Toni Monsey, PhD
Over the last seven years of doing partnered, eyes-open practices, I have paid careful attention to the effects they have on me in my life and the effects they have on those I work, practice and live with. As a researcher and practitioner, the qualitative evidence is mounting that when done on a regular basis these practices can have profound effects on our relationships and our lives.
Eyes open practices aren’t new, nor is training ourselves to see the interior goodness of others and ourselves. I heard a great example of this fact while listening to Krista Tippet’s interview with the late Congressman John Robert Lewis. I was captivated by Lewis’s description of how he and other activists were trained in nonviolent resistance in the late 1950s and 1960s. As Lewis explained, and I paraphrase here:
"First of all, you have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. It’s not something that is natural. We understood our activism to be a spiritual confrontation first within ourselves and then with the world outside. We were taught how to look inside and be able to include all parts of ourselves - to meet our own inner rage and demons, drilling down to the spark of the divine that exists within each of us. From there, in a moral sense, you are able to see that spark of the divine in the bosom of every human being. So you don’t have a right as a human to abuse that spark of the divine in yourself or in another fellow human being. Further, we were trained to look in the eyes of those who were against us. We would say with our eyes, I am human and I know that deep down you are human too. We would talk about, and practice, that if someone is attacking you, spitting on you, beating you, that we would have to think of that person as an innocent baby, as a child, and know that something went wrong, something happened in their lives and the environment they lived in that taught them to hate and abuse others. We would try to appeal to the goodness of every human being. And we were taught to never give up. You never give up on anyone."
Interestingly, I think ONEing, Mutual Awakening, and other eyes-open practices done with another human being, teach us to find that “spark of the divine,” the core goodness, both within ourselves and within others - all others - and to relate from there. In this process, we are also training ourselves and one another that all parts of us are included - the reactive and the equanimous, the victim and the offender, the happy and the sad, the separate and the connected, the fulfilled and the bereft, the enlightened and the fast asleep, the essence and the shadow. We are learning to LOVE all the way through in a way that seems to slowly (and sometimes swiftly) liberate us and one another from the blindnesses that bind us.
In his book Across That Bridge, Lewis writes: “The civil rights movement, above all, was a work of love. Yet even 50 years later, it is rare to find anyone who would use the word love to describe what we did.” Learning to love this way is challenging, both for the person who loves, and for the person who is being loved. What a gift we give one another each time we do a partnered practice together.
Martin Luther King, Jr said this: “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut through the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”
I believe we are participating in severing that chain by taking part in the movement of ONEing where we train ourselves to see from eyes of love and we project that love directly into the center of our partner and relate from there.
I am deeply grateful to be a part of this community, to have each of you as partners here, and to be participating in this movement that brings “the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”
If you’re inspired to hear more about John Robert Lewis, here is the link to Krista Tippet’s interview from On Being for your listening pleasure: https://onbeing.org/programs/john-lewis-love-in-action/