mindful living · reflection

navigating dark waters

So, it’s been an amplified week.  Emotions are heavy, energy is tense and many of us are feeling unsure.  I wanted to write a post that anyone can relate to regardless of where you’re at politically, just to address some of the negative things that we can all benefit from avoiding right now.  Let’s help each other to cut the fat, trim the excess negativity and find ways to boost our positive impact during this intense week.  

Just The Facts.  Right now, there is so much out there.  We are being inundated with fake news, stories that look and feel legitimate but may not be credible at all.  This is something affecting everyone, not just a particular side.  It is extremely tempting to lean in to one’s passions, to stick with what proves the point you believe in.  The best things to arm yourself with, however, are up-to-date facts.  This means evaluating links, and choosing sources that are not biased.  It also means checking dates, especially on statistics.  Numbers from 2009 may be completely irrelevant now, y’know?  If you are looking for guidance on which sources are the most unbiased, search on Google and several stories will come up.  I personally suggest the BBC news app, and also articles from the AP. They are not perfect, but they do make every effort to stick to facts with credible sources. (Edit: I meant to mention Snopes.com, also!  Thanks, Aunt Mary, for the reminder!  Snopes is really up-to-date and also just fun to get sucked into Urban Legend stuff too…) Information from political blogs, Facebook groups and biased news outlets is incendiary–it riles people up, angers and misinforms.  It is dangerous and an enemy of constructive conversation.  On this same note…

Be Mindful With Your Social Media.  Ugh. This one is nearly impossible, isn’t it?  I’m not immune to social media mishaps.  It is still an important goal, and something I am working on.  This topic could be a post in and of itself, but the main point is this: who you are online is exactly who you are in real life. If you wouldn’t express something face-to-face, reflect on whether you should be liking or posting it at all.  This does not mean to curb your passions!  Whatever your belief, social media is an amazing outlet for free speech.  Speak out, connect, but be mindful and ready to back up your beliefs with credible facts.  Also, be ready to open yourself up to other opinions and hear others out.  Debate is positive, it teaches us. But in order to do it constructively, you need listening ears and real facts on your side, and when something feels personal you should say as much. Honesty is golden.

Avoid Caricatures.  This ties in with both previous suggestions.  It is also something happening on both sides of the fence.  Flaky, stupid liberals who are out of touch with reality.  Dumb, racist conservatives who hate all women.  On and on.  Dwelling on these stereotypes helps no one.  Belonging to groups that promote these ideas, spreading memes, teaching your kids these stereotypes…they are all hateful. This is so personal for many people.  People feel directly offended and truly hurt by a lot of what is being said and done.  These feelings are valid.  Go high, don’t lash out, and try to shine light on your beliefs while avoiding insults.  

Get Involved.  Now, more than ever, there are so many ways to help whatever cause you believe in.  Donate money or time, march or attend events.  This one is easy, and feels great.

Know When To Back Down.  Unfortunately, some interactions won’t be positive.  Be mindful, and know you cannot and will not win over everyone. If someone is being hurtful, reacting defensively or refusing to listen, these are all cues to slide away and consider the interaction a lesson learned.  Know when to let go of connections.  I recently decided to stop following a peace group online after seeing many posts that actually were not very kind and seemed to generate more negativity.  I liked being informed about events, but I don’t want to be associated with some of their standpoints.  

Be The Change. All of the above suggestions tie into this.  We all want to leave our kids with the best world possible.  We all want good lives.  We all have this in common.  Our family is not just under one roof–we are all human, and all deserving of love, safety, assistance, respect and compassion.  These are ultimate goals.  The West Side Bazaar, a local business here in Buffalo, has a great slogan: think global, act local.  Take the time to check your facts and consider other perspectives, and then do what feels right within your community.  Stand up for morality and goodness, peace on Earth begins with us!  

I know none of the above is earth-shattering advice, but I think it is good to continue reflecting and evaluating my actions.  I aim for this to serve as a reminder to myself and others.   I welcome comments, perspective, questions and suggestions!

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