The following is the text of the talk I gave at North Raleigh Community Church as part of the community’s Peace Meditation Day, September 11, 2010
Holdings of the Heart, September 11, 2010
“Peace” … If we are attentive enough to notice, just hearing the word brings a body sensation, the nature of which is determined by one’s personal experience of both the word and the state of being. We cannot “wage peace” the way we “wage war” and hope to achieve peace. We can only be peace and know peace, and thus reflect this inner state back to a hungry world, a world starving for both peace and unity.
One of the things I did in preparing for today was to turn to what I wrote on September 12, 2001. I’d like to share an excerpt from “Essay on the Day After:”
On the first day after the day of my country’s greatest tragedy, I sit at my keyboard transcribing the personal journal of a World War II medical doctor stationed on a cruiser in the Pacific. As I type, I am also listening to NPR coverage of yesterday’s terrorist attack on the United States. The two activities – transcribing and listening – represent events fifty-seven years apart, yet common threads run through both. My professional work with the war journal now sits juxtaposed against my personal work with my heart’s pain, confusion, and grief. I know that the roots of war extend deeply into our collective past, where they breathe beneath our best intentions and hopes for peace. I know, too, that our collective heart is simply not yet beating as one, hasn’t quite aligned to the ultimate truth that we are one – literally – with all that is, a now irrefutable truth that is clearly not yet penetrating the hard-rock foundation upon which all conflict so piously stands.
In spite of the polarization still surrounding us, I can see that the collective heart is beginning – beginning – the alignment I wrote about in 2001. The truth of oneness, long the foundational pillar of our spiritual traditions, is also a fundamental conclusion of quantum physics, and it seems that science and spirituality (if not yet religion) are seated now at the same sacred campfire, savoring the marshmallow sweetness, while determining the implications, of our literal interconnectedness. Physicists like the late David Bohm have known for some time that space and time are composed of the same essence of matter; that pairs of electrons, even millions of miles apart from each other, communicate through a cosmic sea of consciousness. The Ogallala Medicine Man, Black Elk, said: “Peace..comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship – their oneness – with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” And from best-selling author Gregg Braden, “The sooner we recognize our relationship with the world around us, the sooner we recognize our inner choice of peace mirrored as gentle weather patterns, the healing of our societies, and peace between nations.”
Now more than ever, it is time to do the deeply personal, yet never private healing work that reignites our innate reverence for life and allows the embodiment of the Ultimate Reality, our At-One-Ment, our Oneness. If humanity suddenly awakened to its Oneness with All That Is, peace on earth would manifest in an instant, one heart at a time. Today, September 11, 2010, I am still hopeful that the separation illusion, that division called Them or Me, will in my lifetime give way to the unity of Us and We.
In your moments of stillness today, ponder the idea that I am another you and you are another me, and that what I do to you, I do to myself. From this place of reference, it’s easy enough to see that if I cannot love and honor myself, then I can easily harm that “other me” that is showing up as “you.” In living intentionally within the reality of Oneness, the way that I am literally my brother’s keeper is by taking complete responsibility for my personal thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Examining the motivations for my actions will lead to the awareness of my underlying fears and fearful beliefs, and ultimately to the choice to speak and act from love rather than fear, to live from the reality of unity rather than the illusion of separateness.
Such self-awareness is best served by looking deeply at the holdings of the heart – those wounds, beliefs, and resulting self-rejection and pain that continue to cause suffering for ourselves and others. We then must become willing to make a commitment to attend to that pain by taking responsibility for healing it. Most of the deepest pain is a shared pain, which at its core is the result of the mistaken belief that I call the World’s Great Lie, that we are not worthy and, therefore, not good or lovable enough. When we connect with this most damaging of all beliefs, we open the door to remembering and claiming the truth: our worth is not in question, and we, having come from the Great Love That Imbues All Things With Itself, are deserving of our own and others’ love.
When I finally come to awaken to both the knowledge and the feeling of my and others’ worth, I cannot help but forgive us all for the outward projection of our unexamined personal and collective fear and pain, which we only project because we are asleep to the truth of our worth and the worth of all our kin.
In the beginning, it can simply be through changing our behaviors that we see some of the life-giving results we’ve longed to experience. Ultimately, it is in the embodied feeling of oneness with all things, with all life, that our innate reverence for life is uncovered. Oneness in action, what I call “Doing the Oneness,” means, to quote Machaelle Small Wright, “behaving as if the God in all life mattered.” It is important to understand that “all life” means “all manifestation,” not just the human sort. Passion flares in flesh and bone, spirit breathes inside a stone. And all life – whether stone, tree, ocean, kitten – has specific properties needed by the whole. For example, evergreen trees neutralize the impact of our angry words; sitting still while holding a stone can bring one to a settled state of deep peace, a quality held for us by the stone itself.
