BE THE CHANGE!
I Am One Who rests on the shoulders of saints and sages from all places and ages.
I Am One Who is committed to being the change I want to see in the world.
I Am One Who changes the outer world through my inner meditation.
I Am One Who is transforming her reality.
I Am One Whose glass is half full !!!
November 2003 Naperville, Illinois
Distraught over the news that my son has volunteered to go to Iraq, I am referred to a wise woman, a meditation teacher, who my friend thinks may help “calm me down.” Tearfully, I pour my heart out to Swami Pranananda, sharing my grief and anger and concerns about Matthew’s choice to willingly put himself into combat once more, (he turned 21 while serving in the first Gulf War), the stress on his pregnant wife and two young sons, and my deep aversion to violence of any kind, especially this #%*# unnecessary war. “How can I get him to change his mind?”
I pause and take a breath. Her luminous blue eyes smiling so kindly, Swamiji speaks gently, with utter compassion, “Please, hear yourself. You say you oppose war, yet you are here in this lifetime as the mother of a warrior. You say you are dedicated to peace, yet you have quite a war-like energy about you. You say you love and want to support your son and his family, yet your words and energy tell me what you truly support is your own opposition to his choices. What you communicate with your words and tone is that you are right and that your son has made a terrible choice. Look at your own Creek Indian lineage, is that how a mother of a warrior would support a son about to go into battle?”
Stunned into silence, I needed to take more than one breath, believe me! Swami Pranananda spoke with such directness, such kindness, and (though I resisted admitting it) with such truth with a capital “T.”
April 2018 Naperville, Illinois
Looking back, I realize that this conversation began a life-enhancing (15 years and counting) contemplation of Truthfulness and its relationship to my cherished value of Peacefulness, also known as the practice of Ahimsa or non-violence. It led to my taking up meditation as a way of living. It led to my confronting the truth about my own warlike nature.
It led to my answering the question, “How does a pacifist mother communicate with and support her warrior son?” And it ultimately led to a profound healing with my warrior son who now has earned the rank of Sargent Major, the highest rank of enlisted soldier in the Army. I have witnessed the great respect his soldiers have for his courageous leadership and dedication to their competence, safety and their family's well-being. Not to mention the strong bonds of love he and his wife share with their four children and new grandchild. Matt and I have journeyed to a place of mutual respect, realizing we want the same things in life and have chosen different ways of achieving them.
HOW, you may ask, (and I often marvel) did we get to this place of reconciliation? First, there had to be a changing of my mind (not his!), a willingness to consider the truth of what Swami Pranananda said that day 15 years ago. Truth before Reconciliation…
Most of us are familiar with similar pivotal moments when, upon hearing a painful truth, we are faced with two choices:
- EITHER let this painful truth shatter the self-created stories and illusions we have held so dear and accept its reality in all its pain and ickiness.
- OR cling to the old story even harder and discredit the one who challenged the story.
This was one of those Either/Or pivotal moments. I was so bereft and miserable and NOT at peace. Yet I was compelled to carefully consider Swami Pranananda’s comments for many weeks. Deep down, I realized the truth that indeed my aggressive opposition to war was not at all peaceful, was not at all conveying the “Change I wanted to be in the world.”
Long ago, Mr. Rogers taught me when I’m in a crisis to “Look for The Helpers.” With Swami Pranananda’s guidance, I began to meditate. I became a student of the spiritual science of Kriya Yoga which is predicated upon the Laws of Karma and humankind’s ability to soften their karma. I value the ancient wisdom of Kriya Yoga and its way of offering concrete, practical solutions to real life problems. Aham Brahmasmi means being the Creative Principle in one’s own life. Aham Brahmasmi meant taking responsibility for making the internal changes needed to become happier and more peaceful. No being a victim, no blaming, shaming, or guilting myself or anyone else. Simple and not necessarily easy at first…
Full and truthful disclosure: My family will attest to the fact that I am a human work in progress, with no hope of attaining perfection. Yogis say that’s why we call these solutions “practices.” The key is to commit to staying awake and making the internal changes without judging self or others. Baby steps…
My studies led me to the life-changing practices of the Kriya Yoga Law of Abstention, called the Yama, and the Law of Observance, called the Niyama. Each Abstinence is sub-divided into three groups—intellectual, verbal, and physical. Starting out, keen to heal my restless mind and unpeaceful soul, the most relevant Yamas became Ahimsa or Non-violence, and Satya or Truthfulness.
Marshall Rosenberg, Founder of Non-Violent Communication
I Am One Who understands the importance of communicating playfully
Even in dangerous situations by using puppets, jokes, music, stories to teach non-violence.
Ms. Marti, my guidance is to use all the tools you’re comfortable with.
You have puppets, you have poetry, you have a song in your heart and you have a love of beauty. Sing your beautiful song!
This world needs to hear it now when there is so much darkness.
The practice of Intellectual Ahimsa, Non-Violence, starts within the mind. With meditation, one is able to observe the rise and fall of harmonious and inharmonious thoughts. The goal is to develop the mental discipline NOT to act until a still and clear mind is achieved. I began to witness, and continue to witness, how the mind’s critical, dark thoughts outnumber the harmonious ones. Such is the nature of the human mind, I’ve come to learn. The key is to let the thoughts float away like clouds and return to your breathing so you can simply be in the present moment, not attaching to any thoughts or reacting to them. We are not our thoughts nor are we are our personalities!
