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The Politics of Self-Knowing

Updated: Oct 28, 2018

Today is our last day in London. Trevor are I are at the London Grind at the edge of London Bridge over the Thames River. There is a neon-red, lighted sign which reads in cursive, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The toilets here have an Italian language session running: “Mi scusi, signora.” I practice while in the lou. This city is international, and I get a feeling similar to being at an airport with all sorts of vibrant life brushing its shoulders against mine.


Diversity seems to be an ingrained value that’s taken for granted in London--it just is. We are all one family. Very different than America where we are in a process of reopening purposefully forgotten wounds in order to heal.


A tool I like to use in coaching is the Enneagram. It is an amazingly accurate personality assessment which opens wounds and articulates peoples’ core fears and motivations. It lends language to why we often have involuntary responses to life. One of the reasons I work with the Enneagram is that it is taught around the world. Cultures throughout time and many nations have connected with it tracing back to ancient Mesopotamia, where we can imagine a couple of folks trying to make sense of the human soul. Something of course, we are still doing today.


The Enneagram is what brought me to the UK. I attended a workshop taught under Beatrice Chestnut and Laurino Paes.


I am leaving London with a tremendous sense of oneness. But, my mind fights against this feeling. The truth is that my raw emotions crave division.


In this moment, I watch the BBC news sick and ashamed about where politics has gotten to in America. Brett Kavanaugh was just elected into the Supreme court. I hear the British feedback on this and want to cry.


Separate me from everything related to my country’s politics, I think to myself. Separate me from all things elitist. Separate me from the reality of all wars and certainly the ones I was not present for (such as the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War). I am not a part of any of these problems, I rationalize. Of course I think these things. It’s natural for human beings to get overwhelmed and just want to hide and make ourselves different from the evil happening in the world.


But are those not feelings of division?


In my opinion, it isn’t possible to separate.


We are a family, connected. The human race. Even though the tendency for division is within each of us.


I sat at the “Crying Woman” by Picasso for some time at the Tate Modern. To be honest, I was somewhat forced to by my art-obsessed husband. He’s a gem. During that time, I saw her pain and saw the reflection of the war of Spain in her painted eyes. She didn’t have to carry a sword to carry the wounds of that war.

At the British Library, I stood inches from a handwritten letter written by Mahatma Gandhi to the Viceroy of India. He opened his letter with “Dear Friend,...” and ended, “Sincerely, Your Friend, MK Ghandi.” In the body of the letter he used the phrase several times, “in my opinion,” to state disagreements--humble, yet strong. The perfect juxtaposition of gentleness and strength. Like they teach in Tai Chi, the strength of the ocean next to the gentleness of a light wind; like one is forced when learning the Italian language--learn the other.


If we can’t find harmony with one another, in the conflict we face with our roommate, our parents, our spouse, our boss, there is no peace and never will be. We must find the courage to work through our anger in order to love. Anger is a gift. But it needs to be expressed full circle.


In The Undiscovered Self, Carl Jung writes about how the state of a nation is reflected in the state of the individuals inside that nation. I see my roll as a coach to work with individuals on the healing process of their internal barriers. If we want to fix the world, we must start in our own heart. It is much easier to point out other people’s flaws and clear injustices than to sit in your own hurt.


Sitting in your own hurt in the form of a discipline such as coaching or counseling, doesn’t make you selfish or weak. In fact, quite the contrary. It is how you will rise and become strong, ready to fight, ready to heal a nation. You become internally strengthened, and when the time comes for you to stand, you are immovable in all the right ways.


Expressing anger, being sad, living into joy is a type of sword sharpening which prepares you for the internal battle for peace in this world. Emotional health and growth is key for this. I honestly don’t know why it has become taboo to express or talk about emotions in everyday conversation. Maybe because it is not easy. Maybe because it is too vulnerable and “real.” I don’t know.


But I do know it’s important to encourage one another toward personal growth and remind one another how we are connected to each other in ways we can’t imagine or quantify. It’s hard to want to do this work. It’s much easier to complain on Facebook or with a friend, than it is to sit and ask how you might be part of a given problem. But I think the biggest change comes when one practices that kind of humility, when someone sits and asks themself, “What needs to be resolved in my own heart to move toward a better future for all of us, for my spouse, my roommate, someone on the other side of the planet, even my enemy?”


Imagine if world leaders took one hour of silence a day to think, meditate, or pray--whatever language you would use for that space. What if you did that? How would your life be different?


How could the world be different?