Never Give Up
Never give up, no matter what is going on,
Never give up. Develop the heart,
be compassionate. Not just to your friends,
but to everyone, be compassionate.
Work for peace in your heart
and in your world.
Work for peace and I say again
never give up, no matter what is happening,
no matter what is going on
around you. Never give up.
The Dalai Lama
Reeling from the outcome of this election, I've spiraled through a roller coaster of fury, fear and despair. I've wanted to escape from this unrecognizable dream that is America and put it all behind me. Yet despite all of the swirling emotions that have surfaced, the most prominent feeling has been surprisingly one of hope and I refuse to give that up. I need hope to sustain the belief that we are more than the ugliness of the shadow side of America. This has been a rude awakening for the majority of us who believe in equality and social justice. We can take this as an opportunity to mobilize and speak our truth or we can go back to sleep.
Through this process whether we donate our time or our money, it is imperative that we find tools to take care of ourselves, and then extend that support into the broader community. Taking the fuel of anger, fear and despair and channeling that into productive engagement requires a lot of energy. Keeping that energy clear, focused and productive, means finding ways to support ourselves from burning out, finding ways to regenerate and support the heart, rather than the righteousness of the mind.
For those of you who already practice mindfulness and meditation, it is a time to recommit and cherish creating space to turn within. As a regular meditator and yoga practitioner, this past year has been one of committing myself more fully and regularly to my personal practice. It is what has carried me through my nephew's sudden and tragic death a year ago and this vitriolic and hateful election cycle. If you are not engaged in a meditation practice at this time, I strongly encourage you to explore sitting in silence.
When I turn within and focus my breath on the internal rather than the external, I find a deep well of stillness and abundant energy that allows me to regroup, to fill the well with peace instead of disharmony. I drop into a zone of clarity and compassion and a silencing of the endless self chatter. I give myself however much time my day allows, which can mean anywhere from fifteen minutes, to an hour and a half. Since I've been waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 most mornings, its meant longer and more sustained times to plunge in.
My go to meditation right now is to follow the orbit of my breath. I sit comfortably, keeping my spine supported and begin from the perineum, which is located between the anus and genitals on men and for women it is just below the cervical opening in the vagina. On the inhalation I breathe up my spine to the crown, through the ajna center (third eye) and then exhale down the front of my body in through my naval center and back to the perineum, to begin it all over again. When thoughts move through I notice and release them, always coming back to the cycle of the breath.
The orbital breath is just one of many possibilities for sitting introspectively. Some folks find mantras helpful, such as chanting OM repeatedly, or another word or phrase that speaks to bringing you to focus. Watching the breath enter and exit the nostrils or staring at a lighted candle are simple methods to facilitate a meditative state. There is no one size fits all. Meditation can be as simple as you want it to be or more complex with the use of bandhas or energy locks and pranayama or breath work, following an extensive sequence in concentrated breathing.
When I'm particularly bothered and upset, I practice Tonglen, breathing in what's distressing and breathing out its opposite emotion. I find it a particularly powerful practice that brings me quickly into a more balanced state of being. Practicing Tonglen and the orbital breath meditation following Tuesday's election, provided tremendous support to my nervous system and peace of mind.
Meditation comes in many forms, so find what speaks to you in seeking inner guidance and peace. This is what will pull us through and energize the critical work that is ahead of us. Start with yourself to nourish your body, mind and spirit. Find some way to access the light that shines within the darkness, because it is in each of us. We just need to find ways to let go and tune in.