There is no question that we live in stressful times and that the challenges facing humanity and the planet are of global proportions. Those of us who pay attention to science reports and environmental conditions understand the dangers we have helped to generate around environmental degradation. Those of us who pay attention to social sciences and to social movements understand that humanity is currently going through a powerful time of polarization between people who are deeply afraid of, and feel threatened by, certain “others” and people who are comfortable experiencing connection to all members of their global family.
Collectively, we are in a time of intense activation, from a trauma perspective, and one of the key antidotes to this kind of activation is finding out how to re-center, re-ground, and re-stabilize ourselves. When our brain is triggered into a threat response, we perceive through that lens and it can be very challenging to re-center and settle ourselves down. Fortunately, there is help available, as many people currently share ways to help ourselves find that place inside us that is always steady, even when we feel quite unstable.
There are many traditions that consider our current time to be a “dark age” and one of the things that I turn to when I’m on the edge of getting discouraged about all that is happening is that dark ages don’t last. They are part of the passage of time and time’s passage inevitably brings change. For now, I count on practices that help me down-regulate and re-center, even as I also do whatever I’m able to do to help support a healthy planet and a connected human family. A key is to notice if and when I seem to be motivated by fear and then I do my best to shift into awareness of what needs to be changed rather than to react from a lens of threat.
I read an article that quoted Pema Chodron from her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I wanted to share it here, as it speaks to what so many of us need at this time. I’ve put the last sentence in bold, as it has the information we need right now:
“When the rivers and air are polluted, when families and nations are at war, when homeless wanderers fill the highways, these are traditional signs of a dark age. There’s so much resentment and so much resistance to life. In all nations, it’s like a plague that’s gotten out of control and is poisoning the atmosphere of the world. Practicing loving-kindness towards ourselves seems as good a way as any to start illuminating the darkness of difficult times.”
For this week’s practice, I invite you to explore lovingkindness practice more deeply. Here’s a link from my website with some comments about lovingkindness and then a lovingkindness meditation: https://www.nancynapier.com/1999/01/09/loving-kindness-meditation/
The heart is a powerful antidote to fear and I encourage you to explore other heart-based practices that might help generate a greater sense of centered stability in these challenging times. As with all these practices, there are no “right ways” to do them. Instead, I offer them as possibilities and potential supports along the way.
Please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to struggle with them in any way. It helps to remember, too, that judgments are rarely carriers of information. Most of the time they are symptoms of activation. When thoughts are symptoms of activation, that’s like a meditation bell reminding you to take a breath and re-center yourself.