Weeping for the World

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” ~ Chief Seattle

Today I wept for my ancestors. And with my ancestors. Today was the day that a militarized police force was scheduled to arrive at Standing Rock to forcibly remove and arrest all the dissenting remnants of a months long prayer vigil, a powerful stand to honor and protect the Waters, the source of Life. While in my office, I received a notification of a video just live streamed directly from Standing Rock, capturing the situation as it was unfolding in real time. I tuned in, and watched as small numbers of prayerful, undefended screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-2-31-45-pmpeople were surrounded by the kind of police force that I would expect to see as a response to some kind of armed riot. Wearing heavy gear and face masks, and carrying automatic weapons, they surrounded the camp with military type vehicles, and rounded people up like cattle. Songs broke through the narration of the video’s creator, including Native chants, and the old gospel favorite, I went down to the river to pray. One woman cried out for her grandmother, trying to find her in order to give her a cane for stability. She was not allowed to help the old woman, and it wasn’t clear to me if she was ever found at all. After periods of waiting and wondering, the narrator takes the viewer to an atrocious scene: a young man seated on the ground, burning sage, fanning with feathers, in prayer. He becomes surrounded by the militant police, who aim their enormous guns at him, and though their voices raise, he remains seated in deep prayer. Shortly after this, the video is terminated.screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-2-48-26-pm

In sitting with this, I ran through the full spectrum of emotion. Fear that something violent would happen in front of my very eyes, that someone would be injured or killed. Doubt that the world will ever wake up beyond this kind of madness. Fury that somehow we have not yet learned from hundreds of years of mistakes, as white men have done their best to decimate indigenous peoples. Desperation for all that I read about in the daily news, one horrific situation after another, each evoking more and more shock that this could happen in the “land of the free.” Hopelessness, having no idea what I can do to help, sitting here in my chair, thousands of miles away. And deep, deep sorrow for the ignorance of humanity, with our twisted values and closed minds causing ever more trauma and heartbreak, seemingly more mentally ill by the day.

Many years ago in meditation, I began to witness scenes of war, bloodshed, and horrible violence. I would see the individual faces of suffering people in the most dire of situations, feeling everything they felt. Given that I did not watch television or violent movies, I couldn’t understand why this kind of scene filled my awareness when I sat in silence. Sending my inquiry out into the universe, I was finally given an answer. You are a woman who weeps for the world. In that, it all made sense.  Many of the most horrific situations in this world are never witnessed. Many of those who suffer are never seen, held, comforted, and loved, and they continue to suffer in invisible silence.

Today, many people in the relatively affluent, post-industrial western world have largely been removed from scenes such as these.  Most westerners are able to live in denial, or at least in comfortable complacency, unable or unwilling to open to the atrocities that are very alive in this world.  And it’s a luxury that we can do that, for sure.  People seem uninterested in knowing the reality of war torn countries such as Syria, with its refugee crisis.  People are unwilling to understand the conditions that push people from Latin 15822731_1361843767199109_6953824951815581468_nAmerica to come to the US illegally, or overstay a visa.  People are also too deluded to believe that inner city life could be so hard, pushing people into gangs and crime.  Or that life in the US as a person with any skin but white could bring a constant stream of discrimination, threats, abuse, and violence.  Or that a group of Indigenous Americans could be justified in taking a stand for land that was already stolen from them once by the government over a hundred years ago.  In the vast ocean of consciousness from which we are all born, the wounds, traumas, and suffering of every single person affects the whole of humanity. So, with a heart open wide, I have embraced this role, woman who weeps for the world. As this turbulent time has unfolded around us, I now know that I am not alone; many sisters and brothers weep too.

What is true is this: a noble group of Indigenous Americans stood on land that was a part of their legally recognized ancestral nation. They stood alongside other Indigenous and non-Indigenous Americans in humble prayer for months on end, claiming the role of Water Protectors, devoted to the protection of the Earth and all Life. Unarmed, humble, and aligned with simple values, these men and women courageously stood up against the greedy corporate backers of a project that was dated and nearly obsolete before it even began.  They came together to pray for the awakening of humans everywhere, that we may eventually remember that poisoning the Earth is poisoning ourselves. They stood on land that had been given to the Lakota as a part of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and even though this land was previously stolen from them, and even though the US Supreme Court eventually acknowledged those injustices with a multi-million dollar settlement, the rights to this land somehow remain contested. It is obvious that the powers-that-be in the US government have historically lacked the integrity to acknowledge and respect the way of life of the Indigenous Americans.  In the movement at Standing Rock, the government and police have gone way beyond any kind of decency, attacking the Water Protectors as if they were attacking a terrorist force, or attempting to overtake a hostage situation.

Who are the actual terrorists, though? Google tells me that a terrorist is “a person who uses screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-2-49-00-pmunlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” And who is the hostage? “A person seized or held as security for the fulfillment of a condition.” For a moment, I invite you to imagine with me that instead of Indigenous Americans, we were looking at Christian Americans. And instead of the lands of the Lakota, we were inside a vast church. And imagine that a megalomaniac corporation had determined that their right to pursue their project would require that church and its community to abandon its sacred grounds, questioning that those grounds were ever the church’s property in the first place. And imagine that the government and protective forces of your country showed up to support the corporation in advancing its project, fully dismissing the rights and perspective of the church goers. And imagine that the leaders of the church would take a stand for what is right, defending their sacred grounds without weapons, in song and prayer, and in speaking the truth. And imagine those people being violently attacked by a militant police force that was hell bent on shutting down any protest. Imagine what it must feel like to be told that your values don’t matter, that your way of life is irrelevant, and that you will lose in any attempt to stand up for your rights. Imagine what it must be like to be involved in such an intense and lopsided battle for months on end, and to be forced to leave your sacred land, arrested, and held at machine gun point. Who are the hostages, and who are the terrorists, indeed?

Water is Life. Literally. We are water. We cannot live without water. And as we have polluted and poisoned the waters of this world, unprecedented levels of sickness and disease continue to plague humanity. Somehow, in spite of scientific evidence and basic human intelligence, corporate forces have betrayed the basic needs of every living being on Earth. I find it ever more baffling to understand how we, with our advanced technologies and vast knowledge have come to a point where we know that we are perpetuating truly stupid and destructive choices, and yet we fail to make new choices, ignoring the unfolding reality in front of us. This is the ultimate mental illness, telling us that somehow we are exempt from the laws of nature, and that we are intelligent and powerful enough to escape the results of our own foolish actions. It’s the basic rules of cause and effect. But in human arrogance, the wealthy and powerful believe that they can escape the inevitable result of their choices. Other people will suffer, but not them. And through pharmaceuticals, they can escape illness and disease. And through greater artificial living, including foods and environments, they can escape the destruction of nature. Perhaps another planet would be a better fit anyway, and since they have already taken over every inhabitable distant corner of this world, why not just continue? With technology and endless resources, anything is possible, right?

Arrogance says I’ll take what I want, no one can stop me. Arrogance says your needs don’t matter as long as my needs are met. Arrogance says nature is simply a resource to fuel the wants of a greedy humanity. Arrogance says stand aside, this is necessary in the name of progress, which must be supported at all costs. Arrogance says your culture, traditions, and values are irrelevant in the world we are creating. Arrogance looks in the face of reality and denies what it sees, creating fantasies and lies, and making an enemy of anyone who would stand tall and point out the truth.

