Vancouver riots can teach us about compassion


In the days following the June 15th Vancouver riot, I feel I have been witnessing a second riot. A verbal and written riot against the rioters in the form of name-calling, insults, degrading comments, labelling, stereotyping, demonizing and out-casting. This second riot reminds me of George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” in the sense that it is supposedly “against” something and meant to put a stop to it, but is, in fact, creating more of the same energy. What I have found disheartening is that some members of my communities are engaging in this or supporting this to varying degrees, some subtly and indirectly and others obviously and directly. If a willingness to engage in hate and violence exists, even on subtle levels, among teachers and “conscious” communities, how can we expect or even hope for positive change?

If we have decided to lead conscious lives, to take on leadership roles or to stand for values such as non-violent communication, radical inclusion, love, compassion, healing and consciousness, these values must be put into practice at all times with all people, rather than at select times with a chosen few. Perhaps a measure of whether one has truly taken on and committed to these values is by their response to challenging situations and challenging people. I’m not saying that I’m perfect, or that I manage to respond from a place of love as often as I would like to. But in the past year, I’ve become increasingly aware of this issue and have begun to observe myself and practice this. Because my own consciousness in this area has recently expanded, I’ve become more sensitive to how those around me use language, the energy dynamics that are created by it, and whether it’s coming from a place of consciousness and love or from a place of unconsciousness and fear. To move from one to the other is a choice and a practice.

We’re all at different places on our journeys, but we are all divine beings and equal members of the human family. In many ways, the rioters are our teachers, pointing to the flaws that exist in our culture and society. They also point to the darkness that exists within all of us, as well as the need to embrace it and to have safe and healthy ways of expressing, and not denying, the full range of human emotion. If we dug deeper and discovered the life stories and experiences of each and every individual rioter, if we opened our minds and hearts completely, we would find valid reasons for their actions, reasons that would make sense and that we could understand. I believe that everyone does the best they can given what they know at the time, that people who cause pain are in pain, and that when people know better they do better. The amount of love, compassion and forgiveness that we are able to extend to others is a reflection of how willing we are to look at our own faults and love ourselves.

Verbal and written insults are violence too. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If we want a non-violent world, we must practice non-violence, including the words that come out of our mouths and fingertips. I believe that we can express all of our feelings and opinions in non-violent ways and take creative and proactive steps towards healing and repairing the multi-level damage that was done, while respecting the rioters as our fellow human beings at the same time. Many great spiritual teachers and leaders throughout history have done so and were highly effective. In fact, their non-violent, positive and loving approach even toward their “enemies” is what made them powerful, timeless and unforgettable community and world leaders who created positive and lasting change.

– Celina Mikolajczyk

1 thought on “Vancouver riots can teach us about compassion”

  1. What a load. I am glad to see so many people engaged in trying to correct these silly vandals. The desire to correct mindless destructive behavior is good and proper .We should all strive for forgiveness and compassion but punishment is required  first. Repairing the damage that's been done would best be accomplished by extracting financial compensation from the damagers.


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