Mother, you gave birth to me – you gave me life and all that come with it,

Mother, you carried me when I was too weak to walk,

Mother, you put your life at risk many times to save mine,

Mother, your courage, your determination, your love is what brought me from Kashmir to the UK,

Mother, in that act alone you changed my life, my destiny,

Mother, you believed in me and encouraged me to do well at school.

Mother, when I was in hospital you told me “Son your body is not strong, your mind is strong – use your mind to make your life”,

Mother,with that instruction you changed my life a second time,

Mother, I remember you would either bring me a cup or tea or  tell me to go to sleep when I was studying late for my O and A levels,

Mother, you nursed me and brought me back to health when I damaged my knee at University,

Mother, this week you welcomed me to your home and even though you are not able to look after yourself you still looked after me,

Mother, I struggle to find a way to look after you and at the same time take care of my responsibilities to my wife and children,

Mother, when I think of you and your situation I feel helpless, I feel ashamed – no matter what I do, it is not right, it is not enough,

Mother, being helpless is what I struggle with the most and that is why I keep you out of mind,

Mother, I love you, I hope that you can forgive me for not doing for you what you have always done for me,

Mother, my heart tears and my eyes swim with tears.

As you travel through life leave behind you the footsteps of kindness

Last week one of my sons was dealing with a friendship issue.  I found myself telling him that there are all kinds of friends: friends you play sports with, friends you hang around with,  friends you invite home, friends you go on holidays with, friends you share your stuff with and friends that you’d die for.

My son asked me a questioned that I had never thought about: “Papa which friend would you die for?”  Without any effort the answer came: my friend Tim.  Now why is that?

Over 20 years ago Tim learnt that my young brother and sister were coming down to London to spend a week with me – holiday.  Tim not only offered me his prized possession – his Saab – he got me insured on it, he drove it down to my place, showed me how to drive it and left me the keys.  Not once did I think about asking for his Saab, nor did I ask for it.  It all came from him – an act of pure kindness.

This incident got me thinking of another incident some years ago.  At my aunt’s funeral I was astonished to find my young brother as one of the pole bearers.  This is a young man who has kept himself aloof from his aunts, uncles and cousins for many many years.  So I asked him why he was present at the funeral and why he had insisted on carrying her coffin and seeing it put into the ground.

He told me that when he was young (age five or less) his foot hurt.  He had told our mother and father and they had paid no attention to his pain.  Yet when he happened to go with our mother to visit this aunt she noticed that there was something wrong with his leg.  She took a look at it and figured out that his ankle was sprained.  So she took him – right away – to see someone who specialised in putting that kind of thing right.  To cut a long story short: my aunt had removed his pain, his suffering and he remembered that for some 30  years!

When I die all that will remain is the footsteps that I have left in the memories of my fellow human beings.  Let those footsteps be the footsteps of generosity, kindness and compassion illustrated by my friend Tim and by my aunt.

Criticism doesn’t work, NVC can work

I am perplexed.  Why is it that when we want to get a change of behaviour from a fellow human being we condemn, criticise and blame?  What makes us think that these behaviours will create affinity with our fellow human beings and get them to give us what we want?

As a human being I want to get along with my fellow human beings- especially those that are in my inner circle.  Not only do I want to get along I want people to like me.   I want to be included not excluded. I want people to think highly of me.  Even that is not enough I want affinity even intimacy with a select few. That means I want to close the emotional and the physical gap between me and the people that matter to me.

If I am a normal human being what do I do – automatically?  I judge. I criticise.  I condemn.  Who do I criticise?  The people closest to me – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues etc. What does that get me?  Distance – the one that is criticised withdraws, sulks, becomes aggressive or waits for the day that he can pay back in kind.  Why does that happen?  Most human beings are fragile: even without being aware of it we are constantly looking for approval, we detest being put down and we strive to avoid or punish those that put us down.

It strikes me that if I want to create affinity with another human being then the tools to use are acknowledgement, praise and saying ‘thank you’.  These tools are particularly important if there is any distance in the relationship and I want to reduce that distance. Only when the distance is closed is the time right to ask for what I want in a way that works.   Marshall Rosenberg has developed such a method: NVC – Non Violent Communication; he has written a book called Non Voilent Communication.

So why is it that whilst excellent communication methods exist to bridge the gap between me and you, you and I continue to use the tried and tested methods that create greater distance and greater enmity?

I forgive you as I get that I do not often / always practice what I preach.  Can you grant me what you grant yourself often – forgiveness and acceptance?

If you want family then remove the tv

The tv broke down some days ago.  I was delighted as I had been hoping that it would break down and I could access to using the living room – my favourite room for reading, talking and just relaxing.  For one of my children – the oldest – the world had suddenly caved in – he is addicted to watching tv.  For the youngest – it is a survivable pain.  And the middle one – who is used to entertaining himself – is not that bothered.

Here is what I have noticed:

  • we talk a lot more with each other and we laugh a lot more;
  • we play games with each other;
  • the children help with household chores – like cooking meals;
  • the children spend more time in their bedrooms doing private activities like reading or drawing;
  • the children go outside more – like taking walks;
  • there is a lot less fighting in the house as there is less to fight about; and
  • I feel at home again.

