The Power of Our Words

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

My friend, Gwen, in California sent me a text message a few weeks back to share that Covid-19 had struck the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

A 6-year-old had been taken to a hospital with a very high fever and was throwing up. The staff there took a culture to test for Covid19, which tested positive. That raised the number to 321 Navajos, who had been diagnosed with Covid19. 8 among that number had died. They had little water and not enough rooms in their hospital. Many were without electricity to keep food.

I started to text back, “This breaks my heart.”

Then I stopped myself.

I’ve been noticing that I say and write those words a lot—this breaks my heart.

Our words are so powerful that they influence our physical reality. My own heart is in need of healing and empowerment, not further breaking or challenge.

Plus, how does saying this transform this situation or others like it?

I deleted the words and wrote this instead:

Dearest Gwen, Thanks for sharing your heart and desire for justice. I lived in Arizona. I have visited Window Rock and many communities on the Navajo reservation.

I will pray. Too many communities are subject to inequality and oppression, to ongoing lack of services, to a lack that right now many communities, even more served and privileged communities, are experiencing."

While prayer is important, we are hearing more and more people say aloud that we need to collaborate and act. We need to explore how to shift from injustice to justice, materialism to sustainability, self-absorption to service, and disunity & division to unity.

No matter what our age, vocation, or situation, we can put the question to our heart, How can I arise to serve? How can I align myself with constructive rather than destructive forces and thereby contribute to healing and recreating our individual, family and collective lives?

I don't want to downplay our anxieties and fears. It would be abnormal to not feel some anxiety and fear at this time. We can, however, become conscious of and name our fears. By naming our anxieties, they have less power over us. We can offer ourselves and one another empathy. And we can inspire one another to arise.

For me, arising means shifting from reactivity — comments like "this breaks my heart" or expressing anger and assigning blame – to constructive and creative responses that lead to collaboration, and service.

Arising means to bring to an end the tendency to blindly repeat traditions, thoughts and behaviors that no longer bring value to our individual and collective lives.

Arising means to step into the unknown and explore new possibilities to create health and wellness for all. We’ve seen concerts online. We’ve seen companies and individuals arise to make masks. We’ve seen healthcare providers on the front line choose to live at an Airbnb rental to not expose their family to the virus. We've seen enormous courage.

Through aligning with constructive forces and acts of service like this, we develop virtues and capacities that recreate our individual and collective lives.

We’ve seen people badmouth one another, discriminate against Asian Americans, engage in the ongoing and endless partisan divide leading to nowhere. We've more than likely seen ourselves react in ways that don't serve. Each moment provides us an opportunity to try again, to shift, to chose a healthier and more positive alignment and creative responses to rehabilitate the world rather than contribute to its demise.

Disruption can create fertile ground for change. Disruption can be an invitation to consider how we need to change.

Join me in some of the following practices. If these possibilities don't speak to you, create your own list of proactive practices.

1. Stay home and practice society distance.

2. Take time to reflect on how to better serve the earth and practice sustainability.

3. Pray and meditate and get in touch with our soul self instead of our ego reactive self and ask for God’s help to live from our essence or divine center or whatever words we choose to name our higher self.

4. Practice gratitude and speak it out loud. Let our children hear that even in times of fear and crisis, we can choose to see the good and abundance that coexists with lack and challenge.

5. Ask for support. It is a power practice to learn how to say, "I need help with. . ." No doubt about it, this is a time of enormous stress, anxiety, and challenge. We need each other to navigate through these times. We need to stay connected.

5. Take time to connect with our family and friends who are alone, single parents struggling with this new reality, friends and family who are sick, our aging loved ones and whoever else God puts on our heart to serve. "Where there is love, there is always time."

6. Isolation and solitude are different. Isolation can be a lonely and dangerous place and can take us down into hopeless despair. Solitude is peaceful and restorative. Do everything we can to avoid isolation and pay attention to our loved ones who may have a tendency to isolate.

7. Choose and practice love each and every day— love and have compassion for our own selves, the ones we are living with, friends, family, and whoever may cross our path.

8. Listen to the stress and anxiety that presents itself and ask God to help us refrain from judgment, especially judging those who are triggered, and may be passing through some anger or fear. Sometimes to hear and witness can support someone to get unstuck and move forward.

9. Share vulnerably and authentically how we are overcoming our own struggle; by doing so we can provide hope and avoid reinforcing "otherness." All of us struggle, not just some. Pretending like we don't doesn't really serve the greater good.

10. “Listen with heart and soul to the songs of the spirit and treasure them as thy very own sight”—is one of my favorite passages. May we listen to the songs that reach our spirit each and every day and arise through our fears, anxieties and insecurities to fulfill what we hear.

While waves of collective grief wash over us at times, my hope is that we regard and move through our feelings and shift from a sense of powerlessness— what we truly don't have power over—into healthy power, creativity and possibilities.

(written April 2020)

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