School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: November 2011
War and Peace

By Susannah

Is it just me, or is the ugly side of human nature very much on display these days? I know it’s always there, and probably has always been there, but the last few days have seen so many excruciating images and stories of “man’s inhumanity to man” that I feel faced with another level of digesting what we are and what we can be. And I know there are so many other moments of both brutality and mercy and kindness that have occurred within the same time frame.

On a micro level too, I witness such a spectrum of possibility inside myself. How easy it is for me to react to someone rather than sense their humanity and the fact that they have a story. I was just at St Pancras Eurostar terminal. I’m away for 10 days now, (Switzerland and Arc of Time, then working with Volker on editing the Long Dance music, then onto Hamburg for Resonance) so I’ve got a very big heavy bag! I swung my extreme baggage onto the belt to be X rayed with a move and a grunt to rival one of the noisiest women tennis players. I look into the face of the attendant, expecting to share the joke. She is stony faced. I ask her with my eyebrows “what’s up?” she mutters, “Dangerous!” I think she means it might be dangerous for my back. I ask “Dangerous?” thinking that I can reassure her that my back is fine. She says ”Dangerous for me! - You might have hit me! A colleague of mine had their ribs broken last week by someone doing that!”. “Oh” I say, “I don’t think you were in danger” feeling a little defensive that she mistook me for an oaf, and then, realising that she had really been scared I say “I was aware of you- but sorry to have scared you!” She looks relieved. I walk through the X ray machine and pick up my mammoth bag on the other side. As I walk away I realise how fast I was already reacting to her hard face and completely misreading it. She was scared, not judgemental! And I only just stumbled into finding out and half decently responding to her. If she or I had been more stressed, adrenalized or less inhibited we could easily have been nasty to each other. So easy! So fast! I felt as if I had been caught up in two simultaneous cascades of perception and response. One of them was about perceiving threat and reacting defensively, and the other was about feeling curious, enquiring, perceiving and responding to another vulnerable human being. In how I’d actually behaved I lurched rather clumsily from one to the other, just about making it to the “shared humanity” boat in time. Wow. In a few seconds of interaction I could feel the war and peace in me, in dialogue, trying to work out who is at the controls, who has their hands on the wheel.

So many factors at play, one of which is about how safe I felt inside myself. The less safe, the more threatened, reactive, defensive, and unable to be open to perceiving the other’s humanity which may or may not fit what I imagine it to be. This reminded me of some constellations role play I did once with a small group enquiring into what is helpful, as a facilitator working with supporting dialogue in the Israeli Palestinian situation. In the constellation, over and over again, each way we “tested” it, the only thing that helped was making sure that each side knew that it was being honoured and respected and held safe, by the facilitator. This allowed each side slowly to be able to bear to be able to see each other. Any other attitude, including ANY attachment to outcome, however good, made each side close and retreat.

So, this is a job of the inner wise elder. I’m bringing my lovely wise woman elder to hold my own inner war and peace dialogues, I witness the beauty I and we humans can be. I witness the horrors I and we are capable of. And I have to confess I AM attached to the possibility of a peaceful, sustainable world, for our selves, each other and all beings. We’re all plerking (plerk = play+work) our parts, and I’m glad to share this life and this exploration with so many of you!

Wishing you a humane Autumn with compassion, joy and tenderness for yourself and your world,


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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.