(Don't) Keep Calm and Carry On
by Tim Burnett
Recently the famous, and much spoofed, WWII slogan from an England under the Blitz has been on my mind as a mindfulness practitioner:
Keep Calm and Carry On.
As the pandemic resurges in our country, as we collectively try to take another step forward (we hope) towards our American ideals of equality and justice, and as the world and our country particularly seem to be in such turmoil, there is a truth to this hackneyed slogan we can practice and live. Keep calm and carry on.
In an often overheated and short attention span world can we be a counter weight? Can we be the calm ones? Can we offer perspective? Can we offer balance? Can we feel and demonstrate how helpful it is to be grounded, embodied, and reflective? When the waves of stress wash over us, our family, our work teams, our communities, can we demonstrate the wisdom of a mindful response over habitual reactivity?
We all know our practices help with this. Mindfulness helps. Compassion helps.
And I think we also all know that's not enough.
We didn't put the Practice Letter out last month partly because I was unable to finish my essay. Here's the opening paragraph of my unfinished piece:
As the founder of an organization devoted to raising awareness, compassion and kindness, and breathing, I was deeply shocked that among George Floyd's last words were, "I can't breathe." And George Floyd's words are now echoing across our nation. They echo the suffering and loss of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and so many others before them. They echo in every way that words can echo. They echo with anger, they echo with fear, they echo with injustice, they echo with rage, and they even echo with hope, if that hope is but the quietest of echoes right now.
And so, I'm reminded that there are also areas where we should absolutely not just "keep calm." The grounding of mindfulness and the breadth of compassion are also a powerful platform for wise action; for seeking an appropriate response to the layers of madness in our world.
I find myself back to the helpful and challenging tension of holding what appear to be opposites. We need calm. And we need rage. The world is wonderful and things are very much not okay.
Can we both keep calm and carry on and seek ways to contribute to this world so full of promise, here in our country so full of wonderful ideals and difficult realities.
Mindfulness Northwest joins with you in remembering that black lives matter. We join you in remembering that respect for each other and for our planet matters. We join you in remembering that all beings want to be happy and don't want to suffer. All beings. Without exception.
Together we really can be a force for good. I get overwhelmed sometimes - I bet you do too - but I still hold that simple and powerful belief. Let's educate and empower ourselves and others more deeply. Let's both "keep calm and carry on," and roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Wishing you well,
P.S. I've found these Anti-Racist Resources from the Greater Good Science Center helpful. Hope you do, too.