Sunday, October 23, 2011

Do Not Lose Heart, We Were Made for These Times

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés has made this available under a Creative Commons copyright. I love it so am sharing with you.  If this isn't Grace in the Gray Areas I don't know what is.  

 I've put on this piece a Creative Commons copyright, meaning you may distribute it with citation noncommercially, to whomever you would like. I would be made especially happy if you were to post it in places where those struggling in the streets across the world, might see it and be heartened. Thank you and with love,

"Mis estimados:
Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.
I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now. It is true, one has to have strong cojones and ovarios to withstand much of what passes for "good" in our culture today. Abject disregard of what the soul finds most precious and irreplaceable and the corruption of principled ideals have become, in some large societal arenas, "the new normal," the grotesquerie of the week.

It is hard to say which one of the current egregious matters has rocked people's worlds and beliefs more. Ours is a time of almost daily jaw-dropping astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

…You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet ... I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is - we were made for these times.

Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement. I cannot tell you often enough that we are definitely the leaders we have been waiting for, and that we have been raised, since childhood, for this time precisely.

…I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

I would like to take your hands for a moment and assure you that you are built well for these times. Despite your stints of doubt, your frustrations in arighting all that needs change right now, or even feeling you have lost the map entirely, you are not without resource, you are not alone. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. In your deepest bones, you have always known this is so.

Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

…We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over -- brought down by naiveté, by lack of love, by suddenly realizing one deadly thing or another, by not realizing something else soon enough, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme.

We all have a heritage and history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially … we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection.

Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered - can be restored to life again. This is as true and sturdy a prognosis for the destroyed worlds around us as it was for our own once mortally wounded selves.

…Though we are not invulnerable, our risibility supports us to laugh in the face of cynics who say "fat chance," and "management before mercy," and other evidences of complete absence of soul sense. This, and our having been 'to Hell and back' on at least one momentous occasion, makes us seasoned vessels for certain. Even if you do not feel that you are, you are.

Even if your puny little ego wants to contest the enormity of your soul, that smaller self can never for long subordinate the larger Self. In matters of death and rebirth, you have surpassed the benchmarks many times. Believe the evidence of any one of your past testings and trials. Here it is: Are you still standing? The answer is, Yes! (And no adverbs like "barely" are allowed here). If you are still standing, ragged flags or no, you are able. Thus, you have passed the bar. And even raised it. You are seaworthy.

…In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the Voice greater? You have all the resource you need to ride any wave, to surface from any trough.

…In the language of aviators and sailors, ours is to sail forward now, all balls out. Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it, by whatever countervailing means, to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner, far less volatile core - till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again.

One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair - thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts - adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.

The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both -- are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

…There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But … that is not what great ships are built for.

…This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth."

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

“Do Not Lose Heart, We Were Made for These Times,
Copyright ©2001, 2003, 2004 Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, All rights reserved. Creative Commons License by which author and publishers grant permission to copy, distribute and transmit this particular work under the conditions that use be non-commercial, that the work be used in its entirety word for work, and not altered, not added to, not subtracted from, and that it carry author's name and this full copyright notice, including email address as below. For other uses, Permissions:

The original title is Letter To A Young Activist During Troubled Times: with the subtitle, Do Not Lose Heart, We were Made for These Times

Sunday, October 9, 2011


 Inspiration can sometimes feel in short supply when all the news is bad and all the newsmakers are villains, “celebrities,” or obstinate politicians.

So when real inspiration comes along, I take note.  It can come from many directions, but most recently my participation in Leadership Montgomery’s Class of 2012 has been a rich source—and we’re less than one month into the program.

I’ve met Anthony Cohen, a historian who saw a need to bring a painful part of American history into the present, to shine under a light of education.  I had heard of Cohen back in the 1990s when Peerless Rockville, a historic preservation organization in my city, brought attention to his reenactment of a slave escaping on the Underground Railroad.  He has now done this on three arduous routes, the first 1,200 miles from Sandy Spring, Maryland to Ontario, Canada by foot, boat, and rail.  Cohen is now founder and president of the Menare Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Underground Railroad.   Here in Montgomery County, inside Seneca Creek State Park, the foundation headquarters is Button Farm, a living history center depicting 19th-century slave plantation life.  It brings people in for a two-day program called the Underground Railroad Immersion Experience as well as bringing a steady stream of schoolchildren in for one-day programs and tours.  Volunteers, both adult and youth, individuals and groups, come for hands-on farming that supports the site’s Community  Supported Agriculture (CSA), light grounds work, and other plantation-era chores.

The same day (an embarrassment of riches) I met Woody Woodroof, founder and executive director of Red Wiggler Community Farm in Clarksburg, Maryland.  More than food, the farm sows hope and pride and health.  It provides work for local adults with intellectual disabilities in an atmosphere of inclusion. It has a CSA that includes an intentional outreach to less affluent members of the community—25% of members are from low-income households, including low-income adults with developmental disabilities. And the farm reaches out to area youth to participate in the inclusive work of the farm, helping it to produce what the community needs, learning about organic farming, and practicing environmental stewardship.

I’d be remiss not to mention that my fellow members of Leadership Montgomery are a huge inspiration themselves.   Suffice it to say that the group includes many people who didn’t wait to be told how they could serve their community—they saw a need, and they stepped up.  I hope to tell you more about these visionaries in the future.

Two days after my Leadership Montgomery session, I was inspired through another media, The Ellen De Generes TV show which brings the good in humans daily to a national audience of millions.  Ellen’s guest was Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS.  In his travels in Argentina he saw that there were children who were being kept out of going to school just for want of a pair of shoes.  So he started a shoe company with a “One for One” model where for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need.  Putting shoes on children who otherwise would have gone without prevents disease and injury, and even more awesomely helps educate the world’s children.   Started with a small project in Argentina, TOMS has given shoes to more than one million children in more than 20 countries.  Mycoskie told viewers he was looking at expanding the One for One model to other products.  Next up in a literally visionary move is sunglasses, the sale of which will benefit people who need eye care, giving them prescription glasses, medical treatment for sight threatening conditions, or sight-saving surgery.  Wow.

At the same time as watching that Ellen episode I’d DVR’d, I was reading Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s book The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.  Her inspiration is an Afghan woman, Kamila Sidiqi, who started a business to help support her family in the midst of Taliban-held Kabul.  She didn’t know how to sew but needed to create income from her living room, where she and the rest of the women of Kabul had been relegated.  At great personal risk she not only became a tailor herself and cautiously moved about the city creating a customer base from behind her chadri, but ended up creating opportunities for other women, including starting a school so others could learn to sew and support their families, too. 

One of my long-time sources of inspiration on a global level died recently—Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and activist who founded the Green Belt Movement that has planted millions of trees across Africa.  She was a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work.  So I was cheered to learn last week that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to three African women who are changing the world for the better by improving opportunities for women:  Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Tawakul Karman, and Leymah Gbowee, I will have to read more about these women and their work in the coming weeks and months, to add them to my arsenal of inspiration.

Whether it’s on a global level or a local level (and truly all transformations of society must happen at both, as well as an individual level), for me the awe in this is seeing the power of one person to make a difference in the world.  I am figuring out how I can best do this.  For now I’m focusing on lighting the spark, sharing inspiring stories through my writing, and asking, what will you do to inspire and make a difference?