Discovering the Fairy Tale Country of the Master Craftsmen

A few weeks ago I listened to a professional fairy storyteller. This experience inspired me to write this blog article. In the first part I tell one of the stories I heard. In the second part I invite you to join me on a visit to the fairy tale country of the master craftsmen.

The Fairy Tale of the two Craftsmen

Once upon a time there was a goldsmith and a shoemaker who wanted to know which one of them was the better craftsman. Since they were widely known for their excellence the king invited them for a competition. When they set out on the journey to meet the king they were looking forward to finally knowing which one of them was better.

When they arrived at the castle they were ushered into the great hall to meet the king and his entourage. The king asked them what they needed to manufacture an object during the next 2 weeks. The goldsmith wanted a big chunk of gold and the shoemaker asked for a cowhide of the finest quality. They both got what they requested and went their separate ways.

After two weeks the two men met in front of the castle. The goldsmith carried a heavy bag. The shoemaker did not carry anything. He only wore a fine new leather coat. Again they were led to the big hall. There the king asked them what they needed to present their objects.

 

The demonstration of the objects

The goldsmith asked for a basin filled with water. The basin was brought and the goldsmith opened his bag. He took out a beautifully crafted golden fish. It looked so real! He set the fish into the water and it started swimming around in circles! Everybody looked on in awe.

The king was flabbergasted. He had never seen anything so wondrous. He was secretly sure that the shoemaker would not be able to top this. But he nonetheless gave him the opportunity to show his object.

He asked the shoemaker, what he needed for this. The shoemaker answered that he only needed the big hall with an open window. A window was duly opened. Everybody looked at the shoemaker curiously. The shoemaker said: ”I manufactured this magnificent coat.”

Then he spread his arms and started to fly! He did three circles over the heads of the people in the great hall flying higher and higher. Then he flew out of the window and continued to fly up until he was so high that he looked tiny. Everybody ran to the windows to catch a glimpse of the flying man. He came back down and flew twists and turns and did summersaults in the air. After a while he returned the great hall and landed in front of the king.

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The decision

“Well”, the king thought, “this coat is as special as the beautiful golden fish. What shall I do?” Finally he told the two craftsmen: “You both created wondrous beautiful objects and therefore you both shall receive the same reward. The only condition is that you leave your objects with me and promise never to recreate them.” Since the reward was so big that neither of them had to work ever again they promised not to duplicate their objects and took their leave.

The two left. But they still did not know, who as the better of the two. The king put the two objects in his vaults for safekeeping and forgot about them.

Some objects come with side effects

One of the many people who had watched the two showing their objects was the king´s son. He was about 10 years old at the time. For years he dreamt about flying with the coat.

One day he managed to steal the key to the vault. He saw many wondrous treasures in the vault but he was only interested in the coat. He got it and went to the empty hall. He put it on and spread his arms like he had seen the shoemaker do it. And up he went! He was really flying, how happy he was! He went up to the ceiling and out of the one window that was open. Oh, he did not mean to fly outside. But he did not know how to handle the coat properly and it just happened. Outside he flew, on and on, higher and higher. He cried for help, but nobody could hear him and what could anybody have done? He flew right over the dark forest and over the next kingdom. He became hungry and thirsty and still he did not know how to stop.

Finally he was so desperate that he tried everything he could think of to stop his flight. When he crossed his arms in front of the coat it stopped charging ahead and he plummeted towards the ground. He managed to break his fall a bit and ended up bruised and exhausted, but alive, in front of the house of a sheep farmer. He had no idea where he was. Will he ever find his way home?

 

Visiting the fairy tale country of the master craftsmen

Let us explore together the home of the master craftsmen. Imagine us strolling into this fairy tale country.

The sun is shining. We are walking on a wide path made of light brown earth. About 20 meters to the side a small stream is gurgling peacefully. We get a glimpse of the first house. It is white washed with red shutters and a thatched roof. We can smell the wonderful aroma of the roses in the garden. But wait, there is something else. Mmmh, there is the smell of freshly baked bread and cake. Delicious! Let´s go and take a closer look.

 

The bakers

We see a man working in the garden. We introduce ourselves as travellers from far away. Two women are coming out of the house. They are arguing loudly. “My cake is better than your bread!” “No, I am the better baker!” Their faces light up when they see us. “Strangers! Great, you are sent by heaven. Please come in, taste our baked goods and tell us who is the better baker!” They promise us coffee, so we decide to accept the invitation. They make us take a seat on a cosy bench on the veranda in the back of the house. Then they go to the kitchen to fetch everything for our meal.

We try the bread first. Nice! It is moist inside and has a wonderful crust. It tastes of countryside and spices. When chewing we get impressions of the ingredients and where they come from. We see wheat undulating in the wind, salt being harvested from the sea and rosemary plucked from its bed right in this garden. Wow, this is a multi-facetted experience!

