Ahimsa & My Ego

Heart ablaze again, guide me. You I consult in times of humility. You I live by, you my internal North Star. The Jesus before and after they spoke to me of him. You, preservation of my relationships, hope of my days. 

This week I said the most powerful and dreaded word in the English language. Never expected that from myself, consciously or by accident. As a believer (believer in Spirit, that is, the world inside our world, always conspiring to make itself known to the physical beings), a mistake of this kind leads to deep introspection. In fact, since getting suspended from my job, I have passed days almost entirely alone and in deep reflection. How did I get so out of touch with my heart that a word contrary to who I have worked to become, slipped, like any other word, across my lips? That is Spirit. That is Spirit asking for attention. True sign of my need to pay attention. To get woke anew already.

You see, waking up to the pain of those around us isn’t a one time thing. It is an evolutionary (gradual; see Everything is Spiritual for a deeper explanation of this idea) process. I cannot one day decide that I will abide by the revolutionary ideals of Jesus and stand against the system of domination and expect myself to….abide there from that day forward. That is uncomfortable territory. That is asking the ego to bow. That is tough shit.

Violence happens to humans everyday in the form of unkind or careless words and actions: all the grub and grime of a groaning and restless world. Our fears are the first application process, so to speak, through which that daily violent input must pass. Fear we encounter on the daily  is a disruption which can become either ego fodder or transformation fuel. Author Deborah Adele says that there are two kinds of fear: instinctual fear, for the sake of survival, and fear of the unfamiliar (The Yamas and Niyamas, 2009). Those of us who exist on the more posh side of life (a place to live, some food to eat, very few–if any–daily threats to security, health, and freedom) are prone to over-entertainment of the second kind of fear. (It goes all the way back to the Old Testament IMO, when they scaped those poor goats all the way to the wilderness with everybody’s adultery and disrespect and masturbation tied on its’ back; A live metaphor for the weight of human sin.) When humans have time and/or security, they seem to begin to react to fears (real or unreal, rational or irrational–ego food all the same), and inevitably accumulate guilt. Well….who is around to interrupt this fear and guilt cycle? Who trips us up when we walk in the pride caused by this treacherous consumption of fear? Them. People (especially those at or near the top of the food chain) like to pin guilt on them. The ones without fear. The ones who face fear number one and still have the nerve to stand on street corners asking for money. The ones who do the-thing-I-never-would and dare to continue living instead of melting into the dehumanizing guilt-puddle we expect. It’s yuck, but it’s human. Or, tragically, entire people groups scapegoat other entire people groups because of the truth they tell about history (see: Black Experience in America). Humans do this, and then the ego, if unaddressed by empathy (or equal parts suffering), laps that stuff up like a thirsty puppy, and, like a puppy, it grows. Then, perhaps, it bites.

The same day I am dismissed from work, I reach up to grab a book or two off the Black History Month shelf at Terry library, and for the first time, insecurity chases my hand back into my pocket. Racist, I hear the voice of accusation inside my head. What are you trying to cover up? 

The ego growls and I snarl to myself: the injustice of it! That my innocent action should be inhibited by a single misunderstanding. One accusation.

One accusation, not even voiced outright had me suspended in inaction and egoism.

Violence to fear. Violence reaps fear. If I refuse to scapegoat this insecurity grounded in fear, where does it go?

Transformation fuel. To quote Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul.), “…we are held responsible for our every action, thought and feeling, which is to say, for our every intention.” Pay by what you outsource to others, or pay by running your own transformation race. The choice is always ours.

I have found that my ego’s kryptonite is understanding. When I take the time to understand, I overcome violence in myself, and in my interactions with others by the power of peace and by lofty aspirations of Love. Understanding often leads me to tears; this time I can’t help reflect on how hurtful this me-centered attitude must have been over the course of these callous months, culminating in my utterance of that unfit word, to my minority friends, or friends living on the corner of gender and racial discrimination* in this often hateful society. I acted contrary to the magnificent Eastern value of Ahimsa; nonviolence, and thus, contrary to my deepest self. I can do better. We can do better.

One accusation, result of my mistake, shaved ounces off my ego. No wonder the African American community has offered the world countless humble artists, truth-tellers, and thundering prophets. How many accusations do they hear in a day, my brothers and sisters next door, yet so far away from me? Drunk. Lazy. Racist. Dumb. Inadequate. Inferior. The list goes on, for them and for our Native American kindred. May my white ego stop short, as those of my friends are forced to every time they leave their homes.

So much to learn, so much loving left to do.

Gratitude & Hope for Ahimsa,

Lydia Nomad

 

*For more on this idea of Intersectionality visit The Liturgists

 

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Me For Me

These words are about the healing and growth I am undergoing and what that is bringing about in my life. Next post will be about how exactly the 31 days of Her Voice has intensified this process. Enjoy 🙂

 

Everything is different now that I get to have me, and

see through the eyes I was born with, no one else’s.

 

A world of invitation and delight orbits just outside my domain,

without whisper of exclusion.

 

Having me is eating and tasting food for the first time,

it’s looking in the mirror and knowing that I am that.

 

It’s dancing wildly without a thought for who is around,

it’s being with loved ones and then being completely alone.

 

It’s one boat leaving the dock and another pulling up alongside

It’s a journey I can’t un-take

 

 

Who is she?

This wild woman with Tarzan arms that have climbed trees in Puerto Rico, held children, cooked Indian curries,

shook hands, written essays, braided hair, drafted budgets, wrapped around the body they’re attached to.

The wild woman who holds herself and stands on no feet but her own.

