Breathing on shaky ground

I asked my 96-year old father how he responded when people ask him about the election, he said, “I tell them that we have just been through an earthquake of great magnitude. My house is still standing, but I have no idea what remains firm ground, where I can take a step.”

Exactly. The words pouring forth on every conceivable media stream, from Twitter to the NY Times, from blogging to pulpits, are our first attempts to discover firm ground and, hopefully, common ground.


Revered Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hahn teaches, “To wake up: take three breaths: One breath to let go. One breath to get here. One breath to ask, Now What?”

One breath to let go.

I let go of the shards of complacency, that my country was progressing, grudgingly or not, to expand our definition of ourselves as a rainbow nation, a diverse culture of broadening acceptance; that America was moving steadily toward leadership willing to address global issues ahead of national interests. That is my definition of a “Great America,” and it was taken off the table.

I voted for Hillary, despite her connections to Wall Street, to the establishment, to the corporatacracy, because she is a tough, intelligent, educated leader determined to break the mold. And if she broke the mold of a woman leading at the top—then she is capable of breaking other molds, including breaking open her privilege and re-evaluating parts of her past record. I continue to believe that she learns, that she reads broadly, that she is interested in evolving her positions. IF she had been elected, it was always my plan to help push her toward Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s articulation of our collective needs.

I let go of seeking to find this leadership at the top of government. However, Congress is not off the hook!

One breath to get here.

I am here—standing in the jaws of the system that is deluding and killing all of us. No more wondering what will consume the rest of my life’s energy: this struggle will consume it.

I am here—an elder standing between lines of polarity to offer myself as a buffer: to get to “them” you have to go through me—this is the best use of gray-haired, white-skinned privilege I can imagine at the moment. I have the power of presence, of witness, of holding calm in the midst of chaos. My presence is a shield I offer to any moment of need.

I am here—in dialogue with family and friends who see the world and the ways to fix the world very differently. We the people of this country are in a huge moment where we can show one another the color purple—neither red or blue. A friend in North Carolina posted this Face Book message on the day after the election: “I am thrilled that Donald Trump is our President Elect. For both those of you who are not, and for those who are, I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s response that the only thing each of us can control is who we want to be in each moment.  And we can reach out with conversation, hoping to build consensus and understanding.”

I am here—trained by decades of dialogue and still fiercely in love with the world. The people who voted for him did so for many reasons, but only a minority of them for openly racist reasons, or thinking about furthering the end of civilized society… understanding that “why” (our votes and their votes) and addressing these concerns with one another is where we start. Sit down. Circle up. Listen.

One breath to ask: now what?

It is only the people who will save the people.

We have the opportunity to wake up and free ourselves.

We have the opportunity to find our own points of leadership and integrity.

This is a hugely creative time! We can we  astound one another!

This is all I know right now… it is only days into this changed world, and there is great confusion. There is no firm ground, we are riding the quake.

One breath to let go, one breath to get here, one breath to ask now what?

One breath to let go, one breath to get here, one breath to ask now what?



19 replies
  1. Patricia Houston
    Patricia Houston says:

    Absolutely beautiful! Your Dad is right, we are all standing on shifting ground and it feels very insecure. But we will land, firm, strong and unbending.
    I love that you said “to get to them you will have to go through me”. Together we will be the fortress, the wall and the way through which we will find justice and love for all. May it be so!
    Circling you with love.

  2. Susan Embry
    Susan Embry says:

    Thank you, this was enormously helpful to prompt me to continue stay in a space of calm and self empowerment. I posted it on my FB page to help ground other fellow seekers of peace.

  3. Meredith Jordan
    Meredith Jordan says:

    My dear sister in struggle and in joy:

    You must know that I am right there with you, in every word, in every post, and in every breath as we gather our wits and our collective wisdom for these times. In many ways, it’s a blessing to see how our lives have prepared for times like these and a relief to know what we are called to do and be in our remaining chapters. As you say, no more wondering.

    You may find it helpful to look online to watch a video of Joanna Macy recounting a prophecy for these times and what that prophecy means for her. I tried to find the original link to send you and couldn’t. But it’s out there and gave me much to pause and think about.

    There are some positive steps. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been elevated into more visible positions of leadership in the Democratic Party. Bernie is saying all the things that I wish more of us had supported more loudly months ago, and he is also promising to watchdog on behalf of those of us who saw our own vision in his. As always, Elizabeth is pugnacious in a good way and for good cause.

    Still, the times are hard. I wake nearly every morning wondering what new awful thing I’m going to hear today. So we must remember who we are in circle and carry that to every corner of every small town in this country.

    Sending blessings, much love and tremendous gratitude for this good work we have been given to do.


