A Guide to Keeping Your Head Up
Living on earth is an exquisite experience. Rich, beautiful, exhilarating! … and also, let’s be serious for a moment, hard as hell.
Don’t get me wrong, being here is wondrous, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are small things that hurt. Spilled tea, papercuts, a word thrown carelessly. And big things too, bigger things than our bodies were even meant to manage. Oil in the ocean, clear cuts, weapons sold carelessly. This past week in our country we experienced one of the biggest mass shooting in recent history. It is a horror and an ache (and a clear call for policy shift). And yet another swath added to the larger tapestry of disaster and heartache that has been these past few months.
It is a lot, to say the least. It’s a lot to continue to believe in the wonder, the beauty. To still find the etching of light that exists around closing doors. To court magic, and believe in the good things coming.
Sometimes it’s all you can do to take care of the small things. Like throwing away the flowers that have grown stale or taking out the compost. In moments like these it’s perfectly fine to sit all day by the soup stock, and focus on what feels nourishing. Because when we learn how to take care of our human bodies, we can continue to find our humanity. And because tea and snuggles and laughter and pie is good medicine. It’s the medicine we need to teach our bodies how to breathe in a world where global tragedy pops up daily on your screen.
So what do you do when the world teams with the beauty of sunflowers and mums in every color… and yet it also seems like it’s going to hades in a handbasket?
In light of the ongoing heart-depletion of this time I’ve created a Guide for Keeping Your Head up. The five things I do every day to keep healthy, heart-strong and connected to the good. Because it’s there, it will never fade. And every day we have the opportunity to learn new pathways for finding the good that remains.
Media these days moves at the speed of light. An event that happens in one corner of the world is beamed onto every screen within the hour. Our bodies, however, are on a much slower evolutionary trajectory. In many ways our hearts, minds and nervous systems are the same as they’ve been for thousands of years… and life used to be a whole heck of a lot different. Our bodies developed in small more-than-human societies, where stress came and went and the locus of your world was your individual community. Today, we are plugged into the whole globe and often bearing the brunt of an entire planet’s stress. Overwhelm has become a near constant state of being for most folks. Our nervous systems simply weren’t built for this kind of overload of information! And so we need to learn how to take a breath and become better caretakers for our own bodies.
Good parents are conscientious not to push their children beyond the brink of their physical capacity (and if they do, God help them, for it shall be known in the form of tears and endless tantrums). We’d do equally as well to take such good care of our bodies. Because the truth is that every time we push our bodies beyond their capacity for integration, we face a similar reaction. There is only so much a single person can take, and our bodies have their very own special kind of “tantrums” to let us know when enough is enough: anxiety, depression, colds, muscle aches, skin breakouts, digestive querulousness… (aren’t they precious?!). Skip the tantrums by listening and taking care.
Stay strong enough to weather the times by tending to the “soft animal of your body” first and foremost. Be gentle on your heart, your nervous system. Give yourself time to decompress. Take baths, massage the bottoms of your feet, turn off the computer after dinner. Make yourself an herb blend to take as a daily tea or tincture. I keep a tincture called “Everything is Going to be Okay” in my purse at all times. And it always helps. Try making your own or check out my sample formula below.
Everything is Going to be Okay
4 oz tincture formula
Milky Oats (Avena sativa) 30 mL
Hawthorn Berries (Crataegus spp.) 30 mL
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) 30 mL
Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) 30 mL
2.Begin Every Day with Gratitude
Gratitude shifts our perception. It is the fastest way to alter your consciousness and elevate the goodness. Gratitude gives your heart the strength to move into dark times. It is a lantern that will help you to the other side.
I begin every morning by giving gratitude for everything I can in my life. The food I eat, the water I drink, the air I breathe. The beautiful things, the hard things, the things that teach me how to be me. I give gratitude for it all, big and small, and then it is the blessings that stand out to me.
After my gratitudes, I take some time to “send light.” Sending wishes for care, nourishment, help or aid to those in need. I ask for the intervention of higher powers, I request miracles. Sometimes I ask for those in peril to know, simply, that they are cared for, thought of. I send my light, from the infinite source of all light, and by doing so I come into heart-felt relationship with all the love I have to give (and the attendant power it then gives me to act).
Studies show that social media creates more feelings of loneliness than it does community or connection. A good scroll on Instagram might seem just the thing to assuage one’s grief, but it can often overwhelm our senses, leaving us feeling even more inadequate or alone. When times get hard, gather your good friends close and talk about it. If you are sad, shocked or grieving, reach out. Call a friend to chat. Make a tea date. Go into the woods for a “forest bath” (plants are the most healing community I know and are always there to help you ground back in hope). Real community and relationship is important for healing and the best medicine is what happens “irl” (as they say).
Laughter is medicine. It is the first medicine we ever learn to give ourselves, and it is a medicine that can be freely generated at any moment. In The Book of Joy, a conversation with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu (and a wonderful read for any hard moment), Douglas Abrams refers to a Mexican shaman he met once who said, “laughing and crying are the same thing— laughing just feels better.” And it’s true.
Laughter helps clear the body in the same way tears do, and it is good medicine indeed. So, find the things that make you giggle. Go see stand-up comedy, call a friend who makes you chuckle, check out your favorite meme account, or better yet start a “funny file” on your phone to go to anytime you need a pick-me-up.
I was just clearing out my phone tabs the other day when I stumbled across this SNL skit I saved over a year ago. It seriously NEVER FAILS to make me giggle.
What is making you laugh these days?
Offer concrete actions to help assuage the ache. Social sharing, monetary contributions, giving blood, writing blog pieces, donating clothes, making a phone call to your representative, offering your services for low cost or sliding scale. Generosity is one of the eight pillars of finding true joy, as outlined by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. When we give from wells that are full, we experience a deep and replenishing joy. Whether it’s a listening ear, a small love note, or an anonymous donation, we all have something to give to help the greater whole.
When you feel deeply awash, try to undertake that one action and then give yourself permission to be done for the day.
Transition all the way back to #1 on this list (nourishing yourself) and know that you will have even more strength tomorrow.