I am an undercover Shaumbra, working at the U.S. State Department in the area of democracy and human rights, and on behalf of the most vulnerable around the world, doing what I can to ensure that people have the freedom to practice their beliefs and conscience. These days, the world can look rather bleak, but I find inspiration in rather simple activities.
Over the past six months since I started my position, I often walk to work. Where I rent my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, my walk entails passing by the Marine Corp War Memorial – a massive sculpture of six Marines struggling to raise a U.S. flag atop a mountain during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. I’m not about the planting of flags, but I do feel a patriotism, and must confess that the Marine Corps motto etched in stone does move me: Semper Fidelis – “Always Faithful.” My walk to the State Department also takes me alongside the Arlington Memorial where John F. Kennedy is buried and the eternal flame burns. I often recite the words from his inaugural address that I’ve committed to memory: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.” These words have special resonance for me, having been born on JFK’s inauguration day when those words were first uttered, and in a region of the world where the message of freedom and human rights is needed more than ever.
My walk to work continues over the Potomac River, facing the majestic Lincoln Memorial, and then there’s the U.S. Institute of Peace to the left, and up a slight hill is the beleaguered U.S. Department of State. There’s not a day that this walk does not serve to inspire me, to remind me that, come what may, I will not abandon nor betray this grand experiment called the United States of America and the values it stands for, regardless of how wide the gap between aspiration and reality. I tell myself that I make this trek each day to plant a flag of Light at the Department of State, and I will not budge.
To say that I am not a fan of the current administration is a vast understatement. It was two and a half years ago that I was accepted for the fellowship program that I am currently in, and the political landscape looked rather different then. By the time my security clearance came through last spring, things had utterly changed. I was heartbroken and ready to turn down the offer for the position. I thought I couldn’t stomach working under this administration. But then, a psychic intervened – a completely serendipitous occurrence. Without knowing anything about me or the decision I was about to make, he told me that he saw behind me a huge American flag waving, that I had for lifetimes worked on behalf of women’s suffrage, children, and human freedom, and that if I wasn’t working for the government now, I soon would be. My work entailed “religious literacy,” he told me. I thought to myself, “the Master allows all energies to serve her,” and so I accepted the position after all. Not a day goes by that I’m not profoundly grateful that I did so.
So far, my “portfolio” includes CVE – “countering violent extremism” – how to prevent religious radicalization and violence, and also cultural restoration of religious minorities in the Middle East subjected to the horrors of genocide and sexual slavery. Just a few days ago I returned from Vienna, Austria where I was part of the delegation at the UN discussing with religious leaders from around the world an action plan on preventing future atrocities. It’s ironic for me to be so engaged with religious actors because I’m not a fan of religion per se. And yet, I am increasingly aware of the beauty of humanity shining through (not just its ugliness) – how remarkable it is that, given what they have to work with in terms of religious doctrine, these religious leaders are managing to spin straw into gold! So many good people from all the religious traditions working to bring about peace! I’m headed next to the Balkans to see what can be done to better support those fractured peoples to reconcile and heal their past to prevent future atrocities. All heady stuff, and most times, I feel as though I’m pissing in the ocean. The obstructions and problems can feel overwhelming, and my ability to make a difference trivial. And yet, I hold on to the hope that even my little stream can make its little bit of difference.
The learning curve has been steep, and most days, I feel as though I’m drinking from a fire hose with all the information I must absorb, mostly grateful for the opportunity to learn, sharpen my skills, and possibly even contribute. It has been fascinating – I have met more interesting and inspiring people in the first 6 weeks of this job than in the previous 6 years combined. I spent the first months with my anthropologist hat on, just learning the peculiar language and culture of the State Department and my particular office. The learning continues.
While fascinating, there’s also no denying that the suffering I am exposed to has been enormous. I’m not always buoyant or hopeful. The first few months, I mostly felt heartbroken to the point of nausea, and would need to close my office door to have a good cry. So, I do so without fanfare, and after wiping the tears, I open the door again and keep going. Office politics can be discouraging at times, but I tell myself not to take anything personally and I’m aware that everyone is under extreme pressure. Moving to the D.C. area – the first time I’ve lived in an urban environment in a long time – and being able to see the Capital from my apartment has not been easy either. It has taken a great deal of discipline for me to stay centered and out of fear despite my energetic exposure to the political landscape. Early on, I felt as though I had my fingers in an electric socket and had to learn to manage the rage and despair. My own personal life is full of a great deal of uncertainty that I’m also having to navigate.
How do I deal with the intense energies? I have had a great deal of spiritual training and I use every tool I have learned to not let fear get the better of me, and to keep myself in higher awareness. Some days are better than others. On occasion, the best I can do is collapse on my sofa with a good pint of ice cream and indulge in a “Hallmark” movie with an ending that is predictably “happy,” even if banal. Regardless, I’m grateful that my experiences are giving me the opportunity to hone my mastery.
