who are fleeing for their lives. Who, just two days ago, were bumping along living as usual and suddenly, everything changes. On Brene Brown’s
Facebook page, she took a photograph of her front yard, which is flooded with water. I’m donating to the Red Cross today.
(Join me. Here’s the link: https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey)
I’m also thinking about the terrifying spate of news we keep receiving day after day, about nuclear weapons and the destruction of public lands; it’s horrifying that there are baby-
men in charge of governments.
And I’m thinking how important it is to be in daily, if not hourly, touch with what is life-giving, with what matters, with what we can actually control—which is the energy we transmit to every living being we touch. Because they go on to touch others, not just physically touch, but in a glance, a word, a gesture. Light is contagious. So is fear.
We just finished a retreat intensive weekend, and here’s what gives me hope. Here is why I am rock-solid grounded in what’s good and what’s holy. In talking about the people who came to the weekend, I am talking about all of us.
We come from all over the country and from Canada and from Mexico because they know that a certain kind of freedom from mental anguish (which then translates into action, which then
affects our spouses, children, colleagues) is possible but that it takes the willingness to look deeply. It takes the willingness to stop letting what’s most familiar run our lives. The rants of what’s wrong and how we can’t believe that after all these years, we are still fat or selfish or struggling for success.
We are so used to being at war with ourselves. We are so used to battling with what we consider wrong or bad or flawed or damaged that it never occurs to us that we are in a constant state of war—one side of ourselves pitted against another side of ourselves. This war-like stance, this sense that if only we could vanquish our enemy, whether it’s the size of our thighs or the ways we procrastinate or our tendencies to be selfish or unkind—encourages more war.
If you want to know how we got into this mess we’re in out there, look inside your own mind. Look at how unkind you are to parts of yourself that are struggling. Look at how mean you are to your sweet body, which has been so loyal to you over the years. Look at what happens when something doesn’t go your way. Look at how attached you are to your opinions and beliefs and your willingness to fight to the death for something that won’t matter in two weeks. (I’m saying “you” here but believe me, every single thing I write, I see in myself. And it’s not a pretty picture).
Over the weekend, one woman talked about how much she wanted to stay thin and was unwilling to listen to her body, which kept wanting more food. She couldn’t starve herself anymore, but she felt as if eating more and gaining weight were the equivalent of agreeing to die. And I understood that. Any time we challenge old beliefs—if for instance, the way we felt we could be loved was by being thin—it feels like dying. It feels like something in us, something tenacious and life-clinging, will die if we look deeply.
But it’s only a belief, and it’s in our minds, and it has nothing to do, not at this point, with anything in the present moment. As we worked together, she saw the truth of this, but it was still hard. Old beliefs have been around for so long, and are so entrenched by now in our brains (and by our cultures) that we just don’t want to let them go. We’d rather stay at war with
ourselves than take the risk of dying into the unknown.
And we can’t force it. Forcing ourselves to face down part of ourselves and talk ourselves out of what’s there, what’s true, is creating more war. This is a gentle process and sometimes, it’s
uncomfortable—but it’s not forceful or shaming.
In person after person this weekend, I saw the longing to end the war within, and as we worked, one by one, and people put down the weapons of self-hatred and blame and judgment, I felt inspired by the courage I saw. When you end the war inside you, it becomes impossible to war with people around you. You grow up. You stop believing in war. You stop being a bully to yourself, to your children, to your partners. You radiate benevolence and non-violence. You become living peace. And one by one, the world changes because you do.