No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
– Nelson Mandela
The quote above is from Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela.
~ ~ ~ ~
The country I live in, like many others across the world, is seeing it’s ugly underbelly of fear, hate, and violence in full view, as it seeks to be seen and while seeming to take center stage. Anyone who lives here or watches from afar, has seen it becoming more visible. It has always been there, and many of us (me included) had or have been so busy minding our lives – working all of the time, raising children, tending to families, etc. – that we may not have been as aware of the deep pain of ongoing and systemic racism, income inequality, and all manner of rule making and policy development that codifies and grounds the practices which both underlie and underline the existence of all of these.
If the pandemic has done anything, aside from the devastating loss of life and income with the concomitant grief of so many losses, it has provided the opportunity for us to slow down and look; to observe what is endemic to our way of life. The loss of life at the hands of those who have “sworn to protect and defend” has been occurring for far too long, and is now seen in ways it never was before. The advent of technology – put so easily into our hands – has changed everything. What had been hidden is visible. Along with that visibility has been an uncovering of the laws which protect those with the power, when their use of force is inappropriate or too much. It’s reminiscent of the laws that award power largely to the white male establishment (patriarchal power) at the expense of humans of color, women and children of all races, and those who live on the very margins of our “democratic” societies.
How is all of this related to hate?
Let’s first recognize that hate has its roots in fear. Hate is a derivation of fear; an expression of the same. Then, as we reflect on what we have seen, heard, and read some clarity emerges. Fear of the loss of power is playing out in full view today. Fear of the loss of power and control; fear of the exposure of what is and has been hidden, are just some of the examples so visible. Could this be the outer reflection of what is within us?
~ ~ ~ ~
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of policemen in my community at an annual dinner sponsored and provided by a local foundation. Many of us from the community participated in serving meals to officers – “serving those who serve”. A few members of the community were invited ahead of time to make some remarks.
My Dad had served as a police officer until he died in another community in another state. So, participating as a volunteer member on two community teams as a part of their implementation of community-based policing, at the time, felt like an opportunity to give back and in so doing, to honor my Dad’s service to his community. Although I no longer have a copy of my remarks, I know that I sought to honor and thank the officers and their families. In addition and regarding safety in particular, I recall this phrase with great clarity, “When fear meets fear, the outcome is never good.”
Today, I know there was so much I simply did not know about the overall structure of laws in this country regarding qualified immunity, among other long standing laws designed to protect officers. I have no regret about my involvement with my local police agency or my sentiments about it or my words of gratitude and encouragement when I spoke. I grew up in a police family – and that comes with many, many thorny issues – and I know the dangers officers face, the cost of that chosen profession, borne by them and their families…and they are all human. And so are the people who die at their hands – human.
~ ~ ~ ~
My reverence for life is real and fundamental to my being. And it is often a painful place from which to observe the growing and increasing light being shown on the underbelly of crumbling societal structures.
It is easy to sit on one side or the other of what we are seeing in our collective experience. It would be easier still, to shame, blame or otherwise criticize these conditions and those involved. Yet, to do so is to be lost, caught up in the very fear, hate, and accompanying anguish that all involved are feeling – even if they can’t quite connect to the experiences in the same ways those of us so clearly see as we objectively observe them. Condemning it does nothing to change it – or to begin the healing process at the core of the pain associated with the outcomes of these seemingly intractable societal realities.
What exactly IS possible?
The easy answer is to remember our hearts. Is pain there? Yes. Indeed, the pain that we may no longer feel, because we have chosen to bury it, is still there. It is awaiting our return to see, feel and heal it. Until and unless that happens, we remain locked into our minds with deep festering wounds.
The journey from our overthinking and fear-based mind, to our soft and loving, yet aching heart, is very short, as measures go. However, the journey – the work and our commitment to it – can be longer and fraught with remembering past hurts, questioning (“why me?”), and downright resistance. Who wants to go there anyway?
Well…as we look around, among our family and friends, our communities, cities, states and nations, it is easy to see the vivid and real outcomes of living the resistance to going within to face, embrace and heal all that deeply aches in our hearts…and may even have manifested elsewhere as dis-ease in our bodies. And yet….this is the work of our lives.
It has been said, that in my country, we collectively elected our shadow in the previous general election. The shadow self is that part of us that we have consciously or unconsciously disowned.
“We’re often afraid of looking at our shadow because we want to avoid the shame or embarrassment that comes along with admitting mistakes. We feel that if we take a deep look at ourselves, we’ll be too exposed. But the thing we should actually fear is not looking at it, for our denial of the shadow is exactly what fuels it. One day I looked at something in myself that I had been avoiding because it was too painful. Yet once I did, I had an unexpected surprise. Rather than self-hatred, I was flooded with compassion for myself because I realized the pain necessary to develop that coping mechanism to begin with.”
— Marianne Williamson,
The quote above is from The Shadow Effect, by Deepak Chopra, the late Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson.
~ ~ ~ ~
Generally we are terrified to take that first step to having a deep, long look at ourselves. We tell ourselves that we are too busy, can’t find the time, or cannot do it alone. And…we do NOT have to do it alone. It’s never quite as dark and ugly in there as we thought it was, once we take those steps.*
Our shame about past choices, actions, and spoken words, is so great, we often cannot find a way to forgive ourselves and we therefore are unable to offer forgiveness to others. Ignoring our aching hearts creates ripples that we are not fully aware of. The implications of not doing this work are significant – for our health as individuals and for the health of our families, communities, nations. Indeed the healing of the planet (our natural resources) will not occur in the ways we may intend (the thinking self) until we make that journey into our hearts to heal (the feeling self). Head and heart are important partners, when they work in partnership.
“Feeling is the language of the soul. If you want to know what’s true for you about something, look to how you’re feeling about it.”
– Neale Donald Walsch
The quote above is from, The Complete Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch.
~ ~ ~ ~
By virtue of being human, we are born with and from the light of our Creator. When our light dims, we are experiencing separation from that awareness of what and who we are. We all have this light. Some of us have experienced what feels like the dimming of this light, and the ensuing darkness of the emotional clouds which feel like they have completely extinguished this light. And yet, like the sun, it never stops shining. It is always there, shining bright with the love that is who we all really are.
As we continue to observe the situations, conditions and events from which we can no longer avert our eyes and hearts, let us all consider our own darkness. Doing so creates the opportunity for us to take that first step toward acknowledging what aches in our hearts; to embrace with love and acceptance the child, young adult, or adult within who is hurting; and to continue the journey to the heart of our being.
From that place, we can begin to heal ourselves, and all that is hurting in the world outside of ourselves – our families, our communities, our cities, our states, our nations.
Love is always there…waiting for us to return to being that which is our true nature.
*Without the therapists, spiritual directors, and many other healers with whom I have worked, my journey might have been far more difficult. Having traversed the challenging road back to myself, I offer a compassionate listening heart to those who are curious about the journey for themselves. I refer, when necessary, any person to the appropriate experts if their needs are well beyond a what a listening heart and soft inquiry can provide.
Dear Readers, I hope this finds you today, in a place of relative calm in a world that feels so out of “order”. The world does feel “out of order”, more or less chaotic at times, and the future is anything but clear. I do feel, however, that out of all of this will grow, albeit slowly, new seeds which are being planted now.
For the last three weeks, I’ve been reading a series written by Fr. Richard Rohr, of the Center for Action and Contemplation, on the topic of “order, disorder, reorder.” There have been several daily writings in that series which have inspired me in deep ways and given me much to contemplate and consider. Today, what he shared resonated in a different way. Perhaps because I am a mother and my sixth grandchild was born earlier this month. What is quite beautiful to me in reflecting upon the entire piece, is that one doesn’t have to have given birth in order to understand the powerful metaphor presented. In fact, the period we are living in at this time, has felt like a period of labor…before a child is born. We are all living in this right now, whether or not we see it through this particular point of view.
Fr. Rohr shared an excerpt from Valerie Kaur’s most recent book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love. I offer it here for your reflection and discernment, if not clarification of where we all find ourselves in August, 2020.
“The final stage of birthing labor is the most dangerous stage, and the most painful. . . . The medical term is “transition.” Transition feels like dying but it is the stage that precedes the birth of new life. After my labor, I began to think about transition as a metaphor for the most difficult fiery moments in our lives. In all our various creative labors—making a living, raising a family, building a nation—there are moments that are so painful, we want to give up. But inside searing pain and encroaching numbness, we might also find the depths of our courage, hear our deepest wisdom, and transition to the other side. . . .”
