What I Dream About When I Dream About Running

Friends… I’m low on hope today.

I’m still pretty sick about Newtown. And while I’m glad for developments like Sen. Bob Casey’s change of heart on increased gun regulation, and I wish Vice President Biden the best, I have little hope that meaningful change will happen. The NRA bills itself as an organization that’s all about the rights of individual gun owners, but it is increasingly funded by and cozy with the gazillion-dollar gun industry. I don’t care how many earnest Facebook updates we write. It’s about money and it’s about clout.

I sent some money to Gabby Giffords, but still… I’m low on hope.


I woke up on this mid-January morning to discover that after three days of unnerving fog, we will now have three days of rain and ominously mild temperatures.

We have not had meaningful snow in three winters. Our normal average is 15 inches.

This is not the climate I moved into almost ten years ago. Yes… things have noticeably changed in less than a decade. Meanwhile, 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded.

Again, I don’t have much hope that our leaders will do anything to combat climate change… despite this:


It just feels stacked against us, you know? We face difficult problems, and big debates need to happen. I may be wrong about stuff. I need to be called on things. But I don’t like the feeling that might equals right and that the ones with the money call the shots. Yet that’s what we’re dealing with.

Is it a marketplace of ideas? OK fine, it’s a marketplace. And some ideas are crackpot, and some are well-intentioned but based on bad data, and some are good but need some work. The problem is, there is no correlation between the validity of an idea and the amount of money behind it.


What do you listen to during your morning run when you’re convinced the world is screwed? You listen to Krista Tippett. Krista will make it OK.

Boy howdy:

January 10, 2013

Compassion’s Edge States: Roshi Joan Halifax on Caring Better

 It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news and horrific pictures in the world. This is a form of empathy, Joan Halifax says, that works against us. The Zen abbot and medical anthropologist has bracing, nourishing thoughts on finding buoyancy rather than burnout in how we work, live, and care.

Touché, Holy Spirit. Touché.

I will include the pertinent bit at the end of this post, because maybe you’re feeling low on hope too.

The other part is that I had a dream last night that I was running a half marathon. But it was a ridiculous one. We were running up and down the ramps of a parking garage, again and again, for 13.1 miles. There were no water stations. It was too crowded. Some of the inclines were so steep I had to use my hands to hoist myself along.

I woke up irritated and griped to Robert about this blatant anxiety dream. But then while I was running with Krista and Joan in my ears, I realized something.

I didn’t stop running.

No wait—I did stop. I had a hissy fit because this wasn’t what I expected and it shouldn’t be this way and who’s the idiot in charge and I didn’t even SIGN UP for this stupid race!!!

But then I started running again. And I didn’t reach the end before I woke up. But I knew I was capable of keeping going. And it was enough just to know that. That’s enough hope for today.



Here’s the bit from the On Being show:

Ms. Tippett: And, you know, what I was thinking as I was reading this is it touches on something that’s happening even also to us as citizens to a different degree. It’s come up here at Chautauqua this week. Compassionate people are overwhelmed now with the deluge of terrible news. The pictures are too present and too vivid, you know, the news cycle is too relentless. I see pictures of children in faraway places that wreck me for a day, right? So the question that’s in this room and I think is out there in the world and in this country right now is how do we find the courage? How do we heal enough? How do we be present to that and not be overwhelmed by it?

Ms. Halifax: Well, I think this is one of the reasons why I identified these edge states because, when you realize — and the issue that you were bringing up, for example, about violence toward children, whether subtle or direct, and also that we are subjected to these images through our media, bombarded, is, I think, a more accurate statement. So we enter into what we would call a state of moral distress and futility. And the moral distress is something that where we see that something else needs to happen.

Children need to be protected, we have to stop rape and violence toward women in the Congo, and we feel this profound moral conflict. And yet we can’t do anything about it and we enter into a state either of moral outrage or we go into states of avoidance through addictive behaviors where we just, you know, don’t want to deal with it or we just go into another state of withdrawal, a kind of numbness, or …

Ms. Tippett: Tune out, right?

Ms. Halifax: Into freeze. And I think a lot of this world that is hooked up in the media right now, that a good part of the globe is going numb. And I don’t really agree, Krista, with the term “compassion fatigue.” I think what we’re seeing actually is not compassion fatigue, but empathic distress where there’s a resonance, but we’re not able to stabilize ourselves when we’re exposed to this kind of suffering. When we are more stabilized then we can face the world with more buoyancy, we have more resilience. You know, we’ve got more capacity to actually address these very profound social and environmental issues. So that’s why I call these things edge states because they really call us to our edge.

