My daughters and I recently started watching a new Netflix series called “The Kindness Diaries”. This documentary-style series follows a man, Leon, who travels around the world simply relying on the kindness of strangers. And, he finds kindness in the most desperate of circumstances. Families who can barely feed their children, provide him with food and shelter. Homeless men living on the streets, share their space and offer him the clothes off their backs. Time and time again, it is those with the least (financially) in life, who offer Leon the most. And they offer kindness entirely out of the goodness of their hearts, without any expectation of repayment.
Today, my girls and I visited a beautiful family, new to Canada. They fled Syria and then Lebanon, and arrived in Canada less than one year ago. They showed us pictures of their life in Lebanon. Beirut was flourishing, beautiful and peaceful…and their pictures showed the young family loving life. We had never met, but they welcomed us with wide open arms, into their home, and provided us with a beautiful and delicious meal. Despite the significant language barrier, we learned Arabic and experienced parts of their rich culture. The kindness they showed us was so touching. And this young family has been through so much, in fact, more than most of us could likely endure. Despite it all, their kindness was overflowing.
As we hugged and left, we were in awe of their resilience, but most of all, we were inspired by their kindness. And what we all learned, is that kindness is free and is the most valuable gift one human can give to another. If we all showed just a little bit more kindness towards each other, despite our differences, what would the world look like? What we experienced today, and what is featured on the Kindness Diaries, shows us that kindness can prevail and kindness can change the world.
So, thank you to the wonderful Helal family who showed my family kindness today. Thank you to the families in Tanzania, who have so little, but insisted on giving me gifts of eggs and soda when I visited them. Thank you to the man in Nicaragua who saw me ill and shared his only bottle of water with me at the end of a volcano hike. Thank you to Leon Logothetis for showing us all that kindness is powerful and abundant, in a world so shaken with instability and cruelty.
Your kindness matters!
Share with us an experience you are reminded of, after reading this post. Please let us know through the comments.
Alison Fraser is the mother of three young girls ranging in age from 5 to 9 years old. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Alison works as an Environmental Toxicologist with a human environment consulting company and is an active member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). She is also the founder and director of the Canadian Not for Profit Organization, Mom2Mom Africa, which serves to fund the school fees of children and young women in rural Tanzania. Recently recognized and awarded a "Women of Waterloo Region" award, Alison is very involved in charitable events within her community including Christmas Toy and School Backpack Drives for the local foodbank.
2017. My, how time flies! In 2010 in the office of an amazing human being, I read a sign that said: ‘Time flies like arrows; fruit flies like bananas’. I didn’t get it when I read it, but when I did it stuck with me. I was reminded of this when thinking over my interview with Victor Kannan; Director of the Heartfulness Institute. Firstly, I will mention that it was an absolute pleasure listening to Mr. Kannan. His sincerity, love, and humble self-confidence was refreshing and I don’t think any listener could have listened without a smile in his/her heart and face. Secondly, as I re-read his transcript I saw that there were concepts I hadn’t quite looked at in the way I could see them in this new moment. I believe it was important for me, personally, to hear certain things explained in a certain way, and they have stuck with me since!
This is Part I of the interview. I thought of truncating it to make it fit one post, but I do not want to deprive anyone of hearing Mr. Kannan’s voice in the way in which he spoke. I wish for you to hear, even if it is in text, and feel what Victor was speaking about.
S: How long have you practiced heartfulness meditation?
V: I started in ’82. So how many years ago was it?
S: Let’s see: 34
V: Yes, 34 years and 8 months.
S: Were there times during the 30 years when you were more or less consistent, and why do you think that was the case?
V: I have been pretty consistent with it for the most part; of course, I have missed a lot of it. Still, I have tried to be consistent with my practice.
