Trusting Your Inner Wisdom in Difficult TimesPosted: September 1, 2017
These days, waking up each morning you don’t know what to expect in the World. It seems to be in so much chaos and upheaval. From the terror attacks in Europe to those at home, the physical and political threats of others for more power, and the recent events of Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath, the chaos and devastation feels more pervasive and prevalent than ever before. Add the 24/7 media coverage plus our negativity bias, and our reactivity circuits may be primed and ready to explode.
In this state, we may start to feel intense negative emotions: frustration, disgust, heartache, overwhelm and anger, leading to defensive and reactionary behavior. This behavior may be directed at the event initiators: individuals (Kim Jong Un), groups (neo-Nazis & white supremacist) and organizations (alt-right) holding certain ideologies and purposefully acting to benefit themselves at all costs. Intense emotions may also be brought on by mother nature, as she reminds us that we do not have the power to control everything. No matter who initiates the devastating events, we are consistently reminded the only thing we can control in these distressing times is our mindful response.
A participant in one of my classes asked, “What can I do when I’m angry and appalled at the behavior of our leadership in this country?” Another shared, “I want to do something to stop the hatred of the “isms”: racism, sexism, terrorism, but I’m not sure what to do.” And yet one more posed, “I want to lend a hand to those affected by the hurricane and storm in Texas, but I cannot travel to help.” Though their questions varied, all were looking for the same thing: answers or wisdom allowing them to contribute meaningfully and make a difference.
So, what can you do to find the answers you are seeking during these tumultuous times? How do you address the feelings inside yourself that arise in response to the unimaginable? Do you react with similar destructive behavior or do you listen to inner wisdom?
Answers we seek lay inside ourselves, we just need to tap into them. One way to tap in is through mindfulness and meditation: taking a moment to go off-line and drop inward. When we sit in meditation and focus on our breath or act in the present moment mindfully, we begin to build trust in our breath, ourselves and this moment. In cultivating this trust, we then know we can turn to our inner wisdom for the answers. Based on experiential knowledge we ask our intuition and heart, “What am I feeling? What do I need right now? What action do I need to take right now?” And we sit back, listen and trust in the answers that arise.
By dropping in and turning to our inner wisdom, answers and positive emotions arise such as compassion, altruism, acceptance and resilience. We then understand that these positive emotions are much stronger than the negative, and are motivated to act from this place of wisdom. Actions motivated by compassion and altruism are witnessed in the dangerous flood waters of Harvey, where a human chain of people connected to help another out of a life-threatening situation. Additionally, standing up for another being unconditionally because it is the right thing to do, acknowledges acceptance and our common humanity.
So, the next time you are stirred, agitated or moved by current devastating events, don’t just react. Instead, turn inward to find the answers you seek and mindfully ask, “What am I feeling? What do I need? What do I need to do right now?” Some answers may be the need to connect with the like-minded and unite efforts to support the health, safety and freedom of others. Another answer may be to meditate and send loving kindness wishes to those affected. If we feel outrage at intolerance, and the need for compassion, fair treatment, and respect, we may protest non-violently, role model exactly what we need, stand up to injustice and show compassion. Whatever questions you ask yourself, trust in the answers, and then do that thing.
Thich Nhat Hanh, world renown wisdom teacher, Zen master and peace activist said it so eloquently about inner wisdom:
“Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.”
Seek your answers today, inside yourself. Your heart knows what to do. Just ask, listen, trust, and then act. Mindfully.