“When we truly rest in awareness, our experience is spacious and intimate, without defenses. With it arises compassion; we feel our heart’s natural connection with life.”
–Jack Kornfield, meditation teacher
In our current political climate, many people on both sides of the political aisle are feeling uncertain. Many people I know are fearful for the future. They feel called to stand up and take action for the welfare and wellbeing of those in marginalized and targeted communities, for the health of our planet, for our freedoms and the freedoms of our future generations.
When it comes to making a difference, even more people may feel at a loss. I have observed myself swinging between two states. First, getting active and busy, wondering what I can do for every cause I care about, taking actions where I feel I can, consuming lots of media, with the intention to stay awake to what is going on in the world. Then, I have seen myself swing the other way – towards overwhelm. Wanting to retreat, hide out, escape what is going on.
We are in a time that calls for action in many cases. But I also feel that it is equally a time that calls for us coming back to our centers. If we are constantly reacting to the world around us, we may find ourselves stressed, anxious, depressed, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed.
What if we pause?
I think the fear for many of us, is that if we pause the action – by meditating, or going to a yoga class or practicing self-care when the world is feeling upside down–that it equates to navel-gazing, to not paying attention to things that feel so urgent. To hiding in our privilege from the harsh realities we are protected from.
But if all our attention goes to action, as necessary as that feels, we run the risk of overwhelm and burnout. To sustain positive action over time, we need to balance our doing with taking time for being.
All that passion to make a difference is so needed right now. And we must balance that out with slowing down.
Noticing our breath. Feeling our way into our body. Making space for the emotions that are present to be felt.
Expanding our awareness to include the bigger picture. Feeling that we are not just this body and this thinking mind, but that we are that which is experiencing this body and thinking mind – experiencing ourselves as the consciousness that we are.
For me, this is where my mindfulness practice and self-care has come into play this week. Today, I am taking a media fast day. No radio news, no newspapers, no internet news, no social media. But it is not a “stick my head in the sand – want to disappear” day. It is an intentional, conscious turning inward to feel my center, so that I might come back into the world of doing tomorrow with fresh eyes, with greater perspective, available to take action that impacts the world in a positive way. I am taking time to meditate, to move my body, to eat healthily, to read things that nourish me.
Mindfulness, awareness, compassion, and insight don’t usually happen on their own. When we nurture our self-awareness, compassion naturally arises. From compassion arises compassionate action.
When we are challenged, either by what is around us or what is going on inside us, our reactive mode appears if we are not paying attention. In this mode, we might experience stress, anxiety, depression, fear, anger, even hatred. From that place, our actions are defensive or destructive.
We are more likely to respond mindfully to a stressful situation if we have been taking intentional time to practice being aware. Stressful times are not the times to back off from our practice, because we feel we must only focus on the crisis at hand. It is a time to lean in to our practice. Let it support us through difficulty.
I wanted to offer to you an opportunity to turn inward, right now, to nurture that sense of expansive awareness, that is right here. I have recorded a meditation, and I invite you to pause for 7 minutes, right now, and then return to your next action with a bit more spaciousness of mind.
I hope to see you on the mat or on your meditation cushion this month. My hope is that Source Yoga is a peaceful haven for you when times are smooth, and a refuge in times that are difficult. Please let me know how Source Yoga can support you through this time of uncertainty.
With Metta (lovingkindness),