Photo courtesy of Liz Gill
“When times are uncertain, difficult, fearful, full of change, they become the perfect place to deepen the practice of awakening.” ‑ Jack Kornfield
Well, it’s been a week, hasn’t it?
On Wednesday morning, after waking up to the election results, I led a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class. The students came in, raw with emotion. It quickly became apparent that the class plan would need to be thrown out the window.
I led a yoga practice and meditation, and kept reminding the students to give space for whatever emotion was present. And when they felt lost and spinning in stories and thoughts, I encouraged them to keep coming back to the body: the actual experience of being right here, with these body sensations.
After these practices, we checked in with their experiences. Many shared how difficult —almost impossible — it was to stay present through the practices. They were consumed with not just sadness, anger, fear, but despair, rage, and terror. We joked that we were now in the “advanced” MBSR class. It’s difficult enough to bring Mindfulness to the everyday challenges which arise, but bringing Mindfulness to the more intense moments of life sometimes feels impossible.
No matter how you voted in this election, you have probably experienced an array of intense emotions over the last few days.
Now with a little distance from the election, talking to people, I notice that their strong emotions are starting to subside, change. Many still are angry at the results of the election and its aftermath, heartbroken, feel the call to take some action, but the intensity and rawness has lessened.
It’s what happens. We can’t live in the fire of such emotion for too long, or we will burn ourselves up or not be able to function at all. Strong emotion can be a huge catalyst for change, a call for new action, but the nature of reality is that all things change. This emotion, if we let it, will move through us and transform into something else.
Many of my students spoke to a fear of the uncertainty of what is next. The truth is, we are always living with uncertainty. Most of the time we just pretend we aren’t. We never know what is going to happen in the next moment. Any moment we could lose a job, our health, someone we love. But most of the time we ignore this truth, because it feels too overwhelming to confront it.
When something unexpected happens, it wakes us up to the fact that we are always living in uncertainty. In such moments, life may seem more tenuous, more precious. We might feel heightened emotions, heightened sensitivity. In this awakened state, there is a preciousness to life, a vitality, an aliveness that arises when we can remember that all things are impermanent. Such moments present us with an opportunity to emerge from the fog of pretending that we live in most of the time, and with this emergence, the arising of wisdom.
I believe there is an opportunity in this particular moment in history: an opportunity for all of us to step more fully into the difference we are here to make.
That will look different for all of us. Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher and writer says, “Plant seeds of goodness and water them everywhere.” Some of you may feel called to activism, protesting, civil service. Some may feel called to volunteering in your community, donating money to organizations you believe in, some to making a difference right in your home and your workplace. Some may feel nourished through writing, teaching, advocating, serving in ways big and small.
In this moment, just as any other, we have the opportunity to wake up. We have the chance to be present to the world inside and outside ourselves. We have the opportunity to foster wisdom, compassion, and peace for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world. We can understand, not with our head, but with our heart that we are all intrinsically connected. That your pain is my pain, your joy is my joy, my actions affect you and your actions affect me. In this moment we can stand, and keep standing for, a world which values everyone.
With Metta (loving-kindness), Erin
P.S. I hope it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: All of us at Source Yoga will always do our very best to provide a safe space for all, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation. Come as you are and be welcomed in an inclusive space.