A man I met at a party today likes to walk in peace demonstrations. He was musing over the fact that the peaceful peace demonstrations got no attention. But violent peace demonstrations got a lot of attention. He was not unaware of the irony of demonstrating violently for peace. He said it could be his imagination, but it seemed to him that the police were acting more quickly in violence to the demonstrations he attended. Their peace group had discussed this and some of them decided to attend classes on peaceful demonstrations. ( Creeeeek! Did you just hear our old world evolve a little? )
I have been listening to an interview of Thich Nhat Hanh today and joyfully listened to him describe walking meditation --- his phrase on looking at the miracle of "the blue sky" reverberates in my mind. He says that we cannot possibly effect change unless we change ourselves. We all know this. But somehow his gentle voice, and at 80 plus years of age he has been at this at least since before Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, penetrates my busy busy mind.
Thich Nhat Hanh describes mindful meditation as a way to increase compassion for ourselves and others. He says that when we are attentive to our own suffering, we will know that of others. That knowledge can break cycles of suffering and violence in the world around us. If we are mindful, we can transform the suffering within us and around us.
This experience for me included the marker of my daughter's image of an open heart that she described in her blog. I have been noticing myself noticing my responses to stimuli with a gesture towards my heart. I move my hands to my heart, as she said, and then open them and notice the change in perspective. A simple thing, but somehow as soothing as the voice of the monk.
Thich Nhat Hanh presented his ideas at a retreat for police officers. One woman police officer was the one who brought the retreat into reality, after having the practice create remarkable interactions with people she had to arrest. When she had doubts about sharing the idea of compassion with fellow police officers, who have to carry a gun, she was told by Nhat Hanh's assistant: who else would we want to carry a gun except one who will do it mindfully?
What had happened in her own case was that with Nhat Hanh's practice, her heart began to soften --she had become very mechanical about her job. She had had no idea that she had shut down that way. And she realized that as her energy changed, the energy of the people around her began to change, even the people she had to arrest. She realized she was witnessing crime that involved misplaced anger because people are in incredible pain. And giving that pain a voice transformed it.
I am loving the heart symbolism as our popular national holiday comes up next week--Valentine's Day. Shall we transform it to Hug A Cop Day? More realistically and practically, training on compassionate listening for police officers would be money much better spent than money spent on bombers for war, which break the hearts of millions. Demonstrators training in compassion and police officers training in compassion. Maybe they will meet them there.