MLKJanuary 18, 2021
“A friend of mine told me of a guru from Sri Lanka who asked, ‘What will be the undoing of humanity?’ He answered: ‘The separation between you and me.”
Ahimsa, nonviolence, asks us to abandon the notion of separation.”
When nonviolence in speech, thought, and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.’ -Yoga Sutras
“Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service; you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” -Martin Luther King, Jr
This week, our nation will shift to new leadership and take the next step in creating a country rooted in justice and opportunity––a country we know is possible.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a 1967 speech at New York’s Riverside Church characterized these moments of transformation as “revolutionary times” when “new systems of justice and equality are being born.”
As we look to this day as a moment to celebrate and honor Dr. King’s work, let’s take time to continue his legacy of forging a new and better day by serving our communities. Below are some ways to do so:
#1 – Volunteer with a number of organizations working in areas ranging from education to homelessness through the Presidential Inaugural Committee
#2 – Volunteer to transcribe historical documents through the Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program
#3 – Write letters to seniors who are in self-isolation with Letters Against Isolation
#4 – Support our military and first-responders with Operation Gratitude
#5 – Send a message of hope and healing to a child awaiting surgery through the World Pediatric Project
#6 – Transcribe Library of Congress documents with By the People
#7 – Help Food Pantries near you serving those who continue to face food insecurity
#8 – Provide groceries to those who are at heightened risk for COVID-19 with Invisible Hands
#9 – Strengthen emergency relief efforts with the American Red Cross
#10 – Check out MLKDay.gov, which allows you to search additional volunteer opportunities in your community
3 Types of Kindness
There is the kindness of ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ And the kindness of “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” The small kindnesses that smooth our interactions and help other people feel as though you’re aware of them. These don’t cost us much, in fact, in most settings, engaging with kindness is an essential part of connection, engagement and forward motion.
And then there is the kindness of dignity. Of giving someone the benefit of the doubt. The kindness of seeing someone for the person that they are and can become, and the realization that everyone, including me and you, has a noise in our heads, a story to be told, fear to be danced with and dreams to be realized.
And there’s another: The kindness of not seeking to maximize short-term personal gain. The kindness of building something for the community, of doing work that matters, of finding a resilient, anti-selfish path forward.
Kindness isn’t always easy or obvious, because the urgent race to the bottom, to easily measured metrics and to scarcity, can distract us. But bending the arc toward justice, toward dignity and toward connection is our best way forward.
Kindness multiplies and it enables possiblity. When we’re of service to people, we have the chance to make things better.
Happy Birthday, Reverend King.
Ahimsa.January 12, 2021
[A 10-year-old girl’s letter to the police officer seen being crushed in the insurrection riot at the Capitol building on January 6th, 2021.]
“Sorrow is my meditation.” -Dr. Jan Peppler
‘Our suffering has been trying to communicate with us, to let us know it is there, but we have spent a lot of time and energy ignoring it.
The suffering inside us contains the suffering of our fathers, our mothers, and our ancestors.
Our suffering reflects the suffering of the world.
Understanding suffering always brings compassion.’
-Thich Nhat Hanh
We are beaten and blown by the wind, blown the wind, oh when I go there, I go there with you, it’s all I can do.
‘Despite the terrific beating we were experiencing at the hands of fate, each of us still living out his faith. Even in the presence of extraordinary pain, we were taking right action, we were attending to our practice, each in her own way.
As I listened to the lyrics of this song, the depth of my commitment to my own spiritual path became clear to me.
Marianne Williamson, in her spiritual guidebook a Return to Love, “If you want to end darkness, you cannot beat it with a baseball bat, you have to turn on the light.”
We do not need to enter a showdown with our self-destructive behavior, nor can we deny its existence. We must simply come to now it, and move on. We learn to focus wholeheartedly on positive behavior.’
-Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison
Additionally, ahimsa/non-violence practiced not only in behavior and thought, but also a vow to disrupt violence.
From Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, lawyer, author, and professor: “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation.”
From yoga teacher, practitioner, author and activist Seane Corn.
