Photo by Dana Wyss
In practice, we work to strengthen our ability to see what IS, as it is. We work to release our tendency to reflexively judge and label (and thus distance, minimize or render incomplete): our feelings, our experiences, ourselves, the presence and actions of other people. When we allow such reflexive responses to remain unseen and unchallenged, we are unable to truly see what's happening, and we are then severely limited in our capacity to respond. Typically, in such situations, we'll only be able to react, and in ways that we have done so previously - whether they actually serve us in the present situation, or not. So, we practice looking without applying judgment, and over time, we begin to understand things through a wider and kinder lens, and we begin to see our choice in how we respond. In some cases, we'll be seeing for the first time that we can respond, rather than simply react. Alongside this new understanding we are developing a new perspective. The difficult others we're engaged with (or the difficult parts of ourselves) can be seen, more and more, as whole complex beings (or parts of our whole being), no longer simply irritations, nasty names, or one-sided nuisances to be eradicated as soon as possible. On the personal level, within an individual experience of life, this can bring a great deal of understanding and reduction in suffering.
What does this look like when applied in a larger context?
What does this look like when taken into the most contentious and dangerous human social and political relations?
Recently, I had the awed pleasure of seeing a model of this. In The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer's masterful documentary, we see responses and relating that, quite frankly, I've never seen anywhere. The fact that this film exists at all is astounding. In this film, we follow Adi Rukun as he tries to forgive the killers of his older brother Ramli, who was slaughtered in the genocide that took place in Indonesia in 1965. Born in 1967, Adi never met his older brother, and has grown up surrounded by his brothers murderers: they live in his village, they shop in the same markets, they run the schools his children attend, they rule the region in which he lives. And yet, Adi has not allowed himself to see these men merely as monsters. He has looked, and looked deeply, at their actions, their possible motivations, he has looked at their pain and suffering. And from this place, he finds the grace and the courage to respond in a way that could never have been possible if he'd chosen to simply see them as beasts, hate them and seek revenge. His actions have started a wave of conversations and government involvement around a topic that was sealed in silence for 50 years. It's entirely likely that, without his generous understanding and without his remarkable bravery, this topic would remain in the realm of unspoken things which lie unresolved, poisoning a country from its depths.
This film, the situations it explores, and Adi himself, have a great deal to offer to the ethical and moral development of us all. This is one film that I sincerely hope everyone will see* - the model of Adi is incomparable, and we need to see that such ways of being in the world, such ways of relating to pain and to one another, are possible. Here is a link to watch the film that best supports those involved in making it. I feel confident in saying that doing so will inform you in singular and vital ways.
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.
*This film is not violent (rated PG-13), but it verbally depicts extremely violent acts. If genocidal violence is a part of your history, or you know yourself to be sensitive to hearing about violent acts, take care of yourself when determining whether or when to view.