How Do We Face What We Believe is Unfaceable?

How do we face a fact or situation we believe we cannot face? Or respond skillfully to a personal or collective crisis?

 

In the Winter 2021 issue of Tricycle Magazine: The Buddhist Review, there is an article by environmentalist Paul Hawken adapted from his new book Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. Hawken says we live on a planet dying due to severed connections between human beings and the natural world that sustains and contains us. The decline of the earth is its’ adaptation to what we are doing to it.

 

72% of Americans know that the consensus of scientists is that climate change is human caused. A U. N. panel recently labeled the situation a climate emergency. But Hawken says that if we stop making the mistakes we’re making, if we end the disconnection, if we cease the production of fossil fuels, redirect the economy to stop overconsumption, deforestation, wars, etc. the earth will come back to life. This is difficult but possible. But many don’t, won’t or can’t allow this to even be a possibility in their mind.

 

Many have come to think we have already gone too far, or it would take generations to stop catastrophic global warming. But Hawken says, if we can reduce carbon gain and achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050, we can regenerate the planet in one or two decades.

 

It is easier to not-think about it. To not consider the possibility that the planet, or human life on it, can be saved. For some of us, to bring the earth’s future back to life inside our heart and mind brings the hurt back to life. Pain. It can feel easier to fashion scabs of anger or ig-norance than face pain.

 

I think of two friends and neighbors who say they have given up. They usually vote. Maybe this is a sign that vestiges of hope or commitment remain⎼ or of love. But they won’t do anything more. Won’t help get out the vote or call politicians or take to the streets. They say it will do no good. Maybe the grief they feel over the dying earth has immobilized them.

 

And I understand this response. I too feel the grief for what and whom we’ve lost, for the losses from the pandemic, for an easier time when I did not feel the earth itself was on the way to the emergency room, or that white nationalists might once again inhabit the White House like they did just a year ago. I, too, yearn for comfort.

 

In a recent blog, I described how it’s less the situation we face, or the sensations we feel, that determine our emotional state, but our response to the situation and feelings. We often think of fear as what readies us to act to protect ourselves. But as psychologist William James pointed out over a hundred years ago, we don’t have an emotion and then act. We don’t see a bear in the woods, or maybe a domestic terrorist on the street, and then feel fear, and run.

 

Instead, our response is constructed in stages. We feel fear as our body begins to sweat, our heartbeat speeds up, our legs twitch. Fear is an interpretation added to sensations. The sensations themselves are the same as a stress response or emotions like excitement. The interpretation includes thoughts such as labeling a threat as unmanageable as well as an inclination to act, for example, by hiding….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on the link for the Good Men Project, who first published the piece.

Difficult Conversations, And Crossing the Divide

Question:  Being an ally is important to me, but an obviously important piece of what that means is having difficult conversations with people who either believe that allyship is unnecessary or worse, some kind of liberal conspiracy.  I want to have better tools for dealing with people who are fact-resistant and believe the false stories in the right-wing media.  When I present multiple sources that contradict the lies they have heard, I feel like we end up on a merry-go-round in the he said/she said tradition where nobody learns anything and we both end up frustrated.  What can I be doing better?

 

Oh, yes. This dilemma is so familiar. It is so important that those of us who are white allies try to have those difficult conversations with the fact-resistant people that you refer to, about racism and other intersectional issues. And with those who might agree with us about the facts but can’t get motivated to act.

 

As you said, it has become increasingly frustrating, and I can’t claim much success. We can all think we know what’s right, so changing someone’s mind about anything important can be brutal, if not impossible. Simply mentioning certain issues can lead to anger or anxiety. Just presenting reliable evidence or showing how their evidence is contradictory or comes from unreliable sources doesn’t usually work. Our nation is on edge, suffering not only from what filmmaker Ken Burns called the three pandemics, COVID, white nationalism, and misinformation, but a climate emergency, so the tension we feel makes what’s difficult even more so.

 

In the political situation we are in today, the strongest wall the right-wing leaders have built is clearly not at our southern border, but down almost the middle of this nation. This wall was very deliberately constructed. Making conversations difficult is one way that differing viewpoints are turned into a wall.

 

When I taught a class on debate, I did research on persuasion.  A key point is to first get your foot in the door. Get any point of acceptance, of something we share or agree about. Say ‘yes’ and hopefully they will do the same. Establish a relationship so we are no longer on the other side of a door, or wall.

 

When disinformation is mistaken for truth, and truth becomes indistinguishable from belief, anyone who doesn’t reside on our side of the border on an issue is perceived as an enemy. And one of the main components of that wall is racism. So maybe the best thing to expect from ourselves is speaking to that reality as clearly as we can.

 

George Lakoff, in his books The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant, Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, and Your Brain’s Politics: How the Science of Mind Explains the Political Divide, provides clear, explicit methods for doing this. First, listen for the person’s values and speak to them. Don’t just negate or argue with the other person’s claims. Then, re-phrase or reframe the issue. And once that reframe is accepted in the conversation, our point of view can follow naturally from it, as common sense. Don’t be a patsy to their way of framing or misrepresenting the world. Use frames we really think are true based on values we hold. And recognize who might be more inclined to listen to us….

 

**To read the whole post, go to the Ask An Ally column of the Good Men Project.

Countering the GOP Strategy of Trying to Destroy People’s Faith in Democracy: Instead of Losing Faith, Gain Strength by Staying Engaged

Dan Rather said on 9/10: “It’s almost as if some politicians have decided it’s in their political self-interest for the pandemic to continue to rage.” Almost?

 

On 9/9, Greg Sargent wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled: “How the GOP will exploit Covid to win power and what Democrats can do about it.” I was going to write an article such as this but Sargent saved me the trouble. If you can, please read it. He went on to say, “Here’s a midterm message for you: Judging by the GOP’s continuing slide into extremist and destructive behavior in the face of a surging covid-19, electing more Republicans to positions of responsibility right now would likely mean more economic malaise, sickness, misery and death.” And Democrats are possibly, finally ready to call the GOP strategy what it is.

 

The GOP strategy for “winning” the next election must have become clear to many of us months ago. Going back about 18 months, to shortly after we realized the seriousness of COVID-19 and the nation had shut down, it became clear that DT and the GOP were more invested in saving their political power than saving our lives. They  downplayed or outright lied about the virus, lied about cures, sacrificed workers, children, seniors and people of color to get them back to work and back to schools even when the conditions were unsafe.

 

DT’s main strategy while he was unfortunately in office was shock doctrine material⎼ create enough fear, confusion, and violence, make conditions so bad that people will accept what the wannabee dictator wants. The GOP traumatized the nation for their own political purposes.

 

And now, they are adapting the same strategy. GOP governors, like Ron DeSantis in Florida, are still lying about masks, trying to outlaw mask mandates in schools and cities in their state. He has pushed false cures and undermined the national effort to get people vaccinated, despite being vaccinated himself, by understating the reality of COVID cases in Florida.

 

For most of the summer, Florida led the nation in COVID cases, especially in children. In fact, during that time Florida had one fifth of all the COVID cases in the U. S. Basically, it seems DeSantis has been creating obstacles to healthy practices. As Dan Rather asked, is he doing this so people get sick? Seems so to me.  And then he attacks President Biden for not living up to his promise to put an end to the ravages of the pandemic.

 

In fact, the GOP fight against almost any attempts by Democrats to make the situation in this country better, including fighting COVID relief, or legislation most Americans want and that all would benefit from ⎼ or especially when those measures are most popular.

 

Their actions are de-stabilizing the nation and creating chaos and fear. If we hadn’t already gone through four years of DT, no one would believe, I wouldn’t have believed, they were doing this to get people to think that not only Democrats can’t help them, but democracy itself can’t work.

 

And since the January 6th attack on our nation and the lies about it, and years of them doing more to take away voting rights than facilitate voting, to undermine the voice of the people instead of promoting it, to not just suppress the vote but control how the vote is counted (or if), ending democracy seems exactly what the GOP are invested in.

 

So, I recommend we all take care of ourselves, yet also read Greg Sargent’s opinion piece, stay engaged, directly name the GOP strategy for what it is, and do whatever we can, no matter how little, to counter the disinformation and attempts to destroy what’s left of democracy in this nation — and get people fired up to vote when the midterm elections come around.

 

There are many historical periods and events that we should never forget. DT’s ineptitude and the way he and his GOP enablers malignantly sacrificed millions to the coronavirus and threatened the very existence of a democratic government, all in a desperate attempt to seize absolute power, is surely right up there on that list.

 

**The Good Men Project syndicated this blog.

 

How Does the Wind Move Us?

The wind can storm, tornado, hurricane as well as breeze. It can frighten or comfort depending on what shape it takes, or we take in our response. It can also play tricks on our hearing.

