the ideology of White Supremacy is at its foundation, within its very core, violence. the moment one race has been placed in a position of superiority to another, thereby diminishing the humanity of the other race, an act of violence has taken place. whether it manifests in thought, word, deed, through a platform of economics, institutions, laws, politics, it is violence. whether under the label is White Nationalist, Neo-Nazi, Nazi, Confederate, or Alt-Right, it is violence. there is no such thing as a “peaceful” White Supremacy rally.I have to remain hopeful that hearts can be awakened, but we don’t awaken them by sympathizing with the true enemies which are delusion, fear, aggression and hate, or excusing the violence that manifests from these sicknesses. we must name the suffering, shining light into the dark abyss which is racism, which includes an honest and real look at this country’s foundation, its history, and our own privilege. so many want to claim they are pro-life. this is a moment to prove it. one cannot claim pro-life, yet sympathize with, excuse or ignore an ideology of death. and although they may not recognize it and we may not want to see it, those who identify with the White Supremacist ideology are also victims of its destructive power. there are no winners in hate. so, we must stand firmly as an ally to life and those who have and are suffering at the hand of the destructive and dark force of racism.
the basic Buddhist understanding of life is one of interdependence, that we have no independent self, that many co-arising conditions have come together to manifest this body and life. this is the case with all things, including all people. as it has been often quoted and re-quoted (to paraphrase) we are related to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, and to the entire Universe atomically. all have their rightful and honored place in this web-like tapestry of Life.
understanding this, how can anyone say that one thing is more important or superior to another?
this is Achilles Heel of the White Supremacist movement, the White Nationalists movement, the Nazis, the Neo-Nazis, the KKK, the Alt-Right movement, and all the other racist movements that have sprung up through time over and over pitting one group of people against another manifesting in physical violence, economic/structural/institutional violence, and political violence.
They are all eventually doomed. Why? Because they act contrary to Life itself which is at its foundation interdependent and always changing. Yet, these movements rise up again and again – sometimes hiding under a rock sheltered in darkness, until finding home once more in fragile egos and closed hearts. This is why it is so important that we stand as allies to Life and to all who are oppressed. Life acts through us, and sometimes in spite of us, so it is each one of us who have to wake up, listen, stand, speak, write, create art, practice and serve, as allies to Life and all who are oppressed finding themselves on the receiving end of the fear, anger, bigotry, racism, aggression and violence that has found its way into the light. We MUST be engaged. Naming the darkness and what lies beneath it, so that we can defeat it, without becoming it.
in this moment our greatest enemies are what we call in Buddhism, The 3 Poisons – our tendency to avoid the discomfort of our situation of this life by either grasping (greed), being aggression (hatred), or lost in our ignorance (delusion – ignorance is NOT bliss). these are the driving reactive force for those who would put themselves above others, the roots of the fear and anger we see motivating racism and these hostiles groups. we counter these by authentically engaging life in all of its challenge and discomfort with an open heart through practicing The 4 Immeasurables, which are lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. these aren’t to be confused with being “nice” as we may think. compassion can be fierce, cutting and precise. we need the fiercest compassion at this time.
the rock has been turned over again and what has been hiding underneath once more is in the light. what will we do? the world is watching and history will record these moments.
Sitting with this quote, recently: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” (by Isaac Asimov) and I thought, “Should we expand our definition of violence?”
I think we often view violence through a rather restrictive lens of war and aggressive, physical assault.However, is it truly too far a reach to suggest that words or actions that cause harm, injury, or death are also a form of violence?
Isn’t it violent to legislate healthcare out of the reach of the elderly, the poor, the ill?
Isn’t it violent to deprive food from children and the elderly, by cutting the programs on which they depend?
Isn’t it violent to marginalize an “other” (fill in the blank) virtually placing a target stirring fear and hate?
The poor, the elderly, the ill, the undocumented, the marginalized (including Muslims and LGBTQ) are easy targets for leadership that is incompetent.
We harm or we benefit.
So, what do we do?
We bear witness.We speak up.We speak truth to power.We stand and we walk in solidarity with those who suffer, the marginalized and oppressed.
