Like many of you, I am a sensitive person. I am blessed to feel the collective pain and chaos of the human race. Sometimes, it nearly does me in. I long to move into the forest, walk into the woods. Go further, further…into the peace and beauty and quiet of the natural world.
Because let’s face it. For those of us who feel the collective pain of the injustice, greed, intolerance, bigotry, sexism, racism, hatred, and the disconnect from the natural world, it does not feel as if anything we do will bring change. It is all much too big, and we feel much too small. I teeter constantly upon the brink of cynicism. Cynicism, Mary Pipher, psychologist, activist, and author states in her book Writing to Change the World, “is a form of resistance, a walling off of the possibilities for transformation, a defensive strategy. Scratch every cynic,” she says, “and underneath you find a wounded idealist.”
I will admit right here and now, I am an idealist, and the last thing I want is to wall off possibility and transformation.
TecentlI was asked to introduce myself and give a brief snippet of my areas of passion the other day at a board meeting for the American Association of University Women. I paused after giving my name. How could I put all that I hope to accomplish into words? “My name is Darlene, I am a 47 year old woman who wants to change the world.” and then, to knowing laughter, “Should be simple, right?” And that is the heart of me. I want to change the world, which is the cry of every idealist I’ve ever met. But that passion for justice can empty us faster than we realize. Before we know it we can become shriveled shadows of our once passionate selves. We can find ourselves full of the anger, intolerance, and hate that we so loathe.
So what can we do? How can we restore our inner well of hope? I have come up with 5 steps we can take to restore balance to our psyche, our hearts, and our spirits.
- Turn it Off: Tech allows us to see it all, hear it all, experience it all. It is up to us to set regular time aside to turn it off. I have one day per week that I do not engage the internet at all. I turn it off and give myself space. No news. No touching the keyboard. If I feel like writing I use pen and paper. I found that I needed this space to remember to breathe, to look around me and see the way that nature moves in cycles and rhythms, to feel the splendor of spring, the fecundity of summer, the farewell of autumn, and the silence of winter. It doesn’t need to be a full day, you could just as easily designate and hour, or 15 minutes. But whatever time you set aside, use to engage the tangible world around you and within you.
- Turn Inward: Much of the focus of idealists is “out there”. So sit still. Allow your mind to grow roots that you envision moving out the soles of your feet and into the welcoming quiet of the Earth beneath you. Fill yourself up with silence. Meditation can take a myriad of forms, from walking, writing, dancing, singing, to silence. Listen to your breath. For just a moment, feel the presence of your body, the miraculous way that gravity holds it in place. Most idealists have a hard time being still. They are so busy trying to save the world, that they forget their spirit’s need for silence and stillness. Make it long, make it short, make it each day or once a week, but whatever you do, make it regular.
- Make a List: It all matters to me. Every single bit of it. It seems as if my heart and mind leave no injustice untouched. But in order to be effective, I need to focus. Time and attention spread out too thin become weak and ineffective. So I need to figure out what it is that matters most to me. To do that, I periodically make a list. Once a month is good, or even 2-4 times per year. Get out a piece of paper and a pen, light a candle, create sacred space, and list all the things that matter to you. Maybe even write why they matter. And then read your list. Where does your heart pull your attention? What engages you the most? Use your intuition, your inner guidance. You will know. You will feel it. And when you do you can throw yourself fully into it.
- Tell Your Story: Do you have a circle of women? If you don’t, then make one. Get a copy of Sacred Circles to use as your guide. Magic happens when women come together and share their stories in circle. For those of you who have been a part of one you know that you come away transformed. In The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women, Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins call women’s circles “containers of emergence”. A safe space to become. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!
- Start Where You Stand: There is nothing wrong with focusing on the whole world, nothing wrong with speaking up online, with effecting change halfway across the globe by something you do in your living room. But don’t forget to engage whatever your passion is, locally. Our communities are microcosms of the global population. In one way or another, the things that are socially unjust the world over are socially unjust in our own backyard. So join others in your community to bring tangible change that is visible to you, that you can reach out and touch. Want to solve world hunger? Help plant organic community gardens in empty lots and schools. Is gender inequality your thing? Volunteer at the local women’s shelter, or mentor a young girl. Do not underestimate the power of this to not only change communities and lives, but to fuel your fire for changing the world.
Do you have more ideas? I would love to know the methods you employ to stave off burnout and battle fatigue, so please share them in the comments below!