There are so many things to be afraid of in the this life, but "change" seems to be the one that gets most of us shaking. I've heard more than one person state that they prefer to deal with the devil they already know than to face the unknown. Even when change is for the best, we face it reluctantly if at all. But, for some unfathomable reason when I see change coming my way, I tend to charge into it head first and see it as a window of opportunity for even more change. Basically, if I'm going to throw my world into a tail spin anyway, I might as well tackle as many changes as I can so that once the dust settles, I'm done for awhile and can rest. It reminds me of the Buddhist practice of meditating on death. It is a major event, one of the biggest changes we each have to face, so it seems quite natural to want to practice for that moment so that as the knots of life begin to unravel we can propel ourselves into that change with the aspiration of achieving giant strides toward enlightenment and an auspicious re-birth towards that goal. My recent life changes may not get me any closer to enlightenment but they do take me closer to my goal of a more nonviolent existence.
Last month I moved. But more than just a move from one place to another, it was a move from one way of thinking and living to another. I have lived alone most of the last five years (with the exception of my daughter) and now I'm living with another adult, a fellow peace and nonviolence advocate, in a house that provides shelter to other activists working toward a world free from war and weapons of mass destruction as they pass through our lovely city of Portland. We're vegetarian (even the cats), drug and alcohol free and welcoming to new ideas and strategies for building toward that peaceful future. The house is Whitefeather Peace House, named for the Native American playwright and plowshares activist Larry Cloud-Morgan. If you're in our area you should keep an eye on the calendar for upcoming events including roundtable discussions, thought provoking films, guest speakers and of course lots of delicious vegetarian potlucks. Alexa, my daughter, welcomes all other children to visit and participate in our community.
We strive toward responsible stewardship of this planet and all its creatures, human and otherwise. To this end I will soon be car free. Between my bike and mass transit I'm finding creative ways of getting around town. It helps that I found child care that provides both pick-up and drop-off service, not to mention that my daughter loves her new friends. I'm also reaping the benefits of alternative transportation including feeling healthier, a strong sense of independence that mingles with feelings of being more connected to the human life and nature around me. I'm also learning that riding my bike in rush hour traffic provides me an excellent opportunity to practice deeper courage. I must place a certain level of trust in my fellow humans as they barrel toward downtown at 60 miles per hour on wet foggy mornings while I try to maintain my calm center and stay in the narrow bike lane.
As the dust settles and routine begins to assert itself, I find myself contemplating impermanence. The essence of this existence IS change. To fear change is to fear life itself. When I think about the movers and shakers in the world of peace and nonviolence I recognize that their acceptance of change and their flexibility in the moment was key to their courage and success. We have to recognize that change is inevitable, so why not work to ensure that the changes are good for everyone and not just a privileged few. Whether it's climate change, peak oil, police brutality, nuclear weapons, poverty, war, or any other issue, it will change but it's up to us to make sure that change happens in the right direction. It's this work that calls me and others dedicated to peace. I used to wonder what Gandhi's trainings in courage might look like, but I think I'm beginning to see how we can increase our courage simply by embracing change in its every form. Even in facing the ultimate change, that of death, may we find the courage to hold fast to the truth of nonviolence.