Ancient cedar, Buttes Chaumont, Paris 19, January 2017
What to do if you suffer from Existential Disorientation (see my interview with Gail Straub): Who am I? Is my country imploding? How will my children make a life for themselves in this climate of conflict? How will we take care of them and our parents with no health care system? How can I clear my mind of snarling faces and obnoxious soundbites?
Find a beautiful evergreen, large or small, and watch it breathe. See its branches lifted towards the sky and the sun, imagine the root system reaching for water and nourishment deep down into the earth.
If you’re trapped somewhere with no vegetation, read a poem by Mary Oliver or the 23rd Psalm. Neuroscientists have found that visualizing a peaceful green place resets the nervous system and the senses as much as actually being there.
I’m fortunate to have family from around the world, a never-ending source of challenges and enlightenment. One of my brothers-in-law is from the Ivory Coast with ancestors in Burina Faso. His family were Animists who converted to Christianity more than a hundred years ago. He’s organizing a healing mass for our family tree and asked me to participate. Although I’m not Catholic, I welcome this opportunity to send love and light through all the ramifications of my family tree, by copying five generations of names and dates on a form, lighting a novena candle that will burn for 9 days and nights, and attending a ceremony with my in-laws at the end of the month. When he explained the plan to me and my husband, and shared his family history, we understood that our three families, in Africa, Europe, and North America, have all been scarred and traumatized by War. His grandfather and my husband’s were both at Verdun, my father, his brothers, and my mother’s brother were in France, Italy, Japan, and Korea during major battles…my son’s Russian family went through the siege of Leningrad… all with consequences we’re still dealing with.
When I gave mitochondrial DNA to the National Geographic world genome project, I learned that everyone on the planet descends from the same woman who lived in what is now Botswana, fanning out from there around the globe, over millennia. All of us are connected, even if we don’t believe it.
If you’re religious, I invite you to have a traditional healing ritual for your family. If not, make up your own version, starting with collecting information and stories.
We need to heal our world family.
Meanwhile, breathing with this majestic cedar.