Most likely COVID-19 does not kill compassion. Probably four years of proactive modeling of toxic masculinity did kill some compassion. If it didn’t affect negatively, recognize that for many the toxic fallout from the Trump years is akin to PTSD, ravaging hearts, minds and spirits from coast to coast. In fact, few regular people could thrive under the conditions characterized by instability, lies, bullying and unpredictable rage—all the traits of David Koresh and other cult leaders used to control their followers. Now it’s not fair to blame the victims, but it is our responsibility to heal ourselves now that the tyrant is gone. In other words, time to relocate our moral compasses.
For me and many people, most of 2020 but the especially the last few months of the year and January 2021 have been traumatic and painful. The constant racial stress people of color have experienced combined with totally ineffectual response to the pandemic has led to distress and many socioeconomic problems. Compound that with sickness, food insecurity and isolation, and it’s clear that we need to reconnect with ourselves so we can help others.
Here are some steps you can take to heal society and yourself from the moral depravity of the last four years:
- Acknowledge the global pandemic and the toll on everyone’s lives in every country in the world. Accept that truth. It’s horrible. If you can help in some small way, you can be being to alleviate any feelings of helplessness and pain.
- Act in your community to protect your family and neighbors from casual COVID-19 spread:
- Wear a mask
- Distance from others wearing a mask
- Respect the six-feet rule around public ingress and egress paths; public spaces are for everyone.
- Take time out: Stay home with your family and cool off from social media.
- Watch a Disney movie, and turn off the news.
- Set up a family jigsaw puzzle table for the family.
- Have a weekly family game night after dinner.
- Work to reconcile with those you may have hurt. Start by toning down the volume even if you’re upset, a reprieve may bring a new perspective in the morning. Us the cool-down time for discernment. You may need to end some relationships that are unhealthy and cause distress.
- Engage in social activism to repair the damage. People are dying. Ask how you can help if you have extra resources, food and clothes. This is a global crisis. Many people need help in the US and abroad. Giving feels good. It also heals.
If you love me, hold me accountable. If you love yourself, be willing to be held accountable for your words and deeds. Accountability requires communication, compassion and desire for wholeness. We have a chance to bring about a new era in our society, one that demonstrates liberty and justice for all. Start with preventing the spread of COVID-19 and embracing the compassion that sees us all as humans worthy of life.
Edissa accessorizes a mask when she leaves the house to protect her family and community from COVID-19. She’s cool like that!
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It’s definitely time to ratchet up self-care now that we know COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon. Sigh! As much as it breaks my heart to know we have to go through almost another year of seclusion, I’m grateful for the basic habits that keep us well. Let’s face it, it’s exhausting to not go out, see friends or even live without fear. It’s on us to give ourselves the care we need to thrive in isolation. Rituals are the anchors of life; they’re why so many of us don’t want to change, and why we’re hurting without them. People can’t even stop themselves from going to the gym, because of the social rewards of that ritual. But we don’t have go without the people and things we love!
One ritual I especially miss is going to the spa once a month. I’ve been doing this for years as a way of getting regular relaxation, fasting and a blessed massage–remember those? As I’m not able, nor do I want to go to a communal spa right now, it doesn’t mean I can live without that dedicated sacred time. I schedule time to have a weekly bath, do my hair, meditate and shave my legs. Recently, I found my Neti Pot in the back of drawer and was delighted to use it to clear my sinuses, which get clogged in winter; now the Neti Pot is back in rotation as part of my regular bath and spa ritual. Bath time is a precious gift of love for my family so I can bring my best, strongest and happiest self to our relationship. This ritual also sets a powerful example for friends and family to make self-care a priority.
Most of us function optimally when we’re in community—connected to friends who know and love us as we are. That’s the reason so many folks are having a difficult time adjusting to the loss of prayer and faith community. Here’s what I know: Even without church, you can make time for prayer individually and collectively. Hopefully by now, most churches have adapted to online presence or some outdoor community space. I schedule regular phone calls with my closest friends, many of whom live in distant places. Facetime calls and Zoom classes and groups keep my mirror neurons sharp. It’s really up to me to connect when I have the opportunity.
Emotional intelligence functions in many ways, not just during physical proximity. You can be a jerk over email, text, Facebook or Zoom as easily as you can be kind and generous in the same platforms. You choose how you show up.
