When things are not going well for us, we tend to go inside (both physically and literally) and huddle. There, in our state of misery we stay until we think that things will get better and we can emerge from under the covers and re-engage with life. Yet the longer we stay in that cover, the longer we take to heal. Reaching out and opening up to others helps to make our own sorrow go quickly. It is not simply about positive thinking. It is about taking action. When our own heart is full of sorrow, it is then we need to reach out and help others overcome their own. In doing so- whether by listening or helping with chores- this active engagement with others and with life, helps us to overcome our disappointment and sadness. In such ways, our problems become our ‘mission’- they are no longer obstacles but they are opportunities for growth and renewal. After going through the pain of several miscarriages, I went on to help others who had suffered similarly. When finally my son was born, alive and kicking, I realised that even if I had another miscarriage, I was already healed. Kindness towards others helps us heal mentally and physically-
There are many new movements around the world, calling for ‘Random acts of kindness’- latest trends on twitter is about someone leaving money in secret locations or buying coffee for others. However, we don’t always have to spend money. The kindest act someone has done for me which I will never forget consisted of being there and being silent. She just held out tissues while I cried after losing my fifth baby after five months of pregnancy. This woman did not say irritating or hurtful things like, “Don’t cry”- “You can always get pregnant again”- “it was only a miscarriage”- “At least you are alive” etc etc which others did in misguided acts of kindness. She did not have children of her own but yet understood how difficult it was for me. I bumped into her two days ago after ten years. I only had to say, “Do you remember?” She nodded and I squeezed her hand silently. One never forgets true kindness.
‘The voice does the Buddha’s work’.
Our soul is manifested through the words we speak. We may be nervous, excited, happy or sad- our emotions cannot be hidden when we speak. Despite different cultures and languages, we share the universality of human tones – we can identify grief, passion, anger or any other emotion spoken in any language. I have travelled to 36 countries and although I do not speak so many languages, I have always been able to tell the emotion behind the words. Our voices can be used to admonish or to encourage. Mostly it is the encouraging, warm tones of our voice that does the creative and good work. Sometimes we are so keen to get our point across that we lose the listener’s heart.
Like emails, words cannot be taken back. I have heard people lie because they have been embarrassed by what theyhave said in a fit and then do not want to acknowledge those words later. Words can hurt and stay in another’s psyche long after the speaker has stopped saying them or disowned them. Through being hurt, I have learnt myself to be soft with words, to speak lightly.
The most powerful thing I have heard about last words came from Benjamin Zander, the British born conductor and music Director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He was describing a lady’s experience of being in the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was fifteen at the time and with her eight year old brother, on a train bound for the notorious camp. Their parents had already been taken away separately. In the train, the girl noticed that her brother’s shoes were missing. She was angry at him, “You are so stupid. Can’t you even keep your shoes?” He did not reply, ashamed and she did not speak to him again. She of course, meant the rebuke in a big sisterly fashion. But those were the last words she ever said to him because she never saw him again. When she came out of the camp alive, the only person from her family to have made it, she made a vow. Her vow was to “never say anything that could not stand as the last thing [she] ever said to a person”.
I thank this unknown woman for her wisdom learnt in harrowing circumstances and follow her spirit.