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The cake is one of these many-layered affairs with buttercream frosting. We take a tentative bite. Oh my, it is so fluffy that you hardly feel you have anything in your mouth. It tastes very light compared to the more earthy taste of the bread. When we chew we have impressions of a garden full of people, of laughter, love and affection. This is great!

Both of these creations are wonderful. We are lucky that we don´t have to arbiter between two kinds of bread or two kinds of cake! We tell the two expectant bakers that they both receive the first prize for their creations. They are okay with our verdict and we take our leave.

 

The goldsmiths

We continue on our way and pass more and more houses as we are nearing a city. We see lots of different workshops. All of them have unique objects on display. We are asked to arbiter again, this time by two goldsmiths.

One shows us a beautiful pendant made with many red rubies. When we take it in our hand and look at the sparkling stones we can see our loved ones and what they are doing at the moment. How cool is that!

“Why can we see our loved ones who are far away in another dimension?” we ask. The creator explains that the magic in the object connects with us. And we are connected with the ones we love no matter where they are at the moment.

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The other goldsmith also has a pendant for us to look at. It is formed like a crescent moon. It is made out of gold and it features a mask. We take a closer look and the mask is starting to talk to us! We hold it closer to our ears and we can tune in to every conversation around us and listen! With some practise we could listen to people who are much further away, the second goldsmith assures us.

Again we have to declare a tie. The two goldsmiths listen to our verdict calmly, smile and send us on our way.

We walk on until we meet an official looking person in a uniform. We ask him whether everybody was as skilled as the people we have met. He nods and says: “You must have been good arbiters, because you look unharmed and well.” We are astonished: “Why do you say that?” He answers: “Well, had you preferred one of the two rivals a mob of people would have attacked you and either run you out of the country or did you serious harm.”

After this we don´t stop and talk to people any more. We have no intention of being the arbiter again. This could turn out to be a very uncomfortable journey! Still everything seems so harmless and peaceful.

 

The results of our look behind the scenes

Everybody in this fairy tale has unique talents and puts their whole being into their art. Interestingly we have not seen a full time magician there. They seem to be busy manufacturing artful objects. The inhabitants of this fairy tale have honed their crafting skills to a point where they cannot be compared with each other any more. Each object is exceptional in its own way. Even the king in this fairy tale is not able to decide which one of the two is the better craftsman.

The peace in this country of master craftsmen is achieved by using neutral people to acknowledge equal talent. When they find somebody who makes a decision in favour of one of the rivals the carefully maintained equilibrium is destroyed.

Then violence and aggression erupt and make life really exciting,  both for the inhabitants and the visitors! Lucky that we did not experience this.

Since there is no sign at the entrance of this country saying it could be potentially harmful to be an arbiter here, I advise everybody to be careful. Since you were with me on this journey you know that it is better for your health to call ties in a very diplomatic fashion when you are asked to arbiter.

How did you like this behind the scenes look? Is there a fairy tale country you would like us to visit together? Please write down the story of the fairy tale you want to visit and send it to me via email: Ingeschuma@online.de or share it in the facebook group. If you like you can invent a new fairy tale. There are so many that are still unknown!

© Inge Schumacher

 

 

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Show True Compassion not Pity

My volunteer work with refugees since 2015 has triggered my interest in compassion  and I want to share some of my personal insights here. Only true compassion is the basis for successful integration.

Refugees in Germany

In 2015 a huge wave of refugees from Syria flooded into Europe and in the course of one year Germany welcomed one million of them. This would not have been possible without millions of Germans pitching in.

In my neighbourhood in Hamburg one of more than thirty refugee camps was built. Since then I have been coordinating the German teachers and teaching myself. My colleagues and I have been working with many people from a variety of nations.

At the beginning there were a lot of problems and disappointments until we had established a routine and a fitting mindset for our work. (A mindset is a belief that orients the way we handle situations.)

IMG_20170206_100131_HDRWhat was the problem?

Our students didn´t come regularly and were always late. A lot of them did not seem eager to learn the language. They certainly did not behave like we expected: We had expectations that weren´t fulfilled and as a consequence we felt bad and our motivation dwindled.

We had to learn that it was not our responsibility that everybody attends our courses. If they did not want to involve themselves, so be it. We were there because it was important to us and we wanted to help them to learn the language.

It took some time until we had changed our mindset and learned to take things not personally. Because what do you do when you take something personally? You feel that you are being treated badly. You think the others are doing something wrong – you judge. I have discussed this subject with many volunteers from different organisations and apparently every volunteer has to learn this.

What is compassion?

For me compassion means understanding and accepting without judgement. In showing compassion we are expressing love and kindness for somebody else. When we show compassion we are on the same level as our counterpart. We acknowledge them as being important. With compassion we are creating an atmosphere of acceptance and are standing on the same level as the person we have contact with. We are not judging.

