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Lions Roar : November 2016
Lief continued from page 50 fearful and we want the world to make sense. We are angry and we want revenge. We don’t want to feel the pain of caring, so we feed our negativity as a way to deflect it outward. This also unleashes our urge to fix things. We don’t want to keep feeling this way. We want to act! “There’s got to be some- thing I can do to about this right now!” The problem is that often we are in no position to really help. In response, you could let helplessness overwhelm you, but you don’t have to do so. • You need to accept the fact that you can’t fix everything, much as you would like to. The world needs help, but our ability to contribute seems so miniscule compared to the many problems facing the planet. The challenges are so overwhelming that we see no way out. What do we do with that frustration? • If you stay with the energy of the impulse to act, you can see that it is a positive irritant. We need a little provocation or creative restlessness in order to connect with what underlies our impulse to act and open up to its message. So you can take your urge to help as a good sign. But you need to take a clear look at what you really have to offer. You need to start with a self-assessment and a bit of humility. The great Buddhist teacher Shantideva made the point that if you can do something about an issue, then go ahead and do it. But if you can’t do anything, then acknowledge that and let it go. It doesn’t help to dwell on everything that is going wrong or obsess about wishing you could do more. • It is better to do one small thing that you can actually pull off than to fantasize about all the great things you would like to be able to do but can’t. Captured by powerful emotions and flurries of speculative thought, we can work ourselves into a frenzy by obsessing about events we have no direct connection with or control over. This is an important pattern to notice. We can see that we are mostly responding to what is in our own head, to our mental chorus of what-if ’s. How easily our tender little pebbles of empathy can get buried under a mountain of thoughts. It is one thing to engage in analysis or try to read the hand- writing on the wall so you can respond appropriately to devel- opments in the world. But it is quite another to engage in mental cud chewing, which warps your initial tender response and makes it about yourself. • Notice how obsessive, what-if thinking can take you over, then bring yourself back to the here and now. It may not seem like it, but when you are stuck in fearful and despairing thoughts, you do have a choice. You do not need to let your thoughts and reactions run wild. You can interrupt the pattern. You can slow down enough to investi- gate the cascade of thoughts, speculations, opinions, and emo- tions aroused by hearing about all the troubles in the world. www.mindfulness-education.org (415) 451-8175 |