I sat in meditation for a long time this afternoon, hoping to gain some insight into what has happened at Standing Rock. Past the sorrow, I came into a force of anger, seeing threads of white Christian conquest in these actions. I cannot think of even one Indigenous nation that has not been invaded and damaged by the forces of white Christian men, or their descendants. Through a shameful series of Papal Bulls, the Catholic Church historically authorized an unbelievable stream of discrimination, forcing the doctrine of the church upon any and every person with which its members crossed paths. Many of these declarations condemned those judged guilty of heresy, which is defined as a “belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.” There are Papal Bulls against Jews, Pagans, “heathens,” witches, Mongols, and Muslims. One particularly gruesome declaration “prohibited Crusaders from dismembering and boiling of the bodies so that the bones, separated from the flesh, may be carried for burial in their own countries.” Another authorized a Portuguese king “to reduce any Muslims, pagans and other unbelievers to perpetual slavery.” With an ideological base such as this, it is not difficult to see how the current state of affairs has come about. And yet, how far this is from the original teachings of the supposed incarnation of God? From a doctrine that also states, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

And so, the final insight I received: humility. Those who are leading the US right now stand with arrogance, determined to do whatever is needed to create the America that best fits their own personal priorities, especially in the name of wealth and power. But in humility, we return to our authentic humanness. We come to understand that humans are all equal, and all have the rights to live as they see fit, so long as it doesn’t harm others. With a humble heart, we learn to listen with openness instead of dominating the conversation with our own ideas and agenda. With a humble heart, we come to understand the needs, values, and lives of others with love and respect. Indeed, Christian doctrine encourages humility: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) And with a humble heart, we accept our limitations and flaws with the willingness to learn, to grow, and to forgive ourselves and others in walking through the challenges of life. It is only with a humble heart that humans will ever find true, abiding peace.  Gratitude to our Indigenous American brothers and sisters at Standing Rock for being such a stellar example of humility in action.

I leave you with a Cherokee proverb that is one of my favorites, asking each of us to look within and come to know ourselves fully. Only from there can we choose to walk the high road, and serve as much needed leaders for these times of upheaval and potential transformation.

_____________________________________________

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson
about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between 13335932_727981667343874_5404942709784348523_n
two “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.  The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute
and then asked his grandfather:
“Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied,
“The one you feed.”

____________________________

To watch the video by Christopher Francisco that inspired this writing, please click HERE!

Photos from Standing Rock were taken from Christopher Francisco’s video.

For an overview of the incident in the video, please click HERE!

Advertisements

The Core Story

Today’s blog features guest writer David Beares

_______________________________

Honestly, I’m kinda burned out on politics, but something has been bubbling in me for days that I feel compelled to write.

Ever since acupuncture school, the gap I see between liberals and conservatives comes down to our Core Story. The way we see the world and interpret it.

I truly think the way we see Capitalism is where we most severely break off…and that divide is why we just don’t get anywhere when discussing politics.

Capitalism is neither “good” nor “bad.” At it’s core, it holds no meaning or emotion. It can be both the creator of good in the world and the root of evil/corruption.

Conservatives, it seems to me, operate by the core story that Capitalism is all good, and we should, at all cost, leave it alone so it can function. All growth is good. All measures to regulate or slow it in any way are bad, and a sign of BIG government. They seem to believe Capitalism is more important than our actual democracy, and our democracy is only there to support the growth of capitalism.

In my liberal mind, capitalism can be great. I am an entrepreneur, and I love the fact that my wife and I are able to create a business that supports a great way of life. I love the “game” of business and find it highly rewarding.

But on the flip side, I also see its evil. Capitalism is literally swallowing our earth’s resources to the brink of disaster. It has created major health epidemics, then run in to sell new miracle cure drugs to fix all the health issues.

I’ve watched the way big business in many sectors has wreaked havoc with our planet…to the point that I literally don’t know what state our earth will be when we leave it to our children. I’ve seen wars created to protect our capitalistic interests. I could go on and on about the rampant social, health and environmental ways that capitalism damages us and is a negative.

This gap in thinking is truly the Core Story that separates us.

I, for one, don’t think we should get rid of capitalism. But I do think we MUST have a strong democracy. We must value the interests of Health, Survival, Social and Environmental rights…and all measures of success at the economic level must be weighed against the impact on these levels.

Never before, with 45 and the swamp monsters he’s complied, have I seen a deeper threat to all of these levels. We are truly seeing how decades of capitalism and wealth over-all-else turns out. But really he’s just the ugliest form of what has been boiling and built on the right for decades. And it’s gotten so bad that people literally think NOTHING matters but economic growth. No cost is too big. Our survival doesn’t matter. Our health is just a pawn. Whatever the social or environmental cost…it would seem that those on the right are complacent.

Folks, I don’t care what your core story is, this version of America can’t last. It’s on the wrong side of history. It cannot last. It’s been a fun ride, but we cannot do another 100 years of this type of consumerism and growth. Not my opinion. Scientific fact.

Literally, the only people who should be for uncapped business and small government (in terms of social programs and regulation) are the people who are served NO MATTER what happens to our earth, our health and our economy. I think you know who they are…and they represent just a small, TINY, part of our population.

I hope you’ll join me to support this great Democracy for the sake of our health and our children. I hope you will ALWAYS vote (and not for a 3rd party) because the “better of two evils” might be the one who isn’t actually evil. I hope you’ll expand what you care about beyond the economy. I hope you’ll see that we still have something beautiful to save in this awesome time of freedom and abundance we still enjoy in America.

__________________

About the author

David Beares has always been a passionate advocate for the earth, traditional forms of health and fitness, and politics. He majored in Political Science at the University of Maryland. After graduating in ’99, David’s adventures took him to the mountains of Georgia where he worked at a wilderness camp for incarcerated kids. Then in the spring of 2001, he was called to head off on the Appalachian Trail, hiking it in its entirety over the next six months. Today, David and his wife co-own 16839447_10209847255031412_511318700_nan acupuncture and kettlebell training facility in Ellicott City Maryland. As a father of three, his passion and concern for the earth and the state of health is even more present.

You can learn more about David and his work at

www.39minuteworkout.com and www.onlinekettlebells.com

Reciprocity and the Divide

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

616700_10151192075975919_1450539368_o

Though I couldn’t have possibly understood it at the time, when I first travelled to Peru in 2005, I was seeking to know my own roots.  The great granddaughter of a fully Cherokee woman, I had grown a deep thread of curiosity about indigenous lifeways, and ultimately had no idea where to begin to discover that.  And so, in a self-designed grad school study, I set off to Peru and Bolivia in hopes of engaging with people still living in traditional ways, and practicing traditional healing and spiritual work.  While I intended to merely observe these people and traditions, I found myself in the midst of learning a new cosmology and engaging with sacred temples and rituals in ways that I couldn’t have previously imagined.  Though it was all strange and uncomfortable to me, I was also fundamentally open and curious, and was fascinated to be allowed to come so close to things I had only previously read about in books.  Once I returned home from that journey, I was haunted by the Andes Mountains, and the whole Cusco and Sacred Valley region.  It came to me in dreams, calling me back ~ the smell of eucalyptus trees in the hot sun, the smell of dusty land, the feel of smooth stones carved into sacred altars, the palpable energy of a land that was never dominated by conquistadores.  I eventually followed that call back to Peru, and have continued to travel there for over a decade.

During these years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with wise teachers and healers.  My life has been transformed by going deep into these traditions that are so different from the ideas that I grew up with.  One of the most essential teachings in the Andes Mountains is the law of AYNI ~ sacred reciprocity.  Ayni states simply that we live in a universe of exchange, and in order for life to flourish, we must enter into a process of giving and receiving that is balanced and generous.  Indeed, as we breathe in the air all around us, we receive a gift of all the green growing world.  And as we exhale, we give back to the trees and plants, allowing them to live.  This is a concept espoused by ALL indigenous traditions the world over ~ that we will indeed receive from our beloved Pachamama, and in doing so, we must also give as generously as an expression of balance. Ayni expresses respect for all life ~ not just as a human concept of remembering to respect all of life, but as a full acknowledgement and participation in the interdependence of all life.  It is a profound thread of understanding that governs the living indigenous culture that still stands in the Andes Mountains, and for a western woman schooled in a capitalist, self-interested culture of excessive materialism and growth, it was refreshing like cool water in the desert.  It spoke to something deep in my bones that was already yearning to find expression, and I knew that I had found *home* in a totally new way.

Each time I returned from an extended journey to Peru, I found myself facing a deep sorrow that I couldn’t fully explain.  It was akin to homesickness, though I returned home to a place that I considered my own.  I noted the difference as I walked down the street:  while in Peru, eyes meet, and greetings of hermanita, hermana, amiga always met me, even if we had never met before.  And at home in the US, eyes darted away, avoiding contact.  Ayni presumes interrelatedness, connection, and exchange.  In the western world, the very opposite is true ~ we focus on independence, difference, and separation.  In the Andes, I have observed women nursing children openly on a public bus, including children that weren’t even their own.  It’s no surprise that here in the US, even discreetly nursing a child is seen as offensive and women are shamed and ridiculed for it regularly.  In these years of journeying back and forth, I have been thoroughly unconditioned to the way of life I presumed to be the “right” one according to my upbringing and culture, and I am humbled and deeply grateful for the opportunity to learn an approach to existence that is truly life-affirming.

