The kindness of strangers

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Bianca ThomasFCN Ambassador Bianca Thomas is on a global journey competing and training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Bikini Fitness Bodybuilding. With a strong academic background in Molecular Biology (MSc) and Strength and conditioning (MSc),  Bianca is currently writing her first book called ‘Life Lessons From Sport’ which will be finished in September 2016. The theme is how emotional and mental wellness ‘can’ and ‘should’ go together with competitive sport.  Originally from the UK, Bianca is currently travelling the USA, Brazil, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi, Belarus and Mongolia aiming to train and compete in Jiu Jitsu in each Country.  She is a big believer that sport should be used to improve lives and wants to share the knowledge she is learning along the way to mentor and support others.


 

travellingBrazil for the second time has come and gone. Same place, a different me and a different gym that  fits my values – it could not have been more of a different experience. This was an episode of fun, mutual respect, companionship and ease – all whilst experiencing elevated learning in JiuJitsu. This was a time where things went right, continually. Whilst I see tremendous value in both the good and bad, it’s often nice to learn things in ease because I still haven’t quite got the balance right between perseverance and suffering! Changing my belief system ‘progress can only come about from difficulty and striving’ is one of the things I really set about to learn on this trip.

I’m not a believer in the ‘grind’ despite what conventional wisdom tells us; but it is still my default pattern and one I have to monitor daily.  In the process of forming new beliefs, I think perhaps we often need to go wrong. Going slightly off the path gives us clarity on what we do want. I can’t help thinking knowing what we want with tremendous focus and precision is extremely powerful. Often, I’m a bit hazy on the details of what I want, so I’m learning to be grateful for those situations that can refine and define that clearly, by giving me what I don’t want! There are no rights or wrongs which takes a lot of pressure off decision making but what I have learnt is you want to move fast and correct strategy when things feel ‘hard’ or effortful. If it feels wrong it usually is!

Whilst I learnt a huge amount the first time round in Brazil, it was difficult. In hindsight it was Biancaaccompanied by exhaustion, pain and sadness. As I get older, I slowly tire of learning things the hard way. The bottom line is, I don’t want to be injured, exhausted or anxious, I don’t want to train with people with wildly differing values because this can often create situations where people can get injured.Whilst I now have the skills to deal with difficult training situations, it is my choice to walk away from it sooner rather than later.

Environments that do not support my goals of finding and maintaining wellness in sport don’t work for me at the moment. I have learnt to quietly walk away with gratitude and a little bit of grace.  Chapter 1 Brazil was a success (because I learnt), but it was a slightly upstream experience. By going a little bit wrong, I went right for the duration of Chapter 2 Brazil. I got clearer on the things I do want – to learn Jiu Jitsu whilst prioritizing finding and maintaining a sense of happiness, peace, fun and ease. The grand goal of this trip is learning how to maintain these states irrespective of circumstance or environment – I’m not quite there yet!Experiencing and understanding the value of companionship and connection is a big contributor to my enjoyment of these last few weeks.

I have historically always prided myself on being independent, convinced this was the answer to a ‘undisappointed’ life. It is great to be self sufficient, but it is a illusion to think any of us are truly alone or indeed can navigate life alone. I have learnt not only the immense power of the kindness of strangers but to also find connection in solitude. This is the big difference between being alone and lonely. In truth, my most lonely moments have often come whilst in the company of others – exacerbated by choosing the wrong company and a lack of connection to myself.

The thing about the kindness of strangers is, it can change the momentum of a bad day, restore faith, change lives or more banally make sure we are on time. The truly remarkable thing is, it is an act of giving without receiving and everytime I see this or experience it, this reinforces my faith in humanity. Whilst there are vile acts being committed day in and day out, I also see random acts of kindness every single day. Kindness of strangers has been a huge theme on my trip. Whilst I have done many things wrong… being open to friendship and connection is something I have taken with me from the start of my travels and it has served me well. Sometimes I have needed help and other times I have needed companionship – I have always gotten both. By receiving, it also gives me more desire to give back this kind of energy.

The ways in which I have been helped along my path have been innumerable; people I don’t know have helped me integrate into gyms and stay safe, given me a bed, a kind ear to listen, a smile when I needed one, directions, an honest opinion, someone to share an experience with, someone to laugh with.
I have slowly learnt to strengthen my connection with myself and consequently others and I think this might possibly be the key to alleviating loneliness as this is not something I have experienced on this trip yet. And so with all things, the change comes from inside. As each day passes I am certain, only from here can our outside world change.
My life is infinitely better when it is shared with the right people. On this trip I get to share snap shots of it with many people around the world. Some will become friends, some will never be friends and some will come and go – and it is all good.

Jiu Jitsu and solo travel has helped me find companionship and friendship no matter how fleeting. Partaking in group classes has strengthened my social skills no end. It has encouraged me not to dismiss people because I’m forced into training and interaction with people I may never encounter otherwise. I have learned tolerance and I have learnt how to trust strangers (instinct and practice!).

And now, time to move on to San Diego….

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