Wednesday, January 30, 2013
What if We Don't. . .
I want to invite you to play with an idea, a question offered by the Grandmothers in my dreams that has challenged me deeply. What if I don’t take a position? What if- for the next five minutes, or just this day, just on one particular issue that feels important to me, in one particular conversation- I just. . . . don’t argue (even inwardly) for what I'm sure is right, don’t review all the dire consequences of what someone else is advocating, don’t dig my heels in? What if, just for this moment, I don’t take a position?
Oriah (c) 2013
I am not advocating disengagement from our conversations about our shared life (on the private, community or global levels.) I have very strong feelings and opinions about a number of personal and social issues. I'm guessing that if I didn't the Grandmother's never would have suggested the question in the first place. I didn't take it as a criticism but, rather, a gentle challenge to an habituated response.
What’s interesting is to watch my reaction to the question. My mind sputters in indignation at the idea of letting go of taking a position for even a moment. Why? Surely I don’t believe that what others think, the choices they make or the policies enacted are relying on me holding a position in every moment of every day on every issue. Surely I could put down my inner placard for a moment. And if I did, how might it affect how I read, listen to, or see those who take a position that is different than my own? Would I be freer to listen with real curiosity about why they hold their position, why they see the world as they do? Would creative solutions that have a hard time getting through the bulwark of my position suggest themselves?
Here’s the thing: it takes a lot of energy to take and hold a position. We become defended even when no one is attacking. And it’s hard to listen or choose words that really connect with another human being when we are building or maintaining defenses.
But. . . but. . . but. . . what about the people on the other side- the ones who take a position that is different, in opposition to mine? They’re not going to let go of their position, even for a moment!
I want to be clear- I am not advocating failing to take action that will have an impact, when and where we can. And I am not talking about remaining silent or letting others abuse us in any way. But I can take action- can simply walk away from an abusive conversation- without taking a position. I can lend a hand, brainstorm ideas, listen deeply and open my heart without taking a position.
I am talking about not always being in fight mode- with ourselves (on what we “should” be doing, not-doing etc.) or others. I’m not talking about becoming less involved or engaged in life. I am talking about not taking a position for five minutes, five breaths. Maybe just while we're alone in our room, considering an issue, contemplating our life or the world. Don’t worry, I’m sure we can take turns so that the important positions are being held by someone, somewhere, all the time.
Mostly, I’m suggesting that we just consider not taking a position and see what happens – what thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations arise. It’s about just watching ourselves to see if we have real choice about where and when to take a position and where and when to lay it down, to open ourselves to possibilities we have not yet considered.
As I said- it can be a challenging idea. But that’s all it is- an idea to approach with curiosity; an idea that might help us listen and reply in a different way, a way that might be more easily heard, a way that does not slide easily into dividing our home, our community, our world into "us" and "them." Because it's all us, and most of us are usually pretty busy taking and defending our positions. Maybe we could consider trying something else for just a minute or two.