What are we intending to change with the social change?
Sitting on the train from San Francisco to Seattle, I am still digesting the amount of despair and hopelessness that I was witnessing on the streets of San Francisco during the last few days, while passing by truly immense numbers of homeless, poor, devastated people and observing what seemed to me like signs of a collapsing society. It all seemed pretty post-apocalyptic at times. And it reinforced my impression of the urgency of radical social change, otherwise there soon might not be any society left to change.
Trusting the field
So, an old story says that, long, long time ago, there was a man (sic!) out there, on a long journey that took him through many unknown lands. He was following, on his horse, a barely recognizable path through a thick forest, which was getting darker and darker and he found himself entrapped by the darkest night, not being able to see an inch in front of his nose, let alone to follow the path. Feeling hopeless and in despair, he got off his horse and started tiptoeing around… Suddenly it seemed to him that he saw a dim light not too far away, among trees, and started to make his way through the bushes towards it. Finally, bruised and very edgy, he reached a small wooden cabin and knocked on the door.
Longing for the company of not-knowers
The last two days I spent on airports, planes and in similar social settings, on my way to co-facilitating a retreat in Virginia, US. And, as I often do in such situations, I spent certain amount of time sitting and observing people, hearing their conversations… And again I had this sense that somehow most of the conversations seem to be about proving to each other how right we are. As if the main impulse underneath most of our behavior and self-expression in social environments is about showing to ourselves and to others a certain image of ourselves, which I could narrow down to the common denominator of: “I am right. I figured it all out. I am cool. I master life…” Or perhaps the common denominator of it all actually is: “I am worthy.”
Not that I am a big fan of Margaret Thatcher, but I do like this quote of hers: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you are not.” My understanding is that trying to cover one’s vulnerability by putting on the mask of being cool, being right, being a master of life… actually points at some deep wounds in our hearts.
The Masochism of Attending Retreats
Almost a year ago I was co-facilitating, together with Robert Gonzales, one of our Awakening to Life Intensive retreats, that time in Arizona. As I was sitting in the room full of people that were doing the process, and witnessing them experiencing deep levels of love, intimacy, connection, peace, bliss, joy, inner spaciousness…, I realized how masochistic this can all become.
It hit me that if we keep visiting retreats on personal evolution and spirituality and we don’t, every single time after the retreat is over, make bold steps in our lives, even radical changes if needed, in order to align our lives much better with the deeper reality we have just experienced, then we are influencing our experience of human existence in at least two life-alienating and discouraging ways.
The Issue of Ownership
As I had been on a long road journey through Portugal this summer, exploring areas and properties to perhaps start an intentional community there, I was also learning much about the land. Walking around with friends and sometimes with extraordinary permaculture experts, I was learning more and more about the devastating impact human species have had on this planet for thousands of years, with its peak in the last century.
One day it suddenly hit me that perhaps the original sin to it all started many thousands of years ago with the concept of ownership. With the idea that the animals, the nature, the land… belongs to us, because God has given it to us. This concept of the ownership of the land sounds so normal, yet it was not always so. Native Indian chief Seattle wrote to the President of the United States in 1852: “The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can we sell them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people…”
Empathic listening does not work. Unless it is empathic listening.
About 15 years ago I had regular interactions with an acquaintance of mine of whom I had lots of enemy images and judgements, and our interactions were not easy. Life moved on in a way that we nowadays barely meet briefly every few years, yet I still remember a piece of wisdom that he articulated then, and I only started to appreciate lately. In the midst of complex and emotionally charged weeks of interactions, he said: “You see, one day, after all of this is passed, perhaps even on our death beds, we will end up opening hearts to each other and we will find out that we actually love each other. Why should we wait so long to realize that? Why not start treating each other in accordance with love that already is deep in our hearts?” The clarity and purity of this invitation hit me already then, but I did not want it to really hit me, so I kept pushing it away and out of our field. Quite successfully, I must say.
Lurking in the dark
Last morning, at a friend’s place here in North Germany, on the road trip from Sweden to Portugal, we ended up having a vulnerable conversation around breakfast. We were an Israeli Jew, a German and a Slav talking about wounds from the Second World War, individual and collective, that are still speaking through us. Listening to many subtle stories about how our collective fields have been traumatized by the war and by the holocaust, on all sides of the story, how we were culturally conditioned in using various strategies to deal with it, from dark humor to suppression and denial, something was becoming clearer and clearer to me.
Privilege of not being rapeable
When not travelling my base camp is an apartment just across the street of the large city park that borders a small forest, in Ljubljana. And the other day I went for a walk into the wood, around midnight, after having spent most of the day in front of the computer – to connect to nature and reset my inner system before going to sleep.
Just before stepping onto the tiny path that led straight in the peaceful darkness of the midnight forest, I saw a man standing on the parking lot, perhaps 20 meters away, looking straight at me. I did not give it a second thought and continued happily into the forest, enjoying solitude, silence, the softness of the whispering of the tree leaves… After about 15 minutes of walking through the forest I encountered a small clearing with a bench and I sat down to enjoy the view of the stars and the moon above. Suddenly I heard steps and that man appeared from the darkness of the forest, walked slowly towards me and stopped perhaps 3 meters away. It felt rather awkward and confusing for a few seconds of silence, and then he suddenly unzipped his pants.
Standing on the blood soaked soil
Today, at the last day of the 9-day International Intensive Training in Nonviolent Communication here in Indonesia, where I have an honour to serve as a trainer, we had a heart-shattering sharing in the morning circle.
A participant, aboriginal Australian, shared with us a story of massacres that his mother survived and told him about. White settlers were attacking the aboriginal tribes, killing peaceful tribal members, chopping their heads off. They were dragging children, tied to horses by their legs, through bush and piled them up, covered them with wood and burned them alive. There were many attacks on their tribe between 1918 and 1929.
Hoping for Another Step Towards the Inner Freedom
Yesterday I found myself, while visiting Israel, sitting in a circle around the bonfire with another 15 or so people, sharing our hearts. It was the eve of the Passover celebration, which is about commemoration of liberation from slavery in Egypt, under the leadership of Moses. One of the deeper meanings of the celebration of Passover is about noticing what is the inner slavery we have been carrying within ourselves and wish to get free from in this year. So we were sharing our fears, core beliefs, automatic responses, dilemmas, struggles… that we would like to liberate ourselves from in order to live our lives more fully.