Tag Archives: engagement

Compassion with ConsciousCafe Singapore

ConsciousCafe founder Judy Piatkis with Singapore group leader Hanna Krasnodebska, earlier this year.

Conscious Café Singapore met recently for another interesting discussion, this time on the theme of Compassion, with special speaker Anita Kapoor who introduced the topic and led the discussion.

Compassion is at the root of human contacts and relationships, but is it really evident in the way we are currently interacting with each other, or with nature? What are our personal experiences of compassion? Is compassion a clearly defined state of being or does it have a spectrum? Is compassion a dominant modus operandi currently? What can we do to bring back the compassion into our interactions and stop being a cutthroat?

Compassion is a virtue of our humanness. It is wired into our biology via the vagus nerve that transmits information to and from lungs, heart and organs of digestion and additionally serves the parasympathetic nervous system that is calming in opposition to the fight-flight response. It is our “nerve of compassion” that promotes altruism, gratitude according to Professor Porges’ Polyvagal Theory. There is also the “love hormone” oxytocin that is responsible for the social bonding.

The dominating concept of “survival of the fittest” that originated from Darwin’s evolutionary theory have been influencing societies and cultures for the past 150 years.  There is a need in the contemporary chaotic, fragmented, competition-dominated world to shift into a kind and compassionate co-existence. Participants shared their experiences of how the education system ingrains and reinforces competitiveness, how workplaces value and reward it, and how at the level of individual interactions this can be a dominant characteristic. In the presence and pressure of constant comparison we either strive to fit in or isolate ourselves into our own personal world – a private reality, we get depressed, feel anxious. If we do not get that top prize we are no longer “unfortunate” – that term has at least a smudge of compassion. No, we become “losers”.

That disconnection has been spreading. The rise of individualism, the emancipation of the individual in modernity from many societal structures has been, on one hand, a positive development, but on the other it’s increasingly producing its own antithesis – tribalism, conformism. Yet so many of us are craving a true community to belong to.

Our group discussed the aspects of compassion as a spectrum of engagement. Often a compassion is mistaken with pity, the feeling of sharing the suffering of another human being, while compassion is the feeling of empathy and a desire to help, to alleviate the suffering. It is very powerful to hear a personal story and participants were generously sharing.

We touched on the importance of the self-compassion: that special kindness towards oneself that is interlinked with forgiveness towards our own errors, mistakes and failures. Various examples from personal practices on how to cultivate it were shared: looking after oneself, seeking physical comfort, letting go of perfectionism, practising mindfulness, being aware of emotions and shame arising, allowing oneself to seek help.

We concluded that there is rising awareness of the importance of cultivating compassion in children as well as in adults, and that we all as individuals can contribute by being aware of our daily interactions and response choices. Compassion in action.

 

This blog post is written by Hanna Krasnodebska, leader of ConsciousCafe Singapore. Follow the Singapore group page to keep up to date with upcoming meetings!

Identity, Belonging and Conscious Café Singapore

Conscious Café Singapore group held its monthly meeting on 27th March 2019 to discuss the theme of “Identity and a Need of Belonging”.

The historical evolution of ‘identity’ as a concept in the western hemisphere was presented in a short introduction. In Medieval times, identity was based on a communal and religious affiliation, the communal living and thinking and a blind acceptance of the status quo. The Humanist movement in Italy in 15th century recognised that people possess the mind and intelligence to think for themselves – the “private enlightened conscience”. The alluring new cult of the Self had been discovered. During the Age of Enlightenment, philosopher Locke proposed that identity is a matter of psychological continuity; that when a person is born, the mind is empty – a tabula rasa – which is then shaped by experiences, reflections and sensations. In the 20th century a plethora of views on an individual identity as a correlation between mind and body, as well as development of a social identity theory, was pursued.

Our group discussion started with a few questions: Is our identity our story? How is the access to cyberspace, social media platforms affecting our identity? Does one’s sense of identity influence one’s sense of belonging?

The conversation was immensely enriched by the fact that participants were representing diverse nationalities, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. We shared personal stories that expanded our knowledge and understanding of different historical, social and cultural contexts influencing our individual identities.

We agreed that identity is a story that we constantly construct and embellish in response to changing circumstances in our lives.

With an easy access to cyberspace and social media platforms, we have the opportunity to create digital selves. These projections can reflect our real self or our desired self and the demarcation between these identities can be blurred. Some of us expressed concerns about data protection issues and privacy control when engaged in online activity, and a potential manipulation and for-profit exploitation with increased presence of Artificial Intelligence and its algorithms.

The sense of identity has definitely had an impact on our sense of belonging. Being away for a prolonged period of time from one’s community can make it difficult to “fit in” as it was shared by a few expatriates. It takes an effort to find a mutual acceptance and common ground again. Having an open mind, understanding that life is a constant change, an ability to reflect, an alignment in values and believes, and a capacity to listen and to be heard were listed as some of the attitudes and conditions that positively influence our sense of belonging.

 

 

 

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