At the beginning of each month I make space to step back from daily responsibilities to get in touch with the broader conversations impacting those responsibilities. I hone in on a particular thread to follow and unpack in this column. In a typical month, one, possibly two or three ideas float up. This month? I’ve lost count.
In the build up and aftermath of the election there is so much. So much shock. So much grief. So much hope. So much fear. So much love. So much pain. So much clarity. So much confusion. So much.
I went into this past weekend not only without a draft for this blog, but without a clue. Well, not entirely without a clue. One of my mantras of late has been “trust in the goodness of my practice.” And so that is what I’ve been doing, practicing. And practicing. And more practicing. For me practice looks like moving my body, being in nature, sitting in meditation, regular self-care and listening to dharma talks.
This weekend my practice included a dharma talk with one of my meditation teachers, Martin Aylward. The discussion centered on being awake and keeping our hearts open in difficult times. Fueled by this talk and the full scope of my practice, I found myself surrendering. I surrendered to the nationally demonstrated importance of tending to and caring for one another – to loving and being loved. It’s a part of our shared humanity, however we voted. I also surrendered to the reality that in order to move beyond what Aylward describes as the “rhetoric of love”, into there being more love, many of us at this time would benefit from befriending our capacity for discernment.
Overseeing a business with the scale and scope that is 8 Limbs as I do would be impossible if I did not regularly exercise discernment. It’s often not easy; it’s actually unwelcome sometimes. Habits and established momentum can be more comfortable and far more appealing than pausing for a gut check and making a genuine choice in the moment. I continue to nurture and flex my muscles of discernment though because the pay-off is so great, so much really. When 8 Limbs is running well, executing and embodying and executing our mission, people feel a sense of belonging. They feel tended to, cared for and loved. They’re better able to tend to, care for and love others. Business and politics aside, that’s really what it comes down to. We want to belong. We want to love well and feel deeply loved.
It is in this spirit, inspired by Aylward’s insights and our practices, that I offer a few reflections on discernment. A few reflections that might support you in navigating, with and towards love, this landscape of so much.
- Information: Is the information you’re seeking out and digesting waking you up to what’s happening in this country, your community, and your body or is it simply stirring you up? This is a distinction Aylward put forth that stood out for me. We have choices about our news sources, what we click on and how often we click.
- Mental Chatter: Is your internal chatter attaching itself to reality or sidling up to things like apathy, despair or intellectualism? If any of the latter, that’s fine. It’s the awareness part that’s key here. When we’re steeped in real-time experience we’re better able to make appropriate, caring and healthful moment-to-moment choices – is it the time to act or to replenish? To reach out, reach across or reach in?
- Support: Are you willing to participate in both sides of support? We’re fed by giving and receiving and feel most connected when we experience both. Many of us, though, will lean towards one or the other. If you are one of those folks, what would it take for you to embody both sides? It may mean moving outside of your comfort zone; a great deal of worthwhile change does. Again, what would that take?
As always, I love hearing from our community. What are you feeling so much of? How do you navigate that? How does your practice help you keep your heart open in uncertain and difficult times? Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by: Ashley Dahl, Executive Director
8 Limbs Yoga Centers
In addition to serving as Executive Director for 8 Limbs, Ashley leads monthly, by-donation meditations at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill on Wednesdays from 12:30 – 1:00pm. Upcoming dates include 11/16 (tomorrow!), 12/7 and 1/11. All levels welcome. The focus of her November meditation will be on tending to our hearts.