Day Nine of Forty

It’s Day Nine of Forty Days, Forty Nights, and I realize I was a too impulsive to think I could commit to writing something every day, 40 days straight, for this blog. So, I’m going to taper off. I’ll still be posting toward writing through the divide. I have a lot to say, but work-work, health-related work and spiritual-related work all compete for my time and energy.

We live in tough times, and whatever we need to do to minimize our stress, we should do. Stress kills. This has been proven time and again in research. Stress shows up as inflammation in the body, seen on various test metrics, such as cholesterol, which indicates not necessarily the need for a drug, but to focus our attention on where we need to work (i.e., minimizing stress, eating right, integrating movement into our daily lives). Diabetes, cancer, autoimmune illnesses, digestive conditions like Crohn’s all have stress and its mismanagement in common. And yet, we often seem wired to crave stress, even if that results in negative moods, actions and outcomes.

Were anyone asking, I’d share what I do in my own life, not as frequently as I’d like, but I do try: Get silent, even if just for five or 10 minutes, follow the breath, see the thoughts arise and watch them go. Pray— a lot. Do things that bring joy.

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Nonviolent Communication pioneer Marshall Rosenberg, pictured here with his jackal and giraffe puppets, in Israel in 1990. Photo by Etan J. Tal.

I also keep envisioning the world I’d like to live in—one where all people have what they need to reach their full potential. A world steeped in peace and in people who are integrated with the land-, water and airscapes in, on and near which they live (not atop these places). Where more people have the ability and thought processes that allow them to step back and see what glorious times we live in—at the juncture between what we want and what we don’t want and to be able to push more and more toward the former as well as from the former, that is, to learn increasingly through the positive, not the negative, which our ancient biology dictates.

For every person, I desire peace, inner and outer. I imagine there are many people who might judge me for living in some kind of “fantasy land.” To which, I’d reply: Oh, yeah? You like the world you’re living in—how’s that working out for you? And your family? And your friends, neighbors and coworkers?

We have got to get this right. Even though I believe we live in a benevolent—and very patient—universe, why not act now in the interests of what we desire?

I admit that I don’t “get” apocalyptic visions or thinking. They lead to no place good and, to me, they feel false. Manipulative. Dishonest. And distracting. I have travelled that path in this lifetime, and it led me into some bad situations. That kind of thinking, most likely, is evidence of some unmet need.

Speaking of needs, in the months ahead, I’ll refocus on Nonviolent Communication, a method pioneered by the late Marshall Rosenberg, who had a way of pinpointing feelings and getting to the underlying needs that gave rise to those feelings. (I really, truly wish every politician, and every member of a corporation or nonprofit could take NVC training; it would make a cosmos of difference on this planet.) If you watch, listen to or read about Rosenberg’s techniques, what becomes quickly clear is the man was filled with compassion, even when he himself felt vulnerable, and was able to listen and really hear what people were saying.

So, in that vein, I’d add another aspect to the world I want to live in: It’s one in which every person is heard, in which we listen and try to understand one another. I don’t like to stop at “try,” but because each person is unique, I know I’m not likely to be able to walk a million miles in another’s shoes in exactly the way that person would. But I will try.

We live in a post-“Second Coming” era and would do well to recognize both the reverberations that have come from the disintegration of the family unit, limited thinking and ideologies that all too easily crust over and become dogma, the totalizing effects much of our 20th Century technologies have had on us (e.g., inescapable nuclear radiation) as well as our own place in what’s really a spiral, not a linear, history. We need to do this, if we are to step into full responsibility for ourselves—responsibility for our thoughts and our need to shift those thoughts when they are unproductive or harmful. This process must thoroughly infused with compassion, for ourselves, first and foremost, and others, and rather than slouching, we need to be deliberate in our actions, mindful in our words and deeds.

Please stick with me as I post some interviews in the days and weeks ahead, from people who are trying to bridge the gaps we see all around us.

Day Two of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Accelerated Medicine for an Accelerated Year

Our negative emotions are not meant to be maligned, but rather to push us toward how we’d like to spend more of our time feeling—joyful, peaceful, calm or elated, with a sense that all is as it should be. But when sadness, anger that morphs into simmering frustration, or depression come on, they can feel hard to dislodge.

The best antidote is free: To shift back into feeling well, express gratitude—quite literally, in your head, aloud or on paper, state those things and people for which or for whom you feel grateful. This can be small or grand—from gratitude for the mother who gave birth to you to, or, if you are adopted, the one who raised you…or, if you have a troubled relationship with your mother, other women who’ve helped support you along the way; for the father who’s been there for you when times have been tough—or, if you don’t know your father or don’t have a good relationship with him, other men in your life who have been there for you; for your overall well being; for having a roof over your head, food to eat and clothing; maybe you feel grateful for a skill you’ve developed over many years—or for a talent you came in with and have continued to nurture. Or maybe, it’s just the sun itself, knowing that it’s there, even behind those clouds.

If this feels hard, the truth is it can be. Sometimes—this is true for me—some prep is needed before turning on the gratitude. For me, the preparation is sometimes singing and dancing to a favorite song, taking a shower, or going for a walk and admiring the trees and laughing at the squirrels. Just something to dislodge doomist thoughts that too often seem to be on a continuous loop.

Once you get the gratitude going, it may be necessary to stay off social media and avoid the news—not altogether, but long enough for you to truly feel appreciation, so that you might, unlike Hansel and Gretel, lay smooth, bright stones along your path so that you find your way back easily.

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Keeping a gratitude jar is a simple way to cue up appreciation. (Photo by Leigh Glenn.)