Instead of raging… love and compassion
I start from a place of wonder about humanity that after thousands of years of incident followed by rage followed by retaliation in some angry form sparking more retaliation and anger, etc. people still think anger and retaliation are not only useful but necessary. I see thousands of years of complete failure of this way of being and doing and for me it’s beyond time to try a different path.
My goal these days is to mindfully move my initial angry thought about any issue to a place of compassion. While I believe that meditation and prayer, etc. ARE doing something, I’m not saying they’re the only things to do. I’m saying do something like meditation first and then decide what action seems best from a mindset of compassion and lovingkindness. The basics of developing peaceful activism can be divided into several components:
The Energy of It
Fundamental to everything I believe about spiritual activism is my core belief that everything is energy. We are all made of energy, the energy is interconnected and the totality of the energy of all is “The One” or the Web of All Life. My approach to impacting the political and/or social landscape flows entirely from that belief. If you don’t believe we are energy or don’t believe that individual energy affects the whole, then much of my outline for change probably won’t be for you.
I also believe that the emotions and feelings and issues we hold contribute to the type of energy or the level of energy vibration we each contribute to the oneness. So for me the number one idea is “Peace Begins with Me”. Unlike many who feel “doing something” requires being out in the street or attending a meeting or calling a Congressman, I believe we can ALSO (not solely but ALSO) impact change by changing ourselves and by praying, chanting, holding a space of love and compassion.
Right now the web has enough angry, hateful people in it to be filled with violence. If the number of people vibrating compassion and love grows enough – doesn’t have to be everybody, just enough – the world will move the other way.
In the great web you are either the hate or you are the love. If you choose to be angry and hateful, you’re adding exactly the same energy and vibration to the whole as a neo-Nazi or a misogynist or a xenophobe. Hating haters just makes you a hater too. You’re either the hate or the love. Which do you choose to be?
People often seem to have a misconception that non-violence refers only to physical actions. As long as you don’t punch anybody or throw a brick, etc. you’re non-violent. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of non-violence as it is practiced in the traditions from which the concept is taken.
In yogic and other traditions, being non-violent means not only abstaining from physical altercations, it also means being non-violent in your thoughts and speech. Thinking hateful thoughts about others or slinging unkind words about in social media or in person is just as much an act of violence as hitting someone. It means being mindful enough to be non-violent in every aspect of your life.
Angry words are violent. Sarcasm is violent. Hurtful words are violent. Thinking about people in angry or sarcastic or hurtful ways is violent. Casting issues in terms of battle, wars, and struggling is violent. Labeling people as other and then referring to them derisively is violent.
If you stop and spend some time chanting or meditating or praying your way into a space of heartfulness before you start thinking up plans, or spewing your anger or heading out to “do something”, I guarantee your thoughts and words and actions will be different. This is the place from which to plan what you intend to do.
Beginning with Me
There are two main fronts on which I work on keeping my own energy as close to a vibration of love and compassion as I can. One is staying aware of any issues I have and working to release anger, fear and any other feelings that interfere with a peaceful heart. The other is to do practices that help to keep my heart open and my vibration high.
One of the ways I explore issues is based on Hew Len’s philosophy and use of the Ho’oponopono prayer. He says everything we see in the world reflects something within us. If you see a problem or an issue, something related to that problem or issue is in you. So when I find myself passionately objecting to a politician or supporters of an agenda, I begin exploring how they are reflecting something in me and then I say the prayer. [You can check out a whole series of posts about using Ho’oponopono on the Journey to Peace tab on my blog]
I find that the clearer I am of issues, the more impact I feel from practices like the lovingkindness chant (metta) or chants for opening heart. The more you hold fear or anger within, the more those feelings interfere with your ability to hold a space of peace and lovingkindness.
In the aftermath of the election I was so upset I decided to create a regular practice to build lovingkindness and compassion within me. I wrote posts several times about it, so here I’ll just say briefly that for months I spent 10 minutes saying the lovingkindness chant, and then 15 minutes singing first the Gayatri Mantra, then Om Shanti. Everyone has to decide for themselves which practices open their hearts, so I’m not saying “you must use these”, just saying these bring me beautifully into a heart space. Find what brings you to the place where your heart feels full and open and your being is full of compassion and do the ones that work for you.
Once vibrating from heart chakra, I find it impossible to stay in fear or upset or anger. The practices calmed me and slowly brought me to a place of feeling greater equanimity about world events. I also find when holding a space of love my solutions are different than what I think up from an angry place. I truly believe if all leaders of governments and movements would do their thinking and planning with compassion and love in their hearts, we’d see a different world. I also believe if we create the movements that influence them out of a place of lovingkindness, we will change our leaders.
Energy Flows Where Attention Goes
A key principle of energy is that it moves to wherever attention is focused. In the personal realm, it means if you hang around worrying about money or being unhappy about fat or complaining about how bad you feel, your attention is on the lack of money, or being fat or ill. Energy is flowing to lack and fatness and illness and creates more of those.
In the political realm it means if you hang around bitching and moaning about the terrible tax or health or environmental bill or bigotry or the horrible politicians who back them, the energy focus is on terrible bills, racism and horrible politicians and you create more of that.