What’s more, the gaps in connection owing to COVID19 means that even casual contact with strangers is highly risky behavior. And yet, I need to see my brother’s face to know that his distress over the January 6 Insurrection is a force I counter with my compassion and humor. I want to see his mirror neurons fire, and see his face brighten into a smile because he’s been heard and appreciated. Likewise, new virtual friends and teachers need physical and verbal affirmation to know that instruction is on point and the community is well. I understand that too much isolation only causes problems for everyone, and although I’m an introvert who can happily go long stretches without social contact, I show up on virtual platforms as a gift of my presence to my community. By showing up for quality contact that demonstrates lovingkindness, good will and generosity of spirit, I help make sure that many isolated people in my community can thrive. Anything less than that represents a scarcity of resources or lack of the necessary traits to give to others. I am able to give for those experiencing deficit because I have enough resources and emotional intelligence to give from my surplus reserves. If and when I withdraw, it’s an intentional act of self-preservation, like staying home to keep my immediate family members, including myself, safe from Covid19.
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What do you do when someone treats you kindly? How do you react to the “nice” person in the room? How do you treat your closest neighbors? These questions have been on my mind since October 2020. I’ve noticed how sometimes my acts of kindness, my greetings and my cheerful smile are met with suspicion; I’ve experienced how my joy hangs in the air like an unwanted odor instead of being met with generous reciprocity. When this happens, I retreat to the safety of long-time friends and marvel: What will a person get when they rebuff kindness, goodness and friendship? It’s akin to inviting a nightmare.
Sadly, it’s human nature to repeat patterns and expect a new outcome. This is partially attributable to mindset and habituation. When we do something long enough, it becomes comfortable, familiar and we form an attachment, possibly even perceiving a behavior or habit as an extension of ourselves. So we must first break out of these mental formations. We do this by recognizing that all of us, from the oldest person to the youngest, has something to learn. Embracing learning from a growth mindset will facilitate working and moving toward change. I taught myself to hang about the so-called nice people in the room and to avoid the dreaded pinch faces who populate every sector of society. It turns out that nice people really are kind. Like many of you, these lessons were so slow to come–a great fog obscuring my vision. Fortunately, the more I practice reciprocating kindness, the more I attract good and kind people into my life and let the others go their own way.
Over the years I’ve observed how my husband and i approach so many basic activities differently. As an observer of human nature, I’m fascinated by how often I judge (Okay, I’m an INTJ) these diverging behaviors as right or wrong. Some years into our healthy relationship, I’ve learned to drop that judgment and move toward a value system that recognizes contribution over process. The end result is itself the goal, not how we get there. On the other hand, my husband is cool as a cucumber most of the time. He smiles and waves at everyone. Sometimes I imitate him, because I fell in love with that quality. I do this when it matters, with the people I see regularly at work, school in my neighborhood. These shifts in behavior allow me to focus on what I need to change in and for myself rather than on external elements of my life, which brings me to 2021 and all that I want to leave behind, and a few things I wish to pick and cultivate along the way.
My 2021 Resolutions:
- Reduce alcohol consumption (I’m human.)
- Proactive stress reduction (Avoid chaos and toxic people.)
- Increase eustress: Go back to school for my PhD (Embrace challenge.)
- Adding a few good friends to my inner circle (Good people are good.)
- Take care of the children in my life–all them, even yours.
- Earning a living wage.
- Create jobs for people in my community.
Make 2021 the year you smile back. Take a moment to return the salutation of a stranger or casual acquaintance. There really is enough time for this. In times of crisis, your neighbors–like it or not–will be the people upon whom you may have to rely. Don’t wait until there is a need. Cultivate a community of people who will nod back at you, give you ride in a pinch or leave a gift when you need one. People look for quick external fixes to their problems; someone to blame for their unhappiness; an excuse for why they keep doing that thing, whatever it is. This year try getting uncomfortable and extend your kindness everywhere you go. Your smile won’t open every door, but you will gain a few more friends and be welcome where they do.
Edissa keeps a mask handy at all times to answer the door and protect neighbors, friends, family and herself from COVID19.
Please support the Plum Village Community with a purchase of The Mindfulness Bell Autumn 2020/Issue 85 and read the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s guidance for cultivating “Peace, Love and Happiness” during these challenging days. Plus, you can read my contribution, “Peaceful Warrior,” about how I’ve coped with COVID-19 in my new city.
I found you whole, a perfect imperfection.
Saucy and hot!
Stay close, hug up on me, bump me–again, worry, smile, cry, mansplain, masseur, get provisions, pay the bills, pick up G, wake up too early, laugh, grade papers, water the garden, teach, teach right after, teach some more, learn two or three things from your wife, get takeout, walk up the hill, put out the bins, close up the house, deliver my bud, check your email, call your siblings–
all kind as love!
And, just this morning.
