Stand Your Ground

The first time I heard about “stand your ground” states, I couldn’t believe it.  I first heard about stand-your-ground laws when George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. He pursued this young man without cause, with no legitimate authority to do so. And when Trayvon attempted to defend himself, he and Zimmerman ended up in a physical altercation. Zimmerman was ill-equipped for such an altercation, and received the worse end of the beating. In response, he took Trayvon’s life and got away with it. The state of Florida justified this cold-blooded and racist murder under the “stand your ground” law.

Earthly justice is often a mockery of real justice. Trayvon did not deserve to die. Zimmerman did not, and does not, deserve to live outside of prison. But, I got to thinking about what “standing your ground” really means.

For me, it does not mean that I have the right to murder people who annoy me. Quite the opposite. For me, standing my ground means that I remain grounded and rooted in spiritual principles regardless of the provocation I face.

When someone insults, disrespects, abuses, mocks, or violates me in any way, I have a choice to make. I can give it right back to them and better. I know how to do that. This will relieve my ego in the short term, and temporarily make me feel more powerful. This will strengthen and fatten up my ego.

The ego is fragile, insecure, and childish. So, if I strengthen my ego, I will further strengthen those qualities in myself. Next time I am offended, I will be more likely to respond in ego-based ways. This further weakens my character, and further strengthens my ego, in a downward spiral that makes me more and more dependent on outside circumstances, public opinion, and shallow achievements for fleeting glimpses of pseudo-happiness – until the next irritating circumstance comes along.

The other choice I have is to stand my ground. If I’m provoked, I can choose to respect the other person and give them human dignity, even if they don’t “deserve” it. I can choose to wrestle my ego to the ground, refusing to sink to the other person’s level. I can seek to understand what they are going through. I can choose to understand that they are in the throes of the ego’s clutches, and are, therefore, unable to respond in a mature, loving, or helpful way.

This doesn’t mean that one should be a doormat. It is perfectly okay and advisable to draw boundaries around what is and is not acceptable in how others treat you. But this can be done without resorting to ugly and undignified behavior. You can be true to your spiritual practice while still asserting healthy boundaries. One does not negate the other. On the contrary, they work hand in hand.

So, next time you are provoked, whether it’s by another human or by the unpredictable circumstances of life, stand your ground. Standing your ground requires no weapons, other than the weapons of a pure and potent consciousness. Standing your ground requires an inner strength that absorbs the negativity around it, folds it nicely, and hands it back to the person or situation from which it came.

The laws of the land often reflect the fear and weakness of the lowest common denominator. Spiritual law, however, reflects the power, strength, and certainty that we are all One. Love and courage are more powerful than hate and fear. Standing your ground means you believe that with all your heart and soul. It means you are willing to live a life that reflects that.

Go out into the world, walk in love, and always stand your ground.

Peace and joy,

Raven

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Discussion of Impermanence and Analysis of the poem “The Quest”

Poetry is an art form that not everyone appreciates. Poems take leave of everyday consciousness and strive to convey something deeper. In that sense, they are like dreams. Dreams are just as truthful as everyday life, if not more so. But the language is distinct. The language consists of symbols, images, and emotions, not logic. Words and logic often cover up what’s really going on inside of us. Words and logic allow us to lie to ourselves and overlook our own destructive patterns. But when we close our eyes and dream, go into meditation, or write a poem, the truth comes to the surface – a truth that is difficult, impossible, or simply too painful to convey in normal parlance.

 

The following poem spoke to me because, in the course of 44 words and 2 paragraphs, it depicts the pain of Impermanence, the fruitless pursuit of worldly happiness, and the inevitability of death. The poem presents the haunting image of a ghost-like speaker who represents all of us:

 

The Quest

by Georgia Douglas Johnson

 

The phantom happiness I sought

O’er every crag and moor;

I paused at every postern gate,

And knocked at every door;

 

In vain I searched the land and sea,

E’en to the inmost core,

The curtains of eternal night

Descend – my search is o’er.

 

Happiness is indeed a “phantom” when we search for it outside of ourselves. There is nothing and no one that will never disappoint, or die, or change. That is the nature of existence. Buddhism describes it succinctly as “suffering.” Everything is subject to the law of Impermanence. Refusing to accept that is the root of all suffering. Embracing it is the beginning of wisdom and true happiness.

 

“Pausing at every postern gate” and “knocking on every door” describes the average person’s life before accepting Impermanence. We are convinced that the next set of achievements, acquisitions, or associations will be the key to lasting happiness. We think that once we graduate and move out of our parents’ house, once we get that perfect job, once we get married, once we have kids, once the kids move out, once the kids have kids, once we retire – then we will be happy and content. We repeatedly pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off when each person, each thing, disappoints us in some way. When the perfect job ends or becomes a bore; when the perfect spouse – “our rock and best friend” – betrays us or becomes a bore; when the kids turn their backs on us, embarrass us, or disappoint us, we then feel cheated by life. We convince ourselves that everyone else is happier than we are. All those glowing Facebook posts and grinning selfies can’t be wrong. Why can’t we find “it,” whatever “it” is?

 

The poem’s speaker realizes at life’s end, when the “curtains of eternal night/descend” at death, that the pursuit was “in vain,” pointless, a fruitless set-up. This does not have to be our fate, however. We do not have to wait until we’re on our deathbeds to realize that happiness is within, not “out there.”  Once we accept that life contains suffering, and that the suffering is caused by Impermanence, we can love life for what it is, rather than for what we want it to be.

 

Knowing that the people, things, and circumstances around us are impermanent allows us to appreciate them in the Now. They are precious because we have no idea how long we will have them. The sad things take on a less painful charge because we know that negative circumstances pass; they do not remain forever. This is how we achieve non-attachment.

 

Non-attachment does not mean that we don’t care. It means we look at life the way we watch a movie. Our emotions are real for the 2 hours we’re in the theater, but the whole time we know that it is a movie; it will end. When the lights come on, we stand up and move on to other things. The painful scenes in the movie pass away, and the happy or funny parts also pass. Yet we still enjoy it. We are fully invested for the 2 hours we are there. We can do this with life.

 

Life is a movie of every genre, and we are the lead actors. Let’s play our parts well, knowing that the great Oscar in the sky is the knowledge that the Love we leave behind is the only thing that’s real.

 

Peace and love,

Raven

Happy Litha!

Merry Meet! (Greetings)

Today marks the beginning of the second half of the year in which the Dark God of the dying year overtakes the Sun God. The days will become shorter, but, in the meantime, the weather becomes warmer and brighter. The harvest is coming and the days are still long, bright, and full of potential adventure. Today, Light and Dark are in perfect balance.

This is a great reminder that we are the ones who label light “good” and dark “bad.” In reality, Light and Dark are both Good, and very Good. Both are necessary. Both are beautiful. Each one has its own work to do.

Likewise, all that exists inside and outside of ourselves – that which we brag about and that which we keep hidden – are all One. All of it is good. Everything that has ever happened has been stirred up and baked into the ongoing recipe called You and Me.  When we are living lives of Purpose, all things work together for our individual and collective Good.

So, enjoy Summer Solstice and all that it represents.

Blessed Be,

Raven