difficult. Cognitive or physical limitations may result in the child not fully understanding that he or she is IN a bullying situation, let alone how to manage the situation if it is happening. I believe in teaching – I believe in helping individuals to understand how to recognize danger, violence, harassment, and bullying before it happens or, if that window is missed, when it is happening. It is only with the knowledge of what is taking place that we are able to do something about the situation.

I also believe it is vital that each of set the example – whether our own children, our nieces and nephews, kids we see in classes at school or in sports…we are always on the radar. Children are constantly watching and learning from our actions as much as our words (I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of a little one coming out with a mouthful of something hilarious after having picked it up from an adult – you never know what they’ll say next, only that they are ALWAYS absorbing.)

Children will pick up our mannerisms, our prejudices, our attitudes, and our approach to people / places / things. As such, we must keep in mind that what we say / do, and the methods by which we manage situations are likely to be adopted (depending on how much time we spend with them.) Takeaway —> Children are hugely impressionable.

EXAMPLES…

  1. In Martial Arts class, I ensure that I hold EVERYONE to the same standards (including myself)
  2. I am always impeccably dressed (gi, belt, tabi, hair tied up, no jewelry)
  3. I ALWAYS¬†show a “Zanshin” or “ready stance” when I am demonstrating a technique with my Sensei…both before and after the technique, to show it is vital to always be ready for a potential threat (or a threat’s follow-up)
  4. When I see someone acting out or in a bullying manner, I very quickly address it and make sure involved parties understand what happened, and why their actions were not acceptable
  5. I treat everyone equally
  6. I speak in a firm but respectful tone
  7. I reward great behavior with positive, verbal affirmations
  8. Likewise, I don’t tolerate fooling around – a Martial Arts setting is not the place!

My behavior and approach will be modeled, so it is important that I lead by example. I do the same when volunteering – we have a few children with autism who like to get particularly rowdy. I make clear when something is not acceptable in explicit terms, and I encourage and reward positive behaviors.

In daily life I also do my best to lead with an empathetic heart. This doesn’t mean I am necessarily more vulnerable to or unaware of realistic dangers, only that I approach my assessments with some level of compassion. (I am not, let’s be clear, referring to a dangerous situation – during such times, we must act without hesitation. This is its own rabbit-hole conversation!) But. . .in regular, day-to-day activities, I do my best to treat others as I want to be treated, and to have compassion for those in need. I am not raising a child of my own, but that doesn’t mean I don’t impact those around me – I want those children to know the beauty of an empathetic heart, and that it is up to us to champion for those who may be unable to do so for themselves.¬†

There are many bullying situations in which a child may not fully grasp the danger he or she is in (as above.) While there are no definitive statistics, it is clear that many people stand around and do nothing. To me, that is simply unconscionable.

We encourage the children in our classes to – first and foremost – get an adult. That action is doing SOMEthing. If they are in the midst of it, we show them some of the ways they can be involved and stay as safe as possible. But we don’t say “just stand there and stare!” We want them to recognize danger when it occurs, and know that they have safe options to HELP. At the end of the day, those actions can literally save a life.¬†

Empathy and compassion matter.

Having tools to use in dangerous situations matters.

Let’s do our part to help children to understand what they can do, and to help them grow into compassionate adults – they need never, EVER be helpless.

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There Are Angels Among Us – Seeing Beauty In Life

Yesterday at Barnes and Noble I saw a man wheel (in her wheelchair) a young girl – perhaps 15 – into the checkout line in front of me. I watched him kiss her head, which had been shaven maybe just weeks before. He kissed the enormous s-shaped scars that covered it, and she smiled and spoke sweetly to him.

I caught the gentleman’s eye – her father, I believe – and with a smile I could not contain I said, “she is SO beautiful! Her skin is like a doll’s!” He wheeled her around to see me and I told her the same. She then said, “thank you! You have such beautiful eyes!” in the sweetest voice you could imagine, and one I’ll not forget.¬†

My heart felt so much joy, so much admiration, so much love. . . I couldn’t help but tell her, and was so honored for her kindness in return. Even if only some of us could see them, she wore about her head a glowing halo, and about the rest, a set of wings. After all she must have been through in her short time, she wanted nothing more than to share light with everyone else around her…

I bid them farewell as they finished buying her Anime book, and the man wheeled her out of the store – I knew I’d remember that moment forever.

