Heal This Land – Heal Yourself
What to do when the world is on fire and so are you? How service, citizenship and volunteerism can help both heal the planet and your heart and mind.
Checking in after most of the summer off
Hey heyyy! Summer is winding down and I’m back to my laptop typing away, ramping up for the new academic year and some new and exciting things here at How Women Heal. Amazing things coming soon!
Just returned from a quick trip to Cairo, Egypt following a sojourn in Jubail, Saudi Arabia (my present home) for the first half of the summer…and a spa town in Germany called Bad Nauheim for the second half of my holiday…I find myself returned to Saudi feeling both refreshed and tired from the travel.
I’m not complaining in the least. Mentally, it was great to switch off. I needed it. I highly recommend that we all take advantage of the time off. It’s called ‘rest and recovery’. Teaching professionals and many of us facing the demands of work and life need the down time. I hope you had a good rest even for a couple of weeks this summer. We need it!
But the world around us doesn’t stop…what’s going on?!
I came back, mindful of the images I had seen of both progress in Cairo and poverty that I remember seeing 20 years ago when I visited that city (we drove through the city slums, which looked not that different from the poorest district of Frankfurt, which I saw from the train). It made me realize we are a hardy planet with a complex set of circumstances. I always return from any trip cognizant of my privileges as a Canadian expat working in Saudi Arabia.
And anyone who knows me knows…I consume the least amount of news that I can in order to stay globally informed, but at present a lot is happening. So, I’ve had the news on since returning home and the stories have been rolling in.
People are suffering
My book editor’s home in Texas flooded, and a few of my other Facebook friends’ homes, too, were affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Watching everyone nobly handle that while, too, I sense their pain triggered my desire to help. I did what I could. I offered to donate to a crowdfunding campaign if needed and donated to a fund which purchases and provides new and clean underwear for disaster survivors.
The same hurricane nearly leveled everything in Barbuda, which reminds me of the Asian tsunami I found myself uncomfortably near, too…I felt the earthquake in Penang, Malaysia. The Caribbean island that bore the brunt of this natural force, Barbuda, reminds me of the haunting devastation of Banda Aceh in Indonesia – which made me look up how Aceh is doing today – much better, of course.
Hurricane Irma is headed for Florida, where former students of mine are anxiously waiting at the airport for a flight out while another Facebook friend worries about family who are sitting out the storm.
Meanwhile, yet another Hurricane Jose is headed straight for Barbuda again in another natural assault against man. We humans are small in the face of real nature. Mother Earth is perhaps telling us something, no?
We’ve got the planet warming up, and now I’ll fast track this conversation just to say: we all know there are a number of big and very real concerns on the planet. What on earth is one to do about the effects of the economy, the effects of politics, the effects of war crimes against people in many hotspots on this planet (Burma currently in the news…but there are so many others)? What? What do we do?
What to do when the problems are so massive – help where you can and best feel able to
My simplest response to this question is this: we
- raise our consciousness
- put the concerns we have in our hearts and hold them as we also
- do what we can to contribute in a real and tangible way – time, money, awareness raising.
This is what we do.
We contribute to the healing of this planet. In fact, we all do this once in awhile, even if it’s just taking soup to a neighbor who is poorly. Our heads rise above the parapet when someone is in obvious need.
Concerning someone out there across the planet that you cannot personally reach but whom you might be concerned about, if you’re like me, you look at the news on occasion and check on the matters that concern you most. You do what you can and then go back to tending to your own life.
We strike that balance between caring for others and for ourselves. We occupy our place on this planet as global citizens who think and act locally and…to the extent we can…globally.
My personal belief is that there should be no place on this planet for ‘extreme poverty’. But it’s everywhere.
It hurts my heart, wakes me up on occasion to the severity of need elsewhere, and I feel compelled to contribute. Part of that means that every once in awhile I speak about this again, donate to something that feels important and/or urgent, write about an issue if need be, and hold this concern for others in the far reaches of the planet in mind and heart as I work through the details and challenges of my own life up close.
It helps me and I believe it can help you.
I’m not just talking out of the side of my mouth about this. The evidence is out that volunteerism makes a huge difference to your health:
Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. But I was surprised to learn that volunteering has positive implications that go beyond mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. – Stephanie Watson, Harvard Women’s Health Watch
Service to others offers a profound way to heal – it can remind us to not only be compassionate with others, but also with ourselves
I learned years ago that when you’re in pain, turning to help another erases your pain almost if not entirely. It is partly why I have loved contributing as a paid and volunteer youth worker, peer counselor and crisis intervention and suicide prevention ‘listener’ for over three decades. It is also why I have taken the time to listen to elderly people. It is why I have stopped to feed someone homeless on the streets and to ask them what has happened. The pain of others puts our own pain into perspective. We forget ourselves temporarily to listen to the plight of another, and helping feels good. It’s a win-win situation, really.
So, for the good of yourself and others, I recommend that you
- find something you care about and
- give something of yourself to the cause.
It hauls you out of isolation and reminds you: we’re in the world together. It will move others to see you engaged, and you will find yourself rewarded for this engagement by way of
- energy you gain from doing something deeply purposeful
- the love you feel for your fellow beings and
- their appreciation of your contribution
Making a difference in the lives of others is a profound way to boost your own mood and sense of ‘okay-ness’ by making connections and, if nothing else, distracting yourself from your own troubles while you practice empathy and compassion with others…which you can also learn to increase towards yourself. We can be so much harder on ourselves than on others. Caring for others can help us to be more loving towards ourselves, too.
On that note, this week’s Friday song to start your weekend off is a beautiful little number about healing this planet (and the people living on it) by an artist I did not know of – Tina Malia. In the first of the videos below, she talks of what inspired her to write spiritually uplifting, socially conscious music. Indeed, it is gorgeous, healing music. You’ll be hearing more of her here at How Women Heal. Exquisite.
Enjoy and Happy September! Happy soul.
Be good to you. x
Like the petals of a rose
Bloom in its season
Gentle and slow
My body is the mountain
The ocean, the river
The sand and the soil
The life giver
So come on now, my friend
Speak to me
Help me understand
Let us walk together
Take my hand
And we will heal this land
We will heal this land