In the face of recent horrors -- Harvey, Irma, Maria, Mexican earthquakes, Oregon fires, and the never-ending torrent of absurdity spewing out of Washington, I found myself earlier this week taking great comfort from a TED Radio Hour podcast entitled, “To Endure”. One excerpt in particular spoke to me. Guy Raz interviewed Zanaib Salbi, a woman who grew up in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war and who later, as an adult, founded Women for Women International, a group dedicated to supporting women living in war zones.
When Zainab set out to help a group of women in Bosnia, she expected requests for vitamins, medical equipment, food staples. What they asked for instead came as a great surprise -- lipstick. In the midst of violence and terror these women had discovered that their most powerful act of resistance was to make themselves feel beautiful. “They want us to feel we are dead; they want us to feel ugly…When we put on lipstick we feel we are beautiful, and that is how we are resisting.”
Many people I talk to are mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted right now by the steady barrage of bad news that has become the norm of late. Some manage their stress by boycotting all news; others have taken up the baton and gone in swinging (God bless them). Regardless of our chosen tactic, certainly we all struggle at times to find the strength to endure. In those times what often brings us back to a place of hope, as Zainab Salbi says, is a small act of kindness. Like a single blossoming flower in a dessert, a small act of kindness – or beauty, or joy – can inspire ourselves and others to take up the good fight again.
Certainly there are times to resist. Certainly there are times when I need to stand in my power and speak my truth even if I am a yogi. (Maybe even more so because I am a yogi.) I struggle at times with how to do this – how to be true to my personal beliefs in the world of yoga, where some may wish to hear only of peace. I ask myself again and again, ‘How can I stand in my power with compassion?’ Zainab Salbi seems to have a suggestion for me. Stand in my joy. Let my kindness be an act of resistance…You will not wear me down. You will not make me give up. You will not break my spirit or my will to fight. In the midst of the absurdity and devastation I will dance. I will sing. I will put on lipstick. I will do something kind for another. Standing in my power – resisting – enduring -- may mean making someone smile today.
So, go, resist. Do something that makes you giddy today.