Colonel Mustard, Roe v Wade and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Ram Dass Quotes

July 2022

Disclaimer: Even though I live in New Zealand under a female prime minister who publicly states that abortion policy is a 'basic human right for women', our opposition leader is outwardly anti-abortion. The divide is here too. It's everywhere. Roe v Wade was felt everywhere. I write to make sense of it, but this piece of writing didn't go the way my mind wanted it to go. At first glance, this may look like an essay on women's rights, but I hope you will see that's just the reason for the message, not the message itself. I hope you'll look past my viewpoints to see a deeper truth. Coming home to this deeper truth is my daily practice.

'Colonel Mustard, candlestick, lounge room,' says my husband Phil in our weekly game of Cluedo with our eldest two children.

I reveal the candlestick and lounge room cards to Phil. When no one else shows any cards, I note that Colonel Mustard must be the culprit.

The game continues. When I work out the murder weapon and the room, I announce that I will guess the three suspect cards, believing I had won.

Rope, yes.
Conservatory, yes.
Professor Plum?

Looking at Phil with wide, confused eyes, he smirks and says, 'got ya'. He had played us. He had Colonel Mustard the whole time. I rolled my eyes, but it was too late to erase that moment from our children's curious gaze. By the time Phil proclaimed victory, they had cottoned onto his winning ways.

We play again.

Our 9-year-old boy wins. He leaps into the air, jumps up and down, and chants, 'I tricked you all, I won!'.
Throwing my cards on the ground and turning to face Phil with narrow eyes, I hiss into his face, 'see what you've just done. You've taught our children that they can control and manipulate others to win. What starts as Cluedo ends up as bloody Roe versus Wade.' I storm out of the room and retreat to my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

My face flushes red. My throat constricts. I am raging.

Even though I rationally knew he was not responsible for Roe v Wade, I knew he was a good man, but at that moment, he represented everything wrong in the world. My husband, with his winning Cluedo hand, personified the problem.

I talk with the kids and explain what had just happened and why I was upset. I tell them, in an age-appropriate way, about Roe v Wade.

'It's just unbelievable. It is just terrible,' says our 11-year-old girl. 
'So, how would you change it?' I ask.
'We need more women as leaders,' she says without flinching.
'I agree, but how do we get people to vote for them?'
'It's easy,' she replies, 'we just get people to listen to them. Then they will see that we can do things differently.'

Here lies the answer to it all. We need to change the cultural narrative. We need new stories.

The problem is how to access them.

I believe this is where spirituality and social (and environmental) justice intersect. Because we only get to the new stories of equality and connectedness by doing the hard, gritty work of peeling back and untangling from the stories that keep us in a system of separation.

My self-inquiry has shown me how I, too, am holding onto stories. In this case, the story I am in the process of untangling from says, 'white, conservative, heterosexual men in these positions of power are the problem'.

This untangling is hard work because, in a way, the story serves me. It helps me make sense of everything that happened in the US on 24 June, and for centuries everywhere. That story validates all the times I've been made to feel small, bound, or judged for my femininity.

But the very same story that makes sense to my rational mind also keeps me separate from my very own husband.

The stories keep us separate.

Women are x
Men are y
White people are x
Black people are y

The division is because of our attachment to and identification with the stories we've been marinated in. Stories have been used to hand down information for thousands of years. These stories shape and inhabit our minds, forming our beliefs and prejudices. Stories shape our thinking. But as the great Albert Einstein said, 'We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.'

There is an aspect of ourselves that sits behind the stories we've been told. It's our truest selves. And we only find that aspect within by doing the work of turning inwards and actually looking for this elusive thing that has never been lost - our essence, our shared heart. It ain't easy. But it's necessary. When I looked inwards, I came across my personal limiting stories (I am not good enough), and then I came face to face with our Western culture's limiting stories (the very same stories that keep systems of separateness at play).

I believe the very point of self-inquiry and spirituality is disidentification with those stories, a separation from the mind. It is realising the part of ourselves that sits behind it all.

The space between me and my thoughts gives me the power to choose - will I believe those stories or not? From that spaciousness, truth emerges. And now that truth says to me: Conservative men are, too, bound in belief. Collectively, we need to do the messy work of detaching from the stories in our heads. The problem, and the solution, are within arm's reach; within each of us.

When I pause and take time to access the deep reservoir of stillness within, there are no stories in that moment - what's there is a deep connection to everything and everyone. Accessing that depth doesn't leave me apathetic. I still act. But I act from a different place.

So, I come home to myself and talk with Phil.

I tell him I love him. I tell him I don't want to be angry, I'm sorry for raging but when I see him embody a story steeped in fear and war (win at all cost), deep sadness and anger erupt. I explain that I am raging and tired and overwhelmed. 'How can we solve it in the world if we can't solve it in our home,' I sob to him.

'I get it,' he said, 'I didn't see it before, but I can see how I did that now.'

He sits down with Zoe and Evan and tells them he was wrong. He tells them we are going to play fair and just enjoy our time together. No control. No manipulation.

Without saying these exact words, he spoke to them about inhabiting a different story, one that says to win is to simply be with each other.

Because that's the thing about stories - depending on what is told, they can either divide or connect us. Words have immense power.

I know in my own life, when I speak or write words from my open, vulnerable heart, that's when I bear witness to an evolution rooted in love. That tender, transformative moment between Phil and our eldest children didn't happen because of my rage. It happened because of my vulnerability.

That's the story I hope my vulnerable, rambling words evoke - a story of connection to our deepest selves and, then by default, everyone around us.

Our human history has been a deadly battleground of separatism, fuelled by the 'us vs them' mentality. We've all had enough. But the problems of the world won't go away by looking the other way.

Instead, turn towards your heart, bring awareness to the beliefs and stories that swim inside you, and question them. Meditate and come home to the stillness within.

When I look inwards, I know I need to take personal responsibility for my participation in stories of separateness. (Spoiler alert - we all do).

From that place of openness, vulnerability and stillness, I act. I write. I donate to charities on the ground (in this instance, through Together Rising) because that's the great paradox of life. I can both support my beliefs about what it means to live in a kinder world and know that it is also just my belief. I can know that the person who believes the complete opposite to me also has a heart and soul and is, too, caught in a set of stories. What sits in the space between us is our long, lost commonality – our hearts. From my heart, I can choose to act without righteousness and with incomprehensible compassion for the 'other'.

This is really, really hard work. My husband and kids will be the first to tell you that I am absolutely a work in progress. Perhaps we can't all be enlightened gurus, but I believe we all can bring more of this softness into our everyday lives.

This is Brené Brown's work in action – vulnerability is the birthplace of belonging.

So, where to go from here?

When I'm caught in righteousness or rage, I take five. I close my eyes and become the observer of my thoughts instead of a slave to them. I wait for the little gap between each thought and come home to myself in that slither of stillness. I dissolve the conflict inside of me, then in my home, then (and only then) I take action towards dissolving it in the world.

~ © 2022 Lara Charles

my family - awakened living

About the author

Lara Charles is an Australian writer and mama living in Aotearoa, New Zealand, with her husband and four children. Lara writes at the intersection of spirituality and modern life. Her work has been featured on New Zealand’s most prominent media platform, Stuff, as well as spiritual platforms such as Tiny Buddha and Elephant Journal.

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