Claiming a Life-Sustaining Shift for Ourselves

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Cusp. It’s an interesting word. It literally means “a point of transition between two different states.” Right now, we are standing on the cusp of change. I want to say that we are standing together, but that doesn’t appear to be the case at this time. It’s time to listen.

There is an upheaval taking place. The amount of pain that we may be feeling individually is collective. And there is pain.  What is happening in the world is affecting us all in ways which we may not even be aware.  Reactions and defenses, all have the capacity to seemingly divide us.

Between the virus and our outrage, inflamed by the egregious death of George Floyd as well as so many other unarmed black men and women, and people of color, there is a sadness that can no longer wait to be acknowledged. It is not just a mourning for what we may have lost in this interval, but also the yearning for a different reality which we are capable of grasping in our lifetimes. It is possible to wake up and recognize how vital each of us is in the world. It’s time to listen.

If we have become trapped in a nightmare of separation, we may believe that we are entitled to grab whatever we can to survive. We classify ourselves, aligned with distinctions that seem to make us special or give us an identity. We can cling to an ideology that sets us apart from that which seems to be unjust or “incorrect.”

I am fortunate enough to be safely sheltered in a home with someone I love and with enough resources to carry on. When I go out of the house, I do not fear that I will be subject to incessant humiliation or brutality. I am grateful and do not take it for granted. I acknowledge my privilege and recognize that I can utilize what gifts I have been given to help out in ways that I may not have even considered before this time. I strive not to disqualify myself from caring because of my privilege. Compassion allows me to care for others who are suffering so that I can open myself up and better understand what is needed in this moment.

If we use self-aggrandizement as a means of survival, then we will look at anyone who helps build up our wall of protection as an ally, and anyone who criticizes us as an enemy. The truth is we are all more fragile and far more powerful than we allow ourselves to explore. While labeling one another allows us to conveniently write each other off, this time is prompting us to lean in and have the difficult conversations, step out of our comfort zone and actualize our potential.

Even in 1958, Rogers and Hammerstein didn’t shy away from the truth. In their show, South Pacific, they reminded us that hatred has to be taught. A learned behavior can be unlearned. Our potential includes a capacity to teach one another to recognize and heal prejudice.

My friend, Drake Randolph Powe, who lives near the epicenter of our recent national unrest in Minneapolis, demonstrates strength in vulnerability by posting videos in which he reveals the pain that hatred has caused in his life. Even with a history that could justify rage and despair, he urges us to step up and realize that we are not here at this time to be consumed by hatred. We are here to touch the edge of our being with courage.

“Courage is realizing that you have a desire that is more powerful than your fear. Access your courage and come into compassion, come into harmony.”- Drake Randolph Powe

Touching The Edge (Drake Randolph Powe) YouTube Station

Drake Randolph Powe

Although I recommend his video, “We Must Muster Kindness For Ourselves Right Now,” I have shared the link to his channel with you above, which includes, “Row Your Boat..Turn This Nightmare Into a Dream,” in which he suggests we become responsive by connecting to our gratitude and checking in with what Napoleon Hill called “Positive Emotions”: Kindness, Compassion, Love, Creativity, Hope, Faith and Joy. “Joy,” Drake qualifies, means an emotion you experience, “when you are on mission.” He further amplifies the concept of joy on his next video, “Desperate People Do Not Win In Las Vegas,” as “a steady flame.  Joy is the flame we have when we are not desperately chasing the emotion (of happiness.)”

Knowing Drake, I can vouch for his joy. It is part of his illustrious center that he shares with you when you are with him. His sincerity is such that I have never doubted for a moment how his joy is purely authentic.

I have known Drake for over 30 years. In full disclosure, he was the best man at my wedding. I didn’t know a quarter of the things he revealed in his “We Must Muster Kindness For Ourselves” video. This is not something he wears on his sleeve. How many people of color have horrendous stories that they never share? I cannot imagine what a toll being bullied and harassed for the color of your skin must take out of your spirit, or just what kind of strength it must take to allow that “steady flame of joy” inside to burn away despair.

A book that I highly recommend is Joanna Macy and Molly Brown’s, Coming Back to Life. Published in 2014, this resource and manual addresses what we are going through now with incredible clarity and insight. These authors talk about “The Great Unraveling” in which the Industrial Growth Society, which has undermined our humanity and wreaked havoc on our environment, starts to come apart at the seams. However, “The Great Turning” simultaneously opens the door for a Life-Sustaining Civilization. Joanna and Molly have deemed the process in which that occurs, “The Work That Reconnects.” This work can be broken down into four parts:

Gratitude– This is nothing new but it is always restorative. For some reason, we often need to be reminded to take stock. Acknowledging things for which we are grateful shifts our focus away from fear and the mind’s disquietude. This grants us enough peace to become present and reclaim our capacity for love and ease of being.

Honoring Our Pain for the World– and there is a lot of it right now. It’s surfacing, or resurfacing for many, in extreme measures so that it can be acknowledged and healed.

Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes- taking up wisdom that has been offered to us time and again to have compassion for those who are suffering. It is only in recognizing our interdependence that we will find our way through this painful state.

Going Forth-Our willingness to be a conduit for healing change permits us to learn from our mistakes, from one another, and to keep going against the odds.

Regardless of our process, this trying time calls to us to bridge the abyss of cynical resignation and bitter retaliation. I believe in my heart that we are capable of evolving. We can climb the ladder of recognition high enough to know that our differences are things we are working out within ourselves. We all have a shadow side. We all carry some form of doubt and pain to overcome. However, we all have the capacity for compassion, even if that capacity is deeply buried and waiting for us to dig it out.  Our ability to claim a life-sustaining shift, however tentative and difficult at first, opens the door to lasting possibilities of peace and harmony between us.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash