Understanding Our Frustrations And Realizing New Pathways To Resolutions

America is facing its greatest crisis in my lifetime, and I am realizing that each of us is called to react and act in ways that define our communities, large and small.

In the simplest of terms, here’s how I see it.

In our lifetimes, we are presented with scenarios that are not always directly related to our actions. In other words, we didn’t ask for the things that are bringing us stress. In such moments, we are presented with options of how we can react. Some of us turn inward; others seek spiritual guidance; many seek out advice from others. On some level, we combine these approaches to understand our frustrations.

Keeping this in its simplest terms, we have ourselves, we have spirituality, we have books, and we have others to guide us.

Most of the things that frustrate us are fleeting events where our reactions are governed by basic morals. Somebody has 30 items in the “fast lane” checkout at the grocery store, and we make a choice to wait or seek out a faster lane. We can control an immediate action and solve the problem to our satisfaction.

But with the things that frustrate us longer, such as socioeconomics, health benefits, or the conditions of our communities, we don’t have quick answers, and we seek comfort and camaraderie in the time we are frustrated. This, too, is natural.

We create websites, social media groups, attend meetings, and seek out leaders who understand us and who can help us with our frustrations.

This is where each of us matters in how we handle our frustrations and how we choose the leaders we listen to.

Over time, an energy is created out of our frustrations. if we spend more of that energy seeking out acknowledgment and justification, rather than working individually and collaboratively on solving those frustrations, the energy focuses on the problem and not on the solution. It becomes easy to accept the acknowledgment and the rhetoric used to make you believe you are heard and understood.

This is what political campaigns usually do. They rally an understanding of frustration and say, “Believe in me. I am the only person who can fix your problems and relieve your frustrations.” There is a promise made built on the energy manifested in that emotion and that frustration.

This is common in all sides of politics: something isn’t working; I can fix it. It isn’t Democrat, Republican, or any one individual; it’s the nature of politics when we have elections.

The problem we face today is that the pre-election frustration that was manifested into energy still exists, and it continues to manifest into something dangerous. It has momentum; it was given promises, it was given compassion and recognition, and now it is taking on a life of its own with the very people who justified it and are doing nothing to stop it.

Here’s the point. When protesters showed up in Charlottesville armed with weapons and shields, they personified the manifestation of that energy’s breaking point. When an individual made the decision to drive his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, he, too, was a manifestation of that energy.

But that is all that it is: energy. The very simple thing I know is that the only way to stop energy such as this is to cease feeding into it. Release the energy that fuels the frustration and make the choice – today – to return to the origins of your frustration and start again.

We can turn inward, we can counsel spiritual guidance, we can read books, we can seek solace and understanding in a community.

But this time, we must let our morals, our ethics, our spiritual compass, guide us in a direction of peace. Let there be a manifestation of energy that does not require physical weapons and shields, that the only daggers we use are words to slay the hatred and give peace a chance to manifest in a new way for all.

Dare to strike a new path, a new approach toward resolving the things that frustrate us. What we are doing is not working.

It’s not too late. May we come together to recognize our frustrations. May we work together to resolve them. May we all stay together as we forge a new era of peace here in these United States of America, and across the globe.

Rus VanWestervelt (@rusvw13, rus.vanwestervelt@gmail.com)

Compassion: Let Us All Begin Here


The dust is beginning to settle following the attacks in Paris, as moments of shock have turned to hours and days of grief and contemplation. Our disbelief has turned to a variety of emotions: sadness, frustration, and even anger. In the aftermath we are caught between the struggle to do something meaningful and to return to whatever we call “normal” these days. After all, there are football games, upcoming holiday events, and school activities that go on. We don’t need to struggle with our nagging conscience that we can’t, or shouldn’t, engage in “fun” things while others mourn deeply for those lives lost in the attacks. We need to carry on; we need to engage, participate, and support the very things that define our communities, our countries, our lives. Our efforts to carry on do not replace our compassion; they strengthen it.

I have noticed, though, that there is a division among some when it comes to how we need to react now that the threat is greater than ever in cities all over the globe. Certainly, there seems to be no “safe place” anymore. We are all vulnerable to senseless acts of terrorism. I don’t think anybody disagrees with that.

These arguments and calls for action in how we respond internationally spark strong debates and judgments in leadership, retaliation, and policy. I get that there is a place for that. Discussion is both valid and necessary for us to evolve and work toward macro solutions that benefit not only the United States and France, but all nations – and all people – throughout the world.

These arguments and debates, however, do not negate a call for compassion, for peace, faith, hope, and love. We cannot condemn an impromptu performance of a pianist playing “Imagine” outside of the Bataclan because it doesn’t “solve” the problem, just as we cannot mock or judge individuals for posting symbols of support or peace on social media sites.

The two do not cancel out each other, simply because our individual efforts serve a different role than the broader, more rhetorical discussions about what is wrong with our society and what should be done at a national or even international level.

