The news is overwhelming these days. How can we thrive in the face of so many disasters?
As autumn leaves take precedence on Vermont hillsides, my heart collides with each disaster occurring around the world because I know at least one person affected in every location. It seems that this is what it means to live an interconnected, global life these days.
When we pay attention, the news is overwhelming. In this age of instant information, it is easy to shut down. It is understandable to want to shut out the suffering and turn away, because really, who can feel so much pain and uncertainty and fear? We become trapped in a cycle of needing the daily news and then spending the rest of our time shutting down because it’s all just too much.
But there has to be another way.
I am endeavoring to make another choice: to listen to the news, feel my breaking heart and concern for friends and family and then come back to this very moment and feel my feet on this good green earth, to breathe in the autumn air. Looking out at the horizon where the hillsides are turning from green to orange, yellow and red right before my very eyes is my only true solace. I must look up at the blue sky, noticing the clouds shifting through every imaginable shape. I must feel the soft skin of my little baby’s cheek. I must see the light dancing in the eyes of my toddler as she explores the world around her.
I can therefore offer this to you, in this time of disaster overload. Please pause for a moment of reflection, let yourself be present where you are right now, because otherwise it is just too much.
- Step One: Be Present Pause and feel. Just be.
- Step Two: Be in the Body You’ve already heard the news, you are already lost in the myriad mazes of fear and worry. Let go of the gadgets and headlines for just one moment and be present in your body. If it’s helpful, actually do a body scan and feel each and every part of your body. This body is our vehicle. It is where we live. Come home to yourself.
- Step Three: Open to Space We do not live in a vacuum, we live in the midst of the world. When we extend our awareness out from the presence in our body, we can touch and feel the space around ourselves. This is very literal and tactile - actually extend your awareness out into the room around you, the building around that, and beyond the walls into the natural or urban environment beyond that. Then extend that awareness out further, connect with the wider landscape around you - the buildings, mountains, hills, rivers, oceans, or city parks. Extend your awareness up into the sky and actually see the clouds shifting and changing.
- Step Four: Feel and Reflect From this space of embodied presence, we can actually feel into our experience. This is about tuning in to all of our senses. We can actually touch the fear and uncertainty, now that we are present in our body and open to space. By feeling, we allow a moment to reflect on how we feel and this opens us to understanding. This is a huge gift you can give yourself anytime. By taking a moment to pause and reflect, we open to the possibility of insight. We can actually see what it would mean for us to thrive in the face of disaster, instead of just closing down, spacing out or acting from frantic fear.
- Step Five: Genuine Activity By slowing down for just a moment to be present in our body, opening to space and actually feeling and reflecting on our experience, we can engage in genuine activity. Genuine activity means we are not just knee-jerk reacting but rather responding based on our insight. Genuine activity means engaging with our experience and understanding what is appropriate to do or not do. We can feel the heartbreak of a situation but not be overpowered by it.
Please use these steps. This is about leadership from the inside-out. This is about transforming the too-muchness of our experience and making it workable. This is how we thrive.