For most of my adult life, in difficult times, the practice of dropping into the intimate and transpersonal space of teaching has been a great comfort to me; I always knew that I was doing good, every day, by participating in the living transmission of the teachings and practices which sustain and nourish me. I miss that today, and I imagine that there are people who turned to my offerings for comfort who are missing that as well. I am reaching out to you in love in hopes that doing so will be helpful for us both.
I was still teaching when our Republican president (I feel it is important to hold the Republican Party responsible for their actions here) was elected, and people came to me in classes and in sessions and again and again they expressed embarrassment or confusion about how traumatized they felt by the election of Donald Trump as the leader of our country. It was necessary for me to say, many times, that it is reasonable to have personal feelings about public events. In the 1960s, it was big to say that "The personal is political." Right now, it seems necessary to say that the political is personal, too.
In the past year and a half, the erosion of our democracy, the destruction of our national good standing and international relationships, and regular mass shootings have become our new normal. Recently, though, the news of the establishment of internment camps for children on American soil, has passed a threshold for horror that is shocking us all anew. I am writing today to remind that you have and know what you need to survive in this time.
- Make space to feel your feelings. It is rightful and appropriate to feel grief, rage, and despair about public events. People tend to understand, even it is hard to do so, that it is appropriate and necessary to make space to feel feelings about big events in their personal sphere, the various ways that change and loss are presented to us by death, illness, moving, changing jobs, relationship shifts an endings, and so on. I often find, though, that people have a harder time respecting that it is appropriate to feel our dark feelings about national and international events. We are, however, members of the community of human life, and we are members of the American public. Feeling personal emotion about public events is valid and sane. These emotions can and should be addressed just as they would if they were about more intimate personal events: you can gather with friends for support, write in a journal to explore your feelings, seek the support of a therapist or support group, gather with your spiritual community, etc.
If we do not make space to feel our emotions, if we try to box them or push them aside, they do not go away. They may bleed slowly into all our feelings or lead us toward steady sadness or depression. Make space to feel what you need to feel. Feel it and see it clearly. And let it go. Keep seeking the steady core that lies within you, and also feel the emotions that need to be felt.
"Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair" by Miriam Greenspan is an excellent resource for understanding.
Support yourself. You know the things that lift you up and give you strength. Tend to them to support yourself. If you are reading this, I have probably taught you yoga, and you have that in your mind and heart, and there are so many places to gather with others for that. Try to exercise; cardio is vital for your good health. If you've been out of the habit, start small, be kind to yourself and glad that you have begun, and keep going. Care for your body's baseline health: eat well, sleep well, drink water, moderate the use of stimulants and intoxicants. We often turn to less healthful habits for comfort in dark times. Allow yourself comfort in moderation, and seek also balance. Tend to your meditation. Pray. Gather with your friends. Read poetry and novels. Listen to music. Practice deep relaxation.
Sometimes people resist self-care because when they make space for it, they find themselves overwhelmed by their emotions. If this is what happens, then this is your being telling you that there emotions which require feeling. If you make space to feel your feelings, they can shift and change: sadness can become the desire to create action for change, for instance. But if I spend everything I have not-feeling the sadness, keeping it at bay and numbing out to carry on, then I am numb, and sad, and do not act. Letting yourself feel is part of your self-care; self-care is not only about feeling good. Feel what there is to be felt, offer yourself support and comfort, and keep going.
Moderate your news intake. It is important to be informed about what is happening in our world. It is also important not to traumatize ourselves past our ability to engage and function. Consider carefully your information sources, format, and frequency so that you can stay informed, stay aware, and keep participating in the world. When we are in pain and shock, we sometimes compulsively keep reading or watching, like touching a wound, absorbing more trauma. Becoming so upset that you can do nothing but feel upset serves no one, as does becoming so upset that you end up tuning out as a survival mechanism. Stay rightfully informed, but take care. If you know you are overdoing it to your detriment, consider whether you might take some of the time you are using to watch or read the news to care for yourself, care for others in your family or community, and actually take action about the events you are concerned about!
Support others. Stay connected. Little in life feels as good as giving. Go walk in the forest with a friend. Get down on the floor with your children if you have them. If you do not have kids, take a friend's children to the park so you can play and the parent can have space to tend to their own feelings, self-care, and care for others. The world needs help in endless ways: if you feel powerless, take action: volunteer at a soup kitchen, your local elementary school, your local hospital. Mentor youth, rescue animals, plant trees. Maybe you need to start small and simple: make dinner for that friend who is having a healing crisis, ask if your elderly neighbor who recently started to use a cane would like you to pick something up at the grocery store. Give care, connect with others. If you feel powerful, give more, lift others up.
Take action. Vote. Register voters. Volunteer at the polls. Drive others to vote. Donate money: no gift is too small. Call and write to your political representatives. March: there are many planned marches coming up June 23 and June 30. If you have never demonstrated, you will probably be surprised to find that most demonstrations are filled with song, humor, and humand of every age; the news focuses on the scary parts, but those are rare, and many demonstrations are on the joyful side. My protest sign says I AM LOVE IN ACTION. Resist wrong. Resist tyranny. KEEP RESISTING. This is not normal. This is not okay. It is important to know that, and to support yourself so that you can both know that and carry on.
If you think you cannot keep resisting, then it is time to turn back to self-care. This has always been the heart of my teaching: we practice yoga, meditation, and healing in order to better ourselves, as this is the place in the world where we can do the most immediate good; doing good for ourselves strengthens and clarifies us to do good in the world for others. All of this is needed. Every bit helps. You do not have to do everything; perhaps in the face of despair about big national events, you can throw yourself into a local cause or the support of a family you know who are in a hard spot. Choose with care. Be gentle and ferocious, both.
Keep breathing. Keep feeling.
I am here with you. I love you.
May we all be free,
Kristie Dahlia Home