Global Seva Challenge Haiti with Off the Mat Into the World
Haiti is a land teeming with paradox and intensity, a land that has witnessed unspeakable atrocities and history changing revolutions.
Even today, the incredible beauty and abundance of the land itself can be glimpsed under the layers of concrete and garbage. And there is great magic there as well. It is palpable…and as co-facilitator of our recent Seva Challenge trip to Haiti, I was struck by the places where our western beliefs meet with energies and concepts unlike our own. I was deeply moved, humbled, excited and profoundly filled with questions. Below is my own mytho-poetic take on the questions that rose up inside me about self responsibility, service and how to meet suffering with an open heart:
Are those who suffer the strong ones? The ones who sacrifice themselves by consciously taking on the suffering of the world?
When we enter into a conscious exchange of energy with the spirits, we then receive lessons that are perhaps less fierce or brutal but when we are unconscious with those energies, we get strong lessons. All magicians know that what we do comes back to us. This is the law of karma. It’s not the karma that controls, but the karma that asks us to take responsibility for our thoughts, deeds and actions.
We must be as educated as possible about the rules of the cultures we enter. And not just the human rules or laws but the spiritual ones. To us, they may seem foreign or even superstitious, but ancient culture has tremendous wisdom about unseen forces. Our laws do not necessarily apply. We must slow down, listen, learn, respect, ask questions and not be afraid. We must be aware. And practice presence to the best of our ability. We must do our inner work, taking responsibility for our wounds so that when we show up in service we have cast off our own fears and agendas. When we ask for growth, what is hidden comes to the surface and we get supremely tested.
Are you sure that you want to be filled with grace? Then you must know what stands in grace’s way.
We may ask for community and be shown the isolation of our own minds and hearts—the ways we do not allow ourselves to receive connection and accept support. Then we have the choice to face our fear or not. Then we can heal our own trauma or reinforce it. It’s our choice. Heartbreak can build walls inside us or it can show us the cold truth of surrender to the mystery. That surrender can be a relieving exhale or it can be terrifying. The unknown can be powerful and open us to possibility or it can be our deepest fear.
We ask for awakening and growth and we are thrown off the cliff to sink or to swim—to be carried by the current or to fight it every step of the way. Can we be strong willed enough to climb mountains or will we shut down and hide behind walls like mountains? It’s our choice. In each moment, it’s our choice.
We can see the motherless child and walk by, not knowing what to do next, pretending we don’t see her, or we can kneel and face her eye to eye, reach out to touch her, even in her suffering.
We have nothing but this. The kiss of soul to soul. The butterfly wing drying in the sun, fragile and stunning and bursting into freedom.
I am that cliff and the water beneath. I am the Ondines singing. I am the motherless child, the demon in the streets, the stern surgeon wielding the knife that saves a life. I am the mother sheltering the children. I am the bony fingers of death. I am the moon coldly staring. I am the snake vines curling around you. I am the wise soul strong enough to call the darkness out like a sickness. I am the gentle curve of the bay, the hope of a nation, the proud colors, the angry chant, the mating call of the lovers’ creole hip hop poetry, the sugar cane songs, the children holding tight as we dance through the streets at night, the press of bodies swaying like the ocean, the smell of the cock fight, the strong arms to contain the violence. I am the sweat and the call of the ceremony at midnight, the screeching horns amidst the towers of garbage, the pastel glory hidden in the rubble. I am the newborn and the child laughing and playing. I am the old man, strong arms wielding the shovel. I am the fierce mama feeding the children. I am the desperate need and the proud and rageful “allez.” I am the educated one, returning and responsible. I am the raggle taggle rara band. I am the mystical blue grotto hosting spirits that tug and sing. I am the history of torture and revolution, the divine horseman beneath my uniform. I remove the white from the flag. I am Ayiti, stolen from the natives, staring at the maw of damned history, crawling from out of the rubble, resilient and alive.
By Suzanne Sterling Co-Founder of Off the Mat Into the World
OTM Global Seva Challenge 2012: India find out more here.
Editor: Brianna Bemel