I am sitting in a small wooden boat, drifting across the placid waters of a lake. “Pick up the oars and begin to row,” the meditation master invites and for one moment awareness sweeps over me and I awaken to a deep inner truth. I have control of where I am, and where I go on the water.
It was profound. Enlightening. Awakening.
In the past, to lull myself into a relaxed, meditative state, I sometimes imagined myself to be on a raft drifting on the water. All was calm and I imagined I had no cares, no thoughts, no desire to be anywhere other than on the raft drifting along with the gentle current. Eventually, my raft would bump lightly up against the shore and I would step off onto the lush, green grasses of an island filled with all the wonder and beauty imaginable.
But in this meditation, I direct the small wooden boat which I row towards an island. I determine where I go.
It is a small yet significant shift.
I direct my boat. I control the speed, the direction, the outcome of where I am. I have absolute and total control of what I do and where I am going in my life. I have the capacity to respond to the environment around me, to avoid eddies, skirt storms, speed up or slow down.
I have control of how I row my boat, and where.
On Friday, when I presented at Break the Silence for the launch of Violence Prevention Month, I shared the story of my fall into hell and my journey into becoming a victor in my life.
Afterwards, several people came over to thank me for my words and for shifting the focus from being a ‘survivor’ to embracing the attributes of ‘victor’.
“We really do want our women to rise above the abuse. To go beyond survival mode into living life as victors,” said one woman. “We need to watch our language,” she added.
And we do. Need to watch our language. We need to be conscious and expand our understanding of the power of words and their ability to hold us in place, or set us free.
Sometime ago I spoke with a friend who was involved in the establishment of the new Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) here in Calgary. The CAC offers “hope, help and healing to children, youth and families impacted by child abuse – all in one amazing place.”
The friend told me, their voice rigid with disgust, that they would never feel compassion around ‘these guys’ who abuse children.
What if you were to re-frame that to ‘at the moment’ I feel no compassion around these guys who abuse children? I asked.
They made choices, they told me. They need to live with those choices.
I agree, I replied. They did make choices. But what if in our insistence they live with those choices forever more we are locking them into that place of shame, anger and guilt that lies at the core of their actions. What if in not allowing compassion to filter through the cracks of our resolve to hate, we inhibit all possibility of redemption? What if in our disgust of what they’ve done, we block the possibility of transformation?
No one is born a child molester. Just as no one is born a murderer, gang member, or an abuser.
Becoming those ‘labels’ are learned behaviours that at one time served a purpose in their ability to protect, and/or defend their position in the world. At one point, their responses to what was happening in their world became their behaviours in the world — and the molester, murderer, gang member, abuser was born.
And yes, for those with personality disorders, with mis-matched chromosomes and faulty brain synapses the behaviours appear to be hard-wired. But they are the minority.
Even the man who abused me deserves my compassion, for in his inability to understand or feel or see the harm he caused so many people through his insistence that he had the right to lie and steal and cheat and deceive to get what he wanted, he is locked in a vicious cycle of self-abuse.
And hating him, vilifying him, locking him into a fortress built of condemnation will only harden his resolve to stay the course of his destruction. Hatred will not change his path. I believe love can.
Not the love that says, “I give you permission to act out in my life.” Because that isn’t love. It’s self-harm. It’s blindness. It’s wilful disregard of my own safety.
I am speaking of the love that holds a space for transformation to occur through our human capacity to choose a path other than the path of least resistance that leads to our repeating the things we’ve done to harm, hurt, betray and destroy lives.
Once upon a time, I chose the path of least resistance. I let my raft drift aimlessly along the surface of my life, waiting for a miracle, or a magic wand, to appear to calm the waters.
Today, I know, no matter how choppy the waters, no matter how distant the land, I have the power to pick up the oars and row myself to safety.
I have always had this power even though there were times the sky appeared so dark, the waters so threatening, I didn’t believe I had the strength to pick up the oars. I am grateful there were those who had the wisdom, and the courage to show me I could.
We all have this power. No matter what we tell ourselves about our circumstances, we all have the power to row ourselves to safety.
We can’t continually shame those who disobey or disregard the mores of our society for causing the rough waters on which we sail. Yes, many have broken laws, created havoc, caused distress.
In our shaming of them, however, we keep stirring up the waters and losing sight of the possibility and the power we all have to create a world of wonder, a world where calm seas welcome every sailor home to the heart of who we are as human beings — magnificent, divine creations of Love.
As my friend Kathleen from GP taught me long ago, “We take God’s breath away.”
And that means all of us.