It doesn’t take much to see the beauty around us, or to cherish the moments we meet precious souls. To touch another life is such a gift – I believe in sharing the positive thoughts we feel inside because you never know how much it may mean to someone else. Perhaps a father who has seen his child suffer as no one should?¬†

There ARE angels among us – maybe right in front of your eyes. Don‚Äôt be afraid to encourage them too. Every heart deserves love and light, and to see the beauty in life. If you‚Äôre one of the ones who sees through that lens…share it. The world can always use more. ‚̧ԳŹ

Knowing Is Half The Battle

People are complicated – even when you make every effort to empathize, to walk in another person’s shoes, putting aside the urge to respond negatively, some people are painfully impossible to deal with. ¬†

When we understand the notion that another person’s response and (re)actions are effectively a result of their place in their own evolution (which cannot rightly be compared to ours or anyone else’s) it is far easier to deal with them.

While I *want* to take the path of gentle kindness, absence of judgment, 100% positivity…I don’t always. ¬†I’m human! ¬†But imagine, then, how easily I set up the disappointments in expecting others to meet me on that plane – if I really want to be those things with every fiber of my being and I still fall short too, it seems I’m expecting a bit (a lot!) too much of everyone else.

That doesn’t mean to say behaviors are excused, that I don’t have a right to expect a certain level of decency, for example, or for someone to live up to basic standards. ¬†What I mean is that if I understand others aren’t on my wavelength, it makes letting things go, and moving on, a whole lot easier. ¬†It helps me to recognize that I operate at a different vibration, in other words, which gives a lot less power to other people…and puts more (potentially all of it, wouldn’t that be nice!) in my hands.

No one else has a right to ruin my mood – I let it happen sometimes, and that’s on me. ¬†When I change my view, and recognize that, while a lot of people have done some hard-work-soul-searching…probably more people haven’t.

To face oneself is one of the bravest things anyone can do, but it doesn’t occur to people naturally all the time… We live amidst an increasingly mindful existence in some ways, and a horribly (and rapidly-occurring) detached one in others. If people haven’t “met themselves” on a deeper level, they simply aren’t capable of meeting you at your vibrationally higher altitude.

It may be a challenge to disassociate and detach from others when their behaviors fall short in our eyes…but when we learn to do it, we can live a much more peaceful existence. ¬†I’ve worked on this one for a long time, and I’ve got many moons and miles yet to go – but progress is progress and knowing is absolutely¬†half (or more) or the battle.

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The Art Of Communication

This week a lot of friends have seemed to have had their share of communication breakdowns – on their side, or on the part of another person….parents, children, instructors, training partners. . .and it prompted me to think about it. ¬†You’d think Mercury was in retrograde! (Don’t worry, it isn’t for some weeks ūüėČ )¬†

It never ceases to amaze me, though, how similar situations can be, even when involving vastly different topics, completely different areas of Life, and totally different players.  Communication, however, is the underlying thread weaving it all together. . .

Communication isn’t relegated to one type of relationship, nor to specific people – it isn’t just about friendship, or marriage, or work, or family. . . ¬†Communication is what sets us apart – it’s what binds our species, allows us to function at high levels, to accomplish collective goals, to learn, to love, and to live. Communication isn’t in and of itself horribly complicated, but humans ARE. . .and that’s where it gets tricky. (Modern life does bring a few challenges as well…)

shoeboxblog.com Chuck & Beans

Emotions, preconceived notions, previous experiences and conditioning. . .it all plays a part in how we respond to stimulus. ¬†While humans are capable of incredible strength, that doesn’t mean we aren’t also highly sensitive (I know I am!) – the way in which we communicate is therefore as important as the words we are using. ¬†Words, keep in mind are defined differently, even among those were are most similar to – in this case, the nonverbal, the tone, and the delivery makes a difference.

A HUGE one.

 

Everyone has had their fair share of “stuff” – we’ve all been marred by life’s rough edges, nature’s unpredictability, and lessons we needed to struggle through in order to fully learn (I’m still learning quite a few, including the topic at hand.) ¬†As a result, most of us walk around with what I call “walls-at-the-ready” – we are kind of like collapsible fortresses just waiting for the moment to erect our barricades, and employ our moats. ¬†

Seriously…

So communication then can become a very delicate Рand powerful Рaffair.  

There is a true art to navigating what could easily become choppy seas (at our own hands – or our chosen communication.)¬†There are tons of articles, books, seminars out there (such as this one) but no matter which relationships they are intended to better, they speak to the same key principles. ¬†So it doesn’t matter if it’s your child, a new co-worker, a parent, a friend, a spouse, a sibling – the keys to communicating well focus on the same fundamental ideas, and can apply across the board.

