Dear Soul –
It’s been a heavy and overwhelming week in the world. There’s so much anger, sorrow, and fear coming up around the horrific Parkland High School shooting. The same sentiments apply here in Canada, around the court ruling in the tragic Colten Boushie murder case.
All this in the midst of a year globally so full of friction, unrest, and seismic shifts. Even though some of these shifts are good and necessary, they can still be very challenging.
It’s enough to take you down for the count.
Or make you feel like you want to take somebody else down for the count.
A lot of folks will say the answer is to stop watching/reading/listening to the news. Even though I do recommend limiting your news intake to very consciously chosen times, I think it is so necessary to the health of our future to be global citizens and cultivate awareness and engagement in the world around us. So, putting our head in the sand is not a sustainable option.
So what do we do with the very natural sadness, rage, or hopelessness that can come up when tuning into what’s happening in the world?
I believe when we have a strong emotional reaction to something, it’s a potent call to make a shift. So, if you’re feeling really activated by an issue, you actually hold in your body an invaluable opportunity to turn this overwhelming pain into powerful loving action that is so needed right now in this aching world.
That action can be petitioning your political representatives. It can be initiating thoughtful bridge-building conversations with friends and family to launching a fundraising or educational initiative.
HOWEVER, in order to do be able to fully show up as a healing force as opposed to a wounding force in all of this, there is a very important step I implore you to take first.
Find a safe and constructive way to PROCESS the pain that is coming up for you. This is so pain doesn’t end up blinding, paralyzing, or closing you off in any way as you embark on your chosen path to help heal this SOCIETAL pain. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
So, here are some quick practices you could call on regularly to help you process pain in order to take action from a place of love, power, and connection…
WRITE IT OUT.
Pour out all the overwhelming feelings onto paper. No censoring. No trying to be diplomatic or to see the “gift” in things (that comes later). It’s just the raw unfiltered feelings. You can swear, blame, or express utter anguish. Write until you feel like you’ve gotten some of pain out of you and onto the page.
Then, with the energy and intent of letting go and creating space, rip up the paper (with great ferociousness OR with an energy of quiet surrender). This will be a cue to the body to start to relax its contracted state and open again.
BREATHE INTO IT.
Sit for 5 minutes and find where in your body the emotion you’re holding is most intense. I know this will feel a little counter-intuitive, but breathe right into that pain for a couple of minutes. Tune into the pain sensation…does it feel, for example, tight or heavy or frenetic or nauseating?
It might feel at first like you can’t handle all of the overwhelming discomfort of being in this sensation. Instead, try softening the shoulders and slowing down the breath as you breathe deeply into the core of that pain. Picturing space around the sensation can also help ease things if it feels too unbearable.
“When you face pain directly she will give you an ointment.” -Pema Chodron
After a couple of minutes, switch your focus to starting to let go of the pain with your out-breaths. Try softening with each exhale until you feel a little release…a little more space. Release the overwhelming emotions.
MOVE THROUGH IT.
Play a piece of music that amplifies the strong emotion that you’re carrying and let yourself move in this energy (whether your movements are frantic or overwhelming). Breathe fully into the feeling and let it all come up and move your body. Give in completely to the energy for a couple of minutes.
You can then switch to the intention of releasing the pain. Use big energetic motions to move the pain out of you, break out of the cage of it, or shake it off.
In my books, no emotion is “wrong”, what matters is what you do with it.
Creating just a little space each day to process these emotions will free you to take powerful loving action forward…for yourself and the world.
P.S. For tips on how to speak out about issues in the spirit of bridge-building, check out a past blog of mine…Righteous Indignation.
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