Come in out of the panic

People are shell shocked right now. It takes bravery just to read the paper. The heart is broken page after page by stories of yet another disaster, unspeakable violence, and unbearable loss. As for politics, the mind doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. And finances? We all want to run for the covers. Even the weather stories are scary. The movies all sound loud and ugly. The snarky humor in the comic section is no longer funny. Where can we find a bit of shelter? The crossword puzzle perhaps. Or the food section. Surely the food section. Maybe an article in travel will lift us momentarily to a sweeter place. 

 
Fear has come alive. It is an unbidden visitor who rode up in on the news, pushed in the door, and pitched a tent in the living room. We know fear is there, but we’re afraid to acknowledge it. Won’t that mean it wins? So we put on our best face and keep going. We pull out every positive strategy we’ve ever heard. We try being grateful for what we have, while praying for what we don’t. We attempt the high watch of surrender while secretly begging for victory. But the monster is still in the living room. Panic is gurgling all around. What do we do?
 
There is a safe haven. It’s just not where you expect. It isn’t anything or anyone out there. It isn’t in a better leader or a wiser investment. It isn’t in a clever strategy or a more powerful prayer. It’s inside of you. It’s in your hands.
 
If you’ve read my recent newsletters, you know I fell madly in love with Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. I read it three times, underlined and marked it up beyond all recognition. Anam Cara is now a keystone in my courses. It has  seeped into everything I write. But no matter how many times I read it, I wasn’t sated. I wanted more.
 
So this week, I began reading another John O’Donohue book, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. Much as I loved Anam Cara, I really didn’t expect to have the same mad reaction to Beauty. Given the topic, I thought it would be lovely, and certainly lifting, but I never expected it to invade my heart, grab my bones, and take me for a velvet ride. But I should have known. No one writes about the soul like John O’Donohue. No one. And, bless him, he also has given us the antidote to panic. Listen:
 
“All the contemporary crises can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty.”
 
Instinctively we know this is true. The media enshrines the ugly, business despoils the land for profit, and architecture creates spaces that starve our souls. We are surrounded by a multitude of things, but still we are hungry. Hungry for something–anything–that is beautiful.
 
“When we expect and engage the Beautiful…, the heart becomes rekindled and our lives brighten with unexpected courage. It is courage that restores hope to the heart.”
 
Beauty begets courage? I would never have connected those dots. Would you? But oh, what courage can do.
 
“Courage is amazing…it can tap into the heart of fear, taking that frightened energy and turning it toward initative, creativity, action and hope….
Courage is a spark that can become the flame of hope lighting new and exciting pathways in what
seemed to be a dead, dark landscape.”
 
So, what we need is courage. And the way to courage is to allow the flicker of beauty into our lives. But don’t think that that beauty is something external. Yes, if you want to go to a museum, go. If you want to attend a play, read a poem, or listen to a concert, for heaven’s sake, do. But know this: Beauty, real beauty, is alive in a place you can visit anytime you want. It is alive inside of you.
 
Don’t say “Oh, but I’m not an artist.” Because you are. John O’Donohue says it as succinctly as it can be said:
 
“We were created to be creators.”
 
If you are hungry, weary, lonely, tired, afraid, it’s time to come in out of the panic and create. If fear has camped out in the living room, it’s time to create.  It’s time to awaken that gorgeous vibrant beauty that lives inside of you. It is there in the desires of your heart, the dreams of your life, the itch in your hands. Don’t worry about not knowing how. Just put something in your hands. For a moment, be the wide-eyed kindergartener who once was you and play, just play, in the possibilities.
  • Pick up a pen and write
  • A slab of clay and shape 
  • A brush and paint
  • A pencil and draw
  • A scissors and cut
  • A knife and cook
  • A seed and plant
  • A scarf and dance
  • Create a business plan, an outline, a class
  • Design a pillow, plan a trip, make a meal

The tools you can put in your hands are without end. The things you can imagine are without end. The places you can go in your mind are without end. The beauty you can touch is without end. The well is deep and it is full.

Here’s what will happen.

When you re-activate that part of you that has never been wounded, the part of you that knows who you really are, the battle with fear will come to an end. When you step into your creative self, your soul-self, you awaken something huge: trust in your own capacity to live a beautiful life. You will be free. And that uninvited guest will have no choice but to slink out the door.

“At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty. When this desire and capacity
come alive, new wells spring up in parched ground; difficulty becomes invitation and rather than striving against the grain of our nature, we fall into rhythm with its deepest urgency and passion. The time is now ripe for beauty to surprise and liberate us.”

So perhaps all this chaos in the world is an invitation. Perhaps that black thing in the living room is an invitation. Perhaps the parched landscape is an invitation. An invitation to awaken to who we really are: not consumers, creators. When we accept, we stop being consumed by life and start creating life. The invitation is real. It is open. It is on your desk awaiting a reply. Please put something in your hands and accept.

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