Process of Illumination

Self-Love In A Tumultuous World: “This Is Why We Practice”

As great as things have been for me the past little while (and still are), I noticed that, over the past couple of days, there has been a heaviness creeping in. I haven’t changed anything in terms of my daily routine and I’m still doing all the things that I know are good for me, and yet, there has been an underlying sadness that has come close to the surface and is affecting the way I respond to things. I’m even experiencing some, pretty intense, physical discomfort in my lower back.

In short, I’m feeling the painful side of vulnerability.

Earlier today, I reflected back to what has been going on this past week and realized that, out in the world, in other people’s daily realities, there are truly heartbreaking events which have unfolded. From two of my good friends losing their fathers, to the motor-vehicle tragedy which resulted in the death of a small child in our community, to the grave situation in the middle-east, where two of my nephews are serving in the Israeli Defense Force… I can’t help but think that it must be taking it’s toll on me.

It’s understandable, of course, that these kinds of events would have an affect on everyone, in some way or another but I wonder if we are aware of what we really go through, emotionally and energetically, as we kick into our default coping strategies in order to get through the day.

It’s interesting, because I had a conversation with one of my sons, last night, who is very well informed about what is going on in Israel at the moment. In my opinion, he has done a brilliant job of educating himself as to the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and what has led to the current situation that is unfolding. In order for him to feel that he is a responsible a citizen of the world, as well as a responsible Jew, he’s very committed to learning everything he can about the conflict and, therefore, has a hard time with people who make comments or share things on Facebook that indicate they do not have a complete understanding of what is going on there. To his credit, he is equally passionate about educating others as a way of empowering them and our under-informed society, particularly those of his generation.

For instance, one of the things he said to me last night was that he finds it invalidating when, in response to a post on Facebook about breaking news in Israel, some people choose to share things like “25 Reasons Why The World Is A Good Place”.  What struck me, immediately, is that responding in that way might be one of my own first thoughts. Hearing his perspective on it made me stop and think.

I totally got it. He was absolutely right.

Even though I (and hopefully many others) believe that the world is, in fact, a really good place, overall, the truth is that, there are tragic things happening all over the place, at all times. In my psychotherapy practice and in my day-to-day life, I strive to ensure that I am always mindful of others’ need for validation and empathy, and yet, what I notice, again and again, is that well-meaning people, including myself, often “skip over” validation or, unconsciously do or say somewhat insensitive things, without even realizing it. Since I believe that human beings are not hard-wired to hurt one another intentionally, the need for some of us to jump to optimism or “fixing” behaviours so quickly must have something to do with feeling afraid or threatened, in some way.

For me,  and in my recent experience dealing with these painful events, this insight from my son is extremely relevant because I think that being authentic and living with an open heart requires us to remain vulnerable at all times. As a result, we feel everything much more deeply, even if it isn’t happening to us directly. We are in vibrational touch with the people we are in relationship with, our community, our society, our species, our planet and our collective unconscious. We feel the ripples of what they feel and, whether we realize it or not, it has an affect on us.

Because of this, I think there is part of us that can’t handle the magnitude of that reality and the pain that it evokes and so we want to get to the “better feeling thought” (ie optimism) more quickly. Unfortunately, when we skip validation, even if it’s just in the course of a Facebook exchange with a stranger, what happens is that we are not acknowledging their pain… or our own.

As human beings on this planet, we all carry an innate responsibility for it (the planet) and every other being we share it with. You may not realize it on a conscious level but I’m willing to bet that, if you let yourself go there, you’ll feel it and it’ll probably be pretty overwhelming, at first.

But, that’s why we have each other. We’re not meant to do this alone. We all experience loss, tragedy, suffering and injustice. We co-created the society and the circumstances in which we live and we did it together, as humans over the course of our history. Because of this, I believe we also have the power to solve the issues we face, and help each other to heal, as the more evolved humans that we are becoming.

Which brings me to something which I encountered earlier today:

As I have mentioned in the past, I have a new alliance with Barry H Samuel and Insideout Fitness Studio. Barry and I have come together with a shared vision to create awareness of mind, body and spirit through our offering of meditation and mindfulness workshops and retreats in our community. Our first workshop, held on Monday, July 7th, was such a success that we decided to schedule a follow-up Sunset Meditation Workshop, with proceeds going the Sunnybrook Youth Mental Health program. The event is scheduled to take place this coming Monday, July 28th in Serena Gundy Park (in Sunnybrook Park).

Shortly after we scheduled this event, we heard the heartbreaking news that a young child in our community died after being struck by a van near her home. As residents and health practitioners in Leaside, Barry and I were shocked and deeply saddened by these events and wanted to reach out to the community who were, most definitely, experiencing the same kinds of emotions that we were. We wanted to make a meaningful contribution, in an effort to facilitate healing, and perhaps offer our services in a way that everyone in the community could freely and easily access. Since we already had the Sunset Meditation scheduled, we decided that it would feel right to dedicate the charity event to Healing in the Leaside Community and have the proceeds go to Sicks Kids, which is where the young child was treated before she died.

And here is the part that has made both Barry and I feel even more vulnerable and speaks to what I was writing about earlier in this post:

As residents and practitioners in the Leaside community, we were deeply affected by the news of this young person’s death. We both pass by the intersection where she was hit, several times each day, and each time we do, we are reminded of the circumstances and we feel the sadness, all over again. As humans, we want to stop the pain and part of what makes us feel better is to reach out, connect and share it with others who will empathize and who may be feeling the same way. That is what Barry and I were hoping to do for ourselves and for the Leaside community, in dedicating the Sunset Meditation to them.

But, the truth is, there is another factor that we found difficult to navigate, and that is how to help ourselves and our community honour and work though our own grief, while still respecting the privacy and the wishes of the child’s family. It can be a pretty tricky situation, when everyone concerned is so extremely vulnerable. I certainly didn’t want to make the mistake of invalidating anyone’s feelings, as in my earlier example, by jumping too quickly into “fixing” or trying to promote optimism. Nor did Barry or I want to seem that we were, in some way, capitalizing on these tragic events. There must be time and sensitivity offered to those who are still in the initial process of dealing with their extreme shock and pain.

At the same time, I know that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who need and want to do something that they find meaningful,for their own healing journey and I truly believe that coming together, as a community, to connect and share a peaceful, serene moment of reflection is an act of Self-Love. It is a necessary practice of self-compassion that brings us into alignment with our truth and with the wisdom of the universe, no matter how unjust the circumstances may feel at any given moment.

As the Dalai Lama said, in response to the news that several monks were murdered, most shockingly, by other monks: “This is why we practice, for times like these, when compassion is so necessary.”

So, not only do I want to dedicate Monday’s Sunset Meditation to the Leaside community, but also to EVERYONE who is feeling the weight of the troubles and tragedies in their daily lives…

To my two friends who have recently lost their fathers; to my two nephews, who are defending the State of Israel; to my fellow citizens of the world who are experiencing their own fear, pain and frustration regarding the current state of affairs – at home or abroad…

Big or small, we are ALL struggling with something… and it ALL matters.

So, please be kind to yourself. Check in with your emotions and how you may be reacting, without even realizing. Validate your own experience and the experience of those around you. Find a way to practice Self-Love…

Be Vulnerable. Reach Out. Stay Connected.

All Blessings To You…



Tracy B Richards is a Spiritual Psychotherapist, Mentor, Writer & Speaker.

If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to work with Tracy because you are ready, willing and committed to taking the next, powerful steps on your own journey of personal and spiritual transformation, consider booking a free personal consultation where you will work together to explore the areas in your life which have been aching for transcendence.