Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Category: Social

Have You Eaten?

I could never quite figure out the social sequence of a greeting in Australia. 

“How are you?”

“Good. And you?”

“Good, thanks.”

To me, that’s bizarre. 

One of my first few days at my clinical practice after moving from Singapore to Australia, I walked passed my colleague at frontdesk and said, “Hey Tandy! Have you eaten?” I don’t think you need to be a psychologist to figure out that the contorted eyebrows tells you you’ve just asked a rather peculiar question.

“Huh?”

“Oh… erm, have you eaten,” as if she had hearing difficulty.

“…erm, yes. I have.”

“Ok.”

Social conventions are cultivated like a hotpot of ingredients, people, and time. In my home country, asking someone “have you eaten,” is akin to “how are you.” It’s a hello, not an invitation to take you for lunch or tell your life-story. Even though I’m by default highly colonised by Western ways of thinking, I had some adapting to do in my social greeting. I still secretly want to ask people “have you had your lunch?”

~~~

Culture comes from the Latin cultus, which means care. Today is World Day for Cultural Diversity. We need to go beyond the notion of ‘religious tolerance’ (I mean, saying to someone “I tolerate you” is only something an embittered spouse would say to her husband who has eaten a burger with 2 serves of onions).

 

Especially in this liminal times, in every culture, we are each other’s healthcare workers. When we begin to un-quarantine ourselves, I recommend we do this through the invitation for a meal.

The table is a fine piece of technology. The table is not just a furniture. It patiently waits for you to bring people together. I propose the table to be the central architectural and spiritual force for diversity.

Want cultural diversity? Ask someone “Have you eaten? Wanna join me for a meal?” Maybe even ask your guest to “bring a plate.”*

 

Footnote: 

*Nearly 2 decades ago, when I was a student in Queensland, it took a kind-hearted Irish lady to explain to my then girlfriend-now-wife and I that bringing a plate means that we need to put some food on top of that plastic dinnerware.

Homeschooling?

A Smorgasbord of Tips to Keep Your Kids Engaged, Learning and Connected During Home Isolation.

Note: This article is cross-posted on two of my blog sites, Frontiers of Psychotherapist Development  and Full Circles. While FPD aims to help therapists, and FC is more for a general audience, I figured professionals and parents might equally benefit from this.

Click on the buttons below to receive an entire list of ideas to engage your kids during this pandemic that has affected all across the world…plus more relevant resources to dig in a little further!

DOWNLOAD THE HOMESCHOOLING GUIDE

When we were having our first child, we decided that we are going to enlist the help of a Doula. “Do-what?” you might say. Here’s an explainer.

The way I saw it, she was like our personal coach and companion before, during and after the birthing process, a critical bridgecrossing phase.

What we learned about our doula Catherine was that not only did she have 4 kids, they were all homeschooled!

Maybe your reaction is like my wife and I. How is that humanly possible to home school a kid 24/7, let alone 4?!

I can imagine Catherine’s response to us neophytes at trying to homeschool our kids during this outbreak. Truth is, from what I’ve understood from Catherine and reading books on homeschooling (e.g., I highly recommend Brave Learner by Julie Bogart or check out this website), what the majority of us are doing is nowhere near  what homeschooling really is about. It’s more like “isolated”  schooling. The “home” in homeschooling is not confined to our place of residence. It’s much more expansive than outsiders might think (If you are interested, read more about Jonathan Holt’s views on homeschooling.

But this doesn’t mean that we should throw our hands up. What are going to do stuck at home with our kids during this pandemic? Maybe you might be confronted with feeling inadequate as a parent, but the truth is, parenting is less like a fixed classical music piece with musical sheets to follow, but more like a jazz improvisational jam; you never know what’s come next.

When I first read Jonathan Holt’s seminal book, How Children Learn, I remember one of the early advice in his writing was “to trust kids.” This could not be further from my educational experience growing up in Singapore. Schools told you what to learn. What Holt, and perhaps more Montessori-typed schools promote is to be child-directed.

But if you dig a little further, Maria Montessori said,

 ”Follow your child, but follow your child as his leader.” 

 

There is no other more important thing for parent(s) to take the lead than during a critical crisis period that has swept the world.  We have to “follow your child” and their curiosity, but also dance in this fragile balance of exercising leadership.

I argue that the leadership we need as parents is to design our home environments that nurtures not only the mind, but also feed the soul with how they experience humanity and the world around us. (While we try to juggle working from home and caring for others, be it elderly parents and young ones).

The last few weeks, my family and I, like many others around the world, have been in home isolation. My wife and younger child developed symptoms of fever and cough, and the only prudent thing to do was to self-isolate for the next few weeks. We don’t know if it’s COVID-19, as they do not meet the criteria for testing, but speaking to our GP on a telehealth consult was reassuring.

 

DOWNLOAD THE HOMESCHOOLING GUIDE

We are all homeschoolers now.

Like it or not, we are all homeschoolers now. As a recent article states, this pandemic “will bring about an education reevaluation, if not revolution” of how our education system.

