Walking the Walk

Taking Steps on the Path to Compassionate Living

Haven't Quite

I begin to write on a night I had planned to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I know now that I won’t. I begin to write without knowing exactly what I have to say, except that, having not written in nearly a month, a very full month personally, nationally, and globally, I know there is much that needs to be expressed.

Over that month I’ve been observing the world as new cracks form, fracturing relationships, and old cracks deepen and widen.

I feel cracked open myself. Last night the drawing that moved from my hands onto paper was a heart cracked open, loosely tied back together with strings. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. My life is unfolding just as it is meant to; I know that. I left a job at the end of last year to pursue new work that beckons me. I know I am on the right path as I transition to different ways of working and being. Yet I feel the growing pains as the shell of What Was breaks open so that What Will Be may emerge. I feel those pains as I try to figure out my new place, experimenting with new work and new rhythms for my days.

Thus far I haven’t quite learned how to put the exercise that used to be part of my regular routine into my days...perhaps because I haven’t quite got a new routine yet. I haven’t quite given my body the attention it deserves and needs. I haven’t quite mastered fitting everything from my to-do list into a day. I haven’t quite gotten myself to the level of de-clutter and organization that I’d like (I’m actually not even close yet). I haven’t quite figured out how to create balance between the time I am now working alone and the time I need to soak in the presence of others. I haven’t quite found the right mix between spending time with people dear to me and meeting new people who, even if wonderful, take a lot of energy from this introvert soul; the mix has been especially off in the last few days. I haven’t quite listened to the voice that tells me that, even in a time when there is so much work to do, it’s OK to rest. I haven’t quite figured out how to ask for what I need and trust that I will receive it. I haven’t quite… I haven’t quite… I haven’t quite…

Last year I wrote about the process of re-membering:

"Re-membering.

Bringing ourselves back to fuller embodiment, finer manifestation, deeper knowledge of Who We Are.

As we remember ourselves, as we see ourselves, we reclaim our gifts and share them more generously; we claim and accept our shadow. As we remember, we root ourselves more deeply in abundance and stretch towards the Light of Being, allowing the Light to flow through us and grow through us."

I have a lot of re-membering to do. At this particular moment I haven’t quite figured out how to do it. And so in my haven’t-quite-ing, I'm trying to express my need for some help.

Over the last couple of days I shared with someone I’d call a friend a struggle that has plagued me over many years. An interaction between us triggered the pain, a pain I don’t voice too often for fear that even if I express the need, it will not be met. When I have taken the risk of telling trusted friends about this tender spot, the response has been mixed. Some people have been able to offer the care I’ve asked for; others have not. This time, thus far, the response has been silence. I try to tell myself that this is OK, but I haven’t quite believed that yet. Another friend emailed me today and, without knowing about my present ache, helped to alleviate some of the discomfort. I am grateful.

As I write, it seems clear that my haven’t-quites are doing a number on me. Recently as I was talking to a class about major social change, I reminded my students that change takes time. I asked them to think about the arc of their own personal evolution. That seemed to resonate. Deep change, whether personal or societal, takes time. 

Currently, I am in the midst of significant life changes. Perhaps I need to heed my own words about the slow work of growth. Perhaps I need to be patient with myself and my litany of haven’t-quites. Haven’t-quites  are not the same as failure. Haven't-quites, if handled with care, are opportunities to learn. 

Just today I reminded a friend to be gentle with herself. Perhaps I and my haven’t-quites also deserve gentleness. And perhaps I can be understanding of others who have their own haven’t-quites to deal with, even if I don’t know what they are.

So tonight I go to bed hours later than planned, ready to snuggle up to my haven’t-quites, to love and care for them while they live with me, to patiently nurture them through their own transformation as they slowly become haves.

Inspired by Masters of Nonviolence

My heart is filled with gratitude as I begin to write. My mind is filled with hope. My body is energized, buzzing with the positive reverberations of music created together, harmonies that only happen when multiples voices unite in song.

I spent the last several hours at a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I spent the last several hours with people who are deeply concerned about our country, about the well-being of every single person who lives in it. I spent the last several hours with people who are not only concerned, but are working for social, environmental, economic, and racial justice, and doing so through nonviolence.

I spent the last several hours listening to the words of my fellow Louisvillians, as they echoed Dr. King’s words and brought them into the realities of today.

It has been almost two months since I’ve written here. Two months in which I’ve left a full-time position, gone to Standing Rock in the midst of voices both affirming and disparaging the decision, spent a month with one sort of illness or another, sometimes one on top of other, retreated to a cabin in the woods, started teaching two classes on nonviolence, had a 29-year-old relative die of cancer and a new baby born into the family. I’ve refinanced my house and started to live into the new life I seek to create.

 

In my cabin in the woods, where I finally slowed down enough to listen to the quiet and insistent voice of Being, one of the clear messages I received, not for the first time, was that I must write. I must create.

Despite that, beyond what I’ve written above, I don’t much want to write my own words today. They’re still working their way through me, through channels that feel as jumbled as the tilling, loosening, and overturning going on in our country and world right now.

“We have arrived at the Revolution,” our MC said today. I believe her.

I want to be a part of the tilling that uproots those things that seek to choke out Life, pulls what needs to be cleared to make space for Love and Truth, prunes what’s growing out of control, and plants with tender care what will flourish and nourish us all.

I know that during the digging, uprooting, pruning, and planting processes, my words will come out eventually...when it’s time. So today, instead of trying to force my words, I will share some of the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King that I hope and believe will not only guide my writing, but also all that Life garden work.

From Gandhi’s “The Doctrine of the Sword”:

I do believe that, where there is a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…

But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.

Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evildoer, but it means putting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.

I invite even the school of violence to give this peaceful noncooperation a trial. It will not fail through its inherent weakness. It may fail because of poverty of response.

From Dr. King’s “Loving Your Enemies,” 1957:

Returning hate for hate only multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you…But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”

From Dr. King’s “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam,” 1967:

When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

From Dr. King’s “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”:

…the inseparable twin of racial injustice [is] economic injustice.

…any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of [people] and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried. It well has been said: “A religion that ends with the individual, ends.”

Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. Love, for Gandhi, was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking for so many months…I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

…nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist.

…it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.

…the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing evil.

…[it includes] a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back.

…it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit.

…it is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice.

Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistent on community even when one seeks to break it. Agape is a willingness to sacrifice in the interest of mutuality… I can only close the gap in broken community by meeting hate with love.

May you be as inspired and challenged by these words as I am. Blessings. 

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