Last night, I was on the phone talking to potential voters. My final call of the night happened to be to an 83-year old woman named Ann, who was gripped with fear and outrage at the prospect of immigrants marching toward our nation’s border. Listening to her rant, I felt it all: sick to my stomach that this would drive her vote this November, anger at the media and government for manipulating her vulnerability, compassion for an elderly woman in a panic. So we each went to bed in fear. Ann, with those TV images blinking in her mind, and me, in fear of her fear and what that means for the election and decisions facing our nation.
How can we go this way? What can we do with the difficult emotions that controversies like these bring into our lives? What are these fears doing to us as we lie awake at night, or immobilized in the morning?
Then I remembered what a nun taught me. Three Steps to Courage
Not just any nun, but Pema Chödrön, the meditation teacher and best-selling author of books like The Places That Scare You and When Things Fall Apart. I spent some time with her at a retreat earlier this year, and she very methodically and gracefully taught us her secret of moving forward in demanding times and through personal adversity. Her advice, “Three Steps to Courage: Working Compassionately with Difficult Emotions” will be helpful for all of us, no matter what we are going through that is challenging us.
My understanding of her teachings are being published in a series of posts on my blog at Wholebeing Institute, a leader in the field of positive psychology education and outreach.
The first of these posts is up now and can be found at Three Steps to Courage.