Breathe.

It has been a tough week for my people- I am counting as my people those kind and loving individuals that I work with and those whom I strive to emulate- those folks who work for peace and justice and who love and serve all of the citizens of this amazing country, including those who are recently settled here. My people are the champions of our brothers and sisters who may be less fortunate, struggling, suffering or somehow marginalized.  It’s been a very scary and sad week for us and in response I have shut down a little.

Viktor Frankl is famously quoted as having said: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This quote was the centerpiece of the remarks that I made at Sea-Change’s inaugural training last month and it is the essence of why I believe that yoga can heal and change people’s lives. To access that space between stimulus and response allows us the freedom to respond to something thoughtfully instead of just reacting. That is what keeps me practicing yoga, I have found that with dedicated practice I am able to more easily access that pause. I can get hold of myself when I am uncomfortable or challenged. I have learned to use the simple yogic tools of breath and focus. Simple but not easy. It takes dedicated practice, but the dedication has paid off; it has made a huge difference in my life. I am constantly practicing yoga-most of all off my mat, and as one of my teachers says: “Off the mat is where it counts”.

I don’t have any words of wisdom or insights into how we find ourselves in this place as a nation- as divided as I can ever remember us being. Maybe we can just return to our simple yogic tools while we try to figure this out. We breathe. We focus. I have intentionally shut off the radio, the television and I don’t read the paper or look at social media these days. It’s just too hard. I need a moment to process. I need time to wrap my head around what it might mean for the people that I serve. I need that space that Frankl spoke of to choose my response. I need to sit with my sadness as uncomfortable as that is.

I do know one thing: this is still my country. I may have joked about moving to Canada (a LOT) but I am not the least bit interested in running away. I still believe that there are more kind and loving human beings here than not. We have our work cut out for us. My son’s best friend is an amazing young man who walked out of El Salvador at six years old. He walked across Mexico and into Texas, unaccompanied by his parents, with only an address and phone number in his pocket. He was helped by a kind person in Texas to find his relatives in New York and he has thrived here in this amazing country of opportunity. He has studied hard and graduated from High School with honors. He is a university student now. He has dreams- American dreams. He sent me a text on Tuesday night in a panic over what might happen to him or his family under the new administration. It made me cry. It makes me cry still. I responded that we all have his back. I reassured him that there are more kind and loving people here than people who might try to hurt him and that he shouldn’t worry. I want to believe that.  And I told him to just breathe and continue to focus on his dreams.

Diana Lee