One of the basic principles of peacemaking circles* is that the only person you can change is yourself. In doing racism work, this is important to remember. It is also important to remember this regarding all the crazy that lives in social media.
A long time ago, I came across the term "target patient." In a dysfunctional family, one of the members becomes the target patient. Everyone else can hold it together enough to function, but there may be one person who does all the things--addiction, law-breaking, etc. Then the mantra becomes, "If we can just fix her, everything will be all right." Well, in fact, everything won't be all right. If the target patient becomes healthy, it shines a light onto the broken systems within the family.
It is the same with our world community. If an individual changes, if I change and become healthy and whole, it shines a light onto the world system. It is there we can offer opportunities to invite others into healing, but of course, you cannot force them to do so. You can only change yourself.
The temptation is to then stay inwardly focuses, healing and working on your own self without regard to the wider human community. This is why I like the updated Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It adds the stage of transcendence where it stopped at self-actualization previously.
Of course, I don't think it is really a hierarchy. More like a fluid sampling of all categories of needs. We have our feet planted in several categories at once. So, what I really want to say is that transforming systemic oppression is really self actualization work and the work of transcendence.
Moving from being healed to being a healer hits the archetype of wounded healer. Those are the most effective teachers and most compassionate listeners. And yet, the only person you can change is yourself. We can only offer healing to a wounded world, support others in their own healing work.
How can you offer healing to a wounded world?
Today's practice brings music from cellist Tina Guo, an essay from Anja Tanhane, a sacred quote from Pema Chödrön, and a photo from Eddie Van W. Along with readings from the Jewish and Christian lectionaries, the Qur'an, and the Buddhist tradition. And as always, we have our BIBOLOVE practice from Soyinka Rahim. (BIBO = Breathe In, Breathe Out). Our prayers for this week focus on Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
*Peacemaking Circle process principles come from Saroeum Phoung and the Tagish Tlingit First Nation people.
Let my heart rise up to meet mercy, my voice to meet compassion, my hands to meet action.
BIBOLOVE: Breath In, Breath Out--shhh
The Rains of Castamere by Tina Guo
Kingsukuroi by Anja Tanhane
Kintsukuroi – the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken
It is a beautiful image – a broken ceramic bowl, put back together with glue of gold, so that the strands of gold weave through the bowl and it looks more beautiful than before it was broken.
In our lives, the gold we heal with is love, kindness, compassion. We sometimes come across people who seem to have a ‘beautiful soul’, who emanate kindness and strength. Usually, when we hear their story, we find out that they have been through some very difficult times in their lives. Sometimes suffering can make us bitter, cynical, disengaged from those around us. Other times, suffering can infuse our lives with qualities like love, patience, equanimity. It’s difficult to know why some people seem broken by suffering, and others are strengthened. It’s a complex interplay between our attitudes, personality, upbringing, the supports available us, the attitudes of our society to suffering, and a range of biological and neurological influences. One person might have a plethora of supports available and reject them all, while someone else might get only one brief opportunity which they grasp with both hands and use to transform their lives.
The image of the wounded healer is a person who is able to support others in their healing, because they’ve been broken and put back together themselves. When you work in the helping professions, you find that most of your colleagues have their own back story of suffering and healing. In certain shamanic cultures, the signs that someone might be called to be a shaman include – being hit by lightning, having a serious illness which nearly kills them, or having a nervous breakdown. They are broken apart and have to put themselves back together in a new, transformed way. The current shaman will support this person as they go on their healing journey, and eventually, if all goes well, that person will become the next healer of the community.
We can see the past suffering of someone as the gold which has strengthened them and made them more beautiful, rather than a shameful secret which needs to be hidden from view. It can be tempting to attempt to repair our broken lives with invisible glue, so no one will ever guess there are any cracks in us. To repair a broken bowl with gold is no doubt patient and taxing work. It’s not a matter of sticking a few pieces together and hoping for the best. Sometimes, the repair may not be successful. The bowl which has been repaired with gold does not wallow in its brokenness, but nor does it hide it. Life goes on for the bowl – it is transformed, and it has become more beautiful.
Weekly practice idea:
Put aside some quiet time and reflect on what is the gold in your life which you have used to repair the cracks in you. Think of this gold as precious and healing, rather than something which needs to be hidden. How does it feel to think about healing in this way?
Jewish Daily Reading: Daily Study from Chabad
Christian Daily Reading: Revised Common Lectionary Daily Reading
Muslim Daily Reading: Daily Verse from The Only Quran
Buddhist Daily Reading: Daily Zen
Please bring your own sacred readings to the daily pattern. If there is something else you'd like to see, let me know!
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
Weekly prayer focus comes from the World Council of Churches prayer cycle. We know the world needs to be surrounded with prayer and positive thought. This allows us to work through the world country by country. We focus on one set of countries per week with the same prayer, lifting them up.
Focus countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
Let us pray.
We know that we fail to live up to being makers of peace. Let us bring in rather than push out, be invitational rather than confrontational--seeing signs of life while decrying the desecration of hope.
For signs of hope and peace, we pray for
- Those Christians and Muslims who remained faithful to their traditions during Soviet domination.
- Those who work for peace in a region of ancient animosities, as well as new ones created in the aftermath of the Soviet system.
- Armenian khatchkars – intricately decorated crosses carved on monolithic rocks.
- Monasteries and churches, lovingly being restored.
- Musical traditions going back centuries.
- Traditions of elaborate family meals and wondrous hospitality.
- Movement towards equality.
For the oppressed and weary, we pray for
- The Georgian Orthodox Church, that it may rediscover a rich relationship with the family of churches worldwide.
- A foundation for peace among these countries, and an encouragement of new relationships with neighbouring nations.
- An end to all the boundary disputes which threaten to erupt into violence.
- Those suffering poverty and unemployment.
- New concern for the environment.
For those who suffer, are homeless, or are sick
For those we love, those we hate and those we are indifferent to
For the transformation from ME to WE
Let peace prevail on earth.
So may it be.
Translation by Neil Douglas Klotz, Sufi
O Birther! Creator of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us— make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now-
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all,
from age to age it renews.
Truly— power to these statements—
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow: Amen.
May Peace Prevail on Earth. Amen. So mote it be.