But perhaps, even more importantly…
We begin with ourselves, and our own hearts and minds.Am I willing to work for resolutions in my own life that best benefit the big picture, the long arc?Am I willing to call upon my most creative and innovation potential to benefit all those around me and not just myself?Am I willing to serve?Am I willing to be vulnerable?Am I willing to understand and embrace empathy?Am I willing to love?
our tendency, our pattern is to avoid our heartbreak, our fear, our discomfort at all costs.
a relationship ends, a job is lost, a loved one becomes ill, the world is spinning out of control and we react. sometimes we grasp at the next person or possible relationship, at every little thing that promises good health. sometimes we attack aggressively to protect ourselves. and sometimes we avoid at all costs, “ignorance is bliss.”
these ways of reacting to what makes us feel uncomfortable in life – grasping, aggression, ignorance (also sometimes called greed, hatred, and delusion) are what we call in Buddhism, the Three Poisons. they perpetuate suffering – the very thing we are desperately trying to avoid in our patterns of reactions. the antidote to these poisons is a broken heart, an open heart. and the only way to give our hearts a shot at being open and opening wider – building its capacity to be with life – is to allow our hearts to break.
ugh, right? who wants to do that? not most of us, which is why we can look around and see ourselves and other hurt people jumping from one relationship to another, see ourselves and other hurt people trying a new fad diet or health claim one after another, see ourselves and other hurt people aggressively attacking “friends” on social media who have opposing views, or even simply wanting social media to return to cat memes and name games, because it has gotten too “political.”
but the truth is, our discomfort will not go away with the next person in our bed, or the loss of a certain number of pounds, or getting that last word in, or turning off the tv/computer and pretending the world isn’t burning. none of these will make a difference if we can’t sit still and allow our discomfort to break open our heart, to open it, to teach us. a broken heart, an open heart allows our love to be free.
Pema Chödrön wrote a book titled, “The Wisdom of No Escape.” I love this little phrase. it is counter intuitive to our habitual pattern of running away, running through, and going to war with ourselves and others.
can we see that we need not go to war? that we are inherently strong enough, courageous enough to not only be with our pain, but to allow our love to heal it?
we must learn to sit with ourselves and our discomfort, gently and compassionately allowing our hearts to break open and our love to flow, if we want to be free. this is our life calling us to awaken.
Zen Parable of the Monk and the Samurai
A big, tough Samurai once went to see a little monk.
He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.
“Teach me about heaven and hell!”
The Monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,
“Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you.”
The Samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the Monk.
Looking straight into the Samurai’s eyes, the Monk said softly,
The Samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the Monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.
The Monk said softly,
“And that’s heaven.”
anger in and of itself is just energy. like any other emotion. we are human and we experience anger. and when the sometimes intense, hot energy of anger is put into responsible use, it can be beneficial too! anger can be a powerful motivating force in our work to end injustice, for instance.
our experience of anger can also be an opportunity to investigate what gets under our skin and eats at us. what makes us lose our cool, how fast do we lose it? are we acting out of anger with our words and actions, adding to the harm and suffering in the world?
the celebrated Franciscan, Richard Rohr has said, “What we don’t transform, we transmit.” if we allow the experience of anger and the investigation of anger to transform us, we may find as the Samurai did in the Zen parable above, the healing energy of compassion as we connect to our own humanity and the humanity of others.
in this way, our experience of anger is just another teacher on the path to our own transforming and expanding heart, rather than the further transmission of aggression and suffering in this world.
~Yoda Explains About the Force~
Yoda: A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…
Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
calling all the healers, it is your time…
to those willing to pause before reacting, to breathe before speaking, it is your time…
to those willing to lay down their weapons whether they be guns or words, it is your time…
to those willing to keep their hearts open to vulnerability and their eyes open to pain, it is your time…
this call is for you, the healers – the willing.
those willing to do and embody what is needed now to heal and not further perpetuate suffering. those who are willing to stand in the face of fear, confusion and anger to transform them, rather than be ruled by them.
even as we may understand that there are at times specific needs for military or law enforcement, let us also bring a counter balance to those who call for more guns, more violence, more anger, and more fear.
may we bring healing through our work, through our art, our words, our every breath.
“We’ve entered this new era, and we have to be planning for healing just as carefully as others are planning for destruction.” – Omid Safi
BY OMID SAFI(@OSTADJAAN), ON BEING COLUMNIST
Friends keep asking me where we find hope in these turbulent times. We don’t. We don’t find hope. We generate it.
Hope is like sanctity and community. Hope doesn’t descend down to us from heaven. It rises to heaven from right here on Earth.
As Warsan Shire says, it hurts everywhere, everywhere. As Parker Palmer says, even the healers are wounded healers.
We need to have a national and global conversation about faith that prepares us to carry on the work of healing so that we can be prepared when these atrocities hit us. This is the new normal. There are going to be Paris attacks, Beirut attacks, Baghdad attacks, Nigeria attacks, and more in the months and years to come. The work of healing is needed now, more than ever.
