On Sunday morning, many of us woke to the terribly sad news about the mass murders at the club in Orlando, Florida. Living in the US, it seems that every few weeks there is another terrible mass shooting. But, this is not a post about gun control, gender, sexual identity or race. The horror of having to live with fear because of who you love is a post for a different day & I stand with the LGBTQ community. This is a post about connection, life & love.

One of the things I love most about living in the US is NPR. I could listen all day long to the variety of shows which grab the attention of many facets of my personality & interests – science, psychology, local goings-on, food, travel, human connection, humor, interviews with mover & shakers, word-fun & etymology, books & movies!

Monday night I caught a little of the TED hour and was struck by the South African concept of Ubuntu. My mother was born in South Africa and lived there until she was 13, so my childhood bedtime stories from my maternal grandparents revolved around animals & weather & extreme conditions that were so captivating to a child growing up in central London. My ears perk up at the mention of Africa.

Ubuntu, and other fantastic words, such as Prajnaparadha (Sanskrit: a crime against wisdom, literally doing something you know is not good for you!) or Kummerspeck (German: the excess weight gained from emotional overeating, literally, grief bacon), cannot be translated. Instead they are transliterated (#wordnerd), or simply absorbed into our language (such as: schadenfreude, gung ho, faux pas).

So, what does Ubuntu mean?

According to the Wikipedia post:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines Ubuntu: “I am what I am because of who we all are. A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

Thus, “Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am.” Michael Onyebuchi Eze

In the face of the sad act on Saturday night – and the countless other acts of extreme violence perpetrated in the name of difference & separation & intolerance – this concept of Ubuntu struck me deeply.

So, what can we do, to deeply connect to those around us? Apart from remembering that DNA testing is now proving that we are not all unique, that in fact we are all blended variations on a theme:

1) RAOK – We can perform Random Acts Of Kindness. Do kind things to those who you know and those that you don’t. Pay for the coffee for the person behind you in line, give someone flowers, make cookies for the new mama in your neighborhood.
2) ENERGY – Consider your energy, because it extends beyond your physical body – you know that, because you can feel people’s emotions before they speak & research supports that thinking about things can result in their occurrence. At a recent Entrepreneur’s retreat we were challenged to consider grocery clerks & how they absorb so much negative energy as people move through their lines in a state of hurry and disgruntlement! Be kind and send out good energy. This is what we do in meditation – work with our mental energy and learn how to channel it and use it well, towards ourselves and other.
3) REACH OUT – Tell people you love them, ask how they are doing, pay compliments, look deeply in people’s eyes and connect. Small acts of connection lay the foundations for bigger acts of connection.

And, if we can all remember that we are connected, and act on that and feel it daily, maybe, just maybe we can create a shift away from hatred towards love. Ubuntu – I am because you are.

Copyright, Tamsin Astor, YogaBrained LLC, 2016