I intended this letter to be about the New Year, wishing you all the brightest and the best for 2021.
Sadly, so quickly into the year, the Capitol building in the US was assaulted by domestic terrorists, and, once again, this nation is in trauma and turmoil.
I am devastated by the events in DC and horrified by the people who caused so much suffering to democracy in the US. It’s tragic but not surprising. It felt like it was moving in this direction for a very long time.
Although this moment in history is sad and discouraging, I continue to commit to re-imagining a future that is happy, healthy, and peaceful for ALL and holding on to hope that justice will prevail and healing will occur for us in the US and throughout the world.
I hope you are doing okay. That you are breathing, staying in communication with your friends, family, and support system, and doing your yoga, meditation, and healing work.
I am sending you so much love to you and your family.
The world cries out for compassion.
Ahimsa.January 4, 2021
In thought, language, and behavior.
“We must disrupt harm whenever we encounter it.”
-Yogi & Activist Seane Corn
‘New arts, new sciences, new philosophies, better government, and a high civilization wait on our thoughts. The infinite energy of Life, and the possibility of our future evolution, work through our imagination and will. The time is ready the place is where we are now, and it is done unto all as they really believe and act.’
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
‘Fuse the powers of the sacred heart with the energies of the body, and you can transform everything.’
2 Corinthians 4:16/The Message:
‘So, we’re not giving up. How could we! Even thought on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where GAIA is making new life, not a day goes by without Her unfolding grace.’
Rolph Gates & Katrina Kenison:
‘At a Native American gathering in Arizona for the 1999 summer solstice, a Hopi elder said: “There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves; banish the work ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’
The Enlightened Heart, p. 86:
‘With the happiness held in one inch-square heart you can find the whole space between heaven and earth.’
Hildegard of Bingen:
‘Divinity is in its omniscience and omnipotence like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun, nor ended.’
‘Each person is born with an unencumbered spot…free of expectation and regret…free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry…an umbilical spot of grace where we were each first touched by God, Spirt, Sophia, Gaia.
It is this spot of grace that issues pace. Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, theologians call it the Soul, Jung calls it the Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, and Jesus calls it the Center of our Love.
To know this spot of Indwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work to what we wear how how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it.
This is our lifeline task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we’ve been, while nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential.
Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to the incorruptible spot of grace at our core.
When the film is worn through, we have moments of enlightenment, moments of whiteness, moment of satori, as the Zen sages term int, moments of clear loving when inner meets outer, moments of full integrity of being, moments of complete Oneness.
And whether the film is a veil of culture, of memory, of mental or religious training, of trauma or sophistication, the removal of that film and the restoration of that timeless spot of grace is the goal of all therapy and education.
Fr Richard Rohr:
‘The real question is “What does this have to say to me?” Those who are totally converted come to every experience and ask not whether or not they liked it, but what does it have to teach them. “What’s the message or gift in this for me? How is God in this event? Where is God in this suffering?” This is a prayer of unveiling, asking that the cruciform shape of reality be revealed to us within the very shape and circumstances of our own lives.’
Ahimsa in action.February 8, 2016
The Yoga Sutra is not presented in an attempt to control behavior based on moral imperatives. The sutras don’t imply that we are “bad” or “good” based upon our behavior, but rather that if we choose certain behavior we get certain results. If you steal, for example, not only will you harm others, but you will suffer as well.
The first yama is perhaps the most famous one: ahimsa, usually translated as “nonviolence.” This refers not only to physical violence, but also to the violence of words or thoughts. What we think about ourselves or others can be as powerful as any physical attempt to harm. To practice ahimsa is to be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in interaction with others and to notice our thoughts and intentions. Try practicing ahimsa by observing your thoughts when a smoker sits next to you. Your thoughts may be just as damaging to you as his cigarette is to him.
It is often said that if one can perfect the practice of ahimsa, one need learn no other practice of yoga, for all the other practices are subsumed in it. Whatever practices we do after the yamas must include ahimsa as well. Practicing breathing or postures without ahimsa, for example, negates the benefits these practices offer.