Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wake up!

I arrived at the gym last Friday after a slippery but sunny trek across snow~packed roads. I shed my winter gear and walked to the elliptical machine to begin my workout. But first I turned on the TV.

And there, on that tiny screen, were the immense crowds in Tahrir Square. While I had been adding layers for my frigid walk just minutes earlier in my kitchen, Egyptians on the other side of the globe were learning that Hosni Mubarek had stepped down as president.

Tears poured down my cheeks now as I watched the raw elation on the faces of those who had done what once seemed impossible. What joy! I hadn’t followed the recent protests closely, but I was totally swept up now as I logged a few miles on the elliptical, eyes riveted to the television screen.

I’ve since educated myself about the happenings taking place a world away. One story above all others stays with me. My friend, Claire, sent me a link to the Democracy Now! website, which aired a YouTube clip of 26~year~old Asmaa Mahfouz. This simple home~made video, which had originally been posted to Facebook on January 18th, is credited with playing a significant role in sparking the uprising that toppled a dictator.

In that video, this brave young woman looks intently into the camera, identifies herself by name, and calls her fellow citizens to peaceful protest. She urges them to join her at a rally in Tahrir Square on January 25th. Whether or not anyone comes, though, she vows to be there herself.

“I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square,” says the veiled Mahfouz, “and I will stand alone. And I’ll hold up a banner.”

As we all know, she did not stand alone. Thousands joined her that day, with their numbers steadily swelling into the tens of thousands over the next several days. These determined Egyptians remained until the announcement came that morning as I dressed for the gym.

The actions of these people, and this one woman in particular, were courageous beyond belief. And look what they accomplished! Do we need further schooling on the ability of one person to make a difference in this world? Do we need additional reminders that committed individuals acting together can alter what seems beyond repair?

It cannot be denied that there are significant challenges facing us on many fronts. It’s easy to become discouraged, to feel hopeless. But we can no longer indulge in that kind of response. We haven’t the luxury.

Most religions tell us that we live an illusion. We are entranced, believing that what we see with our eyes and conceive with our minds is all there is. That dream tells us we exist separate from the flow of life. Under its spell, we believe that what happens in a rainforest in South America, or to children in Africa~~or down the block~~is not our concern. And even if it were, there’s nothing we can do anyway. The difficulties are too big and we are too small.

It’s time we wake up.

I’m not naive about the possible dangers stemming from the Egyptian revolution. Nor am I unaware of the risks that confront us as a troubled species on a stressed earth. We must use these crises, however, to motivate ourselves toward substantive change. It’s time to employ our tremendous resources to do our part, individually and collectively.

Asmaa Mahfouz and her fellow Egyptians have given us a model of what it looks like to awaken and to act~~as have all the other individuals and groups throughout time who have accomplished previously unimaginable things.

It’s now our turn. It is, indeed, time to wake up.

Loanne Marie

PS. If you haven't already, check out the YouTube clip of Asmaa Mahfouz.

PPS. And on a related front, check out the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream website for a symposium coming to your area. This is an inspiring
program, beginning with the truth about the current state of things, but soaring participants out into a hopeful approach to action, a "blessed unrest." Two of
these events are coming to southern Colorado the last weekend of February~~
to the La Veta Public Library on the 26th from 1~5, and the UU Church of
Pueblo, 110 S. La Crosse Ave on the 27th from 1~5. Free though donations are
gratefully accepted! Call 303~458~1050 to register. Hope to see some of you

And here's a link to a story about the southern Colorado Symposia from The

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Humble Pie, Anyone?

I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation, and I’m thinking about humility.

At the start of my journey, before I was 3 miles from home, four things had gone wrong~~three minor annoyances and one more significant. Anxiety perched on my shoulder. “I wonder what else will mess up,” she whispered in my ear. “Maybe it’ll be a bumpy flight~~if we even make the plane. Maybe things won’t go so well all the way around.”

I watched the process. I noticed a tightening in my chest as negativity gained momentum, a closing down of experience as I braced for trouble. And then I made a choice. I chose to open.

I reassured my frightened self who was, after all, only trying to prepare me for disappointment. I explained that the mishaps thus far were simple reminders that neither of us was in charge of this trip. By the time I was 6 miles from home, I’d vowed to welcome whatever came my way. An excellent perspective for a vacation, as well as for the small moments of each ordinary day.

My time in the wintry northeast was rich and meaningful, with soul~feeding interactions with several amazing women I’ve known for decades. The terrain of their lives varies, yet each is doing her best to walk the path before her with grace.

One flies high, freed by challenges successfully met and lessons gleaned. Another purrs along in a lovely life that has recently thrown her a few curve balls. A few are in the midst of deep suffering. It was one of these dear souls who articulated the idea of humility.

This woman sensed that if she could allow herself to be humbled~~a true humbling, not an angry capitulation or a weary resignation~~a softening would occur. And in that softening, a new approach just might be found and a more harmonious pathway delineated.

It’s natural to tighten up when difficulties arise. Yet this tightening can bring a rigidity that closes us down to life. I humbled myself when I accepted that I was not in control of my trip. What had rapidly been growing rigid in my heart, mind and spirit softened, allowing me to embrace a journey that would unfold along its own trajectory, with or without my consent.

Being humble is not much in vogue these days. The dictionary defines it as “a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, or subservience”. Not very inviting. The definition of “modest” seems more palatable.

There is a force at work in this world that is larger than our small wills. Whether we conceive of it as a personal God, a karmic flowering, or just “the way things are”, when we embody humility, we open ourselves to be changed, even transformed, by our experience.

An image from my trip comes to me now as I type these words. I stood alone outdoors on the top deck at the bow of an early morning ferry. Snow whirled in a biting wind. Shades of grey surrounded me~~the pure grey of snow~giving clouds above, the deeper green~gray of ocean below, the colors of ship and small island to my right muted into still more shades of gray.

I offered my face to the chill and gave my entire being to that moment. The holiness of the Now flooded me. The words insignificant, inferior, and subservient washed over me as well. And I found they didn’t rankle a bit.

No, I bowed before those words, before the beauty of that monochromatic morning, before the experience itself. I humbled myself before the All, and relished being released once again from the burden of my own importance.

Blessings to you all!

Loanne Marie