I didn’t take a hiatus from writing my blog on purpose. In fact, after a year of posting two or three times a month I have come to crave the writing process. With demons of self-doubt shrieking I hold Anne Lamott’s advice in my heart each time and write a shitty first draft. It is liberating. As I continue to write I feel so much pleasure (usually accompanied by frustration, self-pity, and/or despair) watching my thoughts evolve on the page. I particularly enjoy figuring out when I’ve come to the end of a post. I expect to know it in my head but always feel it in my gut.
I started writing the blog because I had embarked on a journey toward greater self-awareness and writing is the particular truth-finding practice I know I need to use. And I want to share my experiences in the hope that others will find aspects of their own truth in my words. The writing process has helped me gain self-knowledge and when I figured out people other than my closest friends were reading my posts, I felt additional encouragement to continue.
Initially, my biggest challenge was the writing demons that have always plagued me. But as the year progressed and the posts piled up, the fearful voices grew fainter. Unfortunately, several weeks ago the critically important events in our country and around the world swallowed my attention. I didn’t want to address them directly in the blog because that’s not its purpose. At the same time, I couldn’t help wondering if I wasn’t going to address them then why was I writing at all?
During these weeks I thought a lot about other times when I’ve felt hopeless in response to the injustice, fear, and misery that plague our world. In middle school I told a friend I was sure a third world war was imminent. When I was on the debate team in college I learned so much about mutually assured destruction, systemic inequality, and cultural hegemony that what little youthful idealism I possessed was nearly extinguished. These memories don’t convince me, nor are the intended to convince you, that the world is no worse now than it’s ever been. What these memories do is remind me that I have resources now that I didn’t have then.
As I wrote in January, my word for 2018 is “presence” and taking that seriously means noticing what is true in this moment: my life is not spinning out of control or filled with injustice, fear, and misery. What can I do with this truth? I can find space for compassion—wanting others to be free from suffering. As I focus on compassion in my meditation practice I direct it first toward those closest to me, then those in my wider community, then to all beings including, especially, those with whom I disagree or whose actions I find abhorrent. Finally, I seek compassion for myself. As my capacity for compassion grows I recognize that none of us are gods or monsters. We are mere mortals, broken and damaged and capable of change.
Tara Brach offers several resources for developing your capacity for compassion.