Day 3 - Connecting With Compassion
Being a human being is not so easy. We are all vulnerable in the face of constant change. Being in Nepal is a lesson in the difficulties in life, particularly for a woman. We headed to this part of the world to source the “white scarf of compassion” from a fair-trade organisation, so that women could wear the scarf as a symbolic support to self-nurture. We all need to manage mental health as well as physical well-being,
Today we have been able to connect with the compassion that has been cultivated within the wonderful team of women whose lives have been changed and supported by the amazing Seven Women (www.sevenwomen.org) organisation. When we first met the two key Nepalese operators of the organisation, Anita and Padam, we instantly felt connected by their friendliness and purpose. As we talked, we could feel the shared passion of humans wanting to help humans. Soon we were all sharing our own unique stories and our values that have brought us here. We were filled with enthusiasm and positive energy as we formulated our ideas, and shared our future dreams for cultivating compassion in the world, all in our own individual way.
When we shared our vision for the white scarf to they were immediately smiling, nodding and in complete support of the concept. Anita expressed her excitement at how impactful this could be. What we discovered was a shared appreciation of the value of meditation for mental fitness. She had personally experienced such trauma and suffering whilst providing aid and assistance during the tragic earthquake and was very candid in now recognising the need to nurture her mental well-being to maintain resilience. Having heard Anita’s story the day before it is apparent how the hardship she suffered early in life has now shaped her vision for the future of women in Nepal. There is a strong warm loving glow that oozes from her, in her eyes, her smile and her laughter. She is strong, committed, driven and always looking for another opportunity to do more, in the name of empowering women. She is a change-maker in the lives of many, many marginalised Nepalese women. She was born with purpose.
We are being inspired by their open hearts. Their daily intention is to create an environment that benefits others. Anita and Padam are on this earth to serve others.
What became more obvious to me today was the epiphany about who the white scarf target market should be. I have purposefully directed the stress management of meditation and mindfulness education towards busy, over-committed, overwhelmed Westerners struggling to maintain balance in their lives. But today I realised that a “same, same but different” struggle is here in these third-world countries. These people not only suffer the physical hardship of the daily struggle living hand-to-mouth for survival, but in addition they are burdened from the trauma of their culture, and events occurring in their lives. This is most true for women.
The rate of child marriage is very high. Thirteen year olds start having babies and can have 3-4 whilst still being teenagers. Some die in childbirth. It is believed that a daughter will be useful only in marriage, or will be sent away (sold off) to earn an income elsewhere (she can earn the family a princely $15 per month). Sadly many of these scenarios become decoys for sex trafficking. Husbands will abandon their first wife and take another if she cannot produce a son. There is high levels of domestic violence towards women.
So my realisation was poignantly apparent when I spent the morning with 12 of the Seven Women workers in mindfulness activities. They were a selection of women with disabilities, deformities, and abandoned mothers. They come to the Seven Women centre to undergo training in literacy, craft, micro-finance and hospitality skills. This is to allow them to become skilled, educated and gain independence. The centre is a safe haven of peace and calm, connectedness and camaraderie. Women are welcomed, supported, nurtured and accepted. This is a palpable vibe.
So whilst these women had never tried meditation and never heard of tai chi, they willingly had a go. We slowly did a Tai chi warm up session which they participated in with smiles galore. I also taught them some postural stretches to relieve the repetitive strain of sitting at sewing machines.
Then we sat in a circle ready to try some breath and body awareness for 10 minutes. We focused on simple techniques for calming the breath, calming the body, calming the mind. This was all translated in Nepalese. At the end of that session they told me they felt calm and relaxed. One woman noticed her breath coming in cool and leaving warm. Several felt that had been in another place whilst breathing slowly. Anita and I were amazed at their responses. This experience had delivered so much more than we had anticipated. Their faces shone and the smiles came from within. This group of women need self-compassion and a building of self-respect. They are worthy recipients of the compassion that is given to them via Seven Women organisation and all the people, locals and businesses that support them. The plan now is for 10 minutes guided meditation once a day at the centre, which will be translated into a Nepalese recording. They will do twice daily postural stretches and some tai chi movements daily to relieve physical stress. I felt grateful to have been able to share my skills with them.
I realise that there is nothing to distinguish stress from one person to another. It is real, subjective and ever-present. It is our perception and reaction to the challenges we face.
So, today was an emotive powerful experience of seeing how little things can make big differences.