Archives for category: non-violence

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Photo of “small pebble” courtesy of K. Farwell

 

I think it is time to write again. My emotions have been dashed about by forceful waves of fate these days. There have been almost constant reminders of suicide and the importance of reaching out with compassion to each other. Yet, at the same time there have been acts of violence, fear, and frustration erupting in my own state and all over the world. My spiritual studies have told me to hang on—-to “rejoice” in the moment , to go within to reach God’s peace and sanctuary so that I can, hopefully, share that with those who inhabit the world around me near and far.  Wisdom through the ages has taught “as it is within, so it is without.” It makes sense, then, that I must focus on creating a “within” that is worth sharing and then find ways to share it so that it can influence my outer world.

I must admit at times, this seems like an impossible task. At others, it feels like a “pacifist cop out”—-it seems too easy to “hide within” when part of me wants to actively fight for what is right and good. But, you see, that is what most people spreading violence and hatred among one another believe they are doing—-fighting for what is good and right. At times like this I find solace in words of wisdom I find in the Psalms and in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Both focus on harboring and reverencing a “God within”—-and using that “Higher Power” to direct one’s efforts in working on improving one’s own character defects and bad habits so that one can be aware of, willing,  and able to carry out God’s will. There are strong messages of reconciliation in both books—-an emphasis on the need change our own behavior and to make amends for our own wrongs before we judge others or lash out against others.

So, today I must remember that I am a small pebble in a big ocean and that my mission, today and always, is to focus on improving my relationship with God and so I can radiate love, compassion, and peace to help build God’s kingdom on earth one molecule at a time. May God bless and keep you.

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Our Food Bank Truck

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

 

This is hard to write. Re-entering harsh reality after being on vacation, both mentally and physically, has been challenging. There are refugees all over the world desperately needing help; there are children fleeing live-threatening conditions  at our own borders who also desperately need help but are not getting it because they cannot technically be classified as refugees—————and we, as a people, cannot seem to view these human beings, these children,  as anything more than representations of our own political beliefs.  There are fears they will bring untreatable life-threatening illnesses into the United States; just as we did to the Native Americans when we immigrated into what was to become our nation rather than theirs mostly due to our own greed. I suppose we could send them all back home, protect our borders, and try to live with ourselves knowing we sent them back to violence, rape, and death.

I have been participating in several groups who are wrestling with the topics of suffering and love. Both are viewed by some as doors to spiritual transformation. I agree with that. There are some who believe the majority of our suffering is caused by our own need to control everything to combat our own feelings of being overwhelmed and afraid that we can’t control things. Twelve-steppers believe you have to hit bottom, get sick and tired of being sick and tired before you are willing to change your life by entering a spiritual transformation process.  I acknowledge that the suffering in my own life has, for the most part, been caused by my need to control things. I also believe that need for control was caused by being hurt as a child and learning to do whatever I could to avoid additional pain and hurt. Some of my avoidance behaviors were not healthy, and they did, indeed, create suffering.

However, I do not believe the children stuck at our borders hoping to be allowed to live in what for them is a safer, less violent environment are suffering because of their own control issues and consequent poor choices. I think they are suffering because they have left their families and loved ones and are trying to escape being hurt or killed. If I think their suffering is their own spiritual path and that I need to let them experience it without my interference, then I am not being loving or compassionate as my own spiritual transformation process is teaching me to be. Nor can I help myself or others by deliberately seeking   or causing suffering so they or I can be “more spiritual” or “closer to God.”

So, I see pain, sickness, war, jealousy, greed—–all the evils of mankind being manifested all around me. I have to wonder what can I personally do in response to this overwhelming cloud that hangs over us. The answer is, for me, I cannot control or solve these overwhelming problems myself. I must ask God to help me and all of mankind to love one another and  to be compassionate. I must ask God to show us how we can share his love rather than contributing to the evil that is alive and well in our world. To borrow one of recovery’s key phrases, I have to “let go and let God.” That does not mean I do not have the responsibility to do what I can to understand God’s will, to help carry out God’s will, and to treat others with love and compassion. We are taught to love one another as ourselves and to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.  That is part of God’s will I already know about. I will continue to ask for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” we sang so often in Sunday School as children. Marching off to battle seemed to be the main message. Now as an adult I cringe at the image of promoting battles and wars. So this morning, I looked up the lyrics to that hymn. Thankfully, God called my attention to the verse that says we are united in hope and charity. Perhaps that is a clue as to how we can begin to carry out God’s will.  God bless and keep you.

