Sunday, September 23, 2018

Being the Peace

For the second year in a row, I participated in the Be The Peace challenge with the lovely Peace Ripples Institute. Here's a video from last year's challenge where you can see two clips from me, and the form of this year's challenge was to take the three days between September 21st and September 23rd to contemplate the following prompts:

DAY 1: The Vision - Clarifying the Peace You Wish to See in the World 
DAY 2 - Being - Clarifying How You Can Embody Your Vision
DAY 3 - Creating - Clarifying How You Can Create That World 

This year, my answers were similar to last year's about feeling the sense that a world of peace is one that operates from a principle of oneness, but I felt like it took on a different dimension. The key principle that occurred to me as I followed the guided visualization provided by Catherine at Peace Ripples was this:

The world I would most like to see is a world where the tension between different perspectives and opinions plays out more like a dance than a battle.  

I dream of a world where we can disagree without anger and hatred.  Where we work together on the challenges inherent to a planet with such rich diversity of life, of cultures, and of values.  Where we deeply recognize that what hurts part of life hurts all of life, what heals part of life heals all of life, and we work together on all the so urgently needed healing around us. 

Peace is not getting away from difference, disagreement, or diversity.  Rather, it's tapping into the harmony of the variety of unique individuals, creatures and environments on this magical planet. The tensions in our differences can be such a source of growth, if only we set aside the need to be right, to judge, or to win. 

The world I would most like to see is a world where we allow the forces of nature to lead us to balance.  Where each individual cultivates their own unique perspective, voice, and gifts.  Where the Great Spirit known by many names has the best opportunity to bring groups of our voices together in creative movements of harmony for healing, restoration, and evolution. 

After I wrote that piece for The Challenge, I felt called to change channels and write a post on another topic that had been turning in my mind: 

It felt good to write.  It was the reconciliation of perspectives that felt so hard to find as I surfed around reading different things to get informed about the unfolding drama around the Supreme Court nominee.  And it felt like just the sort of dance I had written about for The Challenge: looking at two different perspectives and putting forth a way of seeing them that didn't have to be a battle.

When I got to day 2, it felt easy to see how I could embody the vision.  Writing that piece on Facebook and reading the kind-hearted comments from people of differing points of view on the post made me feel clear that engagement with the divisions and disagreements is how I'm most drawn to embody my vision of a world at peace.  I can choose to move toward those disagreements with a spirit of curiosity and interest, openly expressing my own perspective in a sensitive, caring, and compassionate way.  

Feeling inspired, I followed up with a friend about a conversation we had back in June.  Our meeting in June was the first time we'd seen each other in six years.  When we used to work together, we loved the enjoyable debate about different perspectives, so we were both the type to charge in to talk about the latest controversy.  In the last few years, we had both sadly experienced how difficult those conversations had become.  We both found ourselves so often misunderstood and misjudged by someone with a different perspective, and we both found ourselves starting to avoid those same conversations we used to love.

Before we left, we hatched an intention to look into what we could do together to encourage more civil conversation.  I hadn't found the time to properly follow up on that intention since June, but as the challenge was wrapping up and my Facebook post renewed my faith that there were more people craving civil dialogue and that it was certainly possible for us to stir more of it, I reached back out to that friend to see if she was still interested in creating something together.

And so, as Day 3 of The Challenge coincided with an enthusiastic yes from this friend,  my answer to the prompt of what I can create right now was so clear.  I can help create that world of peace I imagine by creating a Facebook group encouraging and modeling civil conversation.  I intend for it to be a forum to practice this dance in the tensions of our differences, to be an open space for people to feel safe expressing their own views and knowing that they won't be belittled or called names for doing so.  I intend for my friend and me to moderate the space using a set of guiding principles that we'll create to will help foster the sort of conversations that can unfold more like a dance than a battle.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Other Side of Blame

I remember the day when the shooting at Columbine happened well.  It was my first year in law school and a girl with red hair whose name I can't remember but whose face I'll always remember came into the library where I was studying with a bunch of other people.  She told us there was a high school shooting going on in Colorado.  I didn't even fully understand what she was saying there in the library; I'd never heard about anything like that before.  It wasn't until I got home in front of my own tv screen that I began to understand and feel the heartbreaking gravity of the situation. 

