Somehow, a month has gone by since the election. What happened, in the world and in my heart, is unfolding and deepening, so I share this… with a desire to touch the ground of compassionate mindfulness, amidst the cacophony of emotions that’s been stirred up in our country, no matter where you stand.
8am Wednesday November 9, I was tired, jittery, and numb. With mom. Needing me. To just show up. Care, and take care of her. No memory at all, no understanding about “the world.” Just the usual need for cajoling to let me help her bathe and get dressed for the day.
In a fantasy about what mindfulness practice is, I would say that my worries washed down the drain as I felt the warm water, the suds in her hair, the banter of “ok, lift your arm now!” “Is this my arm?” “Yes, that’s it.”
Alas. No worries swirled down the drain. Just rinse water, soap & shampoo.
There was no bliss-filled payoff from my years of mindfulness training. My original teacher always said: “There is no payoff!” Practicing awareness doesn’t magically make the world safe, change my mood, or even snap me out of numbness. Especially when numbness is my body’s way of slowing down events or news that feels threatening.
At breakfast, though, mom snapped me out of numbness with an outburst: “They took it!! Do you hear me?? They took it!”
Not knowing the cause of her upset, I said, “Wow, they took it!”
“Yes. And how are we going to get it back? We’ll have to work at it,” then pointed at me, “You! have to work at it.” She leaned forward, “And don’t stop until you get it, do you hear me? Work at it.”
“I hear you. I’m going to work at it.”
She sat back in her chair, at ease.
I don’t now what prompted the outburst, whether she had not yet found her fork to eat breakfast, or if it was a random frustration. Either way, it was what I needed to hear.
I do need to work at it. Compassionate mindfulness does not seep out of the woodwork and permeate my being just because it sounds like a nice concept. We all have to work at it. And sometimes we get pretty shook up by life – our energy ramps up out of control, or we numb out.
As always, the question is, how do we work at it?
The way I see it, there are two important impulses to follow, and when followed, they swirl towards each other and change positions, like a yin/yang dance.
One impulse is to do something. Anything. Take action.
The other impulse is to stop and be quiet. Just be.
Action, taken wholeheartedly, leads to quiet. Like mom’s outburst, once she was satisfied that she had made her point, led to her relaxing back into her seat. There are times we need to take action, and peace will elude us if we don’t do something.
Quiet, practiced wholeheartedly, leads to action. In our noise-filled society, it’s easy to not hear the impulse for quiet.
For me, it shows up as a craving to be connected through news, interaction, doing things… and a need to just stop. I crave being quiet. Deeply quiet. To feel the pulse of the earth, the rhythms of water and air, the goodness of life at an elemental level. Not in order to shut down. No. To connect with what is real and true and good. To remember who I am. To feel the strength of my backbone, the capacity of my heart, and the power of my voice.
The most powerful action comes out of a deep quiet.
In the Northern hemisphere, as the days get shorter and the season of winter draws us inward, how is it for you? What is the work that you need to do? When do you feel the call to action? And do you let yourself hear the pull toward quiet? Both are so very needed in the compassionate mindfulness dance.
An invitation to work together:
Sometimes it’s not so easy to move from action to quiet, or from quiet into action. Especially if your nervous system is numbed out or on high alert with chronic stress or difficult events. When that’s the case, you may need a little help to ease the diverted the stream of attention and let it come back into it’s natural flow. Feel free to contact me or check out my individual work. Why not free yourself from what’s making it difficult to move forward with ease? You can click here to read more, then we can have a conversation to see if my work is a good fit for your needs.