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  • Karl Thunemann

Light into Darkness

light lights light

- from Raymond Roseliep in The Haiku Anthology

After the recent police brutality and the violence and looting that proceeded from peaceful protests, many of us are wondering how we got to such a dark, divided place. After the gains we made in the ‘60s toward a peaceful, fair, and just society, how have we landed so far from those ideals? Hysterical partisanship has been ramping up for years. Now even attempts to listen, let alone appreciate or understand opposing views, are rare. More people than ever seem entrenched in vilifying others as terrible, stupid, dangerous, even evil – the enemy. We don’t separate the human from the belief or the behavior. Hatred toward each other seethes and anger erupts.

So many adults these days are behaving like angry, hurt children. Lashing out. Calling names. Throwing fits, taking sides and being mean.

My husband taught young children for over 40 years. Some groups were naturally contentious. It didn’t take much for arguments to start and for the whole class to begin fighting. Here’s how he managed those classes and nurtured a different environment. The rule was clear: No one is allowed to intentionally hurt anyone’s body, feelings or things. He enforced the rule by directly and immediately addressing every instance when that trust was violated, fully processing the situation with the group. Most often the conflicts were equitably resolved and frequently spontaneous acts of kindness followed. In rare instances, when children couldn’t participate without continuing hurtful behavior, they were given a choice: Find a way to participate cooperatively or take some time away from the group. They were always welcomed back when they could say they were ready. Daily, my husband solicited, listened and discussed kids’ feelings with them. He found ways to empower each of them, helping them grow individually and as part of the group.

So many adults these days are behaving like angry, hurt children. Lashing out. Calling names. Throwing fits, taking sides and being mean.

Years ago, when I was affiliated with the Corrective Parenting branch of the Transactional Analysis community, my adult daughter and I presented a conference workshop called Continuing the Task. We all inherit the on-going job of raising ourselves. Our parents only begin the process for us. We each have to continue guiding and nurturing ourselves, setting limits, growing into more mature, complete adults. It’s hard personal work to face unresolved hurt, shame or guilt. To move through it and grow beyond it. Being fully human is to feel our sadness, happiness, fear and anger. How we express those emotions is the measure of a healthy adult. We may all at times feel so angry that we want to hurt someone or destroy something.

Decades ago, while attending a residential meditation retreat, I had a violent dream. I openly and brutally killed a man. Disturbed by the dream and upset by how foreign it was to how I saw myself, I shared the dream and my concern with the workshop leader. He said the more light we allow to shine within us, the more it illuminates our dark corners and brings that darkness to light for healing.

As I sit to meditate and begin focusing on my breath, I let my thoughts and tensions go. I sit in silence and go within. I relax and feel calmer. I connect with a place in me that is universal. Eternal. It’s a place of peace and light and awareness.

When I’m not meditating, I try to be more aware of my unconscious patterns. More patient with myself and others. I know I can be defensive and sometimes too quick to react. I hold tension around my mouth. I’m ready to bite or defend.

In the face of injustice, I use my voice and this ready energy to speak up. I join others in confronting oppression to preserve our sacred ideals of liberty and justice for all.

Mimi Simmons is a contributor to May I Dwell in Gratitude.


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