This past week has been a busy one at our office. The holidays are upon us, the carbs abound, and family stress patterns are amplified. Business as usual. In the course of the day, we may discuss whether it might be better to eliminate dairy, un-invite a troublesome family member to dinner, or ask a boss for a raise. We might explore whether the manipulation is working to reduce that stubborn case of sciatica, indigestion or migraines. The emphasis is always on one question, though: "How are you?" This is not meant to be rhetorical as it invites us to identify specific stressors which are directly influencing each person't sense of well being. These are often physical, such as sitting at a computer too long or eating inflammatory foods. Sometimes, they may be emotionally based as int he case of an overbearing boss threatening the loss of employment. This week has been different, though, with many feeling overwhelmed, angry, and helpless in the face of events in San Bernaradino.
As I have shared in past articles, one of the ways we identify a specific concern is the use of the Chinese Five Element Theory. In that approach, each element tells a story. For example, the Metal Element is associated with the lung and large intestine, and has an emotional connection to grief and loss. At this time of year, it is not uncommon for people to feel a sense of sadness over loved ones who will not be here this holiday, or perhaps some regret about living another year without accomplishing what we might have hoped. That's what I expected to find when testing Monica (not her real name) and finding an active lung point.
It soon became clear, though, that what was profoundly bothering her were the shootings. She described feelings of deep loss and helplessness and was worried about the world she was raising her daughters in. To be honest, without sugarcoating the issue, there was little I could offer except the series of acupuncture points used to balance this meridian. As I finished working on those, I remembered a workshop given at Word and Life in Santa Barbara by Dr. David Richo, a psychologist and former Catholic priest. During the presentation, he spoke of the Sacred Heart of the Universe and that it is found in world traditions to describe the principles of compassion, wisdom and healing innate in each of us.
When he opened the floor to questions or comments, I shared that, while driving up to the workshop, there had been a program on the radio telling the story of a group of elite Israeli soldiers who were sworn to avenge crimes committed against the Jewish people. They carried out a number of executions over a period of time, starting after WWII. I asked Dr. Richo if he felt these men were justified in their actions. He answered that this was the old code, the caveman model. At the time, that answer was not very satisfying to me; after all, I had grown up with a father who'd been a marine in the Pacific in WWII. But, while talking with Monica, another perspective arose.
Monica is a social worker who serves in the public school system. She works with kids who are often raised in a hopeless environment. To state that these are "at risk" kids is an understatement and Monica, more than most of us, has a day in, day out, front row seat to a world that threatens to go up in flames if there are not a few strong souls caring enough to do something about it. That does not mean they can fix it; it does mean they are committed to the possibility of something better. So, it was out of this shared dialogue with Monica that I could see the greater truth lying within us.
We must place in our hearts the intent to first be people of peace, we must look in the mirror each morning and ask ourselves, "Can I, will I, be a person of peace today?" In this way, each person that we meet is offered an invitation to feel included, accepted. There is no lack of opportunity to practice being a person of peace ~ the checkout line, the freeway, office, at home, even in dealings with ourselves, all offer openings for kindness.
Can we change what happened in San Bernardino? We all feel helpless and saddened. It is not possible to feel otherwise. Tomorrow,though, when I look in the mirror as I always do, I will remember Monica and ask myself, "Am I going to be a person of peace today?"