Last week, I went to an Italian friend’s fancy dress party to celebrate her passing her British citizenship test. The theme: Best of British.
When I pointed out that I felt uncomfortable walking up the street in my Union Jack sequin number because, we Brits don’t feel that there is anything positive to celebrate about being British right now, she looked rather hurt. ‘But getting our British Citizenship is really important to us.’
Nothing demonstrates to me more the importance of perception and a flexible perspective.
Right now, we see our political enemies lined up: Brexiteers, Trump, Putin as solid, negative, indelible forces of opposition.
Yet there is always a way through. An Oxford cardiologist researcher told me that the UK academic research community are just forging new direct connections with European counterparts. Strangely, he thought, relationships would be even stronger after Brexit.
From a Mindfulness perceptive, as important are the words American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, ‘If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man life’s sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all the hostility.’
One amazing bi-product of Mindfulness practice is feeling sympathetic joy for even people we dislike or find very difficult. It comes from compassion: everyone suffers, especially those being aggressive or unpleasant to others. Boy, do they suffer.
It’s not about suddenly becoming saccharine and loving everyone, but simply appreciating the suffering that is present in everyone’s lives.
If we are totally honest, sometimes we also struggle to celebrate other peoples’ happiness. Not only their material success and possessions, but also the qualities they have. Perhaps their ease and ability to ride even the hard times.
If we dig deep, what this is about is assuming that happiness and success in life are limited resources – the more one person has, the less there is for others, particularly us.
We are fearful that we will be deprived. Think of the English words: ‘Eaten up by Envy’. We often lurch vicariously into other people’s lives.
Only our perceptive about their experience and life is often imagined. Our illusion.
So too is boredom. When you come close to the nature of things, you quickly realise that boredom isn’t what it seems. Inevitably, it’s about not paying enough attention. To the little details always available to give us joy and happiness: a beautiful dawn, the taste of our first coffee, the yellow of our poached eggs.
When we appreciate the beauty and joy present in every moment of our present lives, whatever is going on for us, we change our perceptive forever.