Monday, August 21, 2017

Medicine For Our Hurting Hearts


Today had its joys and breathtaking moments my husband and I joined friends and saw the full total eclipse!and it had it's moments which hurt my heart. One, I have a sick family member and that's an ongoing deep sorrow right now. And, secondly, I was witness to several adults my age reacting in a hurtful way on Facebook to a young person I love.

I was present for Allison's birth 30 years ago and know that Allison grew up in Oregon. And I also know her to be beautiful, bright, brave, big-hearted, and deeply grounded in values rooted in integrity, compassion, truth, and love. Because my other friends appeared to perceive that this young person was going after them rather seeing the larger picture she was expressing, every fact she presented, every resource she offered, was reacted to with dismissal and as being something coming from a "moonbat" and other disrespectful names that were directed at her. One of my older friends, who I love and whose family helped rescue me from my violent mother when they took me into their home for the summer of 1971, went on to react to the whole thread of comments with saying, "Personally, I take great glee in their misery." I have to hope that he did not truly mean this. What I do know for certain is that who Allison is, and what she was communicating, was unable to be seen or heard by these older friends of mine. My heart hurts...

I also recognize that this experience of defensive walls and flying accusations and opinions rather than facts are just a microcosm of what is happening all across our nation today. Families are being torn apart, friendships are ending, and Americans are being divided up into idiot Trump voters/conservatives/Republicans or idiot liberals/Democrats/socialist commie. Etc., etc. We either love/hate Trump or we love/hate Obama and Nancy Pelosi. We love America or we hate America. That is the story many of us are repeatedly exposed to and have ingested into our beings.

Before my mother's miraculous treatment for her mental illness, for many years she was a daily Fox News watcher and took the words of Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, etc. literally and came to believe that I had to love George W. Bush and be a Republican or she could have nothing to do with me and her only grandchildren because I wasn't a real American and I hated our country. This was among the reasons why my mother would not see me and her grandchildren for 14 years.......

The days of Walter Cronkite are over. Today it's very often about opinion, rather than facts, and whose side you are on. And damn everyone who isn't on the right side! Or so the polarizing propaganda goes. A new progressive Facebook friend recently reacted very angrily at me when I offered a response to something he posted encouraging him to not use subtle or overt forms of name calling and other forms of demonizing those he disagrees with. He immediately unfriended me. So anyone who thinks that it's just those _______ (fill in the blank with liberals or conservatives) who are on the attack is wrong. It's coming from all sides.

But this is not the core of what Allison was communicating today. And this is also not what my dear beloved friend, Lynn, was communicating. Both Allison and Lynn were attempting to respond to reactions by my same aged friends, who vehemently disagreed with an analysis I had posted, by offering verifiable facts and also inviting a conversation that was grounded in empathic awareness and understanding of the Black experience and what violence, oppression, and racism looks like and feels like to them today and throughout our American history. The article was entitled "The Whole Point of Confederate Monuments Is To Celebrate White Supremacy" https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/16/the-whole-point-of-confederate-monuments-is-to-celebrate-white-supremacy/?utm_term=.afbf8de2bcbc.

There is something I share in common with the three friends, and a fourth friend a of friend, who so fiercely disagreed with the article about white supremacy, although I'm not sure that they actually read the analysis. What we share in common is that we all grew up in Grosse Pointe, a wealthy suburb of Detroit, in the 50's and 60's. There were no people of color in Grosse Pointe during the years of our childhoods, and it was implicitly and explicitly known that Blacks WERE NOT WELCOME. The chief of police actually needed to sit in Martin Luther King's lap in the car to protect him when he came to speak at our high school. Please go here for the full article: http://www.grossepointenews.com/Articles-Schools-i-2017-01-05-263361.114135-Remembering-Kings-visit.html. Three weeks later Dr. King was assassinated. 

We were impacted by what we experienced as children. We did not hear adults talking about the need to integrate. We did not hear the truth behind the Detroit race riots or why Blacks were so desperate. For so many of us growing up in Grosse Pointe, there was no exposure to experiences, belief systems, and values that would have taught us empathy, respect, compassion, connection, equality, and caring for people of color. Sure, there were charities and donations made and civic work engaged in for the poor. I have vague memories of brief exposure of some work with those poor negro children. However, that did not cleanse us as vulnerable children of the unspoken racism and exclusion and cultural stories of "being better than" those "Others" that penetrated our young hearts, minds, spirits, and souls.

It is hard and courageous work to be white and face the impact of immersion as children that kept us separate and fearful rather than connected, equal, and in relationship with those who were of different races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. Most of us who grew up in Grosse Pointe were deprived of that experience. I felt shame when, through diversity trainings and counseling and other experiences, I began to uncover parts of myself that I did not know existed shame for the implicit biases, prejudices, fears, and sense of being "better than" that I uncovered within myself as I did the work of lifting the veils of my ignorance and illusions. It was painful coming face to face with the racism I had ingested that I had not known was there. And, this is also the precise inner work that has set me free to be more whole, and to be more kind.

