EMPOWERED ACTION IN THE FACE OF TRAUMA

Recent world events have stirred up many emotions. Louise Androlia shares her wisdom on how to use our feelings as a catalyst for empowered action…. Images: Katya Volpato

Recent world events have left many of us feeling traumatized, whether or not we’ve been directly affected by acts of mass violence. These are turbulent times, and having been working on my own path to trauma recovery recently, I feel called to share some thoughts on how to work on being present in reality—but at the same time not becoming immobilized by fear.

At the root of it all, whether facing our own crisis or confronted with mass crisis, the difficult art to master is that it is safe to feel our feelings and continue to connect, especially when we feel as though it would be wiser to shut down.

The strong emotions being stirred up among switched on communities now are actually a valuable call to action. Here are some ways we can use them—while avoiding losing our connection to our highest selves, or getting swept up in the hype.

THE EMOTION: Overwhelmed
THE GUIDANCE: You can’t save the whole world at once
THE EMPOWERED ACTION: Focus your attention

Pick something you currently feel very passionate or perhaps frightened about, and then learn and feel your way through it. Endless browsing through social media feeds may make you feel more frustrated because you also end up reading the comments, which can lead to yet more overwhelm. Instead, choose to focus on your chosen subject and learn all you can. Yes this will be hard if you are used to endless scrolling—because as well as learning, you are re-training your mind to be present.

THE EMOTION: Fear
THE GUIDANCE: Catastrophizing only fuels the fears
THE EMPOWERED ACTION: Get involved in local politics and community

Looking on Facebook lately, all I’ve seen is people screaming into the Internet abyss about the apocalypse and giving fuel to their own fear and sadness in the process. This helps no one, including you. So look at how you can actually get involved within your community, and if you don’t see anything obvious, start something. It is so easy to just say ‘Fuck the world’. But this is not the time to give up. It’s time to shout louder, IRL, and to remember your voice and your vote DOES count.

THE EMOTION: Anger
THE GUIDANCE: Do not fight fire with fire
THE EMPOWERED ACTION: Feel your anger; then channel it into positive action

The elements can always teach us something—for example, anger is a fire element emotion, while compassion and feelings are water element emotions. And you don’t put out a forest fire by setting another part of the forest on fire! Action, and so activism, is a positive channel for anger, and if what’s needed now is more of the water element, become an activist for love, compassion, equality, empathy, and connection.

THE EMOTION: Grief
THE GUIDANCE: It is safe to feel your feelings
THE EMPOWERED ACTION: Explore and nurture your shadow side

Man of us are experiencing a huge collective sense of grief, coming in all forms, and for anybody not used to this emotion, this level of pain can seem very frightening to the mind, body and spirit. This is not a time to numb the pain, but instead an opportunity to dive deeper in your own self-inquiry practice. Checking out of reality serves no one, including you. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel all the fears that have arisen recently and know that it is okay to do so. It can sometimes feel like our own personal crises are not ‘bad’ enough to warrant being the focus of our compassion—but ignoring your own pain will leave you unable to serve. By learning to compassionately address what is currently coming up for you, then you are actually helping to heal the collective and creating connection between yourself, your peers and those strangers you are really feeling for.

THE EMOTION: Helplessness
THE GUIDANCE: Re-connect to yourself
THE EMPOWERED ACTION: Take a media break

First of all, avoid watching or reading the mainstream news on a loop. Studies show that when we keep recycling the news over and over we are re-traumatizing constantly. And the more scared we feel, the more helpless we can feel. To be able to start being of service it is essential that we learn to reconnect to our selves, as once back in the present moment we feel more stable to help others. I’ve also lost count of how many people I hear saying they wish they could use social media less, as this can have a similar way of hooking us into judgment and fear, and distancing us from our own truths. The great news is…you can!

Some easy ways to start:

  • Leave your phone at home and go for a walk in your neighborhood.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode at night.
  • Create a ‘no social media after ***pm’ rule.
  • Log out of all your social media channels on your computer and phone. This means that when you go to use them you become aware that you have to login. This allows using them to become intentional.
  • Move your social icons on your phone to a folder and put it on the last page of scrolling. Again this means you CHOOSE when to look rather than it just being there.
  • Do not read the comments. I repeat DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS.

These small actions may feel massively uncomfortable, and if so, good. If you feel anxious without your phone, good. The present moment will continue to feel painful until you learn to be IN it. And look how much time you now have! What would you like to do with it? I suggest reconnecting to PLAY. Connecting with your inner child is another way to ease anxiety and help you reconnect to your natural energy of love and connection. When you refresh your true north, you are more likely to be able to shift your helplessness into self-love.

