Could It Be?
Posted by Molly Rowan Leach on Jul 18, 2015
“Our world is profoundly interconnected. When we understand that everything we put out comes back”
All humans have gifts, everyone is needed for what they bring. Some of us are not more important than others. Every aspect of the universe brings its gifts." -Kay Pranis (pictured below)
Today’s Awakin Call with Kay Pranis dove deep—which to many of us surely was no surprise. Kay’s gentle humility and clear wisdom is augmented by a very visceral sense in the unspoken realms of what is truly in her beliefs, practices and resonance: an equanimity of all beings; a unity and interconnectivity; a willingness to believe and very much practice “not knowing”; a deep sense that our stories and in turn our need to be truly heard compels us together into a space perhaps we did not realize was possible.
On the other end of conflict is a friend.
That feeling was with me throughout our time with Kay. Could it be? Could it be that conflict is in fact a friend, as Rumi so beautifully intones, knocking upon our door for a purpose much greater than what our rational minds might know or have sense of? What if we came, thru practice and sharing, to understand that our fears of conflict and being truly seen were simply some of the greatest illusions of being born into human form? To transform our relationship with conflict provides us an opportunity to birth a whole new understanding of life itself. To remove our needs to be right and trade positioning in for curiosity and wonder, and to re-craft our lenses towards the arc of our common and shared humanity—and similiarities that outweigh any differences—in order to fully bloom our own lives and feel a path of great meaning and ontological placement in our Cosmos—what a gift, what a breathtaking journey.
To understand that a person who is tagged “offender” is not what he or she did, but a human being with a shared experience of living on planet Earth, with stories and experiences that inform the path they’ve taken, and for which many of those stories shed light into why and how it may have led to crime and conflict. To understand the stories of those who’ve hurt others also includes the ability to cease the separation paradigm of “other”, but allowing a greater view of that person’s path to be drunk in, imbibed, digested. When we rise up out of a retributive view of one another and the Cosmos, where vengeance and punishment claim stake in recriminating endlessly, we find a space of wholeness that still allows for cause and affect to be relayed, for responsibilities to be claimed and for voices to be heard at a level that has a much better chance at the idea and very real truth in some cases that justice can be, and is, healing. The Huna peoples see it as “pono”: to make balanced, to make right. To bring something back into equanimity. Peoples in African tribes understand that we come into the world with a unique “song” that is ours alone—and that everyone---everyone, no exceptions---has a unique song that is needed in our world.
So when someone in the tribe causes or authors harm, there is a collective understanding that punishment and hate will not help bring balance back. Instead of disjunction and emprisonment, the tribesperson is brought to the center of the community circle, where his or her song is then sung by the entire tribe. This is their way of affirming that person’s essence, and helping them to remember who they truly are, and that they are a valued member of community, even though they caused harm. They have a clear understanding of the delineation between actions and essence.
So it is people like Kay Pranis who are helping to create pathways of peace and understanding where perhaps no path –or even a formulative guidebook—has been before. Although the circle process is indeed ancient and in our DNA, it is also at this point in our collective Western consciousness a process and a way of seeing, as well as a system (but not in our normal rational ways of “systems”) that is only just recently re-emerging from the sub-layers of our consciousness---a fire in each of us that knows what the truth is and how to hold space for that together. Circle processes and restorative practices and justice are emergent at a pace faster than most can pinpoint in the U.S. today, because of this profound need and understanding that punishment does not work, and not only that, that we are indeed all integral parts of the web of life. And for those who feel that punishment is the only way to “hold accountable”, it is people like Kay and so many others who show us a new level of what any kind of conflict can achieve—a space of radical accountability and deep human vulnerability that both addresses communal needs and also provides a space for what might be called Grace to step in and allows us to re weave our isolations, to share and hear truly the needs and feelings of others—tamped for so long; to join together in understanding the “inescapable web of mutuality” that we share as “beloved community”, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Who would have ever thought that one day we might understand conflict as beloved friend—one that we bring into our home and share a meal with—and one that brings gifts, if we are willing, of immeasurable humanity.
Please make sure to check out Kay’s works at Living Justice Press: Heart of Hope: A Guide for using Peacemaking Circles to Develop Emotional Literacy, Promote Healing and Build Healthy Relationships; The Little Book of Circle Processes; and Circle Forward (to name a few and co-authored with Carolyn Boyes-Watson [Heart of Hope and Circle Forward])