Rethinking Harm

 

I am these days, as dare I say all of us are, aware of, alert to, and afraid of, lots and lots of what is happening in our world. Lots of what feels out of my hands, and certainly nothing I would ever knowingly create.

And yet, here I am. Here we are. Now what?

Let’s start with the obvious, and then make our way to the not so obvious. There’s a lot of harm going on in the world. That’s obvious. From here on out is where we start to get into the ‘not so obvious.’

While it’s easy, maybe even natural, to believe that someone else is causing the harm and that we are the innocent bystanders caught up in something not of our own making, what if this is not the whole story? What if there is way more to this narrative than meets the eye? What if we have more responsibility in the harms being caused in the world than we would like to admit?

This can be hard to hear. Offensive even. Especially if you have never considered how your state of being contributes to the ways of the world. But hear me out. To be with this in a meaningful way, you have to stretch your lens and be willing to see the underlying connection of all things.

Let’s start with an ancient perspective on how all things are connected. Since the dawn of at least recorded history, all of our wisest and well-known teachers have espoused some version of “As within, so without.” In other words, whatever is going on within you, me, or us, is exactly what we will find going on outside of us in the world.

For instance, maybe you never have or never would murder someone, but have you ever felt a rage so deep within yourself towards another that felt beyond your control? Or perhaps you would never rape someone, but have you ever tried to control another person and get them to do what they didn’t want to do? Maybe you’ve never created a war, but do you ever go to war with other people in your own mind?

If you’re willing, there are lots of ways to play with how your inner life is connected to the outer life. But it takes a kind of openness and compassion on your part to look at what is outside of you that you find deplorable, and to see if you can find it in yourself. To root out the harm in your inner world in the service of transforming that harm into something else for the outer world.

But I will tell you from firsthand experience, it’s not easy to get this honest with yourself. Perhaps the hardest thing we will ever do as human beings is to look at the places in ourselves we hide from. The very same places that we will disown by projecting them onto somebody else. As in, that’s horrible, I would never do that. Only to find upon closer examination, that in your own way, yes you do.

Because this can be so tricky to be with, I offer you something a very wise woman offered to me years ago. It seems that in the port town she lives in, the war ships would come in and out. This greatly disturbed her and left her feeling powerless and angry. So she made up a little prayer and it goes like this: “May no harm come to you, may no harm come from you.”

I have found this prayer to be a beautiful way to defuse the inner fears and hostilities that can arise in me in response to a world bringing harm. In the meantime, it creates the space I need to rethink how I might be, in my own way, bringing harm. If even ‘just’ through my own thoughts and inner reactions.

Every Single Bit Of It

 

“All of it gets to be here,” is a practice I come in and out of using. Right now, I am back in.

I both love and hate this practice. I both resist it, and know it to be true. Beyond true, I know it is the directest route to healing my own body/mind separation, the splits that divide us as people, along with the false personas we mistakenly claim as being who we are because we don’t feel we have a right to be all of who and what we are.

This is what gets to be here in my world. The wasps and the ladybugs that infest my home each year. The people defrauding our government, and the ‘entrepeneurs’ bringing us closer and closer to the brink of extinction with their GMO’s, chemicals, surveillance technologies and fake foods. The policies that deny anyone free will over their own body. The people I feel have hurt me. Any and all of the ways that I believe the ‘wrong’ things are in charge.

The list goes on, and it’s enormous! But all of it, every single bit of it, gets to be here. Day after day. Year after year. It’s maddening to include what I don’t want to be here. And frightening. It can feel depressing and risky to believe, to know, that it all gets to be here. That pain that won’t resolve. The lingering illness. That unresolved conflict. The corporation bringing harm.

All of it gets to be here.

I am in no way suggesting that I want these things, like them, or am giving them a free pass. What I am suggesting is that when I take this attitude my life changes for the better. This sounds hard to do. Impossible even. You might even be wondering, Why bother? What’s in it for me? In a word, PEACE. A literal oasis in a desert of fighting against everything we do not want, but that is here nonetheless.

Think about it. How often are you fighting something within your own mind? All the things you don’t want to be here. All the ways that you resist and try and manage ‘what is.’ The weather you don’t like. The traffic you rage against. The annoying co-worker or boss you wish would just go away. A family member not supporting you. The government or a political party that just makes you want to scream.

