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Tag: healing

The Past Gives Me Hope for the Future

When people ask who inspires me, I often say that my main inspirations are the animals — who can show grace and forgiveness after enduring trauma and abuse. And that’s true. Or I say that my inspiration is you — and everyone else who comes to my work with an open mind and heart. And that’s true, too. But I think people who ask are looking for something more specific. So, I’ll tell you.

The past. Nothing gives me more hope for the future than the past.

When facing the darkest times individually or collectively, one thing we can be certain of is that we’ve been here before and we’ve been through worse. In our collective consciousness or in our individual experience (or both), we’ve been through sadness, disappointment, war, upheaval, conflict, fear, grief, loss, uncertainty, dictatorship, bigotry, and divisiveness.

[Tweet “When facing dark times, we can be certain we’ve been here before and we’ve been through worse.”]

With each age that passes, we gain both wisdom and amnesia. We seem to learn a little and make some progress until myopia prevails, and then we forget that we’ve been here before. But just a glance at the past reveals the human condition in all its radiant splendor and darkest malevolence.

The resilience we possess to endure, weather, and learn from adversity is incredible (and it’s not unique to humans); it’s also something we can experience vicariously. Just knowing someone else has faced the same challenges, the same odds, the same mistakes can give us comfort. “You are not alone” can be the most healing words.

We are not alone. The ghosts of the past — yours, mine, theirs, recent, immediate, ancient — dwell among us and have wisdom to impart. So, yes, strangely, I embrace the fact that avaricious, megalomaniacal, narcissistic people have come before us, because if we disavow who we’ve been, we forget who we are. We. Humans.

[Tweet “If we disavow who we’ve been, we forget who we are.”]

Historians certainly give us the gift of hindsight; sages give us the gift of insight; together they work in harmony. Everyone needs a sage, and for several years now, mine has been Lao Tzu via his ancient text, the Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial Classics), written around 2,400 years ago. Thousands of years later, his book demonstrates, and our human experience is the same. Our needs, fears, flaws, and foibles remain the same. That doesn’t make me despair; it gives me comfort, it makes me humble (and it also makes me laugh).

For me, no other text or philosophy of living resonates more than the Tao Te Ching, summarized perfectly by poet Stephen Mitchell, the interpreter of my favorite translation:

“A classic manual on the art of living, written in a style of gemlike lucidity, radiant with humor and grace and large-heartedness and deep wisdom: one of the wonders of the world.”

[Tweet “Historians give us the gift of hindsight; sages give us the gift of insight.”]

May you find your sage, engage with the past, absorb, learn, and repeat. It’s true, as poet and philosopher George Santayana observed, that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but the first part of that maxim is equally true and rarely quoted: “Progress…depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, infancy is perpetual.” 

Here’s to adulthood.


Keeping Perspective in Difficult Times

As I contemplate the possibilities for the future of our country, I vacillate between fear and hope, despondency and motivation, uncertainty and faith. And what keeps coming up for me is perspective. Everything changes depending on the angle from which or the lens through which I see the world. And though fear, despondency, and uncertainty come faster to my mind (especially when I consume any news at all), it is not long before hope, motivation, and faith prevail.

Because I choose them.

Each day as the reality of the election sinks in, I see clearly what I must do and not do in order to be the most effective and the most compassionate citizen I can be (while also being happy). It’s not very different than how I normally function, but the last few days have given me clarity. 

[Tweet “We are small in the universe but large to one another. For that, may we show humility & magnanimity.”]

*Deactivating the push notifications on my phone from news outlets has lessened the anxiety I’ve (we’ve all) been experiencing these last few months. 

*Focusing completely without distraction on my current writing projects has been incredibly healing. Of course, I feel the need is more urgent than ever to speak on behalf of the animals, and I think that urgency (and lack of distraction) is allowing the thoughts and words to come more easily. 

*Dipping my toe into news in order to stay informed but filling up the space instead with the things that feed me, such as poetry, literature, music, podcasts, TED talks. Instead of turning on the radio when I make lunch in the kitchen, I put on a podcast instead or music. 

*Returning to morning meditation. Mindfulness has always played a role in my life, but admittedly, I’ve gotten out of my morning habit (opting to run early instead), but it’s back. And it feels really good. 

*Creating a action plan. We’ve got a lot of work ahead to make sure the vulnerable and disenfranchised are not left out, to make sure the irreversible isn’t inevitable. But then again, we’ve always had this work ahead of us. I’m ready.

*Keeping it all in perspective. That’s part of the mindfulness, I suppose, but when I think of how small we are in the scope of the universe but how large we are to one another, I feel humility and and overwhelming sense of magnanimity.

Perspective and connection. They’re feeding me right now, and it’s working. 

“We’re small in the scope of the entire universe but large to one another in our human experience. May we act with humility because of the first and magnanimity and compassion because of the second.”