 

I was walking up a portion of our rural road that is forested on both sides, and suddenly I heard and felt a roar of sound, like thunder, or like a massive truck was headed in my direction. I looked around and there was neither a truck nor a storm. All there was to see were the trees, some bending, moving in their own way, and the sky, a clouded blue. But what a sky it was. And those trees, so stiff and yet firmly rooted. And my attention now so awakened by their thunder.

 

A road can become a funnel for sound. When I served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone,I lived in the bush off the unpaved main road. Between villages, huge trees covered the road on both sides. I could hear a truck coming from many miles away. Flagging down a lorry was the only way for anyone in the village to get a ride anywhere. So, if I was intent on going somewhere, I could go into my house, finish packing a bag, and walk leisurely out to the road in time to flag down the lorry for a ride.

 

Hearing, like smell, is a sense that spreads out on all sides. We can home in on a sound by moving our head. But unlike sight, which is mostly aimed directly in front of us, or touch and taste, hearing sweeps our entire 360-degree sensory environment.

 

Each part of the day has its own music. We hear the morning, for example, not just see it. In the spring and summer, birds, and in warm weather, cicadas welcome the rising sun. When I lived in Sierra Leone, as sunrise approached, the jungle awoke with an increasing volume and variety of sounds, culminating in a concert of insects, birds, possibly monkeys and other creatures. It felt like the earth itself was waking up, a mouth opening to speak. The dusk is another time the world clearly speaks to us. What does an eye or an ear opening and closing sound like? Is one sense a chorus for another or do different qualities of light have a specific sound component?

 

For some of us, yes. Synesthetes, for example, can see or feel sounds. A strong wind might be perceived as a specific color.  The word ‘synesthesia’ derives from the Greek meaning “to perceive together.” People who have the condition unite or switch sense modalities, hear color, or taste sound. The condition is rare, about one in 2,000 people share it. It is a biological condition, not a hallucination; it runs in families, and is more prevalent in women.

 

What is the weight of thunder? The shadow of a car horn? The taste of the words we speak?…

 

 

*To read the whole article, go to The Good Men Project.

 

Finding Comfort Within: Flying Like A Bird or Setting Like the Sun

What brings you comfort?

 

It’s a wonderful sunny day. Despite the cold temperature, I open a bedroom window and take a breath. The air feels remarkable, clean and tasty. It’s been weeks since we’ve had a day like this.

 

Close your eyes partly or fully, or as much as you feel comfortable doing, take a nice breath in, and out, and taste the air. Just enjoy being nowhere but here for a moment. Then let come to mind a time you felt a deep sense of comfort. What was the situation? Where were you? Were you by yourself or with others? What were you doing? Notice what comfort means to you.

 

When I think about this question, I realize the answer has changed throughout my life. As a child, I remember walking my dog in the wooded area in our neighborhood. Sometimes, we’d take off on a run and all else would be forgotten. All that existed was us, running, together.

 

When I returned home during my college years, to visit my parents in New York City, I remember late nights, after everyone else was asleep and the city had quieted, my mother and I would sit and talk, openly, like at no other time.

 

When I first moved to Ithaca, my future wife and I lived with a group of people near a gorge and waterfall. When I’d go out and stare into that waterfall, I’d see first the flow of water. Then my perspective would shift to focus on one drop, one amongst the multitude, racing down, crashing, disappearing into the current of the creek. Any tension I had previously felt, any thoughts, would be washed away. I’d be left emotionally calm and mentally clear.

 

Now, after getting up and doing basic exercises and stretching, I love to sit with a book that inspires or challenges me. It is a grave mistake to think of reading as an automatic or passive activity that involves simply repeating in your mind someone else’s words. When you give reading your full attention you get to see the world with someone else’s eyes. And this new perspective illuminates depths missed in yourself.  Without a quality reading, the quality of the writing is never perceived. This is why holding a book can feel like holding a mystery or a treasure chest. Reading online or with a kindle doesn’t do that for me no matter the content. In fact, it turns me off.

 

Or writing⎼ I love to write stories, blogs, poems, etc. in the morning, when my mind is fresh. The words enable me to transform into other people, or to fly like a bird, to rain and snow and set like the sun or cuddle with a cat. Creativity can be so satisfying….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Recovering from the Trauma of DT and Creating A More Democratic Nation

When I listen to the news, I still find myself ready to cringe. We’ve grown used to one attack, one shock after another, continuing assaults on our lives or humanity. It’s been such a relief since President Biden was inaugurated. But the trauma of 4 years of DT, culminating with the domestic terrorist attack on January 6th and his escape from being prosecuted in the Senate for his role in inciting that attack will not go away easily.

