When she made her visit to the UK last month, for the first time in 24 years, Aung San Suu Kyi shone like a bright light for me against a backdrop of world leaders and political figures somehow unable to speak authentically or stand up for what they truly believe in.
Despite being exiled from her husband and sons – and spending 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest (some of them without electricity, with only candles to light her way) – Burma’s opposition leader and the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, showed no sign of faltering, of being anything less than her authentic self.
And her visit was particularly poignant for me (as it may have been to others) as it came at a time when, in the UK and globally, we are being increasingly ‘tested’ by situations largely beyond our control (from unpredictable weather patterns and dwindling resources to volatile financial markets and the extinction of species, many of the things we have relied upon are simply refusing to be relied upon any more) and this trend, let’s face it, is likely to continue for a while.
As I see it, this time requires each of us to be heroes – if you take heroism to mean having the courage to act from and speak out from our authentic self – to, as Clarissa Pinkola Estes put it, in her seminal address some time ago, ‘stand up and show our soul’.
Rather than to tremble like a rabbit caught in the headlights – and to kind of ‘seize up’ in our energy systems, which is the temptation when the ground is being pulled from under our feet, the challenge is to do just the opposite – to kind of ‘soften’ around the changing situation and, as Nietsche put it, ‘learn to dance on a shifting carpet’.
Around 12 years ago, U2 frontman and activist for change Bono wrote a song in honour of Suu Kyi’s journey. Called Walk On, I play it sometimes to remind me of the power and potential of these times – and the power of walking fearlessly into the new, surrendering any attachment to outcome as we go. When we do this, as I see it, we open a space inside us into which we can receive gifts… beyond our wildest dreams.