This week’s Daily Meditations begin with Richard Rohr’s teaching that our ability to choose nonviolence is inextricably tied to our own inner healing.
There is always a linkage between the inner journey of contemplation and our ability to work against violence in the world, in our culture, and in ourselves. As long as we bring to our actions a violence that primarily exists within ourselves, nothing really changes. The future is always the same as the present. That’s why we have to change the present.
We have to begin within and allow ourselves to be transformed. Then the future can be different than the present. Otherwise, we have no evidence that we’re going to do anything different tomorrow, next week, or next year. We’re going to react next week to the violence that emerges in our wider culture, in our institutions, and in our families just as we react right now. And so we always have to return to what I have often called “cleaning the lens.” Authentic spirituality is always on the first level about us—as individuals. It always is. We want it to be about our partners, our coworkers, or our pastors. We want to use spirituality to change other people, but true spirituality always changes us.
We founded the CAC to give activists a grounded spirituality so they could work for social change from a place other than anger, ideology, or mere willpower. Many people intellectually accept Gandhi’s or Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings on nonviolence and try to execute it by willpower, but that’s not what I call a “mystery of participation.” Such people aren’t participating in a qualitatively new and different life in themselves. They have changed their minds but not their hearts. In real moments of tension and trial, such people are as much a part of the problem as the people they oppose. Their will and egos are still totally in control with their need to be right, to win, and to have success, which almost always leads to violence of some kind.
I think that was the great disappointment with political activism and even many of the nonviolent movements of the 1960s and 70s in the U.S. It was not really transformation. It wasn’t really coming from what we would call—to use a very old-fashioned, religious word—holiness. Such action was often not coming from holiness, but simply the intellect and will, which are not the transformed self.
What we’re seeking is pure or clear action. When we find inside ourselves the positive place of communion and holiness, there’s nothing to react to. Such action can be very firm, because it comes from that place where we know what’s real, what’s good, what’s true, and what’s beautiful. The giveaway is that the energy at that point is entirely positive. That’s when we know it’s prayer energy and that is what I think it means to be a person of true nonviolence.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Who Are You?,” Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2002), Audible audio ed.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Tuesday Chemistry (detail), digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 1 (detail), oil pastel on canvas. Taylor Wilson, Field of the Saints, print. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
How can we move outside our constricting and restricting patterns of violence? We need each other. We need all the colors.
Story from Our Community:
Recently, the Daily Meditations addressed the topic “Everything Belongs.” Specifically, loving our enemies. Reading the meditation, I felt my heart harden. I asked myself: “Why on earth should I love someone who consistently says and does evil things?” As I continued to read, something inside me began to shift. I began to pray for God’s healing grace to allow me to experience caring for a specific person in my life that challenges me. In my mind, I began to see this person as a child. It dawned on me that this person did not come out of his mother’s womb the way he is today. The image of him as a child made it easier for me to pray for this person’s healing. I’m so grateful for these Daily Meditations. They are slowly bringing me closer to my God. —Mary W.