Who creates spaces where others can breath, where long-dormant hearts can beat again.

 

Once you see you can’t unsee.

Once you feel you can’t unfeel.

 

There are magical children around me. Some are adults but most are young, not so long out of the womb that they have forgotten the Spark they sprang from.

When I ride in the car with these kids, climb rocks with them, blow bubbles with them, read books with them, something extraordinary happens.

Over time a space is created. I imagine wind drawing a circle between us, its gusts creating a vortex of safety, peace, love, and acceptance.

Some kids hear the whisper quicker than others but it is there for all: Everything you are has a place. And by sheer Heaven-wizardry that message brings out hearts and puts smiles on faces. It’s like camels just come to an oasis.

Hearts start to show like turtle heads peeking out from under shells. Words I can’t yet voice, about things I haven’t begun to comprehend,

do their life-giving work in this space. All that I feel I cannot do for the children starts to do its work.

With me, but also without me.

 

In me something is happening.

My interior is a wide expanse with hay that sways in the breeze rather than the barren land it once was.

As restoration roots within me it creates a sacred spin around me; rearranging the souls that I overlap with, gentle licks of ocean against sand.

I sense that it is less an hour glass and more the mysterious layer of cinnamon particles carried by winds that, over time, shape the sand dunes.

 

There is no sense to be made of what goes on in and around me. To put language to it is a fun, sometimes useful, challenge.

To enjoy it in all its delicious mystery is the only mandate. It’s more of an invitation.

 

Do you believe in an endless love?

I Can’t Hate the Church

In her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans asks the question what is it the man Jesus’ (diverse) followers all shared? She says,

“It wasn’t shared social status or ethnicity….No, if there is one thing that connected all these dissimilar people together it was a shared sense of need: a hunger, a thirst, a longing. It was the certainty that, when Jesus said he came for the sick, this meant Jesus came for me.” (p. 92)

I am thankful God brought this book into my hands right now. At the end of the hardest year of my life (so far!). After a year of stripping away; of feeling more alive than ever before & yet abandoned & confused deeper than I knew possible. A year of ultimatums & threats & old relationships turned sour & new ones (budding in dusty parts of the soul) riding the mysterious current of the River of Life.

In January I started going to a church–a communion of these Jesus followers–that I could (finally) listen to without being offended. I started hearing the Bible taught in a way that made my heart burn with passion for justice & equality & truth. Truth that linked my heart to God’s more closely. I started leaving church full-ish instead of empty. I’m thankful for the 7 months I had at Mosaic Church, and that though sometimes I felt too preached to, and (more annoyingly) too advertised to, the hugs & prayers & celebration & meals & gifts & sacraments kept me there.

Church of God in Christ. Church of Jesus Christ. Crosslife. Cornerstone. Community. Grace Bible. Why do all those names still make me throw up a little? Jesus Christ is my dearest friend; how can I have such a strong reaction against his name?

His name has been taken in vain so often, even by ones truly trying to honor who he is (myself included!). A cardboard cut out representing someone else’s Jesus has been set up with its shadow cast over the very ones he loves best. The outcasts. The marginalized. The ones who smoke weed. The homeless. The ones whose sexuality isn’t quite what culture says it should be. The murderers. Rapists. Porn addicts. Teen mothers. People with no money. The lie has been sown by the ones who claim Jesus’ name that his burden is heavy. That they have to leave behind their families & cultures & identities in order to come.

Some days I hate the church. Psalm 8:1 says, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth.” I really get the feeling on certain days that “church” makes his name un-majestic. That the big screens & the insincere liturgies & the campaigns against abortion remove the mystery & wonder of a God with a humble earthly story, a God who spoke to Moses with a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). A God who invites us to munch bits of bread together & remember the united existence his death has made possible.

But I can’t hate the church. I can’t because the church is my best friends. The church is my eternal family. The church is the ones around me who know they are sick. The ones who hold my hand during a panic attack. Who go with me to get new tattoos. It is friends who don’t hesitate to affirm me while acknowledging the darkness in all of us. Who put coconut milk shampoo with the golden lid (I never would have considered myself worthy of) in my Christmas stocking. Who put together a picnic for friends of a friend. Who fail & recognize their failure but refuse to believe that anything can jeopardize their place as Children of the King. Who teach me what it is like to receive a gift–no strings attached. God’s people do this. God’s people show up & open up old scars to one another, knowing that encouragement & hope will be ministered freely. God’s people have laughed with me & danced with me through this most harrowing of years (2015).

Even a Christian pastor (the scariest kind of Christian!)  has the joyful confidence to say:

“I have to believe that God can put anything–anyone–back together. I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is.

Loving.

Forgiving.

Merciful.

Full of grace.” (Rob Bell in his book Sex God)

Mutual hunger. Shared thirst. Shattered hearts & disappointing relationships. It’s all giving birth to unimaginable wholeness. I’m watching it in my own life & in the lives of those I love. The moments we feel of unity: during communion, at the corner of campus where people share cigarettes, through the bridge of Hillsong’s latest haunting melody, when girls have talent shows without mocking laughter or competition….those are the lasting reality. Those are whispers of a season where isolation will be no more. A season of depth & health & glory. God’s church emerging from all the shadows she has cast. The eunuchs. The women. The martyrs. The children. All who know their need & drop fat tears on the feet of humble Jesus.

She is the Bride Jesus longs to show off in the Heavens, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

And she will answer, “Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

We will answer.

We will answer now–eyes on the Lamb–amidst world war, poverty, mental illness, divorce, and life’s messiest messes:

Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb we love. 12248635_1238736879476513_990288516_n