Give your troubled heart a seat at the table.
So much news about atrocities over which I have zero control. So much scrolling hilarious blooper reels to get away from it. So much guilt about all that, and self-loathing that does nothing to stop it.
What does it look like to take action? I’m not talking about activism here, although activists are a big part of what’s crucial to changing the world. I’m talking about the other kind of crucial action. The actions we take every day in our own homes, our own communities, with our own people.
To know what to do, we have to stop running around. We have to get quiet. And we have to activate an open curiosity about how we’re actually doing.
1. Sit down with your life and ask, “Where does it hurt?”
Don’t fill in the blanks with what you think you know. Sit still and listen.
Listen some more.
Is it friction in the family? Is it the pile of junk in the coat closet? Is it the way you use (or misuse) time? Take a moment here and explore your own heart.
Let the answers come.
2. Give each issue a place at your table.
Let each issue show up in some form or other, (the friction could take the form of a dented heart, the coat closet problem could take shape as a humanoid being comprised of too much random stuff).
Now, in your mind, set a table with your best china, fresh flowers, candles, great food. Prepare for them like you would for an honored group of guests, because they are, all these issues.
Give each guest (the friction, the junk, the doom-scrolling) a seat at that table.
3. Offer every guest the feast of your undivided attention.
Ask them, one by one, “What’s the tiniest thing I can do to help you?” Why tiny? Because Big paralyzes us. Tiny we can do. This is not laziness, it’s realism. So go tiny. It’s how all big endeavors start.
My Pile-of-Junk-In-the-Coat-Closet-Guy sits at his place at the table, spilling pennies on the floor, one crappy glove fell next to his plate (we’ve never found the other), candy wrappers and dust everywhere. The hats and scarves stacked on his head keep falling off.
When I think of the closet he represents, I always keel over under the tsunami of it. How will I ever clean it up? But what if I went the other direction and asked,
“What’s the tiniest thing I can do for you?”
4. Respond with a small action in a good direction.
The other day, while for something else in the closet, I found a racketball racket. I fished it out and paused long enough to realize a) it was warm enough outside, b) I had a half an hour, and c) there was an old tennis ball in our dog’s toy box. I took the racket and the ball and went for a walk.
It felt strange. I’m used to being more reactive — to the world, to my inbox, to people’s calls. But here I was taking action, initiating a spontaneous moment of joy. One of the most delicious breaks I’ve ever had was that half hour of batting a ball against the wall at the park around the block from me.
No, I didn’t clean out the coat closet, only keeping the things that ‘sparked joy’. But I did take an action that felt wonderful to my life, and that lifted me into a sweet relationship with the coat closet.
I don’t look in there anymore and feel like a failure. I look in and wonder what other treasures are in my house waiting to be discovered.
This curiosity eventually resulted in a cleaner house, yes—but not because my inner Nazi commanded me to clean. I’m cleaning as a byproduct of having explored the house with an anticipation of joy.
People with my tendencies think they have to do everything, immediately, and perfectly. My racketball moment helped me understand how to let go of these ridiculous mandates and pay attention to my life — through taking action.
With tiny steps.
5. Go back to the table each day, and listen to your honored guests.
Where does it hurt? Listen. Do something tiny toward the issue.
Don’t get all tight-assed about whether you do this right.
Just show up for your life, and take a small step to make it better.
Practice loving yourself enough to let the little things count.