These are compelling times. Disturbing, sometimes overwhelming, events demands your attention. Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish immigrant takes her own life, by hanging herself in her closet, and is discovered by her younger sister. Why? Because a gaggle of tormenting geese, in the form of other teenagers, inflicted such cruelty, including two statutory rapes, that this pretty young woman could not stand the suffering anymore. Now, nine girls and boys, at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, are facing criminal charges, for their egregious behavior. Talk abounds about tightening laws, creating some system for punishment. It is so interesting that when cruelty comes to the fore; our focus seems to dwell on punishment, rather than sourcing prevention.
Across the sea, two so-called "Black Widows," blow themselves, and 39 other innocent commuters up on a Moscow subway. Our Russian brothers and sisters grieve, and reel from their own fear of what might come next. This is the stuff which makes bullying so effective.
More locally, Michigan and Ohio, (and who knows where else), we've got others who've been busy planning the overthrow of the government. Sarah Palin is not the only one talking "lock and reload." Nine wanna-be terrorists decide 'in the name of Christianity' to 'take back the government' by killing a policeman, and then blowing up mourners at the funeral. Jesus must be cringing, and perhaps recalling those Romans over 2000 years ago who decided the only way to save themselves and their 'kingdoms', was to 'level the playing field' and crucify the one who preached the Audacity of Love.
Bullying is not new. Neither is crucifixion. We are in Holy Week, after all. How much more cruelty will be inflicted in the name of God? Emerson "nailed it," when he said:
"Thank God that what most people think God is, isn't." -Emerson
What has shifted, however, is the menu of ways to bully. Take the Internet, for example. Poor Phoebe, along with many, many teens, was a victim of Facebook persecution, which, by the way, has continued on her Memorial page since her death. Let me tell you, this is not an isolated case. Over the past year, alone, as a solo practitioner in private practice, I've met with kids from 10- 17 years old who've felt "on the cross" from bullying. Natalie, a pretty, intelligent, "14 year old new kid on the block" contacted me a number of times because she did not know how to respond to the girls at her school who were snubbing her, calling her the "c" word, and gossiping about her on the Internet. Turns out that three of these bullies were jealous of Natalie because a star basketball player was paying attention to her, rather than the others. Not dissimilar to Phoebe Prince. In Natalie's case, her parents advised her to "just let this roll off your back. These things happen at any age."
So what? Our kids are suffering in exponential ways. Legal reform is hardly the only reform needed. Looking only in that direction focuses upon the "letter of the law," rather than the 'Spirit of the Law.' In this case, I'm talking about the "Law" as that inner Truth that sets you free, regardless the slings and arrows. When bullies bully, they do so because they are in fear of not being "enough," not being "heard, understood, and seen." They are coming from lack. Aligning themselves with mobs, be it in a high school, a terrorist group, or a government, gets down to the same thing. Mobsters feel so irrelevant, so inwardly self-critical and victimized, that they become the persecutor in a sort of faux power play. Their prey, on the other hand, tend to turn inflicted abuse upon themselves, slipping into hopelessness.
What Can Be Done? People who feel good about themselves do not bully anyone, including themselves! Whatever practice does no harm to you or others is fair game. For four decades, I've turned to meditation, both sitting and engaged. Over the past twenty years, I've taught Painting Practice as a means of "Calling Back Your Spirit" to Natalie, and all the 'Natalie's' of every age. We've got to practice Self-honoring, if we are going to do better with others.
1. Take what kids tell you to heart. Trust their experience. They need to be heard, to be taken seriously, to know that they are not alone.
2. Notice the kids who seem to be flat-lining, anxious, or upset, whether you know them or not. They are our kids in our village. Let them know you care. (Six weeks ago, I noticed a girl walk down my street, well-past the time school starts, walking in very slow motion with her back-pack. In the garden at the time, I greeted her. "Everything O.K.?" I queried. She looked up from her black hoodie, and mumbled something, to which I attempted to make contact: "Some days are tougher than others, aren't they? I'm having a hard time getting going myself today. Know what I mean?" Long story short, Kathy began to tell me about her home situation, and her confusion about her best friend who's "ditched" her. "That must be so hard on you," I said. The point is that the important thing is not what you say, but that you take the trouble to make contact. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. You can't blow it.
3. Establish a daily time to call back your Spirit, making this an unbreakable appointment with yourself.
4. Return to this setting, preferably, at the same time to build a habit.
5. Create beauty in your spot: something to remind you that this is your time for you, add a special object that holds meaning, a photograph of you as a child, a flower, a candle, whatever inspires you.
6. During this period, unplug the phone; let other's know you are "in conference."
7. Trust doing so benefits your loved ones.
(When my daughter was three, and I'd skipped my meditation practice one day, she asked me: "Mama did you 'mekicate' today?" Busted. I was in a fowl mood and had failed to begin the day with "first things first," and she sensed it. I returned to my station, and the day improved. That night, she told me: "Always mekicate, Mama. We're happy then.")
8. Take a class on meditation, or read a nifty little classic by Seattle physician, Herbert Benson entitled The Relaxation Response. There's nothing woo-woo about it. The point is that it works.
9. Consider whatever returns you to your rhythm. For example, drumming is very effective. For more on this, come back next week. You'll be glad you did.
Take the 21 Day Challenge: Practice the following, and let me know how it goes! Instructions: The second you notice yourself bullying yourself, bust yourself! Notice your self-criticism, and pause. Take the thought, whatever it is, and practice the following statements:
• "I forgive myself for bullying myself with the thought.......(fill in)
• "I praise and raise my best self, noticing that what I appreciate about me right now is...................."
What helps you 'Call Back Your Spirit?' What experiences with bullies can you share? It would help so many to know, perhaps even a 'Phoebe' or 'Natalie.'
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