When I started, I was a bachelor and working at a bank. I was more consistent then. Between the ages of 22 and 25, I was consistent. Then I came to the US, got married and started a family. I wanted to build stability for my family, so I began to focus more on my career. Even though I understood that this practice of meditation would help me even materially, I found it difficult to be disciplined. I would try to incorporate it as much as possible. I was a heartfulness trainer and wanted to make sure I was available to people. But my personal practice suffered a bit. Now my daughter is on her own, and we are in good health, physically and materially, and even though I spend enormous amounts of time volunteering, I am able to spend sufficient time with personal meditation. Now I am very consistent.
S: I don’t want to assume… is the majority of your volunteering involved with heartfulness meditation?
V: All of it.
S: Okay. So have you, or do you practice any other type of meditation? And if not, why have you chosen heartfulness meditation as opposed to any other type?
V: I think I stumbled into it, and so far, it makes me feel that I am continuing to grow. So far I haven’t felt the need to look for anything else. It’s not that I don’t read books or that I am not open to others, but in a nice way, this practice has continued to enrich me and I am satisfied with it.
It’s a very important question, actually. How do you know we are on the best route for us? Somewhere along the line, if you make a habit of searching, you may not appreciate what you have found. So it is a thing of the heart. If you trust your heart, you will know. You will have ‘come home.’ Now make the best of what that offers.
I feel lucky and content. After many years of practice, I know that I am on the fastest and best route for me.
S: I see. Okay, thank you! Switching gears just a little bit, what is your career?
V: I work as a CFO, and have been since the early 90s. I am currently working for a gaming company, which is basically a technology application company.
S: In connection to that, I’d like to ask you: what is your take on the place of material things and spiritual things, and is it okay to have both?
V: I think so. I don’t think you can have one without the other. I think it is the material plane that gives you the possibility of spiritual progress, spiritual growth, spiritual engagement, and also spiritual adventure. If you ask a hungry man which he would prefer, bread or God, he is going to ask for bread. Bread represents the material life that we live; the basic needs of life, including financial needs, have to be taken care of first. One of our teachers of the Heartfulness system, Babuji, used to say: “Don’t let the dogs bark when you meditate”. So what does it mean? When you are consistent with your spiritual endeavor at the core of your existence, that consistency expands the consciousness to feel unconditional love. And at the end of the day, that expanded consciousness is going to give you the freedom to enjoy life the way in which it should be enjoyed. It also gives you access to knowledge, as it is more intuitive, and all of your faculties that are externally oriented will act as a filter. When the consciousness is expanded, the right filters will kick in and so you will obtain the right knowledge, which Babuji calls “Real Knowledge” versus just plain knowledge. Real knowledge is defined as the knowledge of one’s soul, spirit or the universe, whereas knowledge as we commonly understand it is about how to live well.
I also got this revelation that at times knowledge is nothing more than a layer of ignorance. Right? That is one of the reasons why in science sometimes, they keep on disproving what someone thought was the truth before. That is how we advance. But to hang on to something, even if it is scientific, is equally dogmatic.
This material life is necessary because we are made of matter. Matter interacts with energy to produce something else, and in the field of manifestation of life, it produces the base of consciousness. Consciousness is like a big canvas, with your faculties, such as ego, intellect and mind, acting as paint and brush on this big canvas. Your mind and soul, which are the seeds of life, make you creative, and then you paint with those tools on that canvas, creating the life you desire.
In some way, then, that life becomes beautiful, not because others say so, but because you feel it to be real inside yourself.
That’s the tricky part about spirituality. It has to be self-realized. That’s why it’s called self-realization. So material life is necessary, but if we live for the sake of material life, then we are becoming slaves of our lower desires and lower tendencies. For a lack of a better term, I use ‘lower’ because anything that shackles you, to my mind is lower. Anything that frees you is higher.
Again, we have to be careful in terms of temporary fixes people have, to feel free. So, material life is necessary, but what I think we should do somewhere along the line, is spiritualize the material life. How do we do that? Make sure that our material circumstances, occupation, and relationships become more conducive to this overarching purpose of the spiritual pursuit or the spiritual life.
