Friday evening and again on Saturday morning I watched LIVE feed from the cell phones of colleagues in Charlottesville, Virginia. They had hopped buses, boarded planes and traveled in cars, leaving behind friends, family and safety to stand in love against the message of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally. That morning as I stared at my computer, my mouth gaped open as I saw pop cans filled with concrete flying into clergy lines, the feed went blank repeatedly for several moments, each time accompanied by a growing concern and at the same time thinking, “this cannot be as bad as it looks, right?” Except it was. By noon my stomach had knotted.
How does one deal with the stress of these sorts of events? How do you stay resilient when this is our experience these days? Of course there are many things we can do in order to stay resilient: we talk about them every week in these writings. We often acknowledge this: when things are very stressful, we forget what we know. That is why physical reminders and easy go-to practices are so vital to have in place.
During high tension the best things to help yourself can also be the simplest. When I work with stressed families in the Intensive Care Unit, I often encourage them to: “Step outside and take three deep breaths: breathe fresh air.” Or, “When you go home, (and yes, go home) take out the garbage, walk the dog, or get the mail, because those things will help you feel normal (and lower your stress), at a time when nothing else feels normal.” During these encounters, I never recommend increasing their meditation time, reading more scripture or hitting the yoga mat. While those are great practices, when you are super stressed they seem insurmountable and often empty of meaning.
So, what can we do in this midst of our country’s situation and events such as Charlottesville? How can we keep our own selves grounded? Stepping outside and taking three deep breaths is a good start. Second, skip social media for a while – trying checking in only half as often as normal. Third, tend to one another. Be generous and gracious to those around you. Care for each other. Finally, and I believe most importantly, be kind to your own soul.
It is in generosity of spirit, graciousness of practice and kindness to each other and ourselves that we, even in the midst of hate, can find hope.
Be good to one another.