Thoughts and prayers.
We hear this often in response to any number of tragedies.
The sentiment of support can seem trite when massive action is what we desire.
It feels impossible to make the change that is needed to atone for countless grievances carried out over the history of the human race.
The good deeds of an individual seem insignificant against the tsunami of hate and violence threatening the land.
A peaceful protest can seem like a whisper in the wind while acts of racism scream like a hurricane, taking the lives of Black people in the United States at gale force rates in barbaric, overt and insidious ways.
We feel outraged and hopeless. Anxious and distraught. Angry and incredulous.
All feelings are acceptable, and they are expected after such horrific events. What we do with those feelings makes all the difference.
Some use anger for good – motivation for positive change, demanding accountability of systems, standing strong as an ally, speaking truth to lies, witnessing corruption and calling it what it is.
Some use anger for evil – exertion of power, suppression of others, in judgment, for violence and to murder.
How is it possible for the same feeling in two different people, or in the same person in two different circumstances, to generate such different results?
Are we adept at knowing, seeing, really, physically FEELING our feelings to understand how we will act from them?
Are we in charge of these feelings, choosing consciously toward the result we desire?
Is there a way to gain insight, control and influence over these feelings?
Yes – and the answer is in that trite opening sentiment, in one single word holding all the power in the universe – thoughts.
No action happens without first a thought. We often skip this step in the process, blaming a circumstance (fact) for our action.
Calling out actions without changing the thoughts is treating the symptom and not the disease. We might achieve superficial healing for a short period of time, but the wound will fester, the cancer will metastasize and the ultimate prognosis is grim.
Here are some steps you can take to gain greater control over your thoughts, feelings, actions and results, to be part of the solution, starting today, starting with yourself.
Step 1: Honest assessment of your thoughts
This one is critical and will take a few drafts. Allowing yourself space free of judgment (yes, even, and especially, of yourself) to truly see your own thoughts is necessary and can be painful. When considering racism and violence, be truthful with any that enter your mind. Even if you do not entertain them, even if they are fleeting - can you admit to any thought that might invite a feeling of fear, judgment, apprehension, worry, threat and recognize how the presence in the universe of your brain means they are present in the greater universe and are in need of awareness, maintenance and, if you desire, when you are ready, transformation.
Step 2: Recognition of feelings and the thoughts that create them
Some of us are better at stating our feelings, some of us need more practice getting clearer on what they are and how they actually feel in our bodies. Connecting those feelings to a thought, or thoughts, is another step we must take to recognize how they come to be and see that we have the ability to influence how we feel by more consciously choosing our thoughts, regardless of the circumstance (fact) that we are considering.
Step 3: Identification of the actions we are taking because of our feelings
This is like a mix and match and takes some practice to see precisely which actions are coming from a specific feeling. When we get better at this, we have greater motivation to choose our thoughts carefully because we see not only the feeling they create, but the action in our lives that follows directly.
Step 4: Inventory of your results (and decide if they are the ones you really want)
This can be intimidating and exciting – knowing that the results happening in your life are the product of your thoughts. Ultimate responsibility. Unlimited opportunity. If you identify results, recognize the necessary action to achieve them, find the feeling you need to generate those actions and create a repertoire of thoughts to get you to that feeling over and over and over again, you have mapped a direct path to change.
We can decide to start with the thoughts or results. We can only choose them for ourselves, but we can state them clearly, loudly, frequently - in many venues, mediums and communities. We can challenge those who demonstrate a commitment to results contrary to preservation of human life and a world safe for all. We can ask them if that is really what they want. We can inquire as to the feelings they have to bring them to acts of hatred and violence. We can illustrate for them that their thoughts bring them there.
In the oneness of humanity, we are all as capable of peace as we are of war – it is a matter of which muscles we spend time training, whether we are willing to see all the thoughts, even the ones incongruent with our external values, and if we can commit to a life intentional, choosing our way to the results we desire through the thoughts we allow to remain.
So, I say send your thoughts (and prayers if they help in your thought selection) and unleash the power of an intentional collective. Let a wave of consciousness wash our feelings ashore and send gusts of meaningful action to shape the landscape with results of peace and love, equity and opportunity, health and hope FOR ALL.
Wield your thoughts carefully. They are everything. May we hold the responsibility and opportunity to craft the world we wish see in our open palm - aware, strong, supportive and free, sending sands of change to be carried on the breeze of true and lasting reform.