The spiritual journey, that road we walk in order to find and heal ourselves, can feel like a long series of “labor pains”, until we transition…we let go…we find our freedom from fear. Does that mean we are finished? We have made it to the top of the mountain and we can live an easier life? No. It’s a bit like caring for our children. The joy that comes when we receive them is challenged by fear when they are hurting and we cannot seem to “fix” it; or when they begin to test the boundaries of rules and safety that we create (or impose) and we grow concerned for them as they enter the big world of unknowns. Yes, the ups and downs there are very similar to the ups and downs we continue to face as we live our best life and walk our spiritual paths.
What changes, then?
The way see, what we see, from a place of love, peace and acceptance within, is different. We develop a different lens through which to view and experience our life’s challenges. The challenges don’t stop coming. The ways we respond – rather than react – do change.
As we live in this period of disorder, I feel the very best we can do is care for ourselves, so that we are well equipped to help others. Not all of us can be out in the world, on the front lines as so many people are. That, by itself doesn’t mean we cannot help another. We do it every day. The words we say or write either help or hurt. The choices we make either support or separate – ourselves or others. It’s all connected, anyway. Chief Seattle’s quote – which I’ve used here before – really gets to the heart of just how much impact everything we do and say affects the collective.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. – Chief Seattle
The disorder has within it, the seeds of reorder. Truly we are planting them every day.
What we choose today is creating tomorrow.
If you or anyone you know is struggling to come to terms with the chaos we are living in and could use a compassionate “ear with a heart attached”, please have a look at the Compassionate Listening page on this site.
I recently came across a wonderful set of cards that serve to both highlight and showcase the beauty in our world, as well as to inspire with thoughtful words for reflection and contemplation. Each card has a theme printed on a picture of a natural setting and on the reverse, a thoughtful message.
This morning, as I was enjoying my morning tea, and reading some articles and catching up on messages sent, I came across an inspiring quote (shared below) which lifted me and reminded me that even though the times we are in feel very dark, we will rise to something even better…in time. Following guidance provided in the box of Beauty Cards, I shuffled them and then pulled one from the middle of the stack. The minute I looked at it, the synchronous message in the quote I had seen earlier came into clearer focus.
The Beauty Card, “Looking Forward” had this message: “From your now moment softly turn your inner gaze to what lies ahead. Imagine a future for yourself that is filled with joy, beauty and wonder. Ask yourself: what’s the best thing that can happen?”
I’ll be honest here. When I first awoke, I felt a little tug of despair and sadness at all that is happening in our world. So many people are dying, and so many more will, from a virus that we still do not know everything there is to know about it. People are dying from violence, desperation, and so many other reasons. It feels as if fear, anger and hate are so pervasive, that seeing love, light and hope can be difficult.
Yet, I am reminded by what I really know in my heart, validated by the card I pulled this morning and the quote below, that we will move forward to a brighter and better time.
We are living the myth of the Phoenix falling from its perch into the fires of transformation. Much of our familiar world will indeed be reduced to ashes. And yet, the promise of the Phoenix is that it will rise again – it always rises again. And so will we.
– Caroline Myss
Looking forward also means, learning and acknowledging the past. By taking responsibility for ourselves – our words, our choices, the way we regarded others – and acknowledging the ultimate sacrifice of others, we have the opportunity to be more clear eyed and open hearted about our visions and answers to the question posed in the card: “What’s the best thing that can happen?”
Today, I wish to offer gratitude to the many whose bodies have been lost to COVID-19, the senseless violence that pervades our society, and those who have left their bodies at this time for other reasons. I know their souls have returned to the great beyond (or true home) and they are with us – always with us – as we may wish to call upon them.
As has been said following the death of John R. Lewis following the years of sacrificing his body as he stood for the fundamental rights promised in the founding documents of the United States, “we will take it from here”.
a line on a rock surface or the ground that traces a geological fault.
a divisive issue or difference of opinion that is likely to have serious consequences.
Perhaps we are all familiar with the divisions in the politics and communities within our respective countries. And make no mistake, it’s everywhere – to some degree. However, I can’t say I’ve often heard people speak of fault lines, except in the context of earthquakes (see the first bullet point in the definition). I’m sure it’s been used…just not as frequently as to become vernacular to describe current conditions. That may be intentional so as not to fuel a collective belief that many long standing issues, now coming to the fore in this pandemic, are intractable. As challenging as they are, the conditions we are living in are not impossible to change or otherwise overcome.