 

This is partly because the threat is still here. The politics of hate is all still here. We face a domestic terrorist movement built on hate, lies and a grievance mentality that have walled off about one third or more of this nation from the truth. As Bill Moyers put it, “a democracy can die of too many lies.”

 

And we have a mutating virus that has killed over half a million people. Ken Burns said that we face three viruses: COVID-19, white supremacy, and misinformation.

 

An article by Jeremy Adam Smith from the Greater Good Science Center talks about how to recover from the trauma of the Trump years and the pandemic. These last four plus years have been extremely traumatic, especially 2020. What we face now is grief. We grieve not only the lives lost due to the virus and DT’s malignant mismanagement of it, but the loss of hope, sense of security, and the activities and contacts that sustained us. Many of us have lost our livelihood and home.

 

And we can’t simply let go of grief. Smith quotes psychologist Frederick Luskin, who said, “When we lose something, human beings have a natural reintegration process, which we call ‘grief.” We must integrate it, feel it, suffer it, and understand both the fact of the loss and how we feel about it.

 

We can ignore it for only a short time. We have gone through hell. “January 6 happened, and it can never unhappen. COVID-19 happened. At this writing, 466,000 Americans are dead, and they will never come back.“ “The research says that people who go through horrible experiences but keep it to themselves suffer more, not less.” Sharing the load with others can help lighten the load. Caring, compassion for ourselves and others will lighten the load.  Recognizing how the trauma has affected us can change so much for us all. But even more is needed, more ways of speaking.

 

The DT and GOP attack on our rights and freedom has been building since Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem.  Government is the problem.” Fareed Zakaria, in his book Ten Lessons for A Post-Pandemic World says anti-Federal feeling and distrust in centralized government is in the DNA of this nation and Reagan re-invigorated that sentiment. After all, the American Revolution was a revolt against a King.

 

But Reagan also re-invigorated a concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands. So his assault on government actually was a masked assault on democracy. It was an assault on the power of the people in favor of the power of the few, the rich. It was in favor of people who want to be kings⎼ or dictators. Or who want a dictator to rule.

 

This anti-federal feeling also led many people to not participate in government. In 2020, we had the highest rate of citizen participation in recent history, 66.7% of eligible voters voted in the presidential election. This was the best turnout since the early 1960s. That means that even in this most meaningful and contentious election, about one-third of adult Americans didn’t (or weren’t allowed to) vote⎼ or speak. According to the Pew Research Center, the U. S. is 30th out of 35 developed democratic nations in terms of the percentage of people who voted in recent years. Since voting is the primary voice of the people, we were censored by ourselves or our government.

 

Our representatives are supposed to represent the interests of all citizens, but they don’t always do that and we’re in trouble if we think of democracy as letting our representatives do all the governing for us. Nor can we allow the GOP to win by preventing us from voting. For example, the lawyers for the Arizona GOP in a Supreme Court case admitted recently that without suppressing the vote, they lose.

 

Many of us hope and/or expect President Biden will get pandemic relief passed, protect voting rights, re-build infrastructure, re-structure health care, free young (and older) people from overwhelming debt from schooling, end Global Warming⎼ and end the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, end the concentration of privilege and power in the white, rich and male (that has existed ever since, or before, our nation’s founding). Do we intend to hold him responsible if it all doesn’t happen, and quickly? Or hold democracy itself responsible? The GOP would love that.

 

On FB recently there was a meme saying, basically, “Why did we elect Biden if he can’t even get us a guaranteed minimum wage of $15 an hour?”  Why? We know why. Four years of DT is why. Just look at how Biden is managing the pandemic. Despite all the challenges, he is assuming responsibility, one thing DT never did, and doing it with compassion and competence, while recognizing the need to fight inequities in our health care system and government.

 

Biden is a president, not a dictator or wannabee dictator. To pass the New Deal, F. D. R. needed not only Congressional action but the support of the people. And in February the research firm SurverMonkey reported 72% of Americans supported not only pandemic relief but most of Biden’s recovery plan.

