We all inherently belong here because we are an inextricable part of any here or any there.

‘We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world’  (Marcel Proust, cited in a Stephen Batchelor)

As I have mentioned I sometimes listen to talks and presentations when I am drawing. Once I have ‘set up’ my drawing  I seem to be able to focus on both activities. If I do miss something it doesn’t really matter and I can always rewind. These two drawings today were created with talks by Brene Brown PhD, in the background, which eventually led me to download her book Braving the Wilderness on my Kindle device. The title felt like home to me. I was also intrigued because if my memory is serving me well, I don’t think I have ever used brave as a verb or gerund. So, the title grabbed my attention. I haven’t finished the book yet, but it is basically about belonging, which does not require we change who we are, but instead to be who we are. It is about authenticity and courage and not about shrinking or changing ourselves to fit in. Brene Brown discusses what it means to truly belong using the results of her qualitative research findings and her own experiences. She suggests that true belonging asks of us to belong to ourselves and to be able to find sacredness both in being part of a community and standing alone and it is a practice that requires courage, integrity and authenticity. To find our way back home to ourselves we need to walk through or rather brave the wilderness. She writes: “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

Brene Brown also uses BRAVING as an acronym for defining and developing trust filled relationships in all contexts. She has often talked about trust as a marble jar. We talk about hard things and we share our soul stories to people who have over time gained their trust marbles and have proved trustworthy. In a nutshell, B stands for boundaries. R stands for reliability. I can only trust you if you do what you say you’re going to do and you do what you say you’re going to do over and over and over again. A is for accountability, which involves owning mistakes and apologizing or making amends. V is for vault, which means that we acknowledge confidentiality and you will hold in confidence what I share with you and I will do the same with what you share with me. She also uses an interesting term common enemy intimacy because intimacy is built on hating the same person or people, but that’s not real trust. Common enemy type intimacy supports divisiveness  both at a familial, circle of friends or work level and at a large societal level.I is for integrity, which she defines as choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy, and practicing our values, N stands for non-judgment, which means that I can fall apart, ask for help, and be in struggle without being judged by you. Likewise you can fall apart, and be in struggle, and ask for help without being judged by me. So, when there is real trust help is reciprocal and non-judgmental. Finally, G is for generosity and this is about first making a generous assumption about others’ words, intentions, behaviours and then checking it out before assuming the worst

A little more on compassion

As my attention has been on compassion recently I remembered that Rick Hanson’s book Resilient (2018) discusses compassion since it is linked to well-being and resilience. In his book AWARE, 2018,  Dan Siegel also mentions that ‘… focused attention, open awareness, and the training of compassion, or what we are calling kind intention are three of the core ingredients of how we create well-being and happiness in our lives’. Skimming through the chapters of Resilient I chose a few short extracts relevant to compassion to accompany my  drawing today.

‘My own path of well-being began with compassion, as it does for most people. Compassion for yourself is fundamental, since if you don’t care how you feel and want to dosomething about it, it’s hard to make an effort to become happier and more resilient. Compassion is both soft and muscular. For example, studies show that when people feel compassion, motor planning areas in the brain begin preparing for action. Compassion is a psychological resource, an inner strength. ….’

‘Compassion for yourself is where you startwhen things are tough, not where you stop. Research by Kristin Neff and others has shown that self-compassion makes a person more resilient, more able to bounce back. It lowers self-criticism and builds up self-worth, helping you to be more ambitious and successful, not complacent and lazy. In compassion for your own pain is a sense of common humanity: we all suffer, we all face disease and death, we all lose others we love. Everyone is fragile…’

‘The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. It’s like recording a song on an old-fashioned tape recorder: as the song plays— as you experience the resource— you can help it leave a physical trace behind in your nervous system…….’

‘……the neocortex, which started expanding with the first primates about 50 million years ago; it has tripled in volume since early hominids began manufacturing tools 2.5 million years ago. The neocortex has enabled humans to be the most social species on the planet. It is the neural basis of empathy, language, cooperative planning, and compassion— sophisticated ways to meet our needs for connection….’

The human heart is the first home of democracy

‘Will we wake up beyond kind of toxic biases and sense of hierarchy that leads to domination and subjugation? Will we really embrace others …?’ Tara Brach

While and between drawing these last two or three days I have re-read bits from Terry Tempest William’s book: When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, watched an old film based on the life of Marva Collins, the teacher who believed that ‘once children learn how to learn, nothing is going to narrow their mind. The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another’, and also, listened to Tara Brach talk about compassion for the self and others. So, today I am accompanying my drawings with some ideas that were salient these last few days.

‘The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions: Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinion? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up, trusting our fellow citizens to join us in our determined pursuit-a living democracy?’ Terry Tempest Williams

‘Word by word, the language of women so often begins with a whisper’
‘When one woman doesn’t speak, other women get hurt’ Terry Tempest Williams

‘Trust yourself. Think for yourself. Act for yourself. Speak for yourself. Be yourself. Imitation is suicide’ Marva Collins

‘Until kids decide, ‘I am a miracle. I am unique. There is no one else exactly like me,’ they can never draw the conclusion, ‘because I’m a miracle I will never harm another person who’s a miracle like me’ Marva Collins