The saying is that ‘you are judged by the company you keep.’ Now forget the judgment part. You are going to be helped by the company you keep. So we should carefully choose the people and circumstances around us (as best as possible, knowing we cannot control everything). Simultaneously we should accept responsibility for the past. When I say the past, I mean that we cannot change the minute that just passed. But we can embrace it, spiritualize it, not fight it, and accept it and ‘make lemonade’ out of it. And not all these moments are lemons, as so many of these past events are good and we are grateful for them.
Today, we are more composed. Today, we have tools that will help us realize the core of our own existence. When our center is disturbed, when we lose our equilibrium, we have tools to achieve that equilibrium. These are spiritual tools like meditation. Meditate with a teacher, or with a trainer, or read a book that is conducive to reestablishing the equilibrium. Call a friend that will help you reestablish the equilibrium. And strengthen yourself. Go within yourself. Self-help is the best help. Or, when we are not able to help ourselves, we seek outside ourselves.
So we accept the past with gratitude, for the past brought us to the present, to where and what we are. And we use everything we have in the present to propel ourselves to a beautiful future. We don’t have to continue the same trajectory from the past to go to the future. We can choose things that are conducive and complimentary to our spiritual endeavor. And we can change the trajectory of our past.
Life, unfortunately, is what it is. We find ourselves in the middle of our lives when we are awake in awareness. And the responsible thing to do is to say: ‘Okay if I have taken 20, 30, 40 years to come here, I can easily change it in the next 5 years to go where I want to go’. Sometimes we want things instantaneously. But if we change that perspective, it will be helpful.
S: Okay, thank you. Now, what is your view on detachment? Is it more your thought as Victor, or has heartfulness meditation helped you form your idea of what detachment means?
V: I don’t know. I try to understand these words in a manner that make sense to me. So as far as detachment, as a word, goes, it has to be understood properly. What do you want to be detached from? You want to be detached from everything that is not conducive to your goal. So suppose you set a goal of having a spiritually expanding consciousness, and to me that means that I want to have unconditional love for myself and others, I want to accept my weaknesses in a manner that I can let go instead of fighting them, and I want to have real knowledge of what is important in life and what the goals in life should be. Also, I recognize that I am on a planet, in an environment, in a situation, which I want to embrace and make the best out of. So where is detachment coming in? The detachment comes in to reinforce the attachment. You cannot say that I am attached to everything, or that I am detached from everything. We are attached to life because we are living. When we become detached from life, we do stupid things. We do irresponsible things. Right?
So detachment or attachment, they go back to the same idea: What is the goal in life, what are my responsibilities, and how do I fulfill my responsibilities that help me achieve my goal? So you know, I think that it requires a proper understanding of the word ‘detachment’. Attaching ourselves to things that are unnecessary is a process, right? Detachment is also a process. Giving freedom to the things you are attached to, for the purposes of those things to flourish, can also be called a detachment. Giving freedom to your children to grow, while giving them love, is detachment, but when we expect them to be a doctor or a musician, or a billionaire, that is attachment. So how can you be detached from the duties that you’re in the middle of, and how can you do your duty without love?
So these concepts of attachment and detachment, renunciation, and annihilation, negation, I think all of them have to be understood in the proper context. They have a purpose, of course. They are going to define a situation. But the wrong understanding of any of it will not be productive. Especially in the heartfulness system of meditation: it says that detachment is basically the sense of discernment. In Sanskrit, it is called viveka. It is a sense of discernment, progressive knowledge of what is right and wrong, what should be done, and what should be ignored, how much to do, and how much not.
End of Part I
If you would like to know view more of Victor Kannan’s virtual written works, please Click Here
Please stay tuned for Part II, in which Mr. Kannan speaks of the state of children in this age of readily accessible technology, among other topics.