Edissa mentors artists and writers of all ages in alignment with her conviction for working in radical solidarity to achieve social justice.
Featured photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project.
Experiencing personal racism is exhausting. It’s on the news. It’s in my mail. At work when I get some. It’s even in my family.
As I navigate this heat,–let’s call it Traumatic Racial Stress Syndrome, because that’s what it is–it’s as if the land around me is burning. The air is choked with its gritty scent. My home and possessions are threatened by active danger.
My retreat is to a place within where I have learned to cool my embers with the balms of healing. Even so the heat, smoke and flames are always at the door. They wait at the supermarket. Lurking in the woods is commonplace. Don’t even think of getting your brows done.
This is what it’s like to be a Black-Skinned Woman in 2020 America. It’s hot all the time–fires burn on every TV show. Every dinner party is laced with it. My actions are never good enough. I must learn my place or pay the price. I wear my papers on my skin: I do not belong.
Edissa completed production of a short documentary September 2020 and submitted it to several film festivals. She’s working on her next film and hiring a new Contributing Writer for Karma Compass.
It’s hard to have an ugly yard in California. Many residents in Southern California pride themselves on lush gardens with blooming flowers and Tennessee Bluegrass, but for environmentally-conscious people, watering thirsty plants in this hot arid land is untenable. Add the challenge of the dry Santa Ana winds from inland that desiccate the land and summer temperatures that rocket to the triple digits for weeks at a time. Basically, transforming a garden to a waterwise feature is not easy in the high deserts of Los Angeles County.
Owing to SoCal’s intense heat, gray water makes inhospitable ground for new plants, even adapted species and natives. The water here is mineral rich, causing calcification to household appliances like dish and clothes washers. One needs imagination to maintain efficiency will modifying a typical garden to a draught-tolerant, water-wise and creature friendly environment. Like all major changes, the transformation is not always easy to bear, to see or experience. Homeowner’s curb appeal may be temporarily reduced. That’s why many people pay gardeners and landscapers to do the work. But not me! I like to feel the dirt under my nails and the strain of my back as work this good earth.
Gardening always embodies mindfulness: One must pay attention to everything. I learned that the earth here is packed solid as rock in summer–especially without persistent watering. The soil is dense and claylike and water does not penetrate the top layer. It remains on the surface until the sun and wind evaporate it midmorning. The earth acts like a terra-cotta planter; roots cannot penetrate the solid surface. This hurts plant roots and hinders growth. All this means a gardener must use plants that will tolerate less water and consolidate plants in areas where water is used efficiently. Even so, to keep such a garden content, soil amendment is required.
Among the challenges of xeriscaping a property is adapting to the local conditions and climate as well as finding plants and arrangements that optimizes water use, while minimizing the demands for potable water, an increasingly scarce global commodity that is essential for life. I don’t mind the awkward transitions; xeriscaping my property gives me hope, because I can model a patient approach to land stewardship that embraces the local environment and creates a sustainable environment for all of us.
Edissa is cultivating an organic edible garden and xeriscaping her SoCal property.
Another week, another inexplicable shooting of a black person. And still it is very difficult for many White Americans in the United States to accept America’s racist foundation–as old as our country. The simple, difficult truth is that that our government invested long ago in the myths we unconsciously live by. But, like a concentric circle, our actions ripple through time and touch lives in myriad ways that we may never understand. Even so, we can begin to awaken from the stupor of willful ignorance–abandon the dark caves and step into the light of day. We don’t need to dwell in the past, to acknowledge it.
We all know it happened. Slavery happened. So did a whole bunch of other unfortunate historical events. Even if our grandparents did something, we don’t need guilt or shame–just awareness and consciousness about the legacy we’ve inherited. Denial won’t change the truth. On the other hand, Radical Acceptance can help us come to terms with the total and complete truth of our collective and personal histories. In fact, a contemporary, unapologetic approach to truthfulness allows us to recognize and reconcile our personal truth with those of our community. This can bring healing and restore lost trust and hurt where we need it most: In our hearts.
Lesson #20: Watch the documentary, The Uncomfortable Truth with your accountability, church, sangha or reading group. Discuss how the legacy of slavery has impacted all of our lives. Explore how individuals in your group confront their personal and ancestral truth in a healthy and safe manner.
The work of creating a just society requires a commitment from all of us. If we each own our own stuff, take responsibility for our words and actions and tell the truth, we’ll have a roadmap for a new dawn. We deserve that. Our children deserve that. The truth matters– no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
Featured Photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project
Contributing Writer Edissa in her home art studio, thinking of ways to connect to her neighbors with compassion and kindness.