The events of the last few weeks have been trying to most of us with a conscience. Everywhere I look online is discord. People are fighting every where–Twitter, Facebook, the streets, the Capitol. The US is in a state of a disarray that’s been decades in the making. We won’t come through unscathed. We are a divide nation, at war with itself more than anything else. Our friends and family are fearful for the future. We probably should be. It’s all so … big.
Too big in fact. If you let it, the weight of the challenge we face would crush you. There are too many battle fronts, too many issues, too many implications to feel anything more than a sense of dread when you think about how to push back the tide.
I’m one of those people who wants to save everyone and its just … too much. I get anxious, overwhelmed and everything feels so much more dramatic, impactful, important whether it actually is not. I become obsessed with ‘keeping tabs’ on things, which often translates into me reading too much vitriol online, which leads to me being more overwhelmed. Which leads to me being more anxious — it’s a cycle.
Then, I practice.
I stop and I breathe. I reminder myself to come back to the moment and to think about “What can I do right now, right this moment that will fix everything?” Unsurprisingly, the answer has always been nothing. I’m reminded of a quote from a wonderfully B movie, The Core:
I came here to save my wife and my two children and… seven billion lives… it’s too much. I just hope I’m, I’m smart enough and brave enough to save three.
Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by the world, or how to fix, I come back to my practice. I breathe deep, stop thinking, stop talking, stop worrying just stop everything for just a moment. I let my mind become that still pond of clarity. Then I ask myself, “What can you do to change what’s making you anxious in this moment?” Nothing. The answer is always nothing because I know I can’t control what’s happening in DC, or on Twitter, or in Congress.
What can I control in this moment? Me. I can always control me and my reaction to the world around me. There are terrible things happening, but right now, in this moment, there aren’t terrible things happening to me. I can choose to smile in spite of everything. I can choose to feel compassion for people who I feel are seeking to hurt me. This is what I can control.
But it’s not easy. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide this is how I was going to live my life from now on. I still get overwhelmed with the world and the hatred. I still get anxious wondering if it’s going to OK to be gay in the future. I’m still scared about what the future holds from us. But the difference is–I practice. I meditate every other day. I do yoga, I exercise – – I practice my mindfulness when it’s easy to practice, so that I can remember to practice when it’s not.
I have to keep bringing myself back to it. Some days I fail and I get overwhelmed and anxious, so that’s OK. Every day that I chose to smile despite the craziness, I’ve lived the kind of life that I want to live. Everyday that think about people I don’t like with compassion, I’ve lived the kind of life that I want to live. Every day that I look in uncertainty of the world, the discord and say, “For at least my own little corner, I will be calm and welcoming and happy,” I win.
This is not to say that I won’t fight for what I think is right–that we should be good, open, and inclusive. I’m just saying while all of this is going on, I strive continue to be at peace with myself. That my time and energy will go towards things that matter, and not being overwhelmed over things I can’t control.
In the end, I practice to be at peace with myself. I practice to accept my powerlessness in the grand scheme to remind me that I empowered in my day-to-day life. I practice to focus my efforts where they’ll have the best outcomes. I practice to remember that despite how the world might make me feel, that I am always free to live my life the way that I know to be good.
I leave you with a geekier quote yet, from the most famous and irascible kender ever known, Tasslehoff Burrfoot:
He said kenders were small because we were meant to do small things. ‘If you look at all the big things in the world closely,’ he said, ‘you’ll see that they’re really made up of small things all joined together.’ That big dragon down there comes to nothing but tiny drops of blood, maybe. It’s the small things that make the difference.'”
It’s the small things that make the difference. It’s why I practice.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons