Cultivating Hope While Navigating Helplessness, Overwhelm and Despair

This post is originally from April 7, 2020. Thanks for reading.

None of us have ever faced a time like this, and I am sending each of you love, prayers and healing energy.  May we hold ourselves and one another with deep kindness and compassion.

In this post I am sharing a number of brief pieces I created hoping that one or more speaks to you.
 
We are all struggling right now to maneuver uncharted territory. Most of us will confront a mixture of intense fear, anxiety, anger, sadness and grief. And many of us will tell ourselves to “just keep calm and carry on” as we avoid and hide from uncomfortable emotions.


These emotions are completely natural and normal.  Very few of us learned to honor and experience the uncomfortable emotions that our culture taught us to ignore. The very thought of allowing these painful feelings often evokes great fear within us.


“We tend to think of our “negative” emotions as signs that there’s something wrong with us. But the deepest significance of the feelings is simply our shared human vulnerability. When we know this deeply, we begin to heal in a way that connects rather than separates us from the world.”  Miriam Greenspan, PhD.


When we acknowledge, allow and accept these uncomfortable feelings they begin to flow through us making space for more inner balance.
“…if you can avoid avoidance – if you can choose to embrace experiences out of passion, enthusiasm, and a readiness to feel whatever arises – then nothing, nothing in all this dangerous world, can keep you from being safe.” Martha Beck
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As we move through this difficult time, it is essential to periodically STOP throughout the day and quickly “go inside.”  Take a few moments or more to notice your body supporting you -standing, sitting or lying down…the sensations of your feet on the floor, your back against the chair, your body being held by your mattress.  Simply notice how your body is breathing for you without effort.  Imagine your connection to the earth while simultaneously becoming aware of the sky above you. 

Look around and notice and name what you see, hear and feel: I see trees, clouds, flowers; I hear birds singing, a lawn mower’s engine, a dog barking; I feel a gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun, a strong wind.  Or if you are inside: I see a chair, a book, a photograph; a vase; I hear a faucet running, music, people talking; I feel heat from the kitchen, a fan blowing, a slippery floor.


This practice brings us back to the present moment and out of the cycle of fear and dread.
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During this global crisis it is essential to practice loving awareness.  Each one of us is navigating a path of uncertainty that is different from anything we have experienced.
It helps me to remember what we humans have experienced over thousands of generations.  Our blood and DNA reflect that of our ancestors. We are the descendants of those who survived famines, wars, depressions and epidemics. Let’s remember this as we acknowledge that our shared fear, anxiety and vulnerability are normal and natural.
We must strive to honor and accept all parts of ourselves in the moment. Fighting, judging, and trying to “fix” ourselves turns on the body’s stress physiology.
As we acknowledge, allow and accept ourselves moment by moment, we build self-trust and self-kindness; and our body’s innate healing mechanisms are activated.
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 Here are some questions we may want to explore as we practice compassionate self- reflection:
What isn’t really important to me anymore?
What things am I actually relieved not to be doing right now?
Who am I without my former day to day experiences?
What can I believe is affirming about this challenging situation?
What are the potential gifts hidden in our collective experience?
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 “No one knows what will happen next…
It is not that we have lost our sense of certainty. We have lost our illusion of certainty. We never had it to begin with. This could be majorly unsettling, or amazingly liberating.
…But that is always the case. We never know what the future holds. We only think we do, and keep getting surprised when things don’t pan out the way we expected. Now the mask is off. We have to admit our vulnerability…
…Close your eyes and feel the uncertainty, make peace with it, let yourself be taken by it. Embrace your cluelessness.”   Rabbi Aron Moss

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During these turbulent times it’s helpful to deliberately pause throughout the day and briefly notice the small, but true gifts, surrounding us: the birds singing, the trees blossoming, the subtle scents of spring emerging, the ability to connect with others through technology….

Yes, we are overwhelmed and rendered helpless in many ways. And we do need to acknowledge and allow the emotional discomfort in this crisis. But let’s remember that deep within each one of us lies a place of peace. When we become still, we sense its eternal presence.

With much love,

Elaine

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