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Going beyond Sonder

I had a…let’s call it…a “minor” difference of opinion with my mother.

Rather, we were in total agreement: I felt that she was totally out of her mind. And she felt the same about me.

I felt she was being unreasonable, impractical, immature, myopic and egotistic. And oddly enough, she felt exactly the same thing about me.

After 10 min of further “discussion”, there was tense silence.

We then exchanged a few words to break the awkwardness and went on with our tasks.

The best thing about mothers is that these situations can be reset almost instantly with a tight hug 🙂

If I’d put myself in her shoes, I would have realized where she was coming from. I did finally “get it”, but only after all the drama.

Empathy is a skill that we can all build, with practice. The sooner it kicks in, the better.

Sonder, the sudden realization that everyone has their own story, is great.

But what if we could make this a “constant” awareness?

I think all of the following would result from that:

  1. Gratitude: I’m certain we would realize that our own stories are better than those of many others.
  2. Empathy: Our frustration that the other person can’t see our point of view or that they’re being unreasonable/stupid/immature would be replaced by a deeper understanding of the “why” behind their perspective. And we would probably realize that we might have had the same conclusions as them, if we’d experienced exactly what they’d gone through in the past.
  3. Compassion: Trying to change someone because we feel we’re right and that they’re wrong is a terrible way to grow trust and respect. But what if we’re driven more by a desire to help someone alleviate their pain? They may come up with new and more useful perspectives on their own. Which is a much better way to help people improve and grow.
  4. Selflessness: It’s difficult to be constantly focused on “me” when I can see the stories of so many others. A sense of interconnectedness kicks in. That I’m just a link in the chain.
  5. Responsibility: If I’m a link in the chain, what’s my role here? What should I be doing so that the stories of others have better endings?

Once we’re bought into the idea of increasing our awareness, the next question is how we would do that.

I find meditation quite useful. Tiny improvements in awareness after each meditation session are making me a better person, I think.

I think practising gratitude is also very useful. The question: “What should I be grateful for?” is a good trigger to increase our awareness.

There’s no end here. Only continuous improvement.

We’re all on a journey.

Initially, we’re competitive, aggressive, proving ourselves, achieving.

We hit some milestones. It feels good, but there’s also a sense of disillusionment. What’s the meaning of all this?

We then figure out that we’re a drop in the ocean of humanity. And then find what we’ve always been looking for: Peace.

PS: Thanks to Bard for helping me find the word I sought.

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