“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work”
I had hoped that when I took a couple of weeks off in August, the world would, too. I celebrated my birthday quietly, rolling it out slowly over several weeks. I helped my husband with some medical stuff and then took a little chill time.
The world, though, doesn’t seem to know how to chill.
During my break, the headlines kept pouring in: the upsurge in the Delta variant of Covid, the devastating UN report on the environment, the surge of wildfires and intense heat, and the imminent fall of Afghanistan. (And those were just the big headlines.)
At the start of the pandemic, I thought I needed to prepare for a sprint through hard times. Then it became clear, this wasn’t a sprint, it was a marathon.
Now, I’m not seeing any finish line. Have we entered a new era where great uncertainty and turbulence are the way it’s going to be? If so, I need a new approach for dealing with it.
Old strategies for coping that don’t work:
- Wishing it were different.
- Thinking that there’s another side to get to soon.
- Believing that if we could just get the bad guys out, the world would right itself.
Succumbing to fear also doesn’t work. I fall prey to it often, in a world where anxiety vibrates like electricity in the air. But I can’t wait for the world to change to reset the dials on my inner control system. I need to be able to calm.
A new strategy
It’s time to practice facing my fear–learning to work with it, through it, and beyond it.
In Being Peace, the Vietnamese Zen priest Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about the experience of Vietnamese refugees trying to flee the country in small boats.
“Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many.
Our world is something like a small boat.”
(LIsten to his short talk here)
The Austrian educator/metaphysician Rudolf Steiner said something similar in a lecture he gave in 1910:
We must eradicate from the soul all fear and terror of what comes towards us, out of the future.
We must acquire serenity in all feelings and sensations about the future.
We must look forward with absolute equanimity to everything that may come. And we must think only that whatever comes is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn in this age, namely, to live out of pure trust, without any security in existence–trust in the ever-present help of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do if our courage is not to fail us.
Steiner’s words are still hauntingly timely. And challenging to practice.
Thich Nhat Hanh and Rudolf Steiner offer us soul capacities, not quick fixes.
Not that I have anything against fixes. I’m developing my personal emergency kit of energetic, physical, and emotional fixes that can help me when the waves of fear become really high, usually after my first cup of tea and two headlines.
What I don’t need to do is keep revving the engines of fear.
Have you ever been in your car, at an intersection, when the driver next to you keeps revving his or her car’s engine? Revving won’t help that driver reach their destination any faster. It will, however, set a lot of others on edge.
Revving doesn’t promote good thinking. Calm and equanimity do.
Here’s my new strategy:
- Keep loving the world with all its challenges.
- Feel the pain and find the joy.
- Learn to calm, center, and create in the midst of it all.
I’d love your ideas about what allows you to calm, center, and create in the midst of the storm. It’s the least we can do for the planet.