Post written by Jane Hunt, former inaugural CEO at Fitted for Work.
One of my goals this year was to learn to meditate, so for the last month I have been participating in Mindful in May. For a registration fee, I was emailed guided meditations each day and the money raised went to helping communities in Ethiopia get clean water.
The majority of mediations were just 10 minutes long, but for me it wasn’t easy establishing the practice. Who knew finding 10 minutes in a day was so hard!!! I also fell asleep during the first few meditations, and at other times my mind was so restless I despaired of ever being able to observe my thoughts rather than get caught in them.
Slowly though, over the month, I have come to appreciate the benefits of mindfulness and mediation, although I am definitely still a beginner!
One of the last meditations, the ‘loving kindness practice’, came at a good moment. This meditation is about feeling compassion for yourself and for those around you.
You start by focusing on yourself, then identify a person who has helped and loved you, then a person who is struggling and finally a person who you have no real connection with but know slightly. As you bring each of these people to mind, you repeat:
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be safe.
May you live with ease.
The day I started this meditation, I had met a woman participating in one of our Transition to Work (TTW) programs. Her journey is similar to the client who bravely shared her story for our Annual Appeal. It is a common experience – both of these women had experienced violence and abuse (in fact 1 in 3 women do in their lifetime).
Shona described her marriage to a man who, as he started to struggle with his own work and life, tried to dominate and control her through emotional and physical abuse. She stayed in the relationship because she couldn’t see a way out for herself and her children. Eventually she got a place in a Women’s Shelter and has now started to rebuild her life. Our TTW program has transformed her life. She is confident, able to articulate her strengths and abilities and loves being connected to the diverse group of people at Fitted for Work – her volunteer mentor, staff and other TTW participants.
Her story is both shocking and a testimony to her courage and resilience. But what caught me completely by surprise was one of her comments: ‘My husband was wrong in what he did and he was unwell … he thought he had the right to dominate and control me – that he was the master of me and our family – and could do whatever he wanted. I know he hasn’t changed because other women have taken out intervention orders against him. But, where are the support and services for men like him, to help him deal with the bad feelings inside him?’
In that moment Shona showed me what the meditation was also trying to teach me – that it is possible, in fact, desirable – to bring compassion or ‘loving kindness’ to all of those people who are struggling, including those who perpetuate violence.
Interestingly, the loving kindness meditation originated from Buddhist contemplative practice and was prescribed as an antidote to fear. So, I tried it. During the meditation I sent those powerful statements above to a man who I had never met, who had done something wrong, and I discovered the capacity within me to feel compassion for him.
That short, ten-minute meditation reminded me of our shared humanity.