Friday, March 13, 2015

Out of Darkness Comes Light

When I was recently diagnosed with the flu,  I was both upset but also glad to be validated that my pain was biologically based. Being who I am, I took this opportunity to make meaning of this illness.
When I got sick, I entered into Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’ stages of grief, spiraling through denial, anger, despair/depression, bargaining and acceptance; along with my wondering: “How dare my body let me down?  I feel betrayed!”  By myself.
Then came poor, pitiful me.  Finally, giving up and giving in to the fact that I could not control my having the flu or not, I accepted it and let myself rest and relax instead of beating myself up for being so damn human that even I can get sick - like everyone else.
Out of darkness comes light. We have often heard: out of sadness comes joy, out of pain and sorrow comes rebirth, and out of tragedy comes hope.
Perhaps we can begin to heal ourselves while focusing on bodily symptoms, wondering about them, not only exploring how we got sick but by asking these ailments what they are doing for us, even embracing them as part of us. Only then can we be with whatever is going on inside us and explore ourselves without judgment in order to release old negative energy or blocks, renew our vitality, and move through trauma toward transformation.
When I finally surrendered to the fact that I had little control over having the flu, I could get on with the business of what I could do to help myself heal.
Out of darkness comes light.  Is that true then for such tragedies as war, poverty, the mass incarceration and killing of black and brown men and boys, rampant sexual abuse all over the world, and the fact that people destroy and kill each other physically or emotionally every day?  What grace or good can come out of these dark facts?
If we can look at all of the world’s tragedies as parts of us, all of the images and issues that represent the pain and agony that we feel inside ourselves and dish out to others, then maybe there is a way to decrease our violence toward ourselves and others.  I am the first to admit to my judgmental-ness, my privilege and my anger toward others with whom I strongly disagree. Some of us also struggle with harsh evaluations of ourselves. What matters is what we do with these understandings about life and health.

When we as a community get better at diagnosing our “illnesses” and providing the support we all need while “sick,” only then can we work toward healing within our communities and the world.  Only when we admit to and work through our conflicts internally and externally, can we become our best selves, more loving and nurturing for the whole planet and all the beings within it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Becoming Healthy in an Unhealthy Culture

I wonder how we can become healthier people while living in what I believe is an unhealthy culture.  There are so many wonderful things about America, its gifts and promises, but there is also deep destruction of the body and soul at work within some of our systems.

To develop good health, we need to become aware of what we want and need. Then, we learn how to get some of what we need and also cater to the needs of others in a fine balance, a dance of giving and receiving.

We are constantly negotiating in life between what we want and what others want. We are in continual flux, and we move with or against that flow. Conflict occurs when we bump up against what someone else wants, and how we handle that conflict is a key to fulfillment or misery in life.

If we are constantly absorbed in ourselves, in our traumas, emotions and needs, it is difficult to look outside of ourselves to see what others may want or need.  If we listen mostly to those outside of ourselves, we can get unfocused and twirl around like snowflakes in the wind, in reaction to whatever is happening in our world.

Our spiritual traditions teach us how to live, how to love and serve, and how to be our best selves.  The media also tell us about who we are and how people act together.  We learn how to be in relationship with others from our families, our schools, our peers, our leaders, and community groups.  Our culture, locally, nationally and globally, influences our beliefs about who we are and who we should be.

But, what if our culture hurts us? What if our culture is actually toxic, reflecting and adding to our distresses and those of others instead of assisting us in our quest for good health and well-being?  How do we get healthy in a society that acts greedy, starts wars, discriminates harshly between the poor and the wealthy, and divvies out justice in prejudicial ways?  How do we live during these times of extreme individualism while caring about others, helping others instead of just looking out for ourselves?

One example portraying our culture’s illness is that many people have been and are still being incarcerated on drug charges, filling our prisons with the poor while white collar and corporate crimes are rarely punished, and are sometimes exalted. Private corporations run our prisons making huge profits with great incentive for the justice system to keep locking away non-violent offenders.  Money talks loudly and we listen. And, we also collaborate with that corporate initiative if we don’t speak out and try to change this disastrous business of ruining whole lives because of some mistakes.

We live in a culture that violates bodies and human spirits. We need to improve the health of  our American systems in order to promote better lives for all.