  4. Mary Jefferies
    Mary Jefferies says:

    Namaste Christina,
    Thank you (and your father) for your calm words of wisdom. I was shocked by the US election results, and I was saddened by the death of Leonard Cohen the day before. He has left us many profound insights, including these words from “Anthem”:

    Ring the bells that still can ring.
    Forget your perfect offering.
    There is a crack, a crack in everything.
    That’s how the light gets in.”

    Keep your candle lit and keep doing the work that you must do.
    With love and hope to you and Ann.

  5. Sara Harris
    Sara Harris says:

    That is a lot to know, Christina. Clear speaking. We all must let go of what we “thought” in service to “what is.” I so appreciate the clarity of your voice and its fierceness and love!!

  6. Jude Rathburn
    Jude Rathburn says:

    Dear Christina – I love your use of Thich Nhat Hahn’s message of taking three breaths to wake up – definitely helpful as we search for common ground in our hearts and beneath our feet. I believe it is equally important that we sit down, circle up and listen to the voices of the millions of registered voters, who made the oftentimes heart wrenching choice not to vote.

    I also appreciate your naming of complacency and the widespread belief in our progress as a nation that is capable of broad acceptance of each other’s differences. I, too, thought we had made more progress than it appears we have made. And yet, I have great hope that there is goodness in all of our hearts – we are capable of waking up and bringing that goodness more fully into the world. Thank you for all of the ways you bring kindness and compassion into our world.

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thanks Jude for your thoughtful responses to Ann’s and my blog posts. I know you are holding profound space with your students and in your community.

  7. Margaret Rode
    Margaret Rode says:

    Leave it to my quest buddy to articulate this in such pitch-perfect form. Thank you for the hundred yellow flags on the post this provides. In a house shaken by an earthquake one might consider treading lightly. I had no such inclination until reading your post – but now am remembering to breathe, sit still, stop stomping around, and look around instead. Thank you Christina.

  8. Diane Tilstra
    Diane Tilstra says:

    This sums up my feelings in a loving way. I want to be the Elder that stands in the gap between the love and the hate to find common ground. I am holding the sacred rim of the circle of our society and culture. It is time for all Elders to come together and embrace the fury.

  9. Marilyn Wolf
    Marilyn Wolf says:

    Thank you! This is great and I plan to use it (giving you credit, of course) in the groups I am leading to help people realize that they can get involved in protesting this man & his incoming administration and not compromise their spirituality and commitment to a life of compassion and forgiveness. People are confusing “Love your neighbor” with tolerating the intolerable in our system. I “love” my Trump supporting neighbors across the street as human beings created by the same Love which created me, but I think their politics are wrong. I would fight for their right to their opinions, but I think their opinions are dangerous so I must take my stand. My spirituality does not in any hinder me in any way. In fact, it demands that I take a stand on the side of compassion AND justice. Marilyn Wolf, Greensboro NC

    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Please use and share any ways that are appropriate. We heal first by thinking in words, then making story, and then letter our actions be guided. So dig into the heart, hold calm, procede as guided. Blessings to you. Christina

  10. Dee Irwin
    Dee Irwin says:

    Another one of my sage mentors weighing in, reminding us again of the work before us, and for those of us 70 or older, it will indeed consume the rest of our life work. As Clarisa Pinkola Estes has long reminded us, we were born for these times and they are upon us.

    We have had some wonderful, deep, soulful circle conversations at Healing Ground these past two weeks I wouldn’t trade them but we must enlarge the circle. Most of us were in the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren camp. We need to hear from those in the Trump camp and as you rightly point out, they are not a unified voice and we need to listen to the full spectrum.

    I am thankful for the mentoring you have given us. I am thankful that I have energy for this work. I am thankful that I may be surprised along the way by unfoldings that will astound and amaze us. We will lose some sacred cows, we will find some unexpected allies, we will stand ready to let our core values guide us through times of uncertainty and risk.

  11. Jana Freiberger
    Jana Freiberger says:

    The day after the election, a dear friend who was visiting me recalled a few wise words from someone she works with: Do the next right thing. For myself, I have amended it slightly to:

    Do the next right thing. Repeat.

    That is what I can do.

  12. Jeanne
    Jeanne says:

    I loved this sharing, Chistina! Grateful that you use words to invoke action and non action and contemplation and emotion. I so appreciate what your wrote. Many thanks.

    It is hard, however, to think of your Dad at 96 not feeling stable of foot. My mother-in-law, feeble of body, in a wheelchair and never leaving her assisted living home for anything for over 3 years, voted for the first time in 8 years as she could see that, living in Ohio, even her little vote had to be counted to save her country. My heart went out to her when she heard the results. These are the things that I still find hard to work my mind around. I am sure that your Dad, in all his tenaciousness will find his way to balance again! Thanks once again!


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