On my first day at the office, I was shown the space I was to work in. The door swung shut and behind it, hidden and the only décor in the room, was a stenciled painting of an Angel greeting me, with crimson robe and crimson wings no less. It’s the only angel in the office complex I’m in. It felt like a sign that they are there with me, and I do feel their energies around, and have leaned on them whenever I begin to lose heart. I also wear one of two necklaces each day to work, both connected to the angels I so love, and they serve to remind me that I’m not alone. Loneliness can be crippling.
There are many days I feel as though there’s something more I should be doing – some days I torture myself with the thought that I’m not doing anything useful, or that I am wasted in this job, my skills not well used or deployed. I’m discovering that it’s still a man’s world, and as a newcomer, none of the people know what I’ve done or what I’m capable of doing – the talks I have given, the worlds I’ve traversed, the people I have consulted to, the travels and experiences I have had – and that can be hard for me. While my colleagues are mostly wonderful, idealistic people – I like to think of them as “justice warriors” – the truth is that I have battled one too many times and now have sheathed my sword. At times, they seem young to me, and the battles unnecessary. I am also new to their world, uncertain that I have anything to offer, or that they will listen to the wisdom I do have to offer. Under the surface, the game is still about power, positioning oneself, who you know and how much money you can wield for your constituencies, and I don’t know, or care to know how to play those games. There are many moments I feel out of place and unsure of what I’m doing there.
But then, I breathe. I just breathe. And I know that, at least for now, my presence is all that’s called for. That’s all I’m being asked to do – is to be – the small interventions here and there, as small as a smile, an insight, a bearer of hope. I remind myself that I’m learning, that I don’t have to effort, that I can just allow what’s next to come to me. I remind myself that consciousness and emanation is what I have to offer. And I remind myself that things did start to shift when I first arrived at the office, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Though I can’t take credit for it, I like to think that perhaps my presence and angelic presence helped to move energy that had become stagnant.
I want mostly to give my fellow Shaumbra hope and heart, for we hear a lot about the “conspiracy of the dark.” I’m not much into conspiracy theories to tell you the truth, but of course, there is a great deal of ignorance, greed, and fear running the show. What I do want to impress on you though is that, if there is such a conspiracy, then there is also a “conspiracy of the Light,” the people working in my office, people like you and me “working under cover,” in whatever ways we can, emanating consciousness in the darkest corners, places, and times.
When I first arrived at the State Department, I sensed sorrow and despair under the surface, demoralization after having been hollowed out by this administration. And yet, the people that have remained are incredible – the best kind of professionals, hard-working, highly intelligent, well-intentioned, good people. Truly, they make me proud to be an American. They would make you proud. Secretary of State Tillerson has been a surprise. I vehemently disliked him before I arrived, but I have been in his presence several times now, and even he is a sincere man, and though inexperienced and an oil exec, still, he’s got integrity. My mantra has been, “I am willing to see things with new eyes.” Do I sense the SE virus lurking at the State Department? Yes, I sense it, but I don’t go looking for it. It’s everywhere after all, but I choose to look elsewhere. Without being in denial, I am choosing to give attention to what is best, to draw out the promise in this institution and in this country.
And there is still a great deal of promise. I will not easily forget the delegation of two dozen Iraqi psychologists and psychiatrists that the State Department sponsored to come to the U.S. for 3 weeks to learn about how we in the U.S. deal with trauma healing. As we sat around a large oval table and they poured out their hearts (truly devastating), they also said how surprised they were to have learned that the various helpful programs they saw back in their home country (and that were being “branded” as coming from their own government) were in fact being financed and backed by the US State Department. They were surprised to know how much good the US was doing behind the scenes that no one knows about (not even Americans). “What we know is how much damage America has done, but you are also doing so much good!” That is the big surprise. The Ugly American is also the Beautiful American.
I’m not certain I will be in this position past a year or what this will lead to next – it depends on whether I can find another year of funding to continue in my current role, and I am open to other possibilities. What I do know is that I feel privileged to have the opportunity to be here for now. I often think as I walk up the hill to the office, if only more Americans knew what a jewel this place was, how many good people are working on behalf of the values we care most about, we wouldn’t be so contemptuous of “government,” we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.
True, I never thought I’d be working an 8-5 job at this point in my life – I wake up each morning at 5:30 AM to get myself ready – and I often crave more light, fresh air, nature, and physical activity than office life permits. So, the job can be rather confining and humbling. Yes, I could use a break — somewhere wild and beautiful — and yet, this is where I choose to be for now, and I wouldn’t change places with anyone. Again, I take inspiration from JFK:
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”
May it be so. Let us light the world with our crimson glow, my beloved fellow Shaumbra!
Isabella is a pseudonym for a Shaumbra who has been with the Crimson Circle for more than 10 years. For obvious reasons she has chosen not to reveal her identity but would like to remind Shaumbra that who you are DOES make a difference. She is also working on a book, inspired by Adamus’ teachings, with publication set for 2019.