Now, almost 19 years later, scenes like the ones from that day in 1999 have become commonplace.

Jack Johnson lists off a number of people and groups that could be blamed when a shooting happens in his song, Cookie Jar:

A verse could certainly be added for the NRA that consistently blocks gun reform, the politicians that don't support changes in our gun laws that might help keep guns out of the hands of minors or the mentally ill, the makers of automatic weapons, or even the makers of video games that give people the opportunity to experience and even practice these horrific acts.

But, even with these and more added to the list of what we can blame for why this keeps happening, the wisdom I've most resonated with in this song is this:

"It was you; it was me; it was every man.  We've all got the blood on our hands."

As much as we can justifiably point fingers when something horrible happens, that assignment of blame doesn't seem to make anything better.  

Some will say that the blame helps us by: getting important questions answered so we understand what happened, putting dangerous people into police custody, and causing security measures to be increased in ways that save lives.  I can agree that these things may have an impact in some incremental way, and if all the people and things we could blame would change, there might be a significant impact.

I just feel that none of those things addresses the heart of the matter in a way that will keep these horrible tragedies from happening and even escalating.  As I see it, the blame that we throw around is actually a potent ammunition that we keep pouring into the dynamic that fuels these violent acts. 

The only thing that will bring real change is: if we can influence the intention that is behind the violence; if the hearts and minds of people who may be feeling similarly isolated and moved to commit horrific acts violence can be reached; if there is an environment of love and openness that allows these people to feel able to reach out for the help and support they need to heal.  

Blame comes from a view that we are separate actors with easily sectioned off responsibility, and yet, that isn't reality.  In fact, we are all connected.  Some words we speak to a stranger at the drug store can have a ripple effect that travels through so many people and stretches far and wide.  We are each an important part of what happens in our world - both beautiful and tragic.  Even if only in quite subtle ways, we all play a role in holding up the environment in which these violent tragedies occur.

And when we look at all the insults and anger thrown around in our public dialogue, we can begin to see how the escalating mass violence is actually a reflection of other behaviors that have become commonplace.  The way we carry on a discussion with someone we disagree with isn't actually happening in a vacuum.  The way we send nasty messages out to tons of followers isn't just some insignificant action of venting anger.

These actions we take, often quite thoughtlessly, are all connected to the whole.  They are those rippling energies that we're sending out into an already volatile system.  They are the ways that many of us have the blood on our hands for terrible things that happen in the world, even though the full chain of cause and effect cannot be traced.

Seeing the blood on our hands need not induce guilt or shame; it can empower us.

We can stop believing in this immature and illusory dichotomy that the world is split up into perpetrators and victims.  We can embrace the reality that from situation to situation, perspective to perspective, we are all both perpetrators and victims, and so much more. 

We are also powerful creators.  When we are really open to seeing where we feed into the realities that we hope to shift, we can claim our greatest power to create the changes we want to see in our world.  On the other side of blame, we might just be able to create the world that days like yesterday make us crave.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


A couple days ago, I made the following post to Facebook:

I wanted to keep it concise and reasonably clear, suitable for the level of attention that I tend to give to Facebook posts, so I elected not to go as deep as I could.  Then, a good friend commented to me on precisely the part of what I wrote that didn't feel completely true to me.  I decided it was worth revisiting that part in a longer post on here, if only to create a bit more completeness for myself.

It's this sentence: "Our society will always include both perpetrators and victims, and both of them are irrevocably connected to the fabric of our society, connected to each of us in the web that includes their families, friends, communities."

To me, it expresses only an aspect of the wider Truth.  Not only does our society contains both perpetrators and victims, but each of us is both perpetrator and victim.  This isn't such a popular view, since it's in conflict with a lot of people's self concept, but to me, it just seems like the undeniable reality.

From situation to situation, relationship to relationship, and one period of time in our life to the next, these lines are constantly shifting in all the conflicts of our lives.  We all lash out or withhold in a great variety of ways.  We can feel that it's the pressures of a work environment, rushing to get somewhere, systemic limitations, or a harm that's been done to us that caused whatever actions or inactions led us to take on a perpetrator role, but still, it happens.

