Month: November 2016
Beating Our Swords Into Plowshares
Sometimes I just don’t want to do the more spiritually elevated thing, I just don’t. The most recent presidential election has been just one of those occasions. In the days following the election results I found myself reeling from the wash of emotions coursing through my veins, cycling through my gut, and sharply piercing my heart. Shock. Dismay. Disbelief. Anger. Fear. Heartbreak. Grief, grief, and more grief.
The day after the election one unsuspecting Trump supporter urged me to embrace the new president-elect and to “give him a chance.” “After all,” he offered, “Trump was so sincere in his acceptance speech and even gave Hillary a compliment!” Poor soul, he didn’t understand why his remarks elicited so much vehemence from me. Too soon! Besides, I replied, where was all this desire for unity and forgiveness throughout President Obama’s eight years of presidency? I hung up on him. I had not yet sorted out my feelings about this momentous occasion. I was definitely not ready to make up and play nice.
To be honest, my own barely contained rage and grief surprised me. In the midst of my deeply charged emotional response I had forgotten my own wise and oft-repeated counsel: Give yourself time to express your feelings without judgement. Take some time for rigorous self-honesty. See what gifts your rage, grief and fear are offering you.
This is truly a historical point in time, one in which, in the light of Divine Truth, all has been laid painfully bare. With this brilliant Light, ALL is revealed: our hopes; our desires for unity, peace, and community; and, lost possibilities.
The Light of Truth reveals all. It reveals not only what we’ve hoped and longed for, but also what we fear. The depth and darkness of this emotional abyss does not discriminate. It occupies and terrifies us all.
It is no coincidence, I firmly believe, that these events now occur during the season of Fall. Fall, in Five Element medicine, is represented by the element of Metal and the emotion of grief. Fall is the season to grieve our losses, to respect and value ALL of life and to let go of that which no longer serves us.
Metal is the element that best reflects the qualities of grief. Like Metal, grief is brittle and sharp, swiftly cutting to the core of the matter. It surgically slices away any excess. It excises what is dead or dying, leaving only what is essential to sustain life. This cutting away (loss) is the painful but necessary step in the journey toward restoration and creation.
Metal also represents what is precious, what is truly of value in our lives. In order to make the greatest use of this element, however, metal must first undergo a rigorous refinement process. Under great heat and pressure, impurities are sloughed away. Further refinement comes about through extended periods of hammering and polishing, as metal is crafted into a thing of beauty and utility. What is left is a durable instrument designed to cut and separate. The instrument might be a surgeon’s scalpel, designed to swiftly assist in healing, or a gleaming sword, crafted for battle.
I firmly believe that one of the reasons for all the hatred and fear we have been witnessing in each glimpse into the Dark Abyss of America is due to our collective, unexpressed grief. Unexpressed or denied grief eventually congeals into rage, lack of compassion, and a deep fear of the future and all its uncertainties.
We have a very long history of loss in our country originating from the way we appropriated the land we now call America from the First Peoples, to the trauma of 9/11, to the spectacle that has been this most recent election.
When we cut ourselves off from the powerful emotion of grief, we will find little of value, little to respect. Firmly anchored in our losses we are unable to entertain even the idea of new life. So deep is our grief that we cannot allow anything in because we cannot let anything go. Instead, we hang onto the tiny scraps of a previous life because that is where we last felt valued. We become nostalgic hoarders of a past that no longer, or maybe ever existed.
The loss I felt symbolized in this last election was acute and personal. I became physically ill from the act that reflected misogyny and oppression, the hatred and the fear. My personal glimpse into the Dark Abyss revealed the many faces of disrespect and devaluation of all things female. (You can read my personal story on this experience here.) My heartbreak and grief over the loss of the Divine Feminine has been crushing, as I know it has for many women. With the outcome of the presidential election this loss was resurrected, sharp and deep, and with it all the accumulated anger and despair of not feeling truly seen.
Though our darkest attitudes and behaviors have been unmistakably exposed during this election, I have also been greatly inspired by the stories by women, no longer willing to keep silent, who have courageously come forth with their personal accounts of abuse and recovery. I am encouraged by the desire to reach out and support each other, and by the dialog, however difficult, that has been opened. I am beyond grateful for the male friend who called me after the election to see how I was doing, not only as a fellow citizen and friend, but to see how this event affected me as a woman. What a precious gift!
I’m also inspired to take right action, to actively do something to correct an injustice, for that is ultimately what our anger calls forth in us. I intend to spend more time listening to people of color and differing sexual orientations and of religious beliefs–and yes, differing political views. I seek to find places of commonality, where, though we have differing views and beliefs, we can agree and work together toward ensuring that all families will be safe and adequately fed and housed. I will work to see that we all worship and love and create with respect and without molestation.
So, what’s next? For many of us, the veil between our hopes and reality, between our ideals and what is, has been shredded leaving us with the stark reality of our shortcomings. For some, the feeling is, “Thanks for finally waking up.” Our work remains the same, however. We still have families to care for and communities to support. We have art to create and people to feed. We have injustices to correct and ignorance to educate. We have our stories to tell. We have love to demonstrate.
Here are a few things you can do right now to help heal the great wound of our grief:
Sit quietly with our own grief–truly value and respect all that you have lost.
Honestly examine that which no longer serves you. Honor and respect it until you are ready to let it go.
Comfort those who are grieving.
Offer a hug to someone every day.
Listen with compassion and understanding to your brothers and sisters of differing cultures, races, gender and religions without insisting they see things your way.
Ask for help when you need it.
Take time for joy, passion, beauty and play–they are essential to healing.
Anger demands action, it requires injustice to be corrected and boundaries to be restored. But before you act, ask yourself, “What is most needed here? Do I need to pick up a sword, a plowshare, or both?”
Stand up for those who are disadvantaged, who don’t have a voice.
Make space for the deep emotions of others. NOTE: If you cannot be present with someone through their expression of deep feelings and you find yourself offering unsolicited advice, it may be a signal that you have healing to do with your own unexpressed emotions.
As we learn to move artfully with our grief we can then come to respect and honor the loss of others. We can search the ashes of our experience to find what is truly of value, which can sometimes seem pitifully small. Take heart, what remains will be just enough to bring forth a creation that is rich and meaningful. Together we will find how to use our anger, grief and fear to beat the sword of oppression into the tools that will feed our world for generations to come.
With Love and Grace,
Look for more on the season of Fall and how to more artfully move through the emotion of grief in my upcoming book Soul of the Seasons. To pre-order Soul of the Seasons: click here.