Sitting Ducks

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It was such a perfect and appropriate image. Of being blind. Of the people who use the blind not seeing the cruelty of what they did, not seeing the beauty of what they were about to kill. It was, after all, a perfect word for that perch. A blind.

Louise Penny Still Life p. 257

These wise words from Louise Penny refer to a murder committed in the shelter of a deer blind perched out of sight in a tree.  The image moves me to reflect on all the ways we ambush one another then cover it up in the safety of our self-righteousness.

Pledge: A Spiritual Practice

I will pay attention to the words and actions I hide behind to ambush the other.

If I must say or do the hard thing let it be said and done with eyes wide open rather than with eyes wide shut.

I will seek out those who speak and do in the light, and learn from them how to begin.

I will replace the violence of the blind with compassion and understanding.

 

photo credit: felipe_gabaldon <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25716821@N04/36415309560“>From the cave</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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Non-Peace to Peace

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“Forgive yourself for not being at peace.  The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace is transmuted into peace.  Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace.  This is the miracle of surrender.”  

Eckhart Tolle

 

We are not perfect, so why spend energy focusing on our limitations when we could use that energy to come home to our souls?  We are like monkeys aimlessly swinging from tree to tree screeching, “Where am I, where am I?”  All we have to do is sit still in one tree and we have already taken the first step into our inner sanctuary.

I know this to be true.  Someone told me I was this monkey at age twenty-seven.  The words singed my ego as they found their mark.  Eventually, I accepted the truth and began the practice of sitting still.  It’s been a long journey.

 

 

 

 

photo credit: Yavuz Alper via photopin cc

Shadows From My Past

Vietnam War Memorial

On a startling sunny day in April, 1984, I stood before the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. overwhelmed by the experience of thousands of lives reduced to letters chiseled out of stark black granite.  As if shadows of children cast upon the wall as they lay mementos of their loved one wasn’t enough to bear, four fresh young men came to vigil, their uniforms creating a macabre dance of shadows both real and anticipated.   I wept then and I weep now.

On this day, March 7, 1965, the first U.S. combat troops were sent to Vietnam.  My spiritual practice today will be to take inventory of my commitment to nonviolence, and to make reparation by revisiting the Wall.  I will call those men by name and ask forgiveness.  I will call to mind all who lost their lives in that war.  I will ask for God’s gracious mercy toward all of us who had the need to wage that war.  Most of all, I will hold dear the broken lives of my peers who returned from that war hopeless and who still need us.

The Wall of Faces:  http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/

Community In The Blogosphere

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Hearts fractured by death, separation, sickness, adversity.  Hearts seamed and soldered.  Hearts held intact by personal courage and the solidarity of the human spirit.  I experience all of this today as I meander through the WP Reader.  I am deeply moved by the depth of pain and bloggers’ responses to it.  Expectations of joy abound at this season.  Sorrow is often unwelcome, yet, the courageous expression of it bears witness to the heart of humanity.  The willingness to acknowledge our pain and live through it to the other side, is incarnation.

Walking together through our diverse experiences of Christmas has been one of the most profound expressions of community I have had.  I feel supported in my own experience by people whom I don’t really know, because our humanity unites us.  When bloggers share their experience with integrity and conviction, it tells their readers that they are not alone.  Today I breathe in community and release isolation.  I am proud to be on this human journey with you.  Merry Christmas!

Breathing in, I put on peace.
Breathing out, I release anxiety.
Breathing in, I embrace community.
Breathing out, I release isolation.
Peace.
Anxiety.
Community.
Isolation.

Disarmament of the Heart

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When all is said and done our call in this life is simple: Love God, Love Self, Love Others. Love is born through a rigorous process of disarming the heart. it is an act of unparalleled trust. It frightens us, so we fiercely protect our center like petals protecting the heart of a flower . The choice to unveil the beauty of the center leaves us vulnerable, so we resist and protect it. I am deeply grateful for the witness of many prophets who faithfully do the hard work of disarming so that they can preach the truth from a clean place. Because they are doing it, I believe that it is possible.

The practice of disarming the heart is so important, that without it, we have no moral authority to do justice. Our call to do justice presupposes the call to let go of the ego entrapments that motivate us: unbridled power, arrogance, addictive control, unfocused fear, selfish competition, resentment. The more these attitudes motivate us, the more we stifle dialogue with an adversary; however, knowledge and acceptance of our entrapments create openness and opportunity for dialogue. Paradoxically, this is a very strong place from which to do justice. When we are committed to disarming the heart, we are truly “walking the talk.”

Although the practice of disarming the heart is difficult, we can do it in simple and practical ways. Foremost, the process necessitates a degree of solitude and silence in which we have the space to allow peace to germinate. Without peace we cannot bore through the clamor of ego enough to see and recognize the needs of one another, much less the needs of the world. We unconsciously allow the clamor to persist because it throws a safe cloak around our inner core. We fear the power of our deepest self because if that gift is acknowledged, life becomes dangerous and demanding. It’s easier to hide the prophet in us. But we must do the work, and expose the prophet, because unconscious “peace” only plays at doing justice.

Within the moments of silence and solitude which we carve out, saying mantras can be a powerful spiritual tool.  For four years I leafleted weekly at a nuclear submarine base in Puget Sound.  To stay alert and focused at 6:00 A.M. I recited, “Come Lord Jesus, set us free.”  It was a plea to let go of the fear and prejudice which blocked leafleters and workers from honest dialogue.  Sometimes preoccupied by angry challenges, or still half asleep, I forgot to say the mantra.  A frequent traveler into the base came in a pickup truck with a rifle on a rack.  I would think, “Oh, does this guy hate me.”  One day I was able to pay attention when the truck came through.  The driver looked depressed, and from some place in me I blurted, “How are you this morning?”  He responded, “How am I?  I’m terrible.  How else would I be, having to go in there every day and do the work I have to do?”  We were connected from that moment on, because We both had allowed the Spirit to disarm our egos.

We are sometimes unable to dialogue peacefully because we cache resentment and blame, finger tip-ready to call up on queue. Such arming of the heart causes violence and blocks progress toward achieving justice. Buddhists have a practice of forgiveness in which they pray to forgive self and others for all conscious and unconscious harmful acts. I think this prayer should be a part of every training for nonviolent action, and a daily practice for anyone serious about falling in love with God, self, and others.

Finally, I want to say something on behalf of ego. I embrace it, because it’s in the mix of being human. Like the petals which surround the heart of the flower, it has a purpose. When strong and focused, it keeps us safe and gives us the courage to love. The goal is to harness the ego, not annihilate it. We want to have a sense of humor about it all, lest we become zealots to whom no one wants to listen. Meister Eckhart says that “God laughs and plays,” and that works for me! The more fear we have of exposing our own complicity in injustice, the more inclined we are to set up protective barriers; however, if we hold our own flawed natures lightly, we are less likely to attack our adversaries for their flawed natures. Disarming in this way doesn’t mean we have to condone the unjust action. It simply means that we accept our commonality as human beings.

In his poem, “Peace,” Gerard Manley Hopkins offers a unique description of heart-disarmament: “And when peace here does house, he comes with work to do. He does not come to coo, he comes to brood and sit.” May our brooding create a peace which births justice.

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“Disarmament of the Heart” was first published in AMOS, a journal of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle: ipjc.org