I have felt lately like I am being swallowed whole by the overwhelming fear, mistrust, divisiveness and polarization that is our current state of affairs. This state is unlikely to reverse unless courageous beings grounded in compassion, peace and love show up committed to building bridges, cultivating relationships, listening deeply, witnessing the suffering of self and others including those who think and feel differently than they do and leaving self righteousness and the desire to belittle others behind.
It by far the harder thing to do to show up in this way than it is to forward a Facebook meme belittling someone with a different belief.
I know how hard it is for me as each time I see a Trump sign in someone’s yard I feel as though I have been sucker punched in the gut and even though I may not know the owner of the sign, I have the tendency to take it extremely personally and can become emotionally devastated by the time I leave Point A to reach Point B. This is where I live. Sigh.
So, I am compelled to explore this, unpack this and work with this in a way that makes sense.
The practice of yoga for me is not an escape. While the mat is a refuge, it is not a place to check out from the challenges of life but an opportunity to check in to explore and practice tools that allow me to show up grounded, connected and open as a healer and an activist which is one and the same to me. The mat can easily represent as it does in the image of yoga culture, privilege and the luxury of living one’s life with ease. Taking this apart is necessary and if we don’t do this, it can easily lead to narcissism and the life sucking expectation of perfection. This also contributes to spiritually by-passing the suffering of ourselves and if we are majority culture (which would be most yogis) completely turning away from the reality of the lack of access to essential resources and the freedom to navigate and live safely without fear of harm that is the overwhelming reality for vulnerable populations (black lives, queer lives, differently abled lives, female lives, under resourced lives etc…).
So the tools I have been working with lately are so basic but I keep returning to them over and over because for me, they work. If this works for you, please use and share. If not, do not despair, this is not the only game in town but for me the healing arts (yoga, music, meditation, Reiki, movement) is what I live, breathe and know. It’s all I got! (I have no clue how to change a tire or do basic plumbing, wiring or anything that involves higher math).
The first is a 3 step process of grounding.
First. Orient yourself visually in space and time. Notice what is around you. Perhaps now close your eyes, perhaps not. Orient yourself physically in space and time. Physically note and invite yourself to feel where you are held and supported in space and time, what parts of your body are in contact with the floor, a bed, a chair. Breath from here. Focusing on the expansion and release in the breath cycle.
Second. Bring into your mind’s eye an awareness of beings who unconditionally love and support you. This includes animals, people that are no longer here on this planet and likely your hairdresser. I like to visualize these beings as pieces of a vibrant but well worn patchwork quilt. If this image works, wrap yourself here in this quilt and allow yourself to be held in love.
Third. Extend this awareness to the God of your understanding. God. Creator. Ground of Being. Divine. Humanity. Nature. Whatever you believe is greater than you. I am personally grateful that there is an Intelligence greater than mine. I am grateful that though I am called to show up, I do so held in all this support. The physical space, the beloved beings and God.
We are all held here as part of a whole. We are ALL held in love here. A love so great and all encompassing when we catch brief but meaningful moments of this, it changes our life, our paths, our heart and we can no longer choose anything other than to be called to be peace and bring peace. We can no longer choose to not let our hearts break, overflow and we allow this to be our normal. Overflowing and broken hearts that are so expansive and spacious there is room for despair and hope. Fear and courage. Here even in chaos, we can listen to the things of life that love calls us to.
For me this is Jesus. Jesus who loves beyond boundaries, social stratification, gender roles and certainly beyond reason. Jesus who continually rejects dominant culture when it excludes the vulnerable. Jesus who reserves harsh words and actions for those in power who limit access of others to essential resources in order to survive and thrive and these same people of privilege who exhibit spiritual arrogance and exclusivity. Jesus gets mighty pissed. (Jesus is a complete Bad Ass!). I am also deeply moved by the life and teachings of the humble Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Han who cultivated expansiveness and peace even in the midst of the unspeakable atrocities that claimed the lives of those he loved in the Vietnam War.
So, here we find connection rather than isolation, here we can respond rather than react. Here we are grounded and aware that we all breath the same air. We breath in a bit of everyone when we inhale, when we exhale, we share that of ourselves to the world. No walls can change this.
Here in this space of connection, we can sink into the awareness of being here. Being alive. Having awareness of the gift of life. What will you do with your one wild and precious life?
Pay attention to being alive. So many lights are being extinguished right now. We have to do better. Be better. We can’t continue the status quo and we also cannot choose to believe that building walls and seeing fellow human beings as “other” because of skin color, uniform, sexuality, home of origin, and all the myriad ways people can practice separatism is working.
Doing the work of peacebuilding is hard, tedious, often thankless, not very glamorous and the odds of being well liked for this work is slim to none. Many such as Jesus, Gandhi, Rev Martin Luther King Jr. are murdered for disrupting power and privilege. This is not a good recruiting call I am aware. But if we want to live and love as people of conscious, this is what we must do. Connect and in that connection, finding ways for sustainability which is where the spiritual and contemplative practices can feed and nourish the heart, mind and soul of the individual and the blessed community of all beings.
It is easier to react in fear than respond in love. It is easier to hide behind walls and further marginalize those that already have limited access to resources and power.
None of this is for the faint of heart. Where are you called to show up? How are you called? What values are you grounded in? What supports can you draw from? How can you sustain this call? If you are part of dominant culture and uncomfortable with privilege, in what ways can you leverage that to create a more equitable world? If you are not part of dominant culture can you offer and state what is needed for you to access essential resources, be accepted and navigate without fear of harm?
Let’s wrestle with these questions. These are important. Let’s do this. Grounded. Connected. Open.
To close with an additional perspective, having also worked and continue to work in hospice for 13 years with beings that are transitioning to the next life, I have never, ever in the hundreds and hundreds of individuals and families I have served heard anyone near the time of death speak of politics.(or sports either for that matter) It is relationship and connection that matter the most. To all of us.
Honoring the light in all beings without exception. Namaste.