It has been awhile since I have written here. Something in me senses that our pandemic is here to teach us an important lesson if we are open to learning it. And so, I have been spending time with thought leaders who have greater wisdom than I possess. I do that through reading and podcasts.
Developing a Well of Wisdom
I am grateful for the wisdom I have gained from reading books. I believe that has helped me deal with so many situations in my life. Many books become friends I find it hard to part with. However, while obeying the “stay-at-home” orders, I culled my collection … taking 5-6 paper grocery bags full of books to Goodwill … none of them among my “friends.”
A Facebook colleague invited me to post the cover of a book I love each day for seven days … no comments … just covers. I happily complied. I could have added so many more, but here’s my list of seven wise friends who have deepened my well of wisdom, starting with one of the best books I’ve ever read:
- The Tremble of Love: A Novel of the Baal Shem Tov by Ani Guzman
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Live by Brené Brown (I drew on this to give me the courage to publish my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace.)
- The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault
- The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd
- Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels
- Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser
- Four Paths to Union by Mariamne Paulus
In addition to these women authors, there are men whose wisdom I value. I could name many more, but here are four that come immediately to mind:
- Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality by Jim Marion
- The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
- A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries – A Guide to Inner Work for Holistic Change by Terry Patten
- The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence by Gavin DeBecker
Getting My Bearings
Since COVID 19 changed our world, I’ve found it challenging to get my bearings. My immediate concerns involved cleaning out my house in case I don’t survive this pandemic. In addition to the books I culled, I shredded three garbage bags full of paper, reorganized my office, and updated my “After I’m Gone” documents. I contacted those friends who have graciously agreed to serve as executor and trustees of my estate to inform them of my actions.
My next challenge involved learning to buy groceries online for pickup. I had no idea how much more time and energy is involved in that. No more running to the store to pick up that extra ingredient to make the meal calling to me for that day. I had to plan ahead. I found it overwhelming.
Once I got the groceries home, they needed to be disinfected. My fear of my disabled daughter contracting COVID made that task even more stressful. She has a respiratory condition and is at high risk.
Because I wanted to maintain connections with my groups, family, and friends … my life-line to sanity … I invested in a Zoom account early on and began Zooming almost daily, sometimes more than once a day. I thought I was doing well handling all this and failed to realize I was stretching my introverted self to the max. I also had not heard of the phenomenon called Zoom fatigue.
After about seven weeks I crashed. To recover, I:
- Set limits on my Zoom meetings
- Spend less time on Facebook … rarely find meaningful connections and uplifting wisdom there
- Winnowed my emails to delete those saying in one form or another, “The world’s coming to an end. Send money.”
- Spend less time on cable news and more on PBS which is more measured and in-depth
- Found a way to contribute from home … because of my concern about voter suppression, I write letters encouraging citizens to vote with the help of Vote Forward.
- On occasion, I contact my legislative representatives by email and phone
- I redoubled my efforts to consult thought-leaders with wisdom and heart
Sources of Wisdom Coming My Way
And now I need wisdom more than ever. When I started this post, we were dealing with a pandemic, a huge challenge in itself. Now our country is exploding as we deal with one more black man killed … this time clearly murdered … by a white police officer.
Wisdom from Caroline Myss (author, speaker, and medical intuitive) via my friend, Jen, who is taking a class from her:
We are becoming a new species … on a quest to discover our soul, a whole other realm of truth beyond our rational mind … a place deeper than logic and reason … to understand our energetic nature … we are in the process of shifting our whole relationship to power … the more I empower others, the more I empower myself … the purpose of our lives is accepting the gift of partnering with The Divine in acts of creation … hold only what is essential … what builds your energetic immune system … be creative … seek out the realm of grace.
Wisdom from Victor Frankl, author of Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything – recently published book based on lectures he gave shortly after he was liberated from a Holocaust death camp:
“How we deal with the tough parts of our lives shows who we are. Live as if you were living for the second time.” Frankl unfolds his basic conviction that every crisis contains opportunity. Despite the unspeakable horrors of the camps, he learned from the strength of his fellow inmates that it is always possible to “say yes to life”–a profound and timeless lesson for us all.
Wisdom from Ocean Voung (Vietnamese poet and assistant professor in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst MFA Program for Writers) in his conversation with Krista Tippett on her podcast, On Being:
What is it about a culture that can only value itself through the lexicon of death? (I went in with guns blazing / go knock ‘em dead / drop dead gorgeous / you’re killin’ it / battleground states / target audiences) What happens to our imagination when we can only celebrate ourselves through our very vanishing? What does it do to our brain?”
Wisdom from Devendra Banhart (Visual Artist & Musician) in his conversation with Krista Tippett on her podcast, On Being:
I bear witness to so much horror in the news. I practice breathing in all the suffering, the anger, the pain, the confusion, and then breathing out healing and peace and wisdom and love and strength. That helps me, and it feels like I’m doing something, as opposed to just taking in all this horror and sorrow.
Wisdom from Monica Sharma (physician, epidemiologist, author, and leader for sustainable and equitable change) in her conversation with Terry Patten on his podcast, State of Emergence:
We confuse license (a social agreement about what we are permitted to do) and freedom (speaking and acting from the heart). When we are clear about these distinctions, we are able to make choices from a higher consciousness for the benefit of all. There is an integrity within that is vital. … In the work that I do, I distinguish principled outrage from destructive anger. I hold Jesus as an icon of forgiving without condoning what is not okay. He could turn the tables with money lenders but on the cross he was able to say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” That was principled outrage when he said, “No more money lending and making the poor even poorer.” … Are we willing to change the incongruent things in a country with so much wealth? Are we willing to change some of the narratives? That will require courage.
Wisdom from Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari … my book club’s current selection … which is about so much more than depression:
We have lost our connections with other people, with meaningful work, with meaningful values, with the natural world. As a result, when we pursue happiness, we pursue it for oneself. Research has discovered that it doesn’t actually work. Those who pursue happiness by trying to make things better for their group succeed. Shrinking our sense of self to just our ego (or, at most, our families) makes our pain swell and our happiness shrivel.
And what do all these have in common? They are people who speak wisdom from the heart. They identify what isn’t working and offer a vision to move forward with equity and justice. It is that wisdom I want to guide me through these troubling times.