I don’t know about you, but I often feel overwhelmed by the state of affairs these days. I feel overwhelmed by the dishes that are piling up in my sink, or the weekend trip to Michael’s for the upcoming school project. I feel overwhelmed by the current election craziness or the number of orphans in the world today. Some mornings, I feel overwhelmed by putting my two feet on the floor.
As a person who tries to be as conscious as possible, I feel all of my responsibilities quite deeply. And yet, when life feels so…big…where does one even begin? Perhaps it is my own reserve, but even as I try to cut back on my to do list, prioritize what is most important, and stay focused on the present moment, I still can feel depleted and helpless.
A patient of mine, a lovely young woman in her late twenties, was reflecting on this very issue the other day in session. She was discussing her passion for volunteering with animal related causes. And yet, what about homelessness? What about global warming? Was she doing enough? She herself felt less than equipped to take on the world, despite her desperate desire to make the world a better place. At the same time, she often felt lonely, like she couldn’t find her tribe. She felt surrounded by people who were looking through her and not at her, or who wouldn’t return her smile and her gaze as she walked down the street.
And together, we landed at the same conclusion. Managing our overwhelm, whether its daily life overwhelm or trying to change the world overwhelm, begins at the point of starting small. Starting where you are, by doing what you can. We can all look up from our devices, make eye contact, and smile at each other as we walk. We can all pick up a piece of trash and throw it in the garbage, or pause long enough to help someone who looks lost or confused. We can take the extra minute to soothe an anxious child. We can all wash one dish.
Changing the world doesn’t necessarily have to mean tackling it all in one giant leap. Some people have the ability and the resources and wherewithal to effect change that way, and that is fantastic. For those of us who don’t at the moment, instead of feeling paralyzed by our inability to do more, we can start by doing less. We may never know the far reaching effects that those ripples could have. And yet, if each and every person started small, made a conscious choice to be aware and kind and helpful, within his or her sphere of influence, the world might look very different.
For me, the question to myself might feels something like, “What is one thing my best self could do in this situation?” Sometimes I can’t quite get there, but I can try. I do what is accessible to me in that moment, even if it as simple as thanking the barista making my coffee, or saying hello to the person ahead of me in the grocery line. It is not much, but to the person on the receiving end, it could mean everything. And that is where changing the world begins.
So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in considering the smallest of ways in which we can be our best selves. How does it feel to try and access that part of you? I would love to hear from you!
With gratitude, Monisha