When I wrote two weeks ago, the outcome of the presidential election in the USA was still unknown. Today, though the the result is known, as I wrote then, the impact of it, and all the unknowns still before us, continue to reverberate. This week we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the USA. Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful in challenging times.
One of the things the result of this election has brought starkly into view is the number of people who feel deeply concerned. As Elizabeth Warren wrote, this “is not a liberal or conservative worry. It is not a Democratic or Republican worry. It is the deep worry that led even Americans with very deep reservations about Donald Trump’s temperament and fitness to vote for him anyway. … Exit polling on Tuesday found that 72 percent of voters believe that “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” 72 percent of ALL voters.” And the economy is just one of the areas where these concerns are apparent.
This week, in a powerful and for me deeply resonant piece he called Us and Them, Jonathan Fields said: “… at least now the depth and breadth of these world views has been revealed on a level that, until now, very few have wanted to see, acknowledge or engage with.
But in order to actually have that kind of conversation, we must both be willing, and have the capacity to be deeply present – first to ourselves, and then to others. And when we’re hurting, what’s most often true is we aren’t in a place to truly listen – we just want the other to change, so we don’t have to hurt. We’ve certainly seen plenty of that really understandable response in the last couple weeks. As counterintuitive (and sometimes infuriating) as it may seem, the first place for us to put our attention is on ourselves.
I SO know the need for, and the challenge of this! The day after the election, I wrote this on my Facebook page: “I am acutely (and very personally) aware this morning of the importance and need for the work [the principles and practices I live and teach that support us especially when we meet moments in life] … when it feels like all hell is breaking loose. …
So I pause … breathe … say “yes” to what is, “and …” go deep to where things are quieter … creating a safe container within which I acknowledge and honour my human responses – not making my feelings wrong, rushing or pushing myself to be more enlightened than I’m feeling in this moment, rather, witnessing and holding myself tenderly IN this space … and from that space of loving connection reminding myself of some things I know in my bones to be true – that I’m not alone, that the resources I’ve needed have always been there for me, and (as long as I’m alive) will, in each moment of need, continue to be …
The challenges we face aren’t ones that will be solved overnight. Again, I know this one very personally. My husband and I hold very different perspectives on many topics that are really important for each of us. There are times when either one of us is feeling stressed and ungrounded, that the rawness we feel can get in the way of deep listening. And particularly when we’re both feeling tender, instead of sitting together and considering the challenge before us, it’s easy to let it come between us.
As you can imagine, Life has been abundant in offering us opportunities to practice this recently. We’ve been called to tap deeply into our resources of courage and compassion. And just in case we might be getting tired of it all, and be tempted to give up, in the last couple weeks we’ve witnessed – both in our family and circle of close friends – sudden, unanticipated life threatening (and at times fatal) challenges. What this has done for me is really heightened the sense of the preciousness of life, and the incredible gift it is to be here … alive and able to do the work of becoming even more able to be and express our best and most creative selves.
So wherever you are – whether it’s officially Thanksgiving or not! – I invite you to consider the gift of life. I will always remember my Daddy’s response to the question “What’s it like to be 85?” Without skipping a beat, he smiled wryly and said “Better than the alternative!” Since we’re here, and in this moment experiencing the gift of being alive, what might it mean for you to follow Jonathan Fields’ invitation to talk with, and listen, see and validate both your own and others’ experience, human to human?