by guest author Alys Titchener
It’s the toughest homework assignment so far, as far as I’m concerned. All sorts of defenses and red lights are flaring as the instructions settle; I have to tune in to what’s going on in our world; listen to the news, read the papers or news sites online, and then watch my reaction to these stories.
I pull a face, obviously not happy with this prescribed task. And for so many reasons! I already know what my reactions will be; anger, despair, frustration, detachment, denial and … (I hate going here) … fear.
And fear makes me angry. Angry with the media. They’re so irresponsible; wantonly exposing us all to the lower vibrations of fear and control so as to warrant a few to remain in power. Willfully ignorant is what I’ve termed myself for the past four years; that’s how long it’s been since I engaged with the media of any kind.
So this homework starts out in duress.
I check out one of the links. It’s a YouTube clip about whaling. Anguish sets in. Somewhere I’ve come to terms with those front-line men and woman affording themselves a living to feed their children; it isn’t in me to condemn them. The anguish is how we justify the killing. That some persuade and justify by claiming they’re eating up a scare resource that we need. Anguish that being vegetarian isn’t stopping the practice. Anguish that all life isn’t considered sacred and that should be reason enough to let them live.
Anguish is loss of power, it doesn’t even lift its arm to be angry.
I pick through some other news articles. Current that week was the ANZAC day helicopter crash. Over and over again I see the three faces of the dead young men. I am already numbing to the sadness (I’ve been one of those left behind loved ones before). This homework is not going well.
As I pick my way through the news over the next few days, the lightness and optimism that brings buoyancy to my day is caving in. What replaces it is a restlessness so strong that I can’t sit still. By the next day I am snappy and impatient with those around me and completely intolerant to the minuscule interactions that make up my day. The following day, as I sit in mediation, I find what’s wrong; I am an open wound and leaking energy from my manipura centre. This loss of power has opened me up in a way that I’m not able to replenish myself.
I need to heal, and I need to get away. Away from the city.
It just so happens that an invite lands in my inbox; a celebration of the full moon (Crone Moon) on the Thursday and Samhain/Halloween of the Friday up coast. I jump into my van and decided to stay over; I feel like initiating myself into the pagan lore of Aotearoa. And I feel like going bush. I concede I won’t have access to the internet (or papers or radios or televisions) while I’m away, and admit to being thankful for this.
On my way up coast, I stop off for a sunset walk on the beach. The twilight hours provide a unique view into people’s beachfront houses as the lights go on before the curtains are yet to be drawn. Again I see the faces of the three airmen who lost their life flickering from the TV screens. They keep appearing. I am slightly bemused as to how often their faces appear to me in this week. I carry on up coast and arrive to the full moon meditation.
I stay the night and offer to help out the next day in any way for the preparations for the Samhain celebrations. I do the dishes and notice a little transistor radio on the kitchen bench. Regarding my unfinished homework, I turn it on. I catch a news article about a new law getting passed in Arizona that gives the police the right to question and detain anyone they consider to look suspicious. Oooh, there I flare; anger. Injustice! I turn the radio off and join the small crew left to organize the night’s activities.
We are going out to bless the land before everyone arrives for Samhain. Would you like to join us?
Sure, I say
And there I learn, the helicopter crash happened on THIS land; her property.
Here I am, begrudgingly opened and exposed to the current events of the world out side of me. Here I am, able to be of service in some small way.
The woman who owns this land is a druid. We go out to her grove to bless and clear the land. When we arrive to the clearing and pay our regards to the spirit of the land, a kereru flies over us. Our druid host watches and comments; one of the souls is lost and needs help to find his way home. Let’s set that as our intention.
In a circle of chanting Awen (it sounds surprisingly like OM) the kereru returns, large in presence and acute in attention. It is a flat cloudy night with very little definitions and shadow, the almost-full moon hiding behind the clouds. During the course of our chanting, the clouds part and the bright star is shining off to our West. And then a thin bridge of stars appears from east to west. I don’t see the kereru leave, but it’s not there when I look again at the end of our chanting. He’s found his way home she says. And peace is allowed to settle once again on this land.
I could easily finish my account here; feeling honoured to find myself haphazedly receptive to ‘the story of the week’ and consequently, find myself available to offer (in my most appropriate manner) some small act of balance and peace.
But the story doesn’t finish here. All along, it was serendipitous in nature, and that serendipity kept on flowing. As I was chatting to a couple of the early arrivals for Samhain, one of the women began telling her story about being recently deported from the United States due to a border control official deciding that she had used her visa “too much” and had not spent enough time in her home country between visits. It is her story so I will keep it brief.
This woman is a New Zealand woman with a disability, and she is detained in LA. Given that she needs medical attention due to constant pain killers, she is denied overnight detainee accommodation in any of the prisons (no medical staff apparently) so ended up spending 36 hours in a holding cell.
In this space, she is no longer a human, denied privicies and other basic needs such as a blanket (or even a newspaper) to cover herself in the cool air-conditioned cells.
In this cell she meets many many Spanish speakers who, because of their race and lack of English skills, are suspected of being illegal immigrants and dumped into the deportation process.
One such woman she befriended was a grandmother with children and grandchildren all who’ve grown up in the States. She gets arrested for “trespassing and stealing” water for her over-heated radiator. She is Mexican and has a valid Green Card. She has not been back to Mexico for 31 years and is about to be sent there with no judicial process because she “broke the law”.
Everyone is handcuffed as they are deported. Even a grandmother.
This woman, telling me her story, is angry at the way she was treated, but angrier still for all the woman she met who are unjustly being detained and deported. She is writing to the USA Embassy, the newspapers and blogging to highlight what’s happening and what can be done.
Here I am. Staring my latest two minute news article in the face. Yes, take a look; this is what the face of this story looks like. This is what the human is experiencing on the other end of the mechanical news readers voice. It’s impossible to be numb at this distance. It’s impossible too, to despair at this distance. This woman, telling the story is breathing strongly, keenly. She is empowered into action. And I am listening with wide eyes and an open heart.
These stories don’t end. They never will. I recognise now, I can be more mindful about integrating the world back into my life. It was an eye-opening and, surprisingly, heart healing and edifying experience. Yes I felt anger, despair, detachment, sadness. I also felt love and empathy and compassion and empowerment of healing. I wasn’t expecting that, and because of that, I am a little more willing to look these stories in the face again.
Off The Mat Course
- Do you feel as if you have authentic purpose in the world, but are not sure what it is or how to activate it?
- Do you feel ready to live your life in a more meaningful and connected way?
- Are you drawn to service but don’t know where or how to begin?
- Are you already living a full and active life of service in the world, but feel burnt out?
Join Marianne Elliott and Kelly Fisher for the Yoga in Action course and discover more about yourself and your path to authentic service in the world. Yoga in Action will also help to ground your service in the world in a solid practice of self-care and of accepting group support.
Yoga is Action (YIA) has been developed by Off The Mat (OTM) and uses the power of yoga to guide through a process of self-inquiry to awaken your purpose and put it into action. Through this journey, you will develop the awareness and the courage to invite change into your life so that you can awaken your authentic voice and align with your purpose. Through collaboration and resources, YIA will help you catalyze change and turn your intention into action and take care of yourself in the process.
Who: Marianne Elliott and Kelly Fisher
What: Seven Three-Hour Yoga and Discussion Workshops
When: Sundays 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
June 13 – July 25, 2010 (Please note, the course will be held from 2pm-5pm on June 27)
Where: Yoga Unlimited Level One, 80 Tory Street
How Much: $350
Register by June 8, 2010 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 04 384 4329. Places are limited.