I was filling out an application for an intensive 4 month program this morning. Fun! When I got to the end of the questions, there was a check a box to add an application for a scholarship with a statement,
"Please do not apply for a scholarship unless it is truly needed, as our scholarships are limited.
I had a very timid feeling rise up in my chest. It was at once protective and withdrawing. I appreciate the scholarships are limited, and although I was not in need of one, I wondered if this feeling I had would cause me to be too timid to apply if I did need to. I had tea with my timidity, because it seemed like an important conversation for us to have together, my timidness and me, and I want to share with you the conversation we had.
I believe we all have challenges to our sense of value, purpose, belonging, worthiness, effectiveness, and I felt some flavors of this in my timid rush. It surprised me, because as I filled out the application for the program, I was nothing but excited, imagining all that I was going to learn, experience, the people I would meet, and how what I will learn will benefit my clients. AND YET, this one sentence, out of no where, stopped this joy ride in its tracks, like hearing a baby cry on a train. I could ignore it and say, oh that's not my baby. I don't have time for that baby. Or, I could notice that the baby or the parent of the baby needs a minute of care. So I went to that car of the train, made silly faces at the baby and had tea. We sorted it out. Is this a good metaphor?
When I had that rise of feeling, followed by a protective surge, I asked more of it, instead of pushing right through. Immediately some voice in me asked, "What makes me special or more deserving than another?"
It’s a tricky thing to discern, impossible really. I wonder how the selection committee sorts their requests. I also know that’s not really what is meant by asking people to double think applying for help. It's a stop gap for those who can make other adjustments in their lifestyle, to take a second before asking, to give a fuller picture that it's not an endless well. I had a half a cup of tea to get to that place, even though I knew it instantly.
I realized, after a few sips of tea, that I was playing The Impossible Question Game. You know those questions we ask that we can never actually know the answer to, like what's in that unmarked 18 wheeler flying by on the highway? or how many bananas are there on the earth in this exact moment? It doesn't matter how long or deeply we think about some things, they are circuitous and also, each pass we can come up with the exact same things if we locked-in or something completely different if we're not, but we'll never really have THE answer - there is none. Some things are like that for real. So what makes me more (or less) special or deserving than some one else? That question is floating around in many different places in our society right now, maybe through all of time, maybe in many species? Even still, it's impossible to know.
So then, is that the real question?
My tea is still warm. It’s funny how when we’re identifying ourselves within any position in life, the lens of entitlement or competition or pass fail or worth, there are lots of names for it, shifts and distorts. It's a way of perceiving our I AM in value, but by whose standard? How did we arrive at this ladder of worth? Less than, More than, Better or Worse than, Enough, not Enough... In my moment here, I questioned if I was somehow enough to pass their test of value if I did actually need a scholarship. I was questioning my value when put under a scope that so many are asked to quantify and qualify themselves, their right to do or belong or have, or even exist, and are told again and again that they are not enough because they somehow don't show up correctly or have enough. Why are some released from that? Or why are others required to do this? Why do we do this to our own Selves?
If we continue looking through the lens, we see more, allowing new questions, curiosity, hopefully the view shifts to a compassionate understanding, no matter what our circumstances may be. If we set the lens down, and sit with the compassionate understanding, entitlement scales cease in that moment as well. The I AM of us is no longer value based on a ladder of worth. I AM catches a breath, recalibrates. It becomes a softer co-existence. The Inner Voice, the core of our I AM has room to step out in front. We can be with our own selves, and even each other in a different, more powerful language.
We have an invitation to be less timid and small, less defensive and posturing, and the questions change entirely.
I am grateful for that pause their statement opened for me. It was good for me to reflect on how times in life can erode or inflate our lens of value. We can be reminded it is merely a lens, a middle tool, created to focus our vision, even create some distortions, and valuable information, but that is all. We have our own experience with the lens and choice what we do with what we notice through it. It is simply a lens. We can change our use of the lens as a revealer of truths from the outside-in defining our experience, to one that is an assistant from the inside-out, engaging our experience.
