Real Love

R E A L    L O V E 

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L  I  S  T  E  N

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Real Love is Soulful, cyclical, non-linear, and often messy.  Real Love is spacious and inclusive and it will reveal us to ourselves, if we allow it to.  Real Love gives rise more of the same, for to Love deeply in one direction, is to strengthen the presence of this holy force in all other areas of life as well.  I am learning this.  I am remembering this.  I am willing this to be so -- personally, politically, and in ways that are deeply private as well.  

Love and Compassion are but two faces belonging to the same ancient Muse.  True Compassion is boundless, and all-encompassing and it is fiercest of all when extended unconditionally to those who've hurt us most.  

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While I was in Colorado recently, I had the rare privilege of spending time with a very wise and dear friend who shared her perspective on the current administration through the lens of Buddhism and her belief in the basic goodness of all Beings.  I questioned aloud, what she was saying -- that at their core, the individuals who are intentionally perpetuating and escalating systemic violence, racism, and oppression -- retain their basic goodness, and that beneath the many layers of fear and hate which inform their actions, that they too have an unmarred innocence and sincere desire for liberation.

We walked along the alpine ridge-line as we spoke, through fragrant Ponderosas and crisp cool mountain air.  Like bears just woken from their Winter-long sleep, we made our way, lumbering awkwardly over patches of bare earth in our snowshoes, soil and stone exposed by the early Spring which had melted the snow a month too soon.  I tried to remain curious and open to her perspective so that I might understand what she was saying.  But, I felt very attached to my sense of justice, and to the belief that there are forces of good and forces of evil, that there is life and that there is death.  I was, in essence, attached to a dualistic perspective.  A perspective that, simply put, made me right, and them wrong.  But as our conversation and our walk progressed, something in me began to soften, and to remember.

We stopped in a sunny clearing, and set into the steady rhythm of fetch, as we threw a stick for her eager puppy to retrieve.  We hurled small wooden branches down a steep hillside, with the goal of getting Yeshe, the dog, good and tuckered out, as she put all her canine might into sprinting to collecting her prize before beginning the steep ascent -- again, and again, and again, and again.

To illustrate her point, and help me to see what she was getting at, my friend went into great detail about the unwavering non-violent resistance of the Tibetan people in the face of the truly horrifying genocide and erasure of their culture and religion that was and is taking place at the hands of the Chinese government.  And her words reminded me of the non-dual nature of reality.  Her words reminded me of Time which exists on a scale beyond any of our lives, or our children's lives, or their children's lives. Her words reminded me, that what is important, is not whether we win or lose, but rather how we play the game.  Death felt close as we spoke, loss felt intimate.  My breast heaved and my gaze narrowed toward the horizon, as this [ new // old ] perspective found it's place once more in my psyche.

Lyla June Johnston, an Indigenous Poet, Activist, and Leader, who I admire greatly, reminds us that "when we fall to anger and to hatred, we become the very thing that hurt us."  
We have all been hurt before.  And we've hurt others.  We know that there are many ways to resolve conflict -- some more effective than others.  In my experience, when someone I have hurt approaches me with curiosity and makes generous assumptions about the motivations behind my words and actions, I am far more likely to be interested in their feelings and experiences in return.  On the other hand, if that same approaches me with accusations and blame and the immediate judgement that I have knowingly wronged them, I am more likely to become automatically defensive and shutdown.  This is true for most folks interpersonally, and it plays out on the political and planetary strata as well.  How can we get curious about what is beneath the violence and oppression that we experience in the world?  

I believe in action and I believe in resistance, but I also believe that holding a space of sincere prayer and of unconditional loving kindness for all beings -- most especially those who harm us -- is, perhaps, the most foundational practice for true resistance.  This does not mean that we accept or even tolerate the abuse, or the atrocities, simply that we understand and remember that Love feeds Love, and that violence, whether overt or subtle, feeds violence. 

And I am working this out within myself still, for this belief presents a great many murky waters to navigate, especially as someone who holds a significant degree privilege in this culture.  I am an able-bodied, middle class, femme-presenting, fair skinned woman.  And I see it as my role, ultimately, to listen right now, and to stay curious about how I can stand in solidarity with others who hold less privilege than I do.  I believe, that no matter how I, or anyone chooses to resist, that if we allow that resistance to come from a place of care and empathy, not only for ourselves, but for those who cause us harm as well, that we will be more effective by far than if we allow that same resistance to be born of a place of fear and hatred for that which we deem, other.

"Forgiveness is some of the strongest Medicine in the world."

- L y l a    J u n e    J o h n s t o n
I have been so moved and inspired by Lyla June.  Last year, she led the Forgiveness March to the Morton County Police Department, to pray for the police officers and law enforcement officials who had injured and committed violent acts against the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.  At that time, I felt angry and helpless as I watched from afar, the injustices being perpetrated against the Indigenous Peoples of this Land.  And then I melted into tears of humility when I heard and saw the incredible compassion that Lyla June offered to these same people whose actions so angered me.  Lyla June reminds us that "Forgiveness is some of the strongest Medicine in the world."  Upon hearing her words all those months ago, I understood, that when we can truly love those who harm us --  this is real Healing, this is real Resistance. 
I believe, now, in writing love letters to the Guides and Ancestors of those who misuse their power.  I believe in praying for their healing, making offerings at altars dedicated to their awakening in hopes that they might remember all that which is Sacred.  May softness reign, may forgiveness belong to us all.   May we find more and better ways to offer real Love, fierce Compassion, and Forgiveness against all odds -- not only to those closest to us, but to the people who have harmed us as well.  May we remember that their healing is our healing.  May we remember that Love feeds Love.

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