The atrocities are “events.” The healing has to be an ongoing, everyday journey. This healing work actually has to come before the atrocities, through the atrocities, and after the atrocities.
We’ve entered this new era, and we have to be planning for healing just as carefully as others are planning for destruction.
We’re simply, by necessity, now in an era of global processes of healing. As others have said, we’re all wounded, so we’re wounded healers now.
Everyone hurts — though not all hurt in the same way. Everyone has a role in healing — though not everyone is ready to heal.
turn, as I do so often, to the very heart of our faith traditions for hope. I remember the Qur’an saying that the ease, the healing, comes not after the difficulty but with it.
We cannot wait to be wounded before we turn to heal. We have to anticipate the healing, generate the healing, raise up the healing.
I remember Rumi’s words:
The wound is where the light enters you.
I see wounds. I see the wounded. And I see the wounders (who often carry their own wounds).
In an age when violence is broadcast widely, when the quickest way to fame is to say something vacuous and pungent How do we make the healing visible? How do we recover love as a public virtue? In the midst of this tragedy, I keep searching for hope, still my own heart to keep generating hope For myself For my children For all of us Where do we find hope? Mostly hope, courage, resistance are invisible. Hope’s never linear, rarely public, usually tender and private. Every now and then, we see examples of hope that become visible.
I want to shine a light on these moments — to remember, to rejuvenate, to recall — when the goodness shines on through, and reminds us of the need to keep generating hope.
Let me share one such moment from Paris. The moment of light is from a husband, Antoine Leiris, whose wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed in the attacks. In his response, there is grace and dignity. It reminded me of Mamie Till, holding an open-casket funeral for her son Emmett, both for the world to see her suffering become public, and also to say that she had no time to hate, and would devote herself steadfast to seeking justice.
The husband released a statement to the ISIS terrorists: You have taken away the love of my life, a beautiful woman. You seek to get me to hate you, but I will not give you that satisfaction. I will not give you the satisfaction of having your hatred be mirrored in my heart. You, and your action, will not determine the kind of human being I will strive to be.
Here’s the transcript of the message from the husband, posted on Facebook. The original message was in French, here is an English translation:
“On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred.
I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know — you are dead souls. If this God for which you kill indiscriminately made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.
So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.
You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago.
Of course I’m devastated with grief, I admit this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us every day and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you’ll never have access.
We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world.
I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”
Here is what we often do not understand about the power of nonviolence in an uber-violent world. Nonviolence is not so much about “turning the other cheek” or responding to violence with a refusal to return violent action. That is simply the start. It is, simply, the minimum. It is actually more profound, as the widower husband says:
“So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.”
Real nonviolence is the adamant insistence that we will choose to live a life of dignity, beauty, and meaning. That we will not get drowned in a whirlpool of hatred and violence.
The father ends by saying that he would say more, but that he has to go take care of his toddler, a toddler that now only has one parent to raise him.
Yes, we have children to raise,
parents to love,
friends to hug,
neighbors to reach out to,
inner-cities to heal,
and refugees to shelter.
There is real work to be done, genuine healing, which we have to generate.
The truth is actually much harder, and more beautiful than a simple refusal to return violence for violence. That would be akin to cursing a dark night already devoid of stars.
To curse the darkness, to bring more anger and rage into this world, is to let the terrorists win. It is to let the terror inside our own hearts win.
Healing begins by a commitment to letting light shine. We have to generate this light, this hope this healing and mirror it to each other. Let your light shine. Let’s heal each other, fellow wounded healers. We are in this together. http://www.onbeing.org/blog/omid-safi-where-do-we-find-hope-after-paris/8164
fear constricts, freezes, suffocates and enslaves life. often expressing itself through aggression and violence. it alienates us, enforcing the illusion of separateness. fear runs counter to life.
but love, the very ground of our being, opens us. with practice and cultivation it strengthens us, equipping us to take further steps into vulnerability and mystery. love reminds us of our interdependence and interconnection with each other and all life. with love as our foundational practice, we embody understanding, generosity, patience, compassion and kindness. this embodiment of love and recognition of our interdependence and interconnectedness is what gives our lives gratitude and joy.
it is this life of love that can be our place of refuge in a world filled with change and dramatic events. even as the storms rage and swirl around us, we can be a still beacon of light for all who need it.
#fear #aggression #violence #separateness #illusionofseparateness #life #love #interdependence #interconnectedness #practice #meditation #generosity #understanding #patience #compassion #kindness #vulnerability #openheart #gratitude #joy #JMW #TheMettaGarden