 

But as Fareed Zakaria pointed out, our legislative system only works when there’s a willingness amongst our representatives to work cooperatively and to compromise. This isn’t the situation today. The GOP have made cooperation almost impossible. 147 of the GOP in Congress voted to overturn the 2020 election and a few still refuse to recognize that Biden won. Some even assisted in or supported the 1/6/21 assault on our nation, assisted in an attempt at a coup. They are a coup itching to happen.

 

We are still recovering from DT and we need a break. But the forces lined against Biden are powerful and desperate. So, let’s support his efforts while pressuring him to foster policies that sincerely meet our needs. We have a new administration that is more inclined to listen to us and do what serves us, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity. Led by Black Lives Matter protests against the murder of George Floyd, racist policing, and the policies of DT, Americans created the biggest sustained protest movement in modern American history. Millions of voices together can help turn this system around.

 

As we take responsible action to change the state of the nation, to make calls to Congress and find other ways to speak, we consequently act to overcome the trauma of DT and change the state of our hearts and minds.

 

**This post was syndicated by the Good Men Project.

 

 

 

Amidst the Rubble, Flowers Grow

When we’re quarantined with one person, together day in and day out, what happens or can happen between us?

 

The pandemic, magnified by the negligence and mismanagement by the DT administration, has led to isolation and anxiety; it has cost almost one-half a million American lives and over 10 million jobs. It has upset the entire way millions of people live. And losing jobs, losing homes, losing in-person in-school instruction, for example, is not just an inconvenience. It is an unquestioned loss, of stability, of hope, and of income.

 

But can we, at least with our loved ones, re-imagine our time together? Many of us have already begun to do so. Our lives have been simplified. I’m retired and live with just my wife and pets and this is clearly true for me. Are we “stuck” together while quarantined from others? Or are we privileged? If we have less to do and fewer distractions, maybe we can get closer to those we live with instead of taking our fear out on each other. Frightening as it has often been, maybe we can learn to see ourselves and each other more directly and kindly.

 

D. E. Harding, in his book, On Having No Head: Zen and the Re-Discovery of the Obvious, proposes ways to directly encounter our true self. Many of us imagine we are our memories, habits, a self with a head and body standing at a distance and separate from what we see. But one day Harding saw himself differently. He was actually walking in the Himalayas, the sky and air absolutely clear, and suddenly “all mental chatter died down.” Just looking around was completely absorbing. He forgot who he was. Past and future disappeared.

 

And when he looked internally, where he thought his head should be, he instead saw the clear blue sky, the outward scene where his eyes were pointed. He realized he “had lost a head and gained a world.” Or where a head should be situated, he carried the mountains and sky.

 

Imagine looking through a tube, one eye on one end, and our spouse, best friend, lover looking in the other. Eye to eye. This is a startling way to lose a head and gain an intimacy. (The exercise was inspired by Harding but created by Richard Lang, who led workshops worldwide on Harding’s teachings. See the article in the Spring 2021 Tricycle Magazine by Michael Haederle.)

 

There are similar meditation exercises. In sitting position, face another person, eyes to eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Together.

 

What do we see when we look in the tube or we face another person directly?

 

Every morning when I get up, after I put on my pants, I go downstairs to look for my wife. 90% of the time she is up before me. I find her in the kitchen or den. And I greet her cheerfully. It’s a promise I make to myself. No matter how well or poorly I sleep I am happy to see her. “Good morning. How are you? How did you sleep? What a day this is!” Being happy with her, I am happy with myself.

 

It’s almost a ritual, or a song we sing to make our house a home. No matter who any of us live with ⎼ children, parents, friends ⎼ or we’re alone, we can adapt the lyrics to fit the situation. But as best we can, make the tune loving, so we wake up to what’s most important ⎼ the nourishment love and kindness give us…..

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Cold of Winter, the Heat of Summer, and our Neighbors are not Abstractions

It’s snowing again. It has snowed heavily for a day or two, lightly for over a week. More snow. More cold.

 

Yet, it’s beautiful. White flakes fill the sky. When the wind speaks, the flakes whip around, the air itself excited.

 

How can we look at the snow and simply enjoy it, see only the white flakes, and see no other time but this? Back in November, the first snowfall was exciting. I couldn’t help but let my eyes delight in it. But now?

