In my New Year’s post, I wrote about the need to lean into discomfort in 2017 as a way of traveling a journey of hope. After a two weeks of a Trump presidency and more civil and political unrest than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime, I don’t feel I have to lean in to feel the discomfort. Discomfort surrounds us, regardless of your political persuasion. Everything feels divided, disjointed, even on the brink of collapse.
When my life or the world feels like this, I weave even more spiritual practices (i.e. practices that help us tap into our higher selves) into the fabric of my life. Here’s just a few suggestions. Pick one or two and see how they work for you.
- Do Random Acts of Kindness. Day-to day kindness still matters. Be respectful to the person who makes your coffee or bags your groceries. Make eye contact with someone who asks you for money on the street, even if you don’t give money. Be patient with someone asking for directions even if you’re in a hurry. We reap what we sow. Sow kindness.
- Listen to People You Don’t Agree with. Bake a pie or cookies use them as a way to start a conversation with someone with whom you disagree. Ask a question. Then listen even if what someone says is hard for you to hear. There will be plenty of time for you to formulate your response.Your ideas will be heard more easily by another person if you listen first. You also might find unexpected similarities in your stories, experiences or even opinions. Even if you don’t you’ve fostered respect.
- Vote with your Money. In a culture that watches carefully how dollars are spent, spending your money on what you want to see more of makes a huge difference. Actually pay for a subscription for a reputable news source. Do you want to see more electric or fuel efficient cars? Buy one. Want to see more clothing made with fair labor practices? Buy it. Support companies that also support causes you believe in. (I get cell service through Credo Mobile, for example.) Of course, donate to non-profits that are doing work you believe in.
- Speak Up. Show up at a protest. Call your representatives’ offices and offer your opinion about an issue. Whatever you do, do NOT remain silent. Democracy actually depends on citizen involvement. Perhaps we had taken that for granted; that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in.
- Practice Gratitude. Being immersed in discomfort can sometimes mean that we forget to see the blessings surrounding us. Or it could make us more grateful for the kindness, love, and general goodness that is always present. Maybe turn your family’s Thanksgiving table gratitude practice into a daily routine. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to recall all the things for which you are grateful using such things as the Examen Prayer. Start keeping a gratitude journal. Being grateful can be a daily reminder of the hopefulness of what surrounds you.
- Build Community. Get to know your neighbors by spending a few minutes coming and going from your house to talk with and get to know them. Participate in a community organization’s next event. Sponsor a block party. The more we know each other; the more we know the challenges we face and the joys we experience, the richer our lives and communities become.
- Be Informed. Not obsessed. Take time each day to read quality news sources, but do not obsess. I know I’m guilty — I’ve spent several recent days chasing down countless new media rabbit holes. Limit your time on social media and focus on reading one or two reputable news sources. Ignore the rest. Your mind and spirit will be far more grounded and settled. And you’ll still be informed.
- Read and Post Accurate Information. Read and listen to quality new sources (The Washington Post, the New York Times, NPR, CNN and other reliable regional and local news outlets.) Support them by paying for a subscription or donating. Ignore sources that are heavily biased and/or flat out inaccurate. (i.e. they don’t site sources for their information or only have one source.) Here’s a some advice on how to avoid these sites and a list of some progressive sources that are often inflammatory or inaccurate. (NOTE: These sources known as ‘clickbait’ pay their authors based on the number of ‘clicks’ that a post receives. Therefore, they are more likely to have outrageous headlines and/or inaccurate information that will get you to click.) Before you repost any articles, do a little googling and see if you can find at least two other reputable sources that support the information in the first article you were thinking of posting. I promise that practice will keep you better informed and prevent you from posting inaccurate information.
- Live YOUR purpose. You were born for such a time as this. Christians refer to it as calling. Yogis call it dharma. Whatever you call it, it is your higher purpose. Live it. You may feel unfocused or helpless, but take time to quiet yourself, listen to what that small voice inside you is beckoning you to do. Then. Do it. Focus your energy on that one issue, that place, that way your gifts and skills are best used for the greater good. If we all do this, if we all do our small part, we will get through this as the beloved community that the abundantly merciful, generous and loving God I believe in has created us to be.
- Have Faith. Take the long view: A few days, weeks or even years is a blink of an eye to this expansive universe. Rest in the knowledge that something guides us forward, toward a better day, a better place. If we rest into the discomfort, I believe that we can come out so much better, so much stronger, so much more hopeful than we even were before. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is the choice to breath, lean into it and step forward anyway. I’ll leave you with this quote from St. Augustine that has inspired me in recent weeks:
“Hope has two beautiful daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are and courage that they do not remain as they are.”