5 Paths of Self-Care for Activists
If you feel anything like me, you might feel as if you are on a ship traveling through a seemingly never-ending squall these last couple of months. Warning alarms are wailing, the movement is nauseating and the ship is on fire, even as it is taking on water. We are desperately bailing. This is simply the experience of people who care about the world since Trump came into office in January.
Yes, it's been a non-stop shit storm. There are fires to put out everywhere. And don't you think that is the point? There is most certainly a strategy to attack everything at once as swiftly and vastly as possible to overwhelm and exhaust the resistance.
Nearly everything I care about is at stake right now. I could spend every waking moment organizing, writing letters, attending meetings, marches, fundraisers. It's all important work, but is it personally sustainable? We care so much about the sustainability of the planet, but we have to also consider our own sustainability as extensions of the earth.
We all have different needs. Those of us who are extroverted can take a lot more of the public activities. For introverts like me, we need time to retreat and rejuvenate in solitude. I see a lot of people burning the candle at both ends. It feels as if there is no other choice. But we need all of us! We can't afford to lose a single-one to burn out, so let's discuss this matter.
First of all, it's ok to stop and take a breather. You need to inhale. Michael Moore posted this and it is a beautiful way to look at how the community holds the song while others take the moment to breathe in.
"This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant. Yesterday, I read an article that suggested the administration's litany of bad executive orders (more expected on LGBTQ next week) is a way of giving us "protest fatigue" - we will literally lose our will to continue the fight in the face of the onslaught of negative action. Let's remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. With special love to all the musicians and music teachers in my life."
So take a moment to breathe and listen to the music of your sisters and brothers. Then rejoin the chorus so others around you can breathe.
Speaking of breathing . . .
You might need some relaxation techniques if you are like me and you feel like crawling under the table in the fetal position or throwing the computer through the window after reading the news.
O N E - B R E A T H E
Here is a good practice to focus on your breath and be in the moment. Breathe in for the count of four, hold for the count of four, breathe out for the count of four, hold for the count of four, repeat. This puts as much emphasis on the space between breaths, the moments of inaction and spaciousness. Sometimes I visualize going up a mountain on the inbreath, sitting on top of the mountain and taking in the view, descending the mountain on the outbreath and then sitting in the valley, drinking from a cool stream. I could run myself ragged with busyness - and often do. If you make space for mindfulness of the breath, you will learn to relax and be mindful of the present moment.
T W O - Be mindful of what you eat and take into your body. Eating in and of itself can be a revolutionary act, so be mindful of your choices. Strengthen your body with healthy food and exercise. It's no secret that physical activity is a wonderful stress release. I have been practicing on working on core strength since it is easy for me to get pulled in many directions. Be creative with your physical release. Climb trees, run through prairies, dance, make love. Exercise doesn't always involve treadmills.
T H R E E - Walk in the beauty of nature. We work so hard fighting to save what we love, we also need time to stop and experience our reverence and awe for the beauty of the world. We have the responsibility to be captured by the magnificence that we have while we have it. Be a witness to the wonder of the world! Be grateful for the beauty and gifts of the earth that we experience every day. And go for long walks, for goodness sake, you will have your best ideas then. We need good ideas!
F O U R - Come together in community with others in joy and playfulness. I find myself using up all my social stamina on meetings and organizing. I have nothing left to give for play with friends or even to be creative. We need to make space for this because we can be more present for others when we aren't thinking of getting through an agenda or planning something. We need to live in love with others and allow that love to carry us through! Deep listening and discovery comes when we don't have an agenda.
F I V E - Find your mission. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you can't do it all. There are many battles and you might just have to choose some. Discover the intersection of your greatest gifts and passions and the deepest needs of the world. What is your vision for your work in the world? Articulate that mission and use it as a guide for going where you need to go.
Learn to say, "Thank you, but no." It doesn't serve the world to spread yourself too thin. A violinist doesn't try to also play the cello, the flute, and the timpani all at once. What role do you play in the symphony of the resistance? Find your own song and take time to listen to the rhythms and melodies of the songs of others.