A Buddhist story goes, the night the Buddha was to become enlightened he was attacked by the arrows of others who wished to disrupt his enlightenment, but with his awareness he caught their arrows and he turned them into flowers.
School always makes us nostalgic. In so many different ways. First loves. Best buddies. Schoolday shenanigans. Teacher crushes. As we grow up into youth and then adulthood, distancing ourselves from those memories, we often find ourselves longing for those days of the past even more and end up in conversations about how they were the best days of our lives. The happy memories often masking our saddest moments.
But, then, one fine day, we realize that this was not the same with every kid. In this age of social media, where anonymity encourages one to open up and let go, we read about this boy whose soul and dreams were crushed by teachers who found and held up to public ridicule of his weaknesses – teachers of an institution that imposed strict group standards of behaviour to promote individuality and self-expression. We read about this girl, in Quora, who was scarred for life through humiliation from other students. Never found her self-esteem back. We watch movies like ‘Oldboy’ and wonder how a small incident can destroy the lives of so many people.
We cringe. And then feel lucky.
GETTING THE APPROACH RIGHT
I am not talking about physical bullying, which is assault, and is a problem no doubt needs to be dealt with in the strictest manner possible. But I’m talking about the more common forms of bullying that take place at school, which are verbal, social, and emotional – the kinds with invisible fists.
When it comes to peer-to-peer relationships, where there is no power imbalance due to an age difference, I think that a student can absolutely choose whether or not to be a victim. And I think that if there are instances of non-physical bullying, they of course still need to be addressed, but I think by empowering students with resiliency and mindfulness, the bullies will slowly lose their purpose. Easier said than done. I know.
I am not here to provide a solution (though I would love to!). I want to talk about it. And I feel it’s important to talk about it. And it’s important for everyone to understand, that being strong is a choice. And it starts with loving yourself, respecting yourself. I am an absolute fan of the Levi’s ‘Go Forth’ Campaign Ad for this very reason. I believe it communicates this very aptly through ‘The Laughing Heart’.
All of us go through troubled times. For many, it’s worse. But at some point we do go through the ebb of life. What matters is how we get past that and embrace life itself.
According to Taoism, life is a constant process of letting go: of situations, of people, of feelings. It’s about letting life move through you like water, resisting nothing. When you cling to something negative, you choose suffering, and when you don’t, you choose freedom. Although we don’t always realize it until we are taught it, the choice is actually always ours, and therein lies our personal power. This may seem like a very passive way to be, and in a peaceful way it is, but in another, it is the most active way that you can live your life.
“…you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
And the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
Your life is your life. Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous. The gods wait to delight in you.”
Bullies will always be there, in some form or the other. But to fight the enemy you need to become strong. You need to be fearless. Untouchable. From within.
But where I am trying to get at is, if we have children who are resilient, we will have adults who are resilient, and hopefully a new generation that is capable of making real change instead of being perpetually victimized. Instead of trying in vain to convince the bullies to stop shooting their arrows, let’s try teaching the children the way of the Buddha. Let us teach them catch the arrows and turn them into flowers.