In the US, there is a strong shadow that continues to emerge as the new administration attempts to find its footing.  Now, I’m the first to admit that in my lifetime, I have yet to see or hear any political movement that even nods in the direction of ayni, but I can say that in my own perception, people seem to want to try to do better.  The underlying meaning of “try to do better” tends to change from one administration to the next, and with the passing of time.  Wars that were considered justified have achieved little clear success, and much damage has been done.  In the midst of economic movements that have sought to improve lives, there has been tremendous disregard for nonhuman life, as well as for the diversity of human needs.  While there have been steps toward acknowledging our mistakes and trying to do better, there has also been strong opposition to the necessary force of change.  This seems to have become the underlying battle of all political movements in the US:  on one end of the spectrum, we are innovating and learning and growing and trying to make right what was once shrouded in ignorance; on the other end of the spectrum, a full denial of ignorance, and a vehement adherence to the beliefs and values that are being pushed into the alchemy of evolution, as they no longer stand in the light of understanding, justice, and wisdom.

Kicking and screaming ensues.  Just like the small child that wants a toy in the toy store or the candy bar for breakfast, there are those who want what they want, damn it, and they simply refuse to hear anything to the contrary that would tell them no.  Intelligence is utterly invalid.  Reason and understanding are the enemy.  Facts, figures, statistics, and research are lies, as they represent the opposite of what the child in the candy store wants to hear.  When the perception of”truth” becomes simply hearing what one wants to hear, then it makes perfect sense that anything contrary to that would be considered “fake news” or even treason.  The maturity of that child is simply not developed, and the capacity for fully adult understanding and responsibility is missing.  For a little child who wants only what he believes is right for him, what makes him happy in the moment, and what makes him feel safe and good about himself, the big picture of interdependence is simply too complex, too scary, and too overwhelming.

This is where our leadership is right now in the US.  Imagine what could happen if there was an alliance of five-year-olds that took over operation of the candy store!  There would be no information about the known risks of eating too much sugar.  There would be no oversight that would enforce the consumption of fruits and vegetables to balance out the diet.  There would be no one to police the team of children running the store, and they would take whatever they wanted without paying – after all, they don’t have to pay for it, it’s *theirs* for the taking!  Responsibility and intelligence sound like bossy parents and teachers, and if those voices were finally banished, those kids could do whatever they want.  Finally!!  The candy for our current leaders is money and power, and they have indeed taken over the “candy store.” As they continue to form alliances, they support each others’ desires for money and power, and the furthering of ideas that allow each of them to feel like the kid in charge of the candy store, finally having the freedom to do as they wish without so many annoying restrictions.

One question that so many progressives are still grappling with is *how* this happened.  How is it possible that these people came into power?  Because inside of each and every human being is an insatiable shadow desire for freedom to do as we see fit with no responsibility or oversight.  While most of us understand that there are certain responsibilities that are simply a necessary part of living and maturing, there are still strong desires for a less restrictive way of life.  Less “have to” options and more free and fun choices.  Humans tend to want to escape responsibility in as many ways as possible.  Some seek wealth so that they can buy their way into a feeling of freedom.  Some seek to grow in power so that they can be the one at the top of the ladder, having no one above them to dictate their actions.  Some seek to escape financial obligations and just ignore them, others feel justified in stealing what is not their own, and still others seek to find ways of living that are free of those obligations altogether.  There are countless methods of trying to find a way around what seems heavy and required about living in these times, for sure.  Knowing ourselves to a degree, humans have also come to understand that this desire for freedom can be dangerous when combined with blind self-interest, as many people want their own freedom at the expense of others.  Power can be very seductive, and the checks-and-balances systems in place in contemporary western governments are all an effort to hold humanity to the high road.  We have already seen many times what happens when greedy and unwise humans are given too much power and control:  they run rampant with their own twisted vision of an ideal reality, and cause an immense amount of suffering to others.

What happens when multiple levels of the checks-and-balances are taken over by stunted minds, determined to be liberated from any remaining threads of obligation to the whole of life?  When those systems are infiltrated by those who are invested in a destructive agenda that prefers to cover its ears and eyes when presented with valid information about the harm that their ways will inevitably cause?  When the movement toward growing, learning, and doing better, based on intelligent and thorough research, is denied as irrelevant?  It is crazymaking to attempt a conversation with these people, as they use every tactic possible to deny the validity of any information they are given.  And what’s even more crazymaking is watching the way that these immature leaders draw other people into their fold.  They speak to other wealthy and powerful people, acknowledging their mutual desire to rise to power in unbridled disregard of the whole, making promises and alliances.  And they speak to people who are living in economic hardship and struggle, people who dream of being able to live free and clear of the heavy burdens of responsibility, even though they will never see the kind of wealth, freedom, and power. These leaders speak to their longing and desires, their call of freedom, and assign blame to various “others” as obstructing forces.  Caught in the emotional swell, they are bought on feeling alone, and are unwilling to see the full picture.  As we have heard from the masses of middle American working class people, this administration speaks to their situation, strategically playing the moral card in order to capture their attention, and making hopeful promises that it is unlikely to deliver.  And these followers sit idly by, ignoring the reports of the lavish lifestyle of the leadership, and having little comprehension that it is their hard-earned tax dollars that are paying for that excessively free lifestyle.  Perhaps because they dream that one day they, too, could have that for themselves.

And so, we return to ayni, which teaches us that we are all interdependent.  No action is separate from the entire web of life, and each decision either supports the flow of living, or it obstructs it.  In our movement of liberation and standing for what is right and just, we are already representing the desire of life to return to balance.  The desire to embrace the understanding that *all* humans are equal, and deserve to have the same quality of life.  The desire to protect the animals, the land, the waters, the air, the whole planet, no matter what.  The desire to understand our beliefs in an objective way, and to revise the parts of those belief systems that promote ignorance, discrimination, hatred, bigotry, violence, and superiority.  The desire to create systems that are based in equality, justice, and fairness ~ and the desire to isolate, understand, and change the ways that our current systems have been erroneous and blind.  The desire to care for each other, and the desire to understand the ways that we have refused to care for what we perceived as “other.” The desire for all to have their needs for health, love, and well being met, and understanding the illusion of competition that encourages one to meet one’s own needs, while ignoring the needs of others, as if there is never enough to go around.  From the perspective of wholeness and interdependence, there is enough.  There has always been enough.  There will always be enough.  We must simply work to heal the sicknesses of the human mind so that we can return to this understanding.

When I’m in one village in Peru, I always visit the same woman to buy fresh fruit.  She always has a beautiful stock of pineapples, mandarins, plums, grapes, and mangoes, and she always greets me with a smile and familiarity.  When I first started going to her stand, I was taken aback by the extra few pieces of fruit she would put in my bag.  I would attempt to refuse them, saying that I didn’t need them, that I already had all I wanted.  I distrusted the gesture, believing that she was trying to get a little more money out of me, or trying to sell me something I didn’t want.  Over time, I came to understand that this is the very gesture of ayni in action:  an act of gratitude, saying thank you to the forces in life that provide for our very needs.  In giving me that extra couple of mandarins or bananas, she was saying, thank you Life, I know that you will continue to meet my generosity with generosity in return.  And in understanding that, my entire worldview was transformed:  gratitude comes first, and is offered with a deep trust that life will continue to take good care of us.  It has challenged me to let go of the tendencies of my culture to say “Me first, and I’ll believe it when I see it.”  To look within myself and see the ways that childish fears and subsequent self-interest has been the basis for much of what I have learned from my family and my culture, and to make it a priority to see things in a new way.

