It seems that the “breaking open” just goes on and on. The terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris last week are the latest events to grab our attention. Yet at nearly every level across many cultures, it seems that social structures are breaking open and breaking down. No one is spared. No part of society, business, or government is left unchallenged. We are all affected in some way. As a collective, today we are experiencing every emotion – from shock and disbelief to anger and fear, love and compassion, or to numbness, confusion, and despair.
As individuals, as communities, as nations, where do we go from here?
Frankly, no one knows. There is no simple answer. Our answers and informed choices from a year ago, a month ago, or sometimes, even yesterday, are no longer relevant. And what is relevant today may no longer be relevant tomorrow or next month. Everything is fluid. Conditions are constantly changing. The “facts” are different today than they were last week. The ground underneath our feet keeps shifting.
Yet even though we don’t know where to go, what to do, or even what to think, there is actually a place where all of us can start. It’s a place available to everyone. It is the still place deep in the heart of our being.
I don’t mean to be overly simplistic. I’m not saying that if we would all just get quiet and find our center, everything would be fine. (Well, ok, even that alone could probably help!) Yet I am offering a practical yet powerful tool that each of us, including those at the top, can use starting right now.
Take the next five minutes to try this tool for yourself. Just follow the instructions one paragraph at a time.
Sit comfortably and feel your body in your chair. Take a deep breath and allow the chair to support you. Stop reading and give yourself a moment to settle yourself here.
Then become aware of your clothes on your skin. Again, stop reading. Take a moment.
Become aware of your breath coming in and going out. Let it find its own natural, steady, even rhythm. Let the breath go deep into your belly – imagine that you are breathing into the floor. Notice how your energy is shifting as your breath deepens and finds its own rhythm. Take your time.
Pay attention to the sounds around you – the close up sounds and the far away sounds. How many layers of sound can you become aware of? Again, take time to listen – to really hear your surroundings.
As you continue to breathe deeply, put your hand on the center of your chest and gently massage your heart center. Imagine that you are breathing in through your heart and out through your feet into the earth. Again, give yourself time.
Finally, ask your heart, “What is my/our next step?”
Don’t worry about finding big answers. All you’re looking for right now is a next step, even when the question or situation is complicated and complex. Keep it simple, and when you get a sense of your next step, then take it. As you take that step, you’ll begin to discover the one after that.
In the last few days, two favorite quotes have been with me. First, from Howard Thurman:
In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen,
we can hear the whisper of the heart
giving strength to weakness,
courage to fear,
hope to despair.
When things are moving fast, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of sitting in the stillness for more than a couple of minutes. You may have to respond to what is happening quickly. Yet if you have practiced this simple tool until it becomes a trusted skill, just two minutes can make an enormous difference in how you respond to whatever is happening.
There will be other times when, in fact, you can pause for a little longer. You have time to rest in the stillness for more clarity and direction. Take whatever time you have and work with it.
Which takes me to these words from Theodore Roosevelt:
Do what you can with what you have where you are.
Whether you are making choices and decisions for yourself, for your family, for your business or organization, or for your country, this approach of pausing and listening from a place of deeper stillness can be a place to begin. From this place of stillness and quiet, you can begin to see the bigger picture, to “connect the dots,” and to sense the way forward.
We all have a role to play in what is happening in our world. Our individual thoughts, beliefs, perspectives, and choices combine to create the collective consciousness. We all make up the collective consciousness. And right now the collective needs breathing space and clarity. We need strength with integrity, courage to speak from a greater wisdom, and visions and strategies for creating a world in which everyone gets at least some of what they need.
As you learn to rest deeper in the stillness, ask to be shown the role you can play to make the greatest difference. Ask what step you can take to help create a world that works. And then say, “Yes.”
In the coming days and weeks, practice using this tool. In fact, practice it several times a day. Practice it when things are good and the stakes are not so high so that you can get comfortable with it. Then you will have a tool to support you when challenges arise.
And if you already feel the pressures of challenges, start practicing anyway. After a few days, you’ll begin to notice a difference. Over time, you will increase your capacities for awareness, understanding, creativity, and resilience, no matter what is happening around you. And you will find your next step.
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