The truth of how we're all not so different really hit me back when I was a public defender.  I used to write sentencing letters to a judge prior to one of our client's being sentenced, and I would have our clients tell me their life story so I could sift through for useful tidbits that would help me humanize this client in front the judge deciding his or her fate. 

Without fail, I was always deeply moved by the hardships these people endured, by the circumstances they faced that I couldn't imagine having to face.  And several times, I was faced with the realization that I probably would have committed the crime they had committed if I had lived their life.  If I had the same hardships, the same lack of emotional and financial support, the same pressure on my shoulders, and the same lack of opportunity, my ambitious, get-it-done attitude would've likely found that same pathway appealing to reach my goals and solve my problems. 

The real difference between me as the lawyer and them as a criminal defendant had more to do with the very different circumstances of our lives, things completely beyond our control.  There wasn't an intrinsic difference in who we were as people.  We were both just doing our best, within the life we were given.

And from those reflections and looking at my own experiences, I've come to feel that the lines between perpetrator and victim aren't solid; they are fluid lines, constantly moving both within us and within our society.  I've come to believe that to heal abusive and oppressive patterns showing up in our society, the most useful frontier on which to work is the one within ourselves. 

As we find compassion for the perpetrator within and bring that compassion to the people who perpetrate in our world, we can stop manifesting a world that reflects the illusion that we're so separate, that we're so different, that there are two factions of good and evil that need to keep fighting.  Instead, we can build bridges of understanding and feed our energy into a world that reflects our unified nature, a more peaceful world.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

International Day of Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, and I'm psyched! 

This is a day I actually look forward to each year.  When it rolls around and I start seeing posts and reminders that it's coming, it makes me remember why I started writing about peace and why I started this blog.  And in all that remembering, I feel more connected to what makes me feel most alive. 

And if you know me, no surprises about what that is.  It's the hope, the prayer, the vision that human beings could create a peaceful world.  And not some dreamy Kumbaya kind of fantasy world without any conflict.  Who'd even want that?  Conflict is where we challenge each other, grow, and evolve; it's the needed drama of life that holds our interest in this wild journey and gives us opportunities to expand. 

My hope is of a world where the core concepts of opposition and elimination of a perceived enemy are seen for what they are: fearful responses based on a false perception of reality.

There is just one interconnected web of relations here.  The attempts to banish those people and things we deem evil are futile because even if we try to cut them out, we're still all connected.  Throw people in prison: they are still connected, still having an impact on the web, and in the awful conditions that they are enduring in this time of mass incarceration, you better believe they're not in a state to make the best impact they could possibly make on the web of relations.

What would happen if we really realized this?  Might our prisons look more like healing centers?  Might we be more interested in engaging and healing antisocial behaviors, rather than harshly punishing and disconnecting?

Haven't you noticed: for all the wars we declare against all these bad things, we don't actually get safer streets, less terrorism, less drugs.  We often get MORE of those very things we're fighting against.  Opposition is actually feeding the thing we oppose.

I really believe in humanity, though.  We'll get this lesson that keeps playing out in front of us, soon enough.

Please celebrate Peace Day today and feed your own creative juice into this dream that we are creating a world of peace. 

Check out this link to learn more:

I'm headed to the Peace March happening in DC this weekend:  Ken Nwadike, the guy behind the Free Hugs Project is the host of the March.  I freakin love this guy!  If you aren't familiar with him, check him out here:  I'm really hoping for a hug on Saturday!

And the one super easy thing you can do is give one little minute to peace today.  From noon to 12:01, observe the Minute of Silence.  The idea is that it will create a “Peace Wave” around the world as people in each time zone take that minute to just be still and feel the peace that already is here right now.

Let's ride this wave into the next chapter of the human experiment.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A New Narrative

Hello Friends! 

I took a major hiatus from the blog, and I really needed it.  Trying to force the weekly post became a drag, and then a fit of recycled old posts, and then a stress - and so, I let it go.

But now, I finished my yoga teacher training (yay!) and with the space I was dedicating to that endeavor opening up, I'm ready to move in new directions.

Randomly, about a month or so ago, an ad for a Tedx conference near me came across my screen and intrigued me to think of my own idea worth spreading.  As I dove into this for a bit, I found that one of the application requirements was a short video explaining your idea.  I've actually never recorded myself on my phone camera, but the prodding in the little advertisement was convincing, and I happened to be all alone at home at the time, so I thought: "what the hell!  Let's if this little idea floating around in my mind has any coherence and clarity at all."  You can judge for yourself.

