Saturday, April 18, 2020

What About Us? Dancing Raging Crying Dancing with Ryan Heffington and Pink

What about us? Today (it’s Saturday, right?) Ryan Heffington led us (me and 6000 other people around the globe tuned in to his Instagram live feed) in dance, celebrating life and love and movement to the sounds of Marky Mark and MC Hammer. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I was in heaven – Heffington’s energy and goofiness had me laughing out loud as I wiped away sweat. 

Today I also ended up wiping away tears, though it wasn’t the usual time I cry. Normally I cry as he ends every session with a beautiful meditation, guiding us to see and imbibe the light of stars, so that we can be light to others in this dark time. He ends with the mantra: “We’ll get through this. We’ll get through this.” It often brings me to tears, feeling connected around the world, recognizing the truth of of our inter-relatedness, when one suffers, we all suffer.

Today I cried while jumping in the air, punching my fists as hard as I could, filled with rage and anger. The feelings overcame me as Ryan (I can’t decide if in the world where we are besties I’d call him Ryan or Heffington…) led us in dance to Pink’s What About Us. Pink was Ryan's guest guru on Wednesday, when she joined the Insta live party from her own home, singing and dancing and adding to the energy of us.

As he played Pink today, Heffington cried out how her powerful words apply to us, right now –

We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us down the river too far

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?

We are problems that want to be solved
We are children that need to be loved
We were willin', we came when you called
But, man, you fooled us, enough is enough, oh

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
Oh, what about us?

As Ryan sang / shouted out that we wanted answers from the government, and for corporations to give money to people struggling, I started feeling rage well up inside of me. How for decades we've put profit over people, creating an inhumane system bolstered by our elected leaders in which  people are either living on a sidewalk or one paycheck from not paying for housing, for food, for medical care. For so many, even with that one paycheck, could never afford medical care. RAGE, that so many of us cried out against the deep inequality with no one hearing or caring, until a virus revealed it all. I jumped to the music, beating and punching the air with all the power I could, raging. Then a wave of grief as tears mixed with my anger.

As the song ended, Ryan moved into his meditation time, but the feelings of rage and grief were not spent, they had not run their course in my body, so I continued to pound it out and cry. At the end of his meditation, I was ready to join in, and steadied myself, grounding on two firm feet, lifting my spine upward, holding to my heart gratitude and love.

“Emotions need motion,” David Kessler, the co-author with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.  Interviewed by the Harvard Business Review during this pandemic, he tells us: “It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”

I’m aware, now more than ever, how emotions are *in* my body, and must be allowed to move through the body. They need movement, and sometimes, often, you need to aid them, through dancing, shadow-boxing, jumping, raging, laughing crying. I am endlessly grateful for Ryan’s gift of leading us in this dance-therapy. Us. What about us. We are in this together, and there is power for change and greater equality in that. 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Global Meditation Moment: Coronvirus and Connection

I started by counting my breaths to pay attention. Dan, Patrick’s brother, had texted our family that there would be a global meditation at 6pm this evening, to add to positive energy around the world.

I needed a reminder to turn off media and be present with just my mind, my body, my surroundings. Patrick took a break from work, and we sat, my achy back against the couch, him on a chair facing the kitchen window, in silence.  I listened to the sounds, mostly from outside our apartment, cars driving by, a bird singing. I envisioned being light, light both surrounding me from outside and emanating from me. I had that moment that seems so basic but so brilliant in realizing we are all this light, we always have access to it.

I held up our hurting world, so connected by this common, frightening virus, to bathe in the light the world creates, has the potential to create.

Opening my eyes, I was thankful for what I saw, the things that surround me. Books I’ve read and learned from and loved, their worlds that I’ve been introduced to, my thinking expanded and challenged by others’ experiences. The stack of magazines from the 60s that my mother saved, filled with images and stories that inspire and sometimes horrify (“Quiz: Are You A Mini-Brain?”), that remind me that we are but a blip in time.

A stack of some of my journals, pages of collecting stories from travels and recording stories, thoughts, emotional upheavals. Pages that take me back to details I’d forgotten, that remind me that life is to be lived in all its sticky and sweaty and smelly and challenging ways, that risks are to be taken if we are to get a glimpse of the adventure even a bus ride across town can be, if we just pay attention to the details. The reactions of people to each other, the little ways people look out for each other, offering seats, holding doors, offering a hand to help. What behaviors make that man seem nervous, what actions make that baby laugh.

Right now, we shouldn’t take the bus if we don’t have to, to protect the most vulnerable who are often those who need public transportation. To protect the nurses, doctors, assistants, and cleaning crews who are working around the clock at hospitals and clinics. As we go out for a socially-distanced walk, zig-zagging across the street to avoid neighbors, I joke with Patrick that it doesn’t matter that I’m covered in cat hair; he’s the only one getting close enough to me to see it now. That in itself is breaking me right now, that I’m not close enough to others to observe what I so love in them, what makes us all human, the micro-expressions and reactions we can’t hide. Now, instead of slowing down to pay attention, I’m walking faster to create greater distance.

During of this life-saving separation, I am grateful for the posts on social media with stories and details, poems I read that conjure the minutiae of humanity. I miss my crowded buses. I miss sharing space with strangers, wondering at what their lives might be.

I know we’ll find a vaccine and move beyond this time, but I hope – with the Rebecca Solnit kind of hope that is active, that is bold and brave – that this time will not be forgotten, that we will not forget the heartbreak it is to feel lonely and distanced and isolated. That we will remember now that this has been the norm for so many in our society, for those experiencing homelessness or suffering mental illness, who have always felt isolated as others rush past them. This is the time for deep empathy, to make the basis of decisions and laws the heightened sense of connectivity we feel now, in our isolation, that has always been the fabric of our existence.  

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
This is the inter-related structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.