This is difficult stuff to transform on a cultural level.  Primal fears and the conditioning that stems from those fears tend to hold very deep and tightly.  This is especially evident as we see the ways that people will defend gun regulation as a violation of basic freedom, and how they are truly incapable of seeing the bigger picture.  And so many of those same people are utterly unwilling to consider the poisoning of the lands, waters, and air, or the violation of basic human rights, as a worthy conversation of equal or greater magnitude.  It is a full denial of wise responsibility.  The divide is deep:  on one side we have legions of people leading the way to meaningful and important change, and on the other side we have people fighting that change with all of their might.  For those of us who have seen the errors of our human ways, and are committed to moving forward and righting our wrongs, moving back into “traditional values” is simply regressive and we are not willing to slide back into willful ignorance.  The forces on the opposing side are just as immovable, and no evidence, reasoning, or understanding has yet to make any meaningful impact.  Healing this rift is truly the essential question of our time, and while there is no clear way forward right now, we must continue to seek understanding and live our way into the answers.

 

 

 

 

 

Only God I Saw

Resistance. This is the word that is circulating more and more in this climate of political turmoil. And I am right there with you alongside millions of others who refuse to accept small-mindedness, bigotry, hatred, and injustice to reign the day. I stand with you, I hope to march with you, and I most certainly believe that at this time it is essential that we stay very awake and present, refusing to fall back into apathy and powerlessness. However, I want to challenge some of the language being used in this movement, for our thoughts and our words do indeed create our perception of reality, and the greater consciousness we bring to this, the more effective we will be.

In my own journey of personal healing, I have often faced an idea presented by Carl Jung: “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” In my most lucid moments, I have certainly become aware of this ~ as I have sought to push away the parts of myself that I have not wanted to accept, they have simply resurfaced more fiercely when activated. And as I have sought to push away people and circumstances that don’t fit my ideal world, the same qualities are mirrored to me in other people and circumstances. Ultimately, there is no escape. We humans tend to like the idea that we are in control, and that we can simply press “delete” and make things go away through either ignoring them, or through control and suppression. In reality, we simply don’t have that much control, and most of the time, we hate that. And so, we resist, and with equal force, what we resist pushes back against us. And on and on it goes.

This is not the recipe for understanding, resolution, or meaningful change. Just as much as we claim we are “resisting” the forces of small-mindedness, bigotry, hatred, and injustice, those very forces are rising up to fight back. Just the same, those who are resisting our movement toward equality, justice, freedom, and positive change, WE are rising up to fight back. And this, my friends, is war. This is the very energy of the battlefield: opponents pushing up against each other, attempting to use force to dominate, and the one with the stronger army wins. But truly, does the one with the stronger army win? Or does that “side” simply dominate for a time, while the underlying forces that are suppressed and ignored simmer and prepare to erupt once more? We have seen this happen time and time again in history, and are seeing a strong example of this again now, with the current administration. The fact that we could have a government filled with people who are religious zealots, misogynists, white supremacists, and a cadre of shamelessly self-interested and unethical bankrollers, all of whom are aiming to dismantle the American democracy is *proof* that these forces have not been healed, only hidden, and now they are erupting into a festering nightmare.

The masses are clear that this must not be allowed, that we must do everything in our power to make sure that the integrity of our nation is not destroyed. The desire to fight back is so very strong and primal. However, if we have learned anything, it is that we must rise above the habitual ways that we respond to things, and make conscious choices that will carry us forward in a positive and intentional direction. If we understand that resistance will simply lead to the persistence of all that we want to change, we must find a new way of thinking about it, and new strategies in stepping forward. Our intention is clear: this? NO! But our process of making effective change? This must be understood and transformed.

Part of the challenge lies in the language. Resistance. This word conjures up images of clenched fists and angry faces, a strong battlefield of pushing against. And while it feels so natural to fight against injustice, we will ultimately continue to feed the persistence of the forces we wish to transform. In this fight, we engage all of our energy for what is clearly a righteous fight, but it seems to me that our energy could be redirected simply with the shift in our language. In turning to the thesaurus to consider the opposite of resistance, a few words are worth consideration. Compliance? Conforming? These are clearly not the intentions of this movement of change. These words simply point back to the suppression of others, the disregard of one side of the conversation, forcing it back into submission. Cooperation? As hard as it is to imagine right now, this must become a goal of our movement. For it is only in unity that we will be able to find a way forward that includes the needs of all of us. And so, the word Liberation seems most appropriate in this context: the Liberation movement. As I sit with the idea of Liberation, I see a bird cage with an open door, a bird flying free, and relaxing into a sigh of relief. With Resistance, our energy is bound and entangled in a fight that may never find resolution. But with Liberation, we find free-flowing energy, and an open space of possibility that allows room for something new to arrive.

In the shamanic process of soul retrieval, fragmented and lost parts of ourselves are welcomed home, held in love and understanding, and wounds and pain are healed. As difficult as it is to imagine those people in this administration as fragmented and lost parts of the collective wholeness, this is exactly what we must do. As challenging as it may be to open our hearts and minds to hold the collective pain of those who hold the opposite values as we do, the only path of true, healed resolution requires that we do exactly that. The only way to find healing and evolution as a country is to come to a sincere and meaningful understanding of all sides of the conversation. And it is up to those of us who have done enough of our own personal growth and healing work to hold the space for the bigger path of growth and healing work to happen now. There is no one else who will do it for us. It is our responsibility.

And so, I challenge you to this. Sit down each day and meditate with the intention of welcoming a dissenting person into your heart and understanding. Allow yourself to fully explore that person’s perspective, and stay open to really receive what comes, free from your own opinions or judgment. What common ground do you share? It may be challenging at first, as it seems that there is NO common ground at all! But under the surface of ideas and opinions, we are all longing for the same things. And if *we* want others to see us, regardless of our race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender identity, sexuality, education, economic status, and beyond, we must be willing to see them too. There may always be people who refuse to enter into this process, and while that is disheartening, we must accept it. However, as we step forward into this Liberation movement, we have the opportunity to engage *real* people in finding common ground. Lines and boundaries are erased as we come to know one another and care about each other’s lives, families, and freedoms. Accepting each other, of course, doesn’t have to mean that we accept all behaviors and beliefs, and there are undoubtedly things that must be healed and transformed, as suppression will never succeed. Ultimately, power is indeed in numbers, and as we intend to find common ground and come into unity with our whole American family, a very deep healing is possible.

As we find unity with the full spectrum of our brothers and sisters and friends in this country, we will dissolve the mentality of “us vs. them.” As this unfolds, it will be less and less possible that we will choose to elect officials who seek to systemically disenfranchise, reject, and discriminate against people, as we increasingly embrace the words “We The People” – WE doesn’t mean “we, but not you.” WE means every single one of us. This is the vision I choose to hold going forward from here, and the vision I will stand for in this movement of change.

I will leave you with the beautiful words of a Persian Sufi mystic:

In the market, in the cloister – only God I saw.

In the valley and on the mountain – only God I saw.

Him I have seen beside me oft in tribulation;

In favor and in fortune – only God I saw.

In prayer and fasting, in praise and contemplation,

In the religion of the Prophet – only God I saw.

Neither soul nor body, accident nor substance,

Qualities nor causes – only God I saw.

I opened mine eyes and by the light of his face around me

In all the eye discovered – only God I saw.

Like a candle I was melting in his fire:

Amidst the flames outflashing – only God I saw.

Myself with mine own eyes I saw most clearly,

But when I looked with God’s eyes – only God I saw.

I passed away into nothingness, I vanished,

And lo, I was the All-living – only God I saw.

~ Baba Kuhi of Shiraz

Beyond the Door

Come with me into an image, come with your courage and heart, and with your tears and your outrage. Look with me into the north central US, to the bitter cold of winter. In a circle stands a group of people. Some carry drums, others carry gifts, and all carry a lineage of heartbreak, victimization, and deep injustice. They stand around a wide and expanding hole, the wound of their beloved Mother, and into that hole, they shed their tears. They sing their songs. And they come together in mourning. While their beloved Mother has heard their voices, and received their gifts, and while they have given everything possible to stand together and protect all that is holy, once more they have become the recipients of heartbreak, victimization, and deep injustice. Behind them, rank-and-file militants, utterly without care or willingness to understand the perspective and needs of these people. And behind that, a row of wealthy, well-dressed executives, smirking and praising the militants for upholding what must continue in the name of progress. Following in the footsteps of their forebears, these simply did what was in the best interest of “all,” and for that to happen, sometimes sacrifices must be made. Once again, the sacrifice made in the name of white progress has come to be forced upon the indigenous ones. And the game of colonial conquest continues.

