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The Witness
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

THE CHANGE we've asked for is coming along nicely; how do you like it so far? It appears to be chaotic and dark, and the laws and systems we've counted on in the past have worn themselves down to a thin veneer of stability covering a murky and seemingly mindless bureaucratic black hole. For those who have only recently noticed the decay within our governmental and social contracts, this appears to be a frightening moment in American history, yet for much of the world this isn't so much an epiphany as just more of the same. The Neoconservative "chaos theory," established in the Middle East as a kind of nihilistic opportunism, seems to be at play everywhere we look, with bloody global violence and upheaval. And like a boomerang, chaos has come home to our society, economy and politics. Well, nobody said it would be easy.  

Change rarely happens like a lightning bolt, rearranging our lives serendipitously. It's a process that begins within us and slowly unfolds to bring us to a new chapter. Taking appropriate steps to facilitate change requires not only courage but an understanding that nothing happens overnight, and what happens in the process is not the ending but the beginning -- grist for the mill, grinding slowly.

Consider the upcoming Olympic Games in China and the sad business in Tibet. There are four remaining Communist countries: North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and China. The first two are still considered members of the Axis of Evil (reminding me, yet again, how polarizing Bush has been in the world) and the last two are valuable trade partners to the western world. China has invested a good deal of its national "face" in the games, and had gone out of its way to make them perfect in every respect. Then the Tibetans erupted, sensing their opportunity to call attention to the occulting of their culture and religious freedoms by their Chinese occupiers. The Chinese cracked down, as expected. Yet the world seems shocked: what part of "Communism" didn't we remember? Or perhaps it is the very audacity of Communism seeking to eliminate so ancient a civilization as Tibet represents that is shocking. Still, the Chinese were surprised at the anger of both Tibet and the world's response to them. The Dalai Llama, Tibet's exiled leader, was surprised at the violence in direct opposition to his teaching. I wasn't surprised -- the changes are here.

In this Petri dish of change, there are a number of factors to look at. The Chinese want to appear progressive as they enter the community of nations after long years of being outsiders, but they have no intention of changing their iron fist of repression or countenance threats to their territories and ideology. The Tibetans enjoy a level of modernity that the Chinese have brought them -- formerly unavailable under the leadership of the Dalai Lama -- Tibet was a feudal Theocracy before China marched in, and apparently life was just as harsh as that sounds. Poverty and slavery were common. Yet with their spiritual, if not their governing, leader in exile, Tibetan traditions and autonomy has endured decades of attack and repression. Tibetans are not Chinese; they have an enduring relationship with their religious practice and history, even those in exile. It is remarkable that they've resisted decades of attempts to wipe that out of memory.
The Dalai Lama's patience in this matter has seemed inexhaustible, but now the Tibetans, including the monks, seem to have reached their limit and embraced not passive resistance, as is their creed, but active. The government is dealing with them harshly, many have died. I won't go into the debate about the Dalai Lama's motives, here -- some say he's a tool of the CIA and is cozy with repressive leaders. Others say his agitation for Tibetan independence has not proved helpful to his people. Still, he threatened to resign as the spiritual leader of Tibet if the violence continued -- and it has. Change is here and there's no stopping it; even the Great Wall of China isn't going to halt it now.
We see this kind of energy everywhere: this cry for change, for freedom and authenticity. Perhaps the Bush regime's embrace of the chaos theory in the Middle East was a boulder pushed into motion that never stopped moving; perhaps it's crashing into everything. And, rather than simply a political maneuver by the leader of a superpower, perhaps it was the 'next thing' that had to happen in order to birth the new. It can be no coincidence that stability disappeared in every country of the world at about the same time; bringing something new into the world is a messy process. Like every birth experience, there is a push forward, and then a pause -- another push, and a pause. At the end of such a labor, protracted but finite, something wonderfully new is born. Are we putting faith in the beauty, the wonder, the magnificent potential of that new thing?

Using our intellect to awaken is another step in the birthing process; stopping to take a good look around us is required for rational decisions. It may be easier in a time of high emotion to give in to the roller coaster of emotion, but even that will subside after adrenal exhaustion, and leave us looking for clues as to how to proceed. Logic tells us that there is something missing in our conversations, personal and political, in our own backyards and in the world. If it were not so, things would look differently -- we're not attending some vital portion of this process or it would be easier, wouldn't it? In the spiritual tradition, the seat of consciousness is not in the head but the heart. This is not a sorrowful and sentimental place for consciousness to be housed, it's a potent and active positioning that provides us stimulus for kindness, compassion and true equality. It asks us to examine our personhood in the light of what we don't know logically but intuit spiritually. As our heart expands, so does our understanding and lovingness. As our heart expands, peace grows -- and I believe that the larger portion of our changes at this moment in history has to do with our thought process making a collective move from head to heart.

As our societal structures wobble, we must find a heartfelt trust that the journey is taking us where we need to go. We cannot place our faith in what we see around us or allow the struggle to define who we are. We are much more than that, and what we seek to bring into the world is born from that heart space where our true consciousness resides. That space is neither religious nor secular: it's authentic. I have a friend who has been in Alcoholics Anonymous for over thirty years, and he is at odds with God. He apparently equates God with old systems of belief and hasn't grown into a new version, so our conversations on the topic have been brief. He told me once he prayed, and when I asked about that he mentioned the Serenity Prayer, adopted by AA members: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference." He laughed then, and said he usually prayed the short form. "What's that?" I asked. "Fuck it," he said with a grin. (Now, that's authentic!)

My friend shows a great deal of genuine faith in his 'short version,' although he might not know it. In our upside down and backwards world, those who seek to control every jot and tittle are the more faithless among us: those who seek to impose rules, who cannot allow life to lift itself in the effortless flow of progress and creativity, show little faith in life. In repressive times, it's difficult to embrace the "Let Go and Let God" theory; it's not logical, but it's the authentic signature of the 'observer' portion of our psyche, where actual power resides. Deepak Chopra would remind us that at any given moment we are the person doing, the thing being done and the witness to the process. That witness portion of our consciousness is ever with us, but few of us are taught that we can enter into that energy if we wish; we must begin now. There is wisdom there and more; that is where we find our faith in the natural flow of life. In that alert persona, there is interest and engagement but no judgment and no fear: it is the place of calm that allows us to transcend our circumstance. What is happening simply happens and leads to the next thing -- life plays out, doors close, but windows open. If we draw breath, we are in the flow of life and the sacred covenant with All That Is. Faith.

Eckhart Tolle tells a story in his book, A New Earth, about spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti asking an enraptured audience of devotees, "Do you want to know my secret?" Imagine a holy man telling you that he's got The Secret, and he's going to tell you what it is! The controlling part of us would give just about anything for that information. Here was his answer: "This is my secret; I don't mind what happens."
Not many of us have come to that state of grace, witness to the flow of life and able to deal with our circumstance having a larger picture on life and death, joy and suffering. Obviously, the faith behind a statement like that suggests an understanding that surpasses the logic of the mind and moves into the knowledge of the heart. But even as our daily lives present us changes that challenge us and the news cycles never seem to give us good news, we can enter in to that portion of ourselves that knows peace if we try, the part that is authentic as both the witness and loving co-author of our experience. That's the real change that's happening -- the decline of fear and ego, the rise of consciousness, the journey towards peaceful coexistence and cooperation. The birth pangs are uncomfortable and frightening, yet we must not forget what awaits us at the end of the process. If we want peace, we must be peace, and to get from here to there we must take that journey into our hearts. Yeah, I know. Nobody said it would be easy, just worth it.

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