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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

What the World Needs...

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Emotions Follow Body

There is a growing body of research (pun intended) that gives credence to the idea that you can help change your emotions by changing your bodily postures and facial expressions. I talked about that briefly in Toolkit #2 in the section entitled,"A important note about why zapchen, power poses, etc. might work" (about halfway down the page). My suggestion is, of course, to do the opposite of what our young friend is doing here!

This is a sister concept to Amy Cuddy's Power Poses , which I've shared a couple of times. If you're interested, you could also check out Lugubrious Ha-Ha, an earlier post about the benefits of laughing and smiling.

What the World Needs...

Howard Thurman--author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader--was in a meeting with a younger colleague who had asked him for advice. The man had been going on and on about the huge needs of the world, and how difficult it was to know what to do, when Thurman interrupted him. And said:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I need to hear that, I who have a big "G" stamped on my forehead--for "guilt." Perhaps, along with my Puritan ancestors, I feel the need to suffer in order to have my existence justified? But in my heart I truly believe, and have experienced, that the best gifts, by far, are those in which both giver and receiver have great joy.

There are great needs in the world--very true. But we tend to drown ourselves in shoulds and musts and ought tos. And what are we likely to get out of that? Anxiety? Resentment? Ineffective decision-making? Exhaustion? Is that really what the world needs?

Yet the possibility of truly coming alive can be pretty daunting for a lot of us, probably for all of us at one point or another. The world is not a very safe place, and seems to be getting more and more polarized and dangerous these days. Being more alive in the world means we might risk more, get rejected more, bleed more.

In addition, many have come up against fear, hatred or neglect, or simply hard times, from a very young age. So it may be, or seem, easier to shut down, or to stay in a problem-saturated internal space instead of allowing the heart and mind to bloom. Many times these are not conscious choices--they might not even be choices at all, but absolute necessities for survival when we were young. And yet staying in those shut down places as we wend our way through life means constant inner tension and often a slow kind of dying.

As I feel the call of joy and aliveness coming from the realms of music and words these days, I feel excitement. And fear. Pretty scary to launch into something my heart desires quite deeply. Something that will help me come more alive.

And then I remember yesterday, and so many other days, sitting down on the side of the pool, goggles, nose clip and swim mitts on, reluctantly dropping my feet into the water, knowing what I will experience. COLD! I sit there, shivering in anticipation of what it's going to feel like to immerse my entire body in that. I don't want to!

But I remember previous swims where I warmed up fairly quickly once I got moving. And how good I felt once I had done my laps. And how that good feeling stayed with me for hours. And how I seem to be able to steer clear of depression when I get enough exercise.

So after a few more delays, I drop into the pool. And IT IS COLD! Despite reminders of past experiences, nothing quite prepares me for the shock of actually being immersed. I give an involuntary little groan and push off. As I move forward, the chilly water permeates through all the nooks and crannies of my suit, making me even colder. But I keep moving, and soon the water seems to lose its frigid edge. I glide along, feeling refreshed, and proud of myself for taking the risk. I feel the joy--and the effort--of propelling myself through the water. And I know I'll feel even better when I'm done.

Perhaps if we become more alive we can help others find their aliveness. And they can help others. And they others. And maybe, among other things, if enough of us come alive, we can figure out how to stop people who, out of their own fears and hatred, focus on taking life from others, figuratively in oppressive and exploitative relationships and structures, or literally, as we have seen--once again--in the dreadful shooting in Chicago.

But I don't want to end on that note. Instead I end with a prayer: In spite of our fears, our delays, our struggles, may we each find those unique paths of aliveness, and in doing so, help each other find joy and hope.

Don’t ask yourself

what the world needs.

Ask yourself what makes you come alive,

and go do that,

because what the world needs

is people

who have come alive.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Paint girl, Senjuti Kundu, unSplash

Fountain of life, Artem Beliakin, unSplash


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