Us Brits are famous for our stiff upper lip and like many of us, I have been holding it together with as much optimism as I can muster through these weeks of lockdown. However, any emotions we are feeling need space to move through us, or else they get suppressed, they fester and then they cause more problems in the future. It is a bit like a beach ball in water. The harder we push our emotions down the greater the force they pop up with later.
Compassion based mindfulness practice can create the conditions for our emotions to move through us. A sense of common humanity, that we are not on our own in our difficulty, which comes from practicing together and sharing our experiences, can also help. Why not join us at one of our daily evening sits or daytime morning sits. Click here for more information.
I get a sense that I am facing what I can cope with, supported by my practice, but that there is more being pushed under that I am not facing. I experience this in increased tension in my body, in my hands, shoulders and jaw – certainly some unprocessed fight energy there! I also experience a tendency towards feelings of tearfulness around my eyes.
Last week I co-led the Compassion Based Living Course (CBLC) teaching skills retreat. The retreat moved online, but was a powerful and heart opening experience for us all. What better thing to be doing at this time than facilitating more teachers to develop their compassion teaching practice so as to spread compassion based mindfulness to more people in this world that sorely needs it.
At the retreat there were a few tears shed. In my view this is always a good sign that our practice is reaching deeply into our hearts. Then we can transform.
So the practice I am recommending this week is to have a good cry. Allow any pent up emotions to move through. Crying is an emotional release mechanism that can aid mental wellbeing. It seems that way to me. It can also help to flush stress hormones out of the system. I generally feel a lot better after a good cry – although my eyes do get a bit puffy!
A good way to do this is to listen to some music which is guaranteed to make you cry. At the moment I well up each time I listen to the song Pompeii by the band Bastille. A song my daughter, who I haven’t seen now for a long time, introduced me to. It references another disaster but quite prophetic for these times. I ponder the line:
‘How am I going to be an optimist about this?’
My other recommendation might be a good disaster movie, like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ or another movie that might lead a few tears to be shed. Although, I would avoid the film ‘Contagion’ as it is a bit too close to reality!
I have been to Pompeii. How stupid do you have to be to build a city at the foot of a live volcano? Aren’t you asking for trouble? I never imagined, living in Britain, a wealthy country, with an established democratic system of government, with modern science and away from fault lines in the Earth or volcanoes, that I would ever be caught up in a natural disaster. I expect that those who lived in Pompeii, relying on beliefs and rituals of their own, thought the same way. It strikes me now as arrogant to have thought this way.
Then again, how stupid of modern humanity to let the greed of our capitalist addiction to constant growth and profit and for cheap meat to lead us to damage our environment to the extent it has. How stupid to domesticate a few species and breed them in vast disease ridden factories, devastating biodiversity in the process. How stupid to collect different species and cramp them together in filthy cages in wet markets. Human control of animals, our cruelty and lack of compassion to them leads directly to viruses jumping the species barriers. Many human viruses come from common domesticated animals – horses, pigs, chickens. The rise of agriculture starting 11,000 years ago, when humans and animals came into closer contact with each other, gave rise to the evolution of animal pathogens into pandemic causing human ones, which has continued to this day.
We continue to bring different species and ourselves together in poor health and in filthy conditions at ever huger scale, isn’t that the modern equivalent of living at the bottom of a live volcano?
My hero Dr Gregor predicted this ten years ago. Here is his video (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/pandemics-history-prevention/). Human stupidity and ignorance is to blame. Can we learn to move forward with wisdom and compassion and develop a different relationship with the Earth and the creatures we share it with? This is one of the themes we will explore in the Compassion in Action retreat I am leading at the end of June. Why not join me – most likely online.
A good cry can be quite a cathartic experience! Have a go. Pass the tissues.