I realize this blog title is misleading. It makes it sound like I am going to tell you how to move forward in these difficult times we are living. These difficult times we are living, as if the present has known more difficult times than the past, which we all know isn’t true. This is just life as it is evolving in front of us, as we live. I know you don’t think I have all the answers because I don’t. I’ve remained silent for too long, like so many, worrying I will say the wrong thing yet wanting to speak out. Yesterday I was reading this article “How to Start Making Real Change in Your Organization,” where Heidi Brooks, Yale School of Management leadership expert, talked about the mistake of keeping silent. She says, “Silence is not neutrality. If you’re saying nothing, what you might be projecting in your organizational culture, especially if you’re a leader, is the way that we deal with these things is through silence. If you’re thinking you’re kind of a neutral Switzerland in this, I would say silence is not neutrality right now.”
I was invited to join a small group recently to discuss consciousness raising, and I shared how I haven’t written on my blog because I don’t want to write something that will offend people. But the reality is that I will offend some people because we all have different perspectives. My experience is not your experience. I think perhaps I could rename this post “Allowing Ourselves to be Moved.” For a long time I would skip over news articles that were too painful to read. My excuse was self-care; working as a therapist and hearing clients’ trauma stories was enough for me. But perhaps a truer excuse is that I don’t like to feel uncomfortable. But I’ve known for some time now that growth happens in that place of discomfort and fear if we allow ourselves to stay there and pay attention to it before running the other way or distracting ourselves with what feels good. For me, the discomfort or fear starts as an ache in my heart and feeling unsettled in my belly. This internal feeling makes me feel restless, wanting to do some thing. As I live this 42nd year of my life, I’m trying to do that very thing that scares me, that makes me uncomfortable, the hard things, the impossible things. How can I translate this discomfort into healing, into a movement of action and compassion?
In my own little world here in Southern Maine, my one little thing is writing on this blog. I can share with you how I am trying to learn and listen and reflect on the present and the past in order to inform how I can live into the future. Here’s a free online course Yale offers on African American History I am taking. I also highly recommend listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being interview with Resmaa Menakem.
I recently finished reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. A former client, who was a practicing Buddhist, introduced me to her writing. Here’s a passage from Chapter 13 of the book to sit and reflect on, my offering to you this day:
“How are we ever going to change anything? How is there going to be less aggression in the universe rather than more? We can then bring it down to a more personal level: how do I learn to communicate with somebody who is hurting me or someone who is hurting a lot of people? How do I speak to someone so that some change actually occurs? How do I communicate so that the space opens up and both of us begin to touch in to some kind of basic intelligence that we all share? In a potentially violent encounter, how do I communicate so that neither of us becomes increasingly furious and aggressive? How do I communicate to the heart so that a stuck situation can ventilate? How do I communicate so that things that seem frozen, unworkable, and eternally aggressive begin to soften up, and some kind of compassionate exchange begins to happen?”
That’s a lot of questions, I know. But she has a starting point, a place to begin again and again. Pema writes, “Well, it starts with being willing to feel what we are going through. It starts with being willing to have a compassionate relationship with the parts of ourselves that we feel are not worthy of existing on the planet. If we are willing through meditation to be mindful not only of what feels comfortable, but also of what pain feels like, if we even aspire to stay awake and open to what we’re feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best we can in each moment, then something begins to change.”
I had to write these words before I could move on to writing about our day to day life with my little family. I’ll share what we’ve been up to next time.
June 16, 2020 at 6:43 pm
This is by far my favorite post you have ever written. It is a crazy time now. I only know that I have to open myself to self-reflection and be willing to change my thought process and to learn to listen, really listen to the stories of a group of people who have lived such a different life than I. Thanks for your thoughts, Shawn
August 2, 2020 at 12:07 pm
i want to climb that tree