I never did apply to do that Ted Talk.  But maybe someday.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Culture of Peace


Today, there's a March for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence in my hometown, a city that has seen far too much violence and bloodshed in recent years.  I'm moved by the action of people from all around the community coming together to stand for change, and as I get ready to go and join them, I find myself asking:

What is a culture of peace and non-violence?

The answer occurring to me at the moment: It's a culture based on the truth of We Are One.

That little phrase is thrown around quite a bit in religious ceremonies, spiritual circles, and new age discussions, but as I see it, there is far more power in these three words than is often recognized and put into practice.  When people act from We Are One, there is a completely different response to a tragic event in the community.  Instead of blaming those most directly responsible, there is a collective responsibility that swoops in to help, to restore, and to reestablish balance.  There is engagement, instead of anger and disengagement.  Instead of "us versus them" patterns, there is an opening question of how will WE heal?

We Are One means that we don't get to separate out the bad guys and the good guys.  We don't get to make the depleted ozone layer the fault of big business, the gun violence the fault of drug dealers, or violence against women the fault of chauvinist men.  Of course there is responsibility by specific parties, but the narrow focus born of our finger pointing misses the big picture.

But that finger pointing habit is a really hard one to break.  In the moment, it can feel so much easier to find some bad people to blame for something that upsets us.  We can buy into the fantasy that if we just get rid of them or make them stop, then the problem will go away.  But after so many turns of this cycle, we need to ask if this is really true.  Do the problems go away for all the fighting we do?

In my observation, the answer to this one is no.  The problems seem to just get bigger; they may shift in form and location, but they remain.  Just like how viruses get immune to antibiotics, the patterns of violence get immune to the barriers and weapons we use to defeat them.  The entire idea of fighting against violence causes us to feed our own energy into the problems we seek to change.

"There is no way to peace.  Peace is the way."

To truly transform our violent culture, a culture of peace needs to grow from the seed of peaceful intention.  I actually love the phrase "a culture of peace."  When we shift from a focus on this intangible concept of peace to a focus on shifting the culture, the norms, and the ways of being, to me, it becomes a more practical movement.  We make up the culture, and by looking at the level of culture, more tangible things we can work on within ourselves arise, things that can spill over into actions in our lives, contributions in our immediate communities, and a growing movement within the greater human community.

A culture of peace needs to start with our own response to the realities that alarm us, challenge us, and break our hearts.  We are all in this together, we are one community, one human race.  When we take collective responsibility for the problems in our community, we have a collective power to transform.  This march feels like such a beautiful way the people of the city and surrounding areas are taking that collective responsibility and igniting their power for positive change.

"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I will meet you there."  Rumi

To me, this field is the culture of peace.  When we start spending more time in this field, acting more from our oneness than from our separateness, then I truly believe we will see the dawning of a culture of peace.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The "S" Word

Written in 2010, and sadly, way more relevant today than it was then.

One night at dinner, my 7 year old daughter was telling us the rules of her classroom, and my husband and I sat with attention as she told us, "we're not allowed to say all the bad words. You know, like the 's' word."

"The 's' word?" my husband asked almost afraid to hear the answer.

She leaned in and whispered, "stupid."

After recovering from what I thought was going to be a moment of shattering innocence, I thought about the ‘s’ word and why it was ban in her classroom. This ‘s’ word is one of the worst!  Way worse in intent and impact then the meaningless profanities I was so afraid she was beginning to learn.

Adults could take a cue from my daughter’s teacher in the rules we follow in everyday conversation. The news and the political conversations that grow out of the news throw around the ‘s’ word or one of its close cousins on a daily basis. We shamelessly belittle public figures and those who follow them, if they are on the other side of whatever we’re talking about.

The 's' word takes us smack in the middle of the "us against them" mentality. We build these imaginary fences that divide us into different groups: those that know what’s going on and those that are stupid and misled. These fences grow higher and higher, and those that feel cut out of a conversation form more passionate conversations among themselves.

