RBG’s Shoulders

There are so many quiet champions for the dignity of humankind. Most we don’t hear about.  They are our neighbors, friends, a kind stranger. And a few rise up in every century with shoulders to stand upon for future generations. In this way, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is exemplary in my mind and heart. I was gutted at the news of her passing. Even though it was not unexpected, I supposed many of us naively hoped that her near superhuman ability to both persist and resist would take her into 2021. Alas, it was not to be. Watching the news footage of RBG as the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state in the United States Capitol evoked a mixture of awe and anxiety. With a clenched jaw I contemplated the future for my daughters and future generations of girls. Then, with a deep breath of gratitude, I let go of the tension. She was a beacon of light.

The New York Times posted endearing portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s remarkable ascendance into what can be easily described as her superhero status for so many of us. Buzzfeed published a photo montage of children at the Supreme Court building in Washington DC that makes me clutch my heart every time I look at them. There is one with a four year old in a superwoman ballet costume saluting RBG’s coffin. In another, a mother and child hold a poster that reads:

Don’t let the ruthless replace Ruth’s legacy.

She did so much for fair and equal treatment of women, men, mothers, fathers, immigrants, and the less fortunate over decades. We’ve lost a wise elder.  It’s a feeling of: “Oh, not this, too!” I’ve been reflecting on this loss and think that her superpower was her grace and her grit, her quiet compassion and her enduring wisdom. And also her humor. She is quoted as saying,

When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out.

Ginsburg didn’t waste her energy on negativity or feeding it, she simply kept her attention on what needed to change. That’s grace and grit. 

Many of us have pandemic fatigue and election dread; and some of us may have a heavy heart for one reason or another. It’s been a year of disruption and RBG’s passing is a searing addition. I find myself practicing and teaching the notion of kindfulness in one way or another: on the Insight Timer meditation app and in several workshops at Harvard’s Counseling Mental Health Center that promote resilience, mindfulness and self-compassion. I feel a need for community during these uncertain times. So I go back to basics and focus on cultivating presence. Being present to one’s life is one of the six ingredients in P-E-P-P-I-E that helps wake us from the spell of stress and live a life of joy and vitality. PEPPIE is an acronym I created that stands for 3 nourishing ingredients and 3 actualizing ones. Think of a garden. We must tend to our inner garden in order to flourish: by nourishing, planting, watering, pulling out the weeds, pruning and pinching back — and repeating this over and over. In with the beneficial stuff (positivity, healing, healthy connections) and out with the harmful stuff (harsh habits, thoughts, words, and actions).

The three core inner ingredients in PEPPIE include:

  • Presence
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Perspective Taking

Kindfulness allows us to strengthen these inner resources. These ingredients are like the compost, water and sunlight.  And there are actualizing ingredients, too. These ingredients fuel the potential for living a meaningful life by leading with love. These include the inner strengths of: 

  • Purpose
  • Integration
  • Effort

This is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg practiced over the course of her career. She was never thwarted by setbacks because she committed herself to the long arc of justice.  She kept tending and cultivating the legal grounds to uphold human dignity, fair and equal treatment, and justice for all. When she was asked about her legacy, she said, 

To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.

It feels like a storm is brewing. I don’t know if it is made of locusts, rain or ice. We already have an invisible pestilence. Yet all storms pass. They do. I do know that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will always be a guiding light for me and so many others. Let her light shine upon us. May we have the grace and grit to evolve humanity.

Thank you, RBG. 

Check out my Insight Timer Live events: Weekly Dose of Kindfulness, on most Sundays, 12 noon ET through the end of the year.

Image Source: RBG Sticker from MoveOn.org

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