Verbal Non-Violence is mastered with intellectual non-violence. Most modern people are exposed to violent speech simply by turning on the television or radio to hear the 24/7 news cycle or scrolling through their social media feeds. “Civil” discourse has become increasingly uncivil. I’ve heard people say they feel the need for a shower after exposing themselves to all this grossness!
The practice of verbal non-violence replaces violent, angry, insulting speech. We practice consciously adjusting speech to become ever more soft, gentle and wise. Most of us heal from a cut or bruise to the body far more quickly than we heal from the memory of wounding words of disapproval. I realized my harsh, judging attitude, even if nonverbal at times, was as hurtful as any wound my son would incur in battle.
There is the obvious refraining from harming others or self or any sentient beings. I learned that the unconscious mind cannot distinguish between images that are occurring in real time and images that are created by artists and movie makers. This confirmed my childhood aversion to watching nightmare-inducing horror shows, reading Grimm’s or Andersen’s fairy tales, or seeing any kind of cruelty—even slapstick comedy like the Three Stooges. All of it seemed really scary and not funny at all.
I’ve learned the importance of being extremely disciplined about not harming myself by carefully choosing what NOT to ingest through my eyes and ears. Slowly, I have eliminated watching movies, television shows or listening to radio shows or reading things that have violent content. It’s not been an easy or a popular choice. Now my family accepts this as another of mom’s quirks—“Mom won’t like this (movie/show/book) because it’s too violent. We’ll go without her.” So be it…I am not trying to convince anyone to practice ahimsa. I just want to cultivate a peaceful mind for my own sanity.
Recently, I have been pondering the self-harm involved in improper diet and lifestyle, a new thought!
In my studies, I’ve discovered the strong relationship between the Yamas of Non-violence (Ahimsa) and Truthfulness (Satya). A recent study done by Researchers at MIT found that false stories travel faster than the truth. The study, funded by Twitter, found that humans exceed bots in retweeting “fake news” in all categories of information. People are retweeting sensational, unverified stories. For the fun of it? Whoa! What are the implications of this?
The Yoga Sutras say that being untruthful, whether to another or to oneself, is a form of violence. That makes sense to me—lying is based in delusion and builds a wall of separation. You forget that you are part of Life, not apart from Life.
Being untruthful means you forget that most essential Truth, the Oneness of all of Life.
At age 70, my beloved mother returned to work, employing her mad couture design/sewing skills in a fabric store’s Bridal Department. She delighted in saying to her uncertain customers, “If you want an opinion, you’ve come to the right place.” Truth be told, I am my mother’s daughter, as opinionated as they come. However, discernment is required when practicing Satya! There is to be no blurting of the first thought, or worse, first opinion that comes to mind, no matter how truthful or right you may think it is!
The first consideration in Intellectual Satya or Truthfulness is that there should be no intention to harm. Second involves a rigorous inquiry into one’s own life. This is what the 12 Steps Programs call a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” How consistently do you walk your talk? How well are integrity and truth reflected in your thoughts, words and actions? How can you possibly know truth unless you know yourself? What needs to become congruent and consistent among your thought, words and actions?
Verbal Truthfulness is based on the understanding that though there are many truths, it is better to speak the ones that will lift up the hearts and minds of the greatest number of people. Beware of your attachment to your “own” truth! Just because I think I am “right” does not mean I have to make someone else wrong or convince someone else of my rightness. That is the definition of violent speech! This is what we see with the uncivil discourse blasting out all over social media and in the 24/7 news cycle.
Verbal truthfulness is also about integrity, being discerning about only making promises that you are capable of keeping; or, at the least, doing your very best to do what you have promised.
Unsolicited advice feels like criticism. In Kriya Yoga we are advised not to interfere in another’s karma, to double check and to be very sure that someone is really asking for advice before commenting. Most of the time, people know the answers. They just need a good listening.
To help us with this form of Satya, Goswami Kriyananda taught an excellent mudra (hand gesture): You mentally (and sometimes physically if you need to) zip up your lips and hold your hands behind ears in a gesture of listening intently. (I’ve learned that taking a few breaths while biting the tongue is also useful, especially in the presence of an adult child or your partner!)
Physical Truthfulness translates into good actions that contribute uplifting, non-violent wisdom to the civil discourse.
I am so grateful for that long-ago moment of Truth with Swami Pranananda who spoke with such grace and kindness. I am grateful for her ongoing teaching and example of compassionate wisdom. I am grateful for all the teachers in the Kriya Yoga lineage who have sustained these practices for thousands of years. I am grateful to have a practice that has provided such practical tools and How-to’s to solve my life challenges. I am grateful for this practice of thousands of baby steps has helped bring me genuine peace of mind, harmony and joy in my relationship with both my sons.
Most of all, I am grateful and firm in the knowledge that I would much rather be happy than right!
Thank you for reading and commenting on this blog post, dear friends of my heart!
Peace be with you!
BLESSINGS FROM THE WARRIOR’S MOTHER
I Am One Who fiercely defends and protects her children.
I Am One Who respects the choices of her children.
I Am One Who surrounds her warrior child
With the White Light Of Protection and Wisdom.
I Am One Who witnesses a world of perpetual war
And who chooses to do, be, and have
What is necessary for Peace to dwell in her heart.
I Am One Who prays that Peace
Dwells in the hearts of all warriors and their mothers.
(Matthew took this card to Afghanistan in 2008 and put it on his desk. I was touched to hear that, after some teasing, one of his buddies quietly asked if I would make him a card too!)