Connectivity, honesty, and generosity abound in our changing times, and the medicine of community is growing in strength and momentum as the message is brought home again and again: we are all in this together. Good medicine and altruism are rippling out elegantly through our whole human family in response to our two powerful teachers at this time: tragedy and beauty.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Dorian.
Anna Dorian is a longtime healing arts teacher in San Francisco, who teaches people how to live their own version of a magical life through reiki and shamanism.She teaches with an unusual blend of compassion, whimsy, and wisdom, and moves naturally between full presence in the face of profound suffering, to welcoming humor, levity, and play. Her approach to healing arts is rooted in an unusual life, marked heavily with intense challenges and peak experiences, that she now draws on to help everyone she meets hold more light and joy in creation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Mydeep love of nature and our earth mother led me in my twenties to earn a biology degree, to gain the credentials to speak to children in public schools as an environmental educator. While studying biology, I minored in cultural anthropology, where I was asked to create a case study with a healer. Longer story short: I found a lovely nurse and reiki teacher, who shared her reiki journey and stories with me. During that case study, she asked if I’d like to receive some reiki…and as she laid her reiki hands on me, I felt true peace and homecoming for the first time in my life. That same month, reiki led me to an evening workshop on shamanism, that finally made sense of many spontaneous shamanic experiences I’d had throughout my life. That one magical month 16 years ago changed the trajectory of my life forever — I give thanks!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes! My beloved uncle Matt gifted me a book back in 1981, ‘Tatterhood and Other Tales,’ and that cherished (and well-loved) book sits on my bookshelves as I write today. It’s a compendium of stories that feature powerful heroines in retellings of folklore, and fairy tales from every corner of our globe. Many decades later, storybooks that offer strong examples of women abound, but in my childhood in the late seventies and early eighties, this was more rare.
I devoured those tales as a young girl, and would continue to read myth and legend about women overcoming all odds with wit, resilience, and clever adaptability to this day. In retrospect, it was these stories and their powerful messages that shaped me into my own kind of heroine, able to endure and overcome extreme challenge. In many ways, I owe my life to my uncle, and to that magical gifted book.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
HUMAN CONNECTION IS INCREASING, AND DEEPENING: People are truly connecting to what matters to them at this time, as the collective is forced to contemplate and honor the precious ephemera of life, in ways that are novel and profound. For most folks, that looks like deeper authenticity and vulnerability with the people they love and cherish, and more time spent together, even if the format is a phone call or Zoom video chat as we shelter in place. Connectivity, honesty, and generosity abound in our changing times, and the medicine of community is growing in strength and momentum as the message is brought home again and again: we are all in this together. Good medicine and altruism are rippling out elegantly through our whole human family in response to our two powerful teachers at this time: tragedy and beauty.
A personal story that has been teaching me a lot in our changing times is a simple one, and moving to me. I live across the street from an elderly couple in their late eighties. They are, of course, not leaving their home at this time. My partner and I called to ask if we could do their shopping, and they agreed, with kind thanks. So far, the shopping experiences themselves have been robust teachers, with aisles empty of any canned goods or dry bulk. Anxious people are moving in heightened states of near-panic amongst each other, and we’ve been turned away from stores on our adventures out in the world. In the act of shopping for our elders, we’ve been gifted lots of opportunities to stand outside of grocery stores and smile at each person hurrying out, or to swiftly bag groceries for total strangers to help get folks quickly out of crowded spaces.
On our first trip for these lovely elders, we gifted our neighbors with bright yellow flowers in their grocery bags as a surprise. I had just climbed to the top of their stairs after leaving groceries on a front porch, when I heard the gentleman open the door behind me. He called to his wife, “Come look at this!” I could hear her at the door, and her words about how deeply moved she was by this very simple ambassador of good cheer at her door. Their gratitude made me cry happy tears at how connected we all are by kindness, and how integral we are to each other. Although we had exchanged polite “hellos” before the coronavirus situation, we hadn’t really connected until this great teaching invited us to. These little daily acts of care are so simple to bestow — and can truly make a difference for anyone in our beautiful human family.
ACTS OF BEAUTY ARE EVERYWHERE: In the midst of such hardship, beauty is blooming, much as the mucky depths nourish the beautiful lotus flower. Musicians are sharing uplifting melodies from balconies in lockdown, communities are mobilizing to feed, clothe, and emotionally support their elders, choirs are singing together with each other from their sofas, thousands of free courses and circles are being offered online, craftspeople are creating beautiful quilts for emergency shelters, businesses — large and small — are donating meals for those in need, people sheltering in place are sewing masks for overloaded hospitals, people are reading to each other as when we were young, and youth are playing cellos on porches of isolated seniors…the list goes on, and on, and on.