THE EMOTION: Frustration
THE GUIDANCE: Express yourself in the way that works for you
THE EMPOWERED ACTION: Show don’t tell

It can be really hard to express yourself in a way that you feel helps, especially when you’re angry and upset. It’s good to remember that we rarely get our point across when we try and force it upon someone and so preaching doesn’t usually feel good. You will always feel better when you can express yourself articulately and if you find it difficult to feel confidence with expressing yourself with words, remember also that you can always just BE the change. We always positively affect those around us with our behavior. So think: what small steps can you take in your day-to-day life that will provide example of the kind of world you’d like to live in?

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A Final Word on Black Lives Matter. Vs All Lives Matter.

This is an argument that’s been raging, and below are a few of my favorite simple ways to explain the situation to someone who is having trouble understanding. It is part of human nature to make everything about ourselves (regardless of the topic) since in times of trauma our survival instinct kicks in. But it’s important to learn to recognize that not EVERYTHING is about us. The more that we can see ourselves connected to everyone else, the more empathy we can ignite.

  • “When we say ‘Save the Rainforests’, it doesn’t mean that all other forests suck.”
  • “Choosing to go to a rally for Breast Cancer does not mean that Liver Cancer is less important.”
  • “Saving an animal that’s about to go extinct does not mean that other animals aren’t important, it just means that right now, this one needs our help.”
  • “Yes, of course all lives are important, but currently it doesn’t feel like black lives are as important as other lives—and until the world is equal, meaning ALL people receive the same level of kindness and judicial treatment, then we need to speak up.”
  • “Choosing to support black lives does not mean your life is any less significant.”

You get the idea.

YOGI SAYS: ”HOW CAN I BE OF SERVICE?”

In a new column, yogi and philosopher Eddie Stern offers advice from a yogic perspective—with additional guidance from the tarot. This month’s question: “How can I be of service?” Artwork: Lucy Dyer 

QUESTION: “All the recent socio-political unrest has left me feeling equal parts vulnerable and impotent. Alongside feelings of fear about what the future holds (environmental issues obviously play into this also), there is a huge sense of compassion for communities who’ve been affected directly and a newfound depth of empathy for all the displaced and marginalized people in the world. This has stirred up a desire to want to help in some tangible way, but it’s so hard to know where to start—and to not feel hopeless about the impact one individual can possibly have on such monumental global issues. How can I be of service?”

SUGGESTION: Knowing where to start is often the hardest part of service—the same way you might look at your kitchen sink after preparing a huge feast. Your sink will be overflowing with dirty dishes, pots and pans, fragile glassware and sharp knives, all covered in gook, and the thought of washing them, while you are tired and overfed, is overwhelming. Your initial thought might be to leave them for the morning, and perhaps you secretly hope that one of your guests or your partner will do it for you. However, while the whole mess is indeed completely overwhelming, washing just one single cup, or one plate, is not. If you start by washing just one dirty dish at a time, before you know it, the whole kitchen sink will be clean.

We can look at the world in the same way. For one person to clean up the whole mess of global warming, geopolitical conflict, poverty and hunger is not only impossible, it’s completely overwhelming to even think about. But taking personal responsibility for trying to do one thing better, and inspire others to do something better, is totally doable. In yoga, Sun Salutations—breathing slowly, and connecting each movement with one breath—teach us to embody a step-by-step approach to our lives. Further, if you can choose that one thing that you are going to work on or perfect about your behavior and attitude while here on our small, green and blue planet, you’ll also find that you are re-inspired, and will become filled with energy, inspiration and creativity.

In the Tarot, the Eight of Pentacles might be a good card for you to meditate on. This card shows a young man absorbed in his work; he is an apprentice, meaning that he is learning and perfecting a new skill, and has committed himself to hammering out the details that will lead to mastery. He works on one coin at a time, without stress, only moving on to the next coin when the one he is working on has been completed. The Pentacles are the suit of physical work, and are representative of the Earth energy. This is essentially what your question was regarding. Our planet Earth is a mess, what work can I do to help?

The first thing is to be grounded, stable, and practical, like the Earth; and then to take it one step at a time. Come up with a simple strategy that you can stick with, like the washing of one dish at a time. This is how a big job gets done. Your commitment to being of service to the world will strengthen and blossom when the job before you feels like it is attainable. The Eight of Pentacles also teaches us that we should not isolate ourselves for too long, for the kind of work you wish to do is not the work of one person.

We need spiritual friends to work with, and communities to develop who share our ideals, values and desire to be of service. Cleaning up the world is not the job of one person, it’s the job everyone! If you take it all on your shoulders, it will just be depressing. So look around, see what is close by that you can take participate in, or what you can create from scratch. After you have taken small steps, you can build bigger teams if you wish to, delegate more, and fulfill your vision of creating a more loving, compassionate world.

Discover more about Eddie Stern and his work here. Do you have a question for “Yogi Says”? Email: [email protected]