One of my favourite running T shirts - because people smile at me and talk to me when I wear this! As part of the help for refugees campaign, designed by Katharine Hamnett.
I'm sure you have noticed that there is some particularly difficult stuff going on around the planet, at the moment. I don't know about you, but over the past few weeks I've been feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the negativity that's been present in the news, online, and in general. There seems to be a strong presence of...well, to be perfectly blunt: shit - hitting some enormous fan and spreading it outwards, to the point where no place is left clear of the stuff. It's almost impossible to read, hear or watch news coverage without feeling a sense of enormity of some kind of emotion, whether it's anger, sadness, loss, bewilderment, frustration, stress, fear...hate?
And doesn't it all seem to be familiar? Are we living in some sort of twisted loop of déjà vu? Why is it that we are hearing the same thing, over and over? War-famine-disease-natural disaster-massacre-world leader losing grip on reality. The same merry-go-round of awfulness which just keeps cycling over and over.
People all have an opinion about what is "right" and what "should" be done. People who think they are right and have the answers. In one personal example recently, a post from someone in Australia appeared on my Facebook newsfeed, which she had shared from someone who had decided that Australia should be given back to the original Australians - the ones that arrived a couple of hundred years ago - and that everyone else should disappear back to whichever country they came from. Have these Australians forgotten that there is a whole indigenous population, a nation who had been happily living there for thousands of years before the "Australians" turned up?!
Have members of UKIP ever looked at their ancestry? Have any of the Brits whom are so convinced they are so very British ever looked back beyond a few generations in their family? Because I am fairly sure that British doesn't truly exist in the "purest" forms these folk imagine. I know in my own family I have ancestors from St. Lucia. I also have ancestors from various parts of Eastern Europe, as well as Ireland (I burn in the sun, rather than tan, so I guess I know which genes are dominant!). Again, in Australia, they have been voting in the same-sex marriage referendum. I find it hard to believe that it is still an issue, and yet here we are, a world which is beginning to choose love over hate, a world which is collectively beginning to rise up against the fear, the hate, the anger; nations of people who are standing up for the rights to be heard, for equality, for basic human rights; individuals who are questioning the status quo more than ever before.
So what can you do in these times?
How are you faring? Are you OK? Are you anxious? Are you worried? Are you living in fear? Or are you riding along in the moment? Are you being proactive or reactive?
As someone who practises meditation daily, I am finding these to be bumpy times. Personally, I'm quite sensitive to the news. I can only listen in short bursts. I can only look at social media in small doses. I actively seek out silliness to avoid the horrors. I work in a high-pressure environment in my nursing world, so I tend to minimise watching programmes that are terribly sad, harrowing or scary. I watch comedy more than anything else, because frankly, I need to laugh every day. I also run a lot, because it gets me out of the house and into rural green and coastal areas where I often mingle only with sheep, cows, view the occasional pods of dolphins and a lot of seagulls, as well as the occasional walker, whom I startle with my earphone karaoke.
But when things are really getting me down, I do two things. 1) I clean my kitchen. It looks gleaming on the gloomiest news days. A sad reflection of current affairs. 2) I sit in the stillness of my mind, my heart and my observation of life from a peaceful standpoint. And when I ask a question of "why" to each atrocity I hear about; when I ask "how" to heal the troubles we are facing; when I ask "what" can I do as an individual to make a difference, what whispers quietly to me? What slowly reaches my ears, in deference to these questions I ask?
I have been explaining this to clients and friends for a number of years. I have been telling myself and trying to heed to this mantra for even more. It is hard. It is difficult to understand how to choose love over anger when there is so much hate being displayed in the world, right now. But there has always been hate, and this hate, in its many forms, has been fought with hate and anger and produced only more hate and anguish. Love is the seedling which grows slowly yet persistently and will gradually transform the fields of fear and hatred - but it has to be nurtured, it has to be heard, it has to be whispered and shouted and sung and played; it has to be praised like a child learning to speak and listened to with open ears; it has to be heard over and over. Choose Love. Anger is not working. Love takes on many forms, it doesn't have to be a passive role. Love is precipitated by passion - so stand up for what you believe in, but come from your heart, open your heart to the truth of what we all crave, which is to be loved. Nobody is born to hate. We are taught to hate, but we can be taught to love, to share, to nurture the goodness in life. Note that I am not asking you to ignore the horrible stuff going on in the world. I am not asking you to pretend bad things aren't happening. I am asking you to invite a different perspective into your world, if you are not doing this already - if you want to make changes in the world, start with yourself and then gradually move outwards. If this sense of love allows you to spend time raising money for refugees, for example, let this guide you and see where it takes you. You may not be able to stop terrible things from happening in the world, but you can influence your own life and those around you in positive ways.
I ask you to sit quietly once a day, just for a few minutes, and take yourself to a place in your heart which holds love. When you arrive there, be still there for a while, then imagine that sense of love growing within you and spreading outwards. Practice it each day, and notice how it makes you feel, as well as if it influences those around you. I'm not offering this as a hippy, dewy-eyed view of life, nor as a holier-than-thou answer to the world's problems - this is just a perspective I am offering you, the reader, to consider.