As a teenager in Boston, I participated in civil rights marches. These marches were silent and orderly, with large numbers of people coming together. Later, at Washington University, there had been protests, but these were more about venting anger than reaching resolution. After being present for some of those demonstrations, I realized what was going on and withdrew. Eventually, there was a shift, and we all came together to express our anger and desire for peace in the university chapel.
Protesting in the streets was not new to me in 1972 when I came across it in Berkeley. While working on my Master’s degree at Mills College in Oakland, I was intensely studying Tai Chi Chuan with T.R. Chung on University Avenue in Berkeley. I would take a bus daily from Oakland to Shattuck Avenue or Telegraph Avenue and then walk to Chung’s storefront. One day, I finished at Chung’s as it was getting dark. I had not seen the news and was not expecting anything as I began my walk to the bus stop a few blocks down Shattuck. Apparently things had really blown, and people were angry and beginning to gather in the streets. I continued to walk, minding my own business, just heading to the bus.
Out of nowhere, a four-door sedan stopped in the middle of the intersection near where I was. The four doors opened and four large men in the blue riot gear of the day charged out. One of them was running right toward me, with his menacing baton up in the air ready to come down. I watched, curious but uninvolved because I “knew” I was not part of this play. It never occurred to me that the policeman did not know I wanted no part of the conflict. I just stared and did not move. This happened so quickly, yet for me it was quiet and timeless. When the man was just about to reach me, he tripped on the curb and landed face down with his head at my feet. My response was to bend down and ask him “Are you OK?” I still had not grasped that he had been heading toward me. Someone from behind grabbed me and pushed me down the street. “They’ll think you want to hurt him. Run.” I left the man still lying on the ground, and escaped a couple of blocks away where there were no people.
For me there had been no anger, no conflict. I was detached and had no resistance. I was not a doormat; I felt that policeman was a human being like me, and though he was in the role of riot policeman, he was still me.
The riot police in Berkeley were called “Blue Meanies” because of their one-piece blue suits. Years later, when I was Head of security in Baba’s ashram, I was “Rohini the Meanie”. I enforced the rules of the ashram. There were many who did not like the role I acted out, especially people who were rebellious. But I came to understand conflict from all sides, and, with Baba’s guidance, learned how to let it go.
|Doormat||Standing up for self|
When we accept what is in our world, we are then able to choose how to act appropriately. We are not doormats; we are able to stand up for ourselves and yet not be resistant. Non-resistance means we can hear what someone is saying to us. The more clear I am, the more I see others’ points of view and understand where they are coming from. We are not fighting. We are not in conflict. This is where “other” disappears. It is just us.
If I hurt you, I hurt myself. This is the understanding into which each of us must grow.
If you love, then I love. Conflict and resistance disappear, and even when we are angry we are yelling at ourselves. This is what I call healthy narcissism. When we come to this as our living experience, then no matter what happens, it is only us. There is only the pure Subject. Love permeates everyone and everything.
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