My lovely mouser, Prince Meadowlark, who has been with me for sixteen years, recently reminded me of aging’s toll on the four-leggeds of the world. I’m used to thinking about the human experience of aging, ageism, and vulnerability, but his current challenges with sight and mobility remind me that animals too experience the erosion of strength and sensory acuity that leads to feelings of helplessness. Animals, however, require our expanded sensitivity to their well being and suffering. Beyond a plaintive meow, this wonderful companion cannot describe his fears, his heartaches, his frustrations over the circumstances robbing him of agency, and so, as his designated person, it is on me to interpret his needs, to meet these as best I can, and to comfort him when his experiences prove frustrating.
Signs of the improbable healing at work in our world just keep coming. One of these signs appeared in a recent edition of the News & Citizen, a local/regional northern Vermont weekly paper, announced by the headline, “From gang to crew: Black rower finds peace on the water.” Rowing is one of those sports Ivy League colleges support to ensure high enrolment. It is expensive and exclusive, so the story of an all black rowing team from west Chicago is startling news, as is the linking of three words: gang, crew, and peace.
In these turbulent times of political and racial divisiveness, one human experience is the great unifier: Loss. We cannot avoid it, individually and collectively, especially if we are engaged with the world through our work and media information choices. We see fires ravaging communities of trees and people, floods disappearing whole ecosystems and devastating towns, and humans suffering through the terrors of pandemic illness and death on every continent. Whether these losses are personal or witnessed, our awareness of them can positively impact what we think and feel and share with others. Recognizing shared losses puts us in touch with our common humanity. As difficult as loss is, it makes it possible to expand our sense of connection to others, no matter where we are in the world.
Reading during a pandemic can feel like a lifeline or leaking boat, depending upon what we’re reading and where we’re anchoring our sense of safety. For me, reading (even badly written opinion pieces that pass themselves off as fact) is one of my primary sources of meaningful perspective – at least I know what we’re up against along the intellectual divide when I read pseudo-journalism and its fear-based pieces that often read like SNL parodies of Naomi Klein’s terrifying predictions in The Shock Doctrine.
Omnivorous reading along with the kinesthetic pleasures of learning by doing have increased in value as I age. Some things, of course, I am unable to learn by doing. One of these, delivering a child taken from her German parents by Kiowa, and then taken a second time from her Kiowa people by the army to be returned to her remaining relatives, all before her eleventh birthday, is one experiential adventure impossible for me to know first hand. This child’s story, unfolding as it does in the wilds of Texas soon after the conclusion of the civil war – a lawless and terrifying time by all accounts – adds to my relief in learning of the narrative’s twists and dangerous turns through reading rather than through experience.
During my coming of age years, I developed some habits that continue to enrich my understanding of human behaviour, especially my own. One of these habits took hold and blossomed when I began my literature studies. Because I chose to become a literature teacher when I was younger, and because I continue to reference literature’s store of insights and deep wisdom in my coaching practice, my storytelling studies continue with no end in sight. In my early days as a literature teacher, I discovered the value of history, a subject I didn’t take to in high school or university, through great novelists’ narratives exploring war, greed, elitism, and the role ordinary people play in vital social evolution unfolding within a specific time and place. Reading these novels allowed me to knit together previously disconnected impressions I had of the world.
Thomas Hardy’s novels, for example, helped me to understand how early industrialization dehumanized its owners and labourers as it efficiently set about developing the extractive mechanization practices that have led to human alienation from the natural world, constant over-production, the delusion of growth without limits, and our current climate crises. Through Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novels I learned about the evils of totalitarianism and its black/white. right/wrong ideology supporting the supremacy of a state run by a so-called ‘strong man,’ ideology currently on the prowl in our own tumultuous times. Reading Doris Lessing’s work validated my experiences of women’s ‘less-than’ lives during one of history’s more recent patriarchal strangleholds. Toni Morrison’s novels allowed me to climb into the skin of disenfranchised men and women sentenced to a slave class created by white supremacists so cunning that its descendants continue to be disenfranchised and devalued by systems and practices embedded in what we believe to be democratic institutions. Perhaps most decorously of all, Jane Austen, introduced me to a time when girls and women were considered chattel and entirely without the legally and socially sanctioned rights and privileges of men, and further, were separated from the embodied freedoms and pleasures enjoyed by the male sex through constant physical, emotional, educational, and social indoctrination.
