Hope is the word and emotion that comes to me when I think of waiting. Afterall, we are always waiting and hoping things will work out; someone will change, new doors will open, problems will be resolved and the list of hopeful waiting is as long as our optimistic thoughts of eventually arriving at the perfect outcome.
Admittedly, waiting has never been my strength. Although as I have matured and experienced the consequences of pushing through instead of waiting, I have developed a preference for pausing and considering before pushing. It’s been a slow and painful process and I know I’m not alone in this evolution. Nonetheless, I know there is something more in the waiting process I need to discover. As the longstanding quote acknowledges, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." Of course, we do have to wait for the teacher to appear, but eventually he or she does and the learning occurs.
In my uncomfortableness in waiting for certain things to happen this new year, I was beginning to feel disappointed that January 2020 had passed and nothing really changed. February is upon me as I write this piece and just a few days ago, commenting to a salon client my frustration around waiting, she suggested a book: When the Heart Waits , by Sue Monk Kidd. Here came the teacher.
The book is a reminder that we are all waiting and are uncomfortable in the waiting. Whether waiting in line at a bank, grocery store, or airport, we wait and are told to wait and stay in line. No matter which line or for how long, most of us don’t like it. The author writes about waiting as a rich and abundant space for transformation. She reveals a personal crisis of waiting…. waiting for what she calls the answers to the sacred questions. She writes, “Is it possible, I asked myself, that I’m being summoned from some deep and holy place within. Am I being asked to enter a new passage in the spiritual life—the journey from false self to true self?” Throughout the book she goes on to explore the ways in which waiting is essential for transformation toward the eventual essence of who we finally become, our true selves, the spiritual self.
During the author's time of crisis, while out on a walk, she comes across a cocoon on a twig, which she takes home and carefully tapes the twig with the cocoon to a crab-apple tree in her backyard. Of course, we all know that ‘helping’ and disturbing a caterpillar inside its cocoon risks botching the transformation and ending the life of the butterfly. She compares waiting for the butterfly to develop to the incubation of life itself from chicken eggs, plants in soil, to a human being. All the while, waiting actively.
I am unable to share the immense richness of stories, honesty and healing through waiting within the pages of the book, but this I learned for sure; weeks after finding the cocoon, Sue Monk Kidd witnessed the butterfly pushing out of the chrysalis, now transformed. The butterfly waits and waits a bit more before she trusts her wings will take her up to the sky, and then after waiting…she flies.
Wishing you a sense of active waiting….no matter where you’re waiting.
We long for belonging because we are made to belong to each other. In South Africa, the word, Ubuntucomes from the Zulu language. Its root means “I am because of you,” or we are not totally human without one another, and because we have the other, we are made whole in our humanity and become fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. Understanding the true meaning of Ubuntumeans understanding how openheartedness, compassion, and interrelatedness are essential and foundational to our well-being and all of our relationships, both personal and professional.
As a psychologist, marriage and family therapist, bereavement and child specialist, I am dedicated to bringing joy and healing to relationships of all types. As an attachment therapist, I understand, at a very fundamental level, the vital role and influence relationships play throughout a lifetime and beyond. The impact of a secure or insecure relationship sounds a gong that, for generations, echoes and reverberates into the future. For good or ill, the impression made is structured into our DNA, our body, our health, our actions, and our attitudes. Most importantly, it is stamped into the capacity of future generations to love and be loved.
The science of interpersonal neurobiology studies the science of relationships. It proposes that from our birth, the development of our brain, body, and even our thinking and emotional states, are shaped and sculpted either by others’ love and care or by the absence of those vital elements. Relationships in both our professional and personal lives determine our success or failure, our happiness or despair, and our health or our illness. The findings are conclusive and well proven. The amazing on-going, seventy-five-year-old Harvard Study of Adult Development, begun in the 1930s, has found that good relationships keep us healthier and happier. The study has proven the absence of loving, compassionate, caring relationships, with those whom we trust and love, impacts not only our level of happiness and satisfaction, but also our wellness.
On the world happiness ranking scale, out of 140 nations in the world, the United States ranks 108. The 2018 study ranked Finland as the happiest. Also, among the top ten happiest countries are New Zealand, Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway. All of the top ten happiest countries share in common a focus on social, gender, and financial equality to ensure well-being for all. The higher-ranked happiness countries seem to be ones whose governments are connected in a partnership with, and are responsive to, the needs of their people. They are the most socially progressive countries with the least corruption. The lower the happiness ranking of a country, the less emphasis there is on meeting the needs of the many. Rather, value is placed on a “zero sum” philosophy that prioritizes and justifies the needs and self-interested actions of the individual above the needs of the many.
What makes usdeeply happy as individuals, like countries, is understanding and having deeply connected, reciprocal, positive relationships meeting our and the other’s needs. Richard Davidson, a leading neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin has identified the “happiest man in the world.” His name is Matthieu Ricard. He is a sixty-nine-year-old scientist and a Tibetan Buddhist monk, who has spent many years with the Dalai Lama. Davidson conducted twelve years of research on the monk and labeled him “the world’s happiest man.” His research found “Ricard’s brain produced a level of gamma waves—those linked to positive consciousness, attention, learning, and memory—never reported before in neuroscience literature.” Ricard’s recorded brain waves denoting happiness were at a level 800 times higher than ever recorded.
