For the next several posts, I'll briefly discuss aspects of Emotional Intelligence.
These are skills that are vitally important as we go further and further into
the uncharted waters of COVID-19
oSocrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Often, the last person we pay close attention to is ourselves. Western culture has us very well trained to look at everyone and everything besides ourselves. We have been taught to rigorously evaluate others, events and things with a critical eye, often relying on the cultural narrative to justify our final conclusions. we have fallen into black-and-white thinking because, well, that's what everyone else does. We're part of an Us v. Them narrative that has fashioned us from birth. It has grown out of a scarcity mentality that is the unfortunate offspring of a capitalist system which drives us to consumerism without thought of finite supply. We can now see where that has landed us.
It's easy to fall prey to systems that unconsciously deplete and separate us from the earth and one another. Why is it easy? Because we're actually separate from ourselves, unconscious of our own motives, fears and foibles. But we're also unconscious of our own expansiveness, divinity and worth.we don't actually know ourselves.
Terrence McKenna once insightfully said, "History is not your fault". I like that. I'm not suggesting here that we are personally responsible for where we've landed as a species. Sometimes the narrative we hear is so condemning that we can do nothing but throw our hands in the air despairingly. McKenna suggests that we can have compassion toward ourselves for the predicaments we find ourselves in, both personally and collectively. Once that has been achieved, however, it is our responsibility to help steer the ship away from the reef as best we can. This begins with self knowledge. If we cannot understand ourselves, we truly cannot understand our brothers and sisters. We all live with elements of shadow and light within. It's our job to bring our full selves into the light with compassion. To see my own propensity for evil is to begin the process of forgiving myself, and in turn, others. To see my inherent goodness, is to recognize it in everyone.
I've wrestled with these ideas since I was very young. Growing up in a household where the possibility of being physically or sexually assaulted was an ever present reality, I saw what "good people" are capable of. Yes, good middle class, well respected, educated people. People who did NOT know themselves, but acted without restraint wherever the alcohol or drug induced stupor would lead them. I always wondered why such things could occur. I've come to realize that separation from self, condemnation of self, leads to a destructive projection of unworthiness and condemnation onto those in your path, even those you "love". The shame that comes in recognizing this, inflames the rage and leads to more harm projected outwards. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
There is another side to this coin. The side that is introspective and aligns with the dignity that is inherent to yourself and others. Inherent to the all creation and to the earth herself. The dignity of the individual garners compassion, respect. Each of us has that divine spark of sacredness as an expression of some Mind far greater than our own, very limited understanding. Until we can find that within ourselves, it will be impossible to afford that dignity to others, to creatures, to Mother Earth.
Know thyself. It's a tall order. It's why I do the work I do, personally and professionally. I won't say there aren't tasks as great as this one. But I do think it comes before all else. From the deep work if introspection comes a wisdom that is then ready to be carried into the world at large. It seems to be the task of this era. It is emotional intelligence. I wish you well on your journey.
When I was 18, my mother told me that she wished I had never been born. I was devastated, but it wasn’t the first time I experienced the deep crush of being unwanted. For most I’ve my life I’ve carried that burden personally, as if some inherent flaw within myself was the cause of such deep rejection. It’s taken a toll.
Then, at almost 60, I came to understand that my birth, and that of my siblings, changed my mother’s life forever, and not for the better. I came to realize that what she told me that day had little to do with me. With each pregnancy, her dreams were dashed, her bright future derailed. Pregnant at 19, unable to graduate school, she was relegated to a life she would never have chosen, with a man she didn’t love. She had few options in those days.
Not all are women are meant to be mothers. Mine wasn’t. Mothers are far from perfect, no matter that Hallmark tells us they are. I have tremendous compassion now for my mother and all that she suffered. I can see now that her neglect of me, which was laid on me like a lead jacket, wasn’t the result of some failure originating within me. It was that she lost her hope, her dreams, and at a very young age. After a lifetime of trying to reconcile my pain, I’ve finally learned not to take what she said and did personally.
My mother drank herself to death when I was 23. She was just 49. I wish I could hold her today and tell her I finally understand. That I see her suffering. I wonder what her future might have been. So many mothers need support. They need an ear, a shoulder, a break.
I wouldn’t call it a happy mothers day necessarily - they never are for me - but I’m grateful to have healed so much, learned so much. I've worked hard to heal this pain. I've tried to give what I never received, especially to my own children. I haven't always succeeded.
Often, those we love the most act out of pain that has nothing to do with us. My hope is to offer grace and compassion to those who struggle deeply. We’re all struggling now. Maybe this will be a time of great healing. Maybe we can learn to be kinder toward ourselves and others, to not take others’ struggles personally, but to lean in and offer help. Maybe.
I had a dream that a friend of mine had buried someone in my front yard. It was someone my friend didn't like, someone they deemed “weak". In the dream, it’s obvious that the front yard has been dug up and something has been buried. There’s an area that has no grass, and there’s a bit of a mound. My friend is insisting that no one will notice, and I 'm shocked that he could think so. The body is hidden in plain sight.
