I’ve been thinking about the tragedies that have occurred in the last few days, to the people in Paris, the bombing of the plane carrying Russian civilians, the suicide bombings in Beirut. It reminded me of other human traumas: the enslavement of Africans, the genocide toward Native Americans and Jews, colonization, two World Wars, civil wars around the globe, the disempowerment of women and children, the ghettoization of Palestinians. There are so many ways that some of us humans strive to keep others of us angry, frightened, hateful, submissive, and/or reactive.
I thought about all of these intentional horrors, committed against individuals and communities. I also thought about all of the tragedies that Earth and her creatures have experienced due to human ignorance and greed: deforestation, species die-off, air pollution, loss of habitat, climate change.I definitely felt the familiar, leaden feeling of hopelessness begin to haunt my spirit. Because I know that the energy of these events doesn’t just disappear when the event is over. Our genes remember. The Earth remembers.
As science has strongly suggested, when creatures are traumatized their genes change. Epigenetic markers associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and physiological illnesses are formed on top of their genes and are passed on to their offspring. So the offspring of Holocaust survivors, African-Americans, Native Americans, anyone who has experienced trauma, can inherit a tendency toward these emotional and/or physical effects. (See http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes) In several places in the Old Testament it tells us that such effects can last three to four generations. (See Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy)And as my shamanic experience and science has shown us, the Earth also remembers trauma. She carries the signature of tragedy, in scars to the land from mining through mountain top removal and extracting oil from tar sands, toxic spills in her waters that can destroy the habitat for decades, storing nuclear waste that has a half-life of thousands of years, polluting her waters and air, and the list goes on. We are all just too familiar with it.
After such a meditation, one could come to believe that the world is coming to an end.But then I stopped this downward spiral of paralyzing thought. Isn’t that how the few who want to separate us want us to react? With paralysis and reactivity? (And I refer here both to the terrorists who are using bombs and guns, and the ones who are using political and financial power.) Don’t they want us to believe that we are powerless and separate? That we are alone and can do nothing? Or that we must fight each other for our survival? That our enemy is the brother or sister who lives next door to us? Is this not what they themselves believe?
What if these fears that we experience are also related to epigenetic markers? That we are feeling the old fear of our ancestors who were gassed or executed or killed by torture? What if all of this – the terrorist attacks, the constant warring, the political bravado about closing our borders – were actually the old response to the Hitlers and Genghis Khans and hordes of yore?Oh, and new thought! What if thinking like Hitler or Genghis Khan or Osama bin Laden was also related to epigenetic markers? In psychotherapy we often talk about “defense mechanisms” in which we protect ourselves from knowing or feeling something consciously that we already experience unconsciously (like fear, shame, loss of self, etc.) What if the Hitlers and Khans and bin Ladens of our ancestors were actually terrified of losing their identities, their borders, their strength, and their power - which they could only understand as dominative power? And what if they defended against that intolerable terror by becoming aggressive and terrorizing others? In other words, what if their terrible campaigns were actually projections of their own terror?
And what if the terrorists of today are suffering from the effects of the epigenetic markers laid in by the experience of aggressive, terrified ancestors? And because of their terror, they are not awake enough to understand what is happening to them, and what they are projecting onto others?And what if our own, inherited old fear and our limited view of our true nature (one Human Being with many facets) numbs our own compassion and causes us to use force and impossible restrictions at borders, airports, and behind locked bars to prevent further tragedy? Even though such tragedies have been ongoing in our impermanent world since the beginning of time, and no amount of force seems to prevent them?
What if these tragedies were the “last gasp” of a consciousness that is resisting knowing our Unity? What if these terrorist attacks were that last gasp – our own unconscious resistance to becoming aware of ourselves as one Human Being?
What if the only way out of this reactive spiral of terror is to become aware?
If that is true, then there is no reason to despair. There is no reason to fight for our lives. There is no reason to blame anyone. We certainly need to do what we can to prevent these attacks to the extent that we are able without violating people’s basic freedoms. We certainly need to comfort the affected and take care of those who are left destitute by the violence. We certainly need to protect our neighbors from the backlash of ignorance.But then – we can pay loving attention. We can look with a loving gaze on the condition of our own minds and hearts. We must get quiet so that we can notice all of the old terrors that pop up like gassy bubbles out of the swamp of the unconscious, and let them pop into nonexistence. We must use our healing modalities, like BodyTalk and Shamanism and psychotherapy and play and prayer, to repair the epigenetic damage. We must change our lifestyles so that we are not feeding the degradation of the natural world.
And we must keep an open heart when responding to the terrorists – who can be stopped from doing more terror, and who are a manifestation of our own desire to control impermanence. They are a part of us, the terrified and angry part that wants to destroy anything that might lead to a change from what is traditional and familiar. We cannot cut this part of us out of our being without losing a part of ourselves. That would be like performing a lobotomy. We must transform it, instead.So, because we are all part of the same Human Being, let us focus on Love. Let us hold these terrorists in the Light. Let us hold those who are frightened and reactive and want to blame the refugees in the Light. Let us hold our political leaders and law enforcement officers and military in the Light. Let us come to know ourselves as we have never before known ourselves. And, as our inner world changes, our outer world will change as well. As we each become more willing to become flexible of mind and heart, so will our outer world become more flexible and loving. As we become kinder, so will our world become kinder.
We are a long way, perhaps, from the realization that we are one Human Being. We will not be able to count on Love for safety in all situations during this period of transition. But perhaps safety is not the goal of Life.
I look to Mother Earth who is like us in so many ways. In the autumn the leaves fall because biochemical processes related to the buds of new growth, which will not yet be seen for several months, push the leaves out of their comfy summer homes. (See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114288700.) Some of us will fall, like the leaves of autumn do.And though we cannot yet see the buds, we know they are there. There are so many of us who have already opened our hearts and minds to compassion and forgiveness. The peace movement, the women's movement, the civil rights movement, freedom movements all over the world, the yoga movement, spiritual awakening groups - all have begotten their own life-giving epigenetic markers. As we love, we beget love. And so, let us continue. The Spring will come. We can count on it.