Born in Australia in 1969 and brought up a strongly anti-religious atheist, I originally became a nonviolent activist for humanist reasons. But at the heart of my commitment to nonviolence was a deep desire to know (and admit) the truth – about myself, about the world and about the universe as I perceive it. The most important truth that I discovered in my mid-twenties was that I was largely ignoring my emotional and physical existence and during an extensive period focussing on and allowing my emotions to surface fully and ‘exist’, a transformation took place which I had not been expecting.
As I became conscious of my natural, active self (as opposed to my frightened and paralysed socialised self), and integrated my emotional and physical self with my intellectual processes, I became aware of a far greater Self that existed both within and beyond me. And it is my increasing consciousness of and trust in this Self that has given me power to take personally challenging nonviolent actions which were impossible for me in the past.
In the mid-1990s I was arrested three times for trespass during creative nonviolent actions, once at Fort Queenscliff, which was training military officers from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and twice at the Australian Defence Industries factory in Benalla, which was producing bullets used in the war on Bougainville. I was a member of Australian Humanitarian Aid for Bougainville which campaigned to undermine Australian government and corporate support for the PNG military’s war against the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, who had sabotaged and closed down the CRA-owned Panguna copper mine because of economic inequities and severe pollution of the Jaba River.
I defended myself in court alongside other arrested activists, and was fined a total of $150 dollars by relatively sympathetic magistrates. I wanted to not pay the fines and to serve time (maybe 3 days) in prison instead, but as the time came to decide what to do, I realised that despite having a clear sense of what was ‘right’, I was too afraid not to pay up. And this was for the most ‘trivial’ of reasons – I was afraid of having to use a toilet in a camera-supervised cell! But it was this kind of observation that seemed important to me in trying to understand why so few people actively stand against injustice (particularly if they are given the choice to live a relatively comfortable life ‘within the system’). Sometimes the fears raised by standing up for justice are primary fears of being physically killed or injured, but often as not, the fears are more obscurely social/psychological in nature. Regardless of where they come from, however, the fears that are raised for people by exposing conflict and paying the price of resistance are deeply personal and very powerful, and while people can use many means to temporarily overcome their fears and act courageously, there is always the possibility that they will be overwhelmed by panic or pain and lose their sense of control over their life.
So, my personal journey has been one of progressive self-realisation, hunting for the truth amid contradictions, increasingly aware of my personal shortcomings, grappling with the internal conflict which (still) makes it difficult for me to focus on how I really feel and to trust my feelings and inner sense to guide me powerfully.
As a child and teenager, I was assisted in developing libertarian and pacifist beliefs by my father’s espousal of these ideas, and by my reaction to a violent and authoritarian mother. I was exhausted by her chronic anxiety and hated the way she treated her family, and wanted never to verbally terrorize, oppress and control people the way she did. I identified strongly with my father, believing his assertions that he was the appropriate person to ‘defend’ me against her violence. To my horror, I eventually realised I had copied far more of my mother’s negative attitudes and behaviours than were comfortable to contemplate. And, as my deep commitment to libertarian and nonviolent principles led me into real risk-taking nonviolent activism, my father’s ‘pacifism’ was revealed as cowardly, a cover for collaboration with social violence – he would not support me to tell deep and painful truths about the wider political world, or about the reality of our family experience, if that meant risking my own (and his) emotional ‘safety’.
In 1996 my husband Robert J. Burrowes and I undertook an intensive process of deep psychological self-reflection and emotional healing to try to understand the roots of human violence. We lived in seclusion for a period of 14 years (much longer than we expected), including six and a half years living in a tent in East Gippsland (a wonderful and educational experience in itself). The healing process was difficult, painful and at times, terrifying. However, sometime in 2004 I had a dream which later led to me gaining a clear definition of God/Truth. I described this dream at the time: “As I awoke, I was aware of losing consciousness of an extraordinary (and completely inexplicable) quality of feeling, but I could remember two aspects of the dream clearly: I was in a place which, physically, was an unbroken field of white light, and I had a sense of being both where I was (at my viewing point, although I had no body) and everywhere else at the same time”.
This deeply emotional experience gave me a sense of power (the power to exist, rather than to destroy) that I had never previously known, and also gave me a sense of the positive that allowed me to take increasingly brave actions in relation to my mother’s ongoing violence toward me, to more effectively defend myself and to regain my sense of self that had been destroyed by my terror of her violence. And, during my imprisonment related to a number of nonviolent actions I have undertaken in the past few years, I have been able to relax, ‘be myself’ and remain powerful with police, prison staff, prisoners and judges by allowing myself to connect with this truly whole state of being.
My emotional and spiritual growth have led to my deepening desire not to engage in acts of violence against myself, others or the Earth, and I have undertaken this as a public pledge by signing The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World, launched around the world on November 11 2011. I am personally committed, for example, to not contributing my resources to the killing of people through war – I will never pay taxes or fines to a government that kills and steals the resources of the poor in my name, and currently avoid doing so by having an income well below the taxable level. My commitment is to use all resources available to me to continue my search for consciousness of truth through self-realising action and the public promotion of nonviolence, particularly through my Songs of Nonviolence which can be downloaded for free from this website.
My search for truth has led me to define ‘war’ as the terror of awareness that I exist. I define ‘peace’ as the awareness that I exist, most completely as the Universal Self, or God. I know that I exist when I pay conscious attention to myself, including, paradoxically, when I pay attention to my terror: my absolute and overwhelming belief that I am about to die, that I am nothing, that I do not exist and am not worthy of existence.
For me, the shooting, bombing and torture of war, and the greed and desire to destroy that lead to these behavioural outcomes are merely the external manifestation of peoples’ unconsciousness of their own terror, and, beyond this, unconsciousness of their true Existent Self. The Self who knows it exists needs no weapons, no violence, no terrorising force with which to defend itself.
Using Christian terminology (which feels very apt, although I do not follow any specific religion), I see the universe as a system of communication embodying God (loving awareness of truth), Satan (terrified and insane self-destruction) and Christ (the interface between both these states: the mind which is empowered to make conscious choices to achieve wholeness). Reassuringly, I have found that my most powerful, truthful and ultimately successful choices have always been extraordinarily challenging at the time, but joyfully liberating in the end.
10 August 2012