I want to start this message by saying thank you. Thank you for being here and for reading this.
I am having a hard time finding the right tone. I don’t quite know what words to use for what is happening in this country, which is very real and very serious, and also, still, very new, so I’ll tell you, instead, a bit about my day yesterday:
I took a walk around Walden Pond with a friend who is a writer and studying Ayurvedic medicine. For the first half of the walk, we talked about our fear, our dismay, our anger at what is happening.
But after maybe twenty minutes, after we crossed the tracks and went into the woods, where there was still some snow on the ground, our conversation turned from the national level to sharing our individual stories, and from that space of more intimate story telling and sharing, we started to talk more about the power of healing, and the power that we all have to come into our own centers.
This left me feeling better. It reminded me that while we don’t have power over some stories, we do have power over others, and that while sometimes looking at the world, it appears to have a somewhat solid story, in fact, there are always countless stories interacting in all kinds of unpredictable ways.
In fact, remembering the multiplicity of our stories and all the different layers they exist on helps me both better protect myself from the news and better step into action.
When I see a solid story, I find myself lost in worry. But Thich Nhat Hanh, who was a peace activist through years of the brutality of war, reminds us that worry alone does not solve any problems. I’ve been trying to follow his advice to stay in the present moment, and when I really stay in the present, I notice so much that is happening around me: the moving clouds, my breath, sounds, other people. Attention seems to dissipate the solid fear. This is important because being able to enjoy the present moment and to de-activate our nervous systems will help us remain resilient and able to keep going for the long term.
Sometimes we think that being present, calming down, putting boundaries around our own worry, will prevent us from taking meaningful action; instead, having these tools makes us much stronger and more able to take meaningful action.
Similarly, it is easier to enjoy the present moment when we are clear in our commitment to take action. I’m slowly working on a system to take daily actions, weekly actions, monthly and yearly actions. I’m trying to make daily calls to people in government. My friend Liz just told me about Credo Action’s tool to connect you to representatives who are most helpful to contact: https://credoaction.com/ Scroll to the bottom of the page and it will help you make the calls that are needed. I tried it this morning and it’s great. And I’ve signed up to do volunteer work with a few groups on a regular basis and have taken the initiative to do some community work.
When I feel worried, knowing that I am taking these extra steps helps me feel less worried. “Hope is not what we find in evidence; it’s what we become in action,” Frances Moore Lappe has said. I love this quote.
There is a quote from another of my heroes that I’ve seen floating around this week and that I’ve also been thinking about. But in fact, I’ve been thinking about it because I take some issue with it. The quote is from Brene Brown, whose groundbreaking work on vulnerability and the power of owning our own stories has been so important and has given me personally such encouragement: “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort but you cannot choose both,” she says.
On the one hand, I know what Brene Brown is talking about: we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone to step into our vulnerability and be courageous; yes! AND at the same time, I think that the danger of this formulation is that it leaves courage out in the cold, without giving us—or others—the support we need to cultivate courage.
To be our most courageous, I think we also need to know how to give ourselves comfort. In fact, ONLY when we know how to give ourselves comfort can we be our most courageous and offer that comfort and that courage to others. And to tell you the truth, I think that Brene Brown would agree with this.
So I hope all of us can cultivate both comfort and courage, both self compassion and action, wherever we are. And I don’t see this as a sign only of privilege. Instead, I see this as a radical act of creating what we want to see in the world, everywhere.