A couple of days ago we finished our beautiful Mindful Living and Mindful Leadership retreat in Bali. A group of gorgeous adventurous ‘randoms’ (as one retreater called them a couple of years ago) connected and were amazed at how quickly they form intimate bonds of the heart with people they only just met. Is compassion and kindness just underneath the surface, ready to be unleashed if only given the right conditions? Mindfulness along with beauty, kindness, curiosity and some good massages seem to provide exactly the right conditions! But of course, it happens every where every day, sometimes just in the small interactions between us.
The last couple of months have involved a lot of travel for me. Conferences, hotels and many, many trips with taxi drivers, from India, Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia, Macedonia, Australia, Egypt, and Bali. So many conversations.
I have been updated about the world cup soccer, I have heard the tough history of the Sikhs (the different lengths of fabric that Sikhs use for their headdress and that it takes ten minutes to wind the 6.4 meters into a secure position on the head) and of an old Turkish remedy for epileptic fits (holding an onion over the nose of the one fitting).
I have also experienced so much kindness, engagement and openness.
An Ethiopian driver in Chicago; big smile, good eyes and a warm groundedness about him, had come to the US through his wife who had won the US Visa Lottery. He asked me if we could cope without electricity in Australia, as his mother had brought up twelve children without electricity. He was keen to get my commitment that on the way back to the airport I would not take a taxi, it was a waste of money, since I only had one bag, I could easily go on the train for only $2.50!
A Korean driver loved his church, he showed the videos that he recorded every Sunday so those with disabilities could still access the sermon. I asked him about Trump, he said: ‘He is a Christian.’ I asked: ‘Are you sure?’ He repeated: ‘He is a Christian’.
A participant in a mindfulness at work program shared the story of how she had been in a rush getting to the airport followed by a series of small irritations. Once seated in the plane, seat belt on and magazine ready for a relax, the woman in the window seat arrived. She got up, and the woman took some time trying to get her jacket off. She could feel the irritation at being inconvenienced. As they both were seated, she asked about her trip, the lady said that she had visited her sister and that her daughter had organised the trip to celebrate her having just finished treatment for breast cancer. With this information, the heart opened in an ocean of compassion, followed by shame and reflection.
We have all experienced a similar situation, we get caught in our own little world, blind to what others might experience and yet just under our self-preoccupied lives, compassion and kindness is there. It is up to us to uncover it.
As my Ethiopian driver and I pulled into the driveway of the hotel a lady was about to cross the road, she waved him to go ahead. He smiled, laughed and said: ‘she just helped me.’ What a blessed attitude.