So many thoughts swirl through my mind as we enter the final weeks of this year. The holiday season manages to stir up lots of emotional turmoil for many in the best of times. But people are telling me they are deeply weary this year and struggling with finding the spirit of the season, whether it’s getting started with gifts, the lights up or the tree decorated. So when I sit with people each hour during the day, the question that emerges is: “How is the state of your heart today?”
The election season, the dramatic impacts of climate, tragic violence across the globe, plus the aftermath, has deepened the divide within families, friendships, work-place and sometimes just walking down the street. Over the past months, the sadness and distress pulses like a heartbeat and people are indeed seeking to stay connected despite their differences and confusion.
W. B. Yeats wrote: “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”
I was attending a national eating disorders conference about a month ago. Sitting with a group of my dearest friends, we gathered in someone’s hotel room for our annual late night catch up. Someone turned to me and said, “You know, we need to be here for one another, now more than ever.”
Connection is crucial. Now, always, ongoing.
So that refrain has been the voice echoing in my mind for weeks.
Yes, most folks are pretty tired and want to try out their version of “Rip van Winkle”, snoozing into 2017…
Each morning, instead of tuning into the daily news, I lace up my shoes and take a walk around the circle of my neighborhood, welcoming the morning light and greeting the neighbors, and their dogs, wishing one another a good day. Back home, on my mat, inhaling deeply, seek to open my heart. Exhaling, listening to the wind through the trees, the noises of my household readying for the day, my attention to my breath competes against the details of the day ahead calling me. Is there time for another inversion before getting dressed for work? Will the giant trucks picking up the tree limbs from Hurricane Matthew 2 months ago halt traffic on the drive this morning? Did last night’s wind and rain bring down any more of those dangling branches overhanging the driveway?
As my friend and colleague, Harriett Schwartz, reminded us in her article Politics and Pain: Staying Connected through the Post-Election Divide, “Choosing not to walk away from the relationship may be the only thing you have in common with some of the people you are dealing with day to day.”
So I would like to remind you to acknowledge the pain or fear, as a way to move forward. Whatever the pain you may be struggling with, honor it, ask your body, your heart to make room for your heartache. Self-empathy is hugely important and often misunderstood. It is NOT selfish, nor narcissistic, to find true empathy for yourself. You know the saying, “You can’t drink from an empty cup.”
Compassionate self-empathy, radical self-care, allows for dedication to a daily practice of meditation, yoga, prayer, affirmations, breath work, or whatever your day permits.
It doesn’t mean wearing yoga clothes, and in the current climate, your yoga practice does count even if there are no photographs for social media to document and share!
Reminds me of the old query, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” What will you practice today to make room for gentle loving kindness? Pause and listen to your breath. Pause and listen to the chatter of your thoughts. Quiet them. Fill your cup.
Samuel Beckett reminds us:
You must go on.
I can’t go on.
I’ll go on.