This is a puzzle. How do you retain your passion, stand up for what you believe in, while remaining at peace. This is not an easy thing for us mere mortals to do. Especially, not now.
Later this week, I’ll be heading to the SisterGiant Conference to learn more about what others have to say about activating spirituality and democracy. The conference logo has an image of a meditator, with the tag line “Those who sit must take a stand.” Yes, but how.
I’ve also been reading a book I picked up as part of my research on this topic: Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Spirituality in the Age of Globalization (2003). I have long been an admirer of Thich Nhat Hahn (“Thay” for short) especially because he is known for “engaged Buddhism”. Many would say that the focus is your inner world, and it doesn’t matter if you engage in the outer world. And maybe we can’t really “help” people, as they must help themselves. And to a degree, the inner world is all that’s real.
That’s always seemed like a bit of a spiritual copout to me. I personally am passionate about speaking out, and making the world better through my actions. It’s not enough for me to simply be peaceful in my heart and outlook. So, I appreciate the way Thay explains it (as quoted in this book):
“Mindfulness elicits compassion and compassion has no limits.”
“Compassion arises in us naturally and we see what we have to do to help.”
Thay also said that he thought the anti-war protestors in the Vietnam War era were not effective because they were angry and hateful, thus they perpetuated war inside themselves. Instead he prefers “gentle revolutionaries”, those that are mindful and loving in every step, even as they are speaking out about social injustice.
So, it’s a tricky balance. And I’m not saying I’ve got anything figured out. I’ve identified it as an issue and I’m working on it.
For now, here’s what works for me:
- Stay Informed
I can’t help but think of my 89-year-old mom who recently passed away, telling us last summer, “I can’t believe there are still people who don’t believe in climate change.” You know a few years earlier, I’m pretty sure she was one of them. But she kept an open mind. She read the newspaper daily, watched the news and discussed politics with her friends.
Take the time to know what’s going on. This is a critical time in the history of the US. Our democracy literally is hanging in the balance.
With so much conflicting information, this requires a significant investment of your time. It’s worth it to dig in.
2. Identify Analysts You Trust
I do read articles from standard news outlets, but I don’t assume I’m getting the whole picture there.It’s valuable though to see what mainstream media is saying and how. (CNN, USA Today, Denver Post, Yahoo etc)
For me, I turn to people that have decades of experience who can identify trends. And I look to youth who have a fresh perspective. I look for those who are not pushing for the rich, but are looking out for the little guys. Find your panel! Here are some of the analysts I follow for the behind-the-scenes perspective:
- Richard Reich – because of his economic and social professor perspective as well as having worked for multiple administrations. I like his daily Resistance Reports on Facebook, that summarize what’s new.
- Dan Rather – because of his historical perspective
- Bernie Sanders – because he’s all about the little guy
- Marianne Williamson – because she provides a spiritual perspective
- Shaun King – because he covers issues of police brutality and racial injustice
- The Atlantic – longer articles, more in-depth analysis
- Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Earth Guardians and Indigenous Environmental Network – because I want the long view on a situation not just immediate economic impact
And there’s a new set of folks I now follow, which are all of the “Alt” Twitter accounts of the federal agencies. Last week, the new administration issued what basically was a “gag order” for many of the agencies requiring that they discontinue posting on social media or any missives to the general public, without first being screened by the new administration.
These brave souls, our federal servants, took up new Twitter handles to dish out what they really think! Here is a list of the Twitter Resistance, aka Twistance members. (Like Rogue NASA: The unofficial “Resistance” team of NASA. Not an official NASA account. Not managed by gov’t employees. Come for the facts, stay for the snark. )
Also getting insights from @RoguePOTUSStaff and @RogueSnrAdvisor. There’s no way to tell if these accounts are providing factual info, but they definitely do provide insights I’m not seeing elsewhere and may be an inside scoop. (Like @POTUS obsession with fast food! As a Wellness Coach, I can imagine that would make you feel very anxious and fearful. Would love to make him a salad!)
Twitter is an easy-to-forget resource when doing research. I encourage you to use it! When things are moving fast and furious as they have been this past week or two, Twitter’s ability to react quickly and concisely is helpful in sorting through the chaos.
I also try to double check stories before posting, and don’t post stories that show up along side sensational ads or stories. I like the suggestions here for figuring out if something is fake news. Snopes is also a good place to check if a story seems too fantastic to believe.
3. Read Opposing Views
You’ll get a lot of these on Twitter if you just search for a specific subject. So, that’s easy.
I also check out National Review sometimes. It’s super conservative and points out the weakness of the left’s arguments. It will explain the right’s thinking but will occasionally admit some failings. (e.g. Refugee Madness: Trump is Wrong but Liberal Critics are Crazy)
When I’m baffled by why someone has an opposing view, reading the opposing articles does help at least explain the reasoning.
4. Take a Breather
I try to notice if my chest is getting tight or if I am in anyway getting angry or upset. I then pull out all the tricks to get back to being peaceful:
- Sending love to everyone and everything.
- Imagining the one that’s making me mad as a little kid. And we are little kids together. That always makes me giggle.
- Breathing deeply. Focusing on breathing.
- Remembering I’m a spiritual being in a material world.
- Exercising to release stress.
- Talking with friends or cooking.
5. Take an action today that expresses the world you want
With so much happening, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not do anything. To overcome that, I signed up for DailyAction.org. I get a text message most mornings. If I click on the link, I’m connected by phone to a recorded message about today’s issue and suggestion for who to reach out to and key points. If I stay on the line, I am asked for my zip code, then given a list of potential officials to talk to. Choose a number and leave a message (with person or on voicemail.)
The Women’s March was healing for me. I’m looking forward to more actions like that.
I sign a bunch of petitions online, which is something but not quite enough to make me feel that I did something that made a difference.
6. Be kind to a stranger
Everyone is on edge. I just try to dish out a little extra loving the customer service rep on the phone, the cashier at the store, or the person walking down the street. I get more out of this than I give.
7. Work on a project in your neighborhood or city
These days, I’m volunteering on the neighborhood green team. As much as a place to educate and take action for environmental stewardship, it’s an emotional support web. It’s a way to feel that I belong here and that I’m home in my country, where things now seem so hard to understand and so foreign.
8. Reach out to family
I’ve been trying to expend a little extra effort on family ties. Since my mom recently passed away, I see that we are all going to need to do a bit more to keep the family unity alive and well.
9. See it as a Super Hero movie
This is an epic battle. I believe, as many do, that the powers of evil are rising as a counter to the massive force of rising spiritual awakening in the past decade or so. And in the spirit of nonduality, wouldn’t this strength of evil forces be required to bring about an equal or stronger sense of responsibility and good? Hmm. I don’t really know what’s happening on a cosmic scale.
But I do ask myself, What can I do to be Wonder Woman? Or a Gentle Revolutionary? Or both?
How about you? What works for you?
Joan Gregerson is a Wellness Coach and an Eco-Nut and owner of Positive Energy Works. She is the creator of the program Food Freedom Naturally. Free 1-hour training at www.FoodFreedomNaturally.com. She’s also the author of the book Tuning In to Inner Peace: The Surprisingly Fun Way to Transform Your Life. (Pretty sure @POTUS hasn’t read this…yet.)