I fasted from food and water on Tuesday July, 15, this year. I don’t always observe this particular traditional Jewish fast day. For practicing Jewish folks the 17th of Tammuz this year fell on July15th. This is a Jewish day of mourning when we fast and meditate on the destruction of sacred territory and the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem. This is the exact same territory that folks are currently violently hating and killing each other over.
There was a call for a joint fast and prayer vigil between Jews, Christians, and Moslems for Peace. It was open to all peoples who wished to join in, not just members of these three religions. I participated here, in our little hamlet, and joined in spirit with my friends in Israel and Palestine. All over the world there were folks engaging together in this activity, but it wasn’t front page news anywhere. I spent several hours in prayer in the morning and actually went through the older more traditional siddur (Jewish prayer book). It took me two hours to complete the morning prayers. I also cried and did my own personal prayers. The traditional Jewish fast for this day is from all water and food between sunset and sundown. All practicing Moslems observe this kind of fast for the entire month of Ramadan, which we were still in.
This territory of violence and harm seems to be perpetually cycling in the Holy Land and it certainly looks like and feels like it has not really changed despite the several thousand years of time between now and then. And yet it has or it is changing all the time. People are also coming together in love and solidarity across great walls and divides, now and even in the past also. If you study history you know it is not simple and always polarized.
There are shades of color and depth to every narrative. This is true in the past and today. Some people in the world are guided by love, caring, a desire to learn, grow and improve and they work to help and heal wherever they can. There are also people in the world whose lives and hearts are constricted by wounding, fear, violence, poverty, hunger, greed and rage and they create more hurt. Often we are some of both, in fact mostly, we are all of the above. If you only listen to or look at the narratives of wounding, hate and violence you begin to think this is all that is going on, or has ever gone on and you give up hoping and growing.
For some reason we think all the horror on the front-page is the story all the time. We look for the bloody, gory, ugly, painful stories first. We are drawn to them. This may be based on some deep primal self-preservation instinct. We need to be aware of the dangers around us so we can stay safe and keep our families and communities safe. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking emotionally stunts us, makes us anxious, and keeps us looped into a flight or fight pattern. This is well-documented and not just some rambling thought from me. You can read all about this in Dr. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 best-selling book Emotional Intelligence. I consider his book to be a must read for anyone who wants to understand the way the human mind and emotions work.
So, our need to be safe precludes our higher functioning and higher thinking. We jump and run or go right into a fear or anxiety place. This is a human thing to do. If we have been traumatized, and who hasn’t on some level or another, in childhood or in a war, or an illness or any painful hard time, we create a groove, a tire-track, wheel-rut that takes us immediately to that place. This is not the place where we reason, where we breathe, where we remember to call a friend or that what we are feeling is disproportionate to what is going on. This is the pure fear place. When you are actually in a war zone, it is intelligent to pay attention in this accelerated and highly sensitized way, it may save your life or the lives of those you love or who are near you. Living this way all the time takes its toll though and is not good for anyone.
People in marketing and advertising know you need to stimulate folks sexually and/or engage their primal fears. If you are successful in doing this they will buy your product or your story-line. We consume in fear more than we do when we are calm. We hoard and grab and gather in greater amounts when we are worried. So, if you stimulate this tendency in humans with a constant beat of horror and fear around the world you create an atmosphere that lends itself to folks consuming more than they need to and believing the story they are being told everyday. They literally cannot see beyond the blood and sex veil.
For me, and for many others, stepping outside of the circle of news and information is one way to avoid this wheel rut pattern in my mind. When I actually am not fearful or overwhelmed with sadness and grief about the grotesqueness and wrongness in the world, I start to see something different. I cannot do this when the violence and hate speakers are on loud, or if the television or the facebook or twitter streams are jamming my heart and brain.
I can only do this when I push back this veil, this screen that is playing these loud and angry and yes also real picture of things going on. When I manage to do that, something else emerges. I realize that really 99% of the folks I have ever met are GOOD people. The really angry, violent mean people are a tiny percentage of the world’s population. They are powerful and they wreak great damage, but they are not the majority, they aren’t even close to it. We feed the beast by believing it. When we have the courage to reach out towards those who are different or who look like our enemies, something entirely different happens. We no longer want to go shopping or hide; instead we want to think and be still and feel. This kind of shifting is what needs and must happen for peace and love to grow, and the only way I know to do that is to stop walking on the wrong path and to invite others to join me. We just have to turn, to do a Teshuvah. Teshuvah can be translated to mean turning or re-aligning, it is normally just translated as repentance, but the Hebrew has much more depth and cannot be parsed into a one word translation. Real teshuvah is a game-changer.
Is there any way that my veil parting efforts and path-shifting can manifest in some way to help others get off the misery-fear road? All my prayers start with wanting all the suffering and pain of the world to stop. My prayer and need for peace is cell-deep in me and in most of the humans I have ever met or encountered through their teachings. To answer this question, to see if there is something I can do that is more than just being present for my family, friends and community, I have to get away from this loud and in my/your face constant stream of ugliness. This doesn’t mean I think it is all ugly here. I live in paradise, Humboldt County, U.S.A. in the 21st century. There are hospitals, antibiotics, organic gardens, community, beauty and love all around me. There are also murders, rapes, betrayals, violence, stupidity etc… I try and avoid the latter and if I do engage with these elements it is as a counselor or helper to someone who has been hurt. We can change and grow, switch the channel, and emerge even from extremely difficult circumstances. I know so many folks who have.
So, part of why I need to get away on a Jubilee retreat has to do with wanting to exit the story that most folks on this planet are currently on. I want to see what story exists beyond this one that is currently obvious and playing out on all of our communal screens and minds. Is there some other narrative thread that I can connect to so strongly and so well that I can return from sanctuary and solitude and be able to share it and offer it? I cannot know until I go looking. So, I am consciously turning off the well-beaten path, as so many others have done before me. I am going on a quest to see what is real that is not tainted by someone’s agenda or need for me to eat, drink, be afraid, consume or vote one way or another. My own agenda is something else entirely, and I am sure I will spend a great deal of time having to navigate whatever territory it throws up, but as I turn and align with being fifty I am no longer a novice at looking at my own stuff. I’m ready for this challenge and hungry to begin….to be continued…
Nicole parts the veil from her beautiful home in Bayside, where she has no television and where she does live in a kind of bubble of her own making of good food, love and kindness, she endeavors to stretch the bubble to include all those she encounters and prays every day for us all to live in a bubble bath of Epic and Glorious proportions! She invites you to jump in with her here in these pages.
This article was originally published in the Mad River Union on July 23, 2014, it is slightly adapted here from the original. It is number three in a larger series. Please see My True Heart Opens and Quaking for the Divine if you are just arriving to my site for the first time.