There are countless storytellers, the few I’ve mentioned reflecting the academic biases I experienced when I began my studies back in the sixties as well as my early feminist roots. Happily, vibrant storytelling continues to thrive in spite of formal education’s many narrow curricula. I am convinced this vibrant storytelling activity continues because, in its innumerable revelations, a well told story helps to increase our understanding of and compassion for all caught in the toils of the human condition. In these times, because of our violent political, racial, and cultural clashes, and because our Earth home is in peril from human beliefs and practices, we need literature’s ability to increase human understanding and compassion more than ever.
Years ago I felt the pressure to join Facebook, not so much by family and friends, but by my professional affiliations. I felt resistance to joining this social media site but thought at the time that my resistance might be due to overwhelm caused by learning new technology. At the time, I was teaching at a community college while developing my practice as an emotional wellness coach and so was spending a considerable amount of my time on the computer. Because of work pressure, I gave in and joined. After participating in this inconceivably huge social medium for a little while, I felt my resistance to the platform increasing. While it would take me a couple of years to understand my resistance thoroughly, eventually I came to the conclusion that my porous boundaries and sensitivities to others’ energies made it an unhealthy place for me to exchange ideas and information.
Before I joined, I had seen the film The Social Network, and while I didn’t believe the film was without bias, I did feel that it accurately portrayed the contentious birth of Facebook, with lawsuits, acrimony, and adolescent reactions to opposition. Now, more than a year after I closed my account, I feel my decision was a protective one: first, from frustration at the overly stimulating energies the site carries; second, from distress over what people were actually putting out into the world (as opposed to what they thought they were posting); and, third, from our collective lack of awareness regarding how some users were intentionally using the platform to spread hate and disinformation.
We live in shoot-from-the-hip times that include playing for an audience. My work in the world is diametrically opposed to this reactive, retaliatory energy. In my community college classrooms and in my coaching sessions, I do what I can to support self-awareness, reflection, contemplation, and strong boundaries. Asking questions has always been my path into deeper understanding, of literature texts, and, of the emotional challenges we face when we have been traumatized. After a couple of years of experience on the site, I saw Facebook’s advantages, but I felt its potential for traumatizing its participants as well.
Now, as the social media giant struggles with boycotts over hate-groups and political messaging, my resistance to the site feels prescient. Some part of me that is always attuned to peace, understanding, and respect, resisted becoming involved in the collective energies of what is often the worst of our human behaviours. Researching other forms of social media connection has been revelatory. So far, I am in social media infancy, but my self care activities require that I move slowly into the online world of global connectivity.
I am fine about this slow, steady progress. Just as I choose to eat local and regional foods whenever I can, I choose to communicate directly with people. This means that I put myself out there as an EFT coach on reputable websites whose purpose and practice aligns with my own values. Because of this choice, I hear from people who want what I have to offer, not because of random marketing on a site that has no curating principles, but because these people have chosen to look for someone with my skills, education, and approach.
Living with the energy of violence, racism, hate speech, and rampant commercialism takes its toll, even when this influence is subliminal. Anxiety, critical self talk, and false comparisons are but a few of the side-effects of social media dependence. The 2019 Forbe’s article (see link below) is but one of many exploring the potential dangers of Facebook and social-media dependency. Because Emotional Freedom Techniques practitioners are in the business of raising our and our clients’ energy vibrations, it is especially important to choose our social media platforms thoughtfully.
Energy work is highly gratifying, and at the same time raises our levels of sensitivity to reactive behaviours such as fear-driven bullying, false representation, and cynical marketing. We have an opportunity to create more coherent, supportive, and positive platforms that are sensitive to the harm we can do in the world simply by going along with something we believe will benefit us monetarily. These are highly volatile times. Choosing to support peace and justice in the world is always good for self respect, and self respect is an essential aspect of self care.
Be Safe. Be Informed. Be Just. Be Love.
Until next time, Jane
For the first two decades of my life, I was oblivious to my white privilege.
The 1967 Detroit riots made the first dent in my belief that we lived in a just world. Countless experiences came afterward, and now The Black Lives Matter Movement and all the racist incidents that led to its establishment make my white privilege impossible to deny.
Most recently, George Floyd’s murder has heightened my awareness.