This is a post for World Moms Network by Sophia of ThinkSayBe. Photo used with the permission of Victor Kannan.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian war. Five years of fighting, death, destruction. Heartbreaking stories, loss and questions. How much longer can this go on for? How is this going to end? (more…)
Nadege Nicoll was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. She stopped working in the corporate world to raise her three children and multiple pets, thus secretly gathering material for her books. She writes humorous fictions for kids aged 8 to 12. She published her first chapter book, “Living with Grown-Ups: Raising Parents” in March 2013. Her second volume in the series just came out in October 2013. “Living with Grown-Ups: Duties and Responsibilities” Both books take an amusing look at parents’ inconsistent behaviors, seen from the perspective of kids. Nadege hopes that with her work, children will embrace reading and adults will re-discover the children side of parenthood. Nadege has a few more volumes ready to print, so watch this space…
Those moments, when you are driving the carpool to swimming or to soccer, and the children in the backseat are talking about you while having forgotten your presence, merely inches away in the front –those are the moments of truth.
Over the past few months, there has been plenty of discussion in our house about the coalition war which is taking place just across Jordan’s borders. We have talked, constantly, about the important work that my husband is doing with the UNICEF Jordan office and how children, just like our own, are being forced out of their schools and homes because of the continued fighting in Syria. As all parents do, we try to explain why we do what we do and live as we do.
Despite claims by my children that I am brainwashing them about making a better world, I always felt the need to repeat these conversations, over and over again, because I never really knew how much our children internalized. And then I drove the carpool.
From the backseat of our Prado, the conversation went like this:
D – How long will you be here?
C – Oh, we’ll be here for five years because my dad has important work to do with UNICEF helping kids.
D – We will be here for two, and then the Embassy moves us back to Washington. Do you have a Wii?
C – Yeah.
D – Do you play Grand Theft Auto?
C- No, I’m not allowed to play violent games. My mum is all about peace. One time, I tried to convince her that the games with guns were really for hypnotizing the other guy, but she didn’t believe me. In her last job, she was the principal of a peace school.
In that moment, I knew he understood.
He knew why we are here and what we stand for as a family. In many ways, I felt my job as a mother was done. I could pat myself on the back and feel proud of the work my husband and I had accomplished. Until I heard the rest of the carpool chat.
D – You know Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare?
C – Yeah.
D – Maybe your mum will let you play that because it’s not really violent, it’s just plants.
And then I knew, you can be the Peace Mum, but you can’t stop having the conversation.
What are the repeated conversations you have with your children to share your values and beliefs?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Photo credit to the author.
We are a few months into our new 'home of our heart' location in Amman, Jordan. Originally from Canada, I have been moving around the globe for more than twenty years as my husband works for UNICEF. While we were a carefree couple in Uganda, Lesotho and Bangladesh, Meghan joined our family in 2000, while we were living in Myanmar. She was joined in 2005, while we were posted in India by Charlie, her energetic younger brother! Since then we have lived in Mozambique and New York. I am an educator and have been incredibly fortunate to have found rewarding jobs in international schools wherever we have been posted. Most recently I was the Elementary School Principal at the United Nations International School in Manhattan. Since arriving in Jordan, I have been a stay at home Mum, exploring, photographing and learning about the incredible history of the region and the issues facing not only the Jordan population but the incredible number of Syrian refugees currently residing in the country. While I speak English and French, I have not yet started to learn Arabic; a big goal for our time here.
I write to record and process this incredible journey we are on as a family. Time passes so incredibly quickly and without a recording of events, it's hard to remember the small moments and wonderings from each posting. Being a mother in this transient lifestyle means being the key cheerleader for our family, it means setting up and taking down a house with six weeks notice, it means creating close friendships and then saying goodbye. All this, while telling yourself that the opportunities your children have make the goodbyes and new hellos worthwhile. Raising a child in this lifestyle has incredible challenges and rewards. The challenges include culture shock every single time, even when you feel the move will be an easy one. It means coaching yourself, in your dark moments to be present and supportive to your children, who have not chosen to move but are trusting you to show them the world and the meaningfulness of the lifestyle we have committed to as a UNICEF family. The upsides to this lifestyle are incredible; the ability to have our children interact and learn about cultures, languages, food, and religions firsthand, the development of tolerance and empathy through relationships with many types of different people and the travel, they have been to more places before the age of ten than some people do in a lifetime! My commitment to raising children who believe in peace and feel responsible for making a difference in creating a better world is at the core of everything I do.