Bizarre times, indeed.
My empath self goes haywire in seasons of crisis. I want to help a million people immediately. I want to wave a magic wand or do a good deed or donate something that can help the planet in some meaningful way. Maybe it’s a recovering people-pleaser thing, or a leadership trainer thing – I’m not sure. But I get super macro in my angst. I want to channel it for good, shine a really bright light, and take away as many people’s pain as a I can.
In the case of what we’re facing today, the pain comes in the form of fear. And fear is a very tricky master. It breeds and breeds and seeps everywhere. Much more dangerous (even more lethal) than any virus. Coronavirus can be avoided with washing our hands and not touching our faces, fear is completely contagious. It’s worse than air-borne… It’s thought-borne. You can turn on the news for a moment and fear attacks you through the television screen. You can speak with a neighbor in panic and it jumps from her to you. You can do a quick toilet paper inventory and go from calm to apocalypse in one breath. Fear is the most contagious virus in existence.
So, the tricky thing with my empath nature meets this fear virus is that I’m stuck at home. And so are you. And so is the neighbor. I’ve been grappling with how we neutralize this fear on a massive scale when we can’t even meet up to talk about it over dinner. In a time when combatting the macro seems really hard, I believe it’s time to turn to the micro. It’s time for us to find mini-moments of good amidst the chaos.
It’s time for us to sprinkle little sparks of light when
we can’t necessarily shine like a lighthouse.
How, you ask? The beautiful thing about sprinkling micro moments of light is that it is basically effortless – and (BONUS!), it too, is contagious… for good! Even the faintest light in a time of darkness illuminates. Imagine a little spark of light turns into a brighter light which turns into really good intention which transmutes into love and community, which ultimately neutralizes fear and replaces it with humanity. The micro quantum leaps into the macro. That’s how we heal this world.
Here are some of the simple micro-practices, which left a resonate glow, that my husband and I have done this week. I offer them to you as a catalyst for what you can do right now to shift from fear to hope, from fear to optimism, from fear to community, from fear to action:
1) Reach Out To Elderly Neighbors. I texted two of our elderly neighbors to see how they were doing and ask if my husband could get them groceries while he was out. The love they responded with was completely disproportionate to my simple gesture. One answered: “My heart it full with your concerns for my welfare. I am so happy to have you as my friends.” The other: “I love you for reaching out. I am so appreciative.” Letting someone know that you are thinking of them and adding a few extra groceries to your own list (after all – there’s nothing to do these days but go to the Supermarket) – shoots a laser beam of light through the fear of isolation they might be experiencing. And leaves you with a very special afterglow.
2) Say Grace. Whatever your religious beliefs, there is no time like the present to infuse gratitude into our daily lives. In fact, gratitude works like a prescription drug to fear. Gratitude neutralizes fear. Kosta and I started saying grace before we eat each meal (that’s a LOT of meals now shared together). It’s nothing fancy – it’s just a “thank you” for our blessings and may we keep ourselves a bright light to help neutralize the fear that is out there in the world right now. Whatever comes up in the moment and feels natural – we say “thank you” and may the good multiply for everyone. Intention spreads, energy expands. This practice takes 10 seconds and shifts our entire mindset from what we just “took on” from someone else’s fear and turns it into deep appreciation, love, and grounding.
3) Meet People Where They Are. This has been the most challenging of the practices for me. Whenever my father calls with more doom-and-gloom news, I insist on getting on my soap box and spitting our statistics, demanding he “get rational about this” and that “corona’s not going to creep in through the windows of the house”. Not nice, I know. Then, I feel terrible and remember he’s 83 and he’s scared. So, what I’ve started doing is deploying a core coaching skill: I see you. (You don’t actually have to say this out loud. You just have to feel it). “I see you” is a mindset. It acknowledges that someone else might be having a completely different human experience than yours to this unprecedented chaos and they want to stay scared. Rather than judge (hello, Valia), simply acknowledge that their reality is true for them. “I see you” mindset allows you to witness someone else, allows them to feel heard – thus dissipating some fear temporarily, and prevents you from getting stuck in their gunk (thus preventing fear contagion).
4) Create Ambiance. I know this sounds funny, but I can’t tell you how effective it is. We have lit candles, sprayed essential oils, tidyed up, and played beautiful music all day long around the apartment. In a time when we can’t control very much, we can control the beauty and homey-ness of our spaces. These practices bring instant comfort, calm the nervous system, and remind you that there is always safety – even in a storm. I’ve heard families cooking together, parents and kids double-downing into crafts, couples playing board games. Whatever your pleasure, consider some low-tech ways to honor the space that you’re kind of stuck in for a while. Make it beautiful, create cozyness, and notice how fear finds its place in a tiny comfy corner rather than infused in everything.
Whatever your simple, daily practices – please remember that you have plenty of choice and control, even when it may feel otherwise. You get to choose how you show up to this, how you meet others, and whether you are on Team Fear or Team Hope.
Light is indestructible and fear is contagious. These are the facts of the time we’re living in. The micro becomes the macro. While we do what we need to do to get through, please make a conscious leadership choice on how you show up. Sprinkle moments of light each and every day – humanity thanks you.
One single match can enlighten the darkest corners.Buddha