-sharing reflections on what I've heard and am hearing, learned and am learning,
from voices in the Holy Land, the USA, and Rwanda-

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

what 1000 words do you see?

"A picture speaks a thousand words." 

It's practically a given that we've all heard this quote before--it's one of the oldest adages in the book.  Call it cliche, but these words sure are accurate.   Much of what we base our initial judgements, assumptions, decisions, and conclusions on are the things we see around us.  Our experiences shape the way we think.  Our minds are not unaffected by images put before us. 

For instance, what does this picture say to you?

Who is the soldier?  Who is the other man?  What are they doing.  Is the man mocking the solidier?  Is the soldier threatening the man?  Where is the gun pointed?  Are there more people around them?  What is going on here?  What happens next...?


....Would it surprise you if I said these two men were not even interacting?  The man, Ibrahim, was simply trying to sell my friends and me some of his souvenirs as we walked the streets of Old City Hebron.  He walked away from us shortly after the photo was taken.  The soldier was on duty securing a group of settlers/tourists as they toured the old Jewish homes in the Old City.  At that moment, these men were both peacefully doing their jobs.  Yet how easily this picture could be skewed to represent either side of the conflict that, as we see here, has become visible throughout everyday life and duties. 

How do we let pictures like this and what people have to say about them affect the way we think and imagine, or affect what we decidedly believe?  We have to challenge ourselves to determine the truth despite what we may be told by media sources.  We have to talk with people and hear about their experiences rather than merely experience people who talk a lot about things they might not really know or understand.  We need to recognize the significance of two men who are both doing their jobs, but will most likely never share a friendly conversation about their day at work.  Regardless of what we see from day to day, we should first and foremost recognize that whomever we see here are first and foremost people--people who all breathe the same air, and bleed the same blood, and share the same emotions.  

I have come into this world to see this:

the sword drop from men's hands
even at the height of
their arc of
because we have finally realized
there is just one flesh
we can wound.

-Hafiz of Persia

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the art of being

One meditative yoga class, it appears, is all it takes to wake me up again and remind me how beautifully simple life can be. 

From the very first day of our training in Chicago for this YAGM year, we were told to work our hardest--yes, in our placements, but almost more so in our relationships with the communities around us.  We were told to put the greatest effort into--get this--"being."  Being present, being a member of the community, being aware of what's going on around us, being a friend, a neighbor, a confidant, a student, and where needed, a helper--this is what we are called to do in our time of service.  Accompaniment--walking not only beside other people, but actively walking with them, hand-in-hand. 

Let me tell you this--much easier said than done!  Coming from a culture of "doing" things--always having a schedule, constantly planning the next move, making sure our hands never cease movement--it has been a daily struggle to give up that want to see a physical product from a days work and rather embrace the productivity of a day spent building relationships of trust and love over, say, an ear of fresh corn or a cup of herbal tea... or even sharing a few hours with others in meditation and yoga. 

Thankfully, a recent yoga class reminded me of the importance of "being".  Just the other week, I had the opportunity to join a meditative yoga session outside of my regular class.  The focus of this yoga class was the breath, using it as a tool to root yourself to the earth in order to access your whole being.  I kid you not, the yoga teacher (from Italy no less, with English as a second language!) used the exact expressions we were taught at orientation as a reminder of how to intentionally care for ourselves, and thus, those around us.  She repeated over and over again these instructions: "Remember, do not force movement.  Let your breath move throughout your whole body, moving you without effort.  Accompany your body by simply Being.  Don't try to Do the movements.  Let them happen naturally." 

Wowzers.  What a put it right out there reminder about the important things in life.  That if we focus on being, both in a natural flow and an intention mindset, our breath (...hmmm, image of the Holy Spirit?) will spread through us, fill us, and move us the way we are to be moved.  If we only accompany, we will see more plentiful products than if we went on our merry way "doing" things all the time and missing all that is going on around us. 

As I walked out of that yoga class, I was so thankful of the reminder to "be."  To be intentional and relaxed.  To be aware and satisfied.  To be open and loving.  To be a part of a journey rather than on a quest.  What is more fruitful than being with people who understand that love and care is not shown in actions alone, but simply in the act of being friends.

In other words (or possibly words of wisdom in a slightly different context), seriously, "Let it Be."

Check out my new poetry page which will be coming to a blog near you (...my blog) soon.  ...Possibly right now!  Just a few poems'll pop up every once in a while.  Nothing too fancy, but hope you check it out and enjoy!