When Silence is Action

As I reflect on the current state of affairs in the world today -- from our national immigration reform to the suffering of Syrian refugees to the discourse around protecting Bears Ears National Monument -- I find myself pondering... What is the most powerful form of action? How do we navigate the space between listening and protesting? What is the role of bearing witness?

With those questions in mind, I invite you to watch this video of writer and activist, Sisonke Msimang from The Moth. 

V i d e o :   The Moth Presents: Sisonke Msimang - a story on the power of listening

W h y   y o u   s h o u l d   w a t c h   i t ?
1. She's honest and funny and a great storyteller!

2. When we feel called to fix the world around us, it can be remarkably challenging when we realize that our problem-solving abilities are yielding little in terms of results or are serving us poorly in the face of a person and their story.

Sisonke shares her experience with this challenge as she recounts her personal journey to understanding the role of "non-action words" (think sitting, stillness, silence) in our role as change-makers.

Her conclusion:

Bearing witness is a form of action. Sometimes the single most important thing that we can do in order to fix everything within us that is broken...you actually can’t do anything - you certainly can’t change the world - unless you’ve learned how to sit, how to be with people in silence.

W h e r e ' s   t h e   S p i r i t   i n   t h i s   v i d e o ?
The practice of sitting in silence, of being still in the present moment, of listening traces across many different spiritual traditions. We find it in Buddhist meditation, in Native American talking circles, and in the Catholic tradition of confession. 

But just because we see this practice surface in many faiths, doesn't mean it is simple nor easy. Henri Nouwen reminds us of the beauty that can come if we try: "Listening as Spiritual Hospitality".

This review of "Bearing Witness, A Zen Master's Lessons in Making Peace" by Bernie Glassman, founder of the Zen Peacemaker Order, points to the connection between sitting in silence with another and peacemaking. And this excerpt from Glassman's book speaks directly to how the Zen Peacemaker Order teaches what it means to bear witness.

If these links spark inspiration or unlock the memory of an experience sitting in silence with another, we'd love to bear witness to your story! Email me at perry@stillharbor.org. 

Until next week!