"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! If you're happy and you know it, and you're not afraid to show it, clap your hands!"
If you know these words, you've probably either been in Sunday school at some point in your life, been to one of my yoga classes, or you know my grandkids! This is one of my favorite theme songs…
And they are also the words that broke me wide open recently.
“If you’re happy and you know it…”
At our household, we sing all of the verses and variations! “If you're happy and you know it… stomp your feet, say AMEN, scratch your head, rub your belly, pretend you’re jelly!” And we often run through all of the emotions of the Pixar movie Inside Out: Joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and many more, often resulting in hold-your-belly laughter!
After a particular round of singing, laughing, and hilarious antics, one of my granddaughters spontaneously said to me, "What’s gay, Granny? What does gay mean?"
Without a moment of hesitation, I said, "It means happy!"
Then, without any uncertainty on their part, the children began to sing, "If you're gay and you know it, clap your hands! If you're gay and you know it, raise your hands! If you're gay and you know it, and you're not afraid to show it, if you're gay and you know it, thump your chest!"
By the time they had finished the verse, I was weeping! "Oh Granny, are you sad? No, we want you to be gay," consoled my angel-like companions. "Granny be gay! Granny be gay!" was the plea.
What they could not have possibly understood is that they had touched a piece of unprocessed emotion stuck deep within me.
This unprocessed emotion arose after I did a coaching session with a good friend of mine—a counselor and coach who we affectionately call Joe, short for “Just Out Everything.” He was given this nickname for his capacity to hold space for anything anyone is willing to speak about, even if they think that what needs to be said is unspeakable.
Joe specializes in counseling young men who are engaged in deviant sexual thoughts and behaviors which have resulted in them being imprisoned or confined to a residential facility. While his work is extremely emotionally draining for him, he's had some pretty amazing results from holding a loving space for these lost souls who desperately need to reconnect to their family and society again.
The fact is that coaches, caretakers, counselors, and healers all need “safe space” to process the sessions we've held. It was my honor to hold Joe’s process of releasing and reconnecting with his equanimity– that mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in (and after) a difficult situation.
Although most of the youth he works with are from the residential treatment center he oversees, Joe was compelled to do some coaching privately with a young gay teenager whose grandfather had insisted his grandson go through a series of electric shock treatments with the goal of re-wring his brain to not be gay.
The young man lived in a community of ultra-religious people who believed they had received a new revelation from the god of their understanding; this new decree was that anyone who was gay was doomed to the gates of Hell, along with their family! In other words, they believed that if someone had a gay son or grandson, their so-called “sin” would affect up to seven generations—both backwards and forwards, ancestors and descendants—from the promise of heaven. You can only imagine the depth of shame and guilt this placed on the gay youth of this community. In fact, there was an unprecedented number of suicides the summer this new propaganda began to circulate.
As Joe unloaded his angst over the horrific treatment this young man had endured, there was something inside of me that absorbed the deep sense of injustice. It was almost impossible to understand the form of severe cultural bullying this youth had endured and the depth of destruction it had caused. While we as coaches, counselors and healers are often advised to protect ourselves from absorbing the emotions of those we work with, it’s often easier said than done.
Joe continued to empty himself by sharing how the grandfather pleaded with him to rid his grandson of what he called “this terrible curse,” fully believing what the church elders had determined to be the newly revealed truth. While Joe did coach and counsel the confused and depressed youth, he could feel the young man slipping away to the grip of shame and isolation. Unfortunately, Joe’s worst fear came true: one night, the mental bullying became unbearable, and his young client successfully took his own life.
The next time Joe came face to face with the young man’s grandfather was at the funeral of his client. As Joe approached the grandfather, he heard the old man say, "I'm shocked my grandson was so sad about being gay that he'd kill himself.” Not one to shy away from speaking his truth, Joe replied, “Your grandson died of shame!”
Joe recalls feeling as if everyone in the room had disappeared, and that he was shouting at the top of his lungs, "We are here to love one another– not bully others into the way we want them to be!” Later, it was reported to Joe that no one heard him raise his voice at all; rather, they witnessed him catch the old man as he fell to his knees, pleading for forgiveness.
The acronym for S.H.O.C.K. is the antidote for bullying!
