As we enter a new era politically, that threatens (promises) to reshape personal and community life, in my meditation and journaling, I’m wondering:
- how to be open in heart and mind,
- how to be present with kindness
- how to show up for collective reflection and action
Many of you have shared the need to turn off the news. Yet you want to stay informed. You ask, “Am I copping out?” No. You are being responsible. Media today runs on the 3 C’s: Conflict, Contradiction, Controversy. News gets a neurological response from us (so we keep tuning in), a squirt of the stress hormone, cortisol. It leaves us feeling on high alert. When we overdo the 3 Cs, we go into ‘amygdala hijack,’ where everything looks like a threat and it’s hard to recover the sense of safety and well-being necessary for an open mind and caring heart.
This new political reality is not a personal attack. Yet in order to show up with creative minds and compassionate hearts, we have to become very skillful. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi both wrote that courage is not conquering fear, but the power to be present in your heart in the presence of fear. How do we do that?
One way comes from mindfulness meditation: Because positive emotion (e.g., joy, kindness, gratitude) strengthens us, we always pay attention to the positive first. We imagine gathering the positive feeling, intention or memory (e.g., our love for our country, a compassionate urge toward justice for someone, an impulse to speak truth to power) in one hand. We breathe into it with gratitude. We allow it to strengthen every cell in our body. Then we breathe into the negative feeling we’re holding in our body (e.g., the fear, sorrow, anger or inadequacy); we imagine gathering it in the other hand. Breathing with compassion for our own suffering, we go back and forth until the positive feeling can hold the negative with kindness.
Social justice is the shared spiritual practice of Unitarian Universalism. And to stay active over the long-haul, we need to be grounded in our hearts, in the midst of fear or anger. Many paths take us there: art, movement, gardening, walking in nature, meditation, etc. We each must take good care of ourselves. We are not alone. Our vision of civil rights is shared by the majority of Americans in support of public education, equal rights for women and minorities, getting corporations out of politics, responding to climate change. We draw on hundreds of years of courageous struggle for the dream of democracy. It’s in our bones. It’s who we are and can be if we take good care of ourselves.
May our congregation support you in living from your beautiful heart and shining mind, making a difference to our collective needs and dreams.