by Donavan Wilson
“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine,” says a song performed by the band R.E.M. Recently, America has been hit by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which collectively smashed substantial segments of Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. Wildfires are still rampaging in California. The world we know is unraveling at a very rapid pace.
Can we look to our political leadership for reassurance? President Donald J. Trump is unfit for the most powerful political office ever conceived. Trump’s rhetoric threatens to totally destroy North Korea, which may escalate into war. The White House has become an adult day care center. Senator Robert Corker (R-Tennessee) stated that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly help separate our country from chaos.
Our political divisions feel amplified under this administration. Some NFL players are taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem as games begin to protest police brutality and injustice in our criminal justice system. Yet, so many others in the country think our professional athletes are disrespecting our flag and our nation. The current administration is also threatening to abandon important agreements, which help secure the peace and help defend the environment.
The day to day stress of life is catching up with us all. In a recent poll conducted by the American Psychological Association, 66 percent of Americans stress about the future of the country.
Whether you drive or take public transportation, the grind of the work commute will catch up with everyone. And that, before the hamster cage style environment of the workplace begins to whittle away at your soul. We are stuck in our cubes and eat at our desks. Some of our colleagues have been laid off and project budgets cut. How can anyone maintain their composure in all this insanity?
Although I have no magical, special, or omnipotent powers, finding tranquility during troubled waters would be such a relief. Thankfully, I have found several simple, yet often unusual and different ways to cultivate serenity.
As Hurricane Harvey slashed and slushed floodwaters all over South Texas, countless homes were damaged through the storm’s rampage. Despite this, survivors and neighbors open their houses and volunteer to help the recovery efforts.
There is nothing more life-affirming than to see individuals overcoming adversity. Despite our politics, misfortune brings us together to reaffirm the best elements of the American spirit. We have the national will to triumph over our tragedies.
Mercy equals grace in action. Grace means offering forgiveness despite misdeeds. For example, when Dylann Roof killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015, the families of the victims forgave him. If such a magnanimous act can reassure you that there is hope for humanity, nothing will. Roof is unworthy of such kindness. He was driven by hatred. The families offered him compassion and sympathy.
The Power of Community
Loneliness, which is the absence of an emotional connection and feeling isolated and alienated from others, is affecting 40 million adults in America. Sometimes, the hopelessness and despair from feeling lonely seems merciless. I only wish I could find a remedy for everyone, partly because I fortunately have a community. For me, community provides a nice aliment for the occasional feelings of isolation.
For me, community goes way beyond my next door neighbors. Lately, a good number of my community members practice yoga. The poses put us in different twists and turns, just like life does. The teachers are well prepared and passionate about the practice. By their excellent example, students are developing a skillful response to life challenges through awareness and deep breathing.
When I get frustrated in a certain posture, I crack jokes and make everyone laugh. Often, I worry my behavior may disrupt others’ peaceful experiences. Despite my mischief, the teachers there have embraced my authenticity. I found an amazing group of practitioners who encourage and support each other. They are not just students, but they are my friends. I really count on their camaraderie. As for the wonderful studio owner, I owe her a debt of gratitude which I cannot possibly repay. Belonging is as essential as oxygen and water to an individual’s well-being.
Individuals are hurting, and our society is suffering. People are essentially flawed and sinful, but there is something within our souls, which has us striving toward the light. Recognition of these two opposite values provides a good, motivating contrast, making yoga and peaceful practices much more vital.
In cultivating the power of grace, community and resiliency in our lives, I realize I am not alone in my struggles and I have a support system. And that makes life worth living.
Donavan Wilson is a writer based in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor
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