Last month I was learning lessons from a local wild fire in my backyard and reeling from the results of the 2016 US Presidential election. The underlying theme of these 2 events is safety. Fortunately we did not have to evacuate. The bees also survived despite the large volume of smoke. However, I continue to have concerns for the safety of our democracy and consequently I experience fear for the safety of the most at risk populations among us. Safety is essential for a healthy and happy life, and fear undermined my deepest sense of safety for a while.
Fear is a natural response to feeling threatened. Some threats are external and others are internal. Whatever its source, recognizing the feeling, admitting it and accepting it is essential to moving out of fear towards clarity, wisdom and action. Fear is powerful and can also be a big motivator for finding solutions. When I recognized that fear was paralyzing me, as the fire across the way moved closer, I was taking the first step out of fear. We brought the outside cat inside in the event we needed to evacuate her too. We moved the bee hive to a friend’s orchard, organized important papers, packed clothes and food, and delayed the pickup of the new dishwasher in case the fire burned our house. Having plans in place was certainly empowering.
Recently I discovered how I am managing the perceived threats, the fear I experience concerning the incoming President and the next 4 years. My beloved daily practice of Metta, the Loving Kindness meditation is essential for maintaining my balance. It has helped me regain a sense of grounding and trust. Most beautifully, I now feel an even more profound connection to climate refugees over the globe, to others living in war torn areas and those who don’t live in democracies.
Let me tell you a bit about the practice of Metta.
There are 4 qualities that all beings need and enjoy: Happiness, Wellness, Safety and Peace. By starting with sending the blessings of these 4 qualities to one’s self, we nurture ourselves and then have a sense of being full enough that we can send these blessings to others: teachers, family, friends, acquaintances, people with whom we are at odds, and then all beings including Mother Earth. During the last month the blessing for safety was prominent in my awareness. In other times other of the qualities take prominence, depending upon what is up in my life.
Often I send the Metta blessings to the patients I am caring for. Currently I am working with a patient who in addition to living with profound health issues, is wrestling with poverty, lack of education, and a house with a big leaking roof. Everyone in his family also has disabilities subsequent to their stress, poor eating habits and lack of health care in a state where there is increasingly less health care available to them due to their challenging circumstances. Sending Metta to them decreases my sense of separation. I am able to visit with a more open and accepting heart, less judgement and greater appreciation of them just the way that they are, and how they are managing their circumstances.
And in the same vein, when I feel fear and outrage towards the politicians who talk about privatizing Medicare and Social Security I send them Metta. This family will be worse off with privatized Medicare, Social Security and here in NC, possibly privatized Medicaid. These decision makers too want to be happy, healthy, safe and at peace in their lives. They just don’t seem to recognize the fear that underlies their profound sense of separateness from those in the lower economic stratospheres. This prevents them from making decisions for people rather than profit. The sources of peace and calm that I used to manage a busy work day as a hospice care manager or in the home health office now are useful in every aspect of life. Creating a space of peace and serenity inside me to radiate outwardly touches others. People say, “you are so calm”–it is because I keep myself grounded in Metta, realizing that everyone wants to be happy, healthy, safe and with peace. Living with fear clouds vision and thinking. Metta offers the opportunity to find heart felt common ground, to move out of fear to becoming empowered and able to take action. From this space of caring and clarity, I model the behavior and for those interested, I can teach them.
It is also from this empowered space of caring and connection, that I will join other nurses and concerned citizens on January 21
for the Women’s March in Washington DC https://www.womensmarch.com/ and the Nurses Take DC in May 4-6, 2017 http://nursestakedc.com/ to advocate for Safe Nurse Patient Ratios and continue to care for the bees advocating for their health since human health is affected by bee health.
For more in depth presentations about Metta check out the following 2 links. http://www.diydharma.org/metta-meditation-sharon-salzberg a guided Metta practice http://www.mettainstitute.org/mettameditation.html which is a PDF.