I learned about the nature of violence and non-violent resistance when I worked as Judith Snow’s attendant. I had already been studying and paying attention to movements of non-violent change. I had read about Gandhi and the liberation of India from British rule, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, Thich Nhat Hahn and the Buddhist monks in Viet Nam. I had been a part of non-violent demonstrations for peace and nuclear disarmament. I was strongly considering joining a “witness” program that had North Americans traveling into the violence that was so prevalent in the Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador.
But in these daily intimate interactions with Judith’s vulnerability I could see how violence was born in experiences that were not here and now. I could see how my attachment to frustration and anger would flow through my actions. If Judith had raised her voice in anger or frustration to my unconscious attempts, it would have given legitimacy to the violent energy already present, and we would have been engaged in some kind of battle for control. But Judith’s spiritually centered approach in these moments, her acceptance of her vulnerability, created space for me to awaken to the energy that can fuel violence, and I could pause, relax, and slide into a moment of presence to the task at hand.