On and it goes. All day, every day. Big and little wars within that go on to create our outer wars in the places we inhabit together. For as the old adage goes, “As within, so without.”

If this makes any sense to you, give it a try in low stakes situations. For example, ‘let’ the weather you don’t like be here. ‘Allow’ another person’s bad mood to be here. ‘Accept’ that those you disagree with, even vehemently, get to be here.

Instead of looking around at how the world will fall apart because it’s not going according to your plan, watch what happens inside of you when you can honestly and truly let what is here, be here.

Across & Between Species

 

I am talking with a friend who lives in the Southwest and she is telling me of the powerful encounters she is having with the wild horses who abound there.

With every word she speaks, instructions are being offered for how it is that beings who inhabit very different realities can stand side by side one another with not only a sense of decency but more importantly, Reverence. If even for just a moment, transcending, or at the very least bridging, the “apparent”differences. Communing, if you will, beyond the distinctions.

With these wild and majestic animals, there are no command performances. No demands to be placed upon them to acquiesce. She cannot “get” them to bend to her will or agenda, no matter her intention. Wise woman that she is, she does not even try. Choosing instead, for a far less egocentric way of being with these magnificent creatures by “merely” allowing a side-by-side existence.

She is alert for, present to, and allowing of, their right to take the lead. What a concept given the knee jerk dominance the human mind can slip into. That place where we believe that we are in charge. Of course we are in charge. For we know best. We always know best.

At times the wild ones I speak of are so immersed in their own experience that they have absolutely no interest in her. She lives with that, despite what her own desires of the moment might be. At other times, they intensely seek her out. Literally demanding that she be with them on their terms. No distractions, they seem to say. And absolutely no imposition of her will on the exchange will be allowed.

For it is They, and Some Deeper Intelligence that is in charge here.

It takes a lot, she says, of her and she believes, of them, to be in such open and close proximity to such a vastly different being. Such vastly different experiences, sensibilities and needs present in these encounters. And yet, in these rare and precious moments, there is a leaning into being both open to something more, while simultaneously remaining sovereign.

There is no entering this threshold, this “time out of time” space in the typical ways of the human mind. There is only a kind of being with that makes an opening such as this even possible.

Could we not take a page from this scene in our dealings with one another? Could we not recognize the tremendous effort, respect and awe it requires to be with another person where their unique experiences are honored, while we remain sovereign to ours?

Especially when we believe different things and cannot find our way to understanding.

Opening & Closing Doors

 

Back in the spring, we had three doors replaced in our home. Partly, my husband wanted to continue to insure a net positive home. And yes, it would also open up the view. But mostly, he felt that having a tighter seal would keep the ladybugs out of the home he had worked so hard in designing to keep them out.

In any case, after the doors were installed, right from the start, I had to struggle to open and close them. I would have to use both hands to work the lever, while positioning myself, sumo wrestler style, to give myself the extra leverage I needed to lower the latch or lock it in place. Maybe I’m a wimp, but this seemed excessive to me.

My husband took a different stance. Maybe I should lift weights, he joked. It’s pilot error, he chastised. Even when one of his male friends was unable to get himself out the door after spending the night, literally trapped in our house until he found a door that had been left unlocked, still no movement on my husband’s part. No concession that something was off. What about your mother, I asked. Could she get out? Well, no. But so what, she doesn’t live here. Even the thought of someone he loved being unable to move freely in and out of our home did not move the needle.

Something was definitely not working here. Call me crazy, but in my world, one should not need to be working out at the gym to operate the doors to your own home. So why would a reasonable and rationale person cling so thoroughly to something in the face of evidence to the contrary? Why would someone deflect, project and ignore so completely the reality before them?

In a nutshell, personal investment and world view.

My husband had spent the first 3 years in our new home outraged every time the lady bugs got in because he had spent a lot of time, energy and resources making sure that would never happen. He was convinced that with these new doors, the problem would be solved. He had also spent a ton of time researching and speaking with the rep from the door company. Had even scheduled him twice to come back to make adjustments. To no avail.

Me? I had no skin in this game whatsoever. (Unless you call being able to get in and out of a door without breaking a sweat an agenda.) I hadn’t been the one to design or build the house. I had not done all the research or spent all that time on the phone. But mostly, I had no illusions about the power and the intelligence of a ladybug getting to where it wanted to go; despite my husband’s best efforts.

