Tikkun Olam, repairers of creation. I first heard this Jewish imperative watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” the documentary on Fred Rogers, his beloved television show and his life. The film brilliantly chronicled the evolution of television, technology and its effect on children. It also took great care to speak of the social, economical and political times and how it affected well, us; his neighbors.
Tikkun Olam was the message Mr. Rogers, the Presbyterian Minister turned TV star came out of retirement for to help us repair ‘the brokenness’ of September 11th.
“When I was a boy,” Rogers recalled, “and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
I could site at least a dozen more profound statements and or moments in this piece of creative nostalgia but I’d much rather talk about how it, as a gospel has transmuted into action in my life as ‘a helper’.
On the drive home, I thought deeply about life, one’s legacy and the current state of affairs in the collective consciousness and in reality. It seems that with each passing month since mid 2015, I’ve experienced clients with more anxiety about the future and hopelessness or depression. I noticed friends and family, drawing hard lines in the sand with other friends and family because of opposing religious or political views, the usual heated holiday functions dialed up a few notches. Social media feeds mirrored a direct reflection of the outside forces at work inciting online riots friends fight over each others opinions (posts) or they are turned into somewhat of a virtual social graveyard because of people dropping out of conversations or off the grid all together in an effort to soften the blow of our the current state of social and political polarization.
“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr. Rogers sentiment echoes when I find myself going down a rabbit hole of despair after tuning into NPR the following day. I’ve always been taught, since I first leaned into my spiritual journey that being of service, to be a helper was a path to souls transformation. So I got to thinking about my current sphere of influence and Oneness. Beyond teaching yoga, beyond seeing clients, how else could I possibly help? Where could I be of service (when I’m not working or in service) and set an example? How best can I lean into repairing the brokeness?
Smiling (at strangers). In my quaint little tourist town, I know most everyone. But I take the time to greet everyone I meet with a smile. It doesn’t cost me anything it takes seconds of time to make that connection.
Acknowledge the name tag. In the presence of a customer service representative perhaps at the checkout line at Giant, I will most certainly make a point of saying the name aloud and asking the person how their day is. Try it.
More time with friends family sans technology. This speaks for itself. Don’t forget to insert eye contact and real time responses.
Printing real photos. Having access to actual pictures to touch & to tell the story of my daughter, of our journey! Whoa. Giving them as gifts to family seems slightly retro but the results are amazing. (FreePrints is an amazing app!)
More music less news. Total vulnerability right now; I had FOMO for a hot minute.
But my chest pains and emotional eating have subsided as my rump shaking and giggle fest with my daughter has increased. If you have a tendency to listen to the news more than 20 minutes a day, consider adding more music and comedy as a remedy.
More time on the mat. Deepening my physical practice keeps me safe and sane therefore everyone around me benefits.
Using technology (as a sphere of influence) and not letting it use me.
This is going to be a minute. Are you ready? Before, during & after the 2016 election, I edited my friend list on Facebook & Instagram hard. Discussing this with a friend, he offered the advice to suspend that course of action, to not delete or ghost out on anyone ever again because not only do you not know what those people are going through but you also don’t know when you are going to run into them again because it’s a small, small, world. Truth bombs. Mic drop.
When I am faced the pangs of deleting my Uncle who posts borderline racist comments, I recalled then employed an Arabic proverb to help me reign my mouth and more importantly my thumbs; Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? If the answer was no to any of those questions it won’t leave my lips or my fingertips. This is a work in progress. But my output on social media is a lot less political and more fun. I ask questions on a daily basis that provoke great conversation and giggles.
To further clean up my sphere of influence and/or how it influences me, I report ads that I don’t like. I report any activity that is threatening harm or violence to anyone, and I report memes or news stories with no facts to back them up by checking snopes, the DW, or asking my friends who still work at CBS.
On Facebook in particular, hiding people who aren’t in alignment with your current vibe is less of a hard line in the sand then deleting and blocking them. Snoozing them is also another safe option that allows you to keep the doors of possibility and love open for when you do cross paths again.
Not choosing to engage in meaningless arguments equals winning. This past week, I’ve taken it a step further to reach out to people not by liking a status, but by sending a little message of gratitude for how they’ve affected me in my life or just to check in and see how they are doing. Microaggressions contained. The path for peace, open, flowing. Sphere of influence in my ‘neighborhood’, helping.
Seeing through the eyes of my child. Here is a shift in my perspective that is indelible and a true gift from Mr. Rogers. When I get caught up in how adults are behaving, I sink into my breath and bring down my sight down to the level of my ten year old.
What excites her? What does she hope for? How best can we both create together?
To make the shift, I borrow a posture from yoga and get in childs pose or find myself on the floor asking her to color an engaging in a conversation that removes the both of us from any outside forces and brings us back to a place of hope and love.
Finally, deepening my spiritual practice. Connection, prayer keeps Oneness at the forefront so that being a helper to my neighbors stays a priority now more than ever.
While the world may be falling apart, I realize now more than ever that we have every opportunity with every choice we make during our daily routines to be helpers, to repair the brokeness where we are called and where we can.
So MOCC, some things to ponder until we are together again:
How are you applying your spiritual path to your day to day sphere of influence, in your neighborhood?
Where can you drop your need to be right to let more peace into your life?
Have you looked at the world through your child’s eyes today?
How are you creating your legacy?
Michelle Devi Ananda offers free weekly guided meditations online. You can sign up to get yours at MLGallagher.com