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Sacred Political Practice


For the women of Iran, whose courage inspires me to action, and to pledge devotion to a sacred political practice in my own life, just as important as my Reiki healing practice, my spiritual practice or my professional practice, so that this is not an isolated act but a renewal of activism that has been passionate but sporadic throughout my life. I know I have power and I want to do more to use it to empower others and open opportunities for democracy to flourish, for women to lead full and rewarding lives everywhere, based on the universal right to self-determination and freedom from oppression.

It’s not that I want to give my white American support to those poor oppressed brown Muslim women in the far-off Middle East. I am humbly thanking them for their incredible contributions to the world and to the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice everywhere. I am honoring their courage, their wisdom, their passion, their perseverance through a century of women’s resistance in Iran. I know this is not new and it’s certainly not something they just learned from us.

Though, I’m not cutting my hair just to help them, I hope the conversations with people around me that I know will inevitably result from my new style can bring some light and compassion where there is ignorance or apathy.

I cut my hair as a message to my American sisters and brothers on this Election Day, because we are facing real oppression in our own country, in our own cultural history, even in our own lives, families and communities, and it’s because we haven’t done enough to ensure that our democracy is safe and strong. We’ve taken it for granted, hoped someone else would do the work, felt powerless to make a difference; we’ve been too busy, too distracted, too disgusted, overwhelmed, afraid. We didn’t believe it would happen here, that we could actually lose our democracy and slide into dictatorship - with our consent and by our own hands - whether we’ve acted or failed to act. Silence is consent. Inaction is irresponsibly giving our power away to anyone who has the initiative and motivation to claim it from the lost and found where we abandoned it because it didn’t seem like a priority, or we didn’t know where to start, or we feel like voting was enough and now we’re done until the next election. But what if there won’t be another election as we know it?

As I sit here now, I don’t know what the outcomes of any of today’s elections will be, from the candidates running for sheriff or justice of the peace in my neck of the woods to the proposed amendments to the Vermont state constitution, one abolishing a loophole allowing slavery and one enshrining personal reproductive rights for all. I don’t know whether the U.S. House or Senate will flip to Republican control or whether election deniers will gain control of elections in their states where they run to be elected by voters even as they already claim the election is illegitimate if they lose but fair if they win - the very same election. It makes no sense, not in a democracy, but that’s not what they’re trying to establish. I understand the cognitive dissonance can make us want to run away. Sometimes I do, I turn it off and go about my business until I can pluck up the courage to tune back in and try to discern the most helpful ways to engage, with intentions to both preserve my sanity and make a positive impact.

I don’t have a call to any particular action I want everyone to take and I’m not speaking on behalf of any organization. I’m showing up to exercise my free will in the right to choose the direction of my life and the appearance of my body because I can, in this moment in history, because of the work and struggle of others before me. What else can I do now, what other rights and freedoms do I enjoy that I’d hate to lose, or that others aren’t able to enjoy? That’s where the front lines are, and I don’t want to wait until they’re at my doorstep before I’m motivated to do the actual work of democracy. It’s not a privilege, it’s not a permanent fixture, it’s a job and it’s all our jobs as citizens to show up not just for elections but in any way we can, often not in what we think of as the political arena. Some of the most important work we can do to protect and expand freedom and justice is in our own relationships, our own behavior, the way we treat people different from us, the choices we make, how we spend our money, what we prioritize and what we allow into our hearts and minds and homes.

An action may get attention and then fade. A practice can last a lifetime, even as it changes, grows and evolves. People may know me as a Reiki healing arts teacher who emphasizes regular practice over advanced training or titles or information because practice is where the power is. In fact, I’m writing a book on it because that’s how important I know it is. Political practice is the same. It’s what we show up for again and again whether we feel like it or not, it’s what we make time for, give money to, invest our time and resources in so it grows over time and we grow with it.

That’s why I’m cutting my hair today. It’s for them, but it’s really for me. So that I see my commitment every time I look in the mirror. So that people see the difference when they look at me and ask why I’ve changed. So that I am reminded of the cold winter now arriving in Ukraine with fuel shortages and blackouts, where some women have cut their hair hoping to avoid being raped by Russian soldiers. One reason I’ve always let my hair grow is because it keeps me warm, and I live in Vermont where it gets pretty cold! But this winter when I’m feeling the chill, I will be reminded to be grateful for the abundant resources I have for keeping warm, following the third Reiki Precept of gratitude practice, kan sha shite. As I put a log on the fire or wrap up in a scarf, I will know I chose to bare my neck to that chill and I will remember why and be inspired to keep showing up and growing my practice, simply because I care. I care about my own wellbeing and I care about everyone else’s, as embodied in the fifth Reiki Precept, hito ni shinsetsuni: compassion for ourselves and all others. I care about democracy, about freedom from oppression, about opportunity for all, about healing the traumas of history and preparing for the climate catastrophe that’s already unfolding around the world. I cut my hair short because I care about the women here in this country whose lives, livelihoods, careers and contributions will be cut short because they are losing their right to choose their own lives and how to live them, my sisters right here in the U.S.

I know it’s not my hairdo that makes the difference, but I already voted by dropping my ballot at the town clerk's office last week, so this ritual today marks my dedication to my sacred political practice, to the world wide Women’s Revolution that is not new but is growing and gaining momentum, that has been going on as long as patriarchal oppression and will never be finished until all of us are safe and free, not just women but everyone. We don’t just fight and work and create and cook and heal and celebrate for ourselves alone, but for the greatest wellbeing of all, with the least harm possible, finding our own power together and empowering each other every step of the way.

Whatever happens in the elections today, I know we are in serious trouble and I also know we are enormously powerful, so we need to get on with the sacred work of learning and practicing our skills and coming together to support one another and work together as we feel called. This is our gyo o hageme, one of the Reiki Precepts that asks us to make everything we do into a sacred practice, to live our lives in ways that help and heal and do not harm. This is my sacred practice today and every day.

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