This week was brutal.
Don’t deny it. I can’t.
All of my favorite politicians in the country were threatened with bombs and a house of worship was actually bombed on Shabbat. The Tree of Life Synagogue was less than a mile away from my brother’s home when he lived in Pittsburg and where my niece and nephew were born. And, this week, one of the greatest African American playwrights, Ntozake Shange, made her transition into the Great Mystery.
I feel it all in my body. And I feel sad and fearful about the future. I feel a sensory overload and I want to stop caring.
And, so do my clients.
Yet, just because I feel all these strong and negative feelings does not mean that the story ends there.
I am not one for platitudes. I am not one to sugarcoat hard feelings. I believe that when we pay attention to our feelings, in a healthy and constructive way, we can read those feelings. I think of it like reading tea leaves. Sometimes our emotions grip us, and they can be dark and mysterious but, often, therein lies the beauty. There is an art to reading your emotions and using them to motivate you in a productive manner.
Such feelings are good to sit with. Don’t run away from them. This is what makes us human and not robots.
This week, I was fortunate. I quickly recognized that my feelings of overwhelm were an indication that I was feeling hopeless.
Well, I know this to be an easy quick fix. The hard part is noticing that hopelessness is the issue.
That is what I love about hope: It is always just a reach away. The funny thing is that my clients often reflect to me what I am feeling. So, they were feeling hopeless and I was able to see it in them clearly. As I helped them, I helped myself.
When I feel hopeless, I recognize that I am giving the big, hard news the full bandwidth of my attention. I am not looking at the bloom of a flower, the smile of a child or a verse of beautiful poetry. No, I am awfulizing as if this major thing that has happened is the only aspect of reality.
I am not comparing the cold-blooded murder of 11 people during the exercise of their faith to the bloom of a flower. No, I am not. What I am saying is that there is always something good going on, even on the darkest, darkest day.
Focusing on the littlest thing that is good is the way we stay connected to Greater Love, the Love that heals and has solutions.
Beloved, my biggest request of you this week is “Don’t switch off.” Don’t turn off your senses to the suffering around you. The way you stop that impulse to switch off is to be present to the small things around you that feel good and are always there – like a bloom of a flower. It keeps blooming even though all hell is breaking loose.
Please note, if you have a mental health issue, such as chemical depression or if you are processing grief, then you may want to switch off. Only you and your healthcare provider can determine that for you. Sometimes, the switch off is necessary. There are no hard and fast rules here, Beloveds.
But for the rest of us, please don’t switch off. At least, not permanently.
As emotionally healthy humans, it is so important to sit with the discomfort that these situations bring our way. It is so necessary to sit with the grief and the flooding of our senses. This is the only way we can notice our reaction to bullying, injustice, and terrorism.
In our reaction to these things is where the root of justice dwells. We do not like it when there is violence and often, we feel powerless to such violence.
However, too many people are functioning as if it is business as usual. Too many folks have switched off.
That is why terror and injustice keep happening.
We are becoming numb to it all.
And therein lies the danger.
You see, Beloveds, we cannot have empathy for another soul unless we stop and notice, that indeed, the other soul is suffering. Noticing of suffering precedes empathy. Empathy is one of the main ways we share Love.
Once we are empathic to the soul of another, then we have to tap into our empowerment to help that person. That is where hope comes in.
You see, I firmly believe in our interdependence with each other. I don’t believe in this business of “Well, that is that person’s path and there is nothing I can do about it.” Nope. Not at all.
In that interdependence lies your freedom as well as mine. I cannot do my life without the interaction and the presence of others. Neither can you. There have been times in my life when I just could not do it alone and others carried me. There have been times that I have carried others. All of us have those stories. Yet, I cannot drink my cup of coffee in the morning without interacting with the Kenyan coffee person who picked the coffee beans.
I learned in the training I attended this week, to remind myself of such interconnectedness to tap into empathy. That empathy is where I can resonate with the suffering of another.
And then, hope.
You see, hope is what empowers you to believe that you have the ability to help another.
If you had no hope, you would not believe that there is a solution.
That empowerment is where you feel motivated to address the needs of others and alleviate their suffering.
Then, when you take action based on empathy, that is compassion.
For some folks, right now, we cannot take direct action to alleviate their suffering. There is not much I can do for Barack, Maxine or even the folks in Pittsburg.
So for me, compassionate action is a prayer and a commitment to keep doing my work to make sure that people have the tools to learn how to be compassionate and caring leaders.
But there is one more thing that can be termed, “Compassionate Action.”
This is one powerful action you can take…..
You know what that is?
Vote for candidates that are truthful and have tangible plans to reduce violence. Vote for candidates that are compassionate human beings.
You see, almost everything that I mentioned above that made this a hard week, is political.
Today, politics is fueled by a rhetoric that is divisive and has an “us” versus “them” mentality. It is fueled by a scarcity mentality that says, “There is not enough to go around so I have to keep mine and take yours as well.” It is fueled by a superiority attitude that says, “I am better than you and so I can take what I want from you.” It is fueled by a desire to eliminate people so that the few that have, can have even more.
And none of that, not one word of that is necessary.
You are a powerful person with agency. No one can take that away from you. This is a time to tap into the powerful being that you are and recognize that your vote matters, you have a voice and your deepest held values are necessary. You have a place in this world and no one can displace you.
Tapping into this internal power, “Power In,” not “Power Over,” is how you make the turn around from yukky feelings and its corresponding powerlessness to a more powerful reality that all is not lost, in spite of the evidence that abounds.
This week, Beloved, be the powerful person that you actually are. As a leader, your people are counting on you. Not to be perfect? No. But to be real and wrestle with your feelings and show them that in spite of all the gunk going on, it does not mean that you are weak. It means that you dig in and sit with hard feelings and find your strength and your hope and motivate your people to continue to do good work and know their worth as amazing people. Go do it. Onwards.
Hugs on the journey for more Compassion and Justice in our world.