Yoga teacher Ana Forrest thought she was delusional. She was praying alone by the Columbia River when she had a profound vision. She saw a towering version of herself with rainbows coming out of her limbs and surrounding her.
She realized that for so many years, she had seen herself as unworthy and small. Her vision told her that she was much more than that. Her vision told her to take part in the healing of the world.
She later learned that a Oglala Lakota healer named Black Elk had a similar vision. The vision would empower him with a mission to restore the “hoop” of his people. He had hoped he could lead all of his people back to the “red road,” the road of good.
Forrest herself would adopt this metaphor into her own life’s work, “Mending the Rainbow Hoop of the People.” She encourages people to tune into the healing power within. This healing isn’t for personal gain. It’s so that we can restore the broken hoop of our communities.
This concept of repairing and restoring echoes in other cultures. The Jewish mystical phrase tikkun olam refers to the need for social justice in the world. It starts by remembering the sacred in our world and taking social responsibility for the various injustices.
The African concept of ubuntu recognizes the influence of our actions on others. Rather than believe in a separate identity from others, ubuntu sees the self as socially constructed. Therefore, you do things for the good of humanity.
Thomas Merton calls it “resetting the bones.” He believed that so much of the world has been broken, and resetting the bones to heal properly is painful. We have to move in painful ways, give up our selfish habits, and remain firm in our “cast.”
This means reconciling ourselves with the many ways we hurt ourselves and others. It means taking a good, honest look at ourselves and asking what we’re doing to contribute to the problems of violence, hunger, and inequality. It means replacing hate with love. Hate destroys, but love unites.
The common mantra we hear these days is “No justice, no peace; know justice, know peace.” I think we have it backwards. How can anyone possibly know what justice might even come close to resemble if they have no idea what it’s like to have peace in their heart?
If you look a long way back in history, a justice system didn’t emerge until we moved away from our close-knit tribes. Norms within our culture kept us together because we knew we needed one another. Once we began to do business with those outside of our tribes, we had to figure out ways to negotiate some sort of trust.
What happens these days is that we are too quick to point in the flaws of one another without recognizing the flaws in ourselves. We’ve become too attached to being right without first being open to the possibility that we might be wrong.
It’s not that we can’t work towards justice without first cleaning up our own lives. But if we wait for others to behave differently for us to find peace, we’ll be waiting for a long time.
If we can’t see ourselves clearly, how can we see others? How are we so quick to make assumptions based on others when we don’t know ourselves? We might be too quick to point out injustices in society, but we fail to admit the injustices we carry inside our hearts.
Our wounds might drive us to our life’s purpose, but we have to heal them first.
Today, I see that people are outraged because Kim Kardashian wore earrings with the “OM” symbol. The world is literally heating up because of the abuse we’re inflicting on the planet, yet we’re wasting our time on social media worrying about someone’s earrings.
If we’re all one people living in one common world, we could maybe use our energies to sustain it a little better. Maybe rather than spend an hour “fighting” with someone on Twitter, we could spend that hour understanding why we insist that our needs, beliefs, and ideas are “better” than others.
Know peace within. Then you can work towards justice.