Sunday, November 2, 2014
The big guy and I went to a lecture yesterday morning given by Gabor Maté about Compassion and Social Inclusion. "Dr. Maté has extensive experience working with patients in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and has championed a compassionate approach to supporting vulnerable populations . Dr. Maté will speak about compassion, addiction and inclusion."
There is a video making it's way around the internet right now about a homeless man, Ryan Arcand, in Edmonton who plays the piano. Dr. Maté started off talking about Ryan and the fact that people are surprised that this man not only plays the piano beautifully but that he also composes his own music. This man, Ryan, is creative and produces works of art. Then he went on to say that Ryan is no different than any one of us in the audience. He has a soul. He has dreams. He has fears. He is a human. There is no difference between us except the things that we put there, between us. Things like he is homeless. He is an addict. But those things are not him anymore than my fears are me.
Dr. Maté believes that addiction comes from some kind of childhood trauma, that it is an attempt to ease fears, to soothe, to feel better. He pointed out that none of these things are bad things. We all want to stop our pain, to feel better, to feel included, but the problem with addictions is what happens afterwards, the negative things that come after that initial feeling better. And we all do it. We all want to feel better, we all want to stop the pain, ease the fears, feel a part of something.
Which is where compassion comes in, compassion not only for others, but for ourselves. In fact the compassion that we need to feel for others can only start with ourselves for if we cannot be kind and compassionate with ourselves, how can we give that to others? We also need to understand that we are all the same, there is no distance between us.
The talk he gave meandered through politics, modern culture versus tribal culture, addictions, racism, sexism, trauma, disease and most importantly, cultivation of compassion. I cried more than once and he made me think. I didn't agree with everything he had to say but I what I took away from his talk was the importance and need for compassion in our world.
Two weeks ago I listened to a woman on the CBC radio show Tapestry discuss compassion and self kindness. I didn't know what Gabor Maté's talk was about when I signed up to attend his lecture but as luck would have it, or perhaps the universe, the two went nicely together.
I am a slow learner but it would seem that I about to learn how to become compassionate with myself and others. I didn't learn kindness as a child but I am hopeful that I can learn to be gentle and kind with myself, hopeful that my children can learn as well because I was not able to teach them what was not taught to me. And so it goes.