And these divides breed ignorance. This attitude of “us and them” is so prevalent in American politics, and it isolates viewpoints by silencing critical debate that could help us see all aspects of a problem. Debates can go on without antagonizing those with different beliefs and values. Through the health care issue, we see how this “us and them” mentality is destroying our ability to problem solve as a community, and as ever greater problems come up for resolution, this lack of peaceful communication could have much greater consequences than ever before.

As I see it, we are seeing more and more of a disturbing mob rule sort-of environment.  The group someone stands with seems to have a lot more to do with their stance on an issue than that individual's discernment and attempt to understand the different sides of an issue.  I fear that this has us heading down a slippery slope towards a dangerously divided country. 

A big thing that I think we can all do to build a more peaceful dialogue and world is so simple: if only we can just really follow that rule of my daughter’s elementary school classroom about not using the "s" word.  If we refrained from this in our speech and spirit, I truly believe it would make a world of difference.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Peace in Action

Recycling a post from a couple years back today.   

“Let us take the risks of peace upon our lives, not impose the risks of war upon the world.” Quaker Proverb

Peaceful action, in my opinion, has little to do with how forceful or how tranquil the action itself is. Rather, the relevant inquiry is to examine the perspective from which the action arises. Even an action of great force can come from a equanimity of mind. When there is a true embrace of our shared humanity, I believe that even quite fierce or outwardly violent actions have the potential to move us toward peace. Internal state is where peace starts, and I believe that it's only through actions arising from an internal state of peace that we can bring the peace we have cultivated inside ourselves to the world around us.

On a wide scale, I believe humans have fallen into quite a different pattern. Our actions, large and small, aggressive and docile, are much more often fueled by a state of blameful separation and anger. The problem is that whether these actions succeed or fail in the short run, when we step back, we can start to notice that actions to taken with this blameful intention are in vain. The beast we think we are fighting just keeps getting stronger; it just keeps reappearing and morphing into more ruthless forms.

When Gandhi said “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” I don't see this as just a line of idealistic poetry. He was stating an observation about how certain kinds of actions work in the world. When we act in the hope for vengeance, in a belief that elimination and punishment will heal our wounds and make us safe, we become blind.

I notice a strong resistance to understand what offends us, and I think it is because we’re afraid that understanding would be like condoning or empowering what we think is wrong. So instead, we quite often choose to hate that which offends us. We choose the course of doing whatever it takes to eliminate, block, or oppose that which offends us. And in this course of action, we miss seeing an obvious pattern at work.

I believe that the opposite of our conditioned instincts is true. It is our resistance to understand, and the resulting hatred and loss of integrity that IS condoning and empowering the behavior that offends us. We're sending a clear message about what we think of as an empowered voice of opposition, and it actually invites the other side to continue speaking to us in the same language.

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Gandhi

Entertain the possibility that this isn’t merely a lofty metaphor, but a statement of actual truth. Gandhi’s movement to free India shows how this principle can actually work to break the chain of violence and injustice. Gandhi was so unique in his approach to opposition. He never lost faith in the British; he firmly held that if they really knew what they were doing and saw it clearly, they would leave India. And as we all learned, he was right, and in my humble opinion, this faith in his enemy was one of the most unique and powerful waves of change the world has ever seen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


I'm guessing that anyone who has seen me in the past 10 years has seen me in this:

Every so often I sub in a different necklace, but at the end of the day, I feel like I need to get that imposter off and quickly get back to home base.  I just feel most authentic and like myself with this around my neck.

And the events of this past week, starting with MLK Day, then to the Inauguration, and finally yesterday's immense display in DC and around the world with the Women's March, have really got me thinking about the core sentiment that makes this necklace so special to me: Unity.

My understanding of the Om symbol is that it represents the sound of the Universe.  If all the different sounds and vibrations could be heard together, creating one symphony, one harmony, one vibration, it would be the sound of Om.   To me, the Om represents the One: One Life, One Being, One Human Race, One Love, One God: an indivisible reality that includes Everything.

Starting the week off with a flood of quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it all felt so in line with this sentiment of unity.  And then, inauguration day demonstrations around the world reflected his famous quote:

Although a response more directly to Donald Trump's assertion of a policy to build a wall between the US and Mexico, the deeper sentiment of connection, love, and unity seemed very much at the heart of these global demonstrations.

