In the interests of taking a breather from the current headlines, I would like to reflect just a bit on personal non-violence…and to encourage each of us to take December (and maybe all of 2016) to practice some patience, some compassion, and some gentleness toward our own souls, spirits, minds, and bodies. I suggest this because I am observing epidemic levels of (self-inflicted) personal violence in my friends, my family, my colleagues, and myself. And I think we would all be happier and healthier if we quit it. Right now.
It has occurred to me with increasing frequency as I have watched a wave of violence sweep across the globe, that this violence is neither ‘random’ (the favorite word of the media) nor unpredictable. An increasingly small number of us know how to treat ourselves with respect. Is it really a surprise that we can’t treat others that way? If we cannot be compassionate with the self in which we have our incarnation, how do we think we will find compassion for the other incarnations who share the planet with us?
In this time of year when Christians are focused heart, mind, and soul on the incarnation of the Holy into time and space, we may want to pay some attention to what that particular ‘faithing’ might mean for the future of the universe. What the promise of the incarnation tells us is that we all are – every last one of us – a manifestation of sacred presence. Traditional language says, We are each temples of the holy Spirit. Wise women and men of all generations and many faiths have told us that we would benefit from acting as if we really are temples of the Spirit and not merely saying that we believe it.
You don’t need to be Christian to believe in the immanent holiness of living beings – many (if not most) spiritual traditions include such a belief. And the real point (heresy alert!) isn’t whether G-d or scripture tell us that all beings are holy, the real point is that we would all be better off – individually and corporately – if we lived as if it were true (or True, if you prefer to distinguish between temporal truth and eternal Truth.)
I do not believe I am the only woman who has walked passed a mirror recently and rolled my eyes at the way I look. I do not believe I am the only person who thinks that if I just move faster, I will actually accomplish everything I think I should be accomplishing before I drop dead of exhaustion. I do not believe I am the only person who thinks I am going to be a ‘failure’ each and every day in some way.
Here is what I know: I say things to myself (“How could you have been so stupid?” “How could you have been so clumsy?”) that I would never, ever, in a million years say to a friend, to my spouse, to my beloved daughter. I am personally violent to my G-d-manifesting self. I am abusive to myself. I sit as judge and jury on my own behavior with a lack of mercy that I would not exhibit to the person I like least in the world. And when I get deep enough into that space, the judgment and violence spill over as short temper, frustration, and impatience toward those around me.
My guess is that you do the same thing to yourself…our culture brainwashes us to believe we are inadequate and unworthy. Do any of these apply to your life?
You are disgusted with the way you look (or with some aspect of your body or face)?
You don’t believe you are getting enough done?
You feel stupid or call yourself stupid when you don’t know something you think you should know?
You work out hard enough to injure yourself frequently?
You haven’t had a day off (off – completely off for fun and relaxation) in more than a week (Month? Year?)
Your ‘to do’ list gets longer rather than shorter?
You are sick repeatedly?
You are addicted to some substance or behavior (food, alcohol, workaholism, power, success, caffeine, sex)?
When we get into that spiritual, mental, emotional space and stay there, we are dry tinder waiting to explode. We expect instant solutions to complex issues. We push the people who love us away and we are more and more threatened by anyone who is not a clone of ourselves (in other words, anyone who needs more focus or thought than we can easily muster). We stand on the knife edge of terrorism.
We can back ourselves out (especially if we enlist friends), but it will take [breathe with me here] patience. The ills and judgments that beset us are not going to be fixed over night. This is true of the world, too. We need to be willing to be patient, to wait actively toward our hope, to celebrate the small steps we take toward spiritual health and to cling to them as to a lifeline when we slip back toward stress.
When we are less stressed, we are more flexible. When we are more flexible, we see more possibilities. When we see more possibilities, we are able to be more thoughtful – to respond rather than react. When we respond rather than react, others feel welcomed and safe. When others feel safe, they don’t need to threaten or posture. When others don’t threaten, we stop being frightened. When we are not frightened, we don’t see enemies all around us (and within us!) When we don’t see enemies everywhere, we dare to love. When we love, the kin-dom of shalom blossoms where we are.
As we move into longer darkness on our way toward the solstice, I offer again the prayer I offered on my Facebook page:
In all times of trial,
in all times of despair,
I invoke the protection of
the nine blessings of non-violence:
the patience of wisdom,
the strength of trust,
the generosity of hope,
the compassion of kindness,
the laughter of humility,
the love that casts out fear,
the reconciliation of enemies,
the welcome of strangers,
the clarity of truth.
Nine blessings to enfold, inspire, and sustain
this day, for all time, beyond time.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011, 2015, Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE: If you haven’t seen my Facebook page, please check it out. (It is called Immram Chara.) I post there almost every day. If you are willing (and haven’t already), please Like the page…and pass it along to friends. Thank you.
NOTE 2: The piece immediately above is an improvisational piece (quilted and mounted on artist’s canvas). It is 14″ x 18″ and will go up next week in the Etsy shop. It includes the seven chakra colors and the power stones associated with them.