LISTEN

Listening matters – listening with the intent to reply is not the same thing. ¬†We need to listen to hear and understand from the other person’s perspective. Whether or not we agree, feelings are just that – as such, they are valid even if we don’t “get it.”¬†

EMPATHIZE

Everyone wants empathy and to be understood Рno matter how much you may disagree, recognizing that the person speaking has a valid and true reality Рfor them Рhelps to bring them down a notch. Or several. 

MAINTAIN CALM CONVERSATION

People are open and responsive to calm conversation – the second the heat of anger is turned up, or promise of threat implied . . .POOF! . . .Barricades!

AVOID ATTACKING, BLAMING, SHAMING

People are (at least generally) open and responsive to discussion provided they aren’t in a corner – the slightest attack, criticism, blame, there go those walls again. ¬†What you want to convey will be shut out like an enemy coming in full force. No bueno, as they say…

STAY FOCUSED

Keeping the focus on the issue at hand makes for a cleaner conversation Рmuddling the mix with outlying topics that really have no part to play make a mess, quickly.  Not to mention a full suit of armor on the other side!

Usually communication is only difficult when it’s controversial – when it may cause discomfort (like embarrassment, anxiety, self doubt etc), when it’s about a touchy subject, (embarrassment, shame, etc), or it provokes a fear-based response (as in “fright or flight” – resulting from directed anger, frustration, for example.) At those times, that’s when we LEAST want to be gentle and “follow guidelines of effective communication”!! ¬†

But, as they say, a moment of patience can make a lifetime’s worth of difference.

Adorable! Seven Deadly Sins Cartoon: Anger
Written by Bearman Cartoons

Listen to the other person and, whether you agree or not, make the effort to recognize their view. ¬†Keep yourself calm, avoid blame and attacking, and stick to discussion mode – people will be far more able (and willing!) to receive, and are less likely to block you out. If you feel like you can’t contain the disappointment, anger, frustration etc, do something else until you can be calm.¬†

People are complicated, and so is Life. ¬†Even your best friends and closest family members meet discord from time to time (if they didn’t they wouldn’t be breathing!) that’s okay – it happens! ¬†We aren’t always going to see eye to eye, we aren’t always going to define terms the same way, and people aren’t always going to behave exactly the way we want all the time.

You say you’re a Martial Artist and I might take you at your “word.” (schoolofdisney.com image)

One of my favorite expressions is “how important is it?” It’s one I heard growing up, and it’s one I hear frequently today. ¬†As spoken at a dear friend’s wedding recently – in fact, by a very wise and learned woman – you can be right, or you can be happy. ¬†Again, this applies to all areas of life, and to all kinds of relationships…

For example, I’ve seen a marked change in my own relationships with family members over the years, and every so often I catch myself really thinking about how our interactions have (or haven’t!) evolved since childhood – sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it feels down-right painful. . .but Life doesn’t stop because I don’t agree with something, or I feel hurt.¬†

The more I can communicate effectively and in a kind way, the healthier all my interactions will be, and the better I – and others – will feel. ¬†That means learning to do things that maybe I’m not so great at, or challenging my mood at that moment, or, even tougher, changing things I’ve done my whole life – sometimes what used to work for us doesn’t anymore! I know I’m a work in progress…but I am working at it, because there are areas in which I know I can do better.

I loved this excerpt, read by a friend recently, as it captures the essence of the idea perfectly:

” Today being aware of the words I use, I am learning to communicate more responsibly. ¬†I not only share in a more straightforward manner, but I also argue in a healthier way. ¬†There are better was to express myself than to say ‘you did such and such to me.’ I can talk about myself and my feelings. ¬†I can explain the way I experienced something rather than telling the person how he or she made me feel…¬†

“…We learn in time that it is not the subjects which are controversial, but the manner in which we communicate about them and the elements of personal blame we add to them in anger.”

CTC by AFG p 176.

Effective, healthy, and happy communication can be accomplished, but it does take a little work. ¬†We are thrown to the wolves in many ways, and learn to swim in the deep end by trial and error – there aren’t structured courses in school about interpersonal relationships, and workplaces don’t exactly help you along either! Unless we seek out our own kind of learning, it feels a lot like a shot in the dark, especially when we meet new people, are navigating a new job etc… Even when it comes to parents and children who’ve been together for a lifetime – life changes! ¬†I recently was reflecting on how I could do a better job of understanding, as well as responding to a parent differently.

If things aren’t being communicated as smoothly as you’d like, or you feel it’s complicated and overwhelming, know it is NOT a lost cause. The phrase “DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU” works really nicely – that’s basically the gist of it. ¬†So if all else fails, just think about how you’d want to hear criticism, or how you would want someone to convey some tough news. ¬†When we are in that kind of a mindset, we usually are off to a great start.

Here’s to the journey of Life! ‚̧¬†

 

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