My heart has been hurting about the events in Charlottesville this weekend. My family is from that area and I have loved visiting for many years. The intellectual and emotional challenge of these events is squeezing many of us.
My 30-year old niece, who was a paramedic and respiratory therapist, was killed in a car accident just outside Charlottesville in July. The daughter of my brother’s neighbor, a school friend of my niece, nearly missed being hit by the car-attack at the Charlottesville demonstration. I heard she was pushed out of the way by her friend but they witnessed the killing of the other young woman. My niece, the neighbor, and this other young woman were living for causes they believe in.
Our emotions are essential to who we are as human beings. Our emotions guide our behavior like a compass. They are created by our habits of mind. Our emotions are clarified, tempered, and transformed by our level of consciousness. What we practice and think about becomes what we live.
Grief is important for a time primarily because it points us, if we allow it, to life and what we love in the here and now. It can point us, if we allow it, to appreciation.
Pain is important because it points us toward something that needs our care and attention. Pain points us to something important that needs to change, like we need to remove our hand from the hot stove or we need to change how we talk to our child or partner.
Anger is also important and it is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the graphic from The Gottman Institute. Anger is important because it’s a fire in us. Fire is a tool that can be directed to heat homes and forge steel but this fire will destroy us unless we can use it to drive something else, something better.
The pine cones of many trees will not release their seeds until they have been scorched by the heat of fire. The fire is necessary for liberation, transformation, and new life.
We have witnessed an enormous level of expressed anger in our country over the last year or so. Our country’s administration has demonstrated a lack of human decency and integrity and basic respect and compassion for humans, systems, and the planet. They have demonstrated a dangerous and short-sighted, power-hungry stance toward governing.
What happened in Charlottesville was terrorism. Terrorists are fueled outwardly by anger and inwardly by fear, disenfranchisement, and powerlessness. They see no other way to express themselves or to be heard other than through hate and violence.
The catch is – You can never change a person’s mind or help them see the light by fighting them. Fighting against anyone is a reflexive reaction when we don’t know what else to do and when we fear losing or being wrong. How many times have you been convinced to see things differently by being beat up by someone exerting their power against you. I’m guessing that it just made you more entrenched, righteous, and angry.
Hillary Clinton challenged us when she said, “If this isn’t America, let’s prove it!” We must prove it by choosing the hearts and minds and behaviors that we want to embody. We must not waste our time and energy fighting against what we don’t want or we will continue to get what we do not want. There’s a war against drugs and a war against racism and a war against terrorism and a war against cancer and a war against whatever and we are not free of them. In fact, they are all greater problems. It doesn’t work.
Let’s work in our own hearts and minds to embody compassion, kindness, happiness, love, respect, integrity. Let’s behave toward everyone from that place. That is how you convince others to choose differently.
Let us follow the leadership of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Malala Yousafzai and many others . The long course of non-violent peaceful action and communication is the path. Do not relent in the pursuit of peace, first in your own heart and then in the world
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love;
this is the eternal rule.
~ Siddhartha Gautama Buddha
There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.
~ George Sand
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
~ Lao Tzu
3 Ways to Heal
- Feel the anger, hatred, judgment, and righteousness and look deeper for the fuel of it within you.
- Use the passion of that fire within you to identify what you really desire, such as peace and justice for all.
- Root out the damaging feelings and create the feelings you do want! See the hatred, judgment, and prejudice in your own heart before fighting it in someone else. Then, practice the thoughts and actions of the peace, kindness, compassion, and love that is your natural way of being. Express your real self fearlessly in the world. Work for peace not against anything else.
~ What we resist, persists.~ What we feed, lives. ~
Persist with peace. Feed love in yourself and toward everyone else.
May all beings be free from inner and outer suffering.
2 thoughts on “Charlottesville: The Gift of Pain & 3 Ways to Transmute It”
Beautifully stated and helpful advice. Thanks, my niece is the friend you mention and her mother had shared this on Facebook as have I. It really gets to the anger, hurt and bewilderment many of us are experiencing and encourages compassion as well as other therapeutic actions. Again thank you so much for your words of wisdom and those of the sages you quote, they are right on point in this difficult time.
Thanks for your comments Martin. We do need to meet these issues on a different level. Glad this was helpful.