This blog post is not just an attempt to be deep, appear insightful or in some way stand up for what is “right”. It is really to acknowledge and recognise the amount of suffering and ill will that is being felt in my adopted hometown of Barcelona (and indeed around the world) . I have wanted to comment from a personal perspective but really have needed a week to collect my thoughts. This is not a political statement. This is a human statement.
This weekend I found myself seeing the horrifying images of police officers attacking their fellow defenceless unarmed citizens. Whatever your position on the referendum, I know that to be able to do this one has to be coerced into doing so or truly believe in what you are doing.
Coincidentally and quite fortunately I also found myself in a retreat being facilitated by three friends of mine who are very skilled at pointing to what lies behind the human experience. Phillipe Bartu, Juan José Quesada and Jacquie Forde teach an understanding that has recently made a great shift in my personal life and as I too begin to share it also, my friends and clients.
Through exercises, deep enquiry and learning how to be present we examined our own thoughts, beliefs and experience in a way that most people never get the chance to do. While the madness of the referendum violence (October 1st,2017) was going on, we found ourselves in a wonderful peaceful space and it is that space I want to point to.
One of the exercises we did was deep listening exercise where we listened to another person talk about a random topic that was important to them. This was do in a particular way: we did not listen to answer, comment or in anyway give advice. We listened to be present and mindful with our own moment-to-moment experience of ourselves.
One thing became absolutely clear was that I’m not the great listener I think I am. I’ve gotten infinitely better over the last few years of working with clients, but I still found my attention going to my opinions, imagination, conjecture and wandering… this is from a person that thinks that somewhere, somehow that he’s a pretty conscious guy.
It also became clear that the basic intention to listen without judgement created a space where we both felt free to speak freely and a sense of freedom to explore our own thinking that normally is not present in everyday conversation. And then something dawned on me, something so simple that I miss it time and time again. This person in front of me is having their own personal experience of me, through their thinking and their perspective…just as I am having my own experience of them. And if that is true then everybody in the room is in the same boat: having a personal experience of their lives moment by moment through their thinking about whatever is in front of them. This was taught on one of my very first Neuro-Linguistic Practitioner training as “everyone has their map of the world”. I thought that was a deep thought and a really good idea to keep in mind when communicating with others, but when you experience it for yourself, time and time again it becomes a knowing a Truth, that you cannot “un-see”.
So what does this have to do with the situation here in Barcelona? Well it is more about the human situation/condition than anything else.
There is one thing that I know deep down inside but sometimes it is important to refresh it every now and again. As living beings We ALL want to be happy. We all want to be free from suffering, either physically or emotionally.
It is all too easy to lose this understanding when we get caught up in negative emotions like fear, resentment, or ill will. It is so easy to be swayed and manipulated by forces seemingly outside of us to act on these emotions when we don’t realise the source: our own thinking. Whether these be political forces or economic, it really doesn’t matter… when we believe that our wellbeing, our piece of mind, stability comes from outside of us in the form of perfect circumstances we will act on the outside to change that. We do this without ever having the presence of mind to stop, and observe whether these actions will really help our circumstances or make them worse.
One thing I now for sure is that it is a miserable person that turns to violence to change their outer world. Sad. But they wont realise it until they do and that has nothing to do with you. So whether it is the political situation of the many objectively terrible circumstances many find themselves living all over this planet, I ask you to remain SOBER. This is an acronym for a useful technique from Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
Stop. Observe. Breathe. Expand your awareness. React mindfully.
This is so simple and really worth doing in times of emotional difficulty. Try it, practice and notice the difference it makes in your life.