From the depths of the grief in which I've spent much of this year, I've emerged reminded again, of the power that pain has to wake us up. To clarify what really matters, and break out of the narrow confines, the restrictive conditions that I place on love, and my own capacity to be IN love in any given moment. I'm reminded of the incredible humans that I met during my work in the context of civil wars and reconciliation and how they stretched my definitions of love and shaped me irrevocably (even though I can forget). I've included below an except that I wrote upon my return from South Africa, I hope you'll take the time to drink in the wisdom of these incredible teachers.
What's new for me is a deeper understanding of necessity to embed this expanded state in a PRACTICE. The discipline of practicing staying awake to the auto-pilot that keeps me in self-protection, judgement, worry...(the list goes on).
I'm not offering an answer here but rather a commitment, to my practice of embodiment. My intention in this practice to stay open to the potential that my full humanity could be experienced in each moment. That intention fuels my dance, my teaching, my mothering. And I voice that aloud to be accountable to myself
At the end of the second day at the Conference on the Healing of Memories in Cape Town, I watched a community theater group perform a play about the atrocities that their communities were having to work with in order to reconcile their country. Each scene was a song, and each song told about another massacre, bomb, burning of a township, disappearance of family members.
I stood in a circle of people from all over Africa. Grasping tightly my right hand was Pedro, the Afro-Colombian ex-guerilla solider who I am accompanying at this conference. Pedro is overwhelmed with joy at meeting his brothers all over Africa. He won't let me out of his sight so that he can understand their every word, and so I can translate to each person exactly how happy he is to be back in the land of his ancestors.
I was thinking, as I looked around the circle, what unites each one of us in this circle in some way is violence, and now our paths of healing from it.
In this circle, I am learning the most important thing, or perhaps I already knew, but I forget. I am being reminded how to love, but really to love. To love like Madukele who holds workshops with people infected with HIV/AIDS in Kwa Zulu Natal. "We must restore their sense of their own humanity" he says, "and our own. We must create a sacred space, where they understand that I love them with AIDS, where they do not have to change anything about themselves to be worthy of loving."
After dinner I walk over to Elias who was sitting quietly and watching the festivities. Elias was a political prisoner on death row for 18 years in Uganda until he was recently released. He has dedicated his life's work to holding healing workshops with prisoners on death row, and trying to abolish the death penalty throughout Africa.
"Come talk to me, daughter."
I kneeled next to him and held his hand in his lap. "How are you?"
"Daughter, I am very happy…. You know, God is funny. He will do things that we human beings will not ever understand. We will think that he is unfair. When my children were 4 and 2 I went to jail and waited to die. When I was released they were 22 and 20 and no longer knew me as a father. I lost all of my money, I lost my friends, I lost my children's childhood. I thought that I was losing everything....But now I am free. And those who framed me to send me to jail, they were overthrown. And my friends, many were killed for their money. And because I went through all of this today, I was invited here to South Africa to speak, and now I have met you.
So God is funny. He knows the lessons for us. If we are lucky, we will get them. Then we can help others. And so I say God is good.
You are so lucky my daughter, to have a gift and do so much with your young life. Now take the bull by the horns… don't waste one second of it. And share it, share it with as many people as you can."
I shook my head and laughed and realized I was also crying. "How do you know to tell me this?"
"How did you know that in Uganda, the daughter who speaks with her father must sit just as you are, kneeling at her father's left side, holding his hand in her lap?" he asked me in return.
I shook my head and tears rolled down my cheeks.
As the play ended, the final song emerged, everyone stood up. From South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, Sudan, Namibia, Rwanda, everyone sang the most simple song of the night; "I love you Africa"
It is not the words that move me so much, it is how deeply I can feel that indeed, in the face of all of the death, the loss, the injustice, the inhumanity that we have lived, these people really LOVE Africa. The meaning here is so clear that when I leaned over to translate the song to Pedro, he was already nodding, with tears in his eyes. "I understood Lucine. Isn't this beautiful?"
Love, I mean the kind that really matters, Divine Love…it is unconditional. This Love is big enough to face genocide and apartheid, death row and AIDS epidemics, to look in the face of the man who killed your mother or your daughter and to still reach out and say "you are worthy of loving."
If I am to understand that there is any reason for which I came to this earth, this is the closest that I can find.
There are no sufficient words for this, all I can do is place my hands on my heart and bow my head in gratitude.
This is Love worthy of dedicating my life to. And, as Baba Elias tells me, I will share it with as many people as I can