I’ve been angry these past weeks. And under that anger is also fear and sadness. But instead of letting that stop me, I’m trying to let those feelings fuel me.
In the Kavanaugh confirmation, we saw a blatant disrespect women’s voices and bodies and for truth itself. This week, a very alarming new report also came out about the state of our climate—which is worse even than scientists anticipated.
What do the two seemingly disparate news stories have in common? I wrote about this in a recent op-ed piece that I’ll also share below. We live in a time of cognitive and moral dissonance—when the powers that be are choosing not to face the truth.
So what do we do? It seems to me that these times call on each of us to speak the truth; that they call us to keep our own moral vision in front of us and act accordingly; that they call us not to be swayed by the lies we see around us, but instead, to gather around us brothers and sisters who value the truth.
In kundalini yoga, one of the core mantras is sat nam, which means “truth is identity”—truth is the identity of the universal, and also truth is my identity, the identity of each of our individual selves.
So I encourage each of us to find that truth, and rather than feeling disempowered, remember that our real power is internal.
And, similarly, that political change does not come from the top down, but instead always comes from the power of the people. In a 2005 piece, after the confirmation of another conservative supreme court justice, Howard Zinn wrote It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.
I try to find one way that I can write or speak my truth each day.
But I also need to tell you that if I feel that I am a tiny voice battling an unfair universe and the whole system that is, I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted.
I need to find a way to feel that my truth is not oppositional, not always about fighting, but also about being in alignment, about coming back to the sacred and the safe and the beautiful, which is also always around us.
And rather than be overwhelmed by how much there is potentially to do, I try to choose one or two distinct, discreet actions that are in alignment with what I can realistically do in my life now and do them.
The antidote to despair is action. And also non-guilt. Sometimes, actually, our guilt even prevents us from taking action.
So here are five questions that I try to ask myself and respond to:
1) What do I know to be true and important to me? (it can include the love of music, or people or pets). I try to look both at the personal level and the larger social/national/global levels and really look explicitly at all these levels.
2) How am I already participating in one or two meaningful ways to be part of a positive movement that I believe in? It’s good to remind myself that much of what I do already, including just smiling at people and taking care of my kids, are things that I really value and am already doing and can’t be taken for granted.
3) What is one more thing I can do on a level that I care about (social, national, global) that gets me a bit outside of my comfort zone? Often we’re pretty focused on the personal, which makes sense, but is also in part a product of capitalist culture that believes that we can solve our problems through our individual (often money-centered) actions. I try to choose one specific thing on a larger level and do it.
4) Am I remembering to stay grounded in the present and in my meditation practices so that I don’t get overwhelmed or fall into guilt that I’m not doing more?
5) Am I connecting with friends and community around these issues? When we stay connected, we’re so much stronger!
I encourage you to try all these five steps and see how they go for you! Or maybe you have your own system, and you can think about and share with others what works for you.
For me, in these next four weeks, I’m choosing to focus on the November 6th elections.
Here are the things I’m doing for step number three:
I’m canvassing as many weekends as I can in NH, and possibly ME and/or NY.
I’m participating in postcard writing sessions to voters
I’m donating money to candidates in tight races (Eric and I sat down and talked about what seemed comfortable and then decided to double that number because we realized that our margin was bigger than we sometimes think it is)
After the election, I’ll re-assess and consider what I’m doing next.
Notice, I didn’t include watching or reading tons of news, which I find just gets me feeling more discouraged and small.
I’ve included below some resources if you want to get involved in the elections so that we don’t give up on social supports in this country or on fighting climate change.
I’ve also included my upcoming events, including a workshop at Grub Street on writing the unsaid—a particularly poignant topic these days—and a FREE live online meditation and writing session after the election.
As always, please share this with any friends who might be interested.