This is a difficult time to be a human being. It seems that many of our basic assumptions about life are up for re-evaluation. Is our government to be trusted? Are the police to be trusted? Are my neighbors and fellow citizens sane? What about those distant (or not so distant) family members that voted differently? Are things about to turn around or are we headed for a catastrophe or two? And OK: who exactly is to be trusted? Where can we get reliable information about what’s happening?
Like most of you, I don’t have time to research the news I’m hearing in any detail – I don’t want to parrot fake, “alt-news,” but neither can I personally fact-check everything I’d like to share. I feel I must trust a few decent sources all the time being open to the reality that all news comes from a perspective.
We US citizens are learning how to call our representatives. Phone scripts for calling our Congresspeople are being circulated and best practices for making a difference are being shared widely on social media. There are signs that the progressives and integral thinkers, the leading edge of our society, are waking up and taking action. Yet, as we activate we are learning that the scope of the situation is so huge it can make us doubt our ability to impact change. What are we to do? How are we to engage with this new US regime (our new President and his cabinet) without spinning into anxiety or despair?
These are real questions. Being somewhat of an empath, I am guarding my reading. Where I used to love reading the NY Times and other papers, now any reading of the headlines is likely to send me into a spiral of anxiety, frustration, or madness. I feel so powerless yet I feel the need to do something!
It’s the same for many of my empath friends. We empaths and sensitives are bombarding our therapists, counselors, and friends with our issues to the point that they themselves can get to overwhelm. “I don’t even listen to the news anymore,” a therapist friend told me. “I feel overwhelmed by what my clients are bringing in to me!” Sometimes, we are using social media to basically amplify our own upset, sharing today’s “the sky is falling” message to our Facebook networks and spreading our anxiety to others.
I have been thinking since the New Year about how we might respond. In the coming weeks and months I hope to put together some ideas for an “integral” response that is appropriate to the gravity of our situation. But given how many people are struggling just to stay sane, balanced, and happy, I want to start with a call for refocusing on what is good and beautiful and true in our lives.
It’s so important for us to take care of ourselves. If we are consumed by anger, anxiety, and hate then not only are we miserable but our ability to participate in social evolution is limited. This situation needs people who are clear-sighted, warm hearted, grounded and strong. We need people who can absorb and metabolize lots of emotional/mental energy without getting thrown for a loop. And we need to continue working, caring for our families and intimates, and contributing to life in all the ways we do.
I don’t want to suggest more work. Self-care can seem like more work, another task. But if there is even one new practice you can pick up, I think it will help you to be strong for the coming revolution. Oh, and I want to fully green-light the idea that some of us are meant to engage on the front lines, while others contribute in more subtle ways. I believe that there’s room and a need for your way of contributing, whatever it is. So please, let’s lean into discerning how we wish to contribute and support others in doing the same.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a beautiful essay on the “joy of non-toothache.” In it, he invites us to remember how happy we were when, having had a toothache, we were finally free from it! We were happy for a while, so happy the pain is gone, then we forgot and lost that gratefulness we’d experienced. He goes on to suggest that we can mindfully create that same state of gratefulness by recalling the former “tooth aches” of our life that we are currently free from. Doing this can create a strong positivity that allows us to take the ups and downs of our day with ease and equanimity. And if you do this practice before bedtime, it will help us sleep soundly.
Here, then, are four tips for discovering things in our lives that are not toothaches, not painful. The goal of this practice is to create a strong foundation for social engagement. If you already have this foundation, then you are ready to engage outwardly. These tips are for those of us that are struggling to stay afloat and positive in the face of the news. (I’d love to hear what you think and what you’d add, maybe via the comments)
At the end of the day, please take a few minutes to note:
- How did I take good care of myself today? How was I a good friend to myself? What did I do to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and physically?
- How was I a good friend to my intimates: to my partner/spouse, family, and circle of closest friends?
- How did I support the evolution of our society today? It may be through small ways or grand, inner work or external protest. Rest assured, whatever you’re doing has a rippling effect outward. Do not minimize the effect of small acts done from a place of love and care.
- And finally, what 5 things am I grateful for experiencing or doing today?
It’s my hope that with practices like these we can get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed, renewed and ready for the next day. May we all find peace and joy in the midst of the turmoil of these days.