Monday, March 09, 2009

Feeling Bad About Feeling Good

I was chatting recently with a friend of mine who is very active in the peace movement here in Israel/Palestine. She is an Israeli Jew who has devoted her life to seeking a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A good woman with a very good heart!

When Israel unleashed their assault on Gaza, my friend was in contact with friends of hers there who were living through the nightmare. She had already been hearing for some time about the impact of the Israeli blockade that was choking off life itself in the Gaza strip. Now, on top of all that suffering, the people there were being bombed and tormented by the violence, and even robo-calls from Israel, telling them to leave their homes (and go where???) or after their homes were bombed they were told to not fix up their homes because 'we are coming back.'

The people in Gaza were/are traumatized and living in perpetual deprivation and fear. My friend with her heart of gold, got very depressed as her friends were undergoing even more trauma and there wasn't a thing she could do about it.

She also found that her eating habits deteriorated, and her exercise routine went by the wayside. To her, it felt wrong to go to the gym and workout, when people were being bombed and terrorized not far from her home.

This unleashed a conversation between us. It was a conversation that I could surely relate to. Being in the helping professions (as a counselor) and being deeply committed to many movements for peace, justice and equality - I know how depressing it can be to see things happen that harm people. When people around me are suffering, it is hard to go about life as I know it. It feels disrespectful or dismissive somehow.

As I talked with my friend, however, and pondered this issue, I realized that I've heard this story over and over again. Many people who work for justice, peace and healing burn the candle at both ends, never taking time for themselves. They feel the work is too important and the stakes are too high. They don't feel like they have the 'luxury' of taking care of themselves. It feels selfish.

Yet, what good does it do anyone, if the helpers become ill or incapacitated by grief? We don't do anyone any favors by causing our own health and well being to suffer to be in solidarity with those who are hurting. Well, at least not for the long haul. Fasts, strikes, other actions that show solidarity are fantastic. Systematically allowing the deterioration of our health and stamina, however, actually works to defeat the causes to which we have given ourselves.

Remaining strong, healthy and focused, we stand the best chance to do the work we need to do and bring the changes we wish to experience.

It is difficult when we are sad or overwhelmed by grief to continue with the tasks at hand. Yet, when we are feeling low, we must do the things that restore us back to health and vitality. From strong, healthy minds and bodies come the actions that change things. We can't change the world if we let the events of life drag us into despair, hopelessness and illness. Defeat thrives on those things.

As tough as it is when we feel sad, depressed or grief stricken, we need to keep doing the things that keep us healthy and strong. No matter who is suffering around us, we owe it to them to keep ourselves in the best possible shape... in order to do our best to help them from a place of peace and power.

Eat well, exercise, meditate and relax some. Gandhi used to meditate every day, regardless of the 'importance' of the tasks he faced. In fact, when he faced his biggest challenges, he often increased his meditation time (much to the annoyance of those around him). He realized that the more peaceful and centered he was, the better he would be able to greet the challenges he faced.

Be well... and change the world!

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