4 Ways To Practice Love In The Time Of War.
So many of us are deeply impacted by world events as of late — the bombings in Paris and in Beirut, the hostage crisis in Mali, the refugee crisis sweeping through Europe, and the crisis of xenophobia pouring faster than refugees into our own nation.
So many of us are feeling heartbroken and wanting to make a difference — whether to make our world safer, to contribute to more compassionate dialogue about refugees and asylum, or to foster awareness of the underpinnings of what we call peace and terrorism.
The sights and sounds of terror and trauma front and center in the news can feel like too much for these hearts and bodies to make sense of. Often I have wondered, “Was I born into the wrong time on this planet? I never asked to live in a world this broken,” and I know many of you have asked the same.
As our bodies try their darnedest to find a resting point amidst the madness, so many of them constrict and shut down, and adamantly push away anything that feels like threat, including our fellow humans with offending opinions, perspectives, and beliefs.
I know the resulting tendencies all too intimately in myself — the hardening, the posturing, the soapbox-ing, the save-and-fix-the-world-now-ing, the pulse of urgency through a creature that, ultimately, was designed for tenderness.
Yet in times of crisis, it is tenderness that gets shoved into the margins, even though its gently pulsing wisdom is precisely the elixir that would quench not only our own thirst, but the thirst of the world.
Below are a few ideas for how we may recalibrate our compasses for tenderness in tough times.
Breathe. Yes, that sensation in your chest beneath the flurry of thoughts and emails and to-do’s and must-save-the-world-now’s. Breathe. Let us slow down the collective train of urgency to which so many of us contribute a screaming railway car.
The deluge of updates and frenzy of bad news will incite us to speed up, spin, and run off fear’s fumes. But if there was ever a time to slow down, this is it. To the rhythm of our breath, the beat of our frozen and broken hearts, the sloth-like movement of our bodies as we bask in the blessing of the morning sun.
From stillness does our deepest wisdom arise. From slowness do we discover our most potent medicine.
Not from reactivity and the fervent swinging of our intellectual swords, but from the quiet invitation of our breath to rest in our bodies, and that oasis of peace and calm that is our birthright.
2. Metabolize our freaked-out parts
Let’s face it. A lot of us (Yours Truly included) have been freaking out these days. The horrors in the news ramp up our go-get-‘em-ness, our determination to fight for what is right, and let nary another soul needlessly suffer.
Yet, despite our best of intentions, when we take up our clubs of Rightness and Wrongness, swinging them in a wild frenzy, attempting to bash one another into peace and quiet, it rarely grants the outcome that we want. Our clubs cannot touch the wounds that give rise to violence. Our clubs cannot pry open the delicate doors to healing.
May we have mercy on the parts of us that want to close down our hearts, and take up our swords. May we tend to them the way we would tend to a small child — with kindness, care and compassion, offering them a lap to shudder and cry in, to feel the ow of fear, of suffering, all the way down and in and through.
May we all slow down — way down — and take the time to digest what is freaking us out, acknowledge what’s squirming and worming through our psyche, calling in its own unique way for help.
Beneath the anger, the numbness, the shutting down, the pulling away, can you feel the sweet ache of your deepest longing, sparked by the nightly news?
Perhaps for the refuge of safety and peace, or the warm hands of love and support, or the clear field of understanding about what, on earth, is going on?
Whatever the flavor of your ache, let yourself notice its beauty, its innocence, its purity of intention. Let yourself notice your wish that all beings experience this. Let yourself notice that, despite all appearances, the demons in the media also share this longing, tragically expressed though it may be.
You want to make a difference, I know. So dare to ask: “How may I live as safety? How may I show up as peace? How might I live with love? How might I contribute to clarity? How can I let my words and actions on this day contribute to the kind of world I want to live in?”
Notice what shifts, what changes, what swords are dropped, and offerings are raised.
3. Beware of using shame as a wake-up call
With terror on our collective mind, our deepest fears rattled and sadnesses stirred, our oh-so-human reactivities arise; we retreat from one another, and from behind our bunkers, we lash out, point the finger of blame, and ultimately, shame the other into more enlightened points of view.
But the shame only feeds the war within and without, accelerating the lockdowns on our hearts, promulgating divides at the moment that we need bridges the most.
Indeed, many are ditching their hearts’ highest ideals as fear possesses their minds. Advocating for shutting down our borders, building more bombs, launching more anti-immigrant and Muslim rhetoric — no, these are not the compassionate aims that Jesus spoke of, but the reaction of so many human beings immersed in an ocean of fear.
And yet may we remember that we ourselves are not so different from our enemies, scared and shaken to the core, wandering and clueless, seeking a surefire guarantee of safety and calm.
It’s tempting to launch our own war of shame on those who would launch a war of missiles. And in this climate of us against them, prominent on so many levels, we must ask: what else is possible?
How do we speak, not to the defenses and the armor, the puffed chests and bolstered cases, but to the innocent creatures beneath, rattled and confused?
How do we step into the battlefield with curiosity, not to fight, but to call one another home? How do we call each other back to our own hearts, and the innate empathy that is our birthright? How do we remind one another of our deepest longings to live with courage, and to risk vulnerability for love?
May we aim to be one another’s allies on our collective journey home. And may we let love be the invitation. The world has swallowed enough shame to fuel a thousand wars.
4. Don’t wait to fall in love
As the 9 o’clock news spins a web of fear in our collective psyche, and as we begin to believe the thoughts that the world is simply bad, unsafe, and untrustworthy, it’s easy to miss the miracle of the breeze whispering through the trees, the sunlight falling on our skin, the sweetness of breath undulating under our ribs, the delight of a friendly hand on our shoulder, asking how we are.
The beauty of this world hasn’t moved an inch. Its hands are open, ready to grace our lives, whether we’re ready to receive it or not.
Love is here. Let us dare to receive it, nourish our wary bones and feed our heavy hearts. Let us dare to fall in love — amidst news of falling bullets, falling bombs, and falling national values — again and again and again.
May we not take ourselves away from love to serve love. Rather, may we dare to fall and stay in love, and let it fuel the long journey toward healing our broken world.
So many of you already bring a wealth of knowledge, capacities, inner resources, talents and insights to the crises at hand; so many of you are already contributing, stepping up, serving in your own way.
Others of you may be frozen into inaction, unsure as to how or when or where to make a difference, what to say without looking foolish, whom to talk to without forging divides.
May we not bash ourselves into action wherever we fall. Outspoken activists or silent hermits scared of the fray, may our words and actions arise from the same place, that tenderness for ourselves which gives birth to tenderness for others.
This is the bridge which will save our planet.
From stillness, from listening, from the tender flesh of our hearts, may we build a world based upon porous interdependence, on not having it all figured out on our own, on being able to reach for and find one another’s hands in the dark.
Indeed, may we dare to reach through the long night of uncertainty, and to find therein the warm hands and hearts of our friends and enemies alike, longing to be given to love.
Marina Smerling is a warrior of shameless-heartedness, here to figure out how to love herself and others even when grumpy and she can’t find her keys. A renegade-attorney-turned-lover-of-Non-Violent-Communication (NVC), she offers counseling and relationship coaching based upon NVC and the ancient esoteric principle of: “Dude, there’s nothing wrong with you.” You could contact her via her website.