"As human beings we all want to live a happy life and be part of a happy society."
- The Dalai Lama
On Monday, 21st September I made my way to London (the journey in and of itself its own story of resilience, faith, and determination), to attend an event "Creating A Happier World" by the Action for Happiness Organisation.
We were late .... very late, due to rail issues ... a lesson about patience, mindfulness, and being present - I think the Dalai Lama would have been proud of our response to the situation. We walked as quickly as we could to the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden, excitement and hope kindled deep within our hearts, a hope that the Dalai Lama was still on stage and still dispensing his wisdom and wit to an audience already flushed with optimism and drive. A quiet anticipation rippled through my being as the usher opened the door into the theatre and quietly led us to our seats, as, yes, the Dalai Lama, still seated comfortably on stage, was responding to a question we were not privy too. Finally settled into our seats, relief poured through my skin, seeping into my heart; there he was, one of the greatest men to ever walk this earth, a sage, a leader, a humble man.
Sure, we had missed the first hour and half of his infinite wisdom and soothing voice, but the opportunity was still there to learn, and so I listened with intent ...
His most profound and yet most simple of teachings shone through his every word, his every response - compassion and love. If you can approach every situation in life with compassion and love, then the suffering, so talked about in Buddhist thought, so experienced by all who claim to be human, the suffering will ease. By ease I do not mean our suffering will disappear into the ether and not affect us ever again, but by ease I mean the ability to sit with what makes us sad, or angry, or upset, to sit with it and accept it as it is ... and then still approach the world with love and compassion.
His Holiness' perspective on the way that we feel, the emotions that rise and fall, he instructs that we do not quash or deny these emotions - these emotions are part of the human experience; we feel - but we learn to look at these emotions that can be destructive, that can be bitter, and we learn to let go of them, to acknowledge them, but ultimately let them go. (Here is 40 ways you can learn to acknowledge and then let go of negative feelings and thoughts, courtesy of tinybuddha).
Inevitably the issue of the current refugee crisis was raised, but imbued with the love and compassion that he talks about, the Dalai Lama spoke of the necessary approach we should all take towards others, and problems that we as a species have created, an approach based on the human and practical. In the West we are so caught in the ebb and flow of what the media and government want us to believe about the refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa, that we tend to lose the human side of the story, we forget to feel. His Holiness reminded us that these people are human, they are just like us, and we must open our hearts and our arms to them .... BUT ....
We also have to recognise that a lot of these people are fleeing war torn countries, countries that are their homes, their identity, their hearts, and that ultimately, most of them would move back to their countries of origin in a heartbeat, if there was peace there. So, it is also our responsibility to help establish peace in these parts of the world, but establish peace without further violence, without guns, or grenades, or bombs, but through dialogue and understanding.
Thank you, the Dalai Lama, for your deep insight into the human heart and mind.
Jayne Snell and Fred Roberts from the RWS Programme doing "Laughter Yoga" with the pupils from Clifton With Rawcliffe Primary School in York. (photo taken by J Maiden)
The Dalai Lama was not the only person at the Action for Happiness event, a slew of speakers and experts were there to give us their personal insight into how we can create happiness - on a personal as well as community level. One of the speaker's was Sir Anthony Seldon, former Master of Wellington College, the college was where he "pioneered" teaching of happiness to pupils - some would say this is radical, other's would say it's inspired, I'm with the inspired group.
Sir Anthony Seldon spoke with such passion about broadening the educational landscape, about the necessity for teaching young people how to be happy and maintain their happiness, and how it is our responsibility to ensure that wellbeing and mental health issues are addressed activity and without prejudice in our schools. In addressing these topics, he aims to see a shift in the ideology of schools; schools become a place where children want to be, because in school they are accepted for who they are and what they want to achieve.
As human beings we are constantly learning, growing, absorbing every day, and this event was one of serious learning, growing and absorbing of information and experience. It is how you translate it into your life that determines whether you have really gained from the experience. This event has not only informed my own life, but also the programme I have developed with Frederika Roberts and Jayne Snell - RWS | Resilience Wellbeing Success. RWS is a programme for schools, that was developed to explore and instil in young people the mental health care and wellbeing that helps them throughout their whole lives, that see's them see success as a personal experience, a personal goal, that they can strive for.
If all we ever aim for is to be happy, if all we ever do is to help others aim to be happy, then I say that what we are doing is exactly what the Dalai Lama instructs - show love and compassion, infinitely.
(image from picjumbo)
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." -
With the beauty of ease, my journey to the Paralympic games seemed to flow. With each stroke, and kick, and flick of my body in a tumble-turn, I stretched myself along the journey of goal achievement, the path of self desired success. Along each lap of the pool, each stretch of muscle, each doubt of purpose, Alan and Ross, my coaches, walked in front of me, my Mum and Dad behind me, and my fellow swimmers? Well they swam beside me, understanding the pain, the angst, the apprehension, as well as the excitement, joy, and honour, that representing your country can bring.
There was also my teacher's at school, who understood I couldn't always be in class, there were my friends, who reminded me I was still a teenage girl with a life beyond swimming, the family doctor who worked with ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-doping Agency) to ensure that when poorly, I was never taking anything that could compromise drug tests, the family member's who came to watch me swim when they could, and supported me from far away when they couldn't, and the Australian public who sent me fax after fax at both the Atlanta and Sydney Games, to encourage me, a stranger.
