Sunday, July 25, 2010

Body language

Evidence shows that when it comes to persuasion, influence and any form of communication that involves emotional impact, over 90% of our impact on others comes from our non-verbal communication. Over 50% of our impact comes from our body language - that is, every movement that we make with our bodies as we communicate from the top of our head to the tips of our toes!

Psychologists have long been studying the way we communicate with our bodies and have concluded that body language is a fundamental extension of verbal communication and is absolutely essential for humans to communicate effectively with other humans.  Yet most people, when they communicate, focus their energy on what words they say rather than on how they are saying them. Because body language happens at an unconscious level, few people are actively aware of the signals they are picking up and transmitting through body language. As a result, we often send the wrong messages without realising it.  Or we transmit messages about ourselves that give away more than we think about our innermost thoughts. 

I suppose the same can be said about the body language of our prayer life.  To give an example - the fact that so many people like to keep themselves to themselves in life these days also means that when we give peace to those next to us in Church we may not be transmitting peace at all but our bodies indicate indifference to them. In fact we may be telling them bluntly "I don't really care about you, but I'll go through the action anyway". 

Psychologists have found that when words and body language contradict each other, it is our body language that gives the stronger message. This is why it is so important for us to be aware and in control of the messages we give out through our body. We also tend to fail to pick up important messages that are transmitted through other people's body language. 

Unfortunately today communication between people has been turned into a technological thing more than a personal one.  True, technology - like mobile phones, internet and what have you - are good things that bring us together over great distances but they are also the cause for an increase in lack of family contact, when we rely more and more on the "system" to convey our words than on our own effort to do so.  The total loss of body language therefore can cause one's message to be totally misunderstood.  Tell that to anyone who has got into any form of argument in an e-mail exchange which was misread.  The vocal nuances are not there.  So the vocal is as equally important to the communication as the actual words said.

This works out in prayer in the same way. Look at how you sit, stand or kneel during prayer. Does your  posture give you away and indicate that you are not taking the situation seriously enough? If you also do not feel, believe in, what you are saying, if you are praying mechanically, then the prayer has little value. And then we wonder why we may not be answered!!  Yet compare that situation to when we put our whole selves into our prayer, then the difference is so obvious. Our body language gives us the good and in the bad!  

I came across the following in a blog by Andy McKee which says a lot about how we react to feelings in our life, especially the spiritual: "I believe music is delivered from the soul of the artist. The soul and music that comes from an artist are not easily separable, in fact, it may be impossible. So this comes with a question: What is in your soul? ....You can often sense the anger in some of the postings (on blogs) that can be a sign of trouble to come for those poor souls. Yet the music that we are listening to was created by the artist to help us in our pain. If you are into the pain part of life and don't need the relief, it usually shows in your treatment of others. But the lessons usually do their job of knocking the haughtiness out and someday you too will seek the medicine of great music." 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Opening the door...

The doorbell rings….it is morning and you are alone at home. You peep through the curtains or the spyhole on the door to see who it is. Oh no, it’s that busy-body of a neighbour or so-and-so. You say to yourself "I’m not going to open the door." So you decide to stay in the house, quietly trying not to make the person outside realise that you’re in and not answering the doorbell.

Then you realise that your car is parked outside the door and the caller will certainly recognise it. And sure enough, the door bell rings again. Oh heck. You think to yourself: Shall I open the door and find an excuse or feign that I am not in anyway, hoping they’d finally go away? You opt for the second option, and sit it out quietly inside.

Tension is growing inside you now as you have to be certain that you can’t really be seen from outside through the curtains or other windows, even the garden ones. You can’t make any noise either. Nor continue with your chores either…..because the vacuum cleaner is too noisy! 
Does it sound familiar?  
I hope not. 
We are all called to be hospitable people and to welcome everyone, even the most inhospitable ones. We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves. But it isn't easy, especially if the one who really gets to you is the one you share your life with, your parents, your siblings, your partner. Then the going really gets tough to be able to show love. And somehow it seems easier to love someone else but your own family. Yet we are called to overcome this. 

Being a good person of whatever belief means that we make no distinctions or judgements about others. Perhaps doing it Abraham's way is a bit tough....welcoming three strangers in the mid-day heat in the middle of a desert with a drink, washing their feet, a little bread and then cooking a meal for them as well (Genesis 18: 1-10)...especially when they did not even really come "knocking" on the tent door! Yet his reasoning - well spruced with more than a tinge of humility -  interested me because it showed me how categorically hospitable I am expected to be: He bowed to the ground and called these strangers "his Lord" saying "if I find favour with you kindly do not pass your servant by".
It dare say that it would be a much better world if we all reasoned in this way!  

And St Paul adds a bit more of his strong sense of reasoning: "The mystery is Christ among you,  your hope of glory; this is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ"! (Colossians 1: 24-28)

Photo on right - neighbourly love in action
Elaine Kelly presenting flowers to 
 John Creedon from Carrickmines 
at the launch of "Love Your Neighbour", 
a year-long community action 
campaign encouraging individuals
 and communities to carry 
out special acts of kindness in 2009. 
(Photograph: Andres Poveda)

Monday, July 12, 2010


This week's blog comes a bit later than usual.  Undoubtedly I was caught with a lot of things to do and just didn't find the time to write. True, but a writer worth his salt should never lose out on his deadline. This single word, "busy", though tends to be a relative fixture in my vocabulary.  More often than not I am really “busy”.

I often tell myself how busy I am, that I can’t cope because I’m too busy….I think many of you know what I am talking about, it seems to be the story of our lives.  So many people I know seem to say these same words to me too about themselves.  We are, thankfully, a busy people, because God does really provide for His children, but I have slowly come to realise that my busyness can be a blockage as well as a benefit.

