Navigating in These Troubled Times

I just spent the weekend in Denver with hundreds of women – thousands if you count live stream attendance – all alive with the urgency of these times and the passion of living their individual one wildlife with gusto.

My heart is full and my mind is racing with visions, ideas, hopes, and dreams for our future. Rather than run after any of them this morning, I take my seat on my meditation cushion and breathe. Listening for what is mine.

Last week my husband and I had several conversations about our roles as emerging elders in the face of climate change, social injustice, and the uncertainty of our political and economic systems.

As I take some time to integrate the Emerging Women experience, I’d like to share with you a bit of the wonderings between my husband and me, as they are timely and relevant.

In less than one month, we’ve seen a historical number of natural disasters destroy lives, homes, animals, nature, and businesses.

Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Houston, dumping 33 trillion gallons over the Gulf States. Hurricane Irma completely wiped out a wide swath through the Caribbean, making it doubtful some islands will ever recover. Maria demolished a major portion of Puerto Rico, and this weekend hurricane Nate has made landfall.

Take these compounded tragedies and add the recent carnage in Las Vegas and we feel heartbroken and paralyzed as we wonder what we should do. What actions can we take? How do we metabolize so much devastation without ignoring it or numbing ourselves on the one hand, or feeling overwhelmed with sadness and grief on the other?

We recognize that one thing these times are giving us, at least in part, is an opportunity to relate to grief in a new way, where we learn to cultivate it as a skill and not treat it as an annoyance we suppress or an emotion we ignore. Rather than pushing our grief or heartbreak away, what if we were to bring it closer and hold it? Examine it? Become friends with it? Then we can continue to walk through the world doing whatever we can and see what happens. In other words, carry our grief into every act as if it mattered. Because it does. As if we mattered. Because we do.

There’s a quote from the novelist, playwright, and poet Samuel Beckett that reads “I can’t go on I’ll go on” with no punctuation. Mostly it’s reproduced with a comma after the first “on” or a period at the end. But it was originally written with no punctuation. Apparently intentionally.

How does it read to you without any additional punctuation? How do the confluence of words, the arrangement of phrases, land in your body?

What if holding the mysterious polarity of I can’t go on I’ll go on is one way we can continue to walk honorably through the world and its ongoing tragedies, carrying our heartbreak into our actions?

I can’t go on I’ll go on

In Puerto Rico, the mayor of the capital city San Juan has been wading through waist-deep water tainted with yuck. Even as the waters subside, it’s expected that diseases and infections like conjunctivitis and dengue will get worse.

I can’t go on I’ll go on

In the Caribbean, many thousands of human beings have lost homes and livelihoods, their lives completely disrupted, probably being displaced for years, if not forever. Long-standing communities and families wiped out. Poof. Just like that.

I can’t go on I’ll go on

To find appropriate actions we can go inside and find that still place. We can sit together in silence and listen. Then, we can open our eyes and our hearts and see what emerges from our own knowing. This is where finding and nourishing our connection with our source, God, nature, pure energy, or whatever we choose to call it becomes an essential place inside to seek refuge. This is not a way to hide from the world but rather an imperative to know ourselves better and to be calm and confident in our knowing before we run off to help. We seek to make sure our actions are aligned with our true selves.

As emerging elders in a troubled world, we also see the importance of cultivating our ability to step back and watch our own actions as well as those of others. It’s a time to employ the overused word “mindfulness” in its truest sense – strengthening and employing our own inner witness. This allows us to pause and thus to respond rather than react.

We’ll need to be strong to navigate the challenges that are surely ahead of us, and that means furthering the development of our hearts for compassion, our minds for clarity, our bodies to carry us healthily, and our spirits to encompass all of it. Whether it’s natural disasters, man-made disasters, or humans’ cruelty and inhumane responses to these disasters and to each other, how we respond does make a world of difference.

We can’t go on we’ll go on.

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