I am quite clear that introducing or removing television from the home is a revolutionary act.  With it in the house, it becomes the most important thing and the people in the house become slaves to it.  By removing it, our family – all of us – have became creators, authors of our lives.  And we work much better as a family.

Our true nature is loving kindness

Two days ago I was driving on a main road going 40mph when I saw a pheasant cross the country road.  Instantly, without thinking, I braked whilst intently watching the pheasant cross the road.  When the pheasant made it across the road I noticed that my whole being relaxed – my body relaxed, my breathing eased and the whole of me smiled.

Later that day I went to see my solicitor.  When I left his office it was raining and the rain got harder as I walked to the car park.  Whilst I was walking to my car I noticed a couple of people who were arriving in the car park.  So I opened my car, retrieved the ticket – as it had several hours of parking left – and walked over to man who had just got out of his car and offered him the ticket.  He accepted the ticket, said nothing, looked puzzled.  As he accepted the ticket I felt happy – I had stepped out of my self centred world and did something for someone else.

This one act of kindness lifted my spirits.  What did it cost me?  If I had been selfish I would have paid 60p for the car park ticket.  Instead I had chosen to contribute to a fellow human being and so had paid for a £1.20 ticket knowing that I did not need car parking for several hours.  So it cost me 60p to lift my spirits – to put a smile on my face and to create a kinder world for an instant.   A bargain.

When I examine these two incidents and some of the other incidents that make me proud of myself I get that my true nature is one of loving kindness towards life.   Whilst this is so it is not obvious that it is so – not to myself and not to others.  Why?  Because the mirror gets covered with the dust of every day living until it is no longer possible to see the mirror – only the hardened dirt is evident.

How many of my fellow human beings are in the same boat as me?  I choose to believe that the true nature of almost all of my fellow human beings is loving kindness.  And when they are not exhibiting it, it is only because they are trapped in the daily life of surviving and fixing.  Just like me.

How I transformed my mood in an instant and other learnings

Yesterday my wife and I sat down to talk.  She called the meeting as she was upset with me. As we sat down to talk my wife shared her frustrations:

a) I had made a decision – to cancel paytv – that impacted the family without consulting her;

b) I had been impatient with her in front of my mother and that had caused her pain as it had ruined a special occasion;

c) I had not done enough to win her back – to let her know that I got her pain and that I was doing everything in my power to make amends.

Well we talked.  More accurately my wife talked about her upset and my insensitivity to her needs.  When I mentioned that I rarely made any decisions without consulting her.  It did not count.  What mattered was that I had said that I was not going to renew the paytv subscription.  When I said that I had been floating a kite to see her reaction.  I was told that I should not play games.  So I gave up and just listened to her frustration.  Whilst I was listening to her criticism of me I got that when you want something from someone criticism is not the path to takeA better, much better, path is to share your pain in a way that leaves the listener touched and inspired to take action. I got that whilst I know the route to take, I rarely take it when I am focussed on myself and my concerns.

Then we got on the the major upset: my being a jerk – once – at my mothers house when my wife wanted my help in presenting her gifts to my mother.  I listened to the upset and I explained that once I had realised I had been a jerk I had apologised.  First I had apologised on the phone as we were in different locations. And when I came home, I apologised and given her a hug.   In my wife’s world that just did not count.  I had not done enough for her to get that I had gotten her pain. And importantly I had not humbled myself enough – to show that I was truly sorry. I did not react well to this initially – I mentioned all the actions I had taken since being a jerk to make up for being a jerk.  In my wife’s book that simply did not count.

The more I put forward my point of view the more my wife resisted my point of view.  I got that when someone wants to talk he/she wants the listener to listen.  Yet the natural reaction of most listeners is to defend.  By defending they invite more attack.

At this point there were two forks on the road. Continue to defend and my wife would continue to resist.  Or give up my point of view and accept my wife’s point of view.  I choose the second.  As I started listening to my wife go over the matter again I started to feel down, really down.  I was feeling down as I was feeling sorry for myself: trapped, unappreciated, misunderstood…. And the more my wife talked the more down I became.  I even wondered if it was worth living – and convinced myself it was not.

Then in an instant I switched to a completely different state. A state where I felt powerful, in control, in a position to grant a request.  How did I do this?   I remembered a passage that I had read earlier that day.  The passage had drawn my attention to the fact that one can either be a master or a slave.  A master (of self) chooses his/her mood irrespective of the circumstances he/she faces.  The slave is the slave because he/she reacts to circumstances – his response, his state of mind depends on external circumstances.  If the circumstances are favourable then he is happy.  If they are not then he is unhappy, negative, feeling oppressed and so forth.

On remembering the passage I chose to be the master of myself.  I chose to be in a good mood.  I chose to grant my wife her views without any resentment.  I chose to give my wife a hug.

That choice brought the upset and the conversation to an end.  We  both walked away from the conversation content.  We walked to the bedroom and I gave her a hug until she fell asleep.  It turned out that all she wanted as me to listen to her powerfully and gracefully.  To get her perspective – as a master not as a victim.  And above all she wanted a hug – to know that I still love her.  I went to sleep amazed that I had changed my state in an instant – really in a second or two.