As you can imagine, his investment was immense. This approach just had to work. There was no other way. It just had to be the fix. Only. It wasn’t. Not only were the doors not working, there was no guarantee that they would even do what he believed they would do once the ladybugs returned in late fallFor as they say, “Life will find a way.” 

So here it is. Whenever we have decided something, spent a lot of time putting our energy into something, believing we have found the solution, invested ourselves fully in something, that’s it. There is no considering another way. No looking at other options. No considering the facts. Even when they are right in front of us. It’s the whole cognitive dissonance thing: either you factor in new information and adjust your world view. Or. You deny, ignore and take whatever comes your way and distort it enough until it justifies your decision.

The ability to shift perspectives is to admit fallibility, and is the hallmark of an open and confident person. One who understands that our limited view of the world must be acknowledged. And it ultimately speaks to someone possessing a certain kind of mental flexibility: A capacity that makes for great leaders, trustworthy friends, even-handed partners, and a sane populace.

And it is what the world is begging for right now.

So if you are up for looking at your own ability to shift perspectives, look for the places where you feel everything inside of you physically tense up when things are not as you want them to be. Look for the place inside of you where you cannot bear to hear the other side of something. And then, see what it would be like to include one piece of what it is you cannot accept. One shade of grey you have been denying. One other avenue that might, in fact, work.

P.S. My husband has shifted his perspective. Now it’s the rep who can’t square what he sold us with how it is actually playing out.

 

The Great Divide

 

Years ago, I was deeply struggling around how to live a life that made sense to me when it came to taking care of my health, and the health of my family. It was often very challenging to be making different choices around the food we were eating, and the medicine we were using, and not using, in a world that values the cheap, the quick, and the maintenance of the medical and pharmaceutical status quo. I was trying to find my footing around how to see what I was seeing and know what I was knowing, in order to stand for what felt like health to me, in the face of dissenting, and sometimes very vocal, critical opinions.

Without fighting. Without judging. Without acquiescing to what felt harmful and lacking in foresight to me.

So I went to Source. In meditation, I asked for help. The immediate, clear, and resounding message that came through was, “Nothing that separates.” It broke me. And it broke the internal ping-pong match of a struggle that I often found myself in when it came to standing for what I believed while being in the presence of another’s derision, frustration, and even anger. For you see, I never had any doubt about the choices I was making. It was only coming in contact with others who were unfamiliar or suspicious of what I was doing that rattled me.

Which is why the message, “nothing that separates” landed so thoroughly with me. And why it is that I continue to try and live up to its Truth. For there is nothing more that I want between us than to be able to live the Truth of who I am while respecting the choices that each of us feels called to make. Nothing that I want more than to be able to tap into the undercurrent of Connection that exists between all of us, and that far outweighs the individual choices we make.

Which brings me to us. I know we all see and feel the polarization of our world around how to be healthy in the time of co-vid. Whatever your feelings are on how to proceed, I would like to propose that there is an essential element missing in most conversations. That being, the shaming and coercive energy behind where you place someone on the scale of humanity based on whether or not they choose to receive a shot. And that being, the way that this issue is nefariously and dangerously dividing parent against parent, child against parent, teachers against students, friends against friends, family members against family members, and co-workers and members of a community, against each other.

We have forgotten that Real Medicine does not harm, and it does not separate. It never pits people against one another. It does not divide families. Nor does it legislate its use. Or create caste systems. That is not medicine. Real Medicine is that which heals and makes whole. It transcends agendas and attitudes of the times. And always, and in all ways, it connects, and considers all of us.

Nothing that separates. Such a tall, tall order for a human being. We all have our preferences, our beliefs, and the hills we would die on. But now, in a time of Great Divide, any and all of these personally cherished attitudes must be held, somehow, with Great Unity. Lest we perish. Lest we get our way, but lose each other. Lest we forget that there are many, many ways to live a life that brings health, care, and contribution to the Greater Whole.

If you want to know who the real enemy in the time of co-vid is, it is separation.

Can you stand for what you stand for, without standing apart? Without forcing or coercing or shaming and blaming the other side? And could we all be so visionary as to recognize that to “get our own way” in this may be the very thing that divides us all in the end? Ask yourself what you most want in the world at this time. And then, watch yourself very, very closely, being particularly attuned to when getting what you want creates a divide.