Open Mind, Open Heart

Every day we’re overwhelmed by too much stimuli and by the knowledge of terrible things — from daily gun violence, to climate change, to the most divisive political administration most of us have ever known, to the constantly escalating disparity between the 1% and the rest of us, to the horrors of our government’s actions against innocent people on the border, to the fact of wars and brutality everywhere.  The world is constantly with us and if we’re even half-awake, we can’t deny how troubled it is. An epidemic of anxiety and hopelessness is upon us.

So … how do we respond to the ills that beset us collectively? Where do we turn for real information? How do we stay awake without becoming too paralyzed by horror to take action? How do we become effective actors on the public stage but also live out our personal lives so that they’re meaningful and enriching?

At Engaging the Senses Foundation we ask ourselves questions like this every day.  We look for answers and solutions, and we try to share whatever we learn with others. But some days, it’s hard even to find the courage to keep looking at the problems and asking the necessary questions.

The best way we’ve found to help keep ourselves well and strong enough for the world we live in is by turning regularly to art, and to the practice of mindfulness. We don’t believe that poetry/literature/visual art and the pursuit of inner awareness serve as escapes from harsh reality. Instead, we believe that these are the very things that remind us how beautiful the world and life itself are. How worth protecting, preserving, and staying awake for.

The art we turn to is often poetry, which causes us to slow down and take in information in a way that feels human, whole, full of solace. Another means we use is tapping or EFT, a simple, highly usable method of self-care that directly addresses the moment the body goes into fight-or-flight mode, leading to anxiety and the inability to process emotion and information. Unlike other methods of mindful care, however valuable they are, the techniques of EFT directly address the ancient amygdala as it mistakenly perceives threat and releases biochemicals not helpful in everyday life. EFT can disrupt the amygdala’s knee-jerk response and allow us to process our concerns in a way that’s sane and stable. And who doesn’t need more of that?

We’re exploring ways to combine EFT with art, beginning with a curriculum we’re creating for children from challenged backgrounds which combines the simple techniques of EFT with the exploration of poetry and visual art, which offer so much hope, beauty and the possibility of life-changing self-expression. We invite you to learn the tapping technique along with us for your own healing so that together, we can move with greater openness and ease through a world that demands so much of us every day.

And then, like I do, maybe read some great poems, and feel your spirit expand: Naomi Shihab Nye’s Making a Fist. Meghan O’Rourke’s The Night Where You No Longer Live. W.D. Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts. Larry Levis’ Elegy With a Chimeysweep Falling Inside It. CD Wright’s One with Others, Forrest Gander’s heartstopping new book Be With, a collection of elegies for his wife C.D. Wright after her sudden death. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Elizabeth Bishop’s eternal One Art.