In my attempt to use my quarantine/social distancing time both politically and creatively, I followed my daughter’s advice and committed to reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. It is a highly valuable book for white readers because it points out the fruitlessness of guilt. While many progressive white people – the group to which I belong – may not consciously take advantage of the racist systems created by white-supremacy ideology, we do benefit from them.
If I am stopped by police, I am relatively certain I will not be beaten or shot. If I show up as a visitor at a school, I am not likely to be frisked. If I walk into a retail store, I won’t be tracked as a potential thief. Writing these words makes me sick at heart. I don’t feel guilt; what I feel is grief.
Using my energy psychology tools has become indispensable to addressing COVID-19 fears for my beloveds and for the world. My daily practice of tapping on my fear lifts the heaviness that I feel when I think about the endangered lives of countless people. Since George Floyd’s death, I have been using these same techniques to address the overwhelming grief I feel when I face the racist narrative that is played out daily. As I write these words, my internal critic says, “Big deal, Jane. You live in safety, from racism and from disease.” A wiser voice assures me, “Acknowledging and releasing grief in this time of political tumult is a very big deal.”
When I do my daily personal work, including addressing my fears and my grief, I am able to be more fully present, less reactive, and more able to support the causes of justice in the world, with my dollars, with my learning time, and with my voice. I am not so paralyzed by my grief that I feel unable to act. I can explore solutions rather than add to the cacophonous chorus of defensive racism deniers. I can ask, earnestly:
How can I contribute to creating a more just world, right here, right now?
Privately grieving for all African Americans, people who have been holding the front lines of resistance since the first white men captured and sold black men, women, and children, increases our human bond. I recognize the dehumanization process at work in the world ever since colonizers committed to trafficking human beings to increase their wealth. Grieving makes it possible for me to remain fully present to the suffering that is exploding in our contemporary world. I do not want to live in a world that distracts with business as usual while an entire race and its myriad cultural threads are torn to shreds. Before I address the grief I feel over systemic injustice using EFT, I feel paralyzed by shame. After I’ve released my grief, I find the energy I need to take action.
While it remains true that I can’t do much, I can take some meaningful actions. I can read White Privilege and become more informed about white defensiveness and how to end my personal contribution to racism. I can listen to Angela Davis’s interview on democracynow.org and learn more about the challenges of participating in intelligent dialogue when fear prompts so many of us to create false choices between having militarized police and having no police at all. I can support Yes! Magazine with my money as well as my willingness to learn about how we can act to end systemic racism.
Alone, my actions count for little, but I am not alone. As part of a growing group of justice seekers of all races, the effect of even our smallest actions in support of a fair and safe world for all peoples is influential in the moment and cumulative over time. This is a long-haul justice movement.
So, let’s do this. Let’s grieve for the state of the world. Let’s grieve for our part in reaping the benefits of white supremacist systems – political, educational, judicial – and the injustice these systems cause, and then get on with it. Let’s watch Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, let’s read Alice Walker’s interview in Yes! Magazine, let’s watch again and again Ava DuVernay’s masterworks, 13th and When They See Us until we can admit and speak against systemic racism. Let’s move into activism with our African American brothers and sisters. Let’s participate in dialogues that support justice and end racism.
And let’s be sure to take some time to release our store of grief, for ourselves and others, every single day.
Feeling and releasing grief may not seem important, but it is. More than any other self-care action we take, grieving racism’s brutal severing of human bonds short-circuits shame and defensiveness, rage and impotence, and so frees the energy we need to keep on keeping on together.
Be Safe. Be Just. Be Aware. Be Love.
Until next time, Jane
When I was living in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, deep in the heart of Canadian First-Nations, Indian Country, I did some volunteering for the Native Centre by supporting their Traditional Pow Wows for a couple of years. I learned a lot from First Nations organizers and volunteers, loved the slow pace and long silences of meetings, and felt blessed by the irrepressible joy of a people who identified as Earthlings. My experiences confirmed what I’d known for some time: our first allegiance is to Mother Earth.
Our sole provider, without Her gracious bounty, we die.
This Earth Day, as we see the fragility of our food systems through the COVID-19 lens, let us walk upon our patch of ground with reverence and thanksgiving. Before this crisis, it was easy to forget our Earthling dependencies. Now, we are more aware than ever before of our interdependence upon the greater-than-human contributions to our human lives.