But it was yesterday, as I spent the greater part of my day watching live feeds from the Women's March in DC, that all this inquiry into unity went a bit deeper.   

As the March was approaching, I felt happy to see it coming together, and at the same time, quite certain my low-level-anxiety, crowd-averse self was not meant to hit the streets.  This set of Unity Principles around which the March was to revolve all resonated for me, and the idea of people channeling their angst feelings about the new president into an action felt right.

Although not as a marcher, I did find my own perfect way to contribute: crocheting hats.  A cousin was heading to DC with a group of 4, and I made them all these pussyhats:

I loved the idea of this whole hat project.  The unifying image of a sea of marchers wearing similar hats to express their power, their allegiance to the feminine, their oneness; it really inspired me.  And more, the fact that the world wide club of crocheters and knitters were stitching their love and support into hats that they sent off to DC tickled my heart even more.

I tuned in to see this great sea of pink, this unified demonstration, and I saw it, far beyond the pink hats and the borders of DC.  Truly, a touching and great display of solidarity from around the world.

But, I was reminded of a phenomenon that I've been seeing repeat itself for years.  I wrote about it first in this post: the 100%.  There I was talking about the Occupy Wallstreet movement and the common slogan of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent.  And yesterday, I felt a similar sense of these gatherings that seemed in large part to be motivated by the desire for unity, for bridges, for inclusion, that end up expressing messages of divisiveness.

The two most obvious divides I kept feeling arise yesterday were the Trump hate and the abortion debate.  When position statements about abortion and cutting criticisms of the new president were spoken or displayed, I started to wonder: how would I feel if I was strong moral/religious pro-life advocate? Or how would it feel if I was a woman who voted for Trump, not as a fan of his behavior or his every position, but only because I thought he better embodied my thoughts about what was good for the country?  When I explored what I'd feel like if I were those people, inclusion was not at all what I felt.

There was a subtle assumption that the liberal position on these things (Trump's a dangerous jackass and reproductive freedom is a fundamental right) are the only sane perspectives.  And even though these particular liberal positions are ones that resonate for me, I cannot agree that they are the only sane and loving ways to look at these questions.  I believe that it was this pattern of condescending liberal assumption that drove much of the momentum leading President Trump (for an article with a similar perspective click here), and this condescension isn't just coming from  liberals - it happens in both directions and in so many different ways. 

It's a reflex to belittle and even demonize opposing points of view.  It is a shadow that we need to tend to if we are ever to become truly unified.

No one can deny the incredible chasm that has been growing for many years in the US.  I saw one post yesterday that used the tag line "Two Americas" showing passionate and adorned demonstrators in support of Trump's inauguration and against it from this past weekend.  It left me wondering where these Two Americas is leading us.

Is the growing divide foreshadowing a civil war, or is it the call for us to do the difficult work of building bridges, even on the issues that divide us the most?  Will we face our disagreements with judgement and ridicule, or will we listen, try to understand, try to put ourselves in the position of those who see things differently?

Of the thousands, perhaps millions, of people that showed up around the world yesterday, a great variety of intentions were being expressed.  As I look to recent movements, I think this variety as it becomes expressed can be the Achilles Heel that becomes the movement's undoing at a certain point.  The more specific and loud different people get, the more people start turning away because the movement no longer really expresses their point of view.

There's another way though. We can rise above our differences of opinion and come together in our commonalities as citizens and as human beings.  If we look closely, I think we'll begin to notice the difference between our opinions and our humanity, and in this noticing, we can build a ground where more and more of us can meet, just as Rumi said, 

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there." 

True unification requires us to sacrifice our own sense that we are right.  It requires us to suspend our judgement and open our minds.  After listening, we still may not agree, and we still may need to hold firm to our convictions and work hard to help other people understand our points of view.  There may even be times when we face atrocities and injustices so great that we need to take strong and unbending positions, actions of great magnitude and importance. 

But, what non-violent leaders like MLK and Gandhi showed us is that it is possible to stand firm in a point of view with your hand still outstretched to the ones that disagree.  Yesterday, I wondered, what if some of Trump's family came to the March, maybe even wanting to put on a pussyhat and show their support in one way or another.  Would they be welcomed guests?  Should they be welcomed guests? 