I remember reading about the Trail of Tears when I was a child, barely able to comprehend what had actually happened there. In my late teens, I came to comprehend that my ancestors had been the Cherokee who had somehow hidden in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Trail of Tears, and the injustices dealt to the indigenous peoples of what we now call America, became a personal matter. Witnessing the injustices dealt to the Water Keepers at Standing Rock has been a potent reminder that while this country has made some paltry attempts to acknowledge the atrocities committed against the native people, in truth, the dismissal continues strong. Dismissal of them as sovereign people living in the way that is in alignment with their values. Dismissal of their needs as valid and worthy of protection. Dismissal of actual legal negotiations that took place a long time ago as a token act of respect in the wake of great horrors. Ultimately, “you don’t matter. We want what we want, and you are in our way, and we will do whatever we need to do to remove you. It will work because you are weak, and we are strong. And as we remove you, we will make you suffer even more, and paint the image of you as radicals and dissidents and vermin that stand to destroy all that “we” need as a country to continue.”

As the Standing Rock news came, I watched one of our cats playing on the rug near the front door. She has never shown any interest in what is beyond the front door, and is perfectly content in the world of our house. A flash of insight came to me in that moment: one of the profound problems that we are facing in the US is that so many people have never stepped outside of their small, familiar little world in order to understand those who are not like them. They simply have no significant experience in understanding what is beyond the narrow scope of their own lives. In a response to what’s happening at Standing Rock, I saw a conversation in which someone not only expressed support of the pipeline, but who also claimed that the Native Americans can take care of themselves, that it’s not really “our” problem to get involved in this situation. That person went on to definitively state that there is no proof from “soil samples” that any of the land in question was ever used in “burial grounds,” so the argument of the Standing Rock Sioux has no bearing. Dismissive, indeed. In similar arguments about refugees, immigrants, and Muslims, the same blatant dismissiveness is rampant. I think it would be very, very interesting to inquire whether those claiming these kinds of ill-informed arguments have ever stepped beyond their own whitewashed worlds into seeing what the experience of others is like.

I began stepping outside of my world as a teenager. I stepped outside of a world that was white conservative Christian, and stepped into a world of artists, and was ecstatic to know that there were people with a much broader perspective. I stepped outside of the Bible Belt community where I was born and raised, and stepped into a world of diversity, and my community expanded to include people from all over the world, people who spoke many different languages and lived in many different ways. I stepped out of the tight values of my community of origin, and felt a sigh of relief as I expanded into a world that said YES to a broad spectrum of values that embrace the diversity of human experience. I first stepped outside of the US while in college, and just seeing street signs in another language ignited a call within me to keep learning more. I have stepped outside of the US many, many times since, and have been blessed to continue to expand my heart and mind as new ways of living and being are shared with me. I am now more grateful than *ever* that I stepped outside the door of my small world all those years ago, and indeed, I have never turned back. It’s much easier to hold tight to beliefs and judgments about people and places that you’ve never met or seen, which makes it much easier to be controlled by people who’d like you to believe that the “other” is ultimately bad. Especially when believing that would allow for the escalation of an agenda that aims to stop the “other” from bringing their “horrors” into that small, closed world. This is indeed what we are seeing in the US right now. And it is indeed what is being played out as this administration attempts to discredit the media and gain followers in their crusade to confuse what is true and what is not. If the powers-that-be call *actual* facts “fake news” while also reporting incidents that never happened as “real news,” they are muddying the waters on purpose. For those people living in their own small worlds, having no experience to the contrary, and little time or desire to do the research to find out what is actually true in the big picture, they easily and passionately believe what they are told by the ones who have hooked them. And there are many, many of those people.

Those at the very top of the chain of power and money, too, have no interest in opening the door and stepping outside into the bigger reality. They are happy at the top, and prefer as little interaction with those below them as they can manage. While they have likely had the opportunity to see the bigger picture, they ultimately have no interest in anything that doesn’t meet their agenda: greater power and wealth. People outside their little world are simply a means to an end: either helping them to get what they want, or an obstacle that must be removed. The only reason the current administration has made great efforts to engage the “little” people in the US is because through their vote, and subsequent blind and passionate support, they can grow into immense power, and there is little chance that these supporters will have any interest in hindering the process that is unfolding.

Here’s an essential question: what brings some people to open that door and step outside of their comfort zone, while others are content and never even think about it? Courage, and a healthy dose of curiosity. Are some people more likely to wonder about the unknown, about other people and places and perspectives? Perhaps. Are some people given the means and support to do that, while others are not? Yes, for sure. But as a woman who came from a poor family in an economically challenged blue-collar town in the Bible Belt, I can say for a fact that economic means and social environment are not definitive elements – and I am thankful for ALL the blessings that came into my life that helped me to step beyond the small world I was born into. What I’d also venture to say is that there are a lot of people who have access to knowledge and resources that simply have either no interest in taking advantage of it, or are too afraid to step beyond what has been modeled for them, fearing what is unknown. In that environment, it is easy for one to become caught up in the fears of others who would prefer that they stay exactly where they are, as “it is just fine, thank you very much.” Of course, it is also important to note that there is an underlying current of entitlement in ALL of this. Refugees don’t step outside of their world because of opportunity and curiosity. They do it with a half-hearted hope of surviving the day, feeling that there is no other option. That, of course, is the greatest kind of courage, following the voice inside that says “anything is better than this, and it’s worth dying for ~ for at least I will have done everything I can to have a better life.”

What we are observing right now is a form of cultural cancer, in which rogue cells have infiltrated the body of our democracy, seeking to destroy all that is in its path. To understand this better, a definition of cancer: “Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and cells grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor.” While no body is free of potential issues, dynamic equilibrium strives to maintain balance between all systems, and we call this “health.” The same is true for our democracy ~ though it has been far from perfect, the ultimate goal has been to find balance as a free and just society is upheld. As rogue cells invade, there are systems in place that hold those people accountable, with the integrity of the whole as a guidepost. What we are now seeing is a rogue cancer that has taken charge of the US government, and is also keen on dismantling ALL systems of accountability that maintain dynamic equilibrium. This is terrifying to those of us who aren’t in positions of authority, as we seek a return to health as a nation.

How is cancer commonly treated? By blasting the body with chemicals and radiation, seeking to destroy the invasion. But in the process, far more is destroyed as well, and though this is considered to be the best treatment of cancer in conventional medicine, the success rate is questionable at best. In other places around the world, more holistic approaches to treating cancer are strong ~ including our southern neighbor, Mexico. Instead of treating the illness like a war, and accepting casualties as an expected part of the process, strategies of treatment are now available that involve using powerful holistic measures to blast the body with nourishment in order to fortify its natural healing capacity, and in doing so, fiercely destroying the stronghold of the cancerous growth. And this, my friends, is our key to healing the situation within our country at this time. WE must become that powerful holistic measure, holding a vision of destroying the cancerous invasion, and salvaging and transforming the current situation into a new era of balance, understanding, and harmony.

When the refugee looks back on her desperate flight from a war-torn land, she knows that she had no choice in following the deep call into action. When the cancer diagnosis comes in, one must take all information into account in order to make a decision on how to approach treatment and healing. And when we see a vicious force of self-interested, dangerous elites taking over the government of our country, we must act. We must come together and get moving! There is no time now for laziness or complacency, and there is no one else who will swoop in to save the day. It is up to US. The forces in control right now are continuing to employ a strategy of “bomb dropping” with the issues that tear at our hearts. How can one person stand for injustice toward Muslims, and at Standing Rock, and with the Black Lives Matter movement, and with the LGBTQ community, and with the environmental protection movements, and countless others, while also swimming in a sea of “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and utter disregard for the law? And how do we keep our footing when the system of checks and balances has also lost its integrity, standing for an agenda that is a tyrannical disgrace to democracy? THIS is being done on purpose. It seeks to call up our outrage and passions, and then divide us in our efforts to stand for what is right. In the moment of exhaustion and uncertainty that inevitably comes, we are then pounded with a sea of underhanded and confusing tactics, and they hope and expect that we will simply cave. THIS is why unity is more important than ever at this time. When we stand together for ALL issues, there are no separate issues. When ALL injustice is the same to us, we will stand together for the good of all. And when some of us are exhausted and need to rest, others will stand in our place. As we come together, we must stay connected to what is happening, discern what is true from what is not, and pay close attention. We must let nothing slide – continuing to resist and protest and speak out against what is happening. Then, we must continue to come together in strong nonviolent action, making it clear that we will not go back to sleep, for there is too much to lose.

