March 18, 2022
“Fate of Hundreds Unknown: Missiles Hit City in Ukraine’s West”
“13 Year Old Boy Drives Truck into Van, Killing Nine People in Texas”
“Powerful Storms Could Bring Tornadoes To the Southeast (USA)”
“An International Agency Warns About a Global Energy Crisis”
“If you know how to make good use of the mud, you can grow beautiful lotuses. If you know how to make good use of suffering, you can produce happiness.” Thich Nhat Hanh
These headlines are just a sample of what I, and you, awoke to this morning. They are enough to make us head for the nearest cliff, or weep, or drink. Nothing seems fair, especially since we were just beginning to breathe again as Covid seems to take a step back. How, then, do we live?
This Lent, I have been trying to practice the three tenets of Zen Peacemaking as a way to grow in my own spirituality and do something meaningful for myself and for the world, since my actions- and yours- impact others. The first two tenets are Not Knowing and Bearing Witness, which I discussed in the previous two blogs. The third is Taking Action, the kind of action that arises from practicing not knowing and bearing witness.
So often we do not know what will happen next. If the last two years have taught us anything, surely the pandemic and war have proven how little we know about what is around the next corner. It is anyone’s guess. Christ knew that. It is why he so often spoke about the need to “stay awake” and pay attention to this moment, this day. Most spiritual leaders make that same demand because all we can be sure of is what is happening here, now. The challenge is how we will choose to respond to each moment.
So when the next thing does happen- a pandemic, war, terminal illness, lost job, death of a loved one, broken dream-how will we respond? As the second tenet invites, we bear witness to all our feelings and consciously choose which ones we will “feed.” Hopefully, the feelings we choose will lead to the third tenet: taking action in a compassionate way.
In an anxious and tired world, these three Zen tenets can lead to meaningful responses instead of violent reactions in any situation. If we want to change in any spiritual way, choosing to act from our hearts, from the seat of the Loving Divine, in a way that heals and comforts, is surely essential. Judgment, rigidity, self-righteousness, and violence are all contrary actions to caring from the heart, with compassion.
Sometimes the action we take is simply to continue to practice not knowing and bearing witness. Or perhaps the action we take is doing the daily things life calls us to from a place of peace, calm, and gratitude, avoiding all the noise of those who know no other way. Or maybe we speak out in the face of injustices. Our actions reflect who we are; they impact the world, a world that desperately needs care.
Walking with you~ Rosemary
Across the world, she pulls
crisp white dresses from a rope
suspended above baked mud,
her saffron turban wrapping her hair
on a windless hot day
while she folds each dress
with strong dark hands, her fingers
smoothing each crease in a longing
for Sabbath and hope.
Somewhere north, she picks up shirts
scattered like toys across a bedroom floor,
buttons them carefully, then folds them,
placing them in a drawer, her soft hand lingering
a moment on the collar while she remembers
her son as a child, wishing him love.
And to her east, she dries the last teacup
and folds the frayed dish towel
hanging it evenly over the empty bowl
before turning off the light, her long day
complete, her action a trust.
West of her, where bombs and missiles shatter peace,
she sits in a subway tunnel, sewing a button
on the jacket her brother is not there to wear
before folding each sleeve, along with her fear,
into place as she settles to wait.
Folding, folding, eons of folding,
squares, rectangles, triangles a way
of life, a way to life, a folding
that encompasses some sense
of order, a resistance to chaos,
an answer to not knowing,
an action, a prayer,
this ritual of a woman’s care.
© Rosemary McMahan
Image credit: Pixabay
4 thoughts on “A Way to Be: Taking Action”
Oh my. So beautiful, Rosemary.
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Thank you so much, Julia.
Your poem fills my eyes with emotion, especially the fourth stanza. Thank you for its beauty in simplicity and care. Your words inspire me as it’s been a difficult week for me but I have been grounded in compassion and care as gifts from the Source of all Goodness.
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Yes, it is a hard time. “Grounding” is key. Sending you light!