The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Something Has Come Up

A few days ago a friend rang to postpone a meeting we had planned.  “Something’s come up,” he said.  Following our telephone conversation I pondered that phrase: Something’s Come Up.

Things do, don’t they?  Come up, I mean.  No matter how precisely we plan, and attempt to control, our lives, things change.

Something Has Come Up is the flip side of the coin where the other side is the phrase, All Things Must Pass.  Things arise, things pass.  Understanding, and accepting that simple truth allows us to be content.  Knowing this, we can be content in the midst of happiness or sadness.

Misfortune arises and I react with sadness.  Yet, knowing that All Things Must Pass allows me to be content – knowing that the sadness will pass.

When I feel happy, even though All Things Must Pass and my happiness will subside, I can remain content.

In each of the above two paragraphs I could have substituted the phrase All Things Must Pass with the phrase Something Has Come Up.  My sadness will ease because something comes up.  My happiness will subside because something comes up.

Why do all things pass?  Why does something come up?

Simply because all things are connected.

The world is not a mechanistic machine in which events occur in a linear orderly fashion.  Our western-styled culture has adopted such a view over the past few centuries.  In doing so our approach has been to break things apart and study them in isolation, neglecting the wider context and the systems within which all things exist.  So, we have learnt more and more about less and less. 

Eastern and indigenous cultures, however, have understood the interconnectedness of things and that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.

Over the past hundred years or so aspects of western science have also begun to understand this holistic worldview.  Quantum Physics, Systems Theory, Complexity Theory, Chaos Theory, the science of Emergence, the Butterfly Effect, and many more theories and ideas are disrupting the long-held mechanistic view of the world.

Our social environment, by and large, seems to be lagging behind.  The ways in which we approach education, health, social services, commerce, energy, transport, policy-making, ad nauseum, cling to a mechanistic, piecemeal, linear approach.

By clinging to this approach we continue to think that by analysing situations in pieces, planning in a linear fashion, and thinking we have the mechanisms to fix problems, all we are doing is creating bigger and bigger messes.

We must begin to understand that we are part of an infinite, interconnected, co-existing, and co-creating universe.

That means seeing the two sides of the coin:

  • All Things Must Pass
  • Something Has Come Up

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Does Karma Negate Compassion?

What place does compassion play if those suffering are doing so because of karma?  From a deterministic viewpoint offering compassion to those experiencing karmic debts is of little value.  The logic of this simplistic view of karma is that there is no point in seeking to alleviate suffering, no point in seeking social justice.

Such a logic is flawed.  Flawed because of a misunderstanding of karma, and flawed, paradoxically, from an understanding of karma.

Karma is an extremely difficult concept to understand, especially for those of us with a western cultural heritage.  We tend to view karma as a form of retributive justice.  Thus, if I do something “bad” in this, or a previous, life then I will suffer later in this, or the next, life.  From this perspective, it becomes possible to look at someone who is suffering now and adjudge them as having done something in their past that is the cause of their present suffering.  We can also think, mistakenly, of karma as being synonymous with fate or predestination.

Yet, karma, at least from the understanding that the Buddha left us with, is somewhat different.
Although karma can be thought of as providing an explanation for present suffering, it is not the only cause.  The Buddha made reference to a number of other possible causes of events or experiences in our present lives, including physical, biological, and environmental causes.

The concept of karma had been around long before the time of the Buddha.  The Buddha, however, emphasised the element of cetana (translated as volition, motivation,  or intention.)  An illustration of this is to think of two people plunging a knife into another persons chest.  One of these persons is a murderer and does so with the intent to kill the other.  The second is a surgeon and does so with the intent to save the life of the other.  The actions are similar, yet the intentions are vastly different.

Thus, intentions, and state of mind are given more weight than the action and the result.  For those of us brought up in a western culture that emphasises outcomes this can be difficult to fully grasp.

If we think of karma in this way, then it is our present or future state of mind, or consciousness, that is influenced by our past or present intentions.  Thus, our present and future happiness is the karmic result of past or present contentment and intention to live joyfully.  Similarly, our present or future painful state is the result of our focusing on negative energies in the past. 