When Ricard spoke at the World Economic Form, and when he speaks to world business leaders around the globe, his advice is to stop thinking me, me, me.He said, “Thinking only about yourself and how to make things better for you is exhausting and stressful and ultimately leads to unhappiness… because when you think that way, you perceive everyone else as a threat to you getting what you want, and that will make you miserable. Instead let your mind be filled with benevolence and contentment.”
Ricard’s advice to world leaders is well supported by neuroscientific research. We now know the brain can be rewired for positivity. Individuals can break out of self-focused, negative thought patterns by taking fifteen minutes a day to quietly think only happy thoughts and thoughts of gratitude. Both in our business and personal lives, if we seek to, we can become an example of Ubuntu—of openheartedness, kindness, and compassion. We can develop and understand that “I’m because of you”and “You are because of me.” In relationships, we cannot snarl and snap protectively over our bone for fear others will snatch it from us. Rather, benevolence, kindness, and caring for others grows a bud that flowers into happiness and fulfillment.
Here is the big, important thought. Ultimately, we are not separate, one from the other. What we do to the other, we inflict upon our self. Through our anger and our forgiveness, with our hurt and with our tenderness, through our tears and with our joy, in each relationship, we co-create each other, and a new, ever-developing self, capable of true honesty and true love. By seeing through the illusion of separateness, we begin to understand that, through our love or our anger, we shape and form each other and are inseparable. It is only when led hand-in-hand by compassion and love, we find what we are truly longing for… the happiness and exquisite joy of belonging to one another.
Have you ever noticed something for the first time and then realized it had been there all along? Although it’s stimulating to read the tabloids, social media and advertisements that boast that women have finally discovered their voices, the voices of brave women have been heard from the beginning of time. Throughout history women have stepped forward and courageously asserted themselves in groundbreaking areas of business, education, social justice, politics, and medicine, design and space and have been activists in all manners of building new foundations for women to stand upon.
Brave Women in History
The fallacy that women had to use their physical attractiveness to get what they wanted could have stopped with Cleopatra VII Phiopator. In actuality, her ‘beauty’ is the greatest myth that defines her legacy. It also undermines her real power. Far from the Hollywood version of Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of her, Cleopatra spoke as many as twelve languages and was educated in mathematics, philosophy, oratory and astronomy. According to Plutarch who wrote about Cleopatra, “For it was not because her beauty in itself was so striking that it stunned the onlooker, but the inescapable impression produced by daily contact with her: the attractiveness in the persuasiveness of her talk, and the character that surrounded her conversation was stimulating.”
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old-Africna-American seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on the Montgomery City bus and in her own humble words said, “all I was doing was trying to get home from work.” In actuality, she did infinitely more: she became an overnight figurehead for the civil rights movement in the US. This isolated act and a single reply – “no, I’m not” – ignited a boycott which continued for 381 days until the city repealed its law enforcing racial segregation on public buses. Rosa’s fearless rejection of racial segregation made her ‘the first lady of civil rights’.
Mother Theresa and Florence Nightingale committed their lives to helping others spiritually and physically and assuredly they voiced strong preferences and acted accordingly to get what they needed in order to succeed in their unselfish endeavors. Marie Curie, Clara Barton, Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart, to list a few more in the roster of brave women in history could not have arrived at their significant lives without speaking up and standing up for what they believed in. For we know that history was not created by those who sat back and said nothing.
There are millions of women who are standing up for what they know is right and important for our world to heal, unite and prosper collectively. They have been a constant presence in our lives and their voices have been there all along. Yet, we have not heard their message of living braver, effective lives. Similar to the women in history, we currently have Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown, Dr. Sue Johnson, Liz Wiseman and Kristi Hedges, just to mention a few authors who are trail blazers, forward thinkers with messages for self-discovery and self-discipline.
Brave Women in Politics and Philanthropy
There are courageous women who have stepped into power in politics, technology, business, philanthropy and media whose voices are strong and affecting lives globally in positive ways. In the political arena, we will hear the voices of Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor: Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK; Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile: Supreme Court Justices, Elena Kagen, Ruth Ginsburg and Sonia Soto Mayor. Women CEO’s include Mary Barra, GM; Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo; Rosalind Brewer, Starbucks; Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics; and Melinda Gates business leader, philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which strives to improve global health and education. There is no other more popular media giant than billionaire Oprah Winfrey. Her voice through her internationally recognized talk show, unmistakably powerful and effective! Again, this is a very short list of the brilliant and committed women whose voices are being heard, and changes are occurring toward the betterment of our world because of their efforts. These women have been there and one after another continue to show up and stand up more courageous and fortified with resources that never existed for their predecessors. Currently, more women own businesses than ever before and are making a defined mark in every area of commerce and social integrity. They are determined and disciplined to go the distance to succeed, not only to accomplish their personal goals but to continue to build foundations for women to stand upon.
A Measure of Bravery
None of us are absolutely sure of where life is taking us next. No matter how planned we are and how much we want, life is still a mystery. However, there is a theme that is clearly gaining momentum with women: together we will stand taller and have stronger voices. Stop looking at what fell and instead celebrate and encourage what’s still standing. Don’t destroy each other, instead lift one another on a path that respects and values women as powerful and competent leaders. Remember that words are influential and creative. Similarly, don’t allow any woman to diminish your value and gift to the world. Stand up for yourself and take your place firmly in who you have become.
How brave are you? Become brave enough to discover who you are and discipline yourself to be all that you can be…for what happens for one, happens for us all.