It was about this time last year or maybe later around MLK day in January, that I decided to take on a new discipline. Having long been inspired by Dr. King and Thich Nan Hahn’s writings, I longed to make non-violence a personal discipline. I joined Pace e bene and began receiving their materials and as time passed, I realized I had taken on way more than I could chew. The exercise of learning to become a non-violent human being was more than I anticipated —especially alone. Non-violence, I discovered was learned and engendered in community; even the community of me, myself, and I. In the old days, my mom liked to quote the Scriptures, “charity begins at home and spreads abroad;” I discovered that Non-Violence does too.
I am now learning that not only is non-violence a full-time venture, but it also begins with my attitude towards myself and expands to others. I discovered external violence is always a reflection of the inner landscape of the soul. I had to reflect on my tendency to think unloving, unhelpful, and unhealthy thoughts or behaviors that I directed towards myself—often without even knowing it. I’m sure I’m not alone, either. How many times have you spoken less than lovingly to yourself as you stood in a mirror not liking your hair, or clothes, or that pimple that suddenly popped up on your forehead? How often have you gone over and over in your mind, ugly or hurtful words spoken to you—beating yourself up for not measuring up? How often have you agreed with someone else’s judgement of your value or your contribution to a project that you have put your heart and soul into?
It is during times of painful self-judgment that we forget we are Beloved Daughters and Sons of GOD and heirs of eternity. Neither judgement of self nor others is helpful nor healthy and both judgement of self and others perpetuates violence against the sacred self’s Soul.
Even our societal norms are shaped in oppressive structures that perpetuate violence upon us. Without the realization of the Christ within, we are a violent people. The news headlines attest to this fact.
A friend and I were recently talking about how we usually grieve in ways that defy the natural and normal progression of life. Consider the way we are often expected to quickly grieve our losses for example. We feel uncomfortable with our own and other’s grief and often want it to be over and done with as soon as possible. In indigenous and less industrialized communities, grief is allowed to play itself out in more natural and nurturing ways. How can something so normal as grief, be ignored, perceived as unhealthy and something to be hidden from friends and those we love? An act of self-violence to be sure.
This year’s Advent retreat is called “The Non-Violent Journey.” We will celebrate the beginning of a new Church year as we anticipate GOD incarnate, the Non-Violent Jesus, the Prince of Peace into our human neighborhood. The retreat will help us focus on learning how to embody Christ’s Peace and to let go of harmful, self-violent acts in our own lives in the year ahead. Come and join us. You are welcome to learn with us how to “become the change we wish to see in the world.” Learning Non-Violence is an Act of Love.