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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Voiceover

Thursdays are not typically exciting days in my life. The usual order of events goes like 1) class, 2) study, 3) work. That’s it (what a trip, I know). Today class happened and after beating my head against a Physical Science textbook for a good 30 minutes I scuttled into my creative writing instructor’s office for a visit. Ms. Sandy is a Northerner (from the upper half, give/ take a state or two, of the U.S.A.). I have had mixed experiences with Northerners due to cultural differences but one thing I will say: they call it like it is. Cut and dry. Black and white. “You stink.” “You’re extraordinary.” “What exactly are you referring to?”

That being said, nearly the first thing out of Sandy’s mouth to me was: “You have what it takes to go as far as a writer as you want. If you want to get your master’s [degree], write [professionally], you can do it.” 

Compliments happen. Warm fuzzy feelings, gushed gratitude. Blah blah.

But when Ms. Sandy said those words my heart sang. I laughed until I cried in my truck on the way home because the words Ms. Sandy said are true.

Truth is the driving force behind joy.

At a dear friend’s request I met with 4 other women this afternoon to form a panel that was consulted on issues faced by young people today. We contributed our voices hoping that the curriculum our interviewers create will offer insight and guidance to a generation in tumult. Sitting in the dim light I noticed something about the 4 of us. Two of us, myself and one other, have lived the most utterlysplendidprivilegedlives for which any girl could ask. Have they been hard lives? Yes. But they have been lives filled with love and Truth and opportunity. We are extraordinary blessed. The other two–girls dear to my heart–have not been granted the same gifts. Neither have Godly father figures to turn to for help or support and both carry deep scars not yet fully healed. Of the four of us, myself and the second “privileged one” were the quickest to speak, the most eager to voice our opinions. Though their stories and opinions are arguably more gritty and riveting, the other two had to be coaxed, and still did not speak as much.

When I have something to say a fire burns in my belly until it is said. I know that it is my human right to be heard. I know that my words are important. Knowing this leads me to treat the words of others with equal importance. It’s respect, the right thing to do.

But when you’ve been ignored your whole life? When a man has never asked you what you think about…anything? When no one has taken the time to get to know you? When you’ve been yelled at and treated like an unwanted pest?

Inevitably, you start to doubt the value of your own voice. You begin to question the importance of what you have to say. You decide it is better to keep quiet because no one wants to hear it.

So there they sat, the girls with the most to say keeping quiet. I blame the powers of darkness for the loss of anything on their hearts that went unsaid. I praise the One who gave them the courage to utter the few words they did into floating microphones. And further, I recognize my small role in the puzzle God is masterfully putting together.

He has nurtured and grown me via parents and community, literature, travel, and music, to speak eloquently and boldly on behalf of the Truth. Not just the blessed Truth of the Gospel, but also the Truth of individual experiences all around me. Harsh realities, tragic memoirs, unique celebrations, epics of the downtrodden: the stories of timid ones need to be told. Minorities are cast aside, virginity is cruelly stolen, words are misunderstood, drugs drive knives through families. And those people keep quiet because they have been told that their words carry no weight.

Their words do carry weight, and they are burdens God created me to bear.  He sent a blunt Northern woman to reiterate the truth of my gifts: I am a writer. Not every word I pen is perfect (HA!), but writing creatively is one thing on this earth that will come naturally for me. Oh, the freedom of knowing that is true! By His guidance and mercy I speak, I write, and in so doing I will flesh out a small corner of His plan.

One woman with a host of hushed people trailing a humble King. It’s a weird story, but it’s mine.

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty.

~Rend Collective Experiment

All the other Thursdays have (and will) serve an equally great purpose, but today was a big mile marker in the journey of arriving for my purpose here on earth.

Your story is valuable, as is your voice.

Speak.

Sink

God doesn’t need me. Yet He beckons,

calling His dear one,

bidding empowerment by His Spirit.

Good soldiers fought for me,

my heart insists now that I take a stand for others

because I have asked that His dreams swell mine.

Submerge your hands into the mud

where my children wait.

My Lord does not need my help,

He chooses to let me participate

simply because I am willing.

He sits me down with beggars and outcasts.

He puts me in the path of fatherless children,

watching me glow as they reciprocate the love

I pour like water into the bowls of their lives.

He sets me at a picnic table in the sun,

the voice of a tomorrow that has yellow curtains

and people who bring casseroles instead of cuts.

The girl with bruises and 21 year burdens

considers robing herself in Truth,

thinking with tilted head about questions

He places on my tongue like starlight mints.

11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.~1 Peter 2:12 (MSG)

Sink your ridged fingers into the work He has for you.

May troubled souls free-fall into the greatness of who He is.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.~1 Corinthians 1:27

