Hand on Heart

I've been trying to write this letter for weeks but I've been having a hard time getting down to it.

It's true that I'm busy with work and family but honestly, that hasn't been the issue. I've been stalled, with something bubbling below the surface that I need to share.

These feelings aren't new, they've been with me since long before the American election results came in, but that event seems to have cracked me open.

Since I was very young, I've been deeply concerned about, well...
Pretty much everything. 

It started around grade three, when I learned that CHILDREN were STARVING...
Literally dying of hunger while I went to school, played with my friends and slept at night. I stopped sleeping for a while.

Next, it was the nuclear arms race. I learned there were weapons of such massive and savage destruction that the push of a button could annihilate us all. How does a ten-year-old heart rebuild itself after that?

The list grew... Cosmetic testing on animals, acid rain, poison in the great lakes, rain-forests being ravaged and so many other horrors.

I fell in love with the work of David Suzuki and began trying out activism for myself, starting a group in grade seven called H.O.P.E (help our precious environment). I was earnest, optimistic and very lonely. I didn't really know what I was doing, or how to find the help I needed. I was met with kindness, teasing, and some outright meanness.

By the time I was halfway through high school I was really depressed and overwhelmed. At some point I'd internalised the belief that my pain was an unwelcome burden, not to be shared with others. I ended up like many teens, hiding in a crowd, scaling back my truth and trying to fit in.

Even during those painful times, and increasingly since, I've met mentors who've offered me wisdom and solace. I've gratefully experienced the healing that comes from seeing my own pain and suffering reflected in the eyes of another, and feeling that much less alone. I've benefited from watching people be courageous and vulnerable, speaking their truth,

Maybe because I'm a Libra, or because I'm a woman, or more likely because I'm all the complex things that make me Annie Bray... I've held back from that kind of truth-telling.

I've been afraid to seem like I'm pushing my personal agenda. I've been concerned about professional credibility. I've felt like the downer at the dinner party. Deep down, it's still so much about fitting in.

Maybe I'll still have to wrestle with these feelings sometimes, but lately I've found a renewed sense of courage. In September I attended a week-long training with the visionary activist and scholar Joanna Macy. Of the many gifts I received, the most precious has been a deep re-imagining of how I want to show up in my life.

By trusting that my grief and anger are not a burden but rather a sane response to the suffering around me, my pain becomes a path to deeper connection with others. The fear, sadness and joy that flows through me joins a river that connects us all. That profound sense of kinship can protect us from succumbing to confusion and hate if we let it.

We've truly entered a strange time. So much fear and disorientation has been stirred up by the election of a racist, sexist demagogue as the American president. History tells us this situation could go terribly wrong. We've got one foot in business as usual and the other floating into the unknown that lies ahead.

I believe in showing up for ourselves and each other. I trust the simple practice of paying attention to our breath and the sensations in our bodies and to letting that, in turn, help us do a better job of listening to each other.

Don't get me wrong... I don't think meditation will fix all the problems we're facing. It's just that right now all hands are needed on deck, and the deck-hands had better be wide awake.

I'm imagining you reading this letter. 
If you ever get group emails like this and wonder if they're meant for you...

This is meant for you.

I want to hear how you're doing and what you're feeling.
What would help you navigate these times? What are you already tapping into that's bringing you peace? 
Nothing interests me more than the answers to these questions.

I have a strong desire to offer what I can. I'll be sharing as many free resources as possible in the coming days and weeks. I'm open to suggestions and looking forward to connecting with you whether it's online or in person. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and each other.

With my hand on my heart,