It's overwhelming when I look at my swimming career this way ... but I can take it even further ...
Once I had retired from swimming I decided to go to University. I didn't know what to expect, but the experience I had involved: lecturers who wanted to see me grow and improve, so provided me with constructive criticism, the support of my fellow students, as we cried and cheered together over varying results, the family member's who understood my love of art and the desire to learn more and more, the art gallery's that took on my work and backed my ideas with tenacity, and finally, the rich history of artists that had come before, these people of great imaginings and desires.
Do you collaborate?
The moment you were conceived you were part of the ultimate collaboration, a collaboration of want and lust and fundamentally LOVE. At your birth, the work between your mother, father, and the midwife/doctor, was a collaboration of exertion, focus, pain, and joy. Your first step, your first word, your first smile, a gentle influence of "doing" that could not have come about without the encouragement of your carers, your tribe. Your school years were filled with teachers who taught you many things, friends who showed you possibility, and strangers who showed you humanity. University was a moment of openness that was facilitated by lecturers and peers, ideas and concepts, so foreign, yet so familiar. Work is a collaboration of employers and employees, or entrepreneurs and clients, and friends and colleagues. Family takes you back to the start, a collaboration of love and lust, where the end result is, quite possibly, the ultimate collaboration again, a new baby, a child, to start the process all over again.
Do you collaborate?
The coffee that your drinking is a collaboration, between the coffee farmers, the processing factories, the coffee shops, and your tastebuds. The dress your wearing, a collaboration between the cotton farmers, mills, dress designers, sewers, and your figure. The house you live in, a collaboration between the forests, the woodworkers, the architects, and your need for shelter. The food that you eat, farmers, supermarkets, and your hunger; the computer you work on, the factory where it was made, the software developers, and your mind.
Do you collaborate?
Collaboration is the true experience of life, the breathe in and out, the steps we take to move forward. On purpose collaboration can be nothing but magic, if you are open to it - just as Helen Keller says "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." I am currently in the midst of a collaborative success storm, and it is a perfect storm.
So please, consider collaboration in your own life, encourage collaboration, do it openly and honestly, softly and beautifully. Approach people, talk, brainstorm, drink tea, and eat cake - together. You are not the sum of one, but the sum of many; embrace the many to nurture the one.
My collaborative storm is resulting here - Resilience Wellbeing Success
Where is your collaborative storm resulting?
I had a little insight this week whilst running an INSET session at a school in Manchester. Life is always very interesting when you have a revelatory flash, a little "ah-huh" moment ... so what insight did I have?
Teachers are exactly like elite swimmers.
Don't believe me?
Think about it ... the life of a swimmer and the life of a teacher can be very lonely, you are an individual fighting against the current to gain tiny moments of successes, you do so much preparation on your own, assessing your own style, your own motivations .... BUT ....
Ultimately you are also part of a team, a big (and hopefully supportive) team. This team is a group of people who you see on a regular basis, some are there to guide you and give you advice, other's may be your "competitors," other's your equals, but they are there, a rock-solid team. As a swimmer, being part of the greater
So during this INSET session I also had another lightbulb moment, as I ran the session, I started off addressing people's personal goals, and whilst people did the exercise, there was a certain type of hesitancy, a feeling of being unsure about what their goals actually were ... it was when we got to the team (or whole school) goal that every single teacher came alive.
It was magic!
You see, when people come together as a whole and can see where there are problems, or great things to be created, the energy shifts to one of collaboration and endeavour. People suddenly can't wait to write down an idea, or shout out a solution, there is brainstorming and dynamism, a drive to make the change that needs to be made.
This process confirmed for me that you cannot close yourself off from other people when there are things to be done, whether that be something for yourself or for and with others. Even creating an individual goal should be created within the space of a team/group, where you can bounce ideas of people, get the support that you need, and create the fire in your belly that being part of a collective can create.
So how can you successfully set goals as a team ... or in this case, as a whole school?
#1 - You need to have a leader and/or SMT (Senior Management Team) who are passionate about embracing change and also are confident enough to say that change is needed. So are you a leader or member of the SMT? Really have a think about how the dynamics of your school works ... do your member of staff feel they can come to you with any problems they may have? Do you have a clear vision for your school? What is your staff and pupil wellbeing like? Do you have a wellbeing plan in place?
Once you answer these questions you might have an idea about what kind of goals you need to look at, and also how the school works as a team.
#2 - Organise an all staff meeting at the beginning of each academic year/term and use it to open a discussion about what goals the school should establish and also map the steps to achieving these goals. Each person should get a say, but have a pre-selected person running the the meeting, so there is order. Collectively select and write down two or three goals that the entire school/staff can work towards.
#3 - Ensure that everyone has a part to play in achieving the goal, this means allocating certain actions and/or steps to members of staff, as well as having some steps that all members have to do. If there are any activities members of staff feel they can't do, keep the lines of communication open, perhaps there is another member of staff that can take over that action.
Are you a teacher or a member of a team in business? What else would you like to know about setting a goal within a team dynamic? Let me know in the comments below.
Here is a goal mapping sheet you can use for your team ...
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright