truth mandala

I don’t really do Maundy Thursdays.

Probably because I never really did growing up.

And touching other people’s feet (and having them touch mine) was never really my thing.

But we’re not touching or washing each other’s feet this year. We’re not touching at all. And if we are, it’s after rigorous testing, a community “green light” and extensive quarantine protocol.

In our virtual service, we were presented with a practice of a truth mandala — we each are present with 4 items which we have a tangible connection to: a stone, dry leaves, a stick, an empty bowl.

“The stone represents fear, how our heart feels when we are afraid; tight, contracted, hard. With the stone, we let our fear speak.
The dry leaves represent our sorrow. There is immense sadness within us for what we see happening in our world. With the dry leaves, the sadness can speak.
The stick represents our anger, our outrage. Anger needs to be spoken for clarity of mind and purpose. As you express your anger, grasp the stick hard with both hands, channelling your rage into the wood
The empty bowl stands for our sense of need, deprivation and our hunger for what is missing. Using the bowl we acknowledge our emptiness.
Using these items we seek to process the collective and individual grief that we are wrestling with in this Holy Week.”

Psychologists reference “fight, flight, freeze, fawn” responses to trauma, and I could definitely feel my freeze coming on during this service. There’s just so much, I’m thinking, I want to name all of it but the list is too damn long.

This whole past year has been traumatic.

From the sheer existence of a global pandemic (and very LACKING leadership) and all of the existing anxieties that are tied to isolation, disease, loneliness, depression, and drastic life changes…to the continued gross hate, violence, and injustices brought against BIPOC…to our broken world, and systems and people that, as they and their associated harm are uncovered for who and what they are, seem to prevail without any attitude checks or accountability.

And there’s talk of the “COVID Brain”. We’re more forgetful. Social situations are more draining. We feel foggy. We feel empty.

“Normal” is some unsustainable fever dream that was, and shouldn’t, for our Goodness’ sake, be chased again.

We are deepening our souls, making space for complexity and holding space for duality and yes/and’s, gathering up hurt and healing and joy and tears and anger and shock and grief in our arms like a single trip of groceries from car to fridge–

and our brains can’t hold it all.

They’re on a constant ride on a badly built, wooden rollercoaster, up and down, shaking side to side between fear, sorrow, anger and emptiness.

Fear is of our leaders, how incapable they are of listening to their constituents. Fear is for our families and loved ones, from whom we are disconnected and who we can’t immediately rush to if something happens. Fear is of the virus, its variants, how it spreads, how Teds won’t wear their masks up over their noses and claim it’s a hoax, an attack on our “American Freedoms”. Fear is for white supremist, capitalist delusion, how it seeps deeper still, treacherously into all of our systems and lets murderers go free. Fear is for our Black siblings, our Indigenous Siblings, our Fluid and Gay and Bi and Trans and Asexual and Nonconforming Siblings who are oppressed every day by hurtful systems and horrid, racially tinged, outdated legislation. Fear is not knowing you could be in an active shooter situation at any moment, knowing that lobbyists and corporate donor funding on crack is what’s standing in the way of you and your safety. Fear feels like it could break this stone in half in our very palms.

Sorrow is not being able to see or hold family. Sorrow is feeling empty, and feeling empty is sorrow. Sorrow is losing someone– to COVID, to a bullet, to illness, to substance, to suicide. Sorrow is feeling the weight of grief from the past year and not being able to exhale fully. Sorrow is feeling helpless when our world is witnessing so much pain, anger, and fear. Sorrow is feeling inadequate, guilty, like you’re not doing enough. Sorrow is wading through, finally, what toxic positivity has told you not to wade through.

Anger is at our systems, our leaders, our representatives. Anger is at injustice, hatred, and oppression. Anger is at a population that doesn’t seem to care about the value of human life. Anger is at petty small shit and bigger, heavier shit. Anger is at all that was lost. Anger is at all that we are finding out. Anger is at painful stagnation, powerlessness, and immobility. Anger is inward, anger is outward. Anger is fuel for what we will not stand for.

Emptiness is sorrow. Emptiness is the numbness we slip into when we’re tired of feeling anger. Emptiness is a need, a craving for something we know we can’t have yet. Emptiness is the joy leaking out of things that used to be joyful. Emptiness is our collective longing for what we all know is missing. Emptiness is realizing that your core values and beliefs are someone else’s punchline. Emptiness is intentional gaps of communication and lack of interaction. Emptiness is what calls us deeper into ourselves, sometimes too deep; emptiness is the desert we’re in right now.

And when all of that gets too much we try to reach for moments of joy to distract us from the constant anxiety brain cycle, wondering if it will last or feeling guilty we even had some in the first place, when so many are unable to feel joy right now.

We departed the service in silence– profound solemnity that holds space for betrayal and sorrow, and profound love and compassion.

We’re all holding each other through this. We will need to hold each other through this.

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