Meditation Is Great and All...But Meaningful Action Is Required for Meaningful Change May 31, 2022 14:46
If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, please click HERE for the audio link.
The news has been especially dismal lately. The war in Ukraine is still raging, as are the wild fires in New Mexico. Between the shortage of baby formula due to a recall and supply chain backlog, a hate-filled gunman who murdered ten people in a Buffalo, NY grocery store, and another gunman who murdered nineteen fourth graders and two teachers in a horrific school shooting in Uvalde, TX, it has been one hell of a week!
There's certainly plenty to be sad and angry about--and plenty of my friends are fired up and venting their frustrations on social media.
Some are sharing celebrity tweets and memes. Others are link-dumping news articles. A few, who proudly announce that they don't watch the news, prefer to post vague, judgey commentary about how awful the world is...and how much better off they are by not paying attention to it.
Don't get me wrong--taking in too much negative news stories--or watching the same distressing stories on repeat can be extremely dysregulating and unhealthy. It's too easy to slip into despair and hopelessness while marinating in bad news.
On the other hand, refusing to watch any credible news at all is willful ignorance, which is just as problematic. Ignoring significant world events won't make them go away, and it won't make anyone more spiritual or superior, either. Unfortunately, it can indicate righteous selfishness and privilege on parade.
There has to be a better way... for all of us!!
Last month, I wrote about the benefits of sitting with unpleasant emotions, and I still believe that this is a good first step. However, meditation alone isn't enough to solve big problems like war, systemic racism, poverty, and gun violence.
Big problems like these can be extremely overwhelming and daunting; they can give rise to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and apathy.
Big problems can't be solved quickly, either, and they can't be solved by a single person or even a single group of people. Often, they require time and the persistent, patient focus and effort of many. The good news is, we can all contribute to meaningful progress and positive change.
Small steps matter. Small gestures matter. Every thought and action has consequences and creates a ripple effect. Even small acts of compassion can have a significant impact on others. By doing what we can, when we can, wherever we are, we pave the way for meaningful progress.
For example, I have a friend in Minnesota who spent several hours the other day planting beautiful flowers in her garden. She spent her morning planting lilies, marigolds, and roses. She can't stop the destruction in Ukraine, or the wild fires in New Mexico, but she is tending to what she can, where she is. By doing so, she is fostering beauty and joy in her own back yard, and this doesn't just benefit her and her family; it uplifts her entire neighborhood.
One of the students I have been tutoring this semester volunteers regularly at a local food bank. He can't solve the supply chain backlog or prevent product recalls, but he can stock shelves with donated food and dedicate his time and effort to help local families put food on their tables.
My friend in Ohio can't solve systemic racism on her own, but she recently posted an honest acknowledgment of her own white privilege--how she has benefited from racism, is deeply ashamed of this, but now that she's aware of it, she is committed to using her privilege to bring about positive change in society. She posts book reviews and recommendations of books written by black authors and books that address the issue of racial injustice. She's educating herself and sharing what she's learning with others to foster awareness and promote progress.
I may not be able to solve the gun violence crisis in America--and won't be able to prevent the next horrific school shooting, but I did contact the senators in my state (Indiana) and communicated to them how important common sense gun laws, red flag laws, and stringent background checks are (along with banning assault rifles). After I sent the emails, I felt a little relief afterwards--I did SOMETHING. I didn't give up, and I didn't turn away. I'm also looking into supporting local advocacy groups such as Moms Demand Action.
Recently, I participated in an online Metta vigil led by Sharon Salzberg from the Insight Meditation Society.
She explained that hopelessness is extremely dangerous--and that practicing Metta is meaningful action and a powerful adventure in attention.
Over 900 participants joined her in this online practice. It was an excellent session, and a beautiful meditation.
(I've written about the practice of Metta recently. If you haven't already read or listened to the September blog article: Estrangement and the Power of Metta, it describes this practice in greater detail and includes a short practice as well.)
We don't have to don a superhero's cape to make a difference in this world. Start where you are, and do what you can with what you know. Acts of kindness and generosity don't have to be dramatic, remarkable, or far-reaching to have an impact.
The more we can be of help and be of service to others, the positive ripples of change will continue to expand and benefit more and more beings. Meaningful change begins with simple, heartfelt action as well as having the courage to face and be present with what is. After all, during these challenging times, we cannot afford to give up or to turn away.
Thanks for reading or listening this month. If you haven't visited the Middle Moon Malas online shop in a while, I have added several new designs to the website.
May you be happy; may you be healthy; may you be safe; may you live with ease.
(Photo credit: Ross Findon courtesy of Unsplash)
Resolve and Dissolve: Setting Intentions and Managing Changes in 2017 January 2, 2017 20:02
Yep--it's that time of year again. It's the start of a new year, which brings change, new beginnings, and the hope of a brighter future. The ball drops, fireworks bloom in the night sky, champagne, kisses--the works.
Most changes occur slowly, which is good. It makes them easier to process. However, managing change--even small ones--can seem daunting at first. I like setting intentions at the start of a new year. It's not unlike embarking on a mantra practice, or designing a mala. The following tips help me stay clear and focused, and they help me navigate my way through change in order to grow.
*Don't Focus on the Whole...Focus on the Individual Pieces
Managing fresh starts and new patterns requires patience, practice, and time. At first, the project, goal, or intention may seem overwhelming. When I'm designing a mala, for instance, I arrange the beads one at a time. When the layout is complete, and the stringing begins, all that matters is this bead, this loop, this knot. One, by one, until the design is complete. It's that simple. I don't worry about how many beads I can string in an hour--or when I'll be finished. Focusing on the individual pieces is like appreciating each step on a journey rather than fixating on arriving at the destination. Focusing on what's right in front of me keeps me rooted in the present, and it allows me to enjoy and appreciate the adventure, no matter how long it takes, or if it's completed at all.
* Offer a Dedication
Purpose helps to add meaning to any task, even mundane ones. Usually, I practice japa in the evening. I'm more relaxed, and I generally have more time to devote to the practice. Sometimes, however, I wait too long--I'm tired, impatient, and just want it to be over, so I can go to bed. Chanting a mantra just to recite it 108 times is a waste of time and energy. Offering a dedication to the practice adds sincerity, significance, and motivation. For example, before I practice, I hold my mala in my hands and offer an intention--that my students will do well on their final exams--or, I dedicate my practice to a friend who is dealing with the loss of a parent--or to a friend who is giving birth to her first child. I may offer peace and healing to strangers who are suffering in a city halfway around the world. By doing this, I'm not just practicing for myself--I'm practicing to benefit others as well. Big or small, offering a dedication can bolster motivation and infuse any resolution with purpose and meaning.
* Seek a Fresh Perspective
I like variety, I like having options, and a change of scenery can do wonders for a resolution or intention that's reached a plateau or grown a little stale. Sometimes I like to work on a mala at the kitchen table. I like the lighting and the view from the window. Sometimes, I prefer to work upstairs (we have more channel options on the TV), so I can string beads and watch a movie. (One of my favorite designs was an Unakite mala that I strung while watching the Bollywood classic, Bride and Prejudice :). If the weather's nice, I can work outside at the patio table and listen to birds, cicadas, children laughing in the neighbor's yard. A change of setting can offer much needed inspiration, a change in perspective, or a boost in creativity.
I'm not sure where 2017 will lead, but my intention is to continue to learn,grow, and navigate the changes and surprises that this year will undoubtedly bring by continuing my japa practice, and to enjoy creating beautiful malas for others. Happy New Year, everyone! Enjoy this year's journey.