In Doing the Oneness as daily practice we eventually come to the sense that separateness and its duality state of superiority/inferiority has cleared from our energy field. Then, one day, one moment, something may happen to make the separation state rear its head. When it does, if we’re committed to living from the highest place possible we have an obligation to do what we can to return to love. Let me give you an example from my own life with another excerpt from “Essay on the Day After”…
Most of us, when pushed far enough, are capable of another’s destruction. As I read more of the doctor’s war journal this morning, I am struck by the deep psychological need to view another as the very incarnation of evil in order to be able to destroy that human being, that brother of my heart.
I looked up then and saw my Earth Flag, one of many that have flown on my front porch for more than twenty years. I’ve kept them there because I love this Earth so very much, and because I believe that whatever God is, it does not play favorites. In a neighborhood of red, white, and blue, an Earth Flag is my statement of Oneness, unity, and universalism. I found that Tuesday morning that it doesn’t take long, especially in times of great trial, to find vestiges of all sorts of “isms” – racism, sexism, elitism, absolutism – along with lots of other fear-based stances used to separate ourselves from one another.
On this day, an “ism” arose in me that I couldn’t recall experiencing before. What I can only label a super patriotism compelled me – almost – to go downtown to B&W Hardware and buy an American flag. The unexpected patriotism evaporated when I consciously chose to put myself in the place of both the ones who attacked and the ones so understandably devastated and outraged by the attack. I could literally feel the immense pain of this “shot heard ’round the world” reverberating throughout the universe, and I could feel it from all the perspectives represented. It was because I had been “doing the Oneness” and attending to my heart’s holdings that my Soul as Observer, my Authentic Self, rose up to provide the unique vantage point. From this place, I was awed, shocked, and grieved by the power of “Them or Me” – that is, fear and separation – when it trumps “Us and We” – love and unity. In that moment, the isms dropped away and all that remained was the view through the eyes of the One we all are.
As I said a few minutes ago, we can’t wage peace; we can only be peace. For most of us, being peace isn’t something that comes easily; it isn’t something that just “moves in” like a roommate or a friend. The truth is, Peace is our True Nature and it sits within us already, albeit like an impacted Wisdom tooth. Peace is held within the deepest part of us, the unencumbered Heart, which is not a place that many of us know well. Listening to our heart’s stories with compassion and mercy is where we must begin in order to dwell as fully as we can in a state of peace and to extend that peace to this hungry world, this Great Village of Humanity. I live by the message from Mary Lou Kownacki: “Engrave this upon my heart: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.”
If I allow myself to look beyond all the isms of this world and just look into the face of another, I cannot help but see her as myself.
I see pain and hope, fear and joy in his eyes, eyes just like mine, eyes that long for Love, despite the appearance, for the eyes are literally the window of the soul. How can I hurt you if I see your pain, unless I am unwilling to face my own? Surely this is the key to loving my brother as myself – first I must love myself. To do so means I must embrace my own suffering. Without my willingness to move within those amber waves of pain, I cannot nurture you with my harvested experience of self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, cannot give you the blessed water of deeply understanding your own suffering and your own need for forgiveness.
The word “forgive” when turned around is “give for.” I say that forgiveness ought to be understood this way: “Now that I’m awake to Oneness, and now that I’m awake to the consequences of our unexamined pain, what will I now GIVE FOR what I gave then, for what I gave when I was asleep?” Viewed this way, forgiveness is a balancing act come from self-awareness and self-responsibility, rather than blame and a need for payment. I think that to turn the other cheek is not about opening oneself to additional mistreatment, but about turning toward the truth – and holding the truth for all life – that those perpetrating harm have simply forgotten the need to look within the holdings of their heart; they have forgotten the unchanging truth of their own worthiness, as well as mine. And they no longer remember the truth of our inseperableness.
Through faithfully healing the holdings of the heart, which sit atop our innate peace, we become a healing presence in the world. As that healing presence, we more easily hold ourselves and each other in love through the reality of our oneness, our “Inter-beingness,” as Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace nominee Thich Nhat Hahn calls it,rather than view each other through a glass darkly, a lens of separateness and fear. And as I found out nine years ago (and several times since), even though certain festering fearful parts of myself can still arise, when they do I am able to call upon the truth of worthiness, of Oneness, and the Love That Made Us All to center and hold me. I’d like to share Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem, Interrelationship:
You are me, and I am you.
Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.
I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.
Once I open my heart to experience myself as the Love that I Am, I am healed by that never absent Original Love that created me.
I do my healing work for the sake of you-as-me and for the seven generations that I stand in the middle of. I do it so that you and I will no longer suffer by my heart and hand. My healing, then, while personal is never private. My healing and your healing both lift the world.
The peace that passeth understanding is the peace of the Whole and Holy Heart, which is rooted in Divine Oneness and held in the Heart and Halo of Heaven, that Divinity that sees us all as sparks of Itself and awaits our own recognition of the peace that we are. As you listen to Judy Collins singing Deep Peace take into your heart that you are truly one with the running wave, the flowing air, the quiet earth, the shining stars, and the gentle night; take in, too, that you and I can only see ourselves when we look into the mirror of each other’s eyes. “Peace I leave to you; my peace I bring to you.”
© Amy Pierce and In Spiritual Wonder, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Pierce and In Spiritual Wonder with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.