The quality of our listening is so profound. By that I mean that if we listen for what is wrong, what there is to be fearful of, how we can come to harm, and tune with addictive frequency to ‘what hurts’ and block everything else out, we train ourselves only to see danger and fear. By that same token, we can listen for what is beautiful, what there is to be grateful for, how we can come to love, and tune with resolute adaptivity to ‘what shines’ and welcome into our hearts what expands us, and makes us lights in creation. I invite each of us to listen attentively to beauty…because it’s EVERYWHERE, just waiting for us to hear its gentle call.
AMAZING NEW TECHNOLOGIES WILL APPEAR: If necessity is the mother of invention, the coronavirus situation is the mother of ingenious adaptability, and light-speed advances from the best minds on our planet will inevitably appear. Versatile innovation is the new coin in our changing times, and we will rapidly see incredible new tools that improve life for varied populations and the planet, and wonderdrugs with unexpected, far-reaching, and miraculous applications.
In these early days of coronavirus, the amazing inventions that inevitably come out of every crisis are quietly being created in formal laboratories, in coffee shop journals, or hastily scribbled on gum wrappers. Each of these has the potential, like the smallest seed, to bloom into an ancestral tree that anchors an entire forest. I suspect we’ll see repurposing for extant medicines and technologies first, and then waves of ingenious inventions. Looking back over our shoulders, we see examples ranging from the woman who invented duct tape to keep soldiers safe from poorly packaged ammunition boxes in WWII, to how the internet was created in response to secure communications during the cold war. Most folks reading this article have used duct tape once in their lives, and use the internet daily — both inventions came from truly horrific global situations, and have changed daily life in positive ways.
I’m typing here for you on the day of the announcement of a radical advance in respirator technology, with the capacity to save hundreds of thousands of lives, at speed. Even in the infancy of this situation, we are seeing the tip of the inventive iceberg. It may be a month or a year until we see en masse a slew of new inventions arising, but if history is any indicator, see them we will. Stay tuned…let’s turn our listening ears to brilliant innovations! They’re coming!
HEALING FOR THE WEB OF LIFE IS EMERGENT: As awareness of the gravity of our changing times truly sets in, people everywhere are understanding, many for the first time, the intrinsic interconnectedness of our human family…and this will inevitably spread to our nonhuman family as well, as the hard shell of our old ways of being are cracked open. The complex interrelationship between all human, species, and planetary systems is illumined in our changing times, and heart-based stewardship is a next, natural evolutionary step.
One of the first — and most astounding — effects we’ve seen on the global stage is an almost-immediate reduction in pollution, as humans are forced to slow or stop many industrialized behaviors. From space, we see that air pollution has already taken a dramatic drop in the weeks and months following the coronavirus’ emergence on the world stage. As wildlife is no longer predated in the markets in China that spawned the coronavirus, and as dolphins return to Italian canals left untouched by humans for the first time in decades, we are receiving powerful teachings: our impact is vast, and we are deeply connected with the living web of life, and we are being forced into actions with kind ripple effects. Already, we see hopeful signs that our trajectory can and will change — evolution in action!
GRATITUDE IS CONTAGIOUS: In our darkest times, far out past the edges of human suffering, we enter a crucible that burns away our dross and reshapes us into new beings, with expanded hearts capable of offering immense compassion. That process is uncomfortable and confronting at best — but is a needed step in true individual and collective behavior change, when a trajectory has become toxic or nonviable. In this most uncomfortable crucible, we learn through direct revelation how a one-minute act of kindness in a darkest, darkest hour makes a profound impact on its recipient for life…and that remembered gratitude increases capacity to ‘pay it forward’ and evolve into more caring, generous, grateful beings.
Recently, a group of my students got together online to create handwritten lovenotes in a free circle called ‘Group Hug.’ We meditated, listened to beautiful stories from around the world, and then sat with inspiring music washing over us as we made cards and lovenotes for those we cherish, all over creation. Some wrote to people they know, some wrote to prisoners or child refugees they’d probably never meet. Whether or not we wrote to those we ‘knew,’ we were all deeply aware that we were engaged in a radical act: of holding the vibration of love and positivity in a collectively hard time. We had something like a hundred people in circle, and if each of us only wrote one lovenote and put it in the mail. That’s one hundred faces brightening with pleasure as they opened unexpected lovenotes.
The receipt of even such a simple kindness helps us relax, and remember that we are loved and supported. With the fuel of kindness in our gas tanks, we’re then able to ‘pay it forward,’ and that can look like writing to the people we love after being surprised by a lovenote in our mailbox, or organizing a gratitude circle, or taking a moment to slow down in a crowded, frantic grocery store to say a heartfelt thanks to the checker with a warm smile. Our recipients might pass those small kindnesses on…in an ever-widening ripple of compassion, generosity, and love. Through something as innocuous as writing a card or offering a smile to convey care, we become ambassadors of light in our changing times.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
OXYGEN MASK FIRST…GET THOSE TOXINS OUT. One powerful way to work with undigested emotional toxins is to write them out, or speak them in a safe space — type it, journal it, turn it into poetry or stream of consciousness, sing it, speak it, whisper it to the wind. Here’s why: rampant thoughts and feelings floating around in the zip code of the mind can stay stuck there, and in this stuck state, stay static and unchanging.
