All is not well in our land. So what can we do? I’ve been walking with this question for several months. As much as I would like to escape, the current conditions in my country won’t let go of me. There is no place to hide. And these conditions will not go away anytime soon.
Although I speak in this article particularly to my fellow citizens in the United States, we are not alone in our challenges. Much of what I write about here can apply anywhere and anytime, from the macro to the micro levels of society. And while until now in this column, I have been somewhat careful not to be too forthright about my political views, my heart can no longer be silent.
When I say that all is not well in my land, I am speaking about the systematic dismantling of our democracy and the hollowing out of vitally important government agencies and departments by the Trump administration, supported by the Senate leadership and parts of the judiciary.
I’m speaking about the lack of respect for the human spirit and disregard for the harsh realities of the full spectrum of the human experience. About the clear message from the top of the ruling party that people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, and those from particular religious and/or ethnic backgrounds are not welcome.
I am speaking about the denial of climate science and the lack of care and respect for our Earth home. About the disregard for knowledge, ethics, and integrity (except for when it is convenient) in favor of whatever will protect and serve a closely controlled agenda designed to protect the rights, wealth, and power of a few at the expense of the whole.
I am speaking about the false idea that any individual, community, political party, or country can stand alone without need for support, services, and resources from others. We need one another as individuals, as cultures, and as countries. The choices and policies of any government or people impacts governments, economies, environmental and human conditions around the globe. We live in a wholly interdependent world. Everything and everyone is in some way connected to everything and everyone else, usually with less than six degrees of separation in between.
So What Can We Do?
Every single one of us can make a difference. Full engagement is needed at every level of society, from the global to the most personal. While some will take heroic actions, march in the streets, or lead movements, those are not the only ways to engage. What is critical now is that each of us make clear and informed choices about how we will show up in the face of what is happening. We can all choose to be proactive.
None of us will turn the tide by ourselves. However, when every single one of us makes the conscious choice to get clear about what is ours to do in response to what is happening, and then do it, we can turn the tide. The key is that it will take all of us.
And so, where do we begin?
Begin By Acknowledging What You Feel
First, be honest with yourself about what you feel. If you feel sadness, grief, anger, fear, anxiety, or some combination of many things, acknowledge those feelings. Don’t try to push them aside. Don’t try to move on in spite of them. Instead, move on with them.
Trying to hold feelings and emotions at bay and forcing yourself to take steps forward in spite of them is exhausting. Give yourself time to be present with whatever you feel with no judgment. Feelings are information. They tell you something important about what is going on inside of you. They show you what is important for you to be aware of. Listen to the messages. Pay attention. Respect your feelings as information and you are less likely to get lost in them. Be present with them. Allow them to be there, and their intensity will soon begin to soften or ease. You will start to find some breathing space.
As the emotional intensity begins to ease, your emotional and mental bandwidth begins to clear. Creative energy starts to flow. Keep breathing and let the situation talk to you. This is key. There is nothing for you to figure out. Let the situation show you something—even something small—that you can do today to start making a difference. Maybe even in the next hour.
Taking a step into action connects you to purpose. Purpose—especially purpose in service of something bigger than you—brings focus. Purpose and focus together bring alignment. Acting from alignment brings energy. And with energy comes hope and possibility.
Then Ask: What Is Mine To Do?
Purpose, focus, alignment, and hope together create space for the bigger question: What is mine to do? Or said another way: What is the situation asking me for?
Some people write, others speak or draw or sing. Some people carry signs in the street while others work behind the scenes as a volunteer. Some form coalitions. Others build bridges of understanding. Some hold space and lift others up to be their best, while others dream big visions and set about bringing them to life.
Change can only happen as fast as the mass consciousness is ready to embrace it. Therefore, our most fundamental task in response to what is happening is to expand awareness—to live our lives, to ask questions, and to invite awareness through our own choices, decisions, actions, and interactions with others. In Transformational Presence, we are clear that our job is not to tell people what to think or do; instead, our job is to expand how people think, howthey perceive—to support people in expanding their understanding and worldviews.
Some Things We Can All Do Starting Now
Alongside whatever may be yours to do, there are some things that we all can do right now.
