As headlines insist on the inevitability of a war that may pull the entire world into a pattern of destruction we – Earth and all Her Inhabitants – may not be able to survive, we know there are people who have faced the worst and found solutions by working together toward a common goal. Rather than watch videos of interviews with individuals who thrive on conflict and want to humiliate one another, we can learn from people who support the health and well-being of all. After hearing the rhetoric that suggests war is not only inevitable but the only way to solve conflict, in my search for the antidote to this belief I discovered an obituary of Dr. Paul Farmer. Through his obituary, I found Bending the Arc, a documentary that explores the birth of Partnerships in Health, a global outreach NGO improving healthcare and lives everywhere. Continue reading Bending the Arc Towards Justice and Peace: Our Common Purpose
Recently, like many people alive during these tumultuous times on our beautiful, fragile, resilient planet, I have felt the tug of despair. So many of Earth’s family members are suffering because of extreme weather events and extreme human reactivity. In this atmosphere of frightening instability, I’ve found it tempting to slump into the false belief of my impotence in the face of so many overwhelming challenges. In these moments of fear and discouragement, I forget that I can reach out to others, offer prayers for those whose needs I recognize, or simply read or listen to something that reminds me we are as capable of offering kindness as we are of doing harm. In performing these small but restorative acts, I contribute to the Love, Joy, and Peace that are the antidotes to despair.
When people have been seriously traumatized – I count myself a long-time member of this vast group – we often discover an inner Guidance System that leads us to comfort and beauty, harmony and safety, against all odds. This Guidance System operates in our every day lives and manifests as simply as, “I feel great here.” When we decode “feeling great,” we discover we have gravitated to experiences that accept us as we are. This sense of acceptance is demonstrated by our physical-emotional-intellectual-spiritual ability to respond to what is, to be present, to immerse ourselves in the flow of life.
From a very early age, I felt this profound acceptance out of doors, in our garden, at our neighbourhood park, and on the beach at Point Pelee. The sense of acceptance I experienced when ice skating, swimming, wandering in silence, and staring up at the sky from my bed of autumn leaves, summer grasses, or snow taught me that no matter what misadventures might be happening among the adults who were charged with my care, I could step out into what I have come to call The Eternal Mother, my Earth Home.
As I aged into adolescence, I learned to look up, to search out the moon and the planets, to connect with their rhythmic steadfastness. Parents might disappear, but the moon was always somewhere above the horizon and ready to shine on or play peak-a-boo with me. When I learned of the moon’s magical phases and their relationship with the sun, the most steadfast of heavenly bodies, I began to understand how light . . ., sunlight, made a profound difference in my life. I felt better when I could close my eyes and offer my face to the sun. I felt better when I could shed clothes and wander around seeing, scenting, and eventually sketching the world in which I found contentment and belonging.
Eventually, I learned an Old Celtic Prayer that honoured the connection I feel to the sun. I continue to say this prayer pretty much daily, my face upturned to the eastern horizon, my hands on my heart as I recite the words:
You, who are the source of all power,
Whose rays illuminate the world,
Illuminate also my heart,
That I too may do your work on Earth.
When I say the third line, “Illuminate also my heart,” I describe the biggest heart I can on or around myself. If I’m in a confined space, the heart I describe is over my torso. If I’m standing in my garden, the heart I describe includes everything my wide open arms can include, right down to my feet and the Earth supporting them.
Experiencing myself as an essential part of the natural, larger-than-human world has kept me alive despite my early, life-threatening trauma. Feeling this steadfast, unbreakable interconnectedness with the non-human world gives me a sense of kinship with animals and plants, earth and stone, that makes me more reverent than I would otherwise be. This natural-world connection reminds me that in spite of human failings, Life belongs to Itself and that whether others know it or not, I am and will always be a part of this miraculous expression of creative chaos that unfolds throughout our galaxy and beyond.
May we all feel this sense of belonging to the vast web of life as we know it. As the Light returns to the Northern Hemisphere, may we learn the dance of connection, of peace, of meaning, and of love. Happy Winter Solstice!
Until next time,
While I have called this post “When Sadness Comes,” I might well have substituted the word Rage for Sadness. In my experience, all feelings of anger and grief are inseparable although, depending upon care giver expectations, we may be unable to experience one or the other of these profoundly humanizing emotions. Some of us are born into families who permit the expression of anger but deny any grief that may lie below this emotion. And many are born into families where it is “safe” to express sadness, but absolutely forbidden to express any form of anger. And some, of course, must pretend a kind of cheerful neutrality regardless of what emotional landmines are detonating throughout the days and nights of family life.
Our journeys to wholeness require that we acknowledge and experience the feelings our early care givers insisted we deny, and this requirement is often very challenging. The reclamation of our forbidden feelings is a process similar to muscle building. We go through an initial period of painful resistance that requires we choose to persevere. Once we make this choice to reclaim our denied emotions, our new emotional breadth increases our emotional intelligence one hundred fold. This reclamation process takes the time and patience any worthwhile undertaking requires. Happily, energy tools, and specifically EFT, can be very helpful partners in improving our emotional literacy on the journey to wholeness.
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