Thursday, May 5, 2011

Running Through the Nettles

In the aftermath of the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, I awoke this morning feeling lightheaded, and slightly off balance –and grateful that I could take my visceral reactions into my morning yoga class and move the uncomfortable energy out of my body with the help of my wise teacher.

Several images keep surfacing in my mind’s eye. An image of President Obama – full screen – full face – telling the American people that “justice has been done.” An image of young people –perhaps in Boston or Washington or New York City, rallying jubilantly in the streets, waving flags and chanting “USA! USA! USA!” An image of 9/11 victims’ families once again weeping in each others’ arms. The image of a human being backed into a corner and purposefully shot to death in the presence of witnesses who may or may not have been members of his own family.

I feel internally fragmented. There is much in me that responds with cynicism relative to the way the death of bin Laden may play into the particular needs of the political drama - - on both sides of the blue-red divide. Part of me responds with great sorrow at the image of people rejoicing over the death of another human being - no matter how evil that human being is perceived to be. Part of me aches with both sadness and hope for individuals and families so wounded by the events and aftermath of the September 11th attacks - - sadness for wounds barely healing, now re-opened; hope for relief and healing and an ability to

begin to move on. Part of me is astounded at the enormity of the fear and rage that has simmered just beneath the surface of our collective consciousness over these last 10 years and the way it has fueled and supported the pursuit of the elusive bin Laden. Part of me cringes at the thought of a human being – strategically hunted down, cornered and killed like an animal. And part of me thinks “Hmmm –true to form, he used his wife as a human shield to protect himself.”

To thread my way through all of this to an integrated place of compassion and nonviolence seems more than this small consciousness can do. I have read that the young people need to rejoice. So many of them were young children when the September 11th attacks took place. They have lived with the threat of terror almost all their lives. The death of Osama bin Laden in some way symbolizes a release from that fear. In spite of my resistance to their dancing, my heart opens a little in understanding. I feel myself shrivel inside when I hear the words “Justice has been done.” It seems more like revenge to me. But when I open a little to seeing that for some, bin Laden’s death closes a little more the circle of sorrow and pain, I come closer to an inner sense of balance. For some, indeed, a sense of justice is fulfilled. When I contemplate the collective fear and rage that simmers, and I can recognize that fear is the determinant of our response to the threat that bin Laden represents, then my heart opens wider with compassion for the fearful.

There is often a felt “push” to come down in a particular place of judgment when an event of such volatile magnitude happens. In the initial stages of integrating this most recent painful reality, a vast aching is all I can come up with - - hardly a decisive opinion. So, for the moment, I am entertaining the notion that the nonviolent response I can authentically make is to hold the space for all the conflicting emotions and judgments and responses going on within and around me - - to allow it all to be - - to become a safe place for each expression and response to be received without judgment. This requires a lot more trust in the Oneness of All than I am often able to keep in consciousness - - but today it is where my hope resides.

I am reminded of a traditional story I heard years ago about the healing power of nettles. They are plants with sharp stinging barbs that wound the flesh – but they also have healing properties for certain kinds of illness. Running through them can produce terrible pain - - but the pain may result in an eventual healing. I wonder if this is one more episode of running through the nettles on the way to a greater good. Oh, if it were only so.

Vicky Hanjian

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