Peak Oil. War. Climate Change. Ecocide. Job Loss. Homeland Insecurity. Politicians Gone Wild.
If your perception of events is akin to mine, there’s no doubt about it, we’re living on the edge, facing multiple possible catastrophes just waiting to happen. We try to stay centered, calm and aware, while bearing witness to a vast national “consensus reality” that seems almost willfully ignorant. From a detached vantage point we can shake our heads and observe as that culture holds onto the last vestiges of a mythic “American Dream” in a literal death grip. Yet any smugness gained by our insight into this dilemma is small consolation. We can’t escape the knowledge that, unless by some miracle we as a species become much smarter immediately (divine intervention anyone?), the odds do not look good.
And then there’s our personal life. We feel we should at least have some control over the events in our own lives. Yet here, as well, the occult maxim holds, “As above, so below,” with ourselves often feeling pinned in the middle.
How many people do you know are currently experiencing an increased degree of heavy changes/transitions in their lives now? Relationship issues, money issues, job loss, health problems, The list goes on and on. As an aging “boomer,” I feel nostalgic when I remember the time when many of my contempories were preoccupied with “finding themselves.” What a spacious, self indulgent era that was! Now it all about survival, baby. At least that’s what my fear tells me as I struggle to cope in a time of accelerating change.
So what do we do? What are our coping strategies?
Do we zone out, overeat, overdrink and join the zombie nation of tv addicts. Do we put all our attention into our work, becoming “workcoholics” not motivated by career advancement, but by the need to avoid our own emotional state? Or do our escapes become more exotic and feral? Swingers clubs, designer drugs, any number of activities serve to take our attention off ourselves and our situation. It then becomes an matter of personal style; what’s your favorite band at the A-Void-Dance?
I’d like to suggest another option.
In times of feeling overwhelmed and disempowered by life’s challenges, the first step is to reclaim oneself. Resist the tendency to shut down when things are spiraling out of control. Instead, breathe and ground yourself. Stay present.
Observe your preferred avoidance strategies and begin to practice discernment in their use. This is not about judging yourself, or labeling behaviors “bad” but allowing yourself different ways of dealing with stress, other than avoidance or escape. As you become more conscious of your choices, you may find that your habits fall away on their own accord.
So how do you reclaim yourself? You honor the sovereignty of your own Being. You release those internalized critical voices of not being “good enough” learned from, parents, authority figures, peers, bosses, tv commercials, etc. out of your psyche. In the course of day to day life, it may seem expedient or even necessary to mask yourself with a false persona to “get by and get along.” But each time you do this , it is a betrayal of your essential nature. Cut yourself some slack already! Take a long look in the mirror with a more loving eye. You are a unique expression of Life, there is no one else even close. Savor your individuality. Celebrate it!
As an added bonus, as you banish the negative self talk from your internal dialogue loop, you may find that you open up space for your intuition to speak to you more directly and give you guidance. You may even encounter an increase of synchronistic events and odd moments of inexplicable happiness.
Another aspect of reclaiming oneself involves the experience of embodiment. Although children are naturally endowed with this facility, by the time most of us reach puberty we have become programed to be “in our heads.” We detach from our bodies, and consider them machines. Women in particular are conditioned to be in a state of war with their physical selves. Wittiness the alarming epidemic of anorexia, boulimia, and needless cosmetic surgery. Many women hate their bodies and spend endless hours and cash in a relentless quest to “fix” themselves.
Men have their concerns with vanity and self objectification as well, worrying about their physique, hair loss, and their “equipment” often to the point of suffering “performance anxiety,” and short circuiting their relationships.
How do you find your way back home to the Body? By doing physical activities for the shear pleasure of it, rather than as an ordeal for the sake of your appearance. Hatha yoga is excellent. Swimming in the ocean or in a lake, weather permitting, is fun. Walking in nature. Taking in the sun. Leisurely, non goal oriented lovemaking with someone you are fond of is very good, as well as dancing and singing. The point is that your body needs to express itself. It needs to be felt deeply. It needs to be appreciated. Remember, your body is yourself. Don’t forget to bring your body!