So I ask: what are the weak parts of myself that I’ve buried, that are hidden in plain sight? What is my own feeling/judgment toward weakness?
Weakness means vulnerability and I don’t generally want to be vulnerable – not mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Yet in this moment, I’m faced with it: I have a sprained ankle, there’s a pandemic, my income is shrinking, I’m home ALONE for another month. That’s more weakness and vulnerability than suits me.
The entire world has heightened weakness and vulnerability in our faces right now. This is personal and collective. The world has always despised weakness, and yet we are all weak right now. The virus has brought the world to its knees. I find myself questioning the ones who have so much, too much (my judgment), who are fleeing to second homes and buying ventilators for themselves, though they have yet to contract the virus. I question how there are those who can fly away in private jets and get their groceries delivered - who have access to tests. At the same time I read an article written from the slums of Mumbai, “Social Distancing is a Luxury”, as one million people in one square mile all breathe the same infectious air.
Will the virus level the playing field? Will soulless institutions grind to a halt? What are we to do in the face of such utter weakness, when all systems are breaking down, shoving vulnerability down our throats? Some fight. Some repent. Some put fists in the air, others drop to our knees. Can we (I) allow such vulnerability? Do I have the guts to face my utter helplessness and surrender? Will I be humbled, or fight like I’m at war? Or both? What is required, I'm not sure.
And collectively? Will it remain true, yet again, that the wealthy will protect themselves while the poor die. Why??? Will this ever change? What is the pearl hidden deep within this period of collective trauma? Must we collectively face DEATH? Isn't death the one thing we fear the most? Certainly, the aging process makes us weaker and weaker and weaker – on the outside. Do we heed the call to find life within and allow the outer identity to die, to be shed? Oh, the pain of it! How desperately we cling to what is visible. Still, the seed must go into the ground and rot in order to bring life. Death and life are simultaneous.
This is what I mean by facing death and letting everything go. All safety, everything familiar. Leaving behind everything known. The simultaneity of life and death is known to those who are poor, homeless, terminally or mentally ill. Our spiritual communities talk about dying before you die, about surrender. These “unfortunates” KNOW what this is in real time. It is the worst fear of our society at large. And yet it is often the way of our great mystics, artists and innovators. Not all who undergo such deprivation transform it into genius. Some go mad. Most simply become invisible, but they know these depths, and they do live authentically. Blessed are the poor in spirit, they shall see God.
No wonder the fear. There are those who have faced the ineveitability of helplessness and powerlessness - two have not just faced it, but have lived it. There are those who realize there is no death, yet can their voices be heard at a time like this? Or is it complete nonsense to speak of such things: of letting go of all certainty in a world already seized with fear, a world that despises weakness in all its apparent ugliness.
Isn’t the corona virus showing us all how powerless we are individually; how our once powerful institutions all appear to have egg on their faces? Who is weak now? Can we even allow the notion of our smallness to creep into our psyche, or do we fight with pride as our weapon? Do we make this another war to be fought? What if we actually allowed everything to fall apart, to die? Like a forest that has been burnt to the ground. Then what?
Here it is…all of our worst fears buried right here in the front yard, hidden in plain sight. Where does destruction end before the new life begins? When does the precise moment of new life come? When is the moment of conception? Is this it?
I wanted to update you and let you know that I will be using telephone or video conferencing for all future appointments until things settle down. I want to encourage you not to forgo our time together. In times of acute stress and isolation, it’s even more important than ever to connect with a supportive person who can help you to look within, find your center, and remain balanced no matter what is happening on the outside.
Personally, I choose to see what’s happening not as a constriction, but as an opportunity to grow - to grow deeper relationships with others and myself; to challenge the ways I’ve been thinking small, living in fear and separateness from others already! I see this as a time where I’m being called to live differently and NOT seek to return to the status quo, which is what got us here in the first place.
Instead, I’m choosing to listen even more closely to what my heart is telling me and honoring those messages instead of pushing them away. I’m taking this as an opportunity to be more vulnerable and honest, to listen more deeply to others without judgment, to think about what others and the planet need from me, and what actions, however small, I can take. In other words, I am waking up and, hopefully, we all are.
Imagine if we all collectively decided that we don’t want to return to business as usual and decided instead to treat our fellow humans equally. Imagine if we insisted that our governments and businesses and families do the same? Imagine what new systems we might create in response to these times. Remember that the Renaissance followed the Dark Ages! Each one of us may be the emerging artists, scientists, healthcare providers, educators, business leaders, citizens that the world has been waiting for!
I hope this is the start of a new way of being human. I hope that our systems of inequality will die off so that more people, who live in fear every day - long before there was a “pandemic” - can know some measure of security and peace.
Please join me in this intention. Please use me as a resource for your spiritual and emotional care during this time of great change. Text the number below to schedule your appointment (or just to say hi!) and we will continue our sessions as usual, but from the comfort of your home! Also, if you know of anyone who might need support during this time, please pass my name to them. I am, as always, offering free consultations.
Together we will look for, and find, the silver lining in this forced slowing down of our lives. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Stay well and keep your hopes up. 🙏🏼☮️