LivingNonviolence 2017-10-13 11:39:00

Closing our Eyes to See More Clearly

        What do we see when we really look deeply, perhaps when we squint and try to see beyond the present place and time in which we stand? Reflecting on the way we close our eyes as a natural human response to pain, Rebbe Nachman offers a beautiful insight on what it means to see the world from within: 
So it is when we want to look at the ultimate goal of Creation, which is all good, all unity. One has to close one’s eyes and focus on one’s vision — i.e. the inner vision of the soul — on the goal. For the light of this ultimate goal is very far away. The only way to see it is by closing one’s eyes. One has to close them completely and keep them firmly shut. One may even have to press on them with one’s finger to keep them shut tight. Then one can gaze on this ultimate goal… (Likkutei Moharan 65:3).
During the past week and weeks, as in hard times always, it can be very tempting to close our eyes, as though to block out the images and the hate. There are times, indeed, when we need to do that, when we know we can’t take in any more. It is the nature of Shabbos, to step back and renew, to look beyond. On this Shabbos, whether one is praying on the streets or in the synagogue, may we all take note of a different sense of time and being, pausing in some way in order to renew. If on the streets, pause if even for a moment along the way and offer a prayer, saying to another, singing out, Shabbat shalom, not simply a greeting, but a prayer for peace expressed in the essence of a day. And if in synagogue, hold the same kavannah in saying these two simple words, and be aware in the same way of the depth of our prayerful words and song, closing eyes and imaging walking feet, legs that are praying as well as words, all moved by an inner vision of wholeness, joined together as one. When we have had enough, though, and we close our eyes in pain, may it not be to block out, but to bring in, to see ever more deeply, to envision from within.
        What do we see when we look into ourselves and into the eyes of others? Do we see the love as well as the fear, the strength and nobility as well as the weakness and vulnerability? Do we see the fear even in the eyes of the haters, wondering how the love that surrounds and joins us in resistance might surround them as well, until there is no place for their hate to go but to dissipate? It is the way of nonviolence to allow for that possibility, not to allow their hate to infect us, but in fierce opposition that in its core is nevertheless gentle, yet to love. It is the lesson and the way of making Shabbos each week, to create the change we wish to see all along the way, to live the future now.
It was the way in Charlottesville, so much fear and so much terror, the flags and chants that sickened, love and hate in fateful dance. In the coming together of so many people across so many lines, joined in love and horror, seeking good and goodness, daring to hope. Speaking truth to power, people unimagined, governors and mayors, we are challenged to imagine new coalitions and partners, young and old leading the march together, weeping and praying in synagogues, and churches and mosques, a great call and cry throughout the land. The fear is real, even as we try to look beyond. I felt panic, nausea, in seeing the images of Nazi flags, and the Confederate too, realizing the same sickness felt by African Americans, trying to see what they see, to imagine the psychic memories called forth for them. The hate makes us all as one, and so too shall love.
       I pause and pick up a small piece of glass   sitting on my desk, turning it in my fingers, feeling tears rise. I picked it up out of the grass alongside the New England Holocaust Memorial, a small fragment of shattered glass, glass that remembered shattered lives, glass etched with the numbers that were etched in the skin of so many dead. It was the second time the Memorial had been desecrated this summer, a glass panel smashed with a rock. People gathered in beautiful diversity across all lines, there to support, to stand with the Jewish community. I cried when Izzy Arbeiter spoke, telling of the horrors, a ninety-two year old survivor, instrumental in bringing the Memorial to be. I felt fear, imagining Jews in Germany, in that time and place. I closed my eyes and then opened them. I looked out across the crowd and saw the difference from then to now. We were not alone.
There among the gathered people, I saw Ralf Horlemann, the German Consul General who led our group of twelve Boston area rabbis to Germany last summer on a Journey of Remembrance and Hope. His face reflected pain, pain that he shared later after the ceremony, the pain of his own psychic memories. How can it be to see that flag? I remembered something he said to me when we visited a refugee center near Berlin. I asked him of the meaning of a postcard with the words, “Wir sind viele. Berlin gegen Nazis/We are many. Berlin against Nazis.” I wanted to know if it meant “neo-Nazis.” He looked at me and quietly asked, “does it matter?” I have since preferred not to speak of neo-Nazis, but simply of Nazis.
I had closed my eyes tightly to see beyond. Opening them again, I saw the crowd that had come to embrace our Jewish pain, Christians and Muslims and so many others, a rainbow gathering of diversity, all there together. We are challenged to see, to really see, to see ourselves in all our differences gathered as one. It is the quiet challenge of the weekly Torah portion called Re’eh (Deut. 11:26-16:17); Re’eh/See! anochi noten lifnei’chem ha’yom b’racha u’kla’lah/I am setting before you today blessing and curse. If hate is the curse, then love is the blessing. It is so easy in these days to be sucked down by the hate, to feel the pain and cry. The blessing is not only the love that flows from so many hearts. The blessing is the seeing itself. It is to close our eyes in pain and see the vision within of what might be, to open then and project the vision outward and onto the world.
There has been so much pain and sorrow so much cause for anger and lament. If we really try to see, to close our eyes and open them again, there is an equal measure of good, of hope and love in the way of our response. With eyes both open and closed, may we see the reality of both, as we make our way toward Shabbos, as it comes now and as it shall be in the future when the world is filled with Shabbat shalom. In whatever way you make Shabbos this week, may all be safe and well, joined together with each other and so many others, love surrounding, enveloped by Sabbath peace.

