Addressing Our Interconnected Crises

Note: This month our blog post features words of wisdom from Inner Strength Founder and Executive Director Amy Edelstein, addressing the magnitude of changes occurring in our world.

We are living in historic times and times where the outcome – the forward step or a painful slip back – depend on the depth of our own reflection and actions. Soul searching can take many forms, meditation, prayer, reading, walking, dialoguing, protesting, writing, defending, reaching out, asking forgiveness. Many forms help us slough off the old sheath that stifles the true creativity and humanity that are our higher human potentials and the real purpose of our precious human life.

While each of us may have done something to address the interconnected crises we are facing, from systemic racial oppression to devastating climate destruction to wealth-power-force concentration to alienation from our deeper heritage-faith-compassion values, we are needed to do more. We are being asked to reach out. To stand up. To speak loud. To change ourselves from the inside out. To ask for and insist on humanity, respect, justice, and true transformation. To learn and become authentic allies. We are being called to lean into the reality that when some of us suffer, we all suffer. For who are our neighbors but the other hand of our own body, community, planet?

This call to do more can be unsettling in the best of ways. If your first reaction is to curl up and want it to go away, re-examine your fixed conclusions about what the response to that call could be. Rather than going with an easy but perhaps ill-fitting action, to authentically make this time count, make our actions meet the times, first follow that call to stand up with the response to reflect. Reach deep and find your own authentic response and contribution to these times. Perhaps this contemplation might make each of us aware that we have been able to stretch a little further for too long, that maybe we’ve been settling for a limited life, a life that is partial what it could be. The unexpected updraft of leaning into this hardship is to find that our hearts are aching to expand, our lungs are yearning to fill to capacity so we can sing, and speak, and, as the great Abraham Heschel said, pray with our feet.

I am with you in this contemplation and in this call to take the bushel off and let that inner beacon shine. It is needed. Let me also remind you to approach yourself and each other with kindness and care. This is a delicate, often frightening, and painful time. The way to reach into the future we want to create is to begin now with that compassion, inclusion, recognition, and respect for self and other. This includes care for yourself and your near and dear ones. Do not allow your own fear to devolve into frustration against those closest to you. Know yourself and when you need to nourish your own self with contemplation, rest, and ease of Being. Work with all your practice tools to dial back frenzy and to keep brightening the inner light in the midst of the clouds and storms without. And when you need to, reach out.

On this end, we are working in many different ways. Responding to requests for more classes and support for students and frontline workers. Building ways to provide mental and emotional supports for socially distanced classrooms in the Fall. And allowing space for difficult conversations to occur. This week, I facilitated 8 online classes with a total of about 150 high school students, making space for them to process and express themselves, and to see how the mindfulness and contemplation tools they have learned this year can help them. They were sweet and touching. They miss being at school and with friends and teachers. Please remember the teens in your life, who are limited in social interaction because of coronavirus, and help them find ways to connect with their peers so they don’t feel so alone and overwhelmed by all that is occurring.

We are planning additional training this summer for our instructors to better facilitate online classrooms (which we expect to be the primary way we will be allowed to interact with students in the Fall) and to continue our racial literacy work. We are working on a next set of in-house workshops for our teachers who identify as white to unpack bias and blindness in order to better serve the diverse students we have the privilege of working with. This builds on work we initiated almost two years ago. It is ongoing work which our organization is committed to providing. Our current Teacher Training course includes a number of very talented individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds and we look forward to expanding our instructor cohort in the near future.

We have more good news of ways we’ll reach more teens that I’ll be sharing in the weeks to come. I’ll also shine light on how this cultural upheaval is making room to make wellness and contemplative tools available more broadly to alleviate stress and distress so everyone can live healthy, safe, fulfilled, and fulfilling lives.

We have much work to do and yet we only have one precious life, which can only be lived now. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Keep your heart open and your sights on the brightness. Let love change your interactions as they occur.

– Amy Edelstein

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