Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr are two of my heroes for their beautiful minds and fortitude to birth societal change in ways that utilized the discipline of mind, the cultivation of the heart, the power of ideas, and the expressions of the inherent value and dignity of life.
Now, some may argue that nonviolence is not wise and can cheapen the lives of innocent victims. A philosophical argument on when and to what extent one might choose nonviolence is beyond the scope of this reflection. Here, I speak as a therapist rooted in contemplative and somatic practices that can be applied to micro and macro issues, which support understandings of how applications of nonviolence in our individual lives and more broadly in our culture can provide more helpful states of wellbeing.
Consider the following: When we’re contracted, on the defensive, in fear, our vision is myopic. We’re on guard for threats to physical and emotional safety. The more we’re in chronic states of fight/flight/freeze, we lose a sense of what might be real or imagined threats and it’s far more difficult to even think of solutions. Thus, we often act out in unhelpful ways that may bring forth greater threats and instability to self, others and society.
As we soften, open and expand our hearts and minds, our ability to problem solve effectively is also more tangible. Our communication is nonviolent-perhaps greater precision to the experiences and an ability to articulate injustices in ways that invite choices and extends dignity. Some theorists have called this our “moral imagination” or “creative problem solving,” which is more likely to happen in a state of physical ease, expanded heart and disciplined mind (considering views of situations from many angles). Here, we can choose what is the most helpful thing to do-and at times, it may mean self defense beyond pacifism. What's important is that we're using our body, our mind, and our heart/intuitive knowing for skillful responses to what is.
My paternal grandfather was also a lover of Gandhi...Here's a poem he wrote:
The Light of India by John C. Brewart
Dedicated to the sons of India's soil. In memory of your great leader Mahatma Gandhi
No tongue could tell, nor pen could write
a tale so sad and true,
Of mortal man who lived on earth, whose
life was given for you.
Adversity and darkened days had
never changed his mind,
To solve the problem of your lives, freedom
for you to find.
Through every fleeting moment of his sacred
He tried to serve his motherland from tumult
and from strife.
Of fame, he wanted nothing and riches
still less, too,
But all he did aspire to, was happiness
Through many a lonely hour and many
a lonely day,
He prayed that peace and concord be
showered down on you.
His noble mind and purity could never
His ardent love for countryman could
never be denied.
The glorious "Light" of your country was
destined no longer to burn,
At the treacherous hands of a Traitor who
awaited his death in return.
The innocent blood of your "LEADER" would
dared to have thought of revenge.
But ye, Loyal Sons of Great India, your
duty it is to avenge.
May the courageous hearts of your country
not yield to sword of the foe.
March on to your Glorious Victory, march on
and onward you go.