What is happening in the world these days can feel overwhelming. The badgering news of terrorism, wars, and President Trump’s latest actions – just to name a few – are triggering all kinds of emotional reactions among different people.
Some are following the news addictively on an hourly basis. A habit that can quickly take over one’s sense of sanity and mental health.
Some are channeling all their energy into activism and have become watchdogs for the issues they care about. “We have to be proactive about every single thing before our rights get eroded. Even if our actions are preempted it may be a deterrent,” one activist friend told me. Her passion was inspiring but also felt overwhelming in its charge. Activists can also find it difficult to find a sense of calm in the midst of chaos and sometimes feel overwhelmed and fatigued not only from their work but from the intensity of their own emotions.
Some are rejecting the news all together and retreating to their spiritual practices like meditation and yoga. “Aleppo and all the killing and death are not real. It is not part of our lives. The reality is in the spiritual realm. The reality is in the Divine,” one “healer” told a woman who was crying about the massacres happening in Aleppo. Spirituality is indeed a place of center but that center also needs to be placed in the reality of this world and not in an alternative universe.
Some are going about their daily lives without bothering at all to check in on what is happening in the world. They are either not interested or feel they cannot do or change anything anyway. “I don’t feel responsible for the actions of the American government,” one businessman told me. Even though they may think they are passive about the world, history has showed us that there is no such thing as passivity. The way I see it is every citizen is part of every country and if you happen to be one with freedom, money and power, you more than anybody else are responsible to use it for good actions. Ultimately each voice matters - powerful or not. Those who remain silent in situations of injustice legitimize it.
I believe now - like no other time - is the time to show up fully in the world. We are living in a changing time - wherever you may live and whatever your politics may be. People all over the world are becoming more and more connected to each other on issues related to wars, terrorism, the environment, women’s rights, human rights, money, and politics. No one is immune from anything anymore. Our interconnectedness is more obvious than ever before.
Truthfully speaking, finding my own center in what feels like a storm taking over the world has been a challenge. I have been the overwhelmed excited activist, I have been the silent spiritual retreater who isolated myself in the wilderness, and I have had days of trying to avoid what is happening in the world. What I have come to realize is that the extremes of all of these behaviors are not the solution – at least not for me.
What I have learned is…
SILENCE is important. Some feel silence in meditation, some in the refuge of spiritual work, some in working out, some in nature. In my opinion, it is essential that we create a room for ourselves to be silent every day. Silence centers us; it anchors our spirits in the Divine. Missing out on it, is like depriving our spirits from water and air. But don’t stay in silence. Though spirituality, silence and meditation leave one with a sense of extreme beauty and comfort, staying there is ignoring our realities as human beings in this world.
SEEING what is happening in the world is just as important as the time you create for silence. Be present and, understand what is going on politically, economically, and environmentally. That we see and witness what is happening in today’s world is critical for developing connections and feeling compassion for each other. When I saw an American woman from Montana who had never been to Syria or the Middle East cry at what was happening in Aleppo, I said to myself “I wish Syrians could see her tears. It would show them that people do care about them.” Many around the world who are going through horrific crises be it in Syria, Iraq, or Southern Sudan feel that the world does not care about them. That feeling creates disconnection rather than connection. It creates anger rather than love. One tear shed can do the magic of healing. So SEE what is happening in the world and don’t shy away from acknowledging it.
Then SPEAK! However you choose to - speak! But speak, share and act to make this world a better place. Each one of us has the responsibility to show up fully in this world. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the Earth, to the Divine, to our values, however you want to see it. SPEAK! For your retreat in silence is a lie you are telling yourself. Those who are suffering see your silence as a hypocrisy of your self-proclaimed values. SPEAK what is right. SPEAK your conscience. SPEAK your values. Show up however you want. Just do not hide behind silence. You legitimize oppression when you do that.
The integration of SILENCE, SEEING, and SPEAKING may lead us to different kinds of actions. When the presence of silence anchors our seeing and calms our souls, we speak not from anger but from consciousness and awareness; such speaking has different energy to it. It is one that stems from the strength of our spine rather than the charge of our chests. This time, like no other, we all need to show up.
May we all show up fully and awaken in this time.