“Someone who knows God has dropped the cruel knife that most so often use upon their tender self and others.” Hafez
Have you ever had the experience of being seen as the enemy? We are guessing we all have at one time or another. It hurts. Sometimes it’s scary. The belly tightens. The heart-strings are taut with anger and defense. In spite of our best intentions, we become expert judges of the other person’s character. Ironically, we often end up seeing that person as the enemy.
We live in an intentional community that has, since 1990, gratefully experienced the majority of our years in halcyon days of gratitude and celebration. We truly feel blessed; we have raised children together, shared meals since the beginning, held hands when our elders took their last breaths and been at the births of the newer generations. The younger generations love showing us off to their friends. Their friends love to hang out here and become part of the larger community. During these times we are fat on all the love that is going around.
And then, sometimes there isn’t.
Sometimes we have to weather painful divorces, serious breaches of trust, and internal affairs that very much feel like war to us. Borders are drawn, words are slung like weapons, and even when we declare our commitment to not taking sides, that very stance places us on a side: the opposite side of a paradigm that requires a right and a wrong, a bad guy and a good guy, a victim and a perpetrator, someone who is guilty and someone who is innocent.
This challenges us to the core because we are asking ourselves to feel compassion and hold a container for those choosing the strategy of side-taking, while not taking them. And more often than not, our chosen strategy not to takes sides can often be experienced as “the enemy”.
This situation requires us to place our full attention on our intention to 1) not take sides, and 2) to hold space for each other’s pain, even when we are the target of that pain. It’s not easy. Sometimes we sit at segregated tables at dinner, saddened at the “white noise” of silent pain that reverberates and competes with the sweet conversations also taking place. We make use of some simple mantras like, “I am that too”, to help us send love and healing from a distance because our presence is too triggering. We learn to appreciate small gestures and grace. We learn patience is one of the many faces of love. And over the years and many times we have been in these trenches, we have learned to hold ourselves more gently when we feel the pain of the situation we are in. We have found in the darkest nights of winter that—lo and behold–Spring does come around again—and often enough, all or most of us are out in the garden with our hands in the dirt, planting potatoes.
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
Up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
Here’s the joyful face you’ve been waiting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and
Opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always
You would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every
Small contracting and expanding,
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
As bird wings.