What a strange and, in mine and many's eyes, sad and scary week for this world of ours. Of course there are many different factors that make people take the decisions they make - we need to bring light to these rather than ignoring them. However misguided we may feel people's decisions are, they often come from our universal desire to be happy. Us human beings are strange and complicated things.
For me the saddest part of recent events (the recent USA elections) is the recognition of how much easier it is to stir up feelings of fear and division than those of love and understanding.
Knowing a little about how our brains are wired perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised. In our evolutionary make up we are hard-wired to notice the negative, to operate most quickly from places of fear, as this has the most immediate impact on our survival. It is said that negative experiences are like velcro - they stick in our memory because they have the capacity to threaten us, whilst positive ones are like teflon - they slide off and fade more quickly from view. The ancient evolutionary part of our brain that operates on this survival mode still lives within us day in, day out. It still helps us to survive which is a great thing, but when we operate purely from this place it can make us more fearful, feeling more separate to 'other' which doesn't necessarily create an easy world to live in.
What brings hope to me at times like these is the huge power we have as human beings to also change and create change. Our brains our malleable rather than rigid, they can be wired differently depending on how we chose to use them. From my own experience of practicing both yoga and mindful meditation I have experienced the benefits of shining a light into my own dark corners, on the parts of myself that have felt painful, disconnected or I've felt fearful of seeing. That by meeting these places with awareness and compassion (as uncomfortable as that can sometimes feel) they have the capacity to shift and change and allow more light both out and in. That through repeated practice we begin to 're-wire' ourselves; we begin to view and move through the world from a stance of greater compassion and connection rather than fear, defense and division. Being human it is always work in progress and I slip into old habits many a time but I feel it is a move in the right direction.
This is not an attempt to gloss over complex human and political issues with a little love and light, but I do truly believe that we have the power on an individual level to create change in our world. That when we take time to step our of our busyness and practice awareness and compassion that the change we experience in ourselves spreads out into those around us.
In the words of Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance:
"Just as the bright sun causes ice-cubes to melt, in the moments when we feel connected and kind, we create a warm environment that encourages others around us to relax and open up. Each time we widen the circle of caring - with a smile, a hug, a listening presence - the ripples flow out endlessly. When we offer comfort to the person sitting by our side, our kindness spreads through the world"
As for whether love can trump hate, or perhaps whether love can trump fear, I don't know. But I do know which feels better in my mind, body and heart, which movement I want to be on the side of, and which qualities I will take more time to nourish, in the hope that they spread out into the world.
As an offering on that path this month I would like to share with you all a loving kindness meditation that I recorded for the Clear, Calm, Kind course. Please click here to listen to it if you feel like pausing and doing the same.