We didn’t ask for this, but here we are in dark times. Times that include suffering, fear, and grief. It has been said that we cannot appreciate the light until we have journeyed in the dark. Few take this journey voluntarily however; we are thrust into it.
So in the midst of “I didn’t ask for this”, how then do we maintain hope, connection, faith and vision? How do we recognize the validity and reality of our fears, but not be led by our fears? How do we honor them, acknowledge them, but not let them be in charge of us. Or, as we used to say as kids say, “You’re not the boss of me” to our fears.
How do we turn fear to joy? As a psychotherapist I teach coping skills, and I’d now like to introduce you to the wisdom teachings I am using in this time of contagion and fear.
2 Sides of the Coin: Open Your Heart and Gladden Your Mind
Tara Brach tells us that there are two paths to equanimity and balance. One path is to touch into the fear and suffering with an open heart of compassion. The other path is to “Gladden your mind”. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to feel our own pain, and to feel the pain of the world community as well. Sometimes we have to do just the opposite.
Yesterday I sat (virtually) with a client who sobbed as she told me that while she was grateful for her own health and relative well-being, she was also overwhelmed with the sadness and pain of how many she knew were suffering. Her heart was so open and her boundaries so porous that she was simply flooded. We sat together in the companionship of shared sorrow for a few moments. I put a hand on my own heart and invited her to do the same. After we sat together for a time with the fullness of our hearts, we then moved on with a softening and a lightening of the pain.
I invite you to take a moment now if you would like. Put your hand on your own heart and breath into it. Feel it soften as you stay with whatever is there. Be gentle with yourself. Be soft with yourself. Bring your compassion not only to the world outside of you but to the world inside yourself as well.
On the other side of the fear/joy street, Tara Brach reminds us to “gladden our hearts”.
Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan advises us to give ourselves permission to rejoice. The psalmist tells us that there is a time to grieve and a time to rejoice. Sometimes even on the same day. Even now, maybe even especially now. We have been using the word “contagious” to talk about the virus and the fears we feel. When we read the news, hear someone else’s fears and anxieties, they can become catchy. We pick up on that energy.
The Upside of “Contagion”
We can also use this word though when we talk about contagious laughter, or contagious joy, or contagious hope. When we look for the pain and suffering, surely we can see it. But when we look for the bright spots, the joy, the beauty, we can see those too. I see and hear the cardinals every time I take a walk on a sunny day. And to be honest, I scan the trees and the skies for them now, so it is not simply a coincidence. We see what we are looking for, and sometimes we can call to ourselves what we want or need. So remember to look for the things you want to see: The smile of the supermarket worker (you can tell by the eyes even if their mouth is covered by a mask), the orange tulip that makes you catch your breath for the beauty, the old friend who just showed up on Facebook after a long absence, because they have the time and space – and the need now – to connect more in any way they can. Delight in these things. Let your heart gladden and fill with delight. This is grace, we can have moments of being touched by grace as we let our hearts open to joy and beauty and love. Let yourself be surprised by the coincidences, by your dreams, by the synchronicity you encounter. Be curious rather than afraid.
Use all of your senses – see, hear, taste, touch, smell the spring unfolding around us. My friend Julie taught me today to touch the newly unfolding spring leaves, they are softer and more delicate than later in the summer. Whisper “Grow” to each green thing as it pushes up from under the ground and know that spring always emerges from winter eventually, and that each of us has a role to play in that. Here is hope, faith, and joy. Go ahead and laugh out loud, gladden your heart and rejoice.
For more advice, see the post below.
With hope and joy,
Linda Yael Schiller, MSW, LICSW, is an international speaker, psychotherapist, author, and dreamworker. Her book Modern Dreamwork: New Tools for Decoding Your Soul’s Wisdom, 2019 Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing, is available in both e-book and print. Learn more at www.moderndreamwork.com.
Linda regularly teaches dreamwork skills to helping professionals, clergy and medical professionals; and at agency and corporate events and retreats both online and in person.
To contact Linda, use the phone number and email at the bottom of this page.