Reclaiming oneself and embodiment allow for a more authentic expression of self. Nurture your relationship with yourself. Create time for meditation and contemplation. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Discover the pleasure of solitude. Journal. Get to know yourself better, it is the one faithful companion who will never leave you, no matter what’s happening.
You may discover that you actually like yourself and enjoy your own company. Along with the experience of more personal contentment and peace of mind, nurturing your authentic self can lead to a more creative expression of that self. That gets you noticed by other selves who become drawn to be in relationship with you. They intuitively sense that your personal freedom gives them permission to express their authentic selves as well. This creates a zone of safety and mutual regard, allowing new levels of being and relating together, the building of community, and ultimately puts us in a better position to face the challenges ahead. We may, or may not, be able to change the bigger picture, or the course of history. But at least we can enjoy ourselves while here and play our parts well.
The Heal the World Radiant Meditation Technique Note: Being outdoors on a sunny day, standing on the ground is ideal for this exercise, but feel free to adapt it to your situation and needs.
Take a moment to gently stretch your body; your spine, legs, arms. Emit a big audible yawn to stretch and relax the muscles of your face and throat.
Begin a series of movements. Whatever you can do to bring your attention to and into your body to feel a flow of energy is good, however, it is not necessary to break a sweat.
Take a moment to “pat yourself down” with loving touch, brush yourself lightly with the palms and fingertips of your open hands. Begin at the crown, touch your face and eyes, ears, the back of your head, throat, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, breast, back, torso, belly, hips, genitals, hips, thighs, knees, legs, ankles, heels, soles and toes. The intention is to bring warm energy to all parts of your body.
Then from a standing position, take a deep breath while raising your arms to the sky, palms open. Without exhaling, bring your arms down and bring your palms together in a Namaste, or prayer position in front of your chest/heart. You may think of this as a moment to express gratitude or acknowledge “the Other,” the “Source of Creation,” “Divinity,” or whatever you want to call that mystery. Release the gesture, lower your arms and begin to bend forward while slowly exhaling the breath. Go as low as you are able to without straining yourself. If you can comfortably touch the ground with your open palms, do so. Feel the texture of the ground with your palms and soles. Notice the stretch in your legs, spine and arms. Then raise yourself back to a standing position, take another deep breath and release it in a sigh.
Continue in a relaxed standing posture. Being seated cross legged in the ground works as well. Avoid sitting in a chair unless absolutely necessary for comfort. If that is the case, remove your shoes and let your feet touch the ground.
Begin a series of deep, rhythmic breaths. An eight count works well here, that is, inhale for a count of eight, hold the breath for a count of eight, and release the breath at a count of eight. Adjust the count to suit your capacity. Do this for a few rounds to get the feeling, then drop the count while continuing the breath, maintaining the rhythm.
As you feel yourself relax into this, begin to allow the feeling of light into your crown and third eye. Allow it to fill your head and flow into your heart.
As this is happening, also become sensitive to the earth’s energy beneath you. Allow yourself to become “grounded” or rooted to this rich earthy energy. Feel it in the soles of your feet. Imagine a tender root growing down from your root chakra or genital area to meet and absorb this energy. Visualize it traveling up your spine and into your heart.
As you breathe in, see if your can simultaneously feed yourself this energy from the sun and the earth. Feel it grow as a radiant white-gold sphere in your heart, expanding beyond the skin envelope of your body. Allow your self to become a kind of geomantic love battery. As you exhale, begin to send this energy out into the world.
Sometimes it helps to think of a person or place that you love to get the energy rolling. It becomes easier the more you do it.
This practice is of great benefit, nurturing personal health and awareness, and I’ve no doubt it has the ability to transform the world as well. It is also a powerful experience to do this with a group of people of focused intention.
Special thanks to my Teachers whose shared insights allowed me to write this article: Antero Alli, Delilah Flynn, Gina Sala, Da Vid, and Bob Dobbs