Spirituality & Health Magazine

Man looking into broken mirror
Wed, November 23 2016

What to Do When Everything is Broken

Julie Peters

On Tuesday’s Election Day, I thought I would be celebrating the election of the US’s first female president. However imperfect she may be as a person or as a leader, the very fact of her existence would have empowered women to believe they could be president. She could have paved the way for a new wave of leadership that symbolized how close we are getting to equality. I had hope.

Then, Wednesday happened. The person who was elected (if narrowly) represents, to many people, sexism, xenophobia, and a dangerous disregard for the natural environment. Wednesday was not Tuesday in a way I’d never experienced before. It was like waking up on the wrong side of history, in the darkest timeline. On Wednesday, people dared laugh casually in public, and it shocked me. How could they do anything but mourn?

Still, though, a weight has lifted: the weight of hope. Hope believes in a future that is fathomable. It ties us to the life we think we are living. I believed I lived in a world that was trucking along towards progress, getting a little bit closer to equality every day. This election broke that illusion. It was a harsh reminder that progress isn’t linear, and sometimes comes with devastating backlashes. It’s also very clear now that many people in the US are calling for major change, on levels that people like me maybe just weren’t taking seriously enough. Those people do not want to live in my Tuesday’s world. My Tuesday’s world—my Tuesday’s hope—was oppressive to more people than I imagined.

Over the last couple of years, one of the figures that has provided a huge amount of solace for me in all kinds of strange moments is Akhilandeshvari, a goddess whose name means She Who is Never Not Broken. Her image is split into infinite versions, as if she were standing between two mirrors endlessly reflecting her image. She rides a crocodile, representing our fear, calmly down the river. Akhilandeshvari encourages us to surf with our fear along the waves of all we don’t know, to let it be a part of our journey. Akhilandeshvari’s symbol is pure white light passing through a prism: when it breaks, you can see colors you didn’t know were there before. Being broken can be incredibly powerful.

On Wednesday, something broke. As painful as that is, the election revealed something we couldn’t see through our little bubbles of like-minded people sharing the same opinions over and over again on social media. Today we have the opportunity to acknowledge and imagine each other in a way that we couldn’t when our belief in a certain kind of world was blinding us.

So now that it’s no longer Tuesday, we must let the brokenness teach us. “There’s a crack in everything,” the poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen, who passed away on this of all weeks, has famously written: “that’s how the light gets in.” So we peer through the fragments and see what might be possible when the old hope no longer holds. Rather than insisting on finding a way to get back to Tuesday’s world, we must listen to each other with kindness and compassion and try to figure out what it means that, actually, it’s Wednesday. The future will not cease meeting us in the present.

Brokenness is painful, no question about it. But if we are willing to imagine what might exist after the shattering, we may see unprecedented possibilities.

Julie Peters's picture

Join yoga teacher Julie Peters on an exploration into the real life of yoga—how the philosophies and experiences of the practice can help us learn from our bodies, enrich our relationships, face our deepest shadows, and laugh at ourselves along the way. Julie is the author of the  book Secrets of the Eternal Moon Phase Goddesses: Meditations on Desire, Relationships, and the Art of Being Broken (Turner Publishing). See www.jcpeters.ca for more details.


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