Other

Xenophobia is a great, big-points-in-Scrabble kind of word. Wictionary defines it thusly:

Noun

xenophobia (plural xenophobias)

  1. A fear of strangers or foreigners.
  2. A strong antipathy or aversion to strangers or foreigners.

The Seventh Grave Precept, one of the vows I received when I took refuge, provides us with clear direction about xenophobia:

Realize self and others as one. Do not elevate the self and blame others.

Mom & Mr. Murphy, January 2012

The past ten days have been a roller coaster, a Mom roller coaster. This time it is something entirely out of the realm of the usual conflicts and hurt between us. In some ways there’s a rather painful familiarity to what’s been happening, but for now I don’t want to go into the details, although I will in time.

What I want to talk about is what happens when we do not realize the self and others as one. What happens and what we are capable of when we don’t practice with the Seventh Grave Precept.

We truly see and hear about the consequences of seeing people as other every day. Wars, murder, sexual exploitation, ethnic violence, abuse, theft, and more all happen because one group of people sees another group as other and their xenophobia lets them justify all manners of horrifying behavior.

We also witness this when animals are treated as commodities to be tortured, killed, and consumed. We tell ourselves that animals don’t feel the way we do, that their suffering isn’t on par with ours so we find it acceptable to treat them horrifically. We justify laws that classify sentient beings as property and allow barbarous treatment of them to be classified as “animal agriculture”.

The Seventh Grave Precept asks us to keep our hearts open to the compassion of the Buddhas. It tells us to never flinch away from taking responsibility for ourselves, never put ourselves above another being either by seeing them as other or through blaming them for our own poor choices. At every moment we look at another being knowing that they are absolutely the same, equal with ourselves.

The First Noble Truth reminds us that we all suffer. It is the human condition to suffer. In this, and in so many other ways, we’re each of us exactly the same. We all long to be loved and seen for who we are. We fear the suffering of illness, injury, loss, and our inevitable deaths. Each and every moment we’re all out there together with our worries, hopes, dreams, and desires.

The past 10 days have created a gulf between people who have tried, in their own flawed and human way, to love each other. There’s been both discord and joy, misunderstanding and communion. There have been unexpected and grave illnesses. In the end my Mom was seen as other and experienced shocking treatment because of it.

It hurts a lot and I am mindful of an anger so keen that it leaves me feeling ashamed and overwhelmed.

In contrast to the negativity that comes from not practicing the Seventh Grave Precept, loving-kindness and compassion arise naturally. In response to the events of this past week I see the true compassion people have for one another. There have been so many people, some of them complete strangers, who’ve offered help, time, money, creative thinking, concern, and loving-kindness. People have been giving in so many unexpected ways. These kindnesses, both small and large, help me to remember to keep my heart open instead of closed in anger.

Strengths

Several years ago, at the last company I worked for, there was a team building initiative that saw my team and the client team we worked with. We all received a copy of Now, Discover Your Strengths, asked to take the “StrengthsFinder”, and share our results.

While I don’t think companies can manage people on the results of these kinds of tests, I do find them rather interesting. I think they can provide a little insight about people you are working with. Outside of work I’ve occasionally run into people who’ve also taken this and I’ve enjoyed talking with them about what they’ve learned about themselves from the results they got.

Here are my Top 5 Strengths from a few years ago:

  1. Input
  2. Learner
  3. Restorative
  4. Connectedness
  5. Intellection

Fast forward to my new company. One of the directors in the IT organization has a few initiatives to reach out to other women at the company. Next week she’s having a facilitator join a group of us to talk about the results we had from taking the “StrengthsFinder” test. We all recieved a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0 and were asked to take the test and send results so the facilitator has them ahead of our meeting.

Given how interesting I found this process the first time, I signed up. I also was very curious to find how, or if, my top 5 strengths had changed much. A few years ago 3 of my 5 showed that learning was vitally important to me. That combined with the other strengths really showed, accurately, my love not only of learning, but of sharing what I’d learned with others.

Here are my results based on yesterday’s test:

  1. Learner
  2. Strategic
  3. Responsibility
  4. Empathy
  5. Connectedness

I’m not at all surprised to see that my ability to learn still tops the list. I feel like that “Restorative” strength has deepened and grown into “Empathy”. Given how strongly I feel about the interconnectedness of all things, I’m also unsurprised to see that Connectedness remains one of my top strengths.

However it is the addition of Strategic and Responsibility that really make me think. In the past few years I’ve become more involved in community building, helping to put on events that see hundreds of participants and sometimes spanning multiple days. I think this kind of volunteering has really grown my ability to think strategically. I think I’ve always been mindful of being responsible for my own work and actions, even if during some times in my life I’ve tried to pretend otherwise. Now it has evolved into a real strength.

I really look forward to what comes out of the session with the facilitator next week!