Take the time to thank a tree for this life form’s many gifts. Hold soil in your hands. Think of worms, those tireless workers who aid all farmers and growers. Drink water with awareness of its rare and vital gifts to all of life on our home planet. Listen for birds. Call out thanks to the sun.
Delight is one of the most accessible supports for our personal health and well being. May we delight in what our First Nations Brothers and Sisters call All Our Relations as we express our gratitude for what is offered to us daily by our benevolent Earth Home.
For more about this year’s Earth Day, spend some time with
With Love , Sunshine, and Worm Power, Jane
Recently, Netflix brought the film version of Richard Wagamese’s healing story, Indian Horse, to the small screen. As a Canadian living in Vermont, I was excited to find a story from home offered to the world of viewers able to luxuriate in small-screen viewing during these traumatizing times. Richard Wagamese is a man for these times, and Indian Horse, in print and on screen, reminds us that we are ever on a healing journey.
Story, as powerfully as dance and song, helps us to find and to move the hurt nesting in our bodies and psyches from its hidden places in our viscera and our embedded beliefs. Story loves us into wholeness by showing us that others too have suffered unspeakably and somehow find the grace to speak, to sing, to dance. Story, more than any of the arts, allows us to acknowledge and witness our pain and to claim our ability to move through the worst of what has happened to us to a place where healing can seep in, through images, through kind eyes, through a fellow being’s courage to tell and to heal.
I posted Indian Horse on my Resources / Books and DVDs for Inspiration page because of its timeless ability to help us to remember we are ever in flow and flux and not stuck in the worst of what has happened, even when this sense of being stuck in the worst feels permanent. Richard Wagamese tells a story about the worst that has happened, and also about the way through the worst. This is why he is a teacher for all of us, for all time.
To learn more about the remarkable storyteller of Indian Horse and so many more wisdom stories, you can read his own words about his personal healing journey at: https://teacherlauragroome.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/returning-to-harmony.pdf
During this time of collective trauma, of growing compassion and empathy, of restrictive movements and expansive imaginative leaps, may you find the stories that nourish all your broken places, to make you sing, and dance, and tell stories for yourself and others. We are all needed to help us move along our healing path together. Never forget this: Your story is the medicine that will always support your healing journey.
Stay Safe, Everyone. Love, Jane
As we move into the next few months, practicing self care may become more challenging. As the human nervous system responds to real and imagined threats, we become more hypervigilant because our Sympathetic Nervous System is activated, compelling us to fight, escape, and even go numb or dissociate. First responders, medical personnel, agency employees serving high-risk populations, and traumatized children and adults are often so highly vigilant that personal and professional crisis-management reactivity becomes a way of life. Whatever our personal circumstances and professional commitments, when we are constantly expecting the worst, we run the risk of serious health challenges.
Helpful in returning our Sympathetic Nervous System to a state of calm is the simple act of bringing the hands to the head and gently and steadily allowing them to travel to the heart. If we are in a place where self-touch is restricted, especially of the facial area, we can place our hands a few inches out from the head, then follow the same slow, steady path to the heart. When at the heart, allow the hands to rest, one over the other on the chest, and open, like butterfly wings, at heart level. Breathing deeply, we can begin our meditation on trust – in the self, in others, and in our ability to work together as we open to the guidance that will help our families, our communities, and indeed, the entire world, to find peace amid the chaos of uncertainty.
I meditate in this way because I have learned that we are all connected through invisible energy fields. Rupert Sheldrake, author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, has studied these fields in depth, calling them Morphogenetic Fields, now commonly known as Morphic Fields. He uses this term because his research has proven that the energetic fields around us organize and generate our physical lives.
When I first heard the term morphic field, I immediately thought of Indra’s Web, a mythological concept describing how the entire universe is woven together through invisible interconnections. Evidence for the existence of our invisible interconnections is found in the concept of entanglement in quantum physics, what Einstein referred to as “Spooky Action at a Distance.” Spiritual leaders point to this scientific evidence of entanglement as an explanation for answered prayers.
Our invisible interconnections are especially comforting during these times of social distancing. Drawing the energy from our worst-case-scenario thoughts to our steady, reliable hearts as we meditate on trust allows each one of us to contribute to peace and calm at a time when we need it most.
May we all send out kindness and trust each day.