You get to choose where you put your attention. You can decide how you want to think about any situation and what you want to believe. And then you can send energy toward the direction you’ve chosen. You do that by firmly holding your attention on the goal instead of on what you don’t want.
Be FOR Instead of Against
Since energy flows where attention goes you can make a difference in the world by focusing your attention on the good outcomes you hope to see. A big issue once you’ve chosen which side to give your focus, is how to frame your thoughts and actions in the positive.
In this country — and from what I can see, much of the world — we tend to take exception to a policy or circumstance and then just hang around being against it. We don’t like the president and we want him gone. We are battling against health care changes, fighting to end discrimination, struggling to stop environmental destruction. By sending energy to fighting, we perpetuate divisiveness. By keeping the attention on disliking the president, health care changes, discrimination and destruction, we keep those things happening because the energy is going to the objects of our focus.
The trick is learning how to change your focus to the positive goal. When I teach about affirmations it’s always fascinating to see how very many people (I’d say half to three-quarters of most groups) write what I call a “negation of the negative” instead of an affirmation. It’s so hard for many people to think positively that even when you ask them to write a positive statement they respond with a negative.
For instance, a person with migraines will write, “I no longer have migraines”, a statement that puts the energy and focus on having migraines instead of something positive like, “my head feels wonderful all the time” or “I am healthy from head to toe and I feel great every day.”
It’s a question of looking beyond whatever you want to change and asking yourself what you would feel like without it or how your world will look when you’ve moved beyond. Then you create a positive statement that assumes this change has already occurred. Once you have the positive view you can start asking yourself what actions you can take to move toward that vision.
In national or international issues, you still want to move from focusing attention on the negative to focusing on the positive. Instead of being “against”, be “for”. For instance, instead of being “against Trump”, be for “a shift into a nation filled with people who have compassion and belief in social justice” or for “the triumph of democratic socialism”.
To send your attention and energy in the direction of the change in the world you want to see, you have to learn to frame your thoughts — and protests — in the same kind of positive note as you would an affirmation for your own life. Constant negative statements about “stopping fascism”, “ending bigotry”, “battling xenophobia”, etc. send energy to fascism, bigotry, and xenophobia.
Possible positive turn-arounds of those thoughts:
- democracy is now world-wide and beloved by all
- all of life is divine and is given compassion, love and equal rights
- we are all one web, every nation in the world, and we fill the web with compassion, tolerance, love and peace
Once you’ve chosen to turn your attention away from what you don’t want and instead to focus on your projected goals and then re-framed your thoughts to affirm the positive, then you can explore what you can do to achieve the goal.
Though many believe praying, chanting, meditating etc. are ineffectual and do not count as “doing something”, I beg to differ. I completely understand why Maharishi Mahesh Yogi established the Global Country of World Peace, for which thousands meditate to affect the collective consciousness and move it toward peace. When people join together in holding a loving space they increase its power. We’re one. The increase impacts the whole.
Adding David Hawkins’ work in Power vs. Force, wherein he conducted studies showing how a few people with higher vibrations can impacts thousands, a relatively small number of people who raise their own vibrations high enough can impact the vibrational level or energy of the whole. To me, that is doing something very important.
For those who still feel that “doing” must involve calls and marches and signs and protests, etc., of course we can use that too. I just encourage everyone to start by moving your own consciousness into a compassionate and loving mode FIRST. Then see where your heart guides you in making an action plan.
A couple of groups thought outside the box and created protests at which people dressed as clowns showed up at neo-Nazi rallies and every time the Nazis said, “white power”, the clowns shouted, “white flour” or “white flower” and threw flour or flowers into the air. They didn’t confront, they stayed nearby but not within the circle of the rally and in each case the rally ended early because of the “clowning” around on the edges. There are so many ways you can protest without hatred, anger, confrontation or violence.
Currently I love the example of the athletes “taking a knee”. To me it’s a brilliant form of nonviolent protest and since I see kneeling as a reflection of how we often pray, it seems eminently respectful rather than disrespectful. It makes a statement with a gentle action and no words at all.
Make your plan from a place of love and you can think up endless ways to approach issues non-violently and with compassion in your heart.
Instead of raging against the machine, I encourage you to find a way to fill the machine with enough love, peace and compassion to transform it.
Leigh Gaitskill has a BA in history and an MA in sociology from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Washington School of Law.
Her spiritual journey began in 1985 when a transpersonal psychologist introduced her to meditation, metaphysics and the principle that you create your own reality with your thoughts. She went on to attend Nine Gates Mystery School, complete the Fischer-Hoffman Process, sit with a Vipassana group, study with a Hopi elder and several Huna teachers.
She began studying yoga in 1986 and in 1988 earned a teaching certificate from the teacher training program at the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. She developed classes using movements that trigger deep muscle releases and combining that with stretches.
She’s been blogging since 2011 at Not Just Sassy on the Inside (www.bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com).
Written for Rage Against the Machine Month. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Leigh know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Not Just Sassy on the Inside when you’re done.
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