Am I Doing Enough Right Now?
I’ve done quite a lot of soul searching in these last two weeks, with yet another national wake-up call to pay attention and do something about the racism, poverty, overt discrimination and ever present lack of opportunities threaded throughout America’s history, boiling over in massive protests and all too quickly fading away from the news and from our consciousness. (Except the people in the communities who lives are consistently being devasted the most can never forget, never be non-vigilant, never feel quite safe.)
I teach resilience. That capacities to bounce back from disaster are innate in our being and are always developable by learning from those disasters.
Is that enough to address:
The disproportionate killings of black men year after year from police violence?
That income inequity right now in America is worse than it was in South Africa under apartheid?
That 50% of all babies born in America today are born to mothers on Medicaid?
No, probably not.
It can be disheartening to realize that we’ve been “woke” before in recent weeks, months, years and then fallen asleep again and again.
Thousands of women protesting sexual harassment and sexual violence in the #MeToo Movement. [see Me Too Movement]
Thousands of people in despair over shooting massacres in our public schools
[see school shootings]
Thousands of people recovering from pedophilia by priests in the Catholic church.
Thousands of us who show up to fight for/work for gay rights, the rights of the differently-abled, the rights of immigrants and refugees.
How do we find the energy, the determination to stay on course, working diligently to bring more equality, opportunity, justice to this complex country of ours? How do we, as George Mumford says, “Hold the hurt and have the hope”?
Is training in resilience effective enough to “bounce back” when the flak hits the fan or even bounce forward when all we feel is bounced around?
Several lifetimes ago, I was tear-gassed while marching for civil rights in Washington, D.C. Another lifetime: made some important headlines marching for women’s rights. A different lifetime ago, I raised $4 million dollars for public interest litigation to help Alaskans and Alaskan wildlife recover from the Valdez oil spill.
It’s not that I haven’t tried, or stopped trying. We all try; we haven’t stopped trying.
Then one last lifetime ago, I began to focus on healing the inner wounds that sometimes block us from trying or cause us to harm others. The “soul” work that anchors us in a moral compass that guides whatever I do or help others to do. I became a psychotherapist, and a good one. I became a Buddhist meditation practitioner, and a diligent one. I do subscribe to finding the inner secure base of wisdom and resilience that allows us to engage with the world in ways that are useful and effective.
“To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Are mindfulness and compassion and resilience practices enough to help guide other people “home” and strengthen them to show up and take action themselves to address the personal and the political? Can there be a ripple out from the work I do to guide and in other ways support people who:
– Provide 8,000 meals a month to people who are hungry
– Repair 48,000 masks to protect first responders from the coronavirus
– Coach young people how to break the news to their parents that they are gay
-Participate in the international surfers memorial service for George Floyd, thousands of surfers around the world gathering in the traditional surfboard circles to honor a fallen brother.
Yes, sometimes resilience training ripples out.
What I do know is this wisdom:
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
– Edward Everett Hale
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.
– John Wesley
And so parents teach their young children why we don’t use the N-word or what to do when they hear it.
Friends tutor inmates or work in the garden program in San Quentin State Prison.
Colleagues volunteer on suicide prevention hotlines
People do what they can do, day after day, year after year. Trusting:
You don’t need to do everything. Do what calls your heart; effective action comes from love. It is unstoppable, and it is enough.
– Joanna Macy