So much to explore within … & yet.
The information is non-stop. The critique is non-stop. The truth is non-stop, & then the truth that’s “really the truth” is non-stop. I have experienced myself dealing in knee-jerk reactions right & left these days. I’m alternately dealing in anger, frustration, acceptance, compassion, & on & on. It’s exhausting.
I cannot imagine folks (maybe you) who are dealing with real, on-the-ground life/death issues right now. Currently, my personal world is simply inconvenienced by the global pandemic – not jumping in the car to go somewhere (I’ve not driven my car but twice in 60 days), not getting take-away tea lattes, or not getting to traipse around Target. Our budget has been crunched more than it already was – we, like many in the United States, are one personal disaster away from financial crisis. We are grateful for community & our families for their constant psychological, physical, & financial support.
I continually appreciate the wisdom from senior teachers in the Himalayan Tradition. Realizing I am privileged to be able to access, take in, process & choose to act upon this wisdom … & if you are in the same boat, please join me … I must take action on their advice for the well-being of myself SO THAT I may use my privilege to highlight & support those in really dire straits right now — whether mentally, physically, financially, or otherwise.
I think we are realizing, as Buddhist nun Pema Chodron has said, that we are in an ever-present state of groundlessness & yet constantly (futilely) trying to gain ground. We are realizing, as many proponents of #regenerativeagriculture have stated for decades, that our current global systems are NOT as stable nor as safe as we may have thought. Many of us have sensed, & yet now see in stark relief, that not all lives matter — whether that life be human, animal, plant or the environment.
Whether you or I feel like we’re handling this global upturning handily, or that we’re gasping for air — there’s a measure of fear in each of us, because there’s fear permeating the entire GLOBE. I’d hazard to argue that the “bring it on” cry by some toward this pandemic is a misguided use of the warrior archetype … there’s a book on my shelf by Paulo Coehlo called “Warrior of the Light” … a warrior at his/her best knows when to take pause & honor fear, rather than charging forward blindly because someone else riled them up (these warriors probably survived to tell the tale as well).
I am riled up. I feel anger that folks aren’t taking my grandmother’s life seriously with their brush-aside comments on social media. I feel frustrated that folks share memes versus scientific articles to ‘prove’ their point, & then call me all sorts of names when I express disagreement. I feel anger that workers deemed “essential,” like waitstaff, grocery store workers, & in-home caregivers are paid so poorly. I feel despondent that I can’t do much of anything to solve this global emergency. & I feel fear that myself or someone I love will contract the virus — my extended family has experienced the virus, & it’s terrifying.
I sit with these feelings daily, as I’m sure you do too.
There are days when I feel empowered — when I plant snap peas & see them growing, when I order from a local farm (check out Footprints Farm & Redrange Farm), when I see people in our community donating supplies to the domestic violence shelter or East End United Community Center. And when I teach yoga, resolving to bring some calm amidst the underlying currents of anxiety.
I hold (or I try to) these dualities — this feeling & also that opposite feeling — sometimes adeptly, sometimes like a drunken toddler. The modern Yoga industry would have us believe that it’s all love & light, that if we clear your chakras enough or work hard enough & we’ll receive the blessing, that you CHOSE what’s happening to you. I call BULLSHIT.
Sometimes shit happens in this world because shit happens. I’m not saying we bear no responsibility for the choices we make, so let’s just put that discussion aside for another time. What I’m saying is, maybe we practice holding the duality: that there are times when the choices we make DO have consequences AND AT THE SAME TIME sometimes shit — like being born into oppression, like miscarriage, like an unexpected illness, like a global pandemic — happens. No matter how much someone practices love, light, yoga, or making smoothies … we cannot blame ourselves (or passively-aggressively cause harm to others’ mental health) for a heartbreaking situation out of our / their control.
Maybe there’s a BOTH / AND to this life.
And here’s where I defer to Mr. Fred Rogers.
I need to go back & watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood reruns right now. Because Mr. Rogers didn’t deny feelings that are uncomfortable. He didn’t try to fix or make better or say, “Well, if you would’ve just worked harder or believed differently or …” He simply listened & witnessed without judgment. And he didn’t drive folks to be more productive. He encouraged kindness.
What a revolutionary. A warrior.
Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries comes to mind as well. Check out his books “Tattoos on the Heart” & the one I’m currently reading “Barking at the Choir.” You don’t have to subscribe to a faith tradition, in fact you may resonate more if you’re not!
In his over 3 decades of work with gang members in the most violent barrios of Los Angeles, Father Greg consistently holds duality right up to our hearts as he describes the unbelievable burdens former gang members carry alongside the absolute childlike wonder they experience in recovery / starting a new life … & elicits tears of joy & laughter simultaneously. “What if,” he says, “we stood in awe of the burdens people have to carry, rather than in judgment over how they carry those burdens? This is kinship.”
All of us worldwide — worldwide — are carrying unbelievable burdens right now. There’s so much information coming in, & furthermore the information changes daily. It’s overwhelming.
I’ve been listening to amazing speakers on the Resilience Summit with Ashley Turner. Koya Webb knocked me out when she said the following — if we are in the category of being able to take time for reflection, it’s our duty to do so. Some folks can’t take reflection time – they’re essential workers, maybe, or stressing about rent or how to take care of a sick baby. They don’t have time for reflection, & that’s appropriate. But those of us who are able to get quiet, we honor those who can’t by going within ourselves. In this way, we are part of the solution rather than the problem.
- What’s going on around me? How am I feeling about all this right now?
- How can I hold any dualities lightly, get curious, take pause, see in a new way?
- If I’m feeling overwhelmed, how can I prioritize kindness rather than productivity?
- When do I go into judgment? How does that feel in my body?
- What burdens is that person/group carrying that I’m judging? How can I move from judgment of how they’re carrying those burdens, to AWE at the burdens they do carry? How does this feel in my body?
The mandala above was created a few days ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by all the non-stop & changing information coming in about my job(s), the virus, state re-opening policies, & the resulting vitriolic commentary on social media. Creating the mandala helped me to visualize what I was feeling, & then reflect on the fact that there’s a whole world within me to explore for wisdom (according to Yoga philosophy). I can create boundaries around my physical, mental & emotional being … I can trust the peace, quiet & clarity I find within.
So much to explore within … if you have the capacity, let’s honor those around us by getting quiet & listening. The solutions may be a breath away.