It was a hell of a year. For many of us 2014 was a year of exciting nail-biting change and risk-taking punctuated by huge swells of emotional upheaval. So many clients lost loved ones either through divorce or death. Many lost hopes and dreams as the flow of life turned an unexpected left instead of right. Still more unearthed hidden wounds buried deep in their psyche that surprised them after doing "so much work" on this stuff already. And those are just people that I know.
To hear how things are going with people that I don't know, and to get a sense for global trends, I check out magazines like the Economist and radio programs like the BBC and NPR. (That is, when I am not blasting the latest album - Black Messiah - I learned about from reading Rolling Stone.) I appreciate these sources of news, even Rolling Stone, because they seem to have a less US-Centered viewpoint. And let's face it, the US-Centered major news stations have been dumbed-down to 'We-are-good-they-are-bad' and let's not forget our all time favorite opiate of the masses - Kardashian flesh. Aside from Kim's ass, here is what I saw this year.
Globally, terror reigned in the news. Terror of those with different beliefs. Terror of guns. Terror of people who own guns. We felt terror of a virus, foreigners, airplane travel, our food, especially gluten. Terror of government systems around the world that seem so corrupt the only option might be to blow it up and start over. In Egypt, hopelessness is on the rise as activists who fought to overthrow an oppressive dictator a few years ago, watched the hope of a new system take root, only to see that the system is falling back into old patterns of corruption. And then it got worse.
One activist, consumed by hopelessness, hung himself displaying his body on a billboard in a high traffic area. In a country where suicide is hidden, religiously denied and lied about, many see this public act as a harbinger of hopelessness as activists in Egypt seem to consider this as the only way to exit the madness. The madness is not only in government systems.
Technology interface has replaced 'in-your-face" interaction in everything from corporate meetings to dating and even sex. Yeah... sadly, there is an APP for that. I see the art of conversation, love-making and conflict resolution being lost through the generations behind us. I worry that the ridiculous, seemingly old-fashioned or vulnerable notions of love and human interdependence are being lost. When something uncomfortable arises, we fade to black - or rather fade to blue screen technology - and check out.
Recently on NPR, (National Public Radio) a concerned sales-person from a leading tech company made this announcement,
"As a society, we have lost the skill of being bored. We fill every moment with a screen in our face and have lost the art of spacing out. So we have created an APP called MOMENT to help people monitor their screen time."
That was when I pulled over my car and wept. We are creating APPS to encourage people to engage in life?! I felt a despair, no, more an an overwhelming grief at the global loss of meaningful human connection. We can tweet with people around the world, but can barely look one another in the eye for fear of feeling something uncomfortable. Perhaps they will see underneath the Facebook Profile of our lives and into the messy dark caverns of confusion and human yearning. YIKES!
It was there, on the side of the road, that I realized that I had been hijacked by worry. I remembered that shamans know that we see the world as we are. If you are having an emotional reaction to the world around you, that is always a signal that something inside needs some love and attention. I started to reflect on the ways that I had been bitten by hopelessness, technology-fade, or avoiding human interconnectedness over 2014. Surprise! When I looked back, there they were. I hid, I avoided and I lost hope. Guilty. I'm human. But what I have that some people don't have is a set of practices to help me shift my point of view (POV). I mean POV is pretty arbitrary and can change with just a little awareness and effort, giving you more empowering results. I will share with you what I do when the worry bug bites.
- Pause - When the mind races, develop a way to hit the breaks. For me, this involves shaking my head vigorously, as if to change the channel, followed by a deep breath.
- Feel - This is the hard part. And you can't skip it. Feeling is tough now-a-days. We don't teach people how to do it without taking action on every whim. So people either act impulsively on every feeling or shut down emotion entirely. Many swing wildly back and forth. This is where the middle-road is valuable.
Examining the worrisome situation, what is it about the situation that creates the most worry. Narrow it down to one thing if you can. For me, the most terrifying/heart wrenching thing I saw in the news was the hopelessness.