Peace Symbol

Image courtesy of digitalart,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today has been an unusual day. Sleet has been falling from gray, overcast skies. There is a sheen of ice visible on walkways and roads.  Droplets of water are frozen on my clothesline. Through all of this winter mess, an occasional soft roll of thunder can be heard overhead.

I turned my television on this morning to check the weather report, and after a brief presentation of the weather, all I heard was “Crimea this” and “Crimea” that. I always thought Crimea was a place in history books where Florence Nightingale actually practiced nursing for a few years. Now it is a word that is a bit too real in the present moment. With the word “Crimea” other words are being spoken:  words  like “war” and “aggression.” I pray daily for peace, but I think a collective effort would be more productive. Perhaps our world needs to step back and take a deep breath and re-direct its energies to peace for all.

Naturally, my thoughts turn to what I can do to promote peace. I can continue to focus on developing a strong spiritual “inner core”—–and I can share that with others with whom I come in contact. I need to share God’s love so my actions radiate peace and concern rather than anxiety and resentment so I can cultivate calmness and peace rather than discord and stress in my interactions with others.

Watching the news this morning was not quite as bad as watching the Bay of Pigs crisis unfold on our family’s old black and white television. It was, however,  reminiscent of that scary point in time.  I’m not ready to go out and start digging a bomb shelter. I’m not ready to turn into “Henny Penny” and run around proclaiming the “sky is falling.” I am, however ready for peace on earth. I am ready for each one of us to realize that we are all one, and in fighting others who we call “enemy” we are fighting just other versions of ourselves. I am ready for the world to realize God’s mercy, grace,  love and compassion extend to everyone—–including our President, those who are killing each other in the Sudan, the man this morning’s newscasters are referring to as the “Russian dictator,” the children next door, the elderly lady two houses up, the homeless man or woman trying to keep warm, or even those who abuse others, be they human or animal.

My faith has repeatedly taught me not to judge others. If I am honest about all the wars my country has fought, I cannot afford to be judgmental about another country’s acts of aggression. I should not judge such actions even if I were a citizen of a country that had never been aggressive itself.

So, I am back to my question. What can I as an individual do to promote peace. I can pray for peace and love to prevail. I can live peacefully so the “ripple effect” from my little corner of the world will promote peace rather than aggression. The world’s situation is one of those things referred to in the Serenity Prayer that I cannot change, but if I work on changing myself and my actions, the only things I actually can change,  maybe that one little change will have a “butterfly” affect on the rest of the world. Maybe not, but at least I can live with myself knowing I have tried. God bless and keep you.

world peace

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This afternoon’s blog is written in response to the following quote from the Dalai Lama:

“Peace in the world depends on peace of mind, and peace of mind depends on an awareness that all human beings are members of a single family, despite the variety of beliefs, ideologies and political and economic systems. ”

365 Dalai Lama Daily Advice from the Heart, 2001, p. 176,  London: Harper Collins Pub. (Element).

I have thought about , marched for, prayed for, and even experienced peace. I can easily accept it is based on a foundation of peace of mind.  I have, however, never considered that one’s peace of mind depends on a sense of belonging to the family of humankind. Perhaps, I have seen too many dysfunctional families who seem determined to sabotage any chance of experiencing peace of mind. And yet, that sense of family belonging  is strong and often hangs on tenaciously even when family based stress abounds.

If I am able to truly envision and accept my relatedness to all humans it should make me less likely to want to harm another human being. I am not so sure about it creating peace of mind. It is easy to believe being at peace with oneself would in turn create world peace. However, the thought of being related to absolutely every human can be quite discomforting. Doing so means I have to identify with the evil as well as the good in people. Identifying, or trying to, with persons like Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson makes me extremely uncomfortable. That is because if I accept being one with Adolf and Charley  it means I  have to admit to myself that I have the capacity to be just as evil. Succinctly put, owning the “evil” part of my humanness has not, so far, given me one moment of “peace of mind.”

I know I am not supposed to judge others. I know I am supposed to love and forgive everyone. I know I intellectually believe that all of us are one in Christ and in God’s love. But I am really having to work on acknowledging my oneness with notoriously evil people. I am not saying I am not capable of evil; I have had evil thoughts from time to time, and I have done things in my past while I was intoxicated that could have easily harmed or killed others….if it were not for God’s grace I might have done so. That makes me as capable of killing another human as Adolf and Charley. I just don’t like to look at myself that way.  Doing so reminds me of the power of God’s love and forgiveness. It makes me “right-sized.” It makes me less judgmental—-and, in turn, I suppose less likely to be “un-peaceful” in my actions towards others.  If  God can forgive me, who am I to condemn others?

