Radical Acts of TransformARTion and Healing

Dear Friends,
I feel compelled to share with you a transformational and healing experience I had this morning~
I decided to take a walk in the nearby woods on this gorgeous morning of birdsong and sunshine. I was happily absorbed by the new growth of shoots and buds everywhere, greening with life…

greening with life
greening with life

….when I happened upon a graffittied forest shelter. Only it had some new graffiti– a swastika and another Nazi symbol.

art 2

In that moment, my heart sunk, I felt pain in my chest, immediately followed by feelings of shutting down/resisting let it affect me. I had an impulse to come back with some house paint and obliterate it from existence. Cancel. Negate. But by the time I got to the end of the trail, I realized that that would just be temporary; someone, somewhere would make another symbol of hate over a blotted out covering up of another symbol of hate.

Instead, partially inspired by my participation in an art-based “Creative Good Deeds” workshop as well as one focused on art collaborations, I chose to transform the painful symbol through deep-listening, the Buddhist practice of Tonglin, and collaborative art-making. Something about this approach, rather than the white-washing, just felt *so* right and necessary. I could feel the difference in my body.

I came back with a candle, a few paints and brushes and a mason jar filled with Tulsi tea, but was not prepared for what I would experience next; I had expected to co-opt the swastika to change it for the better, but I did not expect that *I* would be the one transformed.

I lit the candle, sipped some holy basil tea and got grounded. I cleared out my inner sanctum and created space to hold whatever needed holding, while also setting the intention to let it flow through me, and not hold on to it. As I breathed the image in, I visualized all the black molecules of paint coming off the wall and into my lungs, my heart, my gut, my being. I was prepared to let it completely obliterate me, trusting that the Great Mother would completely heal me. I was taken completely by surprise that I did not feel one ounce of hate coming from the person who painted it. I felt only pain, alienation, frustration and confusion and disconnection from any True Source of Power. I held him, as a mother holds an infant crying in pain, an infant who is filled with rage and confusion at his pain. I rocked him and loved him and soothed him and gazed into his scared eyes and felt nothing but *PURE LOVE* for this person. And I could relate. I felt the pain and I rocked the pain, was it/loved it.
I feel those things almost daily and it is only by the grace of God, that I am a swastika painter-on-er and not a swastika maker.

Next, I transformed the symbol with colorful paints. I let my paint be my prayers for love and peace and transformation.

art 3
inspiration came to transform a symbol of hatred and intolerance into one of love and peace. In case you can’t make out the words, it says- May all beings feel loved- belonging-seen-connected-safe-peace. and surrounding the swastika are prayers for Reconciliation, Healing, Understanding, Acceptance and Transformation.

When I looked at it again, I no longer felt the gut punch of intolerance, no longer did it evoke painful human history. I was able to feel the purity of the symbol, impacted by the coming together in the center, from the 4 corners of the earth then dispersing the spiraling, moving mandala wheel of taking in pain, and unfurling, flinging out seeds of compassion and understanding, acceptance and tolerance; this was now a symbol of a force for good.

And for some reason, I felt I wanted to write to the person, to let him know that I see him. I see the him behind the swastika, and that I love him.

art 4
I left a little note for my collaborator in this (he)art project

My note said:
Dear Swastika Maker,
When I first came across your swastika graffiti, my immediate reaction was pain and shutting down. I had the urge to go get some beige paint and erase your hateful image. By the time I got to the end of the trail, I realized this would do no good & I wasn’t interested in a battle of wills.
I decided to come back and sit with your image and with you. I let the black smoke of this hateful symbol enter my heart and I held it there, rocking it, soothing it like a child in pain and confusion. I don’t know if any of this is accurate or not, but in that moment, I saw You, I felt your pain, your anger, your frustration, your alienation, your disconnection from any true source of power and I felt nothing but love for you, even though many of my relatives perished in the holocaust associated with this image. I felt nothing but love for you and my wish for you is to feel safe, to feel loved, to have a sense of belonging, to find your power & use it for good– for yourself & the world. I send you healing and acceptance. May you be seen, may you be understood, may you feel connected, may you know peace. May all that is hard in your heart & mind soften & be transformed. I wish that for you & I wish that for myself as well. I AM you. There is nothing that is in you, that is not also within me.
Your Sister,

I feel so grateful for this experience and for the swastika maker. Without him (or her), I would not have been able to receive this gift of healing. It helps me to understand that on the most basic/cosmic level, there really is no evil/no enemy; only opportunities to expand, understand and see a part of ourselves we may be reluctant to own. I couldn’t help but think, “am I the transformer or the transformed?” I am that.

My hope, in sharing my experience with you, is to also share some healing around this misappropriated symbol. Even as I write this, tears are streaming down my cheeks; tears of understanding and of healing. May these tears become a river, carrying my new understanding and healing to you.

May hatred give way to understanding
May pain give birth to healing
May ugliness be transmuted into beauty
Ignorance, enlightened through creativity.
May all beings, everywhere, be well, safe, loved, secure, connected, understood and able to use their power for only good.
Keyn Yehi Ratzon/ Aho

Thank you for witnessing.
Feel free to share as you see fit.

Sister J-Love

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