I'm not gonna lie, the election really took me down. I haven't just been grieving all the tangible outcomes that we've already begun to see unfold. I have also been grieving something much more abstract and difficult to name. I suppose it has to do with basic goodness and the vantage point I had long maintained that people are basically good and want to do the right thing. And perhaps I will return to this world view again but for now, I am deeply broken-hearted by the utter lack of humanity and basic kindness demonstrated by so many over recent months. Of course I knew that there was still a shadow lurking in our collective that we had yet to own. I knew we still had plenty of work to do - this was self-evident. But I didn't know the extent to which racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, antisemitism and just plain myopic, individualistic thinking was reigning in people's mind sets. Coupled with one of my oldest, dearest friends being given a year to live after fighting for her life for 3 years and my darling brother receiving not just one, but two life-threatening diagnoses, I have been reeling. On my knees over what has felt like a very sudden crisis of faith.
One of the self-care strategies I've employed during this trying time is to listen to podcasts that pull me back into myself. Tara Brach's talks have helped me enormously in returning to center. The one that has had the most lasting impact is called Your Awake Heart Is Calling You.
She discusses how when we are fixated (what Tara calls going into "trance"), we are not actually inhabiting our bodies. With such triggering conditions, it's almost impossible not to vacate ourselves and present time. "When we're in pain we tend to blame ourselves or blame others, caught in a story of what's going on and how to fix it. We're trying to get away. The path to an awake heart is to take a U-turn. A willingness, instead of being lost in stories and reactivity, to come back with gentleness and kindness and touch the vulnerability we're feeling directly in our body. That's the beginning of listening to the call." From there, we can simply be with our experience without judgment. We can hear not only our own deeper needs and respond accordingly but we can also listen deeply to others. We can meet our needs with care and compassion rather than sugar binges or too much wine in my case. It frees us up when we listen intently to what we truly need and then meet that need, whether it's a long walk in nature, an art project or an extended break from our everyday lives. Meeting our own needs empowers and satiates us and the angst starts to quell.
When we can start to really truly take care of ourselves, we increase our bandwidth for paying attention to what's happening around us. The reason that this is important is because this era of disintegration that we are finding ourselves in calls for each of us to take care of ourselves and each other in a very deep way. We don't have the luxury of complacency anymore - we need to act and we need to do so with a high level of intentionality. Our potency in affecting change will be directly correlated to how much intention we invest in creating positive change for ourselves and each other.
Tara Brach unpacks the significance of this critical question: "What's it like to be you?".
"It's so easy to not really pause enough to feel into the suffering we hear about. It's rare to get close in and let our hearts be tenderized. Unless we care, we won't respond. What helps us care? The most dramatic example is when a year and a half ago, the entire world pausing and being touched when, Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy drowned. His family was trying to get from Syria to Greece and that picture went viral. I almost don't know anyone that in some way didn't feel that so it made them really care. How come that doesn't happen more and how can it happen more? His father said, "now I don't want anything even if you give me all the countries in the world to move into, I don't want them. My children were the most beautiful children in the world, they are all gone now. We want the whole world to see this. Let this be the last." But it won't be the last unless we pay attention. How do we listen to the call? How do we intentionally pay attention...actually decide to pay attention?".
The opportunity we're faced with today is whether we can start to really engage with "other". This idea that we're all connected is becoming more real. The rose colored glasses are beginning to come off and we're having to confront the pain and longstanding suffering of minorities and the marginalized. Can we reach across the chasm and ask the simple question: what is life like for you? Whether it's your uncle that voted for Trump or a black single mom in east LA with three teenage boys. The question remains.
What is life like for you?
Why cross this painful divide? What does "paying attention" do for us? Acting from that tender-hearted place that is committed to transcending fear and operating from love is how we will authentically be able to create change, move forward and assist others in doing the same. When we can deeply connect with another's experience it increases our emotional range and opens our hearts in ways that directly impacts our perceptions and choices. It's not about single-handedly saving Syria. It's about accessing our light and shining it both inwards and outwards.
So amidst this painful time for so many of us, we can touch into our fundamental vulnerability. We can move from this soft, tender place rather than a place of hardened fear. We can allow in our sadness and grief and let it be. By letting it in, we also let in the light. We allow room for grace to animate us. Even when we are crushed with sadness, we can choose to operate from love and hope. My grief over my friend and my brother has broken me open. While the pain is sometimes unbearable, it's also what propels me toward choosing love, being love, acting from love. This is what we need right now. It doesn't matter whether it's rage or grief or fear that becomes so intolerable that you have to sink deeper. What matters is that you sink so far that you remember that it will only be the power of love that will enable you and ultimately all of us to transcend this raw and painful place we are currently inhabiting. When enough of us are able to lift our trance, and operate from truth, the consciousness of the planet will begin to shift. Love will find it's rightful place at the helm of change once again.