I’ve been having a similar conversation with a lot of people recently. It goes something like this:
“I’m feeling really overwhelmed” my friend or student says. “I’m really worried. I don’t know what to do and I’m finding it hard to do many things, including writing.”
“I know how you feel,” I say.
Sometimes I can feel the dark spiral of negativity beginning to pull me down. I’m worried for our future. And I feel an old gnawing inside that I know all too well.
When I feel that negative spiral, I come back to three main pillars:
- 1) What is my circle of influence? What can I actually do to make a difference?
- 2) How am I taking care of my own energy and taking care of myself? This means taking care of myself in the present and also attending to the ways in which challenges from the past are being triggered so that I’m also taking care of my inner child.
- 3) And how can I put these two essential items into my schedule in realistic ways so that I have more energy for other things?
One and two feed each other. When we take care of number one, our world, we have more space for number two, ourselves. And vice versa. And without three, some protected time and clear boundaries, most of us can’t get anything done, especially when we’re stressed.
How each person addresses those questions is different, but some people have been asking me what I’m doing, so I want to share what I’ve been doing, including a low-cost class with scholarship opportunities that I think will be helpful for self-care.
1) I know that some people I’m emailing might not agree with my politics, but I feel so deeply concerned about what’s happening in our country that I want to be clear and straightforward about what I believe: For almost every single issue that I’m concerned about in our world today, I think we’d be in better shape if we had different leadership in the White House. From the climate crisis to addressing the economic, racial, immigrant, and gender inequality, to restoring the basic foundations of our democracy and our civil society, I believe we need different leadership. And now is our little window. The election in November is less than five weeks away; many voters are already voting; and the outcome is SO deeply important.
So what to do?
I’ve thought about what is realistic for my schedule and am devoting at least 2 hours a week to help get out the vote, and as the election gets closer, I plan to spend more time.
Here are some groups I personally have enjoyed working with:
I’m making calls to voters in swing states with People’s Action; they’re piloting a “deep canvassing” get out the vote program talking with voters and having real conversations. Whatever people’s politics, it’s so important that we have civil conversations, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how willing many people are to talk. People’s Action always needs more volunteers. You can see more and sign up here.
I’ve also signed up to send postcards to voters. You can do that here.
I’ve been making calls to New Hampshire Voters. My son is working full time this semester to get out the vote in New Hampshire. Apparently, New Hampshire is the state, he recently told me, where each vote has the greatest weight. If you’d like to make calls to voters in New Hampshire, you can email Gabriel and he can get you everything you need to start making calls to fit your schedule: firstname.lastname@example.org
Making calls and sending postcards isn’t the most fun thing in the world–to say the least–but it’s also not that bad. And research shows that getting out the vote really makes a difference! In the last presidential election, 42% of the population didn’t vote! If we can reach just a fraction of those people, we can make the difference we need.
I know that I don’t want to wake up after the election and not feel that I did my part or was sleepwalking into an ever-worsening situation.
2) It’s so important that we don’t get sucked into the negative energy that’s surrounding us. Negative energy breeds negative energy. Hate breeds hate. Worry breeds worry. I consider feeding my positive energy, my light, and my joy a political and social act. It’s not selfish, it’s a way to protect, preserve, and encourage the qualities I want to see and help create in the world.
So I keep up with my meditation, yoga, and writing practices. And a few times a week I make a point of doing something that really brings me joy. Just looking at someone’s smile or the sky can bring us joy.
I also know that when I’m feeling especially worried, it’s usually tapping into old feelings, so I need to go back and address the earlier times in my life when I was feeling like that. This doesn’t mean that the present concerns aren’t real, but I’m able to deal with the realities of the present better if I’m approaching them with my full adult capabilities and not from the old place of a scared child. The more I have understood and healed my own story, the easier it is for me to stay in my adult self.
This brings me to the upcoming class I’m teaching at The Copper Beech Institute: Find Strength and Resilience Through Your Story: Integrating Mind, Body, and Spirit through Meditation and Writing taught four Thursdays, October 8th through 29th.
Whether we find ourselves in challenging circumstances–like so many at this time–or find ourselves in joyous circumstances, we are our own constant companion, and we can experience life most fully–and most effectively– if we can bring our full self to it.
As the meditation teacher Jon Kabat Zinn says, wherever we go, there we are. Most of us, however, are not fully comfortable with ourselves; we often spend a lot of energy trying to jump over ourselves, our shadows, those parts of our stories that are more difficult and that still get us stuck.
This four-week workshop will gently guide you to get more comfortable with yourself and your story so that you can show up more fully for the present, whatever the present holds. We’ll use writing, meditation, and gentle movement/ body awareness to integrate–and write–our stories.
Studies have shown that writing is one of the best tools for healing and self-understanding. By bringing mindful and somatic practices to our writing and integrating of our life stories, we go much deeper. Meditation helps us still our mind so that we can get out of the same loops we often find ourselves in and find new ways of relating to ourselves and our stories. Embodied movement helps us gently unlock the stories that our bodies hold and tap into greater resilience.
This class is designed for people with any level of writing experience, from complete beginners to professional writers; it will meet you where you are, give you the tools to get through blocks, and free your voice so that you can meet the present moment–whatever it holds for you–access your full story on the page and off.
By the end of the four weeks, you’ll be able to tell a coherent, empowering story of your life and come to reside with more peace and power in the present so that you can meet your life with your fullest self.
Thursdays from 7-8:30 (Eastern Time)
Tuition: $105 : covers all the expenses of the course and supports others who cannot afford to attend; $75 : covers most of the expenses of the course; $45 : covers some of the expenses of the course. See more and sign up here
3) Finally, I come back to number three: it’s essential to find protected, boundaried time for the things that matter to us. Just an hour or two a week of making calls and of something extra for ourselves can make a world of difference. But that time won’t appear magically on its own. Be realistic about your schedule. Maybe it’s only 30 minutes a week or maybe you can give 3 hours a week. Do what you can do and prioritize that time. I try to spend less time consuming the news, less time worrying, and more time on actively doing something.
There’s a wonderful story about the Dalai Lama: when asked how long he meditates, he said he spends one hour meditating in the morning, but on extremely busy days, he spends two hours. The busier we are, the more we need these practices!
So schedule a date for yourself and show up. When we do this, we’ll be more present we’ll be for everything else in our lives.
I want to close with my favorite metta blessing, for you individually and for all of us:
may we be protected and safe,
may we be contented and pleased
may our physical bodies support us with ease
may our lives unfold smoothly with ease
may our lights shine unobstructed with ease