Poetry: Torn

977A0762F

Photo taken in Mottisfont, UK

A foot in this world, another else where, polarities pull.
From a time without an ending, like a dream, I am suddenly alive.
Traveling through the murkiness of my reality, I loose my true self.
Years and years, a child, a teenager, a young man, a grown adult, navigating; the blind leading the blind.

Undoubtedly searching, a light outside to my inside, only to further sink in the quicksands of darkness.

When things no longer can get darker than any darkness, a light flickers.
Only descending will allow me to ascend.

The slip to regain balance, I stumble for alignment.
How true is light if it is not seen from my own consciousness?
The echoes of eternity beating in my own heart.

Cultivating in the warmth of my own light, I am pure and strong.
The sands of time are no more, only a budding flower in my sun.
Watching conversations of my ego to my heart, they struggle needlessly.
A coin of two sides not knowing they are one.
Outside of polarities, my feet firmly and sturdy, I am my true self, without any bounds.

How Quickly Life Can Change

977A0902F

Photo taken near the country side of Mottisfont, UK

Of all the many little things I’ve noticed in England, driving has stood out the most to me recently. Not that fact that they drive on the left, but how drivers don’t heed to the people walking. This of course increases your awareness when crossing the street, however, it made me reflect on how your life could end in an instant.

Taking a shower one day, I came to a strong realisation— a lot are buzzing around these past few days and weeks— that we are living so tightly to our rules, standards and how we want things to go specifically, all for it to just disappear when we die. Some of you may think this will turn out to be some cheesy blog about living your life to the fullest and such, but the hell with that. Take a good look at life, go outside and just look. Watch carefully how some people walk right out into oncoming traffic, how some walk directly to the crosswalk and wait until that blaring beep noise goes off in order to make it across the street safely — its like that in England. I know, I know, it’s for the blind, but I think it’s more for the seeing. I have to question: What the hell are we doing in life? More importantly, what in the hell am I doing in life?

Asking myself these questions throughout my life, I’m trying so hard to do the things I love to do in my life. Doing my mediations, staying focused, keeping myself light, calm and clear in order to reach the goals I set for myself. However, many reasons are floating around in the cosmos as to why I haven’t been able to do what I love with full force. I honestly just don’t want my life to end without doing everything I can to make it the best. Also the chronic urge to help people within my reach and send out love to all — the low key humanitarian in me. Well, even that isn’t going as well since many backs have turned.

Writing this, I’m thinking how this is turning more into a journal entry than a blog. I know for a fact that many who may come across this writing may have been asking themselves the same questions. Of course they’re answers, but no one can give them to you other than you. As for me, I understand the old ways of thinking are falling away, transitioning into new ones. Facing my fears and breaking new ground is really showing me the possibilities of reaching what I want in life. They’re becoming more and more apparent, kind of like when a shark shows it’s dorsal fin on the surface of the water— you know it’s a shark! As the situations, people and opportunities in life, they’re there, right below the transparent surface. How interesting it is to have to go through so many experiences and meet so many people in order to do the very thing you’ve desired from childhood. I consistently think: what a waste of time. Then, realise when you do get to the destination, it was a great ride to get there and all you want to do is go on the ride again.

What is More Effective, Empathy or Sympathy?

977A0748F

Taken at Mottisfont, UK 

Probably one of the hardest decisions we have to make in our lives is how to be there for people or give people support. Much of the confusion we encounter involves our uncertainty about the use of sympathy and empathy. Naturally, many people lean to one or the other, but; what is more effective in creating a strong connection and giving rise to personal growth? To answer this question, we first have to know what empathy and sympathy are, keeping in mind that both of these traits can be learned —like most things in life.

Empathy:

Being able to be present with another person’s feeling is empathy’s playground. It means to co-exist with another, without allowing your own feelings to interrupt their current expression of their flow of emotions during a conversation. Empathy, you could say, is a non-judgmental state of mind in which all you’re doing is aligning your own feelings to the other person and seeing things from their unique point of view. In the state of empathy, there is a high degree of listening involved and understanding the meaning of words that are not said. For example, if someone tells you, “I hate seeing homeless children,” in a harsh tone of voice, an empathetic response might be: “It sounds like seeing homeless children really makes you upset, why is that?” By responding this way, you’re telling the other person that you acknowledge how they feel and are willing to further hear what they have to say. By doing this, you are creating a support structure and establishing a stable connection with the other person.

Sympathy:

Much more of a comparison of feelings with another person, often times having sympathy means feeling happy for a person or feeling sad. Normally it’s a reaction to how someone else feels and then matching those feeling with a same or different situation. Many would say that sympathy creates more of a disconnect, based on the fact that there is an invisible line of competition when it comes to the level of how someone would feel in a worse or better scenario. On the other hand, having sympathy can allow another person not to feel alone or isolated when it comes to their emotions. For example, if someone said to you, “It makes me happy to be able to watch my son walk for the first time.” A sympathetic response might be, “I know, I feel so happy too when I’m able to hold my daughter in my hands as she sleeps.” By responding this way you’re relating the same type of feeling in different situations, however, this can cause disharmony or create rapport, depending on the individuals.

What is more effective in creating a strong connection and gives rise to personal growth?

