Tag Archives: Activism

Ripples in the Pond

We have never once in our history been separate. We have always been linked to one another for survival, and our joy and our sorrow have never truly been our own.  Every action, every word, every thought… they broadcast new strands of connection at every moment.  This is an inescapable truth- we cannot disconnect these strands, and we cannot stop creating them.

When we try to sever or deny their existence, any perceived success is only a numbing of our awareness, and this numbing prevents us, not only from seeing each other, but from sensing our own Self.

It is only possible to say that we don’t want to be involved because we are numb to the truth that we already are.

Every action we take has an effect on our community.  Likewise, every success and failure we experience is due, at least in part, to the previous actions of others- every law that protects us or puts us in harm’s way, every invention that eases our lives or pollutes the environment, even social conventions like family structures, greetings and the amount of eye contact we make all shape our overall wellness for better or worse.

It is common in spiritual life to honor the teachings, teachers, lineages, and traditions that have made it possible for us to walk on the path. With this comes the realization that even our walking is not our own- it is driven by every foot that has stepped before us.

This is true in every aspect of our lives…

I become aware of this with every new melody that soars from the lips, every word that descends to the page from the pen, every metaphor and poetic form, every spark of creativity arising from contemplation. My mind is simply a pot stirring its influences, and even this stirring is the product of cause and effect.  

Was it the rock that created the ripple? Or the fallen branch that dislodged the rock? Or the wind that snapped the branch? Or the heavy rains that weakened it?

Of course it is the interaction of all of it, and it is in this systemic view of things that we gain a glimpse of something bigger, deeper, whole.  It is a great honor when we can witness this Totality through our own work, when it coalesces through our individual awareness to form a new nexus in the web of life.  

These words are one such nexus. They are meant to inspire us to turn towards each other. They show that our only true possession, if there is any at all, is our sense of duty to one another.

These words are meant to inspire the next nexus of creation. The ripples in the pond inspire the frog to leap from the lily pad, and this makes new ripples.

From the first eruption of the Big Bang to the creation of carbon in the stars, these ripples pulsated through the cold depths of space and time until that right moment when the first human could translate them into words. They have since been echoed by spiritual teachers, philosophers, activists, scientists, and yes, even the lily pad in the pond. It is these ripples that convince me we are not separate, that prompted the lifting of the pen to paper, that prompted the typing of keys, that prompted the clicking of “publish.”

May this little post continue the spreading of ripples until all beings are free.


This Love has Room for Our Protest

Without me even noticing it, the conversation evaporated into silence. Ram Dass simply looked at me, and I melted into the chair, filled with love. I looked across the room towards him, and our eyes met. Just a few minutes ago he had told me the story of when Maharajji instructed him to meditate like Christ. Ram Dass asked him how Christ meditated, and Maharajji said, “He was lost in a sea of love.”

I was absolutely head-over-heals in love with the man before me, not because he was Ram Dass, but because his presence pulled me into a depth of Being within that could love anything. I realized that this is what it meant, at least in some small way, to meditate like Christ.

Ram Dass often says things like, “I love the wall, and the carpet, and this chair. I love my wheelchair.”

And when he says it, he means it. I saw this, not just in my darshan with him that day, but during following the two years that I lived with him. I would often see him sitting by himself, not reading, or napping, or thinking, or even meditating, but just sitting there, truly present and content. Because of his stroke, he is confined to a wheelchair, and his body is often in pain. Yet, he has a lightness about him that transcends his physical body. There is a joy and a contentment that can be at home with the pain.

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How belief systems shape our interactions with the world.

We were all crammed against the bar, elbows pressed to the counter and leaning forward to hear the audio as Donald Trump gave his victory speech. Clinton had just called him to concede his victory. A woman screamed at the screen, “She just gave UP?”

We were a room full of hippies and outcasts from all over the world who had traveled to this remote Northern California mountain town, with a population of only 300, to find seasonal work in the medical marijuana industry. Most of us were camping, and the bar was the only place we could watch the television. People openly rolled joints on the tables, and smoked it right outside on the front porch. A woman in her early twenties was attempting to light a red “Make America Great Again” hat on fire as her drunk friend told her that the hat was made out of rayon and would not burn. Continue reading


The Dharma of Our Times

 

I have spent years trying to find that morally superior stance that could acquit me of the suffering of society.  As a young environmental and human rights activist I found solace by making corporations the enemy. They were the cause of our suffering. Eventually that no longer worked, and so I had to find another strategy. As I moved away from activism and moved towards a deeper sense of spirituality and alternative living, the goal became to remove myself from the system. Yet, no matter how much I gave up, how much I shopped at co-ops, drove gas made from veggie oil, or moved onto an off-the-grid eco village, I couldn’t escape it. One day it dawned on me that even if it was possible to be totally off the grid, totally unreliant on any fossil fuel or system of government, totally in a sustainable way, I would still be responsible. It would require me to be completely removed and isolated from society while knowing what was going on. And how could I sit by idly while others were suffering? Wouldn’t my lack of engagement still hold me responsible?

The world is a messy place. Global warming, habitat loss, pollution and overpopulation are destroying the planet. We have corruption at every level of government. It seems we are constantly bombarded by signs telling us we are not good enough and pushing us to buy more. Our world is in a perpetual trance of war, and there are countless instances of needless suffering.

And there is no perfect solution to make it all go away or to absolve us of this. This doesn’t mean we don’t try. We should still work to end suffering and to live life in a way that is in harmony with our values. But forming an identity from this weakens our effectiveness.  It actually pushes the world away as we run into the safety of our labels and self-identifications.

The immensity of our global situation leaves us coping with strategies to keep it at bay. Some of us develop scapegoats, some of us ignore it through entertainment or our own personal concerns. Some of us try to escape through spirituality or alternative living. Some of us convince ourselves its not really a problem, or even if we admit it is, we don’t fully acknowledge it for fear that we will drown in a sea of unbearable guilt, fear, sadness and rage.

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Normalizing Truth

How are you?

How many times have I held back answering that question honestly because I didn’t want to deal with the responses that would follow?

Being honest and truthful is a powerful practice to soften the edges of the ego, drop pretense, and help foster more intimacy in the community, but our culture doesn’t make this easy…

How many times have I…

Admitted an insecurity or a character flaw only to have someone try to make me feel better?

Discussed a hardship in my life only to have someone offer me advice on how to fix it?

Offered advice or flattery to another person rather than being truly present with their sharing?

What could be a moment of openness and sharing, where the boundaries between self and other evaporate into the vast sky of Being, instead turns into a gaping chasm of separation.  Of course, advice and soothing words have their place, but I feel if we are truly listening, we will find they are useful far less than they are said. Often they lead me to feeling misunderstood at a time when I am vulnerable.

Many spiritual teachers, therapists, and others have commented on how these responses come from a desire to relieve our own discomfort, and I feel this is true. Because we can’t sit with our own pain, we can’t do so for others.

Every time someone shares their suffering with me it is an opportunity to look within at my own resistance, and every time I resist sharing what is truly on my mind it is another opportunity to do the same.

But what fascinates me most about this is that we lack a culture for sharing difficult experiences. It is so far out of the bounds of our social framework that it puts us at a loss of words. We don’t know how to respond.  And how could we expect it to be otherwise?  Since we don’t know its OK for people to be real, we assume they must want us to fix them if they are doing so.

It is so far out of the bounds of our social framework that it puts us at a loss of words.

Changing our culture is difficult. It is far more difficult than changing politics, but also far more profound.  I wish I had some big solution for this, but at this moment I can at least talk about its importance, and I can vow to intensify my efforts to be real with my friends and family and to allow them the space to do the same.  This is how we normalize Truth.

“Always tell the Truth.” -Neem Karoli Baba


The Co-opting of Spiritual Practice by our Capitalist Culture

Yoga and meditation have gone mainstream, and it seems psychedelics are on their way too. Now all we need is an authentic spirituality.

Yoga and meditation, once considered to be relics of the 60s, are now practiced throughout the country. Google offers classes for its employees. Nike, Yahoo and HBO offer classes. It’s being offered in prisons and schools. Its everywhere. And its no secret why. There are obvious benefits of yoga and meditation. They can help us to de-stress, relax, focus, raise productivity and increase creativity. There is a growing body of evidence that it can help develop emotional intelligence, strengthen empathy, and offers endless  therapeutic benefits.

Even psychedelics are finding a wider audience. Besides the many notable therapeutic uses, micro-dosing is now all the rage in silicon valley, where it is seen as way of improving memory, cognitive function, mood, and creativity.

How could anyone see a problem with any of it? I think it is great that these practices, once delegated to the fringe counter culture, are finding relevance for mainstream society.  It’s for everyone, and no one should be left out. If anyone told me they wanted to take LSD so they could be more creative at their tech job, I might even gift them the great book by James Fadiman, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

But I am seeing a troubling trend. Not only are these practices benefiting society, but they are being changed by it as well. Some of this is reasonable and expected. We are westerners engaging in practices from the East, and thus we are going to adapt them to fit our needs. This is not the first time this has happened. As Buddhism spread throughout the East, it assimilated with various cultures to produce the wide spectrum of Buddhism we see today. Tibetan Buddhism is very different in form than Zen, and western Buddhism is developing into its own unique way.

Change is natural. And yet, I can’t fathom in any way that the values of our dominant, neoliberal, materialistic culture can actually coincide with the values of compassion for all sentient life, with our inherent interconnectedness, or the sacredness of everyone.

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Protesting the Protest

homemade signsThe anti-abortion movement in our country is picking up steam, and they organized