Returning to the idea that showing compassion in the face of karma is a waste of time and effort, we must ask ourselves: what karmic future are we creating for ourselves if our present intention is to show a lack of compassion?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Is It Right To Forgive?

It seems right to forgive, doesn’t it?  After all, we hear such proclamations often from pulpits and religious sectors.

We also hear calls for apologies to be made.  Within the public domain we often hear these couched in phrases such as “we call on him/her to apologise, and to withdraw.”

Forgiveness and apology seem to go together.  One person apologises and the other forgives.  Sometimes, forgiveness is not offered until such time as an apology is given.

Then too, there are times when we hear that forgiveness cannot, or should not, be given because the crime has been too horrific, or the hurt too great.

In all these situations, forgiveness is thought of as something offered because someone has done wrong.  A hurt or crime has been committed and the “victim” is sufficiently humane, or compassionate enough, to forgive the “offender” for the wrongdoing.

Apologies, and forgiveness, are couched in the framework of right/wrong and victim/offender.
Is that really what forgiveness is?  Is forgiveness about righting a wrong?  Is forgiveness about a victim forgiving an offender?

Not really.

Forgiveness is really about healing a damaged relationship.  Forgiveness is about recognising our common humanity and restoring balance when harmony is disrupted.  Forgiveness recognises that, being human, we all make mistakes.  Think of it like the making of a movie.  Various takes of scenes are made, sometimes dozens before the final, picture-perfect (excuse the pun) take is accepted.  Each of the takes before that final take can be thought of as mis-takes.  In each of those takes, the actors, the camera crew, the extras, the make-up artists, the director, the producer, and everyone else on set did their job the best they could at the time.  Each of those mis-takes were accepted and the next take was ordered up by the director.  In the same way, our mis-takes can be accepted, we can learn from them, we can acknowledge to those around us that we made a mis-take, and we can yearn for better in the next “take.”

So it is with forgiveness.  True forgiveness is offered (given) even before the mis-take is made.  Indeed, the etymology of the word embodies this idea.  The word forgive comes to us from the Latin word perdonare.  Doesn’t sound or look like it does it?  However, if you trace its journey perdonare was translated into the Germanic precursor of English.  Per became for and donare was translated as giefan, so we got forgiefan, and from there the modern English word forgive.

In Latin, per means with or before, and donare means completely, without reservation.  Hence, we could define forgive as “to give completely, to give without reservation, and to do so beforehand.”

Looked at this way, forgiveness becomes something we do for ourselves, rather than something we do for the person who we perceive to have harmed us in some way.  As too, is apology.  We apologise because it is healing for the relationship, not because it may heal the perceived hurt of the other person.

Whether we perceive ourselves to be the victim or the offender is largely immaterial.  When either, or both, parties make a mis-take, then the relationship between them is knocked out of balance.  The key to restoring balance, as with so many things in life, is honest and transparent communication.  Taking the time to offer an apology or to for-give allows for a restoration of balance and perhaps even, a more satisfying relationship.


Forgiving then, is not right, or wrong.  Forgiving helps to restore a relationship that has become unbalanced.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Just Breathe

Our aspirations often get phrased in the future tense.  We aspire towards something off in the future.  Aspirations are thought of as a synonym for dreams – something yet to happen.

Dreams are necessary.  Where would we be if we did not dream?  Where would we be if we did not dream of things to improve our lives, individually and collectively?  Without dreams we may not have invented the wheel, the printing press, or iPhones.  Without dreams we would not have abolished slavery, women would still not be eligible to vote, and the Berlin Wall would not have fallen.

Dreamers – there have been many.  We know of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech.  George Bernard Shaw, later quoted by JF Kennedy, famously asked “I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  And, of course, John Lennon acknowledged the many dreamers, singing:
“You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one.”
Yes, dreams (or aspirations) are useful.

We can think of an aspiration in another sense too.  One that is much more immediate.  To aspire also means to breathe.  Not surprisingly really, for it comes from the same Latin root, aspirare – meaning to breathe at, or blow upon.

