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Staying Balanced in Difficult Times

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So things are intense out there right now huh? I have been doing my level best to stay on even footing the last few weeks with all that is happening in the world. This is not something at which I used to excel. I have had to practice over the years, using all my tools from yoga and Buddhism, to keep an even keel in difficult times. I’ve also had to develop self-care techniques I know work well for me when the world is intense. I can feel in the energy currents that this is going to be an intense summer, so here are some of my ideas for staying balanced:


 1. Don’t expect yourself to be in balance all the time: Yeah that won’t work. Do your best and be nice to yourself when you go off the rails. I was at the gym this morning blasting Shostakovich and lunging out a ton of anger and frustration (my go to for moving anger in a productive way.) And it really helped, but woe to the person who got on my wrong side this morning. We’re humans, and like Maya Angelou said, “When we know better we do better.” But when we go off the rails, especially students of spirituality, we must not compound that imbalance with self-recrimination. It only fans the fire. And frankly, whichever side of whatever spectrum you’re on right now, how could you not go out of balance? It’s going to happen, so be at peace with it. Then see if some of the following ideas help.

2. Take care of your own house: Take a break. Don’t live your life only when things are all bright and shiny. Live your life every day. Especially if you are involved in activist and political work right now, it’s really easy to devote so much energy to your cause that you fail to take care of yourself. Let me be absolutely clear: you are no good to anyone when you are burnt out, reactive, and blindly angry. You’ll make bad decisions, you won’t consider your actions and words, and most of all your life will pass you by in a fog of rage and resentment. Don’t give people you disagree with that kind of power over you. If their actions control your behavior, you are their slave. Take your power back. Take care of yourself. I listen to music, go for walks, cook, count my bountiful blessings, or watch random YouTube that interests me. I decide where my focus will be, not NPR or CNN. And speaking of NPR and CNN. . .

3. Limit your news intake: Turn off CNN. You can do it! I used to stare blank eyed at the TV news as a way of trying to control what I couldn’t control. And that’s one of the reasons I haven’t had cable in my house for the last 10 years. Now during intense times I give myself two news articles to read in the morning and then I shut it all down. And folks, I am an NPR addict, sometimes that’s really hard to do. I start salivating for that indie music they play on the breaks. But if I’m exposing myself to stories that are going to cause me to needlessly and uselessly worry, I know I need to turn it off. Often I’ll ask myself, “Is the news still informing me, or am I starting to obsess?” If the answer is “obsess” I shut it all down. Done. No thank you, I know it will cause my day to off the rails and I’ll be of no use to myself or to anyone else. Be informed; don’t obsess.

4. Practice compassion: It may not seem like it, but everyone is really doing their best with what they know. So practice love in your heart. You don’t have to announce it to everyone. You don’t have to give people the smarmy spiritual stare (you know the obsequious smile with eye contact that goes on so long it gets weird), you don’t even have to like the people you don’t like. Just hold love in your heart when you interact, when you watch the news, or when you watch a documentary. And don’t practice on people you don’t like, practice on people who are easy to love. Then “widen the circle of compassion” as Buddhists say. Day by day and little by little, see if you can hold compassion in your heart a little more for a few more people. Compassion doesn’t mean that you condone their behavior or that you’re offering your tacit support of their cause. In fact, you can have compassion for someone who you are actively working against. It’s all about how you tune your own heart. When you hate someone, your mind, your body, and your life suffer the consequences of that hatred. You’re worth more than that.

5. Accept reality and work from there: Denial, rumination, and worry are wasted energy. They siphon your life force and leave you a jittering pile of useless wide-eyed jelly. That is energy that could be much better spent in action. What has happened has happened. Now, what do we do? Now, how do we tune our hearts? Now, now, now. NOW. Self-care involves acceptance of that which we cannot change in the moment. To deny the reality of the moment is not only wasted energy it’s truly a loss of sanity. Acceptance is the starting off place, and then we take appropriate action.

6. After you accept, get off your butt: Spirituality doesn’t mean we sit back to be complicit with actions and behaviors that are harmful. A gross misinterpretation of non-violence is “non-action.” If “everything is perfect” why should I do anything? Because you are not a bystander to the universe. You are not sitting on the bleachers of life watching and letting some bigger force sort it all out. You are life, you are part of the universe, and you are that bigger force. God flows through you into the world. Every time you take an action and make a choice you change the structure of the entire universe. You are molding and sculpting the future every day. The universe, God, spirit, soul, divine mind is the basis of what you are and acts through you. Being passive is not being loving to yourself or to anyone else. Tune your heart with compassion, accept reality, and get off your butt.

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