 

The snow and cold is what we mean by winter. Winter is not just a date on a calendar and time not just an abstraction. Dogen Zenji, a 13th century Japanese Zen teacher said, in reference to spring, “The time we call spring blossoms directly as an existence called flowers.” The time we call winter falls directly as an existence called snow. If we don’t like the cold, we can’t suddenly decide to love it, but we can love the fact that we can feel. Then, although we won’t suddenly warm up, rip off our winter clothes and run naked in the snow, we can be naked in our response and dress accordingly.

 

When we feel something we don’t like or that threatens us or is hurtful, we turn away. This is crucial to our survival. And when the threat is ongoing, we might want to turn away from anything or everything that reminds us of the danger. This can give us needed relief whether we’re facing immediate danger, trauma, or a malignant political administration.

 

But also crucial is noticing⎼ are we protecting ourselves from the threat, or from feeling the threat? Or from both? It’s awful to fear our fear so much we can’t see clearly what frightens us. We then don’t take needed action. As much as we are able in each moment, we need to see clearly enough to act.

 

Even though it was cold and snowing, I shoveled the path from my house and then took a walk up our hill. It was tough going. My wife and I live on a fairly steep rural road. A neighbor, who I had gotten to know slightly since I started taking daily walks during the pandemic, was out shoveling. After greeting him, he said to me, “Where is global warming now?” I thought, at first, he said it as a joke, but then realized it was a barb. We had had discussions about the climate before.

 

He said natural events, like volcanic eruptions, magma and the clouds they cause are warming the earth, not humans. I replied that global warming did not mean there would no longer be snow or cold. It meant there has been a raise in average temperature all over the world and an increase in destructive weather events, all happening too fast for it to be explained by volcanoes or other non-human processes.

 

I realized he wasn’t really listening to me and, distressingly, I didn’t have all the facts at hand. So I tried what I thought was common sense. “Isn’t it logical that all the air pollution caused by human manufacturing, fossil fuel energy, etc. would cause problems? That the released gases like carbon dioxide would create a sort of hothouse effect over the earth? And that we bear most of the responsibility for this increase in global temperature?”

 

He didn’t seem to know or want to know anything about carbon dioxide. So we switched gears. I wished him a good day and continued on my walk, resolved to go online when I got home to update my knowledge of global warming….

 

To read the whole piece, go to The Good Men Project.

Stories of Crows and People

If We Knew How We Dug Holes in the World, Maybe We Wouldn’t Fall in So Often.

 

 

Two crows come to feed in the yard where my wife scatters food. They sometimes seem to be living metaphors or myths, so black, as they sit on a limb, they’re a hole in the canvas of the sky.

 

Instead of getting domesticated and rushing to the area when she feeds them, the crows come to the yard at unpredictable times, remain independent and constantly alert to us, not quite trusting. Even from inside the house, taking a photo of them is impossible. They know where we are. They are too smart to drop their guard for a payoff of a few seeds.

 

Maybe they don’t want us to observe them too closely, or they refuse to be captured even in a photographic image. Maybe they are just shy. Or maybe they know exactly the dual nature of human beings, how compassionate and yet dangerous we can be.

 

When they spot us inside the house with a camera, they quickly fly off, a mocking tone in their voice, “Not this time.”

 

These crows reflect back to us different shapes of ourselves, show us who is doing the watching as well as what is being observed. Anything can do this service for us, be a crow in this regard. The rain, the wind, thoughts and memories⎼ all crows and mirrors. Maybe we are the black hole. And if we recognize this, we can more easily step through the mirror, Alice Through the Looking Glass, not into Wonderland, but into what’s real in our perceptions. If we know how we dig holes in the world, maybe we won’t fall in so often.

 

In 1970 I was living in New York City. But despite having, at times, three jobs, I had no idea how to make a living. Every job threatened to demolish whatever understanding I had of myself.

 

One day, I was standing towards the front of the old Eighth Street Bookstore in the Village, in the psychology section. In the back were two older people, a man and a woman, dressed in clothes elegantly dark with age and possibly homelessness. The woman seemed almost regal, certainly dignified, the man more like a retired professor, his clothes not as rich and old as hers but equally distinctive. They were holding books in their hands while talking spiritedly. I moved closer, wanting to hear what they were saying. They were in the philosophy section discussing the French existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre. Their accents were Germanic.

 

Over the next few months, I ran into one or both members of this friendship at least three times. I don’t know if I should use the word ‘couple.’ One day, on 7th Avenue, she was alone, with a bowl in her hand, asking people for money. I was surprised to see her. If anyone tried to pretend she wasn’t there, or anyone obviously rich, she’d follow and berate them about how capitalism turns people blind. The third time I saw one or both of them was uptown at a lecture on Thoreau….

