“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
It’s been 18 days since Hamas launched its horrific attack against Israel, killing over 1,400 Israeli citizens, including children and the elderly. I’m bereft but confused, trying desperately to understand the historical and political landscape of the region, while squaring that with my moral lodestar that there is no defensible action by a government or group that puts civilian lives in danger. How do you make sense of the senseless? My Muslim friends have sent me videos to watch and articles to read. So have my Jewish friends. They all seem to believe we are witnessing the death of humanity. The mother in me worries they may be right.
This morning, I woke to the news that another angry white dude brutally gunned down innocent bystanders in Maine, killing 18 and wounding 13 others. As of this writing, most of Lewiston, the small town where the shooting occurred, is still in lockdown and the suspect is at large.
The other news of the day is that Congressman Mike Johnson was elected as the Speaker of the House, which seems to be a lateral trade at best. Johnson voted against sending aid to Ukraine, is vehemently against same-sex marriage and abortion, and is a huge Trump supporter. This man will never vote in a way that supports my rights or moral beliefs.
I’m still processing all of this when my mom comes into my yoga studio and tells me that the spotted lanternfly was discovered in Gallatin County. Evidently, this invasive little bugger could cause significant harm to the commonwealth’s natural environment and wipe out our wine industry completely.
I want to care about the spotted lanternfly, but I’m emotionally tapped out. Aren’t we all? Every day seems to bring more horrifying, traumatic, and exhausting news. Strangers brutally destroy each other and our world. We respond by tearing each other apart in our grief. Then we retreat and shut ourselves off from the pain.
Our pain is real. Our overwhelm is real. We shouldn’t feel guilty about needing a break from a world that was never set up to protect our mental health in the first place. We aren’t designed to experience so much destruction.
What to do? Perhaps we could choose to be gentler with ourselves and each other. When it feels like we are only one small human in a staggering eight billion, when we feel powerless and hopeless, we could simply lean into just being a little gentler. Softness opens doors that force alone cannot move.
When the feelings feel too big, trade your peace-stealing phone for something that gives comfort instead – a puppy with soft ears, a slice of perfectly toasted bread, a book you’ve read a hundred times and still love. Hug someone and forgive someone and send someone a text so they know you love them. Establish boundaries and guard them carefully. Give a gentle answer to a harsh or triggering question; you do not have to attend every argument you’re invited to. Sit under a tree and let the falling leaves land on your skin. Soften your jaw, your breath, your gaze, your opinions. Assume everyone is doing their best. Know that some people do not care about being better or kinder. Give those people a wide berth, even as you send them the love they deserve too.
The Loving-Kindness meditation is thought to have originated in ancient India, before the time of Buddha. This practice challenges our culture’s belief that love and goodwill are transactional. It’s simple to practice; whenever you’re despairing for humanity, simply repeat the following mantra:
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free from suffering.