You cannot ignore the shocking events of the last weeks in the Twin Cities. Responding to police brutality in the death of George Floyd, protestors looted, started fires, and challenged as the National Guard was deployed. Already faced with exasperating circumstances created by COVID-19, everyone has felt an added layer of fear and frustration with the unknown. Desire for stability on both fronts is intense. The undercurrent is surging.
Some of us feel helpless. Some of us look to state and national government for leadership. Some of us have taken matters into our own hands. All have been touched by shattered hopes and dreams resulting from the virus or explosive emotions. Now is the time for deepest understanding, for bringing light to the undercurrent.
All want to be understood. Each says: I am the center of the universe; yet, more importantly, all need to understand: I am not the center of the universe. This sensitivity begins with questioning your motivations and values, examining and eliminating your judgment of others’ motivations and values, and finally connecting inclusively on all levels. Where do you start? With yourself—through individual reflection and self-care. The result is you become a balanced and thriving member of the community and use your influence for the greater good.
Anxiety and uneasiness are a constant undercurrent within your psyche, resulting in stress, nervousness, and irritability. This is understandable, considering the uncertainty around you. It seems the same questions and situations are always in the back of your mind. Will I get the virus? If I do, will I die from it? When will I see my family? When can I be with my friends? When can I move around without rules? Will I have enough money? Is the sky falling? How will this end? Globally, all are concerned with these questions.
No one, not even the experts, can provide answers with certainty because everything in the universe is temporary. Meanwhile, you must do the best you can to live with your questions and circumstances.
Three strategies could help you invite more ease and stability into your life. First, begin to change your perception. Consider a single moment, rather than the sweeping past or the unknown future. An example is when a lighted candle is placed in front of you. You begin to watch it, moment after moment. After a while, it appears as if the flame offers thoughts. However, these thoughts mirror the meaning you attach to the moment. Will you create anxiety or stability? The flame, itself, is neutral. You can change your perception by changing how you approach each moment.
Say you have a cough. Your choice in that moment is to jump to an immediate conclusion that you have the virus and panic, inviting more worry and fear. OR, to step back and notice calmly, Hummmm, right now I have a cough, inviting ease and soothing awareness. Staying in the moment allows for greater clarity.
When you control your approach to moments, stability follows. You develop a habit of remaining neutral to circumstances as they come to you, allowing space for an informed opinion. This wider perspective—a choice—balances your feelings and tempers urgency.
Another strategy that has the potential to bring ease and stability to your life is to use your imagination. For example, imagine a scene that is very restful, like telling stories with family while watching a crackling, smoky campfire. Or, perhaps sitting with friends in front of a fireplace of muted flames and quiet embers while you share thoughtful conversation. You feel warmth, a sense of safety, and bonding. This is a type of self-care. These comfortablememories can bring a smile to your face and relaxation to the cells throughout your body. These positive images can get you through challenging times. They help to override the undercurrent.
A third strategy that could help you invite greater ease and stability to your life is to recall a common practice and give it expanded meaning. You are familiar with lightning-generated woodland or prairie fires. If you have seen the aftermath, your humanness may cause you to doubt any benefits. Yet the ground has been imprisoned by layers of plant material and stressed by competition with other plants and animals for nutrients. Higher wisdom knows these naturally occurring blazes eliminate invasive plant growth, restore nutrients to the soil, and encourage positive plant and animal diversity—in a sense, a type of self-care for balancing the land. An unspoken trust in the circle of life is part of the universal eco-system. This is the larger meaning!
Like the land, your body is also an eco-system. Weathering the pandemic, you are bound by unusual restrictions and stressed by the uncertainty of what will happen regarding jobs, money, food, relationships, or education. Anxiety and uneasiness gnaw at you. External circumstances constantly bombard. During a time of personal reflection, higher wisdom nudges you toward self-care, calm, and balance. The undercurrent responds to light.