 

To read the whole post, please click on this link to The Good Men Project, where it was first published.

Mindfully Healing from Hurt and Feelings of Revenge

Teachers know just how traumatized both adults and children have felt this past year, with all of the political tension and ongoing COVID crisis. As we hope for a more positive year ahead, mindfulness can be the first step in letting go of pain, but it has to be used in a trusting space, with awareness of what we as teachers and our students might be facing.

 

A trauma is an incapacitating form of stress. Stress by itself can be helpful or harmful. But when it is deep and we can’t integrate or face it, it can become traumatic. The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a traumatic event as exposure to “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”

 

In his book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, David Treleaven makes clear that this exposure can come in many ways, from directly experiencing or witnessing a trauma or from learning about what happened to a relative, loved one or close friend. Children are especially vulnerable. One in four children in the U. S. have experienced physical abuse, one in five sexual. Then we add a pandemic, political instability, and oppression, whether it be sexism or violence directed at one’s gender identity, race or religion, etc. and we have a huge number of people who have suffered from trauma. We have not just a coronavirus pandemic but a pandemic of extreme emotions like hate and a craving for revenge.

 

Teach Compassion and Turn the Classroom into A Compassionate Learning Community:

 

Compassion can include but is more than empathy. It is close to kindness, with the added commitment to taking action to relieve the suffering of others as well as ourselves. It is one of humanity’s greatest strengths. And when it lives in us, the hurt lessens or disappears.  In fact, practicing compassion is a way to skillfully let go of any hurt. By acting with compassion, we walk a bigger road and rediscover our strength.

 

Having students research compassion can be a way for them to teach themselves the benefits. A wonderful resource is the Greater Good Science Center

 

Explore what emotion is and specifically what revenge is.

 

How do we as teachers explore negative or hostile feelings if they arise in class, either online or with in-person instruction, considering the time restraints, stress, degree of trauma, and unique circumstances we face today? [https://www.badassteacher.org/bats-blog/for-blended-teaching-its-not-just-the-covid-its-the-stress-by-dr-michael-flanagan]

 

A useful guideline especially on-line is be short and simple, with processing afterwards and weaving the practice into the subject matter of the day. Before introducing any type of meditation or visualization to our students, we must first practice several times by ourselves and then imagine how specific students would feel doing this type of practice. Provide choices in all aspects of practice, including postures, whether we keep our eyes open or closed, etc.

 

Start with asking questions to stimulate engagement and intellectual curiosity. What is emotion? Feeling? How do you know what you feel? Why have emotions? Work on increasing self-understanding and our ability to calm mind and body and focus through mindfulness. We strengthen ourselves and our students with visualizations, compassion, and other exercises, then apply those practices to better understand the person and situation that hurt us, and how to respond in the most healing fashion.

 

A student once asked me what to do about his “feeling” he needed to take revenge on a classmate. He obsessed over it. Young people can be especially vulnerable to this emotion, as they are so aware and sensitive to how others treat them

 

I told him that it was a difficult question, but like any emotion, the inner push or craving for revenge can seem like it is one humongous stone in our gut that we can’t handle. But it is not one thing and not just a feeling. It is composed of many components that can be broken down so we can handle them.

 

What is emotion? Daniel Siegel makes clear emotion is not just feeling. One purpose of emotion is to tag stimuli with value so we know how to think and act. There are phases in the process of constructing emotion. The first phase is jolting the system to pay attention, what he calls the “initial orienting response.” The second is “elaborative appraisal,” which includes labeling stimuli as good or bad, dangerous or pleasing. We begin to construct meaning and then prepare for action, to either approach or avoid something. This sets up the third step, when our experience differentiates further into categorical emotions like sadness, happiness, or fear. Memory and thoughts are added to feeling and sensation. Teaching about emotion, its uses and how it’s constructed is one of the most important subjects we could teach our students. In fact, it takes up most of my book on teaching compassionate critical thinking.

 

Revenge is a complex of emotions, like anger, hate, humiliation, fear and a sense of being threatened. According to Janne van Doorm, hate, anger, and desire for revenge are similar but have a different focus: “anger focuses on changing/restoring the unjust situation caused by another person, feelings of revenge focus on restoring the self, and hatred focuses on eliminating the hated person/group.” …

 

To read the whole article, please go to MindfulTeachers.Org.