Presence.

That’s the word that emerged when Sharon Salzberg, the well-known Buddhist meditation teacher and author, invited us to reflect on dharma. The Buddhist concept, which can be understood in a wide variety of ways, can mean that which sustains us or what we can count on, or our North Star.

Salzberg offered a free gathering and practice of Metta (Buddhist loving-kindness meditation) through the Insight Meditation Society in response to the recent series of mass shootings. The news weighed heavily on me and the gathered group: first, the grocery store shooting in Buffalo, New York, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood; and then the overshadowed shooting at a Korean-owned salon in Dallas, Texas; and then the shooting at a Taiwanese church in Southern California; and then the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Reflecting on all this, I struggled a little to identify my North Star, even from my privileged position as someone not directly affected by these shootings. I journaled for a while, letting words and doodles wander over a manilla yellow notepad.

In my head, I thought the answer was God or the divine, my usual words for a higher power beyond myself, but those weren’t quite the right words. Then, I felt into my body. What did resting into the divine feel like to me?

This sensation feels to me like a steady, vibrating, reassuring presence that is there even in the midst of the pain, anger and chaos. Not a presence that makes everything right with the flip of a switch or the waving of a magic wand; but a presence that is there no matter what the tumult outside feels like.

This Metta reflection and meditation last week revealed to me the deeper reason why connection is so important to me in how I lead this vibrant, growing Defy the Trend community.

Nearly all who speak with me have stopped talking about being tired or exhausted, and instead started saying bluntly that they are burned out. You are tapped of energy, heavy, perhaps numb because you just don’t have the energy to feel anymore.

We simply cannot lead from this place of burnout. The change that is being born right now (and I believe strongly that all this breaking is moving us through big change) needs us to do our unique part.

That is why I suggest that we practice connection with ourselves, each other and with our higher purpose:

Ourselves. We need significant time to do what I did during Salzberg’s practice: Reflect, pray, meditate on what sustains us. As I often say – self-care matters. Take the time you need for yourself without guilt or shame.

Each Other. We need to get beyond surfaces and learn to be in deeper relationships with our loved ones, our co-workers, and anyone else we encounter. When we ask, “How are you,” we need to mean it – to pause and really listen to each other. That simple practice (and so many others) will till the soil of change.

Purpose. We must connect to our sense of calling or higher purpose. Knowing the role we play in the larger movement of change reminds us to take it day-by-day without being swallowed up by horrible news or daily setbacks and short-term failure. I have rested much easier and have stuck out this endeavor to start a business in a pandemic, even through the challenges, because I know that I am called to bring the healing practices I’ve learned as a clergy person and yoga teacher to leaders who want to bring change. Knowing my calling keeps me going.

Shoring up connections to ourselves, each other and our core foundation will not only help us survive; it will empower us to thrive. We were born for such a time as this. Let’s live into that birthright.

This summer I’m offering several opportunities for connection. Try my Flourishing in the Sun: Summer Yoga Celebration on June 21. Or sign up to receive my free team building tips that will help you foster connections between your work or volunteer teams.

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