However, I feel as if the very foundations upon which our countries were organized; the supporting democracies upon which our systems of inclusive government were formed; and the norms and mores which provide a relatively comfortable structure for our communities, are all cracking open along the bedrock of our common ground – the earth.
As hard as this is to see, understand, and accept, it is essential to our very survival and our ability to let go of the past and to support the development of a new world – a new way of being – that we see it, take responsibility for it and step into the possibilities which are there…waiting for us. The old structures are crumbling. Those “in power” are attempting to hold on as tightly and intently as possible. It’s so easy to see and extremely difficult to watch…all at once. Narrowing the lens, fault lines are opening in our communities – and our families.
This morning, I realized there are four living generations in my family. And there is a deep fault line that runs through two of them. I have hope that the younger of the four are seeing – or are beginning to see – what is happening and may even know deep within themselves that they will not choose a side. Their “side” is the future. Although they range in age from 19 to “waiting to be born any day now” and are influenced by their parents, they have curious, creative minds that will carry them into a new future.
Our responsibility is to lay the groundwork for a future we will not see. Although I am hopeful that I will live to see the dawning of these necessary changes, I know I will not see them at high noon, in full bloom. My hope for the generation of my grandchildren is that they will carry the new and improved world into their sunset…and the generations to follow will inherit a much better place where equality among all sentient beings is the norm and not the exception.
As leaders of our lives, we do not have to wait for the leaders-in-title to take the first steps. In fact, they demonstrate every day that they are not embracing their title as leader to support the people. Many of them have failed miserably to step outside of their individualist and cronyist focus, and are blind to what is needed by the masses.
So, where does that leave us? Empowered to step up and step in. In caring for ourselves, we have a full vessel of love to offer to others.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.*
Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.
Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.
– Albert Schweitzer
I remember, as a child, a little game in which we all held hands in a circle, sang a little song as we stepped sideways and around and we then all fell to the ground and laughed! Sometime we would get up and do it again, adding a little bit of speed to the singing and the movement. It was a lot of fun and we always seemed to erupt into lots of laughter and giggles!
Thinking about that the other day, I started to reflect on the meaning of a circle. Then I looked out the window and right in front of me was an oval, encircled with trees and bordered by a sidewalk, with lots of grass in the middle. It is a circle that has been stretched…just a bit. I always enjoy watching dogs and their owners playing there, and I occasionally see a couple of folks sitting on a blanket, enjoying a picnic and playing guitar. It is a lovely little place that feels like a small oasis in the midst of my community.
Then, I remembered the figure eight. It is one circle, stretched into an oval, I thought, and then one side flipped over…never breaking the circle. That is the sign for infinity ♾️. Infinity was described to me, years ago and in a spiritual context, as the symbol for the ongoing existence of a soul; the middle of the symbol – a doorway. One side of the symbol represents our human experience. The doorway is where we shed our human body and our soul continues into the Great Beyond or Universe or home to God, or whatever you prefer. Of course that same doorway is an opening to entering (or re-entering, if you will) as a human. It is a never ending process, beautifully depicted in that symbol – as it was described to me. It is an image that I find to be both powerful and comforting.
Life is a full circle, widening until it joins the circle motions of the infinite.
– Anais Nin
All of this is to say, that these – the circle, the oval and the infinity symbol are much softer than a square or rectangle. And yet as we observe our world, we can clearly see the edges, the divisions, the lines – drawn between.
Circles create an opportunity for us to see. We can see each other – everyone. There are no corners in which one can hide. When I think of the world, of community, I always think of a circle. Today I see so many places where the edginess of fear, anger, hate and other such divisive emotions are acted upon. And I wonder…what might happen if we put a circle where that square is.
The sun is round, the moon is round. What might we learn from the energetic power they have? How might we see how the sun is a life giving force for our human existence? When will we wake up to what is possible, rather than allowing ourselves to remain mired in the despair of a seeming loss of control (as if we had any control to begin with)?
All things from eternity are of like forms and come round in circle.
Inflammation is an early step in the healing process…or,
untreated, unseen, unsupported, can lead to infection.
Infection, if left untreated, can lead to death.
I recently put my toes back in the pool of social media, specifically Facebook. A two and a half year hiatus was necessary for some essential healing of wounds that stunned me, and reminded me of many lessons I had forgotten about the realities of life in these times. That time provided the necessary space to hone my observation skills and to deepen my listening to myself and to others.
