Thoughts from Annie
We Make the Path By Walking
Traveler, there is no way, the way is made by going.
By walking you make the path, and when you look back,
You see the track where you should never walk again.
In September 2001, after seeing the devastation brought on by war and conflict, I decided to take a small compassionate step toward healing. I started a class teaching mediation and mindfulness to the 3rd graders in my kids’ elementary school. Later I added kids yoga classes, and within a year, I found a room to rent at the corner of 39th and Northampton Streets in NW DC. Nearly 20 years on, three important communities have formed from these small seeds: the nationally recognized Peace of Mind school program, Circle Yoga Cooperative, and Opening Heart Mindfulness Community.
Tens of thousands of people of all ages have found health and ease through these communities which are also the spiritual home for many people. And, several dozen people make their living from this plant that grew from a single seed. Of course, planting the seed isn’t everything, and I take very little credit for the magnificent trees that have sprouted from this seed. So many other people and conditions are what made this particular reality happen. And at the same time, it would not have begun had I been either afraid to take a step or been overly concerned with what the final plant would look like.
If you’re like me, you are upset about the ongoing police murders of Black people and the racist norms our country has come to accept. You may wonder what you can do to help end racism, stop police violence, and heal our country. Or, maybe you wish to help end the deep political and social divisions we see being magnified. I hold some of those same hopes and dreams.
But instead of focusing on the end goal or the possibility that you will make a mistake, consider taking just one small compassionate step right now. Take all your reactive feelings and put that energy into a single compassionate step toward healing and freedom. The poet David Whyte writes in What to Remember When Waking:
calls you to your
one love? What shape
waits in the seed
of you to grow
against a future sky?
When I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in May, I felt scared and concerned, but I knew that I only needed to take the next step, which was to call the oncologist for an appointment. Taking just that one step was do-able. Soon it was time for the next step, which I could easily take. My fear was so much less because I was able to take the treatment one step at a time, without worrying about the end game.
“IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW SLOWLY YOU GO AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT STOP.” ― CONFUCIUS
Focusing on the outcome gets us stuck because none of us has the answer to the racial problems facing us now. But every one of us can do something. By taking the first step, we will see the next step and the next. So, my suggestion is to take one compassionate step and let go of the outcome. If it doesn’t take you where you want to go, you can always try a different route. Just keep taking the next step.
Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story of having to rebuild the same refugee city five times because it kept getting bombed during the Vietnam war. His practice was to stay focused on the work that had to be done in the present moment. He and his community rebuilt this city over and over again, one step at a time.
“WHEN WE ARE WHOLLY OURSELVES, WE CAN SEE HOW ONE PERSON BY LIVING FULLY DEMONSTRATES TO ALL OF US THAT LIFE IS POSSIBLE, THAT A FUTURE IS POSSIBLE.” – THICH NHAT HANH, LOVE IN ACTION: WRITINGS ON NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE
There are many small steps you can take right now or in the next few days. This article in Harper’s Bazaar offers some specific ideas, but use your imagination and combine that with listening to people who are directly affected. Follow Catrice Jackson, your local Black Lives Matter activists (BLM-DMV), or other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in your community. If you have money to give, The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) is an organization supplying resources to many grassroots organizations working for racial equity.
Share your small steps with others to spark inspiration and action. Post in the comments here, and/or talk to your family and friends about the small compassionate steps you are making toward healing your own racial biases. You will become part of the transformation of the world one step at a time.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” We could also say, “There is no way to racial justice, racial justice is the way.” Take your next small step toward racial justice with unconditional compassion, love and trust and don’t worry about what the next step will be. And by going, you will make the way for yourself and probably many others.