About 25 years ago, when we were studying A Course In Miracles, I remember the day I first heard the quote “The holiest Place on Earth Is Where an Ancient Hatred Becomes a Present Love.” The quote stopped me in my tracks. It woke me up to an understanding formerly unavailable to me.
Back then, I thought it meant to pray for peace in the Middle East. I thought praying for peace “out there”, in one of the most troubled spots on the planet, was the true meaning of that quote. So, because I believed that, it was true for me then, as I know it's true for many kind folks around the world now.
Today the quote has more of an internal meaning. I know now that I have to begin with peace inside myself. This ancient hatred I thought existed across the earth actually lives in me. It's my hatred and my war.
Even though the part of me connected with humanitarian causes all around the globe says – “war and suffering and everything in between is “wrong” - it's a crime against humanity”, another part gives up control and says “maybe I don't KNOW the answer”.
When I think “It should be over and a loving God would not allow this”, the loving God that lives in the wellspring of my being has shown me that I really do have to make room in my heart for my own hate, my own suffering. I can't get rid of those parts of myself I consider despicable. I have tried. If I am at war with war I create more war.
Perhaps the hateful part of me needs to be loved. It's so easy to love myself when I am peaceful, when I am calm, when blame for myself or for anyone else is not occurring. The possibility of loving myself while I am hating myself is paradoxical. Yet, this is my inner experience. If I can say, if only for a second or two, I can accept my hate, my suffering – know they are part of me and welcome them into the circle of kindness inside me, then integration occurs.
I didn't get rid of my human condition. I did not pretend it does not exist. I said, “I see you”. The incremental steps I take towards accepting this hatred turns it into a kind of love that is a deep self acceptance. The fight is over(for now).
When 9/11 occurred, I was frightened and angry, like most every other American. I didn't lose a loved one, though in a much larger context, all sentient beings are my “loved ones.” As time went on, I began to consider that the ones who flew the planes and the ones who were attacked are aspects of myself. I am the killer and the killed(the victim and the perpetrator).
I know this is not a socially acceptable cultural view; it is the view that gives me the most peace. From that perspective, I can pray for everyone engaged in the conflict without prejudice. The prayer, though, has to start inside my own being. If I can make room for the angriest and most war-like part of me, I can consider letting go of retaliation. This is a TALL order and I'm certainly not suggesting I have attained this state of peace or calm except for moments that are growing as I continue my practice.
One of my favorite Santa Fe bumper stickers is “I pray for peace for all beings without exception.” My quote would be “I pray to love all the war and suffering that lives in me.” If I can do that, I don't have to pass it on.
Claude Thomas, author of “At Hell's Gate, A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace”, has been instrumental in helping me shift my consciousness. His moving memoir is about his service in Vietnam, his subsequent emotional collapse and journey toward healing. He says “everyone has their own Vietnam.”
I”m going to end with Thich Nhat Hahn's poem called “Call me by my True Names.”
Call Me By My True Names
By Thich Nhat Hahn
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow –
Even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply; every second I am arriving
To be a bud on a Spring branch,
To be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
Learning to sing in my new nest
To be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower
To be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
To fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
Of all that is alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing
On the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
That swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily
In the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass snake
That silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
My legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
Selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the 12 year old girl refugee on a small boat,
Who throws herself into the ocean
After being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
My heart capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo
With plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
His “debt of blood” to my people
Dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm
It makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
So vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
So I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
So I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
So I can wake up,
And so the door of my heart
Can be left open,
The door of compassion.
BOWING TOWARDS YOU AND ALL THE GREAT TEACHERS,
(BUDDHA, MOHAMMED, CHRIST, THICH NHAT HAHN, Quan Yin...)