I have been watching myself and others as we have navigated the pandemic and all of its multiple challenges. Layer on top of that, the racial injustices in my country, and it appears that all of the fissures which have been in place in our societal foundation are now cracked wide open. I, for one am grateful that so many have awakened to the inequities that are pervasive in this country, and from what I can see are also present in others as well.
I am not in the streets protesting. I AM supportive of all who are. I am finding ways to provide support from where I am. We are at a necessary tipping point. Evolution is an imperative and we will either go with it or our resistance will create harm for ourselves and others. I am listening, I am reaching out to my friends who are black or brown and even though I thought I knew a lot, my eyes have been opened to so many aspects of their experiences that I couldn’t have possibly known…had I not inquired.
If we are not listening, and only talking as we attempt to defend our positions or beliefs, we cannot learn anything. Listening is scary. Why? We may see and learn something about ourselves. Our old assumptions and beliefs are challenged. We fear that deep dive into who we think we are.
There is no better time than RIGHT NOW, to listen. Listen to yourself – your fears, your assumptions. Listen to your friends. Listen without defending. Just listen. Reach out. Reach out to those in your life who do not look like you. Ask them how they feel. Ask them to tell you their stories. Listen without judgment. Do no interrupt them to try and defend a belief that you have. Remember…you are listening to THEIR story. Defending yours or your positions is disrespectful, at least.
Having gone back to social media, I see very clearly, the emotions on many sides of the issues before us as a human family. The fear is pretty intense…and sadly those who are showing it aren’t aware of it. When folks have chosen to post memes and old articles that appear to defend their positions, I used to get upset, wondering how anyone could be so separated from the realties of our collective humanity. Now I feel compassion for them and sadness at the same time.
As leaders of our lives, we choose. We choose what we believe. We choose how we listen, what we listen to and what we think or say in reaction. React is what many are doing.
As leaders of our lives, we choose. Standing up with those who are standing for their lives, is a gift of love and respect. Responding is what many are doing.
We will either work together and take the necessary steps to right the inequalities and injustices across the world which have served the few rather than the many, or we will all go down together.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
I pray that light will get in; more eyes will be opened, more hearts and minds will open and we will find a way forward to honor all members of the family of beings which inhabit this planet, including Mother Earth herself.
May the fissures which are now BIG cracks, open us all to a new way of being – together, in true community. May the light begin to shine in the darkest places within ourselves – our perspectives and beliefs, so that we see old things with new eyes and can bring our best to the challenges of our times.
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
I hope this post finds you well, as you continue to navigate this period of time we are experiencing collectively. We are finding our way forward in different ways. For many of us, writing is one of the tools we have and use to walk gently through the days. Whether it is a deeply personal reflection in my journal, or a quote or quotes which inspire me to offer something in this space, I find comfort and solace in this creative process.
Some years ago, I found myself actually writing some poetry. When inspired words came through me and made their way to the end of my pen, I was often surprised by the bursts of words and phrases and the ways they flowed onto the page. As quickly as those poetry moments came, they seemed to dissipate. It would be easy to attribute that to a number of things, like life events and other distractions. What I know today is the inspiration which seemed to evaporate was more about the changes I was moving through within myself. I even found myself in a deep dark place within ( a dark night of the soul) – where I’ve spent many years of my life – and not feeling my connection to God or Spirit. No poetry, no meditation, no journaling…nothing was happening. I had no energy for any of it.
Among the many who write in these spaces is a poet whose words are inspiring and create opportunities for thoughtful reflection. Recently, she began hosting writing groups. I found myself drawn to the opportunities she announced on her site, flashlight batteries . I also found myself backing away from the opportunities, due in large part to my lack of confidence to bring forth anything meaningful in such a process. I am forever grateful to Alicia Grimshaw for her gentle leadership and support as small groups of us participated with her in the safe space we created together. I have found my inner poet…again.
I encourage you to have a look at her invitation (at the link in the previous paragraph), and consider what is in you that may be awaiting an opportunity to be expressed. This is truly a gift you can give yourself.
Below…one of the poems I wrote during one of our group meetings.
I wake in the night
to the sounds of the house;
creaking, cracking, startling.
I’m reminded of Presence –
the mystical, the grounded, the unknown.
My children appear in my minds eye;
their smiles, their joys, the uncertainty.
My heart aches for a moment;
their fears, their children, what they cannot know.
To Spirit, the voices of love and compassion, peace.