Self-care is slowing down and turning inward to acknowledge how all parts of your body are feeling. With love and kindness, you breathe into those areas that cry out for your attention. Fewer sharp edges surround your body, mind, and consciousness. All aspects of your being begin to connect. Deep inside, you find a greater degree of acceptance and understanding. Working with that, you feel alignment with an energy greater than you are. Only external circumstances have caused you to feel disconnected. Self-care helps you to reclaim stability. With a balanced body, mind, and consciousness, you feel stable. This mindset enriches your community. Any undercurrent dissipates.
From a higher vantage: This is a heavy time of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress for everyone. Life is decidedly uncomfortable. What can you learn from these times? Offer kindness to yourself and others. Look beyond anxiety, as uncertainty will recede. A more expansive plan is in place, regardless of appearances. Recognize the stability and ease deep within you and call upon it now.
© 2020 in the thick of things
“Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
~Dalai Lama, The spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, 1391-1474
From the last blog entry: We want to reach out to others who are experiencing loss… This intention, wrapped in love and compassion, aligns with Source and seeks oneness with others…. but what do we say? What words would be meaningful? What is helpful rather than routine? What would the experts say? These demands find us faced with a different loss.
Compassion takes on many faces. Traditionally, cards, poets’ words, inspirational books, shared meals, transportation/home services, monetary gifts or in-kind services from non-profit organizations or local charities, and fundraisers are fantastic ways to connect and make life easier and more positive for those suffering from any kind of loss. This is compassion connected with “doing” and is extremely helpful and appreciated.
Yet compassion can touch a deeper place in our “being” when we allow it, the place of self-compassion. At this level, we see ourselves in the place of those suffering. The universal gifts of love, stability, peace, and mindfulness that begin in Source come to us. We forget ourselves and open our hearts. We become the ones who suffer. Through these feelings, we discover yet a more extensive wellspring of connection. On an emotional level, we want to ease their suffering and pain by taking it on ourselves. Driven by empathy, love, and raw courage, we bind with them. We offer our presence and listen. We express words that we would want to hear. Our actions demonstrate understanding.
For some of us, this depth of connection may seem scary, impossible, or dream-like. Yet, when we know ourselves well enough, we can bind in this vital way. Considerations: having the emotional strength to take on another’s pain and suffering, being mindful of circumstances and overriding fear, and letting go of resistance to the present moment. The mental discourse of discovery can be found only through setting aside time, opening hearts, and working through what we find.
Without thorough inner study, we’d just be guessing at what we have to offer in the compassion department. When our inquiring minds need to know what to say about loss, it is essential to have the confidence of inner knowing. Introspection confirms if or how we need to change. How inspiring to know that we have nourished enough happiness, joy, and peace within so that we can share these qualities. Understanding and engendering love for self is the foundation for the quality and quantity of compassion that we can offer to others.
The following few paragraphs are paraphrased from “Being Love,” with Thich Nhat Hanh, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1o1TDuXf-8. In the quiet moments, as we begin to examine the thoughts, actions and environments that have shaped us, it may be helpful to keep a journal.
Before we can offer love and compassion to others, we first need to love and feel compassion for ourselves. Turning inward, we listen to the calls of our body, feelings, and perceptions. Without judgment, we fully accept them as they are.
Buddhism offers four elements of true love. Here, we apply them to ourselves. Once we have absorbed their meaning, we are ready to apply the concepts to others. Spend some time with these beliefs each day to see how they might become a part of your life:
*Loving kindness-nurturing happiness in self
*Compassion- reducing suffering through acceptance of self
*Joy-innate delight; no effort required in self; balanced mind, body, and soul
*Equanimity-freedom to be self; spaciousness in heart, mind; calmness in self
By taking time to look deeply inward, we practice being in the present moment and know that our higher Self speaks to us. This is the cultivation of self-compassion. Four elements open us to dialogues of love and compassion—first with ourselves. With a bit of practice, we see how these dialogues make us feel cared for and can weave them into conversations with others, offering them compassion. Begin by talking to yourself.
* Presence: (Your name), I am here for you in my looking, sitting, breathing, walking. I offer my true presence.
*Recognition and appreciation: (Your name), I know you are there and I am very happy.
*Relieve pain, suffering created by Ego by being mindful, paying attention: (Your name), I know you suffer and I am here for you.
*Relieve pain, suffering created by a loved one: I suffer because of some action or thought that (loved one’s name) created. Please help me, (loved one’s name), to understand.
Love is the foundation for compassion. By truly loving and understanding ourselves, we can better love and understand others. Thinking and acting compassionately in the thick of things is “a necessity not a luxury.” Traditional forms of compassion are positive for all energies and the planet. However, compassion taken to a deeper level of getting to know, understand and love ourselves, lets us speak authentically. An authentic heart is a gateway or portal to Source. Now we know what we have to offer. No more wondering if certain words or gestures would be meaningful, if something is helpful, or if apologies are in order for not being a psychologist. We know. We’ve taken time to sit with our inner being. We speak from our heart. Any words or actions of compassion are exactly right.
In the quiet moments: Offer love and compassion to yourself, then to others, and then to all energies. Suddenly the world is friendlier and things go better. Give thanks for your life, well-lived.
© 2015 Barbara L. Krause
“What counts is not the enormity of the task, but the size of the courage.”
~ Matthieu Ricard
Be ready for change. Take courage. Impermanence is constant, yet most of us spend our lives looking the other way; or thinking that, should adversity catch up with us, we’ll deal with it; or believing our strong faith will get us through any kind of adversity—no worries. Yet dealing with impermanence is not quite that simple.
Change is inevitable. Change in our families: parents becoming less able, children going to college, faithful pets of many years passing. Change at work: colleagues retiring; peers leaving the “rat race” and moving to a new locale to take care of an aging relative; co-workers dealing with workers’ comp issues and divorce after sustaining an industry accident. Change in community: Long-standing and wise community voices grow silent, buildings from our heritage are replaced, Mother Nature is destroyed in the name of progress.
Certainly there were conversations about dying and death between or among those who spoke from their hearts? Between or among those who listened with openness, putting first another’s interests? Between or among those who understood with compassion? Most of us would have appreciated such conversations; instead, sadly, these conversations never materialized or grazed only the surface of end-of-life issues. Most of us don’t care to pay attention to the results of impermanence; it takes major life changes to hijack our attention. As a result, we are emotionally unprepared, are forced to focus quickly on too many possibilities, lament that we didn’t have end-of-life discussions with our loved ones, and hope for the best. If only we had known what our loved ones wanted?
Later, we try to explain away our behaviors…
- We didn’t talk about it (death)—we wanted to maintain a positive attitude.
- Massive, abrupt changes in health (stroke, sprained ankle with torn tendons and ligaments, prognosis of six weeks to live) turned our world upside down, yet we didn’t know how to begin sharing our deepest feelings.
- I live alone with my dog, yet I couldn’t count on my pet to dial 9-1-1. Guess I need a Plan B.
Have a conversation. Have a conversation now. Have a conversation now when you are of sound mind, when you’re not stressed, when your emotions are balanced, even if you think it’s ridiculous. These conversations become gifts to both you and to your family and friends. Now is the time.
As the initiator of the conversation, decide on the topics to cover, place, and time to meet. Often others will be uncomfortable with the topics of health crises or decisions, your funeral or final wishes if they differ from the “norm,” finances, death, or others. Conversation means you care. You are not alone. Explore this critical information with your loved ones or with a trusted friend.
Many of these topics can be explored through web sites, medical doctors and specialists, or lawyers. To get started, consider questions to ask before an emergency.
Print the answers and make the information easily accessible (perhaps posted on the frig):
- “Street address (and closest cross street)
- Call-back number
- Chronic medical conditions
- Recent medical events, if any”
www.webmd.com “Calling 911: What to do in an Emergency” and more.
Another web site that covers extensive grief support resources by type of loss is www.mygriefangels.org. For basic info on wills and probate or to locate a law firm specializing in this area by zip code, consider www.wills-probate.lawyers.com.
Finally, “The Huffington Post,” based in Washington D.C, carries a blog entry, “How to Have Everyday Conversations about Death and Dying,” by Karen M. Wyatt, M.D.
In the quiet moments: Engage in these important conversations today. The information exchanged will give you peace of mind. Take courage. I care for and love you.
© 2015 Barbara L. Krause