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It is difficult to keep up with all of the tragedy and trauma constantly happening in the world around us. I read recently that we were not built to be empathetic on a global scale. I don't know if I think that's true but this week (month...year...decade...) I understand the sentiment behind it.
I do think that we have to examine our privilege in relationship to our responsibility. I think that the more privilege we have the more responsibility we have to stay tuned in and not checked out to what's happening around us.
The less personal impact these tragedies and traumas have on us, the more important it is that we stay open to helping, feeling, and just generally staying engaged with them.
The problem with this line of thinking, is that the more privilege we have the more comfortable we have tended to be. And the less capable we are, therefore, of staying present when intensity arises.
Unless we have made it our purpose to get better at being uncomfortable, either through yoga, meditation, or some other spiritual practice, we are likely to be quite sensitive or fragile when faced with our own discomfort, even if that discomfort is based on having to witness the discomfort of others.
So it might be, then, that some of the best and most useful work that we can do is to get better at being uncomfortable.
The more able we are to sit with our own discomfort, the more we will be able to show up for the quite uncomfortable work of undoing systems of oppression. We can aim our spiritual practices towards building up a capacity for discomfort with the explicit intention of getting better at engaging with the difficulties of the world.
What if, instead of thinking of our spiritual practice as for our own growth or well-being, we envisioned it as part of our work towards a more just world?
Perhaps this intentionality is the more active counterpoint to spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing, as discussed last week, is a phenomenon that happens in which people use spirituality to avoid want dealing with the difficult things in life in the world around us, often by choosing to focus on only things that are "positive" or "high vibration".
The opposite of spiritual bypassing may be spiritual responsibility. Or perhaps, spiritual stewardship. (Thanks, Lynn, for this language.)
It’s a good first step to stop bypassing. And then, can we make conscious choices to spiritually engage? To take responsibility? To see it as our responsibility to keep growing our capacity for discomfort?
This may be a growing edge for most of us. Look any area or identity where you have privilege--how can you keep getting more comfortable with your own discomfort? Can you use your practice with purpose to steward your own growing edges?
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