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five things to do when you don't know what to do

liz lamoreux


As I shifted from role to role yesterday late afternoon amidst the unfolding news coming out of California, the 355th mass shooting in the United States this year*, these are the words that came to me as I moved from angry to helpless to hopeless to trying to come back to love.

I reach for the light. I reach for the love. I reach for your hand. Always. :: Praying for change. For wisdom. For hearts opening. For those in charge to listen to that wisdom and light available for each of us.

I don't have clear answers. 

But this doesn't mean I want to be quiet or that I don't want to act.

Here's what I do know: The more of us reaching for that light, for that love, for another's hand, the better our world will be. And we can't do this when we're stuck in the feeling of being helpless or when we're so paralyzed by anger that we don't take action.

For those of us who move through the world in quieter ways, who can feel undone by the news, who are afraid to speak up because being in an argument with others doesn't feel like the right path, here are five ideas to help you move out of that helplessness or anger, no matter the reason why, and back into your body and heart so you can take action in whatever way feels right for you.

(And really these five ideas apply to any situation where you feel like you don't know what to do. Not just when you don't know what to do to help heal our world. You can turn to these practices at the end of a really hard day, after you get unexpected news, and even when you have a big decision to make.)

1. Find the stillness. 

Quiet your body and your mind by pausing and being still. Think about what you know about yourself. Can you find this stillness by just pausing and taking five deep breaths? Do you need to remove yourself from being around others and go outside or even down the hall to the bathroom? Do you need to move to find this stillness? (This is true for some of us. You might need to take a walk outside, without your phone, and breathe and notice. You might need to stretch and breathe. Do yoga.)

Turn off the television. Put your phone in another room. Create space from anything pulling on you. And let yourself get quiet. And if you don't know what to do in that quiet, here are some ideas.

2. Light a candle.

There's something about the pause that happens when you light the wick of a candle and watch it come to life. For a moment, that light is all there is. I light candles on a daily basis in my home and studio. They center me, but they are also like a companion that connects me to the light. Sometimes when I light them, I think about loved ones in my life, especially those who are far away or those who need extra love right now. Often, I let the candle hold all that feels like too much for me. I imagine the candle carrying it all into the wind for the earth, for all that is greater than me, to hold.

3. Hug someone.

Reach out and connect. This might mean literally saying to your partner or a friend, "Can I have a hug?" This might seem simple to some, but for others, asking for a hug is a huge act of vulnerability. But that feeling of physical connection with another roots you in love. (Let it root you in that love honey.)

If you're in a moment (or even a time in your life) where someone to hug isn't available, ask for a virtual hug from a friend through a text or phone call. I do this all the time and I really feel like it works. That simple act of saying a version of, "I'm struggling. I need to know you are there" lets those who care about you root in that same love you are seeking. 

4. Practice your own form of prayer. 

Maybe you practice a religion where prayer is a common act or maybe you don't. Those details are only important to you and the path you are on (as they should be). Even though I don't practice with a specific religion or go to an organized church service on the weekends, I pray. I believe prayer is whatever you need it to be. It might be praying to a god. It might be playing the violin. It might be listening to a specific song. It might be standing in the middle of the forest and just listening. Most importantly connect with the love, the light, that's waiting for you, for all of us.

5. Do something that moves you to a place of connection.

Here's what I mean: Think about the things that invite you to feel that deep hum of "yes, this" inside you, the things that bring you back home to you. Maybe you dance. Maybe you play with paint. Maybe you volunteer. Maybe you read a favorite inspirational book or poem. Maybe you chant. Maybe you take photos. Maybe you play with flowers. Maybe you cook. Make your own list and then put more of these things on your schedule. These are the acts that keep you centered when things feel like they're off kilter. Rituals and rhythms become the way home. 

It feels important to say this: These ideas are about moving you to a place of love and centeredness so you can listen to the path that feels right for you. So you can move to a place of action. This might mean writing your senators and representatives. This might mean asking questions. This might mean speaking up. This might mean educating yourself. This might mean having hard conversations. This might mean even more prayer.

My hope though is that moving away from helplessness and feeling like you don't know what to do and moving back toward your own wisdom will help you take action in whatever way works for you. Because talking about our helplessness or letting hopelessness take over isn't action. And shaming others for not taking the action you think they should take isn't the way either. 

I really believe we can each listen to that wisdom within us and move from a place of truth and love.

And I believe we can even hold hands while we do it. 

(photo by Lauren Oliver Photography.)

*Just wanted to update to add a cite for this statistic. From PBS NewsHour "According to the Tracker's data, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are killed or wounded, there were 372 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015, killing 475 and wounding 1,870."