The word mentor is an interesting one. It embodies learning, sharing, guidance, trust between two parties. It is a powerful interaction that can enhance and maintain change. There are different types of mentoring roles but all, essentially, have the same foundation. This is how I see them.
It is a professional requirement for me to have peer supervision. I meet with someone regularly. I knew her when I was a student. I trusted her immediately. I felt ‘safe’ when guided by her. It is mentoring at its best.
My adult son has returned to university. He hopes to work in a clinical setting. We meet regularly to discuss his assignments and practica experiences. I’ve noticed his comments and views have changed from student to clinician, over the months. The dynamics between us over breakfast, too, has changed from mother and son, to people who work with vulnerable people. Without realising it, our chats have become a mentoring session. He’s learning how to be. The experience has been reciprocal.
They say education is knowledge. It does not always come from books. We learn so much from each other. Sometimes this is good but not always. For example, in the workplace, take collegial relationships. People can take knowledge gleaned over a coffee and use it as a weapon in their attempts to score a point or undermine through the process of ‘gaslighting’. This speaks of their own psychopathy and says nothing about the other. Then there is the collegiality of blogging. A community of powerful agents of change, but one needs to learn how to be discerning, about what to take on board.
In the animal world it is called imprinting. When the young learns to trust another animal, person or object. Ducks do this so well! I’ve seen this mother cross my path without a backward glance. She knew her ducklings would follow her to safety.
So why is it so easy for humans to misread signals and messages?
I learn from educational programs. Is sugar good for you? The insidious nature of it should stop us in our tracks. If we stopped supporting the fast food industry, will we be healthier? Can we reduce the use of plastics? How do we combat pollution? For me, these TV shows have become an unwitting mentor to living life with meaning. I recall years ago when someone stood up and was counted. We now have labels that identifies food from source countries. The ones that say ‘some imported ingredients’, the percentage never identified, I leave those well alone. I don’t see any reason for fresh food to be transported from across the world, when it is available a few kms down the road.
My dream is one day these programs that educate us about what we put into our body impacts it, and what we put out in the world impacts the environment, is promoted as vigorously as a catfight on a cooking show or disagreements among music judges.
I have hope though.
The message of big corporation has been loud and sexy. As our lives got busier, they promoted convenience and speed. We lost our way, somehow. But, there is a path back. We reclaim power. For example, when technology was being promoted as ‘stay connected’ I had a simple rule for my family at meal time. If they touched their mobile phone, even to photograph, they paid the whole dinner bill. It applied to their dates too. It worked a charm! We had conversations at dinner. We stayed connected without a phone in sight. This tradition continues to date.
The key is to learn to fine tune our ear towards messages that matter. Using the f word as noun, pronoun, adjective, verb and adverb, is not communication. There is no message within it. It is the glitter of celebrity that no longer shines.
Without knowing the word, my mother promoted mindful living and making conscious choices. It was imprinting. I did it instinctively. Then I lost my way. Blame it on the din of loud messages. Now I’ve come full circle.
Returning to living mindfully has had incidental benefits. I hear messages more clearly and importantly, I understand the intent of the other.
I’m living life more fully. My wish is that you do too.
Until next time
a dawn bird