Posts Tagged ‘compassion’
For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about and supporting others in taking steps towards healing the seemingly uncomfortable divide between our families, communities, and countries. It can seem so hard to even open a conversation about our political differences, let alone locate common ground we can agree on.
I have people in my life I love dearly who appear to hold political views that differ radically from mine. We’ve chosen not to discuss politics. I think this is because of our desire to maintain our connection and respect for one another, based on mutual love and caring.
The other morning, I was walking in our local Nature Center and admiring a goose family that was made up of a Mom, Dad, and two goslings. They were floating down the river and I was standing on a bridge just over them. When the Dad saw me, he stretched his neck up and placed himself between his goslings and me. The Mom then took the lead, while he watched me. I really felt touched by how they both cared for their family and also sad that my presence invoked fear or stimulated a desire for protection.
Do you ever feel that way? Like you’re protecting yourself or your family or your stuff?
I confess I spent the first week after Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States in mourning, deep despair, and bewilderment. I felt as if someone I loved had punched me in the chest. Many people I love, in fact, voted for him. They too were feeling despair: despair that I didn’t vote for him, and confusion about why I felt so devastated.
During that first week, I led several meditations on peace in different national and international venues. I offered formal and informal empathy sessions to many people, and listened to many more: hundreds of stories about enormous pain from families, spouses, and loved ones who had suddenly found themselves deeply divided.
It was exhausting — until I said “STOP,” and allowed myself the space to receive empathy, to offer it to myself, and to grieve and grieve and grieve my own grief.
And then I got clear (really clear!) that I wanted to focus on healing the gap between those of us who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and those who did – and all our life experiences that led us to this point.
Thich Nhat Hahn says, “We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then, we will suffer less. But everyone is suffering, and no one wants to listen.”
I am listening.
Years ago, I was driving down the road listening to NPR (National Public Radio) and they were reporting about a pediatrician who had been molesting children for over 30 years; at that time, they estimated that hundreds of children had been affected.
My heart sank and I started to cry – deep mourning for the gravity of this. All the children whose lives had been affected, and everyone who came in contact with them throughout their lifetime. And, the pediatrician – everyone he came in contact with within his medical practice and beyond.
The more I thought about the growing number of people who would have been knowingly or unknowingly affected, my grief grew and grew – and overwhelm and hopelessness began to take over. How could this possibly be healed?
And, then I had a thought…
Welcome to February, which for me is the month of Love. I am especially heartened or possibly humbled to remember to invoke Love as we begin the Trump administration here in the USA, when I experience how deeply divided we are as a nation and a world community, when I consider the trauma millions (yes millions) of refugees must have experienced when they fled the middle east in 2016 and continue to experience now, and so many other devastating issues that affect our world’s people.
It can be equally challenging for me to invoke Love in my own daily life when someone makes a racial or sexist comment, when I empathize with an African American friend who is terrified for her son’s life, or when our bikes are stolen out of our secured garage….
Welcome to 2017! No matter where you live in the world, this New Year poses many opportunities to recommit to living our value of nonviolence. Remember, that Marshall Rosenberg and Mahatma Gandhi both believed that violence is a continuum, anything from judgment to physical abuse. Our goal is spend as much of our life as possible outside of that continuum. We’re not looking for perfection – all of us have moments when we are critical of others or ourselves – we are looking for a commitment toward limiting the time we spend on the continuum of violence.
Many years ago, I felt utterly despairing that world peace was possible. And, then I realized that I was looking for it outside of myself – in my political leaders, supervisors, friends, ministers, and others. And, while I was looking for it outside of myself, I myself wasn’t acting peacefully in my everyday interactions with my family, friends, and others I encountered.
The other day, I was running late and I rushed across town to get to my personal trainer for one of my weekly workouts. I got into the parking lot, burst into her workout space spewing apologies like a machine gun, and then realized that I’d forgotten my water bottle so I raced outside again, literally jogging across the parking lot, when suddenly I stopped cold.
Walking down the middle of the parking lot, as if they had taken a measuring stick to determine where the absolute middle was, walked a mama duck, trailed by 8 teenage-size ducklings, with papa duck taking the rear. They walked straight towards me, and then when they were within a few feet from me, they turned right down a different part of the parking lot. Each of them followed every move mama duck made. Even their feet moved in unison – all twenty feet rising and falling in rhythm.
Everything someone does or says is an attempt to meet a need …. Really?
The other day, I was in a gathering and I ran into a woman two times. What I mean is, I looked up and she was right there and we were standing so close that I was startled. After an hour at this event, I was pulling out of my parking place. I looked both ways and waited for a car to go by and then pulled out of my parking space and I nearly side-swiped the lady’s car. The very same lady!
In each case, I apologized and blamed myself. Then, on my way home, I started to blame her. Do you ever find yourself ruminating on your judgments and trying to place blame? Has this behavior ever relieved your anxiety or angst over the situation? It hasn’t succeeded for me even once, yet I’ve tried it countless times throughout my life and one more time with this lady.
If it’s true that ‘everything someone does or says is an attempt to meet a need,’ what needs would judgment and blame serve?
Happy Holidays! This song / message from John Lennon and Yoko Ono was inspiring and lovely for me to receive. I hope you enjoy it as well. It reminds me that peace starts with me and it’s possible if I am committed to it in my life. It takes true commitment, even a kind of fierceness, to live nonviolently and in such a way that values all needs.
On this day, I say I am committed for one more day to live my value of nonviolence. I hope you’ll join me.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono:
Warmest Holiday wishes to you,
I have been feeling very sad about the killing of Osama Bin Laden – how it was handled and the joy with which people are responding to it. I have been doing some personal work of late on forgiveness and atonement and so my way of dealing with the situation is to be honest with myself about what my part is, to take responsibility for my part, to forgive myself, to atone (I don’t have an idea for how to do this yet with regard to this specific situation but I’m praying about it), and especially to not add hatred or judgment to the situation.
It is challenging to understand in an intellectual way that I have a part in something happening thousands of miles away. And yet, I know that we are all one and interconnected; every action I take has an affect on others.