That Would Be Enough

In response to the violence in Charlottesville, in followup to my last post, In Protest, and with inspiration from three members of the clergy . . .

“That is all very well, little Alice. But there is a third thing you must do,” said her grandfather.
“What is that?” asked Alice.
“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

~ Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius

Kwan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion

To paraphrase our Associate Rector, Rev. Javier Almendárez Bautista, our world has a long history of racial violence. It’s nothing new. Do one thing, one small thing to participate in our life in Christ. That is enough. Rev. Candy Snively, the Deacon at our church, teaches that small acts of kindness can change the world. At 5:45am Sunday morning, my brother, Rev. Adam Thomas, the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal in Mystic, CT, re-wrote his sermon. It’s a passionate look at the Gospel verses quoted on a sign held by one of the white supremacists in Charlottesville. I implore you to listen to it. “I stand with love,” he says.

To stand with love through small acts of kindness, feels so very small. So insignificant except for the smile they bring to another’s face. A respectful dialogue with someone of an opposite political point of view can feel like a waste of time when it doesn’t lead to a change of heart and mind.

My parent’s have a framed copy of Picasso’s Dove of Peace surrounded with the words, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

Yoga teaches us that inner peace is a practice and a result of a practice. That life is a particle and a wave. We gentle the breath and experience gentleness. We listen with patience and become patient. If only for a moment. And then, as St. Benedict teaches in his Rule, we begin again. And again and again.

To practice the way of peace, here is a Buddhist Loving Kindness meditation I find helpful. It goes something like this.

  • Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and tune into your breath. Visualize someone you love. Make them vivid in your mind. Saturate yourself with the feeling of love. Notice the sensation in your body, your forehead, the corner of your lips, your neck and shoulders. Your chest, your belly. Your whole body.
  • Keeping this visualization, offer your loved one the following blessing:

May (name) be safe.
May (name) be healthy.
May (name) be happy.
May (name) live with ease.

  • Breathe.
  • Next do the same for yourself. Then for another person or group of people you care about, or for someone who is ill, injured, abused, etc.
  • When you lose the sensation of love come back to the visualization at the start of the meditation.
  • Now for the hard part. Bless your enemies. Do what you can to hold the feeling of love while wishing them safety, health, happiness, and ease. It can be a group of people, or a specific person. Notice how the love may feel different here. Notice your forehead, the corners of your lips, your neck and shoulders. Your chest, your belly. Your whole body.

Over the years I’ve prided myself on being able to hold some semblance of love, or some willingness to show love, for people or groups of people – bullies, terrorists, child pornographers (ok, maybe not them) – whom I dislike. The strange thing is, the more I do this meditation, the harder this last part seems to get. Or perhaps I’m getting more honest.  I have not yet been successful in blessing our President with anything more than gritted teeth.

“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” There is no way to love. Love is the way.

Next week we in North America will experience a total solar eclipse that quite literally, divides the nation from northwest to southeast. For about three hours on a Monday afternoon we will experience a new darkness. And yet . . . And yet, when the moon blocks the sun, those in the path of totality will get to see the corona, the light on the edge of the sun. The part that can only be seen in darkness.

At the end of her homily yesterday, Rev. Candy read to us a few words that have shaped her life. “When you walk to the edge of the light that you know, into the dark of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. You will be given solid ground to walk on, or you will be taught to fly.”

When you walk to the edge of the love that you know, and into the dark of the unknown – into violence and misunderstanding and fear – you must believe that your small acts of kindness do something to make the world more beautiful. That you do indeed stand with love.

That would be enough.

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