These times are calling to the depths of us. How do we answer?
Recently, a question and response showed up for me like a signpost, saying, "this way!" The question came at the end of a webinar on pain science presented by Kathryn Bruni-Young. A movement educator asked something like, "What's your advice when a client is too scared and uncomfortable to do movements that would be helpful for their condition?" In response, Kathryn offered that if the movements are not accessible to the client, then they are likely not helpful. She suggested supporting the client to discover what they feel they CAN do - and do that to build capacity. Even small, seemingly unrelated movements that feel safe and ok can add up to big developments in confidence.
In the midst of our pandemic experiences and our world urgently in need of social and environmental justice, I often find myself spinning my wheels or feeling paralyzed about responding to it all with wisdom and commitment. In this context, even the simple activities of daily life can seem overwhelming. So, each day I've been asking myself, "what do you feel you CAN do today?" This question gives me a place to start, a place from which to expand beyond my comfort zone and face challenges. I start with small, intentional movements, attending to one thing at a time. And while the actions may not be grand in scope, they are so much more than what comes of not starting because I'm afraid I can't do it all and do it all "right."
The concept of building capacity also comes up in Austin Channing Brown's conversation with Brene Brown on the podcast, Unlocking Us. Austin Channing Brown’s anti-racism work includes her book I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Listening to the podcast one night last week while doing the dishes, I stopped to write something down: "Have you built the capacity to care more about the well being of others than the pull of your ego?" This question grew out of reflections on how we may be so concerned with doing things perfectly, so afraid of making a mistake, that we don't put ourselves out there in whatever way we can to support justice and dignity for all people. Austin and Brene identify humility as key in getting over ourselves so that we can connect with each other.
Our mindfulness practices help us build capacity. On the Ten Percent Happier podcast, “You Can't Meditate This Away" (Race, Rage, and the Responsibilities of Meditators), Dan Harris asks his guest, Sebene Selassie, about the value of mindfulness practice in these times. She offers that so many of our thoughts are not personal. They are essentially our culture speaking. In cultivating awareness of our thoughts, we can discern, learn, and change.
I keep going back to the words of Dorothy Day: "People say, What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts [that will awaken, transform, and multiply the impact of our actions.]"