Getting this out of the head and into another safe vessel (without unloading unasked on others, of course) allows thoughts and feelings to alchemize, and become something for contemplation and reflection once safely outside of one’s own mind. With emotional toxins released outside of ourselves in a humane way, we can then be resourced to actively support others. In any crisis, we are told to “put your oxygen mask on first, then help others.” This situation is no different. We must first resource ourselves, so that we can effectively help others, next.
BE WHAT WE WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD. This quote is tried and true…for a reason. There is a profound power in modeling. Modeling after our caretakers is one of the first and most fundamental ways we learn how to grow, survive, and thrive, and that behavior continues for life. Whether or not we ‘track it’ in motion, our living example is always modeling our belief systems to everyone around us. If I see someone in the grocery line pay the bill of the harried mother behind them in line, I am moved and inspired, and I begin asking myself how I can embody that teaching laid so gracefully at my feet. The more calm, love, joy, positivity, kindness, and generosity we see, the more we begin — in an almost osmotic way — to make this one of the core ingredients that we then emulate, embody, and live.
WHEN RESOURCED, ASK. THEN, LISTEN. If our emotional well is full enough to tend to others, we can start actively helping and serving. We may think we know what someone needs, and we may be completely wrong. Just as we all have ‘languages of love’ that shape the way we like to be shown cherishment, we all have ‘languages of support’ that form how we want to feel held and safe in the world. “How are you doing?” when truly asked with curiosity and zero attachment to what is offered can be one of the most powerful questions. “Is there a way I can help you right now?” is another, a skillful way of expressing presence and offering aid. The question matters. The listening matters. This allows others to release their undigested toxins of worry or concern in true service.
SERVE. RINSE. REPEAT. When we’re supporting an anxious friend or loved one (but not someone in crisis), we might invite them to help another person in need. This might seem counterintuitive to our loved one, but experientially, it will make sense to them quickly. After we’re sure we’re a) resourced enough to show up, b) embodying our values in creation, and c) asked mindfully about our loved one’s well being, we might ask if we can suggest a ‘helping technology.’ With their permission — because few folks enjoy receiving unasked-for counsel — we might ask them if they feel like writing a letter of comfort to a young child in a war-torn country, donating five or ten dollars to a charity they truly care about, or running an errand for the elderly friend in a time of need. As we serve, we step by necessity out of our own narratives and troubles. We expand what is possible for ourselves and those we serve. And, in that paradigm, everyone benefits.
EXPRESS CARE. IT’S THAT SIMPLE. A friend of mine said this wonderful thing to me, a decade or so ago. So simply and directly, she said, “I’m here, and I care about what happens for you.” I felt so seen, and so moved to be offered that kind reminder and reflection. EVERYONE loves to receive love and praise and support at their core. Right timing is of course in this equation, and there are less (and more!) skillful times to take a moment to express love depending on your recipient’s bandwidth in the moment, but just expressing presence and care can be a miracle cure…for even the worst hurt.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
- Breathe deeply, ten times
- Put hand to heart, and close your eyes
- Take a warm bath
- Have a cup of hot tea
- Massage your own shoulders
- Look at beautiful pictures
- Create art, or craft
- Name what is happening, and that it can change
- Remember a time you overcame challenge or anxiety successfully
- Listen to happy music…music is powerful state change
- Receive a healing treatment (massage, acupuncture, reiki, etc)
- Talk to a friend
- Walk in nature
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I have heard Thich Nhat Hanh speak this powerful phrase: “Beloved, I am here for you.”
I listened one day to a sister of my heart share a powerful story of trauma from her childhood, and when she had run dry, her whole story spilled out of her, I shared that quote with her, and spoke it with my full heart. “Beloved,” I said, “I am here for you.” I could viscerally feel how moved she was to receive this seemingly simple phrase…and I later heard her use this quote in her daily language. She had absorbed that message deeply, and was passing it on…a kindness rippling out that benefits everyone. The flower of kindness bears fruit over and over, for all it touches.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Probably, we’ve all been asked, ‘if you could have a superpower, what would it be?’ My answer has always been that if I could, I’d have the power to help anyone find a good giggle in any situation. Reason being: it’s hard to be callous, self-absorbed, or cruel if you’re giggling along, tears of merriment rolling down your smiling cheeks. My movement would focus on joy and laughter, used as intentional medicine. Laughter baths, humor make-overs, silliness hors d’oeuvres, joke spa days, chuckle take-outs, DIY guffaws…YES! Just as love and fear can’t inhabit the same space, unkindness and joy can’t cohabitate. It’s true what we say, ‘laughter IS the best medicine!’
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
The Vibrant Reiki website is the hub for all of my good works, with links to classes and circles, monthly newsletters with musings, offerings and beautiful pictures, social media, lists of kind colleagues — think of it as a clearinghouse of kindness…cleverly disguised as a website. Welcome!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!