When you are waiting for the Bat Phone to ring so you can go and save the world……… It’s Slow Down Sunday.
Days come (and fairly often these days, if you tune into the news) where we are compelled to rush out and “do” something. We face the existential question that presents a grand challenge of “what can I do to help?” We want to send money, send clothes, send food, just send something, anything. This makes us feel better. This compassionate action is esteemed and virtuous. And all of that does help. So please keep doing in this way. But.......also......let yourself off the hook....know your strengths and how and when to help.
When my children watch the news, and lately it has been saturated with fires out west and the opiate epidemic, they turn and ask me, “What can we do?” You feel powerless and vulnerable sitting in your living room. Maybe even a tad bit guilty because your living room is untarnished and you have everything you need and love near you. Kind of like survivor’s guilt.
I always tell my kids that feeling helpless can feel overwhelming and actually work against us and keep us stuck and unable to move into action….or at least into any action that is truly helpful.
I tell them to always look for the helpers on the T.V. Look carefully and you will see that they are there. Acting benevolently, bravely, honorably. Sometimes our action is to turn to our loved ones, in our living room and hold them and tell them that you love them dearly. Sometimes it is to be kind to your neighbor that you haven’t been so kind to. Sometimes it is learning patience when the car in front of you at the Starbucks window is taking way too long. Sometimes the most magnanimous action is to hold everyone in the deepest and truest sense of compassion. We are not Batman or Batwoman. If we were to save the world it would require training first.
If we can sit still and face ourselves internally when we feel powerless and overwhelmed, this is where true compassion is admirably cultivated. This is the springboard of our strength. From this point we can depart flexibly and resiliently and we won’t drown in our actions (or our thoughts). If the suffering of others is witnessed and becomes unbearable, we will act, and it will be exalted as true compassion. When you are ready, know that you are already chivalrous and capable.
But, until then, sometimes sitting is what we need to do, turn to your spouse and say, “I love you.” We cannot save the world today. Today we must sit and feel all of the feels, including the horrid pain of what we are witnessing others go through. Today we are watching the countless helpers who are rescuing others, who are gallantly helping, and who are trained in Bat skills to help. It is okay to need to pause and cultivate our training first. This is not doing nothing. In fact, this is doing everything. Sit. Train. Feel. Find stability. Cultivate Equanimity. Then act.
And keep sending stuff, that is okay too, and that is enough.