Thursday, February 29, 2024

Mantras from the Dalai Mama

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By Orna Rawls
Logo by Samuel Rawls
Orna Rawls is a psychotherapist and an educator, dubbed by her family the “Dalai Mama.” A member of the Crier’s editorial board, she shares the “On Health” column at the Crier with Walter Owusu.

“It’s in the Giving That We receive”                 

  ~ St. Francis of Assisi

When Alex walked into my office, I was struck by the young man’s posture. Years ago Alex and I travelled on a long journey towards mental health. The last time I heard from him, he texted me he was thriving. Today I didn’t see a thriving man. I saw a man weighed down by worry, angst, despair.

Alex was weighed down by the dark state of the world, he told me. Global warming. Russia’s aggression. Genocide in Sudan.

“And now” he added, “the war in Israel.” He said he thinks we’re facing WW III. He feels helpless and hopeless. And he is not alone.

Feeling helpless and hopeless is a recipe for depression, anxiety and many other less than productive states of mind.

“I can’t make an impact on the climate, on blood-thirsty dictators or the military-industrial complex,” Alex said, despondently. “What can I do?’

I happen to think I know what those of us not in power to make worldwide decisions can do.

“Do good,” I tell Alex, and anyone who asks.

“What difference will my volunteering at a soup kitchen or tutoring kids make?” Alex and many others ask.

Well, it may sound simplistic, but it’s a fact that when you take action by doing something for someone else, no matter how small it may seem, there’s a physical reaction that takes place in your body. The same chemicals are released as those released when you experience pleasure, and they can change your outlook. The problems of the world at large won’t instantly go away, but your perspective is altered. Your focus is narrowed to what you can do something about: the well-being of another person who needs what you have to give.

So, ‘what difference will it make’? In addition to how it can make you feel, every good action, from smiling at the cashier in the market to helping in the food bank or,___________________ (use your imagination and fill in the blank), can have a ripple effect. You affect other people, who in turn will affect other people. And on it goes.

Just that smile goes a long way toward lifting you, as do any acts of humanity. Keep in mind St. Francis’ famous mantra: “It’s in the giving that we receive.

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