I went into my lobbying efforts with a deliberate desire to put my ethics into action and to dedicate that work to the Goddess as I know her and as she exists in every woman and every man. That mattered to me, and it helped me do a good job. I had some interesting experiences along the way, which I share here for others’ interest; these are not meant to be definitive for anyone but me, but I was surprised at the ways I experienced things that matched up with what other people have talked about in terms of ethics and some of the best means of responding to injustice.
I meditated and prayed before I began; I repeated my personal oath, as I do every day, and I promised myself that I would work extra-hard to measure my actions by that oath as I went into this new and challenging effort. As I started out, I had a deeper measure of calm than I expected, and at times, when I was taking a deep breath and refocusing myself, I felt that I could slip in and out of in a very, very light trance state, one where my personal awareness of deity and the beings around me was heightened, and one where my personal ethical commitments were foremost in my mind.
I used grounding and centering techniques repeatedly throughout the day. This was extremely helpful in dealing with the nervousness that comes from doing a new and challenging task, and especially when learning how to talk to staffers and present myself. When I did a quick review after each drop-in visit, I first grounded and centered, and that moved me right past the “I can’t believe I fumbled that word!” and “Oh my god they probably think I’m an idiot!” and on to the useful, important matters of how to improve for the next time. Of course, grounding and centering is also the best way to prepare before starting the next such encounter, too. It helped me not get trapped by anger or frustration or hopelessness.
Most of all, grounding and centering let me speak not just from my place of strength, but from my place of weakness. When I made the one real connection that I counted as achieving my personal goal for the day, I made it by speaking honestly and openly about how truly frightening these proposals are to me, and how truly dangerous they are to me. I was able to be strong in my weakness rather than try to cover it with anger.
Oh, I’m angry, too, and sometimes I showed that, but most of all, I wanted to show people that they’re not just causing anger, they’re causing fear, and they will cause harm if they continue on this course. Anger can be answered with anger. But a heartfelt admission of fear, especially a well-justified fear, is often harder to dismiss, harder to meet with cruelty and ignorance and abuse. Weakness became my strength.
In a lot of ways, I used the same approach when I went to silently counter the anti-abortion protesters. I couldn’t have done that, and certainly couldn’t have been as (minimally) successful as I was, without the grounding I relied on. If I hadn’t already thought deeply about the ethics of the situation, it would have been all too easy to get drawn into an argument with them, or to be shamed, or hurt, or appalled, or infuriated by their lies and hurtfulness.
And to tell the truth, I did feel all those things. But using the intent I had established for myself ahead of time as a touchstone let me feel, first and foremost, a kind of grace and peace that surrounded me, enfolded me, and healed all those hurts so that I could go on to do what I wanted to do. I exposed my weakness to them in a different way, by being silent, by not justifying myself or engaging with them, but simply being there. It sounds trite to say that their responses proved me right and reinforced me in my endeavor, but it was true for me.
Chanting very quietly to myself helped me ignore them physically and mentally, but it was also the perfect exercise for why I was there in the first place. Pulling up part of that light trance state helped me see the man yelling at me as not just someone who wanted to hurt me, but as also someone who has been hurt, who is trying to do the best he knows how, who also has a connection to the divine within him. As a result, I was able to focus on the feelings of sorrow and hope for his healing, to be filled with mercy and grace even as he yelled at me. He, too, comes from the Goddess, and to her he will return.
I was able and willing to be weak, and silent, and to let my fear become also part of the grace, because of the absolute conviction that what I was doing was right, and necessary, and worthwhile. I paid the cost, and paid it gladly, and would do it again. And by approaching it that way, the cost was made almost nothing.
I realize that can sound kind of condescending to the anti-abortion protesters. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard them praying something about asking Mary to forgive sinners very loudly right behind me, with the clear intent that I was the sinner they had in mind at the moment. (The particular people I saw seem to have been part of a tiny fringe Catholic organization.) I’m not saying that I had the right to be condescending to them and they didn’t; I am saying that I tried to make my external actions not condescending (while theirs were more so) and that this understanding helped me do something that I think, on an external judgment of impact, was an ethical action.
I can’t say that the Goddess was acting through me – in fact, even though I prayed to Ogma for eloquence and assistance in my speaking, it was precisely when I was talking to staffers that I felt not at all trance-like – but I do think that I succeeded in dedicating my actions to the Goddess. Some of the basic energy management techniques I’ve been exploring were a huge help, not just grounding and centering, but also the idea of a shield that automatically earths or transmutes negative energy sent at me. It was amazing how quickly the situation got easier for me, especially with that visualization in mind.
I have no training in nonviolent protest or civil disobedience beyond a bit of light reading, but what I felt was truly wonderful and powerful. It was also deeply spiritual, much more so than I expected. I can see myself doing that again in the future.
Finally, I want to send a huge thank you to the friends and family who sent me good energy and prayed for my endeavors that day. I felt it, (again in ways I didn’t expect!) and it helped, and I couldn’t have done it without you. This is what the work is about – and we are doing it together.