 

What is pity?

Pity is when we feel sorry for somebody. In feeling pity we are not treating the other person as an equal. We judge without being aware of it. I call this the pity-trap. Why?

When pitying somebody our attention is not with ourselves but with the other individual. This is what we are used to do: Focusing on another person and not on ourselves.

We thereby express implicitly that the other individual is not creating their reality well enough and that we know a better way. By this we generate judgement and by judging another individual we are looking down on them. We are treating them as somebody who is not being able to cope, for example.

 

Why is the difference between compassion and pity so important?

We express a significantly different energy when we choose either compassion or pity. Energy is always felt and reacted to whether we are aware of it or not.

People are able to accept the help you offer in a totally different way when we show genuine compassion. With compassion we show acceptance and understanding and  transport a respectful energy.  This is important for self-empowerment and being truly helpful.

People who are pitied don´t feel genuinely understood and supported. With pity we transport a feeling of smallness. People sense being looked down upon even when they do not consciously recognize this.

 

Showing compassion for refugees

25353698_1573850339396329_6867766022466397763_nIn my volunteer work I learned to be more aware. I try now to be aware whenever I slip into the pity-trap, into judging.  Believe me, I still do! When I notice that I am judging I am stopping this immediately. It is working quite well nowadays

I want to treat the refugees I meet as normally as possible. They had to flee under dreadful circumstances and they have often endured terrible horrors. Many are battling with depression. But they are normal human beings and have their faults like everybody else. They like to be treated normally. I see them as individuals and treat them with the same respect I treat everybody. It is so much fun connecting with them. During our lessons we laugh a lot. Sometimes we also cry together.

I want my work to be perceived as something that I give freely and as an equal. I want to help them to learn the language and thus help them with integration. As you might know German has a complex grammar and is not easy to learn.

We have been working at the refuge camp for two years now and the volunteers who are still active and motivated are the ones who have changed their mindset and express genuine compassion. I think you burn out easily when you have expectations that are constantly disappointed.

 

Compassion with people in the victim role

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We all have had moments in which we have experienced ourselves as victims. In these moments we saw no choices. We felt and perceived ourselves as helpless and powerless. Some people keep creating uncomfortable situations for themselves. This is when genuine compassion can be very helpful.

 

How can you best express the compassion you are feeling?

The important thing is to acknowledge your counterpart. Just being there often does the trick. You could also listen as long as you feel up to it. You could reach out and touch them. Do what your impulses tell you is fine for both parties. Don´t give advice unless you are asked for it. When you are asked for advice try to be positive and supportive. When giving advice you could start your sentences with “I probably would” or “How do you feel about trying…” This shows respect for the other individual and leaves them choices.

Try to not have any expectations what the other person should or should not do. I know, this is easier said than done, because we want our friend or family member who is in a bad place to feel better fast. We are so used to creating expectations but, as I have established before, this is neither supportive nor self-empowering.

 

Compassion in my practise

I have been working as an energy healer for over ten years. Compassion is a basic tool for me. With compassion and empathy I create rapport and build a relationship with my clients. It helps that I love people, of course. I perceive every one of my clients as a unique wonderful being.

At the beginning of this career I was afraid to work with chronically ill clients. I felt pity and projected my own fears on them.

A friend of mine, who had terminal cancer helped me through this. She encouraged me to work with her and I could alleviate some of her symptoms. Working with her, I discovered, was just as wonderful and as fulfilling as working with my other clients.

Because of this helpful experience I don´t fall into the pity-trap any more when clients are having a particularly hard time. This way I can get on with truly supporting them.

 

Remember to take care of yourself first

When you want to help people and show compassion it is very important to respect your own boundaries. It does not matter whether you are doing this as a volunteer, as a healing professional or at home caring for a family member.

The moment you don´t honour your boundaries you will create problems. For example what happens if you listen longer to never changing lamentations than is good for you? Sooner or later you will be totally fed up and blame the other individual for your discomfort.

But your discomfort is not their fault. They are just expressing themselves and it is your duty to yourself to express yourself, too. When you start to feel uneasy, change the subject, go away or try to convey in a respectful manner that this is not going anywhere.

Remember you are just as important as the other person and the only one who can take care of yourself adequately is you! This way you honour yourself and you will be able to help the other individual effectively again another day.

Compassion is the key to integration

Something fundamentally changed in Germany because of this refugee crisis in 2015 and I am proud to be part of it. Our social system in Germany would have crashed without the many volunteers. Frankly, I did not know we had it in us. After starting two world wars we Germans opened a new chapter in our history, the chapter of compassion.

Now we have the big task of integration to tackle and this won´t work without compassion!

© Inge Schumacher