My prayer coming out of this extraordinary week is that we start thinking of inclusion in bigger terms.  May we embrace and allow room for our fantastic and great diversity, including our diversity of opinion and belief.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Anger

I had a plan to write about something different this Sunday, something a little more obviously aligned with peace.  But as I sit down at the keyboard this morning, I feel like anger is the more useful place for attention in my own journey toward greater peace.

We've all seen lots of anger projected through our screens during the last year of political debate and division.  I've found it pretty distasteful, and I felt like I mostly stayed above the anger.  Then, last weekend was one of my yoga teacher training weekends, and we learned about Ayurveda. In identifying our dominant doshas, I confirmed that I am dominantly Pitta - the fiery one.  As our teacher was reading the traits and mentioned a tendency toward anger, I remember thinking, "huh, that doesn't really sound like me."

And ever since that passing thought, life's been poking fun at me.

True, I'm not prone to screaming fits or violent outbursts.  I mostly have control of my tongue and don't call people names or burst out with strong judgements.  I mean, we all have our slips every once in awhile, but mostly, I'd call myself pretty chilled out and not at all a candidate for anger management classes.

But as often happens when I have a strong and wrong sense of myself arise, contradictions start coming out of the woodwork. 

First, I kept noticing dumb stuff, like a hyped up reaction to my husband's socks, left on the floor, again!  I just dismissed these as playful and scrappy interactions.  He's obviously not intimidated because those socks will be there again and again, and I know he likes a little fire in his woman.  

But then, something happened at work that triggered me.  I could literally feel the burning in my chest, and although it didn't turn into an overblown reaction, it churned in my mind, pretty relentlessly.  I could come up with soothing thoughts that calmed it down or shifted the attention positively for a time, but I was floored to notice how once that fire is lit, man, it's really hard to stop it!

And then lastly in this parade of my own disillusionment, on Friday night my daughter dropped her phone and broke the screen.  She was so freaked out about how I would react.  I was calm and fine.  (She did give me a text warning and seeing how nervous she was about my reaction quickly put me in check.)  As I talked to her later about why she was so nervous about my reaction, she had all kinds of good evidence for why she thought I'd lose my shit over it.

And finally I gave in: I am a bit of a crazy hot head. 

I had a lot more self-awareness about this part of myself when I was younger.  I liked it and would describe it as passionate, not angry.  I saw it as this sparky firecracker part of my personality, and I thought it served me well in treading my own path and making sure the world gave me my due respect.

But as I've gotten older, I've been less enchanted by this passionate side of myself.  In the early years of buckling down into marriage and motherhood, that wild stallion wreaked some havoc, and wanting to cultivate more stability in my family and my life, I put some strong focus on calming that aspect of myself.

Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at more consciously deciding how to direct those energies.  I'm filled with ideas and training about calming the fire - breathing through it, doing some yoga, writing in a journal until it begins to dissipate.  And that's all well and good, but the problem is: I'm just one sock away from another flare up.

I know it will come up again and again; it's a pattern that is seemingly hardwired into me this time around.  And my big concern is that sometimes this scrappy side feels like a complete contradiction to my deepest interests and hopes to be a contributor to peace in the world. 

The faces of peace and of fire seem so different from the outside, completely opposed.  But for some time, I've had this intuition that they aren't as separate as they seem.  I started exploring this idea of fierceness in peace a long while back in this post: the other side of peace.

As I think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and other heroes of peace, I sense a certain grit and fire that fueled their faith and leadership to go beyond the dominant movements of the culture.  I sense that this fire has a place in a movement toward greater peace, both within and out in the world. 

Dealing with the anger is so tricky though, and really, I feel like a novice.  On one hand, I sometimes hold it inside myself to my own detriment, imploding with a fire that craves expression but I'm too afraid will come out wrong.  Or then, there are the times when I let it rip, and I feel horribly guilty for being unkind in ways I truly did not intend. 

The anger seems like the sword of the peaceful warrior.   It can be the tool that slices through resistance, ignorance and inertia and brings real and lasting change.  But, as we have seen in recent times, it can also be so cutting and simply fuel more destructive anger. 

I get the sense that our fate will be determined in large part by how we learn to wield this sword.