“May you live in interesting times.”
~ Chinese Proverb/Insult
“Personal practice builds the spiritual ‘muscle’ necessary to be a contributor to the energy of love and compassion needed for the creation of The Beloved Community.”
~ Jim Lockard, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (LINK)
We are living in extraordinary times. Global warming is affecting our weather in powerful and unpredictable ways; the developed west is in political turmoil; the pace of technological development is accelerating; unhealed racism is re-emerging in our social sphere; spiritual communities are seeing their membership shrink across denominations; pressures in the undeveloped world from wars and other conflicts are driving refugees across the globe.
We have a major case of crisis fatigue atop a case of deep anxiety about ourselves, our culture, and our nation. Now, the long-ignored issues of sexual harassment and violence perpetrated by men upon women is coming to the fore, which is a necessary development, but one that will stretch us even thinner (LINK to my blog post on this topic). These are times which call for spiritual muscle, the expression of the realization of an inner strength. This realization and expression are essential components for true empathy and compassion.
The waves of hurricanes and fires affecting the US and its territories come at us on top of a wave of political divisiveness and rancor that few Americans have seen in their lifetime. Many in our society are in shock, filled in sadness, anger, loss, and a deep frustration about what is happening. We are living in interesting times of the kind in the Chinese proverb above. Many are experiencing crisis fatigue, as our desire and ability to help become stretched thin.
You may be one of those who is naturally empathic – highly sensitive to the feelings of others, to suffering and to joy. For you, these are especially difficult times. An intellectual analysis of the dynamics we are experiencing does nothing for you – you want to feel the suffering stop and the joy return. We in spiritual community need to surround you with loving support at this time, to deeply listen to what you have to say, and to be sensitive to your feelings. We need to do this even as we deal with our own fears and anxiety. There are so many of us who are walking wounded, may we find support within and without.
“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”
~ Pema Chödrön
When we move toward compassion, we move toward healing. Out of a sense of compassion, we can be with others in their joys and sorrows as an equal – as one who is one with them regardless of their circumstances. The development of our natural capacity for compassion is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual growth, and is the result of the realization of inner strength.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
~ Pema Chödrön
True compassion contains wisdom – we become more intelligent about what is ours to do and what is not. From this perspective, crisis fatigue is lessened. We still feel for the whole of humanity, but we are more wise and clear about how and where to expend our own energies. None of us can cope alone with the massive amount of human suffering and need that we encounter in these times of instant global communications. And if we are to be effective at all, we must practice physical, emotional, and spiritual self-care at a high level. This, too, is a form of spiritual muscle.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
~ Siddhartha Gautama
Self-care is important. It is good for you. Humanity, in fact, all of creation, need you to be at your best. When you commit to total self-care and self-acceptance, you allow that best you to express.
Another part of crisis overload or fatigue is when we forget to be clear about the metaphysical realities of existence. That all is well, that destruction is part of creation, that nothing is in its final form, and that you are part of an Intelligent Unfolding Universe – never separate. This lens allows us to view grand processes that include destruction with a more positive, principle-based attitude.
“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
~ Richard Bach
The storms, the fires, the changes in long-term patterns of climate are the expressions of a planet thrown out of balance and attempting to heal itself. A wise humanity would work without ceasing to assist in that healing. We are clearly currently not at that level of wisdom, so we will have to experience more of the turmoil of healing. The butterfly emerges after the caterpillar dissolves, and yet, it is the combined intelligence of the two that drives the process of creative transformation. Remember that the Light is always there, always seeking clear expression, always on your side.
Thank you for reading. As always, your comments are welcomed. Please feel free to re-blog and to share this blog post.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when (people) are afraid of the light.”
Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard