For the last 3 weeks, I participated in an intensive program at Teachers College (Columbia University) for my Masters in Psychology and Spirituality. During 9-hour days, we immersed ourselves in an academic understanding of the inherent spirituality in children, and how spirituality relates to personal healing, education, substance abuse and depression, and communication. The experiential learning included heart based connection, artistic expression, individual and planetary energy healing, Jungian symbol exploration and, of course, lots of meditation and intention setting.
I will be honest -- at times I found the experiential exercises excruciatingly annoying. I have been meditating for 35 years, have attended conferences since my teens, and teach about intention and balance at conferences around the world! For me, returning to school at 45 was clear - my intent was to develop a lexicon of theories in spiritual psychology for my public speaking, and potentially future books and projects.
This endeavor was for my mind and my intellect, not my soul.
As we sat, day after day meditating, I found myself getting more irritable. Because, the world continued to happen...
Brexit, stirring fear and uncertainty
Terrorist attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, Saudi Arabia
The refugee crisis
My friend mourning her husband's death to cancer
Philando Castile and Alton Sterling
Police shootings in Dallas
Accepting that we had to let go of Cleo, my brother's dog
The reminder that suffering, inequality, pain, heartache, age, disease, and loss continues day after day. And never, ever stops.
I felt despondent. Hopeless. Helpless. Sad. And, I was challenged to think deeply about why I am doing what I do every day. Why do I write, why do I share on social media, why do I teach, why did I decide to return to school? Does any of it make a difference? Does my definition of Living with Intent make any sense?
We still meditated. I let my depression sit in my heart, in my mind, let the hurt sing solemnly to my soul. But this time when I opened my eyes, something was different.
I actually opened my eyes.
And, I saw hope for our future.
Here were my fellow students - from as far as Beijing, Lebanon, Dubai, Pakistan, Mexico, Australia, and so many other countries and states throughout the United States - driven by a hunger to help others, to obtain more tools to help others heal on a personal and social level.
Most of them - in their 20's and 30's - were closer to my daughter's age than my own. They were facing their fears, their insecurities, embracing vulnerability and personal healing so that they could reach out to others and make the world my daughters will live in a better place.
It is the group of women from my course from the Middle East who know that their people deserve better than living in fear and sadness every day. The #BlackLivesMatter champions at the forefront of social justice and all those who share on social media remind us that all lives matter and that there is so much work yet to do in this country. The police officers who were ensuring people could express their frustration in safe place. The healers and the incredible teachers who open up hearts. The mothers, fathers and grandparents who are nurturing our most precious children to love and connect and create goodness and healing for our planet.
Martin Luther King said:
I prayed a prayer and I prayed out loud that night. I said, "Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right. I think I'm right. I think the cause we represent is right. But Lord I must confess that I'm weak now. I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage." And it seemed to me at that very moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, "Martin Luther, stand up for justice, stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world."
How humbled I am to remember that we need to keep doing the inner work. We need to connect with spirit, with our God, so that we can be strong and anchored to keep doing the outer work. Our planet, our children, need us to keep doing it.