After holding Joe's story during a coaching and clearing session, I realized how deeply committed I am to anti-bullying! The idea of shock therapy being used in this day and age enraged me. Being triggered, even from a place of righteous indignation, was a message for me to look deeper and work to reclaim my equanimity. As I have now done my work to come to a place of neutrality, releasing what I have been holding from being the coach, this is the message that has been revealed: the acronym for S.H.O.C.K. is the antidote for bullying!
Spiritually-sensitive or Mean-spirited?
Our actions fall into two distinct categories. What we choose to say and do is either spiritually-sensitive or mean-spirited. Period! While “black and white” and “right or wrong” is usually not the way we choose to look at things, in this case, it is a very clear distinction. Our words and actions can be clearly divided into those that are spiritually-sensitive and those that are mean-spirited.
For example, choosing to believe that your gay grandson could keep you from entering heaven is not spiritually-sensitive at all; it just mean-spirited! One of the best self-coaching questions we can ask ourselves is, “Is there any part of my thoughts or actions that are anything less than spiritually-sensitive?” Anything less is mean-spirited.
NOTE: Any amount of teasing or taunting cannot fall under the heading of spiritually-sensitive. It is then considered mean-spirited. If it’s teasing, it is not spiritually pleasing; therefore, teasing is a form of mean-spiritedness, better known as bullying. Stop it!
In the yogic tradition, the word “namaste” is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. It translates to mean, “I honor the divine in you.” In essence, namaste is recognizing that we're all equal. When a person greets another with the intention, they are verbally and symbolically saying, "I am paying respect to your soul and honoring your divinity." Thus, a ring of spiritual emotion is created within.
Namaste energetically sends vibrations to the one receiving the gesture. Namaste creates a loop of bliss to pass positive energy to the one receiving the gesture. Heart centers and chakras are said to connect during the divine saying. Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, taught, "Whoever comes to me finds me a mirror to whatever is in his heart. He brings to me a mirror as well.”
Observe others from the lens of love.
The Golden Rule, in one form or another, is found throughout many of the ancient religions and philosophical writings. Confucius said, “To LOVE all men is the greatest benevolence”; Gautama Buddha said, “Let a man cultivate towards the whole world a heart of LOVE”; Judaism commands, “Thou shalt LOVE the lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself’; and Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, is that you LOVE one another.” When we choose to see through the lens of love, as taught in all traditions, we will be centered in a spiritually-sensitive way of life.
Consciously choose compassionate communication.
Marshall B. Rosenberg, founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication, has taught thousands of people around the globe that our natural state is one of compassion, where no violence is present in the heart. We learn violence and non-compassion; therefore, we can unlearn it. According to the research done for nearly five decades, most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, diagnose, and to think and communicate in terms of what is “right“ and “wrong“ with people. We express our feelings in terms of what another person has “done to us.” We struggle to understand what we want or need in the moment and how to effectively ask for what we want without using unhealthy demands, threats, or coercion.
Dr. Rosenberg has dedicated his life to teaching, “When our communication supports compassionate giving and receiving, happiness replaces violence and grieving!” The four-step nonviolent communication process consciously communicates what is observed, felt, and needed from all perspectives. Leaning to make a compassionate request in a non-demanding way from a neutral, loving heart-space creates true compassion and results in violence disappearing.
The Dalai Lama says it simply: “Be kind whenever possible… and it is always possible.” To reframe this, we can say, “We can always choose to be spiritually-sensitive whenever possible… and it is always possible!”
Important Announcement: One of SWIHA’s great graduates, Ann Cabano, is a passionate advocate for humanity, using her talents as a documentary filmmaker and holistic educator to give voice to the human experience. She is involved in a grassroots movement to spread love and kindness, to demonstrate tolerance and compassion, and to BE the change through her businesses, Lovealution and TheJustBeLoveProject.com.
She is hosting an important Anti-bulling and Suicide Prevention Conference September 30, 2017, which is being sponsored by Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. There is no charge to attend the conference. Please be our guest from 10 AM to 4 PM! This event is being held at the Arizona Heritage Center @ the Arizona Historical Society, 1300 N College Ave in Tempe, AZ.
REGISTER HERE TO ATTEND: