With mindfulness practice we learn to live in the zones between comfort, where tension is found. But in coming to terms with tension we can negotiate a newfound peace, and we find a very creative and even safe place to be emotionally and spiritually. In order to find this place it is important to embrace the dialectic; to not hesitate.
In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed necessary tension and its potential to be a catalyst for growth. This document’s relevance today is as meaningful as it was in 1963, when Dr. King composed this letter while incarcerated for the “crime” of engaging in a peaceful protest of white supremacy and racial injustice. America continues to be plagued with white supremacy and racial injustice; we need to embrace the tension created by civil disobedience and protest in order to find the creative growth to form a truly civil society.
As nourishment for our hearts and souls on this journey we have Mary Oliver’s poem “Don’t Hesitate.” Her conclusion that “joy is not made to be a crumb” is one that I believe Dr. King would have embraced as well!
Martin Luther King, from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth (italics added). Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
Mary Oliver, “Don’t Hesitate”
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
The video and audio found below are guided meditations (with some introductory remarks) appropriate to the themes addressed above.
Audio recording of this guided meditation: