Tomorrow, January 30th begins the Season of Peace and Nonviolence which marks the dates of the Memorial of Mahatma Ghandi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There are mindfulness practices to promote peace in our lives and in our world for each of the sixty-four days. The practices are easy to do if one is focused and mindful of their thoughts, words, and actions. Each of the practices call us to an ever higher awareness of violence in our lives. There are some questions that rise for me.
What am I allowing in my life that is of violence? Of course, I don’t allow anyone to physically punch me, yet I allow harsh words to land without honoring a boundary of expecting peaceful conversation. It’s a swift one two punch of guilt and shame that I often heap onto myself. I am compelled to examine exactly what violence is for me. Beyond the senseless loss of lives to gun violence or other physical assaults, there is a plethora of violent actions that our society and I tolerate and allow. I will go so far as to say that a harsh honking of the horn in anger is violence. Pounding a hand against the steering wheel, shouting expletives, and waving arms in frustration are all violent expressions. Perhaps no one ended a human life but there certainly was an ending to any peacefulness and ease. Let me be clear by explaining that I don’t honk my horn. If someone is slow to pass through a red light turned green, I use this as my opportunity to practice patience with loving kindness. When I am living in a state of awareness of my divinity, the divinity of other beings and the interconnectedness of all creation, I significantly reduce my violent thoughts, words and actions. I consider words of sarcasm to be violent against another. I consider eye rolls that minimize another person’s value violence against another.
Another question that rises is what am I allowing for others that is of violence? When I hear someone using harsh, abusive language toward another how do I respond? When I see a person touching another in a way that is visibly undesirable by them, how do I intervene? I can tell you that it sometimes causes my family to worry that years ago I adopted the motto “not on my watch”. I have had many encounters that I have witnessed and stepped in, spoke up, and said no, that’s not ok. I have stopped curbside to be supportive to a woman who was being grabbed and berated by her man. I have spoken up after hearing deli employees speak awful and unkind words about gender identity. I have followed a car that was following a woman as she walked at night until the police arrived to handle the matter. Today, there is another name for this. It’s similar to the instructions we hear from TSA at every airport. If you see something say something. It’s really quite that simple.
Yet another question I ask is what am I willing to allow for my earth? How to I align with the treatment of animals in captivity or strays in my community? How to I care for mother earth. For me and everyone in my family, litter is violence against Mother Earth. What is the threshold for polluting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the forests we excavate for the purpose of making life more comfortable for humans?
I suppose we all have our threshold and tolerance levels and I acknowledge the many perspectives that exist. It is important for me to explore places in my life that I have neglected to see violence or have become lackadaisical in tending to the peace garden of my life. Perhaps we all can use this Season of Peace and nonviolence to explore unexpected ways we are violent or that we allow violence to permeate our world.
I draw upon these words from the men whom we honor in these 64 days of the Season of Peace and Nonviolence for inspiration:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy… Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being… Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.” Mahatma Gandhi
Peace from my heart to yours,