I remember once being told what busy means.  It stands for Being Under Satan’s Yoke.  At the time I heard it I laughed it off as something funny, but over the years I have come to realise the truth of it all.  Satan does really try to keep us busy at doing things, good things as well, such as caring for the family, clearing up, serving, seeing to clients, professionally doing our job to exacting standards….because what he’s after really is making us forget God’s presence in our lives through the work load that God (and Satan) have provided for us.  In this way we get so engrossed in our work that we forget about God, about what He wants of us, perhaps even forgetting to make time for mass or something or other that is God-filled. 
When I stopped to think about this, I realised how true it was to my life.  I realised how much I yearned for the quiet moments to perhaps be alone with God in the quiet of myself. But when these moments came, they tended to fade away because being over busy would have also led me to being tired and often I would find that all I’ll want to do is slump into a comfortable armchair for a nap instead of picking up the Bible or some spiritual book.  

Does that sound all too familiar to you too?  But I was also to soon realise that God does not give up so easily and He could also be keeping me busy. Yet this time for another reason, that’s to keep me away from serious sin.  Many times one tends to sin when one is not focussed properly on God in his/her day.  That’s when we lower our guard and Satan can spring his trap by suggesting something that could eventually lead us to fall.  Yet by keeping us busy with doing the good, everyday, work things, not necessarily the spiritual ones, God can actually reduce our downtime and therefore Satan finds us too busy to consider his prodding.  The reasoning could be that we’ll be too busy with God's doing to bother about Satan!   Hmmm…interesting thought; don't you think?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

“We cannot be saints but we can create a new kind of community”

Adriano Forgione, an Italian journalist of mysterious archaeology and an expert on ancient and sacred symbolism, says “There is a reality that most of us are too busy to see. Most of us have to fight for our survival every day, we are not completely free. We are not aware of the beautiful world hidden in our reality.” He added, in an interview in today’s issue of local magazine “Circle” that “Of course we have to work but we must also pay attention to the other side. The challenge is to find a richer way of life...We cannot be saints but we can create a new kind of community – more peaceful and more advanced, with a balance we can only find inside us”.

I was struck by this concept because, ironically (or coincidentally), in the same week that I read Forgione’s thoughts I also came face to face with the concept of what community means today on two different occasions.  In one of them, my friend Fr Martin, a Catholic missionary, explained to me that living in community has become fashionable today…and all you have to do is look around you at the many award winning virtual television shows that can be found in all the countries (a trend mainly started by Big Brother and its clones, through Facebook and similar websites).  Yet at the same time society deprives us of this very community spirit we long for.  So while people desire to live together it seems that technology hasn’t made this possible any more. The family concept is losing out…computers, IPods, MP3s, Blackberry or similar i-phones, cut us off from each other on a daily basis while at the same time keeping us in touch. Yet people want to be really touched, to be cuddled, to be loved.  It seems that the culture today has been contaminated with this technology…. and our youths breathe it daily.

We all sit in the same boat, so to speak.  Yet when I, not feeling part of the boat’s community, decide to drill a hole under my seat, then my action will affect everyone in the boat…. we will all sink with it. That is how our involvement – or lack of it - in a real community, family, work, mates, club, group, will leave its mark on everyone in it.  Yet when we go to church to pay homage to our God we often act in the same way….as if we are drilling a hole under our seat and not caring about the consequences.  We go there in the knowledge that we did our duty but we are often praying alone, ignoring those around us, without even properly acknowledging those in the seats next to us. And woe to you if you happen to stray into someone else’s seat in the pews! 

A church should be a real community. It is not the priests; or the Popes and Bishops; nor the building itself.  A church is US…so we are the community that give the church its life.  Christ himself lived by the concept of community – he was never alone, always surrounded by people and disciples, men and women, a close knit community.  So, therefore, we cannot be Christian without knowing Christ. And if we do not experience Christ then our actions are nothing more than religiosity.  We must connect with Christ otherwise we become so subjective.  Fr Martin pointed out that Jesus loved community life.  He loved Peter and John and the rest of his group. He sent the Holy Spirit to the whole community not to those he might have had any preference for.

My friend Pauline, well versed in things psychological and its dynamics in our life, told me that nowadays people tend to anchor their sense of belonging in their families, in their friendships, in their professional identity, in their chosen lifestyles, in their shared interests with others and possibly in their nationality. This belonging is not necessarily identical in all these areas and we can belong in four spaces: public, social, personal and intimate. So when people want to generate a strong sense of community, they may find themselves adjusting their relationships within that community, moving up from the public to the social and personal and then to a more intimate space when this is deemed appropriate.

When people feel they belong, a strong sense of connectedness is developed: persons become more inclusive and welcoming, they become more active and more willing to share their gifts, they become more involved, engaged, sincere, creative and committed, their sense of care for the others develops and becomes more genuine and authentic.

The community is also the place where strong feelings can develop: in growing communities feelings of anger, guilt, shame, contempt, anxiety and fear are acknowledged and dealt with in order to allow them to make way for safety, hope, compassion, gratitude, trust, empathy and meaningful relationships.

In a real Christian community we should be drawn together in response to God's love and by our belief in the beauty of developing an intimate relationship with the Lord. Clearly God's intention is to “draw all men to Himself” (John 12:32), to draw them to an even more intimate relationship with Him. A real community helps one to grow. It tells you how to live, to dress, to act, to be correct.  So what better way is there to be able to do this than by being drawn and belonging to a community that really seeks to fortify and nourish this intimate relationship? 

The Last Word?

Make yourself at home here, come back and read some of the older cappuccino posts too, relax, reflect.... and comment if you wish....there's a comment button at the end of each post!
I hope to see you again in a few days time. Enjoy.