Thursday, November 8, 2012

Compassion, Gratitude, and Lightness

Sitting down to write today's blog is very intimidating.  So much has happened the last week and a half.  So many peoples' lives are completely uprooted, homes and livelihoods destroyed, there was so much controversy and intense emotion about the NYC marathon, there was a monumentally emotional presidential election, and oh yes - a snowstorm in the tri-state area yesterday.  In-sane.

Compassion, Gratitude, and Lightness are the three most positive yoga-y words that come to mind when I think about this last week and a half.  There are plenty of other words - fear, stress, power, MTA, mother nature, climate change, suffering, volunteer, voting, freedom, donate, misery, trauma, sadness, cold...this week and a half could be an endless exercise in free association and freewriting.

I want to keep things short and sweet, though, if that's possible (it may not be!).  My head has been spinning as I've been absolutely addicted to the news and facebook to get updates on Sandy, the marathon madness, the election, and the nor'easter.  I've read more articles in the last two weeks than probably the last two months!  I just have this to say:

For the victims of the extreme weather, for people disappointed in the election's outcome, for the person who rushes to get on the crowded subway without letting you off first or the person who cuts you off in traffic.  Compassion.

This one almost feels like a no-brainer.  Especially with Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!) just around the corner, gratitude is already on my brain in November.  But sitting here at my desk, with my window open showing a gorgeous sky and a few gorgeous, hardy fall leaves who have survived the last couple of weeks, and feeling warm and sheltered...I'm overhwelmed with gratitude.

Instead of handing out water to marathoners approaching Mile 25, Marc and I instead spent Sunday heading to Staten Island.  We sorted through donated clothes, brought donations of our own, and before we left took a walk down to the beach and saw a devastated neighborhood.  It was overhwelming.  There's grief, there's misery, there's so much pain - and there's also so much selfless, incredible mobilization on the part of government programs, nonprofits, and citizens to donate their time, money, and anything they can spare.  The gratitude from the victims for the outpouring of support (not to mention the canceling of the marathon - too late, but thank god the call was made), and the gratitude those of us unaffected or less affected are currently feeling for our blessed situation is everywhere.

We "went dark" last Sunday with Daylight Savings Time.  At a time when the city and tri-state area - as well as many around the country having major anxiety about the election, no matter who you were voting for - were suffering so much, it was already feeling pretty damn dark.  The burden of all this added stress and madness has made everyone feel incredibly weighed down with worry or suffering.

It all made me think of a quote I became familiar with after reading The Happiness Project, one attributed to G K Chesterson:

"It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light."

It's so true and it's important to recognize the value of cultivating lightness.  It's not about caring less, and it's not just about painting on a false smile or forcing an affect of cheerfulness.  It's constant work to free your heart and mind from whatever negativity - whether it be anxiety over your candidate or no longer having a roof over your head - is facing you.  When we are light, we are better equipped to help ourselves and to help others.  We are more inclined to take positive, concrete action.

I don't write this to seem glib or to imply that just by adopting a sunny attitude everything's going to get easier, and don't worry, it'll all be okay!  I write this to acknowledge that it's one of the hardest possible things to do, but it's worth it.  It's often something worth reminding yourself of a billion times a day, and sometimes you just have to live in the darkness or the heavy, heavy burden and just be there.  That's okay, too.  But there will always, always be a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you're alive.

With that, I'm cribbing a list of ways to help from a fellow yoga blogger.  Keep spreading the word, keep spreading your light, keep spreading your gratitude, and keep spreading compassion!

Occupy Sandy Relief - This is a fantastic online resource of relief/volunteer information in our area. You can sign up for texts or emails to stay informed. There's also a volunteer update page that tells you what's happening on the ground and how you can help. - An online community that allows neighborhoods to efficiently come together to help those in need. There are pages for Red HookAstoria, the Lower East Side, and Staten Island.

Red Cross - You can text REDCROSS to 90999 and instantly donate $10 to Disaster Relief. Or you can donate online. For other ways to make a financial donation, click here.

NYC Service - An amazing resource for up-to-date opportunities to help.

The Salvation Army - To make a monetary donation. There are also separate websites specific for NY and NJ

The Humane Society - It's totally inconceivable to me that many people were rescued from their homes but were not allowed to take their pets. You can make a donation to help the Humane Society's efforts in recovering animals after the storm.

Benefit Yoga Classes - Many of the NYC/NJ studios are offering benefit classes to support relief efforts. Check your local studio.

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