I am flying home today. Up out of the gray and rain that has cloaked Austin, Texas and above the clouds. I can see that to the people who love it, Austin is a city full of treasures, a place to fit in when you don’t fit in anywhere. I wholeheartedly celebrate the quirkiness of it. I am also happy to leave the cluttered chaos of Austin today for the aesthetic expansiveness of the city I call home. When I am sorting through a really huge thrift store, I start to get a headache from overstimulation. This dizzy ache of overwhelm from the overstimulation of being here in this thrift store like city set in two days ago.
I think if you lived in Austin long enough, you’d get used to the aesthetic chaos of Austin. In many ways a strict building code, inhibits art and destroys individual creativity so it had no place in Austin. But being here, I have begun to see the beauty of the building code. I am now acutely aware that part of my emotional ease at home is in fact because my city has a strict building code. This means that aesthetically; an extrasensory like myself does not get overwhelmed or over stimulated. Austin would be a very hard city for anyone who is made uncomfortable by chaos. You can expect no less from a town that supports so much individuality that everyone is in essence on their very own page.
I have enjoyed this trip. Aside from sound equipment failures, how typical the workshop was a thing of beauty and the things we have all been internally drowning in, were given the room and care to come out. It was an emotionally freeing gathering for us all.
One thing I find interesting is that I’ve felt called to do so much out of body work since I’ve been here that I’ve barely slept. Last night, I was called out of body to a car crash on a highway near my house back home. The traffic was stalled for almost a mile. One woman in the crash was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the car. Everyone else was unharmed enough to walk away from the crash to the side of the road. But the woman who was ejected, had landed on the pavement near the middle of the road. Her sister was over the top of her, crying hysterically and desperately trying to revive her. When the emergency medical team arrived, she was pronounced DOA (dead on arrival). And the entire scene almost went into slow motion. No one was rushing to get anyone anywhere. There was no point. The focus turned to cleaning up the crash so traffic could move forward. The woman who had died was covered with a sheet and carried to the back of the ambulance, but the ambulance did not go anywhere fast. The attitude from the emergency personnel, who were desensitized to both trauma and death was one of indifferent resignation. And at the epicenter of it, was this woman who had her sister one minute and didn’t have her the next. The world had closed in around her and stood still. No one knew what to do for her. The absolute shock of tragedy and trauma had taken her by the throat. There was nothing familiar in that moment for her and no support. What she had to make sense of and accept was to unfathomable. And so the numbness set in to cushion her fall.
I was called out of body on account of this sister. Trauma has a way of ripping you open to source. She was so open on account of her mind being unable to swallow what had just happened that she could see me when I appeared. She was praying to me to bring her sister back and make her ok. In the years to come when she tells the story, she will say that she saw an angel at the crash that day. It is the only context she has for spiritual beings appearing to assist at deaths.
This kind of spiritual ‘work’ is not uncommon for me. So you would think that I would get so used to it that I too would become desensitized to the trauma of tragedy. But this is not the case. Desensitization is actually a conscious choice. It is the choice of disconnection and I will not make that choice. The price to pay for connection is that I am affected by this work. But the price I pay is worth it because lasting joy is the result of being willing to be affected by life. That willingness is a lack of resistance to feeling and so, you move through the feeling and beyond it. Last night’s experience has left me with a message I would like to share…
When we look at something across the world that causes suffering or when we look at something in someone else’s life that causes them to suffer, we feel powerless. Being empathetic, we want desperately to do something to improve the situation. But we don’t know how. This is even truer when the suffering is causes by a large conflict, such as a war. We get to a point where we feel utterly powerless to all the suffering in the world. But what are we going to honestly do? Are we going to get on a plane, fly to the country where the war is taking place, get off the plane, walk right into these killing zones and try to talk terrorists or soldiers into stopping the bloodshed? Some of us might be inspired to do that, but for most of us, we know the answer to that question is no. As a result, we are paralyzed to improve anything. We begin to feel if the world is forsaken.
The most crucial thing for us to understand is that we will never feel good about the world we live in, or about ourselves until we stop addressing suffering in terms of specific, isolated incidents. We will only reduce suffering if we treat suffering on this planet as a whole. We can only make an impact on suffering if we feel empowered instead of powerless. We can only make an impact if we believe we can make an impact. If you want to believe you can make an impact; and what’s more, if you want to start actually making an impact, look at suffering only as a whole instead of in parts. Instead of focusing on that one war that you feel like you can’t do anything about, focus on suffering in and of itself or at least on collective human suffering. Look at the big picture of suffering (which is something we can have a direct, tangible impact on) instead of focusing on isolated incidents that cause suffering (which we often feel removed from to the degree that we feel we cannot have a direct tangible effect on them).
We need to take a vow to reduce collective suffering by adding to collective wellbeing every day in the ways that we CAN add to collective wellbeing. How do we reduce suffering by adding to wellbeing? There are an unlimited number of ways. But here are some examples: Open the door for a stranger, smile more, pick up litter, help someone reach a goal, compliment someone, give someone a gift, give someone a hug, spend quality time with someone, adopt a homeless pet, inspire others, quit killing the bugs in your house and set them free outside instead, stop using pesticides, encourage someone, donate money, and look for and create beauty in the world. There is an enormous difference between focusing on and resisting the problems and focusing on and going in the direction of a solution. You will know you are focusing on the solution when you feel emotionally empowered. You will know you are focusing on the problem if you feel emotionally in pain.
When you look at suffering as a whole, you will soon realize that your suffering is a part of that collective suffering. It will then become apparent that the most important thing we could do to reduce suffering in the world is to reduce our own suffering as individuals. You are contributing to world suffering when you suffer as a result of focusing on the suffering of others. Because of this, it can easily be said that the single most important thing you will ever do for world suffering, is to do whatever it takes to enable yourself to be happy.