One of the challenges we can all face in our work to support a peaceful, healthy world is the potential to feel anything but peaceful when we meet obstacles, opposition, or just the latest alarming news about our current global emergency. You are not alone if you struggle at times with rage or despair. Some may seek to channel this energy to fuel their action. Yet to do so cannot really bring the change our world needs, as it is like adding fuel to a raging fire that is burning our world. There is a heavy feeling in the world today, like an undertow, which we feed with our angry, despairing or disconnected states. This week, let’s explore how we can defuse the anger and soften the despair, so that we can keep showing up with our full selves, free from undertow.
The comforting truth is that the undertow we feel only has as much power as we give it. That is because it is fed and sustained by our ego, which continually seeks to separate and divide us from life. When we feel against – be it towards ourself, another, or our environment – we are in disconnected state, therefore, in our ego. Over the past few weeks, we have been looking closer at how the ego is a self-imposed illusion. As we learn to see beyond its mirage, we connect to a much greater energy source than our individual self. In doing so, we tap into profound vitality and ease, and we naturally release from the pull of undertow.
A commitment to peace is about moving beyond the sense of againstness, because any divisiveness perpetuates not only personal undertow but conflict in the world. This means learning to see the police officer who gives us a speeding ticket not as an imposition but as a blessing. It means not perceiving the barista at Starbucks who is taking what feels like “forever” as a nuisance, but as our teacher. It means that everything that happens is grace in some form – is in support of us, our growth, our evolution – even if we don’t like it. All provides an opportunity for our consciousness to expand so that we may learn to live from a place of peacefulness, and act from a place of compassion.
I love the quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Have you ever noticed how self-righteous anger can feel satisfying, at least for a moment? Its adrenaline rush gives us an ego boost and a temporary feeling of control over our environment. The problem is, the rush does not last. Ultimately it leaves us feeling alone, afraid and sinking in undertow. Our anger has only disconnected us from ourselves, others and the world.
We find inner and outer peace when we open our hearts in compassionate understanding for our own and others’ folly. If ever I am feeling triggered with anger, judgment or blame, I come back to a simple exercise that, like many people, I was taught in junior school: “putting the shoe on the other foot.” If people were angry with me, I would wish to be handled with understanding, care and compassion. So, I strive to treat others that way.
Being Present for Despair
If you have ever felt like there’s no hope and no point, you know the gravitational pull of despair. Despair is like kryptonite on our quest for inner peace. It is an implosion into self-pity. It courts undertow, hinders our evolution and draws us into a black hole of nothingness that envelops the force of life.
When we feel despair, life has shrunk down to the size of our own self-importance, which at this time is convinced we suck and are worthless. We have lost the big picture.
Yet when despair knocks at our door, we can welcome it, just like any other emotion, without attachment, without judgment. With quiet wisdom and self-compassion, we will find a sense of internal space.
Beating yourself up only deepens your despair and strengthens the undertow. Instead, give yourself the gentleness, the love and the understanding you need, and the despair will shift like dark clouds parting to reveal the sun that was there all along.
Pay no mind to anything that feeds undertow, for the cost is too high. It is all about choice. In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at painful feelings like anger or despair. For now, I invite you to be diligent in noticing the potential to go in those directions, and consciously choosing to redirect your awareness to interconnection. Everything we think, feel and do affects the whole. We are never alone.
Coming Back to Peace
The next time you feel self-righteous anger or despair, pause. Take three deep breaths and see if you can start to feel some space around these intense emotions.
You may notice a temptation to judge yourself or beat yourself up for having these feelings. Let that go. It is just your ego doubling down and co-creating with undertow, trying to ensure you feel either too proud and self-important, or too lousy to choose peace. You do not have to listen to that voice. You are perfectly loved and worthy, just as you are, right now.
Take a few more deep breaths, and try extending compassionate understanding to yourself. That is the foundation of all true compassion expressed to others. Bringing peace into the world means finding peace within.
I completely believe in you and am cheering you on.
From my heart to yours,