Victor Reinstein

Tips for Facing Crisis

Photo Credit: Leslie Mclurg, KQED In crisis situations–whether by human-made violence or nature disasters–we can draw from the tools of nonviolence to help us take care of ourselves and others with sensitivity and awareness. The following list includes activities we can do by ourselves and share with others. Center.Take deep breaths to slow your breathing and to calm your mind. Take 15 seconds and check in with your surroundings: name to yourself or outloud five things you see: a red pillow, a grey chair, a tree, etc. You might also use a mantram, a prayer word that helps to calm the mind and body. Find one in your spiritual tradition, if you wish, such as Jesus Jesus Jesus, Allah Allah Allah, Rama Rama Rama (Gandhi’s mantram, which he called the “staff of his life”), Om mani padme hum, Baruch Atah Adonai, Ave Maria, etc. You can find a great list in The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran or online at BMCM.ORG/Mantram   Check in with your body. Are you tense? Take 30 seconds, regularly, to stretch your arms, legs, notice your pace (is it unnecessarily fast?), rub your hands together, wiggle your toes, and so forth. Also, drink water. Stress can dehydrate us, fast; and as St. Exupery said in The Little Prince, “sometimes water is good for the heart.”   One-pointed attention. There are a lot of things grabbing for our attention when we are in an emergency situation. Doing several things at once will not only fragment your mind more and make you feel more afraid, it will lead to less getting done. Try to do one thing at a time. Make a list (at least mentally, if you can’t write it down), you may have to “triage” to attend to first things first. Go through it systematically. Each thing you do, give it your full attention until you have finished doing it.   Give people your one-pointed attention. Similarly, we can support the people around us who might be in a state of panic by giving them our one-pointed attention. Even if only for a short while, for whatever amount of time we have, be as present as possible with them.  Plus, practice “deep listening.” When you hear what someone really wants (and they themselves may not be quite aware), it releases a lot of tension.   Be creative, but be sensitive. In a time of crisis, we need each other and the various gifts we bring. Be creative and think of ways of building community based on what you know you can do. Help people to laugh and feel connected. But remember to be sensitive–look at what is happening, and consider what might be missing. People need safety, food, clothing, and shelter. We also need bonding, autonomy, and meaning. Don’t forget that human dignity requires all of these.   Consent. Ask before you help. “Would you like me to help you with x?” Similarly with photographs. Respect people’s dignity and autonomy, always.   Honoring our limits. There’s always something you can do, but […]

The post Tips for Facing Crisis appeared first on Metta Center.

This land is your land

I spent the last few days traveling across the country to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.

Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos.


That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October–two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.

We see the buck-naked consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption; Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and with fracking even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.


The Trump regime is doing worse than nothing; they are exacerbating the problem by rolling back the tepid regulations the Obama administration brought to bear. Trump yanks the US out of a world agreement to fix this, the Paris Accords. He gets Rick “Never-met-an-oil-well-I-didn’t-like” Perry as his Secretary of Energy and Scott “That-pollution-smells-like-money-to-me” Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency–into the ground. Trump promises to bring back dirty coal. It is Satanic, frankly, with zero regard for the children of the world, for the generations. He’s old without any discernible conscience. Who will confront him?


Michael Foster, Leonard Higgins, Ken Ward, Emily Johnston, and Annette Klapstein will. They have.


I attended Michael’s trial as much as possible, although I couldn’t be in the room in the beginning because I was scheduled as an expert witness and we were sequestered until we testified–or until the judge disallowed us…which she did.


Michael was facing 23 years in prison on four charges. Three of us were there to provide expert testimony in three topic areas to help the judge and jury understand why Michael should be acquitted. Two of us were there to speak to different aspects of nonviolence and one was on hand to speak about the urgency of a rapid change in our general habits but a specific exam of the dirty tar sands oil that flows through the Keystone pipeline. Climatologist James Hansen is 76 years old and is the one who announced that “global warming has arrived” in 1988 when he worked as a scientist at the Goddard Space Center. Every single prediction he made then has come to pass. He is arguably the world’s top scientist in that area–certainly the most famous. He’s Trump’s age, only with a long-view conscience and integrity.


The court could not be bothered to listen to this eminent scientist, someone who could have helped the judge and jury become at least familiar with the emergency that we see unfolding all over nowadays, made much worse by the dirtiest sort of fossil fuel–tar sands oil.


The contempt for anyone coming to North Dakota to “tell us how to live” (the prosecutor’s attack on Michael, who is now from Seattle) was palpable. The judge allowed the prosecution’s expert witness, demonstrating some spectacular inconsistency and hypocrisy. As one who woke up a few times this summer to unbreathable air and everything in my town covered in forest fire ash, I say to North Dakotans, you need to fix this. We will do our part but you need to do yours. Most of us know at least one or two people in Houston, or in the Santa Rosa area, or in Miami or Puerto Rico. Are we Americans who value all other Americans or are we not?


But the prosecutors were dismissive. Hell, Foster only faces 23 years, why give him a chance to reason with jury members? Let’s not confuse them with the facts.


The trial in tiny Cavalier, North Dakota, in remote Pembina County, was heartbreaking.

School

This is a school in Beit Taamar that has been demolished by the Israeli occupation the day before it opened. Students went to a demolished school but volunteers quickly rebuilt the school. The Palestine Museum of Natural History donated some school supplies.

هذه هي مدرسة التحدي 5 في بيت تعمر التي هدمها الاحتلال الإسرائيلي قبل يوم من افتتاحها.  
ولكن المتطوعين أعادوا بناء المدرسة بسرعة وقام وزير التربية بافتتاحها. وقد تبرع متحف فلسطين للتاريخ الطبيعي ببعض اللوازم المدرسية