Healing the Shadow, Standing for the Light

We must find balance between looking externally and looking within. As activists, we must engage with legitimate and trusted information about what is unfolding in the US, and support the action that needs to happen to make it clear to the powers-that-be that we will NOT stand aside and watch the dissolution of all that our ancestors have given their lives to create: a free, just, and open society where all have the capacity to thrive. But it is easy to become caught up in the tidal wave of information, and subsequent emotional response. Many of us feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and confused about the path forward. And indeed, there is no clear path forward – as in all times of great change and upheaval, there is no map that has been predetermined for us, we must courageously live into it, finding our way by the deep knowing in our bones that has been inscribed there by all those who have come before us. It is now up to us to lead the way.

And while outward action is absolutely essential, it is also very important for us to continue exploring the shadows we carry within. In this interconnected web of life, no part and no event is separate from the whole, and we must come to understand how we have been a part of the unfolding. We must collectively name and explore the shadows of the greater spirituality community in order to allow our continued awakening and growth, and we must courageously work with what we discover there.
One major shadow we have held is the stance of detachment from engaging in worldly things, and our subsequent judgment of those things, whether blatant or more passive:
“I don’t get involved with politics. Both sides are flawed, negative, limited, sell-outs, evil, etc.” It’s true: both sides ARE flawed, negative, limited, etc. And there is a strong desire to move beyond the ongoing tendency to take sides, as we come to understand the reality of unity consciousness. In addition, as people on a path of awakening, we work so hard to clear the layers of conditioning that have kept us trapped in religious, cultural, and familial ideologies that no longer fit our vision of the world we want to create. In this journey of awakening, we are also called to reconnect with FEELING on all levels – physically, emotionally, and empathically – and as we become more open, our sensitivity to the harshness of the political world leaves so many of us overwhelmed. And so, the tendency has been to detach, dissociate, medicate, ignore, judge, and pretend that it just isn’t there. These responses are fully understandable, all ways of saying “this is all TOO much, I can’t handle it!” But these responses are also ultimately disempowering, and deprive the world of our perspective and participation in making much needed changes.
Another key shadow element is in our belief that prayer and meditation are enough:
“The mind creates all reality, and so I will be most effective in making change by sitting here on my cushion and practicing meditation and prayer.” There is nothing untrue about this statement, and prayer and meditation are absolutely essential in any religious or spiritual path. Taking the time to connect with ourselves, become centered, detach from the thoughtstream, clear tension, breathe, and listen deeply are all the ground from which we become the most effective in ALL that we do. So, yes, we must continue these things, and reinvest in them every day. But there is a tendency among spiritual people to believe that prayer and meditation will take care of the whole thing. I’d observe that this is a combination of feeling powerless, lack of knowledge of the systems at play, strong judgment against these systems because of the harm they cause, and general cultural apathy and laziness. And in wanting to walk the higher road, when faced with such a mess, it’s much easier to want to retreat into the inner cave, where things make sense, and we feel so much more at home. It is unquestionably true that the mind is a key participant in the creation of reality. But at this time, we must step out of the cave and engage with the systems, as apathy keeps us from fully embracing our most skillful capacity of appropriate action. This reminds me of a parable that is always a good reminder:
___________________________
A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
 
A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
 
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.” “No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
 
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”
 
“Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”
 
~ Unknown Author
___________________________
Those of us living in the US or from the US, or somehow connected to this country, are facing many external challenges as the administration of our country is attempting to dismantle all that we have come to hold as our values. It has been easy in the past to simply assume that some things were fairly stable, requiring little from us: basic human rights protections, the continued evolution from ignorance to knowledge, the reliance upon trusted facts and information as the basis of legislation, an underlying commitment to increasingly greater justice for all, protection of basic freedoms for all people so long as they cause no harm, and a progressively more peaceful and mutual relationship with other nations in this world. Now, these things are all on the chopping block, facing either full dismantling, or unskillful surgery by people with little knowledge, understanding, or care. Love, integrity, compassion, and justice are no longer a given among the powers-that-be, and the short and long term effects of these actions will radiate outward in ways that we can only begin to imagine. As people devoted to living in alignment with spiritual principles, in awakening ourselves to greater consciousness, and healing the wounds that we carry in our minds, hearts, and souls, we simply cannot continue on a path of disengagement. All the hours in prayer and meditation, all the healing work, all the trainings that we have taken, all the self-inquiry work that we have done, all the spiritual and self-help books we have read – all of these things have prepared us for THIS! All these years of disengaging from mainstream culture in order to find a deeper and more meaningful approach to living? It’s all been leading us to this very moment, where we must finally stand together in mindful, direct, powerful, and loving action.
So, where do we go from here? Here are some ideas:
1) Ask yourself what is needed most right now. What skills, gifts, and knowledge do you personally have that can help to meet that need?
2) Spend some time getting to know the structure of the government of the US, so that you are better equipped to make sense of the information we are receiving.
3) Get clear on the difference between legitimate news sources and incendiary and opinion-driven ones. Choose your sources of information critically and carefully.
4) Consider what will support you best in finding balance and dealing with overwhelm.
5) Get to know your own community better. Not only the spiritual community, but the community at large. Who are your leaders, and what do they stand for? How can you be more involved?
6) Remember to unplug regularly. Do grounding things that keep you present in your own body. Walking, time with nature, etc.
7) Gather with like-minded community in order to have the bigger conversation of “what can we do?” Consider how you can bring your skills, gifts, and knowledge together with others in leading this movement of positive and lasting change.
8) Embrace the idea that *nothing* is separate from the spiritual path. Activism can be rooted in spirituality. Politics can be rooted in spirituality. Protest can be rooted in spirituality. This is the ultimate test of integration, and walking our talk!!
There is a beautiful union taking place. The union of heart and mind. The union of meditation and action. The union of personal practice and collective engagement. The union of intention and active participation. The union of our ancestors and ourselves, intersecting in a time of the great change that we must now usher in together. If we want a more just world we must create it. If want equality for all beings we must create it. If we want to ensure justice, we must create it. If we want to protect the land, water, and skies, we must stand for that. Ultimately, at the heart of this great change is the shift in perspective from “them” to “us.” We have spent far, far too long waiting for someone else to make things happen: from praying to God/Goddess and waiting for it to happen, from expecting other people to do it for us, we have finally come to the end of the line. There is no one else who can do this, WE must now claim our full responsibility in the unfolding of the world we have been envisioning for a lifetime. Together with each other *and* the divine forces in the universe, WE are the ones. No more waiting. You. Me. Now.

Money, Power, and the Hungry Ghost – Why We Must Stand Together

Now that the initial shock is lessening in regards to what is happening within this experiment we have come to call contemporary American democracy, I am anchoring in deeper, asking for insights and understanding. My initial response been very passionate, and I am grateful for having spent years of my life making love to words so that they can allow me to speak about this current situation. We are facing an unprecedented situation in the history of our country that affects not only Americans, but all of those with whom we have relationships. We are a nation that has achieved great power and influence on a global scale, and now, as global citizens it is essential to stay present, observing and exploring these new political issues as they arise. What is so very important is that we do not collapse in emotional exhaustion, feeling flaccid with overwhelm, doubting our power to do anything beyond calling our officials and engaging in virtual, economic, and on-the-ground protests. So, as you join me here, take a deep breath… feel your feet on the floor… relax your shoulders and unclench your jaw. There is plenty that we can do, but requires insightful inquiry and understanding that can only come from being relaxed and clear.
 
