“When the heart opens, we see others, we feel the heart of others.” -Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, from Shambala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior
I had the good fortune to be asked to lead a workshop at the PeaceJam Southeast Conference at Florida State University last weekend, where Nobel Laureate Jody Williams was a keynote speaker and a mentor to the 600+ attendees (and a participant in my workshop-I can now say I’ve taught a Nobel Peace Prize Winner!)
Her speech at the opening of the conference was inspiring to me; she’s the kind of woman who says what she feels, does what she feels, and doesn’t let what others’ think sway her. She comes from an amazing depth of love for humanity, too. Although she has a razor sharp tongue, I see her as a courageous warrior of the heart. I aspire to be a woman like her.
Here’s the rub; I want to be a warrior of the heart, one who is informed by injustices and wrongs, but also informed by my love for humanity and my devotion to non-violence. I want to use words in a way that make people want to do better. I want to be inspiring to people who feel the depth of pain that I have felt. I want people who have been crushed by the unconsciousness of others to know they can rise up from the floor and decide to use their pain to uplift humanity. To use their pain as grist for the mill of growth and transformation.
The heart is capable of this remarkable feat.
I know anger very well. It has held me up when nothing else could. Anger is appropriate when our boundaries have been violated. Anger is a healthy and needed response when betrayal of basic human rights occurs. Anger is our feedback loop that a wrong has occurred that needs address. Sometimes it is anger that motivates us to action, but anger paired with love is an unstoppable combination.
Our hearts are so huge! What a great castle inside each of us, a stronghold that keeps the secret to living a happy life in its walls. We have the capacity to inhabit this great castle at the moments we choose to love, to connect, to reach out beyond ourselves and our pain. There is an endless supply of love that emanates from our hearts, if we choose it.
But pain can cause us to move out of the grand castle into a hovel in the dirt. We can feel so traumatized by our hurts that we can come to believe that a hovel is all we deserve, and all we can offer to others.
My advocacy is that responsible activism be motivated by both our righteous indignation, as Jody Williams called it, AND our use of our own pain to become conscious, loving human beings. Anger alone is a way to perpetuate the pain; I know some activists that are highly motivated by their pain, but haven’t done the courageous inner work to make their anger a force of love. To me, this is just adding to the injustice and disrespect that causes violence in the world. I have actually been accused by one of these activists of “doing nothing” because I elected to clean up my inner motivations before moving out into the world to act.
Before we move out into the world of activism, I feel it is wise to move INTO the world inside ourselves and be clear we are coming from the wisdom of the heart. If not, we may be adding to the world’s burden. Lashing out from our pain begets more pain.
“Our individual experience of sanity is inherently linked to our vision for a good human society…If we try to solve society’s problems without overcoming the confusion and aggression in our own state of mind, then our efforts will only contribute to the basic problems, instead of solving them.” -Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, from Shambala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior