This morning I got an email from a friend in Ghor. It hit me like a blast of raw emotion.
"Life in Ghor, I had to get DM involved in a female detainee case.... the case stinks!! The girl was engaged and ran away with another engaged policeman and they were caught in Kabul by 2 or 3 other police men... She has been in prison for at least a month. The defense lawyer is having problems getting to see her. The prosecutor went to the Governor for help with keeping "visitors" from entering the prison.... a lot of village elders and religious leaders want her dead, but denying the lawyer access to the prison..... I also have some very sad news: Mr. B was kidnapped by the Talibans on the southern ring road and the rumours are that they killed him... so human rights wise we are not too well of in Ghor at the moment."
The email goes on - describing situations in which I was until recently deeply involved and people with whom I worked for 18 months. Mr. B - in particular - was a very close colleague. We talked, met and worked together most days during my time in Ghor. I am still reeling from the shock of learning that he has been kidnapped and probably killed. I keep catching myself thinking about how scared he must have been and it just causes me so much pain that I know I have to stop.
How can it be possible to reconcile life here in Wellington, with my ukulele playing friends, with life in Ghor?
The challenge of finding a way to live in New Zealand again after being changed in profound ways by my work in Gaza, Timor-Leste and Afghanistan some days seems like an impossible ask. An impossible task.
This week Jose Ramos-Horta was shot (and seriously wounded) and then the rebel leader in Timor-Leste was killed in a clash between rebel fighters and the Prime Minister's security police following the assasination attempt. This happened the day before I met an old friend for dinner. I had helped her get a job working with Ramos-Horta four years ago when I was still involved in Timor-Leste. She went on to work with him for two years and is still in Dili working on human rights and good governance issues.
All through dinner I was aware of the impact the shooting must have had on her, and yet I was unable to stop talking about myself - about the experiences I had in Afghanistan and how I was trying to adjust to life in New Zealand. I was embarrased at how I dominated the conversation but could also see how badly I needed to talk to someone who could understand a little what I was going through.
Every day I go to the yoga studio and take my place on the mat. It is - at the moment - the only place where I really feel at peace. As I practice I am able to quiet the commentary running in my brain and simply be. Most days the teacher invites us to set our intention for the practice or to dedicate our practice. I realise this may seem strange or self-indulgent to some people but today it was comforting to me to dedicate my practice to Mr. B's family.
I'm trying to learn.
I think that I can live here again, but I haven't quite worked out how yet. I'm pretty sure that if I am patient and gentle and not too demanding the wisdom will come in its own time. I'm also pretty sure that concentrating on yoga, meditation, writing and photography is the right approach for now.
I took on a job this week. It took me onto a film set where Jame's Cameron's new movie Avatar is being filmed. I had a simple role that demanded very little of me intellectually or physically. But it involved long hours on the set. Today after reading the email from Ghor I called the production coordinator and quit.
I felt this morning as though I had betrayed the people I left behind. They respected my decision to leave because they agreed that I should spend time with my family and friends, they agreed that I should take some time to rest and they supported my plans to pursue my own creative dreams and my plan to study psychology. What would they think of me coming home to work on a film set? It was only ever a short job - 8 days. But after I read about Mr. B even 8 days suddenly felt like too much time to be spending doing anything other than what I believe in. So I'm back on track.
Deep down I believe that I can make changes in the world by deepening my own compassion, by learning how to more consistently practice loving kindness in the world and by learning the power of being fully present in every moment. But the feelings come in powerful waves - feelings of guilt, sadness and anger. I'm learning to ride the waves, not to resist them, and I'm trusting in this process.
Some beautiful things are coming together, I plan to share more about that in the coming days. For today, I'm just holding my seat. If you pray will you please pray for Mr. B (in case he is still alive) and his family. Thank you.