Make Way

Walking out of the gym I hear a man ask, “you did not get a snack?” I stop him as he tries to walk back in the door. I peer into the rainy, street-light-orange night. Round heads on stick necks, all dark silhouettes with white eye balls, turn towards me. I address the first pair of eyes I see:
“Did you just straight up lie or did I not give you a snack?” I ask in a slightly too loud & accusatory tone. He shakes his head. He can’t help it, his eyes dart to the boy beside him whose head is hung. I had noticed this boy trying to get a snack from someone else earlier in the night, though I know I gave him one. I approach the little boy, full of disappointment and fear that he does not get enough to eat.
I bend over, wanting to read his eyes to discover the truth. I address him by name, “are you hungry or do you just want another snack?” He does not answer or look up. I try to raise his face to mine but his chin is glued to his chest. His mouth is set in a deep frown, certainly his eyes are full of tears. I’m afraid of squeezing his cheeks too hard. When I see that he is adamant in his resistance to my efforts, and horribly ashamed, I kiss him on the head and walk away.
Seconds after turning my back I regret not trying harder or praying for him or reminding him to ask us for food if he is ever truly hungry. I re-hash my actions all the way to my truck but I know that what I did was right. He knows that lying is wrong. I showed him a tiny glimpse of redeeming love in the face of sin (in the tangible form of a kiss on the head.) I wish nothing so deeply as for him to see that as a reflection of Christ’s loving, atoning sacrifice. Now I ask and plead that the Holy Spirit move in his little boy’s heart. That his guilt be turned into a quest for forgiveness, instead of to apathy and selfishness. I long to know that he stays up, even now, considering the futility of his sin, and recalling the Bible verses we have led him to so carefully store away in his heart.
I have done my part. I have fought against barriers and made room for revival.
There is nothing I can do to ensure a desire for forgiveness in his heart.
No card I can send,
No money I can raise,
No verse I can quote.
This is the part where I submit his oppressed soul to God,
And intercede on His behalf
The way I am sure someone interceded for me on the night I was saved.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12

Righteousness will go before Him (the Lord) and make his footsteps a way.~Psalm 85:13

God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”~Galations 4:6

Camp Summer

The sweat
The thin layer of dirt
Gym shorts
T-shirts
Songs
Clapping.
Kids, kneeling, growing, learning.
Camp.
Not a cross-cultural mission trip,
(More like a visit to the neighbour’s)
But just as challenging.
Probably more effective.
Changing lives because that’s the business here.
Making life possible for the youthful oppressed.
Letting the Truth breathe.
Dunking kids & young adults
Into clear Holy Spirit water,
Comin’ to the fountain of life,
Believing thanks to the work God has begun in their hearts.
Feeding
Playing
Encouraging
Teaching
Encouraging,
Teaching.
For days this is our mission.
Ministry nothing-this is life,
Day in, day out.
Fighting to minimize thoughts of self,
To display the Gospel by love.
Kids. Young people. Next. Tomorrow. The lost. The unreached.
Now reached.
Darkness now penetrated by merciful light
Here
They can understand it.
This is the opportunity & God’s workers are making it happen
Year after year.
Livin’ right;
Great sacrifice for great purpose.

Religious Drivel

He turned my mourning into dancing;
My sorrow into joy.

I asked for God to show me Himself and He did.
Darkness and distress was in my heart and mind and after 3 hard days of holding onto His promises like a lifeline,
He lifted the veil from my heart, revealing another taste of His glory to me. JOY exploded within me and I smiled, sang, and would have danced if not for the pain in my feet.
God is real. He seeks me out. I am the lost coin, the silly wandering sheep. Yet He LOVES me. He loves that my request was to enter His presence. I could feel Him rejoice as He shared his magnificence with me.
Why does He love me so? Why would He choose to call me out and water me when thousands would rather die of thirst?
I don’t know the answer to these questions that make my head spin. The one thing I do know: His love is infinite. I’ve “used up” a lot of it, but He won’t run out. Come to the river and drink life. His love is not human; it is otherworldly and grand. All the things that bring you joy in this life (yes, you)…all the people who make you smile…add that up and multiply it by 1,000. His love leaves it all behind.
Bask in the light of His love with me.
Taste and see that my Jesus-our Jesus-is good.

We.

In this generation (I call my own) there’s a minority who refer to themselves as “believers.” A small band, capable of much, yet so easily distracted. For many of the number lack clear sense of the right and wrong. The message around them, snuck into their textbooks, blaring through their car speakers, is TOLERANCE, more than that: ASSIMILATION INTO IMMORALITY. It’s such a blinding darkness that these young people, even those planted firmly, cannot help but be sorely shaken, clear to their roots. Though they stepped out, well meaning, these “believers” now toe the line opposite of all that sets them apart. It’s difficult to see for their enjoyment and peer approval fogs holy vision. They need to be free. Immorality, preached by some boy on some girl, as you hear her bed thump-thump against the wall. TOLERANCE, shouted by the group of homosexuals around whom you can actually relax. It all seems suitable, you’re trying! St. Paul speaks of taking on the chameleon’s ability to adapt and fit in, right? That’s what I’m doing, correct? Looking like them so you can witness, or witnessing their message by forfeiting your own?
There’s a Spirit out there seeking to give you clarity.
Stop shutting it up.
Relentlessly pursue Truth, gently turning from that which puts distance between you and the One in whom you believe.

Soul Trouble

“Do you think you can do a better job with your life than I can?” God asks

God’s voice, it comes, calm through stormy thoughts and emotions. Like the moon on a lake, His voice glances off every ripple, all the waves. And it’s peaceful. He calls me to go, I know not where. He promises grand adventure, I insist on knowing how I can get myself there.
But it’s not about that.
It’s about my obedience. Keeping His word. Loving the unlovable. Telling the Truth. Dying a little bit here and there.
“And I will give them one heart, and a new Spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people and I will be their God.”-Ezekiel 11:19&20
Phew. All I have to do is tell Him that I love Him.
“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has Himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”~Jesus
I’m not here to figure out what is going to happen next. It is my joy to follow Him around this corner, to listen, obey, speak the Good News. That never changes.

Ask Him for a some peace. Feel it wash over you, erasing the trouble from your tired tired soul.