Seemingly All Consuming Chaos
Natural disasters, job loss, rising suicide rates, famine, mass shootings, entire countries being displaced… the maddening chaos can be overwhelming and disheartening to listen to.
In a world where it’s getting easier by the minute to do massive amounts of harm in a matter of seconds, the intention of nurturing my humanity is increasingly coming to the forefront.
Beyond Holding it Together
It feels as if we’re being tested as a global community, on how well we can hold on to our fundamental human values of honesty, love, brotherhood and peace yet, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just survive these times. I refuse to simply curl up and weather the storm. In the face of all the cruelty that is trumpeted and highlighted to us in the news, I want my life to be a roaring river of all that is good and true.
I intend to be a wellspring of these values for those physically around me and those I reach online. To the best of my capacity, may I enable the flourishing of life in all I do.
The Blazing Torch of a Heart Centered Existence
In my work as a substitute teacher, I recently learned of a woman who in the darkest of times, did exactly this.
Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was an artist and teacher who when required to pack only 50 kilos for her journey to the Theresienstadt Jewish ghetto on Dec 17th 1942, decided to fill her suitcase with mostly art supplies. She did so with the intention and intuition that they would be of use to children that would cross her path that would need them to cope with the trauma that awaited them.
The World Gains a Child’s Perspective Into the Holocaust Experience
She secretly taught art to 600 children and successfully preserved and hid 5,000 pieces of her students artwork before she was transported to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, where she died soon after. Those art pieces were later found and have been exhibited in museums across the world.
Her students recognized that she was not just helping them cope, but watering the tender sprout of their deep inner unfurling.
“Sometimes I felt like she was a doctor. She herself was a medicine. Until today I cannot understand the mystery of her freedom. It flew into us, from her, like a current.”
“…these were not normal lessons, but lessons in emancipated meditation”
–Eva Dorian 
The Pulse of a Mother’s Heart
Although I never met this woman, I feel the pulse of her mother heart through her legacy. She affirms for me my long standing sentiment that: to create in the face of pain, is the ultimate act of courage and affirmation of life.
The Power of Habituated Immersion Into Self
Friedl was undoubtedly a woman who had reaped the bountiful rewards of having regularly immersed herself in the inner waters of her creative wellspring. To have filled her suitcase with those art supplies speaks volumes of her acknowledging the importance of staying connected to this hidden treasure in precisely those times of darkness.
Selflessness As a Balm For the Wounds of Cruelty
As Liz Elsby expresses so eloquently in this article from the The International School for Holocaust Studies, “ While most of us can relate to the very human survival instinct of self preservation, of providing first and foremost for oneself and one’s family, her choice to give of herself to others – to donate her time, her talents and her indomitable spirit – is a much rarer quality”.
I question though, is it really a rare quality? The gift of these times for many of us, is that our own courage is coming out of the woodwork. The world renowned Women’s March on January 21, 2017 was a testament of all our mother hearts ablaze with this same spirit. It speaks to me that we as woman around the world are choosing relax into the power of this feminine heart and harness it for change.
Reaching Within, In Order to More Powerfully Reach Out
As mothers immersed in our own efforts to keep the hearth strong in our own families while juggling responsibilities atop the ever quickening pace of change, it’s undeniably a challenge to go beyond the self care basics of sleep and food.
And yet I think we all instinctively know how hungry the world is for what we as women with well fed hearts like Friedl, have to offer.
Your Time With You, Is Not About You
If you have found it challenging to carve out the time in your life to get to know and immerse yourself in your own inner wellspring of verve, if you have not been able to maintain that space for yourself by protecting it with the necessary and inconveniencing “no’s” to all that encroaches upon it, I extend my hand, to hold yours and say to you:
Your self care is not about you.
It’s about bringing to the world what it so desperately needs right now. Your vital, fully alive, engaged and compassionate presence.
Know that who you are after you have taken the time to refuel, recenter, get quiet and clear is the biggest contribution you could give to your family, friends, coworkers and the world
You make the most difference, and send out the strongest ripple effects of goodness after you have dipped into that sweet hidden reservoir of soul nectar. Whatever it is for you, uphold it, protect it…fiercely.
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Linney Wix, Aesthetic Empathy in Teaching Art to Children: The Work of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in Terezin. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(4) pp. 152-158 © AATA, Inc. 2009.