When we consider our breath we are brought to the here and now.  Our breath is immediate.  We breathe now.  We aspire.  We breathe in, we breathe out.  Our breath also connects us to the cycle of life of which we are a part.  The oxygen in the air we breathe now was once the oxygen released by a tree on the other side of the planet.  At some stage that oxygen has breathed in by another human being somewhere in the world, and sometime in the past.  Our breath connects us to everyone and everything and roots us in the present moment.

Teachers of mindfulness and meditation often get us to use our breath as a tool.  It is the one tool we have access to all the time.  By concentrating on, or focusing upon, our breath we bring ourselves into a space of mindfulness on what is happening here and now.  Our mind begins to let go of its clutter and chatter.  We begin to find a peacefulness and a clarity that is often not there in our busy, hectic, future-oriented days.

Often our community development or social justice work can be future oriented and focused upon our dreams – our aspirations.

Maybe we would benefit sometimes from slowing down and concentrating upon our breath – our aspiration.

By doing so, we may find that what we really want is right here and now.  We may find that by paying attention to the present we become mindful of the opportunities that exist right in front of our (breathing) nostrils.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

The Compassion Book (updated information)


This is a quick update on the review of The Compassion Book for those of you who have already read that review.

As a note to that review I said that enrolments for this years online compassion course had closed.  I have had a message from the team to say that enrolments for this years course have been extended to 19 June.  The course itself begins on 20 June.  I thoroughly recommend this course. 

Here is the link again.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Compassion Book (Book Review)

Are you interested in exploring more helpful, more satisfying ways to communicate with those
around you?  Who wouldn’t?  This book, by Thom Bond, does just that.

Over a course of 52 chapters – conveniently a year’s worth of weeks – The Compassion Book1, is full of ideas, theoretical background, practical advice, and sufficient exercises to get you started.  Based on the philosophy and practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), introduced to the world by Marshall Rosenberg, this book is a welcome addition to the growing body of resources for the learning of NVC.

Bond helps us understand the basis of NVC, which could simply be summarised in 3 tenets:
  • All our actions are taken in order to satisfy needs.
  • If our needs are met, then “good” feelings arise: joy, happiness, satisfaction, relief…
  • If our needs are not met, then “bad” feelings arise: resentment, sadness, disgust…, up to and including anger.
From this base understanding, Bond guides us through and explanation of feelings and needs.  He helps us gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of the diversity of needs and feelings.  In the process he teaches us a greater vocabulary (the book includes helpful lists of needs and feelings.)  By doing so we come to better understand ourselves, our feelings, our actions, and reactions – as well as the feelings, actions and reactions of others.

Bond shows how this understanding leads to greater compassion, not only for others, but also towards ourselves.  We can, according to Bond, move beyond the constraining dualities we were taught: should/shouldn’t, right/wrong, good/evil.  These, and others, often burden our thoughts and hence our actions.

He also helps us to understand that our feelings, once we become attuned to them, are helpful messengers – they point us to our underlying needs.  The, acknowledging our needs, we are better able to act with self-compassion, self-awareness, and communicate with others in more helpful and satisfying ways.

Working through each chapter, and undertaking the exercises in each, allowed me to gain a greater understanding of my feelings and needs, how these are connected, and how I can have more satisfying connections with others.

Many of my needs were met by reading, and working through this book: clarity, understanding, awareness, learning, acceptance, and self-respect come to mind.

There is just one need I would have liked to have been more satisfied:  the need for greater challenge in the examples given.  Many of Bond’s examples are on the “easy” to “middling” end of the spectrum of difficulty in encounters.  I would like to hear of examples where NVC is applied to the “difficult” end of the spectrum of interactions: e.g. dealing with bullies (at school and in the workforce), racist abuse, all the way through to international conflict.  (These may be the stuff of another book).

My challenge then, is to understand the principles from Bond’s simple examples and discover how to apply these principles in the more “difficult” situations.

These 500 or so words have been unable to fully justify this book.  You’ll just have to buy it, or enrol in Thom Bond’s year-long online course.

Thank you Thom Bond.

Notes
1. Thom Bond, The Compassion Book, One Human Publishing, Orange Lake, New York, 2017