Resilience in Still the Strangest of Times – Promising and Painful
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
– James Baldwin
Psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach began her talk in last week’s Compassion in Therapy summit with the quote above from James Baldwin. She went on to explore how we work through the layers of anger and hatred as we continue to face right now rather overwhelming divisiveness and hostility among members of our collective society (in truth, for the entire 400-year history of America becoming America), to the pain, grief, hurt underneath that anger and hatred, and recover the sense of care that must be within our hearts or we wouldn’t feel so much grief and pain in the first place.
Yes, lots of compassion is needed right now, along with understanding, clarity, and integrity if we are to not only resource ourselves and recover from the pain and loss of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Dr. Anthony Fauci’s prediction of when life in America might return to “normal” if enough people are vaccinated (85% of us) so that the virus can no longer replicate/mutate so easily – September 2021) But to have reserves of compassion and care to address the hard issues the pandemic has been back-burnering – climate change, racism, income disparity.
In February in America, we celebrate Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and I imagine other holidays I’m not as aware of (but readers can let me know) an unusual confluence.
Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents gives us the most comprehensive overview imaginable of black history/white history, including how black communities (and other communities of color) bring care and compassion, as well as understanding, clarity, integrity, to their communities to survive and thrive.
The poet Ranier Maria Rilke’s reflections on love put the hard work of deepening love and compassion in perspective, especially in these times when so many of dealing with loss of presence and connection with people they love:
To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces gathered close about their lonely, timid, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love.
President’s Day is now the combined holiday honoring the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, presidents revered because of their leadership through the revolutionary war that birthed our nation and the civil war that saved it. Sobering to think of what is required of our current president to recover stability and justice in our nation now.
I have been a teacher of mindful self-compassion for the last five years, taught many workshops and written many of these posts to put “muscle” into the practice of compassion, especially now when we need to heal the pain and hurt that is underneath so much anger and fear.
Here’s the link to my post Putting Some Muscles into Mindful Self-Compassion, a direct pass-through of an article from my mentor, teacher, and the co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion protocol, Kristin Neff, The Yin and Yang of Self-Compassion: Cultivating Kindness and Strength in the Face of Difficulty. Kristin pioneered the research demonstrating the power of self-compassion to help people cope more resiliently by facing the hard, yucky things in life, and our reactions to those stressful experiences, with more kindness to ourselves in the moment, no matter if in the moment we were overwhelmed or going ballistic.
May the power of compassion in times of promise and pain be helpful to you and yours.