Erik and I usually pick up the Sunday New York Times about once a month, and it takes us nearly a month to peruse it. Not that we’re slow readers, but we both like to pick up a section when we feel inspired, then it might be several days before we return to read another part.
In the August 23 Sunday edition, one article in particular stood out, “Remembering Katrina, 15 Years Later” by Talmon Joseph Smith. It chronicled how pandemics and other upheavals challenge us to deepen our connectedness and shared responsibility toward the health of the natural world, especially our individual and collective responses to those most impacted by these life-changing events.
My favorite definition for “responsibility” comes from the late Stephen Covey, He re-frames it as “response-ability,” our ability to choose how to respond to something, rather than automatically reacting to a person or event the way we habitually do so. It’s an excellent reminder, especially now, to step back from time to time, view things from a higher, less personal perspective, and consider where we are genuinely coming from in our daily actions and interactions.
What feels overwhelming for many right now is the perception that events and developments are unfolding at a rapid, dizzying pace. But even when the world feels like it’s hurtling at the speed of hyperspace, we can regain our footing by focusing on things that aren’t moving so fast.
A gentle place to start is by focusing on your breath, noticing it steadily rising and falling as you deeply inhale and exhale. Do this for several minutes, a few times a day, especially when you’re feeling disconnected, upset, distracted or overwhelmed. With consistent, focused practice, doing this can help you keep more centered, refreshed and focused throughout the day.
Another route might be to stop and step away from whatever’s happening in the moment. Head outside for several minutes without any technical devices, and stretch and yawn a few times to release any tensions, stresses and challenges. Sense and enjoy the strength, quiet beauty, power and resilience of a towering tree within your view, or of something else in nature that’s not moving at warp-speed. Imagine receiving and embodying the energy the tree exudes, then re-enter your home or workplace, feeling more peaceful and grateful for all that is good in the moment.
Slowing down and re-focusing our attention helps us respond proactively and differently to people and events. But as with anything else we wish to change for the better in our lives, it takes practice to become a more established habit.
Let’s redouble our efforts to be present and focused in the moment, to find more solid footing beneath our feet, wherever we are.
Let’s share our strategies, successes and challenges so others can benefit as well.
Let’s be easy, kind, forgiving and patient toward ourselves and others as we navigate uncharted waters.
Let’s keep showing up and doing our altruistic best, knowing we can emerge from these times with a better future for all with whom we share this planet.
And perhaps most importantly, let’s make sure our own foundation is solid. for that’s from where we relate and create on all levels.
As Tulane University geoscientist Stephen Nelson shared at the end of the New York Times piece on remembering Hurricane Katrina, “You can’t ignore what’s underneath you. Because you’re building everything on top of it.”