In the most popular cases, sympathy would be looked at as being the “natural” way to create a connection with someone; but how solid a connection? If a person is trying to explain how they feel, the consistent interruption of interjecting feelings can make a person more reluctant to open up further. Listening becomes much more rigid as a dialogue with a person who only gives sympathy; it will leave the speaker feeling like they’re not being understood. In a real life situation, if you take a moment to listen to how your friends, or even family, speak you can observe how in many situations feelings are being compared rather than one person actually listening to how the other feels. Responses that consist of giving advice right away or, conversely, trying to look at the brighter side of things, will not help the listener fully establish a strong bond with another person and this approach is most certainly not going to giving rise to personal growth.

However, from looking at the meaning of empathy you can see that making a lasting relationship is always possible. Allowing another person to say what they feel or think, without interjecting your own feelings gains trust on a level that exceeds that of sympathy. To be able to say what’s on your mind without judgment can open a doorway into yourself, allowing the progression of personal growth; for not only does the one doing all the speaking grow, but also the one listening. Listening to someone else’s experience and how they feel creates a union that dissolves the thoughts and feelings of separation — a state we all strive to avoid.

At the same time, empathy and sympathy are not only on a one to one basis, but can also be used on a personal level.

For the majority of my life, I would say, I’ve suppressed my own feelings when it came to many relationships and friendships. I was overly worried about other people’s feelings that my own discomfort was reflected back by those same people. For example, back when I first joined the US military, I did basic training before moving on to job specific training, which took place in Maryland. I met a beautiful girl who I thought was “THE ONE”. We immediately connected, and I knew I liked her and she liked me. After a while, and once I had the freedom to move off base, we spent an evening filled with events like walking in the mall, going to the movies and playing pool. That night we really hit it off. However, the very next day things flipped like a hot pancake. Her usual attentive behavior suddenly changed, where once we had looked at each other with affection from afar, now I became completely nonexistent in her world. I couldn’t quite understand what had happened and I tried everything in my power to regain her attention. I went as far as to march the entire company we were in, roughly 150 people, in a cadence that was purely about her and everyone knew it. Even after my time was over with that training, I drove back down to Maryland from New York City to confess my love to her. From her perspective I was probably a complete weirdo, but from my perspective I thought I was being utterly romantic. I kept telling myself sympathetic reasons why she didn’t like me anymore, such as: “She probably doesn’t want a relationship because she’s going on active duty in Germany and I’m going back home,” or “I have to be more persistent if I am going to have a girl like her.” However, I never gave myself enough empathy and I never acknowledged to myself how I truly felt; which in those times were anguish and grief at being ignored. If I had given myself more empathy and recognised my own feelings, I would have probably accepted her not liking me anymore and simply moved on. The way she ignored me was a reflection of how I was ignoring my own self.

In the end, empathy takes the medal home for creating a much richer connection with others over sympathy any day. Especially when it comes to giving empathy to the self. Focusing on personal growth not only helps the individual, but is a key to helping other people, too. And, doing so with empathy will take you much further than sympathy ever will, even if it comes at the cost of being alone.

A Letter to my Teenage Self

1528605_852489034789638_8454784296018395456_n

Photo, courtesy of a junior high school friend.

Dear Kevin,

    This letter may seem very weird, but I am writing you from seventeen years in the future.  Noooooo, this isn’t a random person, I’m actually you.  I chose to write you, at your current age of fifteen, because it’s the time where you’re starting to wake up from your depression.  You may not understand fully what I’m saying, but you’re becoming more aware of yourself and doing slightly better in school — after witnessing your mother cry over your ongoing low grades.  This is also the time where you’re writing more poetry and in love with a girl who wants nothing to do with you.  
    I’m writing you because there are a few things I’d like you to do for me.  The first, is to never stop loving people the way you do.  I know it’s very difficult as you are trying the best you can to get the attention of the girls your age, it seems all the stuff you’ve learned from watching romantic movies isn’t working.  However, I’d like you to keep doing what you’re doing with full confidence.  It’s important because your heart is magnificent and brilliant — it may not seem that way to others but trust me, later on you’ll see that it really is.  Second, I want you to really pay attention to the people who you’re reaching out to.  Many of them will push you away, others will use you for your kindness, again, keep doing what you do with full confidence.  Help those people, be there for them with an open heart.  They won’t say it, but they do honestly appreciate what you’re doing for them and with this pay close attention to how YOU feel about them.  You’ve already doubted yourself about certain things and people, and it cost you.  That day you got punched in the face and chipped your tooth is a result of not listening to your instinct to walk faster with your friend.  I’m not saying that to make your feel bad, just to jog your memory of a time not so long ago.  Third, I need you to not beat yourself up about being shy.  This trait will prove useful in the future, but for now, accept it as a part of who you are and when you hear the small voice inside urge you towards certain people who you can talk to; go for it!  Fourth, is that small voice.  I know you can hear it and a lot of the time you want to rebel against it.  That’s fine, rebel all you want, however, lets play a game.  For all the times you listen to that voice, note how often you feel good after following it, and, note how bad you feel from not listening to it.
    Lastly, I want to leave you with some words that may seem weird to you: I love you!  The element you’ll probably block out from messages  around you is self love.  Remember that I love you, seventeen years into the future.  I also know what you’re thinking: I’m not telling you anything to avoid or change, but believe me, from writing this to you it’s the result of going though the things you are about to go through and for that; we wouldn’t want to change it.  Keep your head held high and stay confident, things can’t get any worse than they already are.  Trust me.



P.S.  
    As a matter of fact, from May until the end of June 2003, DO NOT eat Chinese food.  Yeah, I changed my mind.



                                            With Love,
                                            Future Kev