Magnify the Good

I’m told there’s a body of research showing that people rise to the occasion when faced with a collective crisis. Rebecca Solnit, in A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, writes about the solidarity, altruism, and improvisation that emerge when humans go through hell together.

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Human spirit flowers in a crisis.

I don’t know the science myself, but it feels true in my bones. And I am seeing people support each other in so many marvelous ways, and putting their compassion and creativity to use. Musicians serenade us on Facebook live, feeding our hearts vital nourishment. (As I write this, I’m enjoying a live concert of John Prine songs from my friend Wilma, in honor of Prine, who is dealing with a serious case of COVID-19.)

A local arts center is organizing a “Flower Power Knit Graffiti Project”–sending supplies and instructions to community members to create flower petals for a knitted garden installation.

In the practical arena, I heard of a woman collecting plastic laundry detergent containers and water bottles to make handwashing and sanitizing stations for homeless camps. Meanwhile many of my friends and acquaintances are sewing masks to be used by healthcare facilities at-risk folks. “Sewing Grannies” from a retirement community organized an elastic drive, when they heard supplies were low. (One note said, adorably: “Some of this elastic is really old. I hope it still works. Thank you for doing this important work. If my old pants fall down because I don’t have any elastic to fix them it will be all your fault!”)

Businesses are stepping up too–not just in the mindbody field, where the amount of online support is dazzling, much of it donation-based or free. A maker of leather aprons has designed a hospital mask using special high-filtration HEPA material, and is converting production to meet that need. A local distillery switched from producing gin to WHO recipe hand sanitizer, and offered it for free while supplies lasted, no purchase necessary.

⁣I’m sure there are many more examples of entrepreneurs pivoting to meet the needs of the day, and people in general being the innovative, kind, fabulous beings we are at our best. These are just a few things I know about from my little perch.

Tell me something good! If you know of a good thing to amplify, contact me or put it in the comments.

Gratitude: Can I just give a minute to the technology and Internet availability that is keeping me connected? The Zoom staff meeting where I can see the faces of my team, who I miss awfully. Another Zoom meeting for my weekly writing group, so we can keep supporting each other through this madness. Facebook Messenger to share a guided meditation with two friends, and debrief afterwards, face to face (or next best thing). Countless Zoom yoga/dance/movement classes peppering my days and keeping me in contact with my adored community. Most miraculously of all: just today I used Whatsapp to have a long and refreshing talk with my dear friend Lydia who’s visiting her family in South Africa.

Tip of the Day: Pick up the phone (or Facetime or what-have-you) and connect. Here’s Hank Green talking about this act as an antidote to “the anxious scroll.”

Resource of the Day: I can’t get enough of Cornell Ornithology Lab’s FeederWatch Cam. Sights and sounds from Sapsucker Woods. Birds doing their thing, completely unapprised of any pandemic.

“Creating Beauty in the World We Find”

Last week I listened to a podcast with author Terry Tempest Williams, in which she says that one job of writing is to make other people feel less alone.

I started this series partially for that reason (as well as for my own sanity) and I’ve gotten a few notes from readers affirming that they do feel less alone. Because we’re all feeling it: The uncertainty and pain of everything we know being upended, the sorrow of losses (ours and those we empathize with), the loneliness of isolation, the fear and dread of what may come, the anger too.

These are things we have to breathe through. The only way out is through.

Terry Tempest Williams also talks about staying in the present:

“If you are present, then there is no past, as you well know. And there is no future. You are there. And whether it is being with a family member who is dying, you are present with them. You are breathing. And in that breathing there is this commitment and communion to that breath. Presence. And you don’t look away…I think when you are present, fear is still there, but you are moving with it. You are breathing with it.”

Seeking pathways to stay in the present: That is one of my top priorities now, when thinking too far ahead can completely derail me. My hope is that this blog series can contribute to some grounding for others, even as I regain my own footing over and over after being knocked off balance.

There’s this idea that “If we’re not all OK, none of us are,” and I feel like we are being shown its truth in real-time. If I have something to contribute to that OKness, it isn’t medical care. (That is the role of my nurse spouse, bless her, and other healthcare workers all over the world, who all need our support and light.)

One thing I can do is send these words out, in case they are a comfort, because “…finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” —TTW

I’m not used to sending words out without first parsing every single syllable. But these are different times. And even though I often write these missives in the evening when my brain is tired, and I don’t remember all the insights I planned to share, I feel like this is an evolving conversation. There’s time to explore.

Gratitude: The sun peeked out today while I walked Opal. Also, I got to see my mom (we sat on her back patio, 6 feet apart). Plus: online dance and yoga classes  saved my patoot during a tense day when my beloved was pulling a long shift at the hospital.

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If a sycamore sees its shadow, how many more weeks/months of pandemic will persist?

Tip of the Day: From Lani Weissbach, who teaches EmbodieDance, here’s a good way to ground yourself if you feel off-balance. Put your hands firmly on/around your upper leg and draw down with strong pressure, all the way to the foot. Do this several times for each leg. Good for rocky times such as these.

Resource of the Day: The body and breath can lead us back to the present moment. See the links above for good mindbody options, and also find Sanctuary Community Yoga here with many more offerings. My adored neighborhood studio, Irvington Wellness Center, has gone completely online, and you can find the full schedule here. The classes are free to all for the next 30 days and include t’ai chi, yoga, self-care, meditation and more. You can click the class name and then “More Details” in the lower left corner of the pop-up to find a Zoom link. More info on the studio here.

Steady on, beautiful people!

BodyMindSpiritEarth

I had a realization at the close of yoga class, while resting in savasana (corpse pose), eyes falling back into their sockets, head heavy on the mat. It’s just this: I have a skull.

Oh I knew that of course. In theory. But it’s weird to think of this thing—used as symbol for poison, or to provoke ghoulish fright, the bony remains of a human—being embedded under my skin RIGHT NOW.

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Photo by Kate Bunker, via Flicker Creative Commons

Maybe this is not so revelatory for you. Well, I’m the girl who recently discovered, to my amazement, that the bones of my pelvis start way higher at my sides than I had previously pictured. When I thought “pelvis,” I thought “sex organs.” I thought “hips.” I didn’t think “bony parts at my waist just a few inches below my ribcage.”

In this level of bodily cluelessness, I may be unusual, but I think not. Do we really know what goes on under our skin? Do we key into the intelligence of our organs all working together, our blood flowing, our skeletons? Do we connect to the slime and gore of our insides, cached away under the outer layer that meets the world?

It’s easy to forget all that stuff, in an age where we think a whole lot. We can end up experiencing ourselves as brains on a stick, using the body to move the big brain from here to there. This brain that will save the day! (That’s working great for humanity so far, as our “progress” continues to wipe out species and their habitat at unprecedented rates.)

On the other hand, in spiritual development circles, we experience ourselves as bigger-than-brain, as soul or Higher Self, and we know that we go on beyond the body and the body is just dust and ashes.

I submit that this laudable idea can be just as alienating, even dangerous, as the big brain idea.

Of course we are our intellectual capacity; humanity makes incredible use (and misuse) of our curiosity, our capacity for logic, and our problem-solving prowess.

Of course we are our souls; that bigger perspective feeds many a spiritual seeker, including myself.

But the bones, the blood, the viscera—they have their own story to tell, and they don’t just exist to tote us from problem-solving puzzle to enlightened insight. Divorced from the body, the mind is imbalanced, the soul unmoored.

The energy within the body IS us. The blood moves, heart beats, bones/muscles/organs support each other in an integrated system that boggles the mind AND spirit.

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Photo by Marco De Stabile, via Flickr Creative Commons

I am not a mind. I am not a spirit. Not only these. I am a bodymindspirit. I come to practices like yoga and qi gong because I want to experience myself as all three, integrated and invincible.

Like most of us I’m good at neglecting this body. I push it past fatigue, I feed it poor fuel, I ask it to digest too much too fast, I wish it would just sit down and shut up so I can do my real work, but what if my real work is…a dance? A prayer-in-motion?

What if my real work is to sink back into this body that is part of the earth, that needs me to care for it in a deep and loving way?

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What if, by disowning the body’s “ugly” innards, and ignoring its whispers and clues and shouts and cries, I’m only contributing to the disregard of our precious earth’s wisdom?

That’s the bigger picture: bodymindspiritearth. Could I experience myself as all four integrated, and what would that look like?

What dance would I offer then?