When I was young, say--6 years old--my family shuffled into the station wagon and drove down to Washington, DC for a figure skating show. It was one of my first times in the city, and definitely my earliest memory of it. As we were walking from car to arena, I noticed a homeless man on the side of the street. He wasn't begging. He was just sitting there. Sitting with a small pile of belongings beside him and wrapped in a grey blanket--the kind that was a mix of all the scraps--a sausage of blankets. I was carrying in my little backpack a bag of Cheeto's that my parents had packed as my snack. Walking past this man, hand-in-hand with my mom, I stared him down in all the ways you shouldn't as an adult but can get away with as a child. My heart dropped. How did this man end up here--and isn't he cold? He must be hungry. Tired. Sad. Lonely. We walked a few more blocks before I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn't let it go. My mom asked what was up, and I told her how sad I was for that man who was sitting on the sidewalk, and could I give him my Cheeto's because he must be hungry?
The next thing I remember is walking back to him, approaching his space with quiet reverence. He was sleeping. I tucked the bag of Cheeto's in between his belongings and body like a fragile package, not wanting anything to crumble or crack. I walked back to my mom with a lump in my throat and she gave me that look of hers that read Your heart is so huge and I'm so proud of who you are.We went to the ice skating show, and on the way back, I noticed that the Cheeto's were gone. He must've eaten them. Good, I thought. But still, the lump.
I could not get rid of the lump.
I've never really been able to stomach that lump.
Years have passed and more lumps have formed. More people witnessed. More privilege noticed. More questions roused. More sadness. More anger. More confusion. More education. More listening. More wonder.
I've learned from many people and places, and I've grown braver because of them. More confrontation. More speaking. More shining light on what most people would like kept in the dark. More humility. More vulnerability.
In speaking, I have received many things: More attacks. More sarcasm. More resistance. More defensiveness. More wounded, terrified, name-calling.
How It Feels To Speak & Be Heard
My body literally feels fear every time I speak. Walls go up. Muscles tense. Fears of being confronted with anger or "fuck-off" vibes, for my simple attempt at speaking out with love, in the name of justice, bubble to the surface. (Fears based on unfortunate experience).
Perhaps my communication method is off. Perhaps in our world today, if we are to get navigate past people's debilitating fears, guilt and loneliness, we have to be particularly gifted with words and the human condition. Or just always extremely compassionate and forgiving in our intentions.
All of this to say that the more I look, explore and speak on behalf of liberation, the more I am shown the distances we have to travel. The more I am called into my work. The more I am seeking people who are also called into this work. The work of navigating self-love and love for all living things, personal empowerment and global emancipation, honest communication about the injustice in the world and deep forgiveness toward our common lot that has allowed it.
The Truth At The Heart of Things
I am not interested in going on a righteous kick, shaming the "oppressor". We are all suffering. So deeply. As Julie Daley just wrote in her Girl Effect post:
Privilege also causes suffering. It hurts the heart to turn away from others, to not have to consider others.Intersections
It also hurts the heart to turn away from our sisters and brothers who are not, in one way or another, free to be fully expressed souls, free to live a life that is a reflection of the sacredness of the soul.
There is a very real benefit to all of us, and to all of life, for each of us to enter the realm of the broken-open heart.
I am interested in working--gently, honestly, courageously--on developing radical compassion and radical connectedness in the realm of the broken-open heart.
My working definition of liberation, as of now, is this:
Sustainable flow of expression by and for all living things.
Liberation isn't an end-result. Every piece of the puzzle is moving, and all the moving parts are always, at best, a practice. We already have liberation. Just like love. Just like holiness. It's one of those things that only has to be realized.
There's nothing to change, necessarily. And then, there's everything.
If we think of forest fires as necessary events in the sustainable flow of expression for the life of the forest and the ecosystem it's a part of--then even the dark, even destruction--are an essential part of liberation.
Everything's allowed in liberation.
Perhaps, even our resistance to this destruction--our dampening of the forest fires that emerge--are part of a larger sustainable cycle that we are far too small to see. If I am to really explore this theme, I must be willing to sit in the mystery, to take a deep breath of humility that there is so much I cannot know.
Okay. Truly. That breath was huge.
What's emerging for me now, is that we're still here in this world with people living on the streets, working in sweat shops, being removed from their homes, being traded as commodities. We're still here in this world with so many harsh realities.
And as conscious living beings, we have the power to express deeply, fully, courageously--what we deem worthy of expressing.
Our expressions can come in the shape of words, action, work, art, steps, stillness, breaths. It matters not how we express. It just matters that, when we feel a holy force within us, we do not hold back. We flow. Radically. Freely. Daringly. We flow not only for ourselves and not only because we want to, but because we are part of a larger force, a surrounding rush, that is moving us as part of a whole. Our expression is our surrender. Our surrender is our holy love. Our holy love wants all living things to thrive. Our holy love leans toward the path of liberation.
May we walk, humbly, together, with grace.
This is the first in a many-part series on Liberation. I'd be thrilled for your voice in this conversation. What are your thoughts on what's here? Ideas about liberation? Hopes for the world?
Will respond to your thoughts in the comments below.
with love and honor,