I recently attended the first Wisdom2.0 Parenting & Youth event in San Francisco.
Being in a room full of people believing that mindfulness could help develop and enhance the skills required to raise or work with children provided great learning.
They had a fantastic guest: Will Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness teacher and father who, with his wife, also works with parents of autistic children.
He said something that struck me: "We are not trying to be super-human -- just human."
My first thought was: "Are you kidding me?!? Who is trying to just be human? Not me, not most of the people I know, nobody in the media ..."
Between the airbrushed images in the magazines, the looking-great-in your pjs actresses & models, the few super-hero-like top women execs, the "I run 5 businesses at the same time with no effort," and the perfect teeth syndrome that makes people wear these funny liners that sometimes come-off while they speak, we are surrounded by super-human aspirations.
My version of super-human was not Mother Theresa-like (who amplified positive human attributes) but more Wonder Woman-like (who doesn't live by human physical and mental limitations, who is bullet-proof, can fly, etc.)
A few years back I realized how futile my attempts at being a super-woman were. I never tried to dodge bullets nor jump from the roof and fly (even thought flying would have been a practical super-power to have...). But I did try to be mentally & emotionally indestructible. I tried to split myself into too many pieces. I tried to keep going without attending to my basic needs (sleep, nourishment, exercising, etc).
Eventually I was so immersed in my super-woman persona that I actually had to learn what it meant to be "only" human.
For those of you who are way over there on the super-human side, human looks like this:
- You can't do it all (at once)
- Some things you can't do at all (such as remove someone else's pain ... or fly)
- You are not perfect (Perfect is an evolving concept, so you can never be "it")
- You can't plan and control everything (Life happens with or without your consent)
- You have to speak to your partner/friend (They are also just humans pretending to be "supers," so they can't really read your mind)
- Your body has needs and limitations -- even if you ignore them, they are still there, and they will show up eventually, usually in unpleasant & painful way.
- Happiness is good but can't last forever (That's a fact. I know, it sucks...)
- Pain is, how can I put it?... painful! And that's OK; you will survive.
I am still learning to be just human. It is an experience, to say the least, but it's one that brings bigger pains and bigger joys. It takes lot of practice to acknowledge and accept them (vs ignoring or wanting to fix them).
But through practice, I started noticing a deeper change, a kind of freedom. The freedom I am talking about is the one that allows you not to explode (or implode depending on your temperament) every time something upsets you. It allows you to feel deep grief and bounce back the next moment. It allows you to say "enough" or "more" when it feels right to you. It allows you to be happy not to the point of bursting, but to the point of feeling full while knowing you can take more.
It transforms the way you experience life.
Most people at the event agreed that they, too, were trying to be super-human. For some it was called trying to be "perfect."