Majority of the ideas in this list to keep your kids engaged, learning and connected during these home-bound times were “guinea pigged” in our family of four, with our 6 and 3-year-olds. Some were figured out along the way, and many were grafted from resources I’ve picked up across the years (see below for some of the good ones), and others were employed through the years in my work with families as a therapist.

If you would like to have a buffet of ideas to engage your kids, moving beyond just “isolated” schooling and borrow some of the richness of homeschooling during this period of home isolation, click on the link below to get your FREE guide.


Do you have other tips for home schooling? Love to hear your ideas. Share them in the comments below.

A Line to Remember in These Times

 

I found myself telling this story to me kids a few nights ago. I believe it’s worth retelling here, especially in the current anxious climate surrounding the coronavirus:

Once a king summoned all of his wise men and asked them,

“Is there a mantra, a suggestion, or a line that I should remember that will apply in every situation, every circumstance, in every sorrow and in every joy? Tell me, what will it be?”

All of the wise men were perplexed. They become worried, as they couldn’t come up with something for such a strange request. They pondered for a long time without any progress. Finally, a soft-spoken elder suggested something, but demanded that they would write it on a piece of paper, and the king was not to see it immediately.

Only in extreme danger, when the King finds himself alone and there seems to be no way, only then he can see it. The King puts the paper under his Diamond ring.

Years past, and the kingdom came under attack. The king’s army fought bravely, but defeat was inevitable given the strength and size of the enemy. The king fled on his horse. Looking back, he saw the ruins that was his kingdom. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

As he stopped his horse, sobbing in defeat, he suddenly saw the diamond ring shining in the sun, and he remembered the message hidden in the ring. He opened the diamond and read the message.

The message read “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”

The King read it. He read it again and again. Suddenly it struck him – Indeed. This too will pass.

Only a few days ago, I was enjoying my kingdom. I was the mightiest of all the Kings. Yet today, the Kingdom and all his pleasure have gone. I am here trying to escape from enemies. Like those days of luxuries have gone, this day of danger too will pass. A calm came on his face. He stood there for a long time. Suddenly, the road where he was standing was full of natural beauty. He had never known that such a beautiful place was also a part of his Kingdom.

Even though he is now a king without a kingdom, the revelation had a profound calming effort on him. He stopped on his tracks and contemplated for a long time.

Courage entered his heart. He reorganised his remaining army and fought again. He defeated the enemy and regained his empire. When he returned after victory, he was received with much fanfare. The whole capital was rejoicing in the victory. Everyone was in a festive mood. Flowers were being showered on King from every house, from every corner. People were dancing and singing. Rejoice.

In that moment, The King said to himself,” I am one of the bravest and greatest King. It is not easy to defeat me. see how I overcame defeat…” Amidst the celebration, his ego was emerging.

Suddenly the Diamond of his ring flashed in the sunlight and reminded him of the message. He open it and read it again: “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”.

This too shall pass.

His face fell flat. Suddenly, beyond his ego, beyond his Self, his eyes gazed to the crowd and he looked at his people, men, women and child, young and old, he realised deep in his bones, regardless of good or bad times, his true purpose was to serve them well.

For the first time, the king is truly alive.

 


Take good care of each other during the outbreak my friends.

Look Outside of Yourself

As a modern species, I wonder if we have become explainaholics. We start to theorise, analyse, and explain things away, and thus become detached from a lived and engaged reality. (I talked more about the phenomena on becoming an “explainaholic” in my other blog site, Frontiers of Psychotherapist Development.)

Particularly, there is a danger of that happening in what I do as a psychotherapist, which can sometimes slip into an over-focus “interiorising.”

Here’s what depth psychologist James Hillman recommends why we need to look outside of ourselves:

Say you pass a homeless man on the street and you share that with your therapist. Your therapist says to you that you feel for this man because it resonates with the homeless part of you. By the time you make that reflection, by the time you have interiorised, you have passed the homeless man on the street… you lose the emotions to the world by interiorising.

There are inner conflict and wounds that need tending to on the inside that is not visible to others, but I would argue we must not stop them. Life is outside waiting for us to be engaged with. To learn, to love, to have our hearts broken, and mended back. To create, to relate. To make blunders, and to rediscover ourselves. 

 

In his new book, Life’s Great Questions, the author Tom Rath shares a speech made by a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

 “Life’s most persistent and urgent question…

What are you doing for others?”

 

MLK was only 29 years old at that time.  Rath goes on, “Yet it is easy to see how, in the remaining decade of his life, Dr. King dedicated almost all of his time to answering this question. In doing so, he showed us how orienting your efforts outward creates perpetual growth for generations to come.”

 

Maybe we need to flip things around:

 


Image of Fremantle, WA by Charlene Nguyen 

Intentions and Effects

Some of the best photos taken are when there’s good natural light.

