I am in my home. Safe within my four walls. The cold is kept at bay. The roof doesn’t leak. I have food in the refrigerator and fresh water on tap. Settling back into a comfy sofa with a glass of wine to watch a film I smile to myself. Life is good.
Just as the opening titles roll across the screen, I look up and see a child in the corner of the room. Dressed in rags, sores under his eyes, flies buzzing around his knotted hair as he scrapes a filthy plastic cup into a muddy pool of water then raises it to his lips. No! I avert my eyes and they fall on another corner of the room. A woman has just given birth. The midwife is looking in dismay at the newborn’s contorted limbs. “The third one this week” she mutters to a colleague. “And they say that factory is totally safe.” She looks directly at me “The factory your pension fund is investing in.” I am appalled, yet my attention is drawn away from them by a frightened gasp and a thud behind me. “Maybe that’ll teach you a lesson “snarls the man at the body writhing at his feet. He gives it a few more kicks to be sure. “And what do you care?” he bellows at me.
Walls protect us for sure. But they also screen out what we don’t want to see. How easy it is to avoid the problems caused by poverty, violence and environmental abuse when our own world is safe and sound. How differently might we behave if we were all under one roof. When I was moved to write my latest book “Walking through Walls” I didn’t realise quite how many walls I would discover. Walls to keep people out. Walls to hide the unsightly consequences of our choices. To protect our stuff. Walls in our world and walls in our hearts and minds. I invite you to consider them. And maybe even walk through one or two.
What walls exist within you? There are many instances where we present a positive image to the outside world, even if our inside world is in disarray. We create walls, within ourselves, to distance ourselves from the uncomfortable truths (low self-image, anxiety, depression etc.) that rest within us. Is there a child dressed in rags, sitting within you? Are there more than one?
When we tend to our inner-impoverishment we equip ourselves to see outer-impoverishment as it is. Having felt, and tended to ourselves, we realize that others need attention, and tending. The more we have connected with ourselves, the greater the possibility to connect with other beings, and to transcend the illusory walls of circumstance: race, religion, ability, age, etc.
Tolstoy wrote that people are like clouds, they are the same everywhere. Beneath the flesh, humans are composed of the same organs, regardless of who they are or where they are from. In the monastery they hang a poster of the human organs, as a reminder of this. The more I immerse myself in different cultures, the more this becomes clear.
There are skills that are universal, such as curiosity, selflessness, compassion, and flexibility. The more of these skills that we develop, the more fluidly we can walk through walls. Complete embodiment of these skills has the potential to dissolve walls. Many of these skills can be found in the teachings of the Mystics, or more materially, the Artists. If we want to truly break down the walls, the way we educate, and socialize, young people seems to be the best place to start? But what about the educators? Or, the people that provide the educators their paychecks, or certificates? Perhaps, the best place to start is everywhere, as soon as possible, doing as much as each one of us can?
Lead Author: Catherine Shovlin (first 3 paragraphs)
Catherine now realises she has been walking through walls for years now… and has the scars to prove it! She is currently experimenting with a life of less doing and more being, based in Bali and exploring the connections between life, death and healing.
See her Freetreat videos on https://www.youtube.com/catherineshovlin Or order her latest book, Walking through Walls, from Amazon. http://bit.ly/WalkingThroughWalls
Anchor Author: Daniel Rudolph
Dan has been living and working in different countries for the past decade. He is dedicated to re-imagining education and enabling opportunities for experiential learning and connection. One of his current passions is learning and spreading juggling.
Dan will be co-facilitating Re-Imagining Our Future, an online course offered by the Charter For Compassion’s Education Institute, starting October 26, 2020.