Feeling clearer now? And we continue. As I have spent time in contemplation, I have received some clear intuitive guidance that is useful to all of us who intend to stand up for what is right and just. Understand that this is simply my perception, not definitive fact, and as such, do with it as you will.
 
First insight: the powers-that-be are essentially attempting to wage war on the American people in a very tricky way – by throwing so many “bombs” and diverting our attention in so many directions. This is a way of deflating our collective energy. How do we choose what to stand up for? Women’s health rights? Standing Rock and Indigenous rights violations? Immigrant/Muslim/Racial discriminations? Or one of the many others that have arisen? With these “bombs” dropping in so many directions, it is more likely that we will weaken through loss of unification. The recent Women’s Marches were just that: a UNIFIED force that came together around ALL the issues that are on the table at this time in our history. It is easy right now to feel drained and exhausted, scrambled, and confused around which direction to choose, as so many things continue to tug on our heart strings. But this much is clear: we must remain unified around ALL the issues, standing together in solidarity, insisting upon just, fair, and right resolution to ALL matters. We must refuse to accept them “throwing a bone” in one direction to distract us from all the rest. While we are exhausted and drained, it may seem tempting, of course, to accept some degree of positive resolution in any single issue, but in the name of the greater good, this is simply not enough.  At this point, we haven’t seen them even suggest that they will throw us any bones, but keep your eyes open for this… it is coming.
 
Observing this, I probed deeper, wanting to know what is at the root of this political agenda that we are observing now, and arrived at the second insight, which is connected to the idea of “hungry ghosts,” beings within Buddhist folklore that have an insatiable hunger due to emotional disturbances or unresolved life situations. Until they are healed, these beings always hunger for more without ever being satiated. From the website of Dr. Gabor Mate: “The inhabitants of the Hungry Ghost Realm are depicted as creatures with scrawny necks, small mouths, emaciated limbs and large, bloated, empty bellies. This is the domain of addiction, where we constantly seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully present.”
 
While this manifests in all of our lives in varying ways, in the current manifestation of our government’s leaders, the hungry ghost energy seeks ever more power and money, and ultimately, there is no end to the desire. There is also an energy of destructiveness that I perceive in this particular situation. Those leading the US are wealthy beyond most of our capacity to imagine, and now have immense power at their disposal as well. When the greatest wealth and power have been achieved, but the ghost still hungers, what remains? The only thing left is to attempt to destroy anything that would seek to limit that power and wealth in direct or perceived ways. As this soul sickness deepens, it comes to include all that is perceived as “wrong” by the afflicted, including all those with differing perspectives in every facet of life. Any understanding that humanity can live peacefully side-by-side while holding differing perspectives is utterly shattered, as any disagreement can ultimately be perceived as a threat to power. This is a profound malaise must be acknowledged for what it is – no rational thought or argument will ever be able to reach the hungry ghosts we are observing right now.
 
And so, we are left with two steps forward. First, we unite. We continue to unite in the name of justice and the greater good for ALL beings. We grow in our understanding of the issues in each and every piece of the situation, in the name of love and justice. And we actively support each other, unwavering as we stand together. Second, we keep going deeper into the healing of the sickness that is being faced right now. As each of us has different insights, gifts, abilities, and perspectives, it truly takes each of us to work to clear this shadow, aiming toward greater balance.
 
We are leaders in this resistance, and initiators of this conscious revolution. To stay clear and engaged, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Laughter and hugs are essential, as is sleep and nourishment. As we continue speaking out and standing up for what is taking place right now, it is essential to see what is happening without succumbing to apathy or overwhelm, or being pulled into our own thoughts and emotional responses – and that is difficult. Thank you brother-sister warriors for standing together now. All the accumulated life experiences, study, and personal work we’ve experienced has led us to this point, and ultimately, this is the time that we’ve been waiting for, bringing together the best ourselves and our gifts in service of the greater good.

Nope, Not Leaving

To those hostile people who have said that those of us who don’t like the way things are here in the US can hop on a plane and leave:

You sure would love it if it was that easy, wouldn’t you! If those of us who are standing up and speaking loudly and articulately for the country we live in to continue a forward thinking, progressive, and globally conscious direction would simply go away. If women would stop railing for rights to equal pay, full rights to their own bodies, and an insistence upon global stewardship because we believe it is fully our responsibility to do the right thing, taking into account what is right for ALL humans and indeed, the whole planet.
You would love it if the people who believe that whites are NOT superior to all other races would go away and stop pointing out that, though through no direct fault of your own, you have been conditioned to believe that you are superior, and that the country would be better if all the people of color would go back into their rightful places or leave altogether. You would much prefer it if we would stop bringing up words like entitlement and white privilege, and if we simply went away, leaving even the poorest of white people to believe that they were at least better than the “inferior” races.
You would especially love it if we who advocate for full freedom for the LGBTQ people to live as they see fit would just disappear, so that your religious beliefs about what is morally right would be once more triumphant. You would still find your world filled with abusers, cheaters, sexual deviants, and rapists, of course. But at least you wouldn’t have to watch the horrors of loving same-sex couples live in peace and create lives together. Or the ways that those who don’t conform to gender “norms” define themselves according to their own sense of self.
If those annoying people who were insisting upon environmental responsibility would just go away, then you could just rape and pillage the land with *finally* no oversight, so that you could have the cheapest gasoline for your cars, even if it meant that legal treaties with Native peoples would be violated. Perhaps you could bring back the ideas of colonialism that have destroyed so many indigenous cultures all over the world – that these people are savages that must be brought into the “right” way of doing things. You could then commit acts of military and police terrorism against those people with full justification for your actions – and without anyone criticizing you or trying to stop you.
If all the “liberals” and “progressives” would just go away, you could get back to the business of… what exactly? Destroying the planet without anyone stopping you? Controlling all the people according to the beliefs of the day? Bringing back religious domination of the government? Pretending that there is no one else on the planet, no one but your country, and no one but those who are like you? Closing your borders and your economy to anyone outside your own people? Condemning and punishing anyone who dissents or has different ideas about what is right? All while watching TV and eating hot dogs?
You know what that sounds like to me? North Korea.
Fascism. From Wikipedia: “Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete, and they regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society. Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature, and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.”
And so, having been given the rights of citizenship of this country, we not only will not leave, we will stand up for what is truly right in the name of maintaining this country as a democracy, and in allowing for greater freedom for those who are yet to come. Those who came before us gave their energy and lives to paving the way for us to live in a stable democracy based on equality and justice, and we benefit from those rights in ways we can’t even imagine. It is our duty to do the same for those who will one day reflect on how WE created the way of life they would inherit.
Equality and justice for ALL people.
For all women and men.
For the poor.
For the elderly.
For the sick.
For those of all ethnic backgrounds.
For those of all religions, and of no religion.
For those in every expression of sexuality and gender.
For clean and safe air, water, and food for all.
For the lands, waters, and skies of our planet.
Old habits die hard, and mostly we hate change. It’s an inconvenience in our effortless going-about-the-day-as-usual. But old habits must die, hard or not. As a woman whose ancestors died as witches – who were believed to have too much power – and as Native People – who were believed to be savages, and whose way of life was destroyed in horrific ways, I will NOT sit quietly and allow it. As a woman who was given a solid education, and who through that was given the capacity to think critically and fearlessly express herself, I will NOT simply move aside and watch “alternative facts” and propaganda and the dissolution of all possibility of a well-rounded and empowering education for our future citizens be flushed down the toilet in the name of creating compliant sheep. I will not fear the “otherness” in people who do not look like me, or believe like me, or speak like me – I will stay open and listen and seek to understand what is really true, and trust that, and stand by it.
Want to know what is best of all for the future – but perhaps worst of all for you? The Women’s Marches all over the world have left absolute certainty in this message: we will NOT sit idly by and allow everything this country has become to be destroyed. Not now, not ever. And THIS is the very life blood of what this country was created upon. WE are the PEOPLE, and we are speaking very loudly, and very clearly – and we will continue to speak and act in the name of what is right. Not right for the few, but what is right for the many.
It’s increasingly obvious that you don’t like that. Rampant expressions of “Get over it” and “Sore loser” and “Get a life” have certainly expressed that. Get over the potential demise of actual democracy? Sore loser because millions of people will suffer needlessly due to bigotry and ignorance? Get a life because we will not go quietly into the shadows? “Get over it?” Never. Get used to it. “Sore loser?” Nope, not even a little – we will NOT lose this battle because we will never stop. “Get a life?” I can only laugh at that one – it’s the very richness of our lives that we are standing up for here, and anything less would be no life at all.
So, indeed, as long as I am able, I will happily hop on a plane to leave whenever I choose to, because I live in a free country that has negotiated stable relationships with other wonderful countries in the world. And I will return here, too, in service of continuing to liberate and evolve and grow. For when that ceases, we will merely rot in our own stagnation.