It makes a huge difference from a good versus a great photo.

There’s a catch. Though you should avoid pointing your lens towards the sun, try getting the people you want in your photo to face the sun instead. That’s what an amateur like me would put my parents, wife and young kids to do. Excellent lighting condition, but one of the most contorted facial expression you can get for a family shot at the picnic.

And it’s not like it wouldn’t be apparent. The feedback is immediate. No matter how many things you ask your loved ones to “open your eyes… smile!” isn’t going to work.

What I believe, the Pros would do instead, is focus on the result that they are after. That means, using the best available lighting, and, more importantly, making sure the subject of the photography is at their best (or the very least, able to open their eyes and able to say “chesse,” not “gesh.”)

Imagine two overlapping circles. One is our intentions, the other is the effects.

So easy to get stuck with our intentions and forget to see the effects of our intentions.

Our job as parents, managers, partners, family members, carers, and therapists is to bring the circle of intention and effects closer to each other.

One crucial step is not to get stuck on your intentions. Check the effects.

Make sure the other person is smiling.

(And Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones)

The Invisible Wounds

Some of our most painful wounds are invisible.

Many of us not only carry them throughout our lives, but we bag them up and lug them like dirty laundry. We walk around as if one shouldn’t have clothes to wash, and silently seeking a place to find solace and relief from these painful and intense emotions.

These difficult emotions often manifest from

Traumatic experiences

Chronic pain

Experiences of violence

Imposition by others on how you should lead your life

Loneliness

Abandonment

Rejection

Unspoken fears…

If you live long enough, you are bound to have these happen to you. 

It is also our rejection of these emotional experiences “I shouldn’t feel this way,” that causes more suffering. 

We need to find a way to soothe and heal from these invisible painful emotions. Not in solitude, but with companions. As Thomas Merton would say, “Suffering is wasted when we suffer entirely alone.” (No Man is An Island, p. 85).

We must learn to not “harden our hearts” but to find a quality of grace and tenderness for those who suffer in way that our eyes can’t see—and that includes ourselves.

In Praise of The Nurturers of The World

MOther and Child Painting

To the Nurturers in our lives, I thank you. You are a gift to this world. You are gift to others. Without you, we’d fail to thrive and grow. 

From the words of Fred Rogers, 

 

“Think of those people who loved you into your being.” 

 

These people belong to the universal Nurturers of the world. Nurturers have a special role in the grant scheme of things. They bring a piece of heaven on earth.

 

To you, dear Nurturers, you are part of someone’s life. Like a gardener, you have sown the seeds for the flowers to grow, tend to soil, and water the plants; the work never ends.

 

Nurturers give. Like my mother, like my grand auntie, like my wife—mother to my two children, like many carers I know from my work with individuals and families. 

 

I heard a story from one my clients. He is a father of a five year old, fighting for his dear life to have shared custody of his child. He wants to be part of his child’s life. He divorced from his wife, but not his child.  He wants to be present. He wants to be a Nurturer for his daughter. It’s an upward battle.

 

Nurturers sometimes give all of themselves away. They forget that when they neglect themselves, they have nothing left to give. Dear Nurturers, please don’t forget about you. Because you are a precious gift. Treat yourself as you would to a beloved. What would you do to nurture that person?

 

A true Nurturer knows how to give AND receive. There is a gift in giving, and there is also a gift in letting others become a giver. By learning to receive, we allow others to feel the blessing you’ve experienced in giving.

 

Because of you—and those before you—a cascade is happening. Passing on love, from one person to the next, one generation to another. The passage of transmission is indeed unpredictable, but it’s also inevitable. It’s inevitable that you, dear Nurturers, have an influence on the one you love.

 

Once again, “think of those people who loved you into your being.” 

 

Take a moment to picture them in your mind as vividly as possible. Visualise them standing right in front of you. Now allow yourself to say a heartfelt, “Thank you.” to them. A mother, a father, an uncle, a teacher, a friend.

 

Better yet, say thank you to each of them.

 

Thank you, dear Nurturers. You have loved me into my being.

 

p/s: I try to remind myself to trade my expectation for appreciation of those around me. It holds an antidote to suffering.

Blessings,

Daryl

Do you Need a Holiday from a Holiday?

clouds-grass-meadow-446 (small)

The truth is, holidays are tiring. Most of our getaways are succumbed by our anxiety to see more, do more, get more – much like most of our working lives.

When we say, “i need a holiday,” what we are really saying is, ” I need a break,” “I need some rest to recharge.” Yet most of our vacation planning gets filled with activities. Even in our supposed break-times, we are busy! Ironies of ironies, social research indicate that people are just as stressed, if not more stressed BEFORE And AFTER a holiday. Think about the pile of work you try and clear before you leave, and the looming burden awaiting for your return to at the frontline.

When we are planning for our holiday, I think it it’s important to ask ourselves “what we really need?” Most of time, i reckon it’s rest. Meaning, a getaway from activity.

Non-activity is one of the biggest hurdle in modern living.

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