Last week, I wrote that the future of the world depends in no small part upon how we – the normal, everyday people who populate this globe, practice our capacity for presence and focus. We live in uncertain times, but we are not helpless. As I argued in my previous post, we begin changing the world by putting our own houses in order.
Like many, I watched in horror as America elected a narcissistic bully as our next president. Like many, I was overwhelmed by despair, panic, and grief, and astonished by the intensity of my feelings. A serene voice in my head repeated, over and over, “There, there, things might not be that bad. We don’t know the future. Maybe he won’t be a complete unmitigated monster.” And yet I couldn’t curtail the horror, disgust, and panic that was rising within me. I couldn’t sleep, I drank too much, I was a morose basket case. I couldn’t get out of my head the circus of obscenities that we had all been exposed to: the abuses, the lies, the disregard for the beams of democracy, the Caligula-like grandiosity of Donald Trump. Now we are to live with such disgust – and whatever other follies may come – for the next four years.
Several weeks ago I made a decision: that I would drastically reduce my time on social media. It was an attempt to drain the shallows from my life – reducing the meaningless, easy-to-replicate tasks to give more time and space to the activities that create meaning and fulfillment in my life.
American poet Mary Oliver begins her poem Wild Geese thusly:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Every so often, I find myself meditating on these lines. They represent a shift in my consciousness, a sea change in my faith and worldview. These words have been the theme of my growing up; of moving from boy to man.
“Wow” said the man, “you are still working at this store. I’m impressed. Most people with higher IQ’s don’t stay here very long.”
“Thanks?” I said, ringing him up.
“So what are you really doing with your life,” said another older gentleman as I bagged his groceries, “because clearly you’re just playing here.” I stared at him, irate.
During my brutal battle with anxiety, depression, and being gay in the church, I struggled deeply with finding relatable, insightful words about how to survive depression. I found a lot of general, obvious advice: exercise more, find a good therapist, and get on meds being the top three. But when it came to real-life, personal advice from other strugglers, I found very little.
I started practicing yoga in college because I was curious, and because I was a voice student, living the typical life of a music major. I was a sensitive soul surviving in a highly competitive and physically demanding field, taking anywhere between 8-12 classes every semester, performing nearly once or twice every week during certain seasons, and getting next to no rest.
I was driven to yoga, desperate for some kind of glue that could hold my fracturing life together. I heard that yoga could help with the stress, so I tried it as a last resort.