Staying Grounded in Times of War
March 9th, 2022

I have to admit, I did not have “psychopathic kleptocrat starts World War” on my 2022 bingo card, but here we stand. Staring down the reality that during the previous administration, America helped numerous dictators consolidate power and prepare for the very scenario we see playing out before our eyes.

Unjustifiable wars, devastating human rights violations and utter destruction to re-establish global power dynamics that disappeared with the Cold War. Only now, it’s a hot war, the kleptocrats are bent on utter destruction with total disregard for human life, America’s standing in the world is greatly diminished and the end game is the destruction of democracy across the globe. Democracy is hard, dictatorship is easy.

Oh, and we’re still grappling with the lingering results of a two year global pandemic that shredded communities, families and social safety nets. And don’t get me started on the climate crisis.

Is it any wonder why so many of us are simply hanging on by the very edge of our tattered ropes? Almost every friend I bump into answers the question “how are you?” with a heavy “overwhelmed”.

Women Maoist soldiers from my project documenting Security Demographics in Nepal in 2006.
Women Maoist soldiers from my project documenting Security Demographics in Nepal in 2006.

I returned to school in the fall to study yoga and religion at a Buddhist inspired university because I knew my existing skill sets left me grossly under-prepared for the coming chaos our world is entering. I naively though I had a few extra years to learn the depths of yogic practice and meditation before the shit really hit the fan. I don’t really have a plan, I just know this skill set is necessary to help myself, my family and my community navigate the fucked up shit our global power brokers keep doing to us all.

And for what? Money? Yachts? Ego? Wealth accumulation that is embarrassing and obscene? Because they weren’t loved as children and never processed their traumas? The fact that we are all facing the destruction of our society because a handful of men have too much power and have accumulated too much wealth is such a tragic yet predictable story.

We may not face down extinction because of asteroids or some Hollywood Armageddon narrative. We may be facing utter global destruction because a handful of men are playing God because they weren’t loved as children. That reality is simply too ridiculous to comprehend.

But here we are. And as if surviving a global pandemic where public health became political wasn’t bad enough, we now have to summon our strength, gather what’s left of our tattered nerves and try to seek a sense of grounding in a world that is rapidly devolving.

But how does one find a sense of grounding in such a reality? This might be the part where I lose of a few of you, but honestly, a major key to finding peace and acceptance in the present is to simply BE in the present. In turning to ancient wisdom traditions that emphasize meditation and living in the present moment, little slivers of space begin to appear.

What arises in that space is another topic all together, but with a regular practice of sitting in meditation (no matter how messy or fidgety we might be while meditating), we can create a tiny little sliver of space where emotions can surface. We can process the pain, grief and sadness we are all experiencing. In processing and acknowledging the emotions, we can then accept them with more ease and grace. And by accepting volatile emotions, we will not inadvertently lash out in anger or project our unprocessed shadows onto others.

We’re taught in the West to never show emotion, to simply suppress the feelings as they arise because showing emotion is a sign of weakness. I was programmed this way throughout much of my life from the social programming I received through stories, media and my peer groups. Many of us were taught this avoidance of emotions, particularly the Gen X and Millennials. The Boomers taught us to stuff down those feelings and suck it up, there’s work to be done. I'm so grateful that the younger generations are taught to embrace their emotions and acknowledge their traumas at a young age and it gives me tremendous hope for our future.

I don’t blame the Boomers, I’ve hung out with my elders enough to know they were raised by a generation who lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. There was no time for processing emotions, they had to learn to survive. Literally.

But we’re in a different time, a different reality and our collective society is intertwined in ways the elders could never imagine. And we are all polarized in ways we could not have predicted because again, small men with wounded egos played God with the information we consume and how our brains process that information so they could accumulate wealth and power. And again, a polarized population in the hands of a dictator is a much easier population to control.

So we must now hold a duality that many of us are unprepared to embrace. We must create the space to feel and process the pain and reality of our present situation while also creating the space to feel hope and stay present. And we must turn to ancient wisdom traditions to cultivate this skill of creating space.

As we create space in our lives through tiny moments of stillness, we also must strive to open our hearts-- and keep them open. Many of us, myself included, erected insurmountable walls around our hearts as a means of protection from the sorrows of love and loss over the years. I’ve spent many years and much effort trying to tear down my wall. And I’ve finally come to a space where the wall is no longer standing. And the reality of an open heart is that all of this pain and suffering in the world is excruciating to bear witness to.

But with an open heart, all of the joy and beauty in this world is also visible and felt on a deeply profound level. I see so much more beauty in my world with an open heart. I appreciate every tiny moment and every slice of beauty with more gratitude then I ever have in the past. I acknowledge that most of the outside world is beyond my control and that at the end of the day, I am connected to a powerful source of presence and energy that transcends the sorrows and tragedies inflicted by small men with big guns.

I understand that we are all connected now, we are all just souls living through this one iteration of our human journey and we’ll continue on as souls when that journey returns the soul to Source.

We all have the ability to create space in our lives for stillness. And in that stillness, we will find moments of grounding. In that stillness we may touch our emotions and begin to process our shadows-- and find some acceptance. In that stillness, we may find the walls around our hearts will crumble and we can embrace this existence and all it’s tragedy and beauty with a sense of gratitude.

In this stillness, our hearts may open and we may find peace. And spread it throughout our communities and our collective.

“Someone once gave me a poem with a line in it that offers a good definition of peace: ‘Softening what is rigid in our hearts.’ We can talk about ending war and we can march for ending war, we can do everything in our power, but war is never going to end as long as our hearts are hardened against each other.”

Pema Chodron from Practicing Peace in Times of War

My dharma in this world contains many layers, one of which is exploring the intersections of humanity, technology & the mystical. I believe our collective has much to learn from ancient wisdom traditions and that knowledge must be both applied to our modern lives and archived for future generations to embrace and create a better world than the one we are all struggling to survive. If you can, please support my dharma by collecting some NFT art or donating to my Sacred Wisdom OnChain academic project.

Who am I?

I translate the human condition into powerful art that helps shift our perceptions of reality. I explore the beauty in chaos and have spent decades documenting the tiny nuances that make us human. My work reflects the visual metaphors which I see resting just below the surface of our human experience.

I’m an award-winning documentary photographer and have worked as a professional photographer and producer for over 25 years. I’m also a writer, digital nomad, community builder and yogi. I recently returned to school to pursue graduate studies in yogic philosophy and Tibetan Buddhism. All of my NFT collectors are helping support this academic journey and I share much of this wisdom here on Mirror through essays and art. Please visit my website to read my artist CV, initiatives for 2022 and to see my photojournalism portfolio.

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