Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well. Josh Billings
It is a week since I came 'off the roof'. A week since sleeping for three nights in a tent in the cold of winter has ended.
It has been a week of processing. Of considering. Of ruminating on the realities of what happened and how I was affected. Last night, at meditation group, my roof experience returned to enlighten me.
One of the most astounding aspects of my learning from On the Roof. Off the Street was how tiring it is to do anything. And I mean anything. Sitting in that space, curled up under my sleeping bag, everything took energy. From the idea of getting up and out of the tent to use the washroom, to getting up and out of the tent to simply look at the sky, it all took just too much energy to even think about getting it done let alone actually doing.
Sleeping in a tent in the dark of winter on a roof in the downtown core took energy -- which helped me understand why, when someone is homeless, or sleeping rough (sleeping outdoors not in a shelter), hygiene is one of the first things to go.
I thought it was because as individuals slip into that invisible place called, homeless, they fall into the ennui of not caring about themselves any longer, they just can't be bothered. And while that plays a part in the equation, I found myself slipping there because of the energy it took to simply do anything. It was so incredibly tiring to have to move around, to get up and put on boots and then go in and take off coats and then put everything back on again.
To simply 'run out and grab something' just didn't work. The minute the cold seeps into your bones, you have to fight to warm back up -- and if sleeping rough, as in no washroom to run into, or warm kitchen to scoot inside to warm up -- any amount of cold seeping in requires more energy to dispel -- and in that condition called homeless, there's not a lot of excess energy to go around. Dispelling cold is a herculean feat not for the faint of heart and definitely not for the tired and weary.
Last night at meditation, we were invited to imagine ourselves standing on top of a high peak, the highest possible, higher even than Mt Everest. Imagine the molecules that comprise your body fall away, melt into the air, our meditation guide, Dal, counselled. Now, imagine the essence of you, the soul being, gently moving through the valley's below the peak. Imagine it wandering lightly through the villages and towns below. What do you see?
It was the sadness that hit me. As I came down into the towns I found myself in Africa. It made sense. I've been reading Romeo Dallaire's, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children. It is not a book I wanted to read but it is a book I believe I must read. I believe it is important to know what truly goes on in our world in order to honour the human beings experiencing it and to support General Dallaire and his work to eradicate the use of child soldiers. They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children is a tough read. Well written, it paints a picture that challenges the scope of my western mind and its capacity to believe -- this can actually happen, be going on in our world.
And then, in my meditation I saw them. These children whose childhood's have been ripped away. These children who have been taught to kill.
And I felt it. The sorrow and the confusion and the disbelief of watching children killing children. Killing adults. Carrying guns and machetes. Disfiguring their families. Destroying their lives.
And I cried. And I felt the heaviness of their acts. The sorrow of their being abused.
So much pain. So much tragedy.
After the meditation exercise, Dal asked each of us what we experienced. I shared mine, and how the sadness was pervasive. It was everywhere.
Let's go back, Dal invited. As a group, let's go back to that space and feel us supporting you as you stand in the light of Love, seeing it through those eyes, that space.
It was in the going back that I found the truth.
I do not, we do not, have the answers for Africa. India. China. Syria nor even Canada or the USA or homelessness in someone's life. We do not have the power to stop what other's do in their lives.
What we have is the capacity to hold a space and be present In Love. To shine. To know. I cannot change you. I can change how I see you. I can change how I witness your life.
Sitting on the roof, feeling the tiredness of homelessness stripping away my will to 'do' or be anything other than in that tent doing nothing, I understand.
I cannot 'solve' homelessness. I can witness it through eyes of Love. I can stand In Love and know -- for homelessness to be different, I must be different. For killing to end, I must stop hating those who kill and find the courage to Love. To stand in Love and know -- Love is all there is. Love can never be destroyed, no matter how hard we try to destroy eachother.
I hear the Prayer of St. Francis, I told the group -- Make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Yes, said Dal. I hear it too. Make me an instrument of Thy service.
Let us be the instruments of Peace. The channels of Hope. Love and Joy in a world where sorrow finds no space to grow for Love is all around.