Compassionately Fierce in Uncertain Times

I have seen a few people commenting recently on the “liberal” and “spiritual” people, calling them on “negativity” and “hatred.” While I can only speak for myself, I imagine that there is probably some crossover between those within these like-minded circles. For those of you who are following this post, I invite you to fill in the holes with your own perspective on it, so that we can more thoroughly explore our collective understanding.

First, I name my position. I am indeed a liberal ~ while I can’t comment with my take on each decision made by liberal politicians over the years of my lifetime, as they are too numerous, I can say that by and large, I stand by the general positions of liberal ideology. One good overview of this:
“Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need” (studentnewsdaily.com). I also consider myself a “spiritual” woman, and claim no affiliation or interest in identifying with any of the major religious traditions in the world. So that we have a common definition of “spiritual,” the Oxford Dictionary online states: “Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”

I have been strongly vocal, writing almost daily as an act of informed resistance to the political climate that has stepped into place in my country. And I am the first to admit, too, that while most of my posts are intellectual, supported by relevant information, and well thought out in nature, I have occasionally fallen into frustration and labelled the man at the helm with my most creative adjectives of disdain. I, and many like me, do indeed indulge in this, as we are at our wits’ end watching the very integrity of our country be dismantled by a man who is at best ill-informed and self-righteous, and at worst, the mentally ill head of what could become a fascist state. While the usual disagreements between liberals and conservatives have been going on for a LONG time, and are likely to continue, up until now those in government have respected the legal inner workings of our time-honored institutions, attempting to achieve their agendas through mostly acceptable measures. None have publicly and boldly made it clear that they believe they are above the law, some kind of king or dictator who can control things according to personal preference on a whim. And this, no matter what side of the issues you are embracing, is very dicey ground. For sure, this is not reality TV, this is not a business deal done by head-honchos at multinational corporations. This is the real life threat to what has been a flawed but stable democracy.

As a liberal, I believe that the government should go to GREAT lengths to protect the individual liberties and wellbeing of all people. I believe that no religion should have the right to promote legalized discrimination of people, no matter what their nationality, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender, economic status, or any other thing. I believe that it’s necessary to provide certain shared benefits to all people, as it makes us a stronger nation. This includes not only infrastructure – including our shared roads, bridges, and waterways, but our land, air, and water, as well as physical and mental health. These things, to me, are simply required elements for a country to be fully civilized. And along with that, I fully and wholeheartedly support the government stepping in to prohibit any institutionalized systems that potentially cause harm, keep people from thriving, and limit the freedom of anyone to live as they see fit. What I find so curious is that while conservative ideology tends to promote strict individual liberties, those in government are making such great efforts to prohibit the very same – they have clearly sought to limit individual freedom in regard to women’s health, sexuality and gender expression, religious freedom beyond christianity, and so much more. Alas, I digress…

As a woman whose life is oriented around spirituality, I have long found divergent ideas about what that actually means. There are so many ways that “spiritual” communities of people show up, all so very different. One of the most prevalent that I’ve seen and avoided is perhaps the model of “spiritual” in the public eye: the “love and light” people who want little involvement in worldly affairs, do everything in their power to avoid basic things like becoming financially responsible, avoid dealing with anything on a personal or societal level that involves facing shadow thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and believe that visualization and prayer alone are enough to fix any problems. These approaches are idealistic, and I wish too that we could live in that way, but the reality of this realm is that we must be *both* grounded and transcendent in order to bring the gifts of spiritual practice into this world. The term for this is spiritual bypass: “… a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” It’s become so common that more and more people associate this behavior with the very tenets of those who claim to be spiritual, and hence, believe that it’s somehow wrong for spiritual people to experience anger, frustration, sadness, and other so-called “negative” emotions, judging that as a failure. An added element is that people on *all* sides of the bigger conversation believe that those in each category (ie, Christian, spiritual, Buddhist, athiest, etc), by claiming the label, should have come to mastery of the inherent values of the path. And let’s face it: none of us are there. We are all doing the best we can with the resources and life circumstances we have. Some days we succeed in being the poster child, and some days we fail. We are all imperfect beings. But the path says that we must begin again each day. Right?

So, how do we decide when it’s appropriate to be compassionately accepting of things that we see as a failure, or fiercely calling them out? When they are out of alignment with our own views? When we see people falling short of living up to all they claim to be? While it is totally acceptable to be mirrors to what we observe, we must also remember that simple disagreement is natural, and the rubbing against each other is actually useful: it allows us to clarify what is truly desired, and to work through issues that arise in the manifestation of that. But there is also a time when things step beyond that arena – a time when things are threatening to tip over the edge into unspeakable situations that cause grave harm to individuals, and society as a whole. And while we spiritual people must continue to practice compassion and understanding in our own lives, we also must ground ourselves in this world. We must become better informed, and speak and act in strong ways to name the issues that are so damaging ~ bringing together our hearts and minds in the name of the greater good. We must also be willing to look fully into the darkness as it emerges, both personally and collectively, and face the shadows of the human psyche with openness and curiosity, entering into conversation and action in courageous, strong, and effective ways. There will certainly be criticism, as spiritual activism seems to diverge from the passive “peace and love” persona that the spiritual community has embraced. But in reality, peace and love are very the foundation beneath a strong and wise criticism of the serious issues arising in the US right now, and it is possible to stand in compassion while also calling out the unjust and destructive forces at play, refusing to let them advance on our watch.

The divide between liberal and conservative ideals will likely continue, and little shifts in either direction will also continue until humans have evolved sufficiently to create new ideals. But the criticism of “spiritual” people as revolutionaries and activists is another story altogether. Indeed, there will continue to be spiritual people who just don’t want to hear it, who want to live in their happy bubble of kittens and rainbows, and that’s just fine! That bubble is a beautiful place, but it won’t stand up and preserve the things that we hold as true and just in this world. And what a gift! When we are free to believe and express that for ourselves, there is no conflict! The conflict only arises when one believes that there is a singular true, right way that everyone must follow, period. This is a profound error, we spiritual warriors will work to transform in every possible way. Is there “negativity” in that? If you think we’re wrong, you could believe that to be true. And if you think that any dissenting conversation, or any look into the shadows, is negative, you might also believe that to be true. As a spiritual warrior, I believe it is fully necessary to be in relationship with both the light and the darkness in order to come into fuller understanding of the way forward. Is there “hatred” involved when calling out the powers that be for what we perceive as truly horrific? Ultimately, that is up to each one of us to know about ourselves. I, personally, don’t hate he-who-shall-not-be-named, I see him as a sick and twisted human who has been given far more power than he can intelligently manage, and who is wielding it with little wisdom or care, and that must be stopped. But then again, you might perceive that as hatred. That’s not on me, that’s on you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the current situation and the endless array of commentary, articles, videos, and dissenting opinions, trust me, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you. But right now, the time is not appropriate for escapism, sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for things to improve or change. What is true, to me, is that our collective apathy has allowed this madness to grow for far too long, while those on the conservative end of the spectrum have come together in solidarity. My liberal friends, and my spiritual friends, this is a time when we must step out of our comfort zone. We must stand in integrity, with courage and great heart. For when we do nothing, when we stand aside and watch the unfolding of things, we are indeed complicit in what comes to pass. It may be far more appealing to sit in meditation with incense and crystals – and by all means, keep doing that! It may be equally appealing to be open, fair minded, and not willing to see things in clearly delineated difference – and indeed, our openness is key. Ultimately, we must know who we are, stand firm in that, and become a force to be reckoned with in the name of what is truly fair and just, feet on the ground, head in the clouds, and eyes on the horizon.