First and foremost, stay informed. Know what’s going on in your government, in legislation, and in policy making. Sense or intuit what is happening underneath the surface. To be uninformed or silent is to be complicit in what is happening. It’s as if you are saying that it’s OK. What is happening in our country is not OK. Being an informed citizen has rarely been more important than it is now.
Taking your information from friends, family members, or Facebook isn’t enough. Read and listen for yourself. Choose your news sources carefully. Seek out trusted and objective sources. This is increasingly difficult in the current age of opinion news. However, with a little diligence, you can find fairer and more balanced reporting.
You don’t have to become a news junkie. You can start by taking 20 minutes a day to read the headlines and the first few paragraphs of articles, or to listen to a fact-based, objective news summary. This will already tell you a lot.
Read and listen from your heart as well as from your head. How does what you read or hear land within you? What feelings and emotions are stirred? How does what is happening align with your values—or not? What is important for you to pay attention to for the well-being of all?
Get to know the players—both the candidates and current elected officials. Know what they stand for, who they are, what their values are. Notice their presence and their integrity—how you feel intuitively when you watch or listen to them. Who do you align with and why? Do you sense that they are working in service of their own or special interests, or in service of a world that works for all?
Be open to new ideas and perspectives. Learn forward. Then choose what feels right for you. Seek understanding about why someone or something else feels right to another person. Listen, sense, and feel into the players, their positions, and their proposals. Again, do not blindly accept others’ opinions. Be informed yourself. Make your own choices from your heart, mind, and integrity.
And then lift our leaders up. Step beyond whether or not you agree with them and hold them up in their integrity, in their hearts, in their humanity. Hold them accountable to be leaders for all of the people, not just for some.
Live your values and speak out. Be clear within yourself about who you are, what is important to you, what you value most, and live your life in alignment with that awareness. Speak out to your government representatives and community leaders. Hold a vision for the world you want to live in, and then do your part to co-create that world with others. Encourage civil discourse. Know when to stand your ground and when perhaps it is time to consider another perspective. Keep learning and growing as a person and as a citizen.
Step out to the edge of your comfort zone. Take a risk to stand for what you believe in. It’s the only way that change will happen. Standing up and speaking out is not always convenient. Yet in Martin Luther King’s words:
Our lives begin to end
the day we become silent
about things that matter.
Or the slogan of the AIDS activist group Act Up in the late 1980s:
Silence = Death
Vote. Every time. Every chance you have. Encourage and help everyone you know to vote. Offer a ride to people who cannot drive or don’t have easy access to transportation. Offer childcare or eldercare so that parents or caregivers can go to vote. And stand up for equal voting rights for all citizens so that every person has the opportunity to vote and know that their vote counts.
Get involved. Volunteer for a political campaign or a social service program. Get involved in your community, whether through a civic or faith organization or both. Meet new people. Support your chosen political candidates in every way you can.
You don’t have to do all of these things (except vote)—just start with one or two. Most importantly, be an engaged and active citizen of your country, living your life and making your choices consciously and intentionally.
Choose Love In the Face of Fear
Finally, when you are at a loss for how to show up or what to do, stand tall, be Love, and shine your light. Choose love instead of fear. The fear may still be present, yet you make a conscious choice about where to put your focus. African-American writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde wrote:
When I dare to be powerful—
to use my strength in service
of my vision [purpose]—
then it becomes less and less important
whether I am afraid.
Aligning with purpose and direction helps us choose Love. And choosing Love helps us to further align with purpose and direction. They serve each other. Choose Love to help you move forward with your fear, anger, doubt, or grief. In the words of Brian Andreas:
Anyone can slay a dragon,
but try waking up every morning &
loving the world all over again.
That’s what makes a real hero.
This is the work of the spiritual warrior—one who lives in alignment with his or her truth, speaks and acts in integrity with self and other, and leads by intentionally encouraging a group consciousness and culture that serves the well-being of all.
The spiritual warrior dares to let his or her humanity be present in the face of opposing views. The spiritual warrior is a master of focus, intention, attention, and response. To be a spiritual warrior is a life-long practice—a practice that my country and our world desperately needs today.
Bottom line, this is our job. So stand tall, be Love, and pro-actively do your part—whatever that may be—to create the best possible culture in service of a world that works for all.
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