A Belated New Year’s Blog for a Chaotic Time
“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’
The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”
I think we can all agree that 2020 was quite a year. As the year was coming to a close, I started my traditional New Year blog over and over again, with rejected drafts sitting in my computer trash file. My goal was to put the year into perspective and look toward new and brighter goals for 2021. To do that for 2020 was such a daunting task, and frankly, it was overwhelming.
So, I gave myself a break and decided that I’d get to write about the bright hopefulness on the horizon at the turn of the calendar year to 2021. But, instead of joy and hopefulness, 2021 started with increased violence, anger between neighbors and friends, and the worst time in the Covid-19 pandemic that we have seen since it began in the U.S. in March 2020. Yes, we do have a light at the end of the tunnel, vaccines. But, obtaining one has turned out to be a challenge for many so far.
I’ve spent many an hour staring at a blank computer screen, feeling nearly defeated. My head was filled with more questions that anything I could write. What could I say that would bring some hope for reconnecting to passion and optimism during this chaotic and isolated time? I wondered how I could be balanced and centered when the unexpected happened? Or how could I ensure that my words were not hollow but brought light and joy to these dark and challenging times? With all these concerns, I chose not to write another word––until now.
Sometimes, things break down to the point that we feel we can’t take even one more stress. I’ve experienced that more than a couple of times in recent months. We’re dealing with violence in our country and the breakdown of civility while at the same time navigating a highly contagious and deadly pandemic. And our life stresses don’t take a vacation. We’re bound to have moments of feeling “I can’t take it anymore.” But, I know that this is not the time to give up. We are all needed to turn things around.
In times of stress, I have found that the most powerful strategy is to go back to the basics. We really can’t be there for anyone else or have a positive impact on the world, if we’re not taking care of ourselves. So, I sit in meditation and focus on being a mountain in the midst of the storm, strong and tethered to the earth, with my head above the clouds where it’s calm, the sun is shining, and I’m connected to the timeless truths. My heart rate slows. My breathing becomes deeper and slower. And I feel a sense of peacefulness spreading through my body, the tightness and stress melting away. I notice more space between my thoughts.
There has always been chaos in the world and, often, chaos in our lives. This past year feels like it’s all been condensed with a lifetime of chaos squashed into one year. But the same timeless approaches apply for coping with it.
The serenity prayer springs to mind:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This is a profound prayer. It’s not about sitting it out and giving up, but, taking purposeful action for change. It’s about accepting things he way they are––which actually gives us more power to create change for the future.
As Ram Das wrote, “Be here now.” Find peace in this moment.
At the same time, don’t go to sleep. Pay attention. The world needs us right now, and we can’t be here now without being fully present to both, the good and the bad. Ignoring the present often leads to delusion. That’s what got us here in the first place. Many of us are hyper-focused on ourselves and not paying attention to each other or what’s happening in the world.
We can take this new-found awakened attention, combine it with our inner peace of a mountain, and be part of the solution. We can watch and learn without becoming emotionally swept up in the chaos. I know that’s not easy, but we can pay attention to what’s happening and take breaks in order to attend to our connection to the unchanging peace within.
And we can ask ourselves two questions every day:
- “What can I do today to bring light into the world?
- What can I do today to bring light into my life?”
Sometimes, the answer is the same for both questions because compassionate action for others has the side-effect of boosting our own mood and even bringing about a feeling of purposeful living and passion. “We are all just walking each other home,” wrote Ram Dass.
Through all of the current chaos, get some rest, eat well, exercise, walk in nature, meditate, do something creative, spend time in gratitude, and do whatever it takes to feel centered and to restore your energy. Then do something to help someone else, reach out a helping hand, and take some compassionate action. This is often the quickest shortcut to transforming pain into growth so that, together, we can ride out the storm and walk each other home to a brighter, more hopeful, future as peaceful warriors.
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