Ms. Tippett: I remember talking once to Ingrid Jordt who’s been a student and a practitioner in the Burmese Buddhist tradition. She talked about a teacher of hers who had also been a teacher to Aung San Suu Kyi who talked about how the great virtues have near enemies. Do you know this teaching?

Ms. Halifax: Oh, yeah.

Ms. Tippett: And that a near enemy to compassion is sorrow and that’s that sorrow, that’s me getting wrecked by the picture of the child in the newspaper so that I can’t actually help them.


7 thoughts on “What I Dream About When I Dream About Running

  1. Kate Dunn says:

    On my way back from leading a weekend women’s retreat, several of us in a car started talking about the balmy January day, which led to our fears about climate change, especially the fear that it’s not going to stop, that we really are watching our planet be destroyed. It was sad, after a spiritually rich weekend to feel a sense of hopelessness from all of us. Yet, our faith tradition does call us to hope, and not give up. The notion that virtues have near enemies is new to me, but makes sense. I wonder what the near enemy to hope is? Perhaps if I can identify it, that will help me build my resiliency, and share it with others. Thank you for this post.

  2. Moses (Miriam and Aaron) were probably onto something: 6459. pesel
    6460 >>

    pesel: an idol, image
    Original Word: פֶּ֫סֶל
    Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
    Transliteration: pesel
    Phonetic Spelling: (peh’-sel)
    Short Definition: image
    Exodus 20:4 = “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

    • bobraxton says:

      Anne Lamott’s FB: like the girl in ” Beasts of the Southern Wild,” when she stops on the bridge, turns to face the tusked beast, and says fiercely, “I take care of my own.”

  3. anne says:

    bob and i belong to an ‘open minds group’ where we discuss hard issues w/ 6 other friends every 2 months. often as i prepare for the discussion i google ‘on being’ and the topic. (on saturday we discussed abortion and i found 2 great on beings to help me think deeply.) k.t. is such a wonderful resource, isn’t she. in march our topic is gun control.

    by the way the initials for our open minds group are, of course, omg. and the folks in the group were invited because of differing points of view. omg, can we really discuss civilly w/ folks we disagree with??? yes we can!

  4. I have been working very hard to not allow what I can’t do take away from what I can. That means not reading the news, filtering my FBook feed, and avoiding stories of terrible things over which I have little control. I also donate on a monthly basis to very specific organizations that address some of the problems of the world (currently Women for Women International, which provides education and funding to women around the world to help them develop their own businesses; the First Nations Institute, which funds native-run initiatives ranging from local agricultural programs to culturally appropriate financial education to domestic violence prevention; the Unstoppable Foundation, which “adopts” villages in Africa, providing everything from clean water to schools; and the Center for Victims of Torture, which provides education and professional therapy to help those who have been devastated rebuild their lives.)

    And I meditate on love, and do what I can. I listen to others and provide a safe space for them to simply be. I write things like http://www.journalscape.com/Rachel/2012-12-17-16:21 and try to remain open to opportunities to spread light and hope while releasing the feeling like I *need* to “make it happen.”

    And, more and more, I pray for faith.

  5. Rachel S. Heslin says:

    Are You Tough Enough?
    Johnny Clegg

    [this world is a harsh place, this world]

    Picture the end of a cycle
    Here’s the fire from heaven
    There’s a tired planet closing down
    No more news at eleven
    Somewhere the last of a species has died
    Somewhere a child is born
    When I hold you, I tremble inside
    Can we ride out the storm?
    Are you tough enough — can you take the strain?
    Are you tough enough — to walk in the burning rain?
    Are you tough enough — can you take the change?
    Are you tough enough — baby just say!

    Into the heart of the human dream
    Into a strange new world
    Remember me under the Tree of Man
    Where I first heard your words
    Gonna make it through, I can feel it

    What we need is a miracle
    What we need is some time
    What we need is an angel of Mercy
    in this life

    Are you tough enough — can you take the heat?
    Are you tough enough — to walk in the burning street?
    Are you tough enough — can you take the change?
    Are you tough enough — baby just say!


    There’s your mama and your papa
    waving good-bye in the cold moonlight
    in their eyes the confusion of a world gone by
    and you hold me tightly as we step out
    into the morning light
    and I know you are thinking that for something to be born
    something has to die.


    Vele vele we mama kunjalo
    [It is true, it’s obvious. Mama, it is just as you say].

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