Friday, June 29, 2018

Finding Sustainable Action

How do we do this? That’s really always the question, isn’t it?

How do we effectively participate in meaningful change in our shared world in a way that is sustainable and true to who and what we are?

How do we stay informed enough to do what needs to be done without crossing the line into immobilizing overwhelm and despair?

I blew that last one more than a few times over the last two weeks. I took in too many stories and images of children being separated from parents and put in cages, of people fleeing violence being arrested. For some of us who were abused as children, even after years of therapy and healing, too much of this news lights up our Autonomic Nervous System like a Christmas tree. And when that happens, the thinking brain- the one that might come up with useful actions or remember where I put the keys I just had in my hand- is only intermittently available.

My dreams became violent, and the exhaustion went way beyond the “normal” that comes with CFS/ME. Migraines came and stayed for days. Joints and muscles screamed in the protest language of fibromyalgia pain. Brain fog prevailed- I got lost trying to drive out of a parking garage!

Still I was hesitant to limit my intake of news. I was having a hard time with it? What about the people who were living it!? Shouldn’t I at least bear witness?

Bearing witness can be important, but it’s no replacement for taking effective action, and sustainable, effective action requires energy and discernment. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I need to be conscious about what news to take in when. (Yeah, first thing in the morning or right before bed- really not good.)

And I needed to take action, to contribute. Once again, I remembered the words of Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

So, I've been writing letters to politicians and agencies who could make real change- supporting them, challenging them, urging them to do what is needed. I've donated to organizations helping on the ground. And I've been praying- for those directly devastated by inhumane policies; for those working to alleviate suffering; for those in power- that their hearts be opened.

But it doesn't feel like enough. And again I run into the brick wall of my own present-moment limitations. You’ll notice that the second sentence in Ash’s sage advice is, “Use what you have.” Not- do what needs doing even if you do not have the resources needed to pull it off. My health challenges make going to large demonstrations, marches, and meetings unwise.

Meanwhile, because of what is happening in the US, refugees have been arriving here in Toronto in growing numbers over the last month. So, I started looking at volunteer opportunities with organizations that offer assistance to refugees here. I am still in that process- talking to organizations and seeing how I might participate even though my language skills are zip and my health is unpredictable. But I do have a willing heart, daytime availability, and a car!

And the only way my own limits are bearable when I see how others are suffering, is to feel how I am part of community. Because no one can do it all. Because we need to take turns helping so we can all replenish regularly and find sustainable action.

This weekend I am going on an annual trip to a friend’s cottage with three other women. We have done ceremony together for over thirty years. We will sit on the dock, float in the lake, share meals made with love, and come to stillness together in ceremony. I have suggested a rule for this year’s gathering: No talking about the news except in the context of shared prayers. I am guessing that will lead to a lot of shared prayers.

So, I will be offline for awhile. I leave you with these words from The Talmud very much in keeping with Ashe’s advice:

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Blessed be. ~Oriah

Deep thanks to Karen Davis at Open Door Dreaming for this photo I titled, "The Mirroring" when I saved it- as above, so below.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Oriah and sisters,
    Like you, it's necessary that I be reminded again and again, and a thousand times more, of my real task and responsibility in this life. It begins in my solar plexus and extends to the tips of my fingers. That's it. It's a full-time job. Most of this job is discerning what's mine and what's not; friend from enemy, and zapping enemy by seeing through enemy, no guns. Relentless! Rewarding, because it's the truth. Enemy wants you to feel powerless, ashamed, guilty, weak, and will constantly assault you with images of torn families to sustain your shock and powerlessness. You bite the hook every time you turn on your device, and with every thought you believe and allow, out of human compassion, in response to these poignant, devastating, incredibly cruel and sad images, and countless supplications for donations. It isn't the children torn from their mothers that moves you to the core, it's your own thoughts about them every time you watch, or reflect on suffering. Thoughts that lead to powerlessness...guilt and shame...rage... all the stuff that drains your life-force, and judges you hard-hearted if you don't pour out more precious energy with words, emotions and money. Stop! You know you will not jump on a plane, trail or into your car to "do something" so stop feeding the emotions and squandering your life force.
    "What can we do?" you ask over and over. There is no we without a solid I.
    What can I do? is a REAL QUESTION. Protect your sanity and energy with action that counts.
    What can I do. Well, what I cannot do is stop this tide that's been rising for millenia. Accept the reality of it. This will clear the table and free up your mind.
    What you can do is prepare. There will be a tsunami of people crossing borders north and south. Food, shelter, clothing. Prepare.
    A Canadian living in the California desert for many decades, I have not lost my native common-sense and value system. In your "Confessions of a Spiritual Thrillseeker," dear Oriah, there's a line about US= guns; Canada = environment. Yeah, this too!
    Unplug as much as possible - we all know what's going on and don't need the graphic details daily. You'll get the news from others anyway. Be too busy with friends getting ready to be on line. KNOW that you can do nothing that will immediately affect the huge situation to your (ego's) satisfaction. That those around you, and you, are as important as the grieving mothers, fathers, children and that they need your health and love here-now. Resist temptations to screen-indulge - send guilt and powerlessness flying with intelligent action!
    Come visit me in the desert, open and peaceful, hermetic, private - a place for women. Thank you.