Just recently, I returned from Guatemala were I was part of a team of trainers that lead a five day intensive residential retreat. The participants consisted of health workers that provide education and food supplements to indigenous communities that suffer from malnutrition and high infant mortality. The goal of our training is to enhance the interpersonal and conflict resolution skills of the health workers in hopes that this will enhance there effectiveness.
This was part three of a three week series of retreats. Every time I left Guatemala I felt a deep sense of transformation. On the first trip, I came home faced with my own privilege. I’m an light skin American, born with ample opportunity in a highly nourishing and caring society. I was so moved by this realization that I ended my sixteen year strike with education and enrolled in Western Institute for social Research (WISR). I realized that I had nothing to complain about, and that there was no concrete reasons for me not to further my education.
On the second trip, I began to explore the social inequalities of people with in that region. I spent a great deal of time talking with Maria, a good friend and fellow trainer. She told me about the great injustices that took place amongst the wealthy and extreme poor. Again, I began to see the world differently, and took a deep look at myself. I began asking myself questions like, how am I participating in these injustices, both directly and indirectly? What can I do to make a difference? After much reflection, I decide that I wanted to spend the rest of my life working towards naming, advocating and helping to resolve these injustices. I walked away with a deep passion and sense of personal responsibility towards social justice.
On the last training I came back with deep sense grounding and self connectedness. I had found a deep sense of peace and understand that I had not felt in a long time. When I came home, I sat on the porch with my wife and watched my son play in the front yard. In that moment my world felt whole and complete. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for all the nuances in life, and every moment became a celebration. I knew that without conscious effort I would fall back into the American dream. Caught up in the latest mass media drama or focusing on latest gazingus pins―forgetting what was truly important. Time was running out, and I felt myself slipping back into the everyday hustle of life.
This morning during my daily sit, I felt my mind bouncing around as images flowed through my awareness nonstop, it was a struggle to bring my attention back to scanning my body. In the midst of a struggling meditation it all hit me, I need to slowdown, be vulnerable and listen carefully.
I have the power to slowdown and yet I don’t. I’m too conditioned by the social pressure to get things done, keep going and be successful. It seems like I’m always running, and yet in my stillness I can see this is just a facade. When I finally stop and begin to slowdown, I notice that I am not missing anything or at least anything important. In fact it’s more likely that I miss important things when I move at a fast pace. So now my daily mantra is to slowdown and take my time.
Being vulnerable is skill that has taken me a long time to understand, and even more time to integrate. It means feeling hurt when tragedy happens, rather than lashing out and blaming others. It means working towards justice, even when it feels hopeless, and feeling the despair when nothing changes. It means being ritualistic about life, and honoring transformation and transition. It means being real, not afraid to hurt, and not specious or hesitant about happiness. It’s about being fully human.
Listening carefully means learning how to be patient with my impulses, and focusing in on the people around me. It also means watching carefully when someone says yes, when they really mean no. It means slowing down to check-in, giving space and time for responses. Then allowing the responses to change me, penetrate me as I witness someone else’s experience. And most impotently having the confidence and trust, that I will have a turn to talk and express whats alive in me, but not attached that it will happen today.
Fuck, this is so hard to do.. and yet this is who I want to be.