Tuesday, March 2, 8am/ East Lansing, Michigan/ Day of Rage with the Coalition Against Sexual Violence
“Do you have a mother?” Not sure how the question comes to me, but I quickly realize the man is too young to have daughters in their 20s or 30s. So the woman to ask about is his mother, because we all have one. How can he say no? Though he does at first, even as he startles and takes a step backwards. His face is close to mine, but I can’t see his eyes behind those dark sunglasses. Voices fly around me, as I keep looking at the opaque shields and ask, “Do you have a mother?” His steps fall farther back, and just before he turns the opposite way, he asks in response, “Why are you asking about my mother?” I reply, “What would she say about this?” I mean his charging a young woman so closely that she bends backwards like a reed. I mean nearly physically assaulting another person. I engage the man as a human being not an enemy, and the possibility of de-escalating a volatile situation becomes reality, thanks to some fortunate combination of circumstances. Regardless, my body trembles after this encounter, and I shake my head while saying, “We don’t need any more survivors.”
Sunday, March 6, 10:30am/ Lansing, Michigan/ En route to worship with Red Cedar Friends Meeting
“Are you going there?” The old man motions to the building, kitty-corner from where I am parked. I’m not even out of the vehicle I borrowed to attend worship, yet he proceeds to express frustration about the congested parking outside his home. I think, “This is not what I want to deal with this morning,” as his complaints flow through me. I stand up and turn toward him, reaching out my hand, “I’m Melissa. What’s your name?” He automatically takes my hand and just as quickly withdraws it. “What’s my name got to do with anything?” I reply, “I’m a person; you’re a person; so I’m being personable.” He walks towards the opposite side of the street, repeating his disgust, and I draw a line. “There’s no reason for that. We’re humans; let’s be kind. I’m sorry for your frustration; I’ll pass on your message; that’s all I can do.” He secures the last word, “Well I should think so.” I enter the building with sadness, share the experience with a few Friends, and grapple the week’s encounters during silent worship.
Sunday, February 27, Mid-day/ Mason, Michigan/ Initial session for Shamanic Apprenticeship
The conversation and journeys bring me face-to-face with my fears – encounters with anger, hostility, violence. The teacher vouches that energy – which we all are and encounter in others, humans and nature – is not good or evil. She views some energy as wounded and consequently negative. Her perspective resonates a spiritual framework that I have drawn upon from Cherokee writers. J.T. Garrett describes na wa te as the energy of life coming together, like when plants are used as medicine for body and spirit (The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions). Marilou Awiakta explains how the use of energy – not the energy itself – determines its impact for benefit or harm (Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom). The teacher vies for building our energy, our light, as the means to sustain encounters with negative energy and even to transmute it. I wonder, “What is the path of balance? How do I strive for peace when I feel threatened by anger – others’ and my own? How do I respond to negative energy while drawing upon the Light within?”
Monday, March 7, Morning/ Lansing, Michigan/ At home journaling
I reflect upon these excerpted experiences … Bringing supplies to student activists in the morning as a way to avoid volatility. Dropping off the stuff before parking, landing me right in the middle of what I feared. Someone inviting the upset passerby to express that anger face-to-face, putting all of us in danger … Changing my mind last minute not to go to early worship. Bypassing a parking lot for the street, crossing paths with the old man just as he exited his car. Being targeted with negative energy … The shaman apprenticeship preparing me for such encounters. Silent worship among Friends restoring soul and body. Choosing to learn from these events.
I consider how “the charges” exchanged during the week may have contributed to the balance of things in the Universe. How Spirit is teaching me – though I am a slow and stubborn student – that because someone treats me like an enemy, I need not react as one. How my contribution to the Dance of Life – a creative movement striving for balance – may be to express love in the face of hate, to listen in the midst of shouting, to speak when Spirit prompts even as people resist the voice, the messenger, and/or the message.
We don’t know the specific ways our words, actions, and thoughts impact our lives and the world. We can be sure that we ripple – near and far, as does touching the water’s surface. We are the touch and the water. We share the same space; we exchange energy in our encounters – invited or imposed. What shall we learn from one another in the process?
Some online resources for exploration:
- “What you didn’t know about the Cherokee of NC” http://www.cherokee-nc.com/index.php?page=56
- “What do Quakers believe?” A Service of Earlham School of Religion http://www.quakerinfo.org/quakerism/beliefs.html
- “Shamanism: Healing of Individuals and the Planet” by Sandra Ingerman http://www.sandraingerman.com/abstractonshamanism.html
- Coalition Against Sexual Violence website http://coalitionagainstsexualviolence.webs.com
- Michigan Peace Team Nonviolence Training http://michiganpeaceteam.org/Training.htm