This is a longer blog than usual since we have been in what seems like an eternity of fear, anger and sorrow. It’s important to see the benefit of growth, even if it’s painful. Abraham Maslow reminds us:
In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth
or to step back into safety.
He reminds us that pain is often life teaching us something. Yet when we are in pain, this is when we are most resistant to that belief. “No! Take it away!” I see this current climate of division, tribal loyalty and even outright hate as one of the biggest teaching moments in my lifetime. I know about Hitler and the Holocaust, but I only know by reading and feeling shock and empathy for our human ability to hate and hurt. It is the same for slavery, but I saw what happened to protestors in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I experienced the cruelty to women in the ‘50s and the blocks to our progress. Today reminds me of those times, in fact we are repeating the crimes of those times, and I am experiencing the ugliness in every fiber. Some suggest it is the fault of social media. I believe we are experiencing these things more acutely because of social media, but that has not created the issues. Social media has turned over the rocks and all the creepy crawly things have come out and into our lives and we cannot ignore it by shutting down and closing our doors. I am hearing from so many women who, during the Kavanaugh process, re-experienced sexual assaults they had buried for years. The same thing happened to me. Our anger is real, documented, and understandable. But I know, as a practitioner, and a survivor, that it is also damaging. Action is a great antidote to this fear, but how and what do we do?
First of all, we have to confront our anger and honor it. Anger and pain notify us of what is not right in our world. Judging ourselves for feeling them adds to the burden we carry. When you hurt, take notice. Life is showing you where your work needs to be done. We only have the present moment—we are not promised more. So I begin with you. Before you can break the chains anger holds between you and others, you must release them from any anger or judgement you carry for yourself. To begin, please read the following poem from the wonderful poet, now gone, Miller Williams. I have used it in each of my books because it is so important. It’s from his book The Ways We Touch: Poems from the University of Illinois Press.
Have compassion for everyone you meet,
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.
Yes, this is easier said than done. You might be yelling at me right now, but please, don’t stop reading. We have to be willing to rid ourselves of the anger for our own sake. That does not mean falling in love with whoever or whatever has caused you pain. This is for you, not them.
Those of you who know me are aware that I dip into the books of John O’Donohue almost daily. When I am fearful, angry or undecided, he is a guide. In the book Eternal Echoes, he says:
A life’s journey is made up of continual daily choices. But there are moments of profound choosing, (emphasis mine) when a partner, a life-direction or a new way of being in the world is chosen. This can be a wonderful time of focus and re-direction. When such a moment of choosing is genuine, it is usually preceded by a time of gestation and gathering. Many different strands of your past experience begin to weave together until gradually the new direction announces itself. Its voice is sure with the inevitability of the truth. When your life decisions emerge in this way from the matrix of your experience, they warrant your trust and commitment.
What many of us are experiencing are birth pains. We have been caught in the labor pains of watching our beloved country split, our family relationships and friendships in chaos, our values in question. We ask why daily. Why did we think this person was who or what she/he presented and now they have come out of the shadows with political or personal judgments that are shocking to me? In the true meaning of friendship, we would have had a clue or a knowing. In true friends, they share who they really are with us. If we’re now shocked at who they are, we were not friends but social acquaintances. On the other hand, true soul-mate type friends may show up at this time. This is not to say all friends have to agree 100% in any area, but what they say, write and show to you should be taken as truth. As Maya Angelou said; “When they show you who they are, believe them.” When the earth is in turmoil, truth will emerge. This is the work of your soul—to comprehend from your soul’s place who the other person is.
Now we come back to Miller’s poem. Compassion is a knowing that a person or group is who they are because of their perspective of experience. The less advanced the soul the more anger, hatred and judgment they carry around. When we get sucked into that vortex, we lose something of our true selves. If we memorize that one line—you do not know what is going on down there—you can have compassion for where they came from without falling into their world. Fill your world with art, books, poetry, true friends and family. We are not tasked with loving what others do. We are tasked with seeing the world through clear eyes, applying compassion when needed and creating our true self. That creation takes place in chaos, but looks beautiful when complete. You will know you are home in yourself when your heart reminds you who you are. I am focused on returning to my true self after weeks of being led down the path of anger. The fight against evil is an honorable battle, but the motives and emotions must be clear. Long term anger destroys health and happiness. This anger brought up old remnants that I must address, so it was a temporary gift. I hope you choose that gift also.