Example: I had a client worried about not having enough money.
"What worries you MOST about not having enough money." I asked.
"Loss of lifestyle." he replied.
"If that happens, what are you afraid of?"
"Others will judge me as a loser and my wife will leave." He admitted.
"If THAT happens, what are you afraid of?" I asked him to dig deeper.
"Being alone and judged as stupid." He said after a pause and choking down emotion.
"Which is most terrifying?" I asked.
"Being judged as stupid." He whispered.
3. Mirror - Reflect back on your life. Where have you felt this feeling before? I felt hopeless when I realized I could not control other people's choices, and the choices they made caused them harm. I was so hopeless/helpless. I had a "Hopeless Button" and the news hit squarely on it so I could heal.
4. Challenge Reality - It that feeling true? Are you stupid? Are you hopeless? Is life hopeless? Can you be 100% sure? (This is a favorite of mine from Byron Katie.) Is it 100% true that I am hopeless? Puh-leez. No, it is not true at all. Upon realizing the relativity of reality, you are ready for the easy part.
5. Ask for New Eyes - Pray, however you pray and whomever you pray to, ask to see this situation differently. My favorite question is, "What do I need to see to end this suffering?" (Note: the question is NOT, "What do I need to do to end this suffering." Changing our POV is the way shamans shape the world. We know that by seeing the world differently, we begin to shape it differently. (This is very Marianne Williamson - ask for a "Miracle") I closed my eyes, took another deep breath and asked, "Please, let me see what I need to see to end this suffering." I opened my eyes and here is what I saw:
I saw the Winter Sun shining so golden and low on the horizon. The long rays of light reached out to touch the bare trees. It seemed to me such an act of love and bravery because the sun is at it's weakest, so far from the Northern Hemisphere. Still, it shone. Oooo I could really feel my heart beating now.. There is something in this for me!
The Sun never worried, "Is this enough light?" It was never deterred, perhaps thinking, "Well, you should see me in the summer, that is when I am really awesome, so sorry to be so weak." No. It did not stop shining because it was far away or because there were people in the world making choices that are strange to us. The Sun just quietly did what comes naturally. This was the voice of God speaking to me in symbols. A sacred message that I asked for and I needed to see in order to change my POV. So I took one more pause and went deeper into the message.
The Winter Sun shines. Whether we see the sun or it is hidden behind clouds, it shines. If we forget to say thanks, because we would die without it, it still shines. It rises every day and shines, no matter what. It goes on. And so must we. I got it. It was very Hemmingway meets Forrest Gump, but I got it. Shine on.
The voice of God is all around us. (God, Goddess, Universe, Spirit, Life-force-energy-that-permeates-all-things). The words of God can be found in sound of the wind in trees, or a baby crying, and in the way the sun moves around the planet. The words of God are painted in the eyes of your beloved. Look. Feel. God speaks to us all the time, but we rarely slow down long enough to listen. We are remembering the language. Pray for new eyes. You will see what I mean.
And feeling the message of "Shine On." is how I turned off the news channel and noticed that I started to feel hopeful that if I just give what I have now, rather than wait until some magical set of circumstances in the future, it is enough. If we all do that, it is more than enough.
Having my fill of lessons for one day, I turned off the radio entirely and marvelled the the perfection of life around me. It is enough. I am enough. I will make conversations and I will make love. I will resolve conflict and find a way to connect. I will shine on. What I have to give is enough. You are enough. If you are reading this it is likely that you truly have enough. It is all all-right. As I drove, I saw bird finding food in winter, I saw a runner picking up a discarded coffee cup along side the road, I saw a long lost friend smile and wave as we passed one another in the car. I was seeing Shine On all around me. I wonder, would I have noticed those additional examples of "Shine On" had I not changed my POV? Or, did I somehow create those moments by changing my POV? (whoa)