Food for thought on a snowy, cold, afternoon with more of the same on its way. I am grateful to be in a warm, dry home. I pray for those who are not safe, for the homeless, and for those in Lui (Sudan) where heavy fighting is taking place (accessed 1/5/14 at: http://luinetwork.diocesemo.org/profiles/blogs/updates-from-lui). I am sitting in a comfortable chair typing on a laptop about peace while other humans in the Sudan are in real danger of being killed. God bless and keep them and you.

How often we repeat the words attributed to St. Francis…..to make us an instrument of God’s peace?  But what does that mean in the context of day-to-day living? Does it mean we refuse to bear arms? That we withdraw from all wars and battles? That we turn the other cheek? That when someone posts something ugly on Facebook we make a comment that points out the flaw(s) in the post’s logic? Does it mean we never express anger or discord?

In my search for answers to these and similar questions, I have spent the last two hours “surfing” through various articles and excerpts regarding Gandhi’s viewpoints.   Two specific sources were helpful to me in my search for what it means to be an instrument of peace. From these articles I determined that to be an instrument of peace one needs to view all of life as “one entity”,  be centered in love expressed in service, and that peace can be attained first by changing one’s inner self as reflected in changed thoughts and actions. In other words,  spiritual love becomes the essential driving force of both one’s thoughts and actions.

Which brings me back full-circle to the wisdom expressed in St. Francis’ prayer……when you consider the concepts voiced in that prayer you are essentially describing how to be an instrument of peace:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace! That where there is hatred, I may bring love. That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness. That where there is discord, I may bring harmony. That where there is error, I may bring truth. That where there is doubt, I may bring faith. That where there is despair, I may bring hope. That where there are shadows, I may bring light. That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted. To understand, than to be understood. To love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”

p. 833, The Book of Common Prayer

Helpful Reading/Cited Articles:

The first was an article by Nathan Funk found in  (Gandhi Marg, October-December 2002,Volume.24, No.3):

Transformation: Peace through the Power of Love

The final approach to peacemaking investigated in the peace paradigms course is the transformation paradigm, a paradigm that focuses on the centrality of education, cultural change, and spirituality in all genuine attempts to make peace a reality in daily life. From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, peacemaking is not only an effort to end war, remove structural violence, or establish the presence of external value conditions. It is also a profoundly internal process, in which the transformation of the individual becomes a metaphor for and instrument of broader changes. Transformation, then, involves the cultivation of a peaceful consciousness and character, together with an affirmative belief system and skills through which the fruits of “internal disarmament” and personal integration may be expressed. Transformation unites doing with being, task with experience. Inner freedom is felt in the midst of action, and sacred ideals are personalized for application by the individual. Peaceful behaviour is learned behaviour, and each individual is a potential and needed contributor to a culture of peace.

From the standpoint of the transformation paradigm, spirituality implies insight into the deep interconnectedness and sacredness of all levels and compartments of reality. It is innate to the person, and may be understood as a universal human “attempt to grow in sensitivity to self, to others, to non-human creations and to God” that recognizes and seeks to accommodate the presence of the divine in all actions and relations. Recognition of this divine presence and claim begets spontaneous loyalty, which cannot be restricted by boundaries of religion, race, class, or gender. This universal loyalty, in turn, inspires actions born of loving commitment to the wholeness and integrity of creation. The personal has become the political in the most creative and inclusive sense possible, as we seek to make public life reflect non-partisan spiritual value. We become present in the moment, yet responsible for a shared and hopeful future inspired by the injunction, “If you want peace, be peace. Be an instrument of peace.”

accessed t/22/13 at http://mkgandhi.org/nonviolence/peace%20paradigms.htm

 

The second helpful article (Kapur, 2012) is best summarized in its’ abstract:

Religion gave meaning and direction to the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and

Martin Luther King, Jr.; it inspired their belief in the unity of life and

commitment to the way of love. Service to humanity was part and parcel of

their religion. The deeper they delved into serving society, the more they grew

in their spiritual awareness. In the process, they became less self-centered and

more spirit-centered. Their vision of a nonviolent social order was based on the

assumption that individual transformation and social transformation are

interrelated. Their lives are a demonstration of the fact that personal and social

transformation are interconnected and interdependent

Kapur, S. 2012,  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Liberation of self and society,  Gandhi Marg Quarterly Journal of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, 34, p. 5.

accessed May 22, 2013 at

http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/Gandhi%20Marg_April_June2012.pdf)