What now? is an interesting question, maybe a perennial question, but seems pertinent these days. What now? is the question that arises whenever I’m at a loss, when something seems required of me but I don’t know what it is. It can be something about the state of the world, or relationships closer in, or just sitting alone with myself, not sure what I’m here for or what to do next. There are a few things I’m noticing recently.

My daughter texted me the day after the events in Charlottesville and said she was too depressed by the state of the world and she just wanted to stay in bed and buy clothes online.

First thing, I told her, was to get out of bed and find people who are doing good things and help them (since it turns out she has enough clothes). This kind of helping is something we can all do, and probably are doing to
some extent already.

Four other important things also come to mind, (although I didn’t say these to my daughter because she doesn’t always appreciate my advice):

1. allow yourself to be moved

2. don’t think it’s not you

3. don’t lose your sense of humor

4. remember to be here, now

 

Being moved is important anytime, but especially when responses seem to be required. I don’t respond very well when I’m using my response as an armor against feeling things. This doesn’t mean making up stories about why it’s all hopeless, which is another way to avoid being moved by the events. It means feeling the river running underneath. And then I can also notice that what I do matters, it changes the river.

Noticing that it’s me, too is important. It’s part of feeling things. I, too, can feel enraged and full of anger and fear. I’m capable of lashing out, being cruel. And if I notice that, maybe I won’t lash out mindlessly while saying I’m innocent. I’ll perhaps be able to move deliberately and even with compassion. This may make me more effective and powerful in the long run.
Not losing your sense of humor may be a corollary of the above. Having a relationship with my own shadow self, the part of me that’s everything I disapprove of, works better when I can laugh. And not just a slightly embarrassed chuckle, the full bodied variety of laughter is good.
Remembering to be here, now, means not giving up on having a practice when things get intense. When I put myself into another place and time, and take someone else’s trouble as my own, I lose the life I have and the energy I get from having this moment, right here, perfect, the light through the leaves, breeze on my face, people I love. This is one of the ways we burn out, forgetting to have our own lives. Breathing and seeing and hearing and feeling and having this body, standing and falling, makes everything else possible.

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