Change Matters

Words: Nelressa Stallings-FAYE

It was a few years ago that on my way to a local food market I was walking past a group of middle school-going South Korean boys. As they came closer, I felt heavy stares and quiet pointing. Moments later, they passed me and burst into uncontrollable laughter.

I thought to myself — why are they laughing at me? Do they think I am fat? Do they think I am ugly? Maybe, I’m dressed funny?

While the next few weeks was a wonderful experience teaching English in Seoul, a certain level of maturity, dignity, and self-awareness was a constant companion for me. In Korea, you are a foreigner, that’s it. Some people will treat you the way they want to treat you, no matter what.

Some Koreans have only seen Americans on TV, newspapers, magazines, or books. Understandably, most Koreans were shocked to see an African-American female walking down the street. The young boys weren’t expecting me in their neighbourhood.

Soon after they passed, I turned around and headed back towards them. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I was upset and embarrassed. But, suddenly I slowed down my steps, took a deep breath and for a moment stopped and looked around at my surroundings. I was a dark-skinned foreigner in their home; they had every reason to be surprised.

Culture Gap[e]

Growing up in America and being exposed to every nationality numbs the senses when we come across someone of a different culture, or race. We all are from different cultures and races, but we are all one entity.

What bothered me, as I turned around and continued walking down the road, was my ability to only acknowledge negative reaction versus positive. Why did I have to react negatively? Why do most of us, without much thought, immediately think negatively instead of positively, or impartially?

When something happens, we can either learn to react negatively through pouting, complaining, condescending, blaming, guilt, anger, or rage — or, positively through laughter, smiling, acceptance, enthusiasm, joy, calmness and through peace. We have a choice, but why do we seem to naturally choose the negative?

Here are some examples. Read the following, and see where your mind takes you:

  • You are driving along a quiet street and all of a sudden, someone darts out of nowhere and cuts in front of you. You swerve off the road, but don’t get hit
  • You come home to find an eviction notice on your home, even though you know you have paid the rent for the month
  • Your friend of 15 years begins to ignore you and tells you after several weeks of no contact, they no longer want to speak to you. They won’t tell you why
  • Your husband/wife wants a divorce, or is leaving you for someone else
  • A loved one has died.

All of the above situations are taught from childhood into adulthood: that they are bad and, therefore, we should react negatively. But, sometimes the negative energy we project into the universe isn’t so positive for our spiritual lifestyle.

For the last few years I’ve made a vow to grow spiritually and heal the hurt of the past in order to heal and help others. To continue this quest, I have to be able to acknowledge my own distress, or hurt, at any given moment. I take a deep breath, and give myself a chance to assess the situation at a higher level. I pull myself out of the drama of the moment and connect within.

Acknowledge & Accept

The philosopher and spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle suggests that when in any situation one should learn to try one of the following:

Breathe slowly — learn to accept the moment — take joy in the moment, or continue enthusiastically.

His suggestion is to acknowledge the pain and hurt, or joy of a situation, but learn not to dwell in drama, overreacting and anger, the three characteristics that stifle spirituality.

After walking back to the dorm where I was staying while in Seoul, I started feeling a lot better. I thought the young boys were astonished by my presence but, maybe, that’s a good thing: “I’m like a superstar, live, in flesh and blood. Instead of being ‘seen’ on TV and magazines, I am now walking in their neighbourhoods. I am the talk of town. How great is that for the moment…”

I simply assessed the situation; I found my inner joy through acceptance. I soon felt full within and alive. I walked down the market ally with my head high, and smiling. More laughter occurred from store vendors as I passed, but, now I ‘chose’ the reason why.

The next time someone makes you feel bad, or upset, say to yourself: I will accept what is happening at the present-moment and continue.

Yes, your spiritual journey will sure have ups and downs, but you will always determine the outcome.

Take back your power. It’s your best choice.

NELRESSA STALLINGS-FAYE, BA, MA, TESOL/TEFL/TOEFL, a former writer-copywriter-PR consultant, is US-certified and licensed K-12 educator, Cambridge certified lecturer, international administrative co-ordinator and research student from the University of Exeter. She currently works with the indigenous Yu’pik tribes in northern Alaska as a licensed educator and ESOL specialist.

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