In the essay Living within Patterns from his book Facing the Lion, Being the Lion: Finding Inner Courage Where It Lives Mark Nepo draws upon Hinduism to describe the three elemental forces in life, Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the sustainer and Shiva, the destroyer. These three forces are constantly at work in our lives – we create, sustain and destroy patterns. I’m really pretty comfortable with creating and especially sustaining but destroying, that one is not so easy for me. I’m a natural rule follower – I like to “get things right” and destruction never feels right to me. So instead I hold on, often way past the point of possibility and even comfort. And this holding on while it feels safe to me also keeps me small, stuck and isolated in my own privilege.
There is freedom in breaking out of patterns – destroying life as we know it. I believe that this is what we as a collective are doing right now, breaking free of the old patterns – the patterns that have served me as a white person of privilege but have not served my friends and neighbors of color and have in fact threatened their safety and very survival. This is at the heart of it – our systems that have oppressed for the sake of power and privilege must be undone and created newly. And destruction is scary and really dangerous, even life-threatening. I have no answers as to the “rightness” of what is happening right now in my city, but I do know this, change is here. And I’m asking myself how I can be the change – what patterns in my life need to be broken.
As Nepo says so eloquently "a constant tension lives here, as we are relentlessly creating patterns to make sense of our lives and then needing to break free of those that no longer fit who we are becoming. The goal then is not to eliminate that tension. ... We need to examine the nature of patterns and how healthy ones (meaningful practices) can calcify into unhealthy ones (habitual routines). ... We need to discern when the rigid ones just need to be broken so our heart can once again breathe." I'm left asking myself what are my rigid habitual routines that need to be broken open so my heart can breathe again? This is not necessarily to label them as bad but instead to see them and choose anew. I'd love to hear about new choices you want to make right now. Let's connect.
5/31/2020 05:23:32 pm
Caroline, thank you for your post. The call for change is loud, no doubt. We can feel the pain and suffering from wherever we happen to be right now. As I'm still self-isolating and social-distancing, the form of my response is opposite of loud and intense: I am finding ways to be calm, still, quiet - to feel the pain of the world, and to offer back calm and peace. I want to continue a pattern I've been cultivating during the pandemic: daily meditation. My hope is that breaks old patterns of coping by distancing my heart and mind.
6/1/2020 10:01:00 am
Thanks Vicki! Your meditation sounds like it is definitely a meaningful practice that allows you access to your inner calm and peace. So needed right now for you and the world!
5/31/2020 07:25:02 pm
Caroline, so powerful and poignant. I recognize many rigid patterns, habits of action, as well as inaction, that need to be examined. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight.
6/1/2020 10:06:08 am
Thanks Dawn! So glad that you pointed to habits of inaction - this is a place where I notice rigid patterns in myself! Mostly because in my trying to "get it right" I often find myself stuck in overwhelm and that leads to inertia more often than movement for me.
6/1/2020 06:22:36 am
Thank you. Well said
6/1/2020 10:06:55 am
Goo to hear from you Ruth! Thanks and hope you are well!
Rev. Andrea Johnson
6/1/2020 08:42:39 am
I love the idea of breaking patterns which sometimes means destroying. Many Black leaders that I follow and am learning from are talking about defunding the police and instead investing in our communities in the form of quality housing, livable wages, and art and cultural spaces. In the last 15 years the city has paid out tens of millions of dollars in police brutality settlements - dollars that could have served and supported our communities. Maybe it truly is time to break the old pattern of a police system rooted in the era of Slavery and Indian Removal. Maybe the old pattern of seeing crime as a form of individual misbehavior that can be prevented by putting "bad guys" in jail needs to change and instead listening to social science research which tells us that most crime is caused by poverty and marginalization and cannot be prevented without addressing the underlying causes. This review of the Minneapolis Police Department and the MPD 150 report is persuasive indeed! check it out. https://www.mpd150.com/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=local%20agencies&utm_campaign=george%20floyd%20response
6/1/2020 10:08:42 am
Andrea, thanks for the great resources as we look for new ways to break out of old patterns! So helpful to get curious about what could be different.
6/1/2020 11:43:07 pm
Thanks for sharing such an insightful post, with such authentic feelings expressed, Caroline. I think a lot of people can identify with those feelings so it's satisfying to see them articulated so well. Hopefully, we can all move toward being OK with destroying some of these old ways to get to a new better place. I believe we can do it by inspiring each other like you have here.
6/2/2020 02:44:04 pm
Thanks Lynne! I totally agree on inspiring each other to move together in new ways - I'm all in for that!
6/2/2020 12:44:06 pm
Caroline, thank you for this poignant post. Your writing is rich and raw and real and helps me experience my own feelings and thoughts more clearly. And there's some hope here too. We can face ourselves and our cultural painful habits and do something different, if only to disrupt the familiar to allow something new.
6/2/2020 03:23:31 pm
Sharon, I agree there is hope in the midst of all of the pain. That's definitely what keeps me moving. I'm so grateful that we are in this together!
6/4/2020 10:25:04 am
Thanks Caroline. Incredibly powerful and, most importantly, useful. I've spent so much time thinking (stewing?) about things that OTHERS need to do to change. I haven't thought much at all about what I need to do to grow and learn from this tragedy. Thank you for the nudge in a helpful direction.
6/5/2020 11:40:50 am
Brad, so great to hear from you! And I'm excited about the direction you feel nudged toward because I believe that if we all check inside and grow there's all kinds of openings for real change!
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Caroline Cochran, PhD is a Certified Presence-Based® Coach and a Leadership Development Consultant with over 25 years of experience.