We walk with two feet — I was told by a mentor many years ago.
The left foot of contemplation and the right foot of social action.
In times of stress the first thing to go can be the open heart.
We cave in, we shield up. Our breath shallows.
Today all I can share is an invitation.
We need women and men with deeply watered souls able to discern and engage in inspired action.
And in our culture which doesn’t appreciate slow and which loves forward movement it can feel like there isn’t time to meditate.
Isn’t space to drink from this inner well.
So when you feel the impulse to download another podcast
Or to turn to social media
Or nervous chatter with your partner or friend to process the big movements of energy swirling through our body politic.
At least some of the time, make that choice to unhook from the external plane.
And to drop in.
You might even check in with your posture right now. Are your shoulders drooping? Can you slide them down your back and feel some elongation in your spine?
And if meditating seems impossible due to the high intensity of your thoughts or emotions–
Practice exquisite self care. Attend to your creature body and discharge some of that energy:
Indulge in the yoga class or home practice
Rub geranium essential oil on your chest (it is a mood booster and nourishing for the heart)
Create dates with yourself (at least a few moments each day) to sit in the rocking chair and feel some strong feelings.
And other dates for action: donating to the groups which inspire you, putting community volunteerism or demonstrations in your calendar, making concrete those next few steps which are yours to do.
We breathe in and we breathe out. And we do it again.
Creating space for ourselves and for deep democracy along the way.
PS I’m re-sharing my Vintage Bird post on the Heart of Democracy below if you missed it on election day. There is so much pain and division in our country currently. I took comfort in rereading the third practice on non-dual seeing and wanted to share it again with you.
Vintage Bird: The Heart of Democracy *Originally published Nov 6 2012
I’m a political junkie. While I try to limit my kiddos TV consumption, I’ll happily plop them all in front of Dora so I can catch a bit of election commentary on NPR. I tune into the debates and savor the post game pundits. I’ve re watched every episode of West Wing online (that counts as politics, right?). I tear up at convention speeches; I vote early.
An when I was younger, I got into pretty heated conversations with people over my political views. (Ok it can still happen.)
This passion somewhat exists in tension with my desire to be a conscious, calm and peace-loving person.
In fact, in my twenties I felt like I had two different personalities: Courtney #1 loved volunteering on political campaigns, interning in DC, drinking beer and trading electoral factoids. Courtney #2 read Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist
But increasingly– I’ve found some guides who connect the dots. One of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer, has a lovely book called Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics worthy of the Human Spirit. He writes thoughtfully about how to create space in relationships that can hold the tension of political differences in a life-giving way. (Starting with holding well the tensions in our own hearts. )
I am also learning to temper some of the heat of my political passion with an appreciation of the political process itself. Not focusing so much on how people vote but that they vote. Maybe i’m an idealist, but i believe in the wisdom of the body politic. Sure i have my preferences, but I also find satisfaction in the collective experience of political expression.
OK I know its flawed– that there is a lot of money in politics and problems with voter laws and important reforms yet be made. But still, our democracy has good bones. We have much on which to stand to create the society we want for ourselves and our children. And in order to access it we must call upon what Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address describes as, “the better angels of our nature.”
Here I share some thoughts for a consciously -observed election day:
1) Vote. The experience itself is a satisfying act and ritual– try to breathe and be aware as you do it. And be kind to the people working the polls. i worked the polls once and it was a really fascinating and long day. Many of the volunteers are retirees who return year after year– not because they are getting big financial payoffs, but often out of civic passion.
2. Support your peoples (or candidate or party). This is the antidote to the nihilism that permeates postmodern life (an attitude that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.) It feels good to be willing to participate in a story bigger than oneself, and to contribute money or time to things we believe in. It means that it matters, and that we believe leadership impacts our daily lives.
3. Practice non-dual seeing. This is the trickiest bit, but it is essential for cultivating mature, peaceful people and societies. Non-dual seeing is the oldest spiritual practice there is. In the Christian tradition it is called contemplation. From the Buddhist perspective it is mindfulness. We all share a tendency to receive the present moment and immediately categorize different dimensions of it good or bad. This opens the door for judging and criticizing everything and offering ourselves a relentless inner monologue about it all. In so doing we can miss the texture and subtleties of life. Non-dual seeing is the practice of noticing the present moment and allowing reality to be what it is, always and everywhere a combination of good and bad. So, no name calling. And when the going gets tough, when you just cant imagine why someone believes what they do, turn to curiosity– wondering what kind of life story led a person to those views. Make it up if you have to. Use it as an opportunity to cultivate your own empathy. (Here is a guided loving kindness meditation if you need some support.)
And together we can all draw from the wisdom from the past– like this quote from 1774:
“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.” John Wesley
We all have the power to preserve the art of civil conversation and to create safe space for deep democracy.
I’m Courtney Pinkerton. And I approved this message.
Would you enjoy some support heading into the holiday season? Would you like to savor + nourish the good stuff in your life as you also edit out those old obligations which no longer serve you? Would you like to draw a sacred circle around your own priorities — whether you feel the nudge to make a shift in your relationships or employment, to write more, or simply to feel better from the inside out? Plus guidance on how to practice exquisite self care as you grow and stretch? I am so delighted to offer two slots for new or renewing coaching clients this month including my fun Autumn bonus gifts. I regularly invest in coaching support myself and can tell you it is so much easier to make those changes you have been wanting to make with some accountability and encouragement by your side. Read all about my signature coaching program here + reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to get started! xo Courtney
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a popular blog on soulful living. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram, meditation, and MindBody practices as well as supporting other “soulpreneurs,” aka women who want to lead with heart in their work + lives. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. You can read more about her coaching options here or Courtney can be reached directly at email@example.com.