How do we hold this complex world?

It’s so difficult to hold all the danger and uncertainties around us and stay active, engaged, and creative!

In a single day I cycle through a bunch of different frames of mind, each with its own level of adrenaline, fear, anger, courage, and hope. Fortunately I know what shuts me down and what keeps me present, visionary, and courageous. I have learned this: How we frame what is happening has everything to do with how available we are as agents of love and transformation.

So let’s talk about the frames we use to talk about what is happening now. I have four different ones I pass through on any given day. I hope this list might help you identify the meaning you are making of these times and how it affects your ability to engage fully.

“This is a horrible disaster”

This is can be my gut, adrenaline-fueled reaction to the news. It is essential that we call the racism, misogyny, imperialism, extraction etc. currently at play by their true names and not ignore them.

Yet focusing on how bad things are totally wears me out physically, emotionally and mentally. If I’m not grounded, the notion of “things are breaking down” can quickly spiral into “creation itself can break.”

“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered.
We must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.”

This widely circulated quote from adrienne marie brown has helped me get some perspective and take courage. Many hidden systems of exploitation are being brought forward so we can finally really see them and deal with them. It’s like an addict’s bottoming out. At least that’s my hope.

I love the image of holding each other tightly with love and courage so we can get to truth. That compassion and solidarity is essential. Yet when I’m in a similar place with my daughter, who is highly sensitive and sometimes feels sheer terror over peeling off bandaids, we just get stuck with her clinging to me. The idea of unveiling as part of healing simply does not compute in her terrified, clinging mind. When I’m afraid, I too need an ever stronger guiding statement about the process of unveiling as part of healing.

“We are in the midst of the Great Turning.”

The Great Turning is a phrase popularized by Joanna Macy and names the essential adventure of our time: shifting from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. I have found this framing deeply meaningful because it gives me direction. Joanna Macy has also helped me work with the grief that comes with loving a planet in peril. The grief is actually an indication of connection, and this connection is what can guide us.

I have really wrestled with my fear: Are we going to make the Great Turning happen quickly enough for complex life forms to continue to have a presence on this planet? Underneath my fear has been a lingering existential question: Even if we are in collective danger – on the social, political, or climate level – do we live in a safe and loving universe? Is the Great Turning simply human centered?

“We are careening towards oneness.”

This is a phrase from theologian Cynthia Bourgeault. (I recently blogged about it here.) It has become an important handle for me lately because it holds two important ideas together. The word careening captures how chaotic things feel. More importantly, the idea that we are moving towards oneness is an expression of deep faith in the evolutionary nature of the universe and of the divine to move towards more love and more consciousness. We are moving towards both increasing complexity and unity. This movement requires our conscious participation.

This is a significant statement of faith and way of knowing the universe that I have arrived at through contemplative practice and study. It is much too big an idea to fully transmit right here in this blog. The essence that I want to convey is that I am finally coming into trusting deeply that this is a loving and safe universe that can hold these times. Ultimately this allows me to become in instrument of the divine dance of love with a lot less adrenaline and much more power and creativity.

If I had to pick which of these four statements I’d say to myself as I’m trying to settle into sleep, I’d pick the this final one. It is the one that contains the most faith and possibility for me.

What’s your handle for holding these times?

You may have many like me. I’m curious which ones fill you with the most sense of courage, vision, and possibility. Your wise take might be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

If you are having trouble accessing your best self, this can be a sign that your worldview also needs attention. I firmly believe that transforming how we see the world is the fastest and most powerful way to shift both the inner world and outer world. It is not a substitute for making phone calls to your legislators, but no less important.

With love,
emily

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Elizabeth’s Upcoming Events

Second Fridays; 1:30-3:30 p.m.:  Spiritual Memoir drop-in sessions, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.

April 14: Living the Questions
May 12: The Natural World
June 9: Looking Back, Seeing Again

March 26-April 1, 2017: Self-Guided (DIY) Writing Retreat with Naomi Shihab Nye, including 1 on 1 consultations with Elizabeth, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.

Do you live in Waukesha or Marinette, WI?  I’ll discuss incarnation, Christianity, and bisexuality at noon on April 5th at the University of Wisconsin–Waukesha and at noon on April 6th at the University of Wisconsin–Marinette. Please join me!

Save the Dates:

October 2-6, 2017: Alone Together: Living Revision at Madeline Island School of the Arts.

September 24-28, 2018:  Alone Together: Living Revision at Madeline Island School of the Arts.