As I dive into exploring my own expanding sense of what it means to be a Sacred Activist, I land in memory. Like sea grass undulating in dark green currents, I reach for the story to illuminate the memory. Right now there is only a glint from a gossamer thread. I look for words strung together to bring memory into view but instead story eludes me and I have only an inchoate feeling sense of what sacred activism means to me.
And it is this. When an unexpected traumatic or conflictual situation rises before me, an unknown response waits inside. I ask myself what guides me – love guides me/compassion quickens me. Though I have said before that I have no choice, in the larger sense I always have choice. Do I choose to retaliate, to confront, to add fuel to the proverbial fire?
I make an instantaneous choice in the moment based on my essential living/loving self and the situation before me.
Does fear rise, anger? Of course…but so quickly they could be the blur of a hummingbird’s wing, humor and cleverness and love rise too.
I trust that.
I learn so much about myself when I’m willing to be true to my natural instincts to support life wherever I find it, to be willing to be both actor and acted upon, engaging with yet simultaneously witnessing. I trust my instinct to build relationship, to move toward generating kinship rather than away from a risky encounter.
And moving toward a risky encounter may actually mean moving away from engagement so as to preserve the other’s life as well as my own. This is not surrender or weakness but the potency of my value system revealing itself in my behavior.
The memory surfacing here is meeting a mother bear on a trail loaded with huckleberry bushes. Her two cubs scrambling up a tree alerted me to her presence. My intention for that day’s hike was to reach a mountain pass I’d long wanted to visit but I stopped dead in my tracks when encountering the Momma whose side broadly faced me – her defense stance showing me how big she was. My friend hiking behind me almost slammed into my back I’d stopped so abruptly. I murmured, “Sue, turn around, NOW.” I apologized to the bear, turned my own back and began singing a song of apology, describing my leaving her space and promising not to return that day since I didn’t know how long she needed to be there.
This was her dining table after all, not mine.
My dear friend, Sue, responded with alacrity – no questions – turning and singing too. We never looked back and we were never followed. We never made it to that mountain pass but I was happy to make that sacrifice for the good of my soul.
Memories now surface of other small encounters that reflect my notions of sacred activism:
conciliatory behavior to the man enraged by my dogs barking at him and his son as they walked by my fenced yard. I was so kind that he lost his ability to yell at me.
squatting down and sitting with my paranoid client crouched in a corner of her room, curled up with eyes closed and mouth rammed shut. I sat with her and shared a dream I’d had two nights before. I suddenly knew it belonged to her. She opened her eyes, began to uncurl.
standing in support of the Missoula women’s clinic after it had been firebombed and sharing with angry protestors about my love for the unborn fetus and the miracle of birth. They looked totally puzzled but shared eye contact and actually wanted to know more.
All these ordinary encounters offer opportunities for compassion to melt fear and anger, and thus we can all be sacred activists any where all the time…I’ve made my choice. Will you?