The application statement is not about deserving or being more special, of course. I thought I knew that. Surprise! It’s simply another type of lens, asking before I apply, can I instead shift priorities and resources? Is my drive to learn and be among this community a strong commitment? Will it benefit myself and others in a meaningful way? These are questions we should all ask regardless of economic circumstances.
This may all seem obvious, and if I were on the outside of it, it is for me, too. As a bigger picture we can recognize how we are sometimes moved, that something in us is asking for a conversation. If we pause to notice that small moment of sensation, and follow it for as long as it took to have a cup of tea, it can be nurturing and restoring. We get to the question under the question, or the real story wanting us to have a moment and catch up with ourselves. The nuance of how we are effected by stressors, our relationships, society, whatever we are engaged in, can be lost in the busy doing of living. Some of our subtle body changes can be surprising until the seemingly obvious things hold a reflection to us so brightly, that if we pause with them, we remember ourselves or even expand and discover we are more of ourselves than we ever were, that we are ready for a newness.
What can you have tea with once in a while? For me, this was a good tune up, revealing how some of what upsets me in society or the day to day is creating this edge. By having a little stillness, allowing the invitation, it was a good moment with my core, noticing how I could shift toward my true sense of being to guide me in the raw spaces as I do stuff within the day to day, and to allow a restorative quiet. We so often push through trying to make ourselves enough. My I AM knowing of co-existence, kindness, compassion, curiosity is that guide and anchor when I start to feel pulled and pushed, or less than or even too big for my shoes. There is nothing to protect or prove. I simply am, as we all are, together. Living in this, I know, we can know, we are in right relationship with choices, experiences, actions, relationships, our selves. Knowing what is at the core of my pop of timidness, I can ask if I need to do something more in my actions to be in alignment. For now, a little quiet tea in a nature was enough. There is a place for everyone at the table, including our Selves. Hopefully the world will one day know this. Our inner tune-ups help that truth ripple.
Can everyone get into everything any time? No of course not. But there are different reasons and also perceptions of reasons that make or break these decisions or how we feel about these decisions, embody our experiences, create our communities. Implicit Bias is very real. In fact, that is at the root of why I was disrupted by the application statement, my lens of current events leaching into my sense of well-being, belonging, power and powerlessness. Is that bias actually present in the program I applied for in their question? No, I don't believe so. We can find ways to disrupt bias, internalized conflict, starting with ourselves, and starting with our inner tune-ups, being still and present with our true heart. A little tea goes a long way.
In what ways can you be curious about the lenses you've adopted?
How can you then use that lens to be curious, ask wider questions? How can those questions shift, bring you to a stillness of your deeper, truer self, your actual I AM, rather than a ladder of worth in subtle or not so subtle ways of measuring our value, our worth, our judgments, the constructed I AM? What gets in your way of joy, being and doing in your life? Where and when are you uncomfortable? Where are you on autopilot believing and behaving in ways you have not questioned?
Please be well, kind and curious of yourself and others, and thank you for having a little tea with me.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks about smiling to the cloud in your tea. He says, "Yesterday it was a cloud, but today it is my tea. Insight is not something very far away."
Here is the Implicit Bias Test Series, a long standing study by Harvard, if you're interested. There are likely surprises there for you. We are all impacted by bias. It's not always a negative. I like smooth peanut butter instead of crunchy most of the time. Project Implicit: Harvard Bias Survey
As always, I look forward to your comments, emails, and I am here to support you in your path to clarity, discovery, healing, growth. Email me directly or visit my site.
May all beings be in peace.
Ama la vita d’altro,
Rev. Dr. Birdi Sinclair
Interfaith Spiritual Care and Counseling
Wholeness Arts Specialist and Creator
“Begin Peace now. Each now is new.”
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