My focus is on compassion and what I, you, and we can do to strengthen our communities right now. No, it’s not going to change anything about the debates last night or who might be vying to run our country in 2017. And it isn’t going to shift our international policies on terrorism or how we – or anybody else – should respond. What compassion will do is strengthen our own communities and unite us in ways that we desperately need to be united.

I see three stages of how we can provide compassion and help others in and beyond our communities.

In the first stage, we offer a visual demonstration of support at the individual or personal level. We do this in many ways, and not one of them should be considered superficial or “trendy.” As nations paint their landmarks in blue, white, and red to show support, so do individuals paint their profile pictures and cover photos with solidarity. How does this help? I have seen individuals directly affected take solace in such support. This very minimal act of helping makes a difference, even if we are not aware of it on an individual and personal level.

In the second stage, we take action in our communities to make it a better place for everyone. We pick up trash, we check in on neighbors, we attend community events. We serve as models for our children, for others, in how we live our lives beyond fear, how we demonstrate courage in our actions and strengthen our foundations in peace and unity. We abandon judgment and embrace diversity; we stand united among the pillars of peace, faith, hope, love. What brings us there – our individual beliefs, religions, backgrounds, cultures – makes no difference. We recognize these pillars as universal structures of strength. And in so doing, we, as individuals, become pillars of strength and carriers of each: peace, faith, hope, and love.

Finally, in the third stage, we initiate programs to heal, to protect, to serve. We create opportunities for greater action through camaraderie and unity. We become integral players in the development of these initiatives. This might be through the development of community sports and recreation programs, school-based activities and events, church-centered missions and drives, and larger initiatives that create products or provide services for others in need.

We can debate all we want about the macro policies about war, government, guns, and international relations. We can question why we feel more inclined to react to tragedies in France than we might for tragedies in other places such as Beirut or Syria. We can spar with friends, defending and offending (although I wish we wouldn’t) along the way.

But we can also show compassion first, and throughout, our debates and discussions. If we do this at every level of how we respond, either on a micro or macro level, we can effect greater change in ways that matter most to our local communities, as well as to the individuals comprising our immediate worlds.

Begin with compassion. Become a pillar of peace, faith, hope, and love. Let these be the foundation of all we do now, and tomorrow.

Our Need To Endure

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a good hour at my local library researching topics that interest me greatly: spirituality, love, peace, and writing. You see, I’ve had some pretty good plans lately for new publications. Most of them center on improving your life through mindfulness and spirituality, using writing as a vehicle to living a more inspired and authentic experience.

By the end of that hour, I was caught between a three-way reaction; I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or just quit altogether.

Every single idea I had — creative ideas, no doubt — had already been done, ad nauseum, by scores of other writers, spiritualists, and self-helpers out there in our shared universe.

When I returned home, I jumped on the internet and did a more global search through Amazon and other booksellers. What I discovered was even more disturbing.

Everything is available. To everyone. Anywhere. Anytime.

I considered my three reactions once more: laugh, cry, or resign. I felt the smile push my already-round cheeks closer to my eyes, and I began to laugh.

The pressure was gone; the anxiety released. I didn’t need to save the world, after all. Scores of life-savers have already taken care of this burdensome job for you, me, and, well — all of us.

Everyone. Everywhere. Anytime.

So what’s the point, then? Why write? Why publish? Why do any of it if it’s already been done?

The books that I mentioned were ones that I never knew existed. I have been doing this for a long time, and I was surprised how many titles were not on my literary radar. They were all legitimate titles, too. None of this Kinko’s-copied, let-me-wrap-a-spiral-binding-around-it kind of publication. Strong authors. Solid publishers. Recent pub dates.

It’s like when you’ve been following a musician for a long time, and you do a quick search and find out he released a new CD 3 years ago. How could this be? In this age of hyper-turbo instant info that goes streaming by your smart-phone-tapping thumbs on a dozen different newsfeeds, you would think that such a release would not get by you.

It did, and so does so much more, which is the whole point.

In a time where instant communication has broken through all geographic, cultural, political, and spiritual barriers, we still find ourselves missing the things that matter the most to us.

This, my friends, is our need to endure: close friends, loved ones, and the members who make up our small, seemingly tight-knit communities, the people and places we frequent the most.

This is our audience, our group, our family. And in this little circle, we need to hear each other’s voices, and often. Beyond us is a cacophony of words, sounds, images, and ideas streaming by us at speeds we can no longer fathom, a flow of information that we can no longer adequately absorb. It is just too much to take in.

But in our own community, we can contribute great things to each other; we can offer and value the sanctity of ideas, regardless of what might exist (ad nauseum) outside of our little village.

We have the need to endure, not for the masses, but for the villagers next door, across the street, or down a little ways along the virtual highway who have aligned with us.

It is for all of you that I write, that I share, that I post, and play, and pray. If it goes beyond the village and is appreciated by others, I am delighted.

But to endure, I write for you first. Always.