Whenever the world gets too much for me, I take solace in nature, in wildness. But “the world” is encroaching on nature, and this sometimes makes me feel like a cornered, scared animal. Scared animals resort to two tactics for survival—aggression or submission. Neither of those tactics appeals to me. I want to be useful; I want to be a strong advocate for healing and sanity and love. I want to BE the change in order to help create the change. I can’t be that if I am constantly on the attack, or if I am driven by fear into a numb, despairing stupor. So what to do? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but one thing that helps me is to spend a little time each day attending to my inner state so that the work I do in the world is FOR something and not only AGAINT “the other.” Right now as I turn my attention to helping a Congressional candidate in my district win his race, I’m using the following daily practice:
FANNING THE FLAME OF FEARLESSNESS
1. Carve out 5 - 10 minutes when you can be alone.
2. Close the door, sit in a chair or on the floor, close your eyes, and come into silence.
3. Put your hand on the center of your chest—your heart center—and pat gently. Breathe into that space and let whatever is in your heart emerge and come to the surface. Respectfully nod to whatever arises—fear, anxiety, dullness, grief, joy, wonder, gratitude—as if you are greeting visitors.
4. Now, imagine a gentle breeze ushering those visitors out the back door. No judgement, no rush, but a quiet sweeping away of images and feelings, until all that remains is spaciousness—as if your heart is a vast, empty cave.
5. Now, in the center of the cave, imagine a tiny, glowing ember. A little flame. Even if it is the tiniest light, see if you can find it.
6. Inhale slowly, and gently exhale, and blow on that ember with your exhalation. Make a quiet blowing sound with your breath, and imagine the ember glowing and getting stronger and brighter. Perhaps it changes from a cool blue color to a golden flame.
7. As you blow on the ember, feel the power of your breath spreading warmth through your whole body/mind/soul, filling you with the light of optimism and fearlessness. Feel the warmth relaxing you, melting away negativity, anxiety, blame, victimhood. Do this with several breaths until you can actually feel a sense of warmth and expansiveness in your chest.
8. You can use this exercise when you are going about your day at work and home. Just one in-breath can clear away fear, and one out-breath can remind you of your natural inner warmth and strength. These qualities of fearlessness and hope are always available, always waiting. They will enhance whatever it is you do to help our hurting world, and strenghten your capacity to spread the seeds of hope.