I was navigating the final stages of my separation– trying to get out of a lease early, divvying up furniture, and disentangling finances. None of it was easy, especially in the midst of grief and shock. Yet, even when I felt I was at my worst, her words reminded me to hold true to my values and aim to be the best possible version of myself in the process.
Then, when the results of the U.S. presidential election landed with a BOOM two weeks ago, I again remembered her counsel.
Rather than writing to you then or speaking out about my response on social media, I felt I needed to do what I advise all of us to do when we feel overwhelmed: pause, turn inside to connect, and feel.
For the past two weeks I’ve been doing just this in order to arrive at a place that can hopefully be generative for you in the midst of whatever process you’re currently in.
The unexpected upheavals in my personal life this past year have served as visceral reminders that life is inherently uncertain. Change is the only constant, and the more we can learn to befriend this truth and work with it skillfully, the happier and more harmonious we will all be.
But, the thing is, most of us live in denial of this reality, and rightfully so! It’s terrifying to recognize that the things and people we love can leave us in an instant– that life can look one way one minute and completely different the next. Only tragedy forces us to remember that no one is spared turmoil, devastation, and loss.
Now we’re waking up to face this truth together, which, ultimately, is a really beautiful thing. We’ve always been standing on shaky ground, only now, reminders of this are filling not only our Facebook feeds, but also our conversations with friends, and even our hearts and minds when we wake up each morning.
Collectively, we’re forced to hear voices we’ve tuned out, perspectives we’ve wished to deny, and feelings we’ve wanted to bury.
Just as our personal shadows only grow bigger through denying or warring with them, the same is true for our communal shadows. Much of what’s coming to the surface now isn’t pretty at all; yet it has always been here. Only now, it’s exposed to the light of the world– and our own awareness. While scary and discouraging, this kind of reckoning is always the necessary first step in healing.
As we move forward, we must ask ourselves this question regularly: Who will I be, and who will we be, in the face of tremendous global change and uncertainty?
Who we are when things go our way matters; but who we are when things don’t go our way matters even more.
Since the only thing we have control over is how we show up in any given moment, rather than lashing out unskillfully in reaction when fear, anger, and anxiety arise within and around us, the first step is not to react, but to pause. When we do this, we can feel the heat of rage dissolve into tears of sadness, remembering that hatred is only the armor around our grief.
Because there’s no way to disarm our own volatile emotions without creating a safe, empathic, inner space to hold the complexity of our personhood and process, it’s in times like these that we need to root into our spiritual practices more than ever.
Daily, we need to stop, connect with our bodies through the sensations of our feelings, listen to what they’re communicating to us, touch into the medicine of compassion. Then, from the clear, pure, inner wisdom that results, we can act.
Regardless of the stance you took in this year’s election, let’s acknowledge that we’re all impacted by its results; and we’re all standing on the brink of a precarious and uncharted future.
Take time to feel your grief, excitement, sorrow, or whatever other emotions are currently visiting you.
Listen to the judgements that live in your own mind.
Even when the waters of your inner world and outer life feel intense– bordering on insane– cultivate the space to be able to listen to and love yourself and others.
Being kind, open, curious, and compassionate with yourself on a regular basis allows you to show up for others in the same way and therefore is an act of political activism.
Please continue to practice. Your family, community, and our world needs you to be whole, resourced, and compassionate now, more than ever.
Strive to be the very best version of yourself, especially when things are hard and messy.
And, for those of you celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving!
It can be hard to deeply connect with our inner worlds in the midst of our daily lives, which is why taking time away for retreats is imperative to living sane, sustainable lives.
Next week, I’m leading a silent Winter Wisdom & Renewal Retreat here in Colorado at Shambhala Mountain Center.
For four days, Dec. 1-4, (a do-able length of time to step away from work & family…and to go deep into ourselves), we’ll enjoy yoga, meditation, nature walks, and inspirational teachings to help us find our inner ground in the face of tremendous world uncertainty.
If you feel called, it would be an honor to practice with you.