Some will do this work, and some will not. Some, like my friend Lynn, is of Mexican ancestry and knows in her bones what it is like to be discriminated against. Some, like young Allison, have been so brave from their earliest days of growing up in Oregon and questioning and facing and digging deeply into everything. Settling for the status quo was not in her courageous nature. No, both Allison and Lynn, in their own unique ways, have been on, or embarked on, journeys which compelled them to cultivate a profound commitment to truth. I also embody that commitment. And once that commitment is made ― the profound commitment to truth there is no turning back. What often follows is that the bottom of the world as we have known it falls out again and again and again, each time revealing more blind spots and greater truths.

Most of all, there is this capacity to allow one's heart to break open. This is the Great Healer, the Great Awakener, this capacity to allow one's heart to break open. How can we come to see what is painful in our own deeper experiences and that of others if we are not willing to allow our hearts to break open again and again? The great gift is that this clearing of space in our hearts is what ushers in greater love. This is when things begin to come together, to grow clear, to compel one to follow the thread of new teachings and new lessons and greater consciousness wherever they may lead. There is great humility, courage, and a fierce caring about life that is cultivated when we pursue what we do not know. And allow our hearts to break open. 

Our greatest strength lies in the gentleness and tenderness of our hearts. Rumi

Perhaps one of the most important questions any of us can ask ourselves is, "Is this true?" The asking makes possible the capacity to connect the dots that are woven through so much. In lifting the veils of our not knowing, my experience is that we are gradually able to make connections that we had been blind to before. Now we see and are able to connect the dots between why there are confederate statues, why Flint's water was poisoned (and other places), why Detroit's schools are disintegrating and rat infested, why the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was allowed to occur, why the ancient Sacred sites at Standing Rock were destroyed to clear land for pipelines, why the 2008 financial crisis occurred, why Obama protected those behind the financial crisis, and on and on and on.

This is not about being a Republican or a Democrat (of which I am neither). This is about being a human being. A whole human being, a person who is capable of great love. Because, rather than dismissing something new as some liberal bullshit meant to destroy America, the other choice is to consider that maybe there is something new that is being offered that holds value. A new perspective which falls outside of our familiarity and our known world. I believe there are opportunities each and every one of us are given every day to awaken, to see more clearly, to care more deeply.

And we can do this by asking again and again and again, "What is it like to be you?"

And we wonder and increasingly care about the impact of our actions and belief systems on others. As Pema Chödrön states, "We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts."

And as we come to see where once we were blinded, we come to hold deep reverence for the wisdom expressed by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he stated "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

And we become moved to join with all those who are committed to transforming all that harms within ourselves, our nation, and the planet into that which heals and helps. The roots of what Allison shared in her responses today, and what more and more of us are speaking to, is this great commitment to addressing and lessening the preventable suffering that so many endure. And that is causing such great destruction to our Sacred Earth Mother. This is the deep spiritual ground upon which many of us walk. And we can no longer be silent in the face of this suffering. "It is no longer enough to be compassionate. You Must Act." ― the Dalai Lama

As the Dalai Lama has also affirmed, "Kindness is my religion."

And kindness is my religion. And kindness is the root on my politics, my parenting, the work I do in the world, and my connections with all whose paths cross mine. I seek to live my life as a prayer and as a reflection of someone dedicated to alleviating the suffering in the world. That is my commitment. This is also the path of so many who are often demonized today, and who have been demonized throughout history, because we come to illuminate the darkness of oppression and violence and neglected pain in our hearts and those of others. This is the doorway into learning to simply see one another and be kind and act out of that kindness.

This is what the world needs from each of us. This is not about being a Democrat or Republican or any other difference that has been used to conquer and divide us. This is about refusing to be pulled into the politics of polarization and instead inviting conversations and connections rooted in explorations of what is it like to be you? It is about seeing the suffering of others and acting to alleviate that suffering. We are all connected, all in this together. 

And there is no sweeter medicine than to awaken to this deep conscious awareness that we are all part of this greater whole. As Indigenous Peoples have always known, we are all related, all one, all part of the sacred whole. So let's be kind to one another. And when we react out of our fearfulness and anger and say or do something that is less than skillful, let's catch ourselves and intervene. It is never too late to grow our heart muscles stronger and stronger. It is never too late to grow into our greater wholeness. Then, even when older friends attack a young friend, I do not have to attack back. I can invite healing. And if that healing is not welcomed, either way I know that I will remain a force for kindness in the world. And what stronger medicine is there than that?

Bless us all ― Molly