“My friends, the enemy” ~ Dalai Lama referring to Chinese who occupy & victimize his homeland, Tibet
Thich Nhat Hanh & us, Hanoi 2007
Last year I asked Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn a question from my heart. The inquiry stems from a mindfulness training for cultivating communication and community. This training’s last line states, “We will not behave as a victim but be active in finding ways to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.” My question was “what actions are examples of not behaving as a victim, even though I, and my Jewish & Native American ancestors have been victimized?”
After a brief pause the teacher said that I should see the suffering in those who have victimized. With this insight compassion towards them grows. Gradually they become less enemy and victimizer, and more understood. Then, instead of turning or running away I will want to stay and help. Compassion goes together with happiness. Energy of compassion can heal both mind and body; something science is increasingly affirming. When we are peaceful and happy we have more energy. And with the extra energy from compassion and happiness I can further heal myself and stay to help others suffer less. And with experience, helping others, even those I feel victimized by, will become more second nature, replacing urges to run away or cause them to suffer. Such wise advice to an U.S. military veteran from a Vietnamese monk who was a victim of the American war, where nearly 6 million of his people died. Then he was exiled from his country by its communist govt, called a CIA agent.
Dalai Lama & Thich Nhat Hanh 2007
Over the past months I’ve done my best to stay present for others despite, at times, having desires to turn away. I recognize the energy of fear inside. Comforting it with conscious breathing. Breathing in, I recognize feelings of fear. Breathing out, I comfort and ease uncomfortable feelings in body and heart. Putting a smile on my face and experiencing a calm radiating from my lips, down throughout my body. Without this intention of maintaining peace inside and offering it out to others, it would be easy to become a victim of my own doing; again regretting words and actions taken in anger. Ancestors of mine suffered greatly, and then transmitted mountains & centuries of pain into me. Countless reasons to hate. I perceive having been hurt intentionally or accidentally by family members, young people, old people, women, men, straight, gay, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Caucasian, Black, Asian, Native American…
Oh, to keep heart open to those whom I meet, whether neighbor or stranger, recognizing their humanity, their suffering and wish for safety, satisfaction and connection. With heart open and mind calm I see that others are not separate from me. We miraculously co-exist at this cross-roads of space and time while humans still inhabit the blue, green earth. Some have so many fortunate conditions supporting them, others have so few. Such brief insights experienced give me hope that it’s possible to transcend fear, letting go, even if briefly, of the small sense of self. It feels nourishing and energizing to feed compassion, happiness and joy, rather than the 3 poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. I’m grateful to practice ways of overcoming the normal, almost expected, hateful, vengeful behaviors because I, and my people, are victims. May I shock and awe others, known and unknown, with my compassionate, loving presence and actions. May we all find gentle balance between dark and light energies. I will continue working for justice in my thoughts, words and actions with a light heart filled with gratitude for this precious, short sweet gift of life.
deer park temple bell