“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. Since Oct. 7, I have been struggling with what to write in my newsletter, what to post online, how to show up and be helpful to others when I too was sad, afraid, paralyzed and drained by the news from Israel and Gaza. The tools that have helped me in the past to manage anxiety, grief and fear felt trite to offer up in response to the atrocities happening now.
I KNOW that witnessing violence and bloodshed online and watching innocent victims in both countries is not good for my mental health. My brain cannot discern what is near and what is far, so even from a distance, the effect on me is as if danger is real and close. I KNOW that it’s survivor’s guilt telling me I have a responsibility to watch more news than I know is good for me. That innocent victims on all sides are experiencing the atrocities first hand so the least I can do is bear witness. I KNOW that, “How much you consume the news is not a measure of how much you care,” as says Dr.Thema Bryant, current President of the American Psychological Association. I KNOW not to succumb to the darkness because then evil wins. That the harsh retribution happening is exactly what the terrorists want - the fighting, the hatred, the violence begetting violence. That darkness is an overwhelming and powerful force we must fight with every ounce of our being by continuously looking for the light, the love, the heroes, the good in humanity on all sides. I KNOW to get in touch with my own power by focusing on what I CAN control, what is within my capacity to care for myself and others. I KNOW ALL OF THIS. The last ten years of my life have been focused on learning the tools experts are prescribing right now to cope, survive and heal. AND STILL, IT’S REALLY CHALLENGING. So, I can only imagine how it is for those who haven’t learned or practiced using mindfulness tools to manage their thoughts and emotions. At the end of this letter, there is a button that will link you to 10 tools I find useful to manage my mind and mood in challenging times. But first I want to share a story with you that inspired me out of my paralysis and reminded me of how powerful mindfulness tools can be. That even as a counter to such egregious violence, these quiet, gentle practices can be effective, and even lifesaving. This past Sunday, on CNN’s THE WHOLE STORY, Anderson Cooper interviewed Maya Alper, a 25 year old survivor of the Israeli music festival attack. This young woman used her cell phone to film herself while hiding in a bush for six hours as the terror happened around her. At varying times the gunmen were a mere few feet away. This woman used breathing, gratitude, and visualization techniques to help her stay quiet and calm until she was rescued. Here are some of her words: “In all of that - being surrounded by living hell - so much death and hate, I sat in my bush smiling, breathing, praying in my own way for myself, for peace and for love. I realised that between all of the bombs, gunshots and screams - the birds were still singing, and behind all the smoke the sky is still blue and I kept focusing on that…whenever any thought of stress, fear, anger or revenge came to my mind - I stopped, I took a breath and gave gratitude for at least three things in my now moment - “thank you for the bush that is keeping me safe, thank you for the birds singing to me, and thank me for doing such a great job at the situation I’m in.” And here is advice she offers to the rest of us as someone who watched the evil firsthand: “As important as it is to acknowledge the horrors that have happened there, as a country and a community, let’s put our focus and energy on how we are all uniting together. Every single person in Israel right now helps in his own magical way, giving his gifts to the world right now, there is no more mine or my - we are all giving to whoever needs it right now and that is something that no one can take away from us. The strongest weapon in the world is our collective consciousness, let’s put it to good use together.” If Maya could do this while in the midst of such terror, then I believe, in honor of all the victims (as well as survivors) we can do the same. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” When we succumb to the darkness, evil wins. Let’s each try to be a light for ourselves and for others. If you want evidence that this is about people not politics, it was an Arab Israeli who came to Maya’s rescue. There is light in the darkness. You just have to be open to seeing it.
Here is a resource I've created to help you get through hard times like these. For my community, I am also offering a free 60-minute coaching session because that is within my capacity. It’s for anyone who needs or wants a safe, non-judgmental space to express their thoughts and feelings, or to learn mindfulness techniques.
My instinct is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. And since the recent years have not been easy on us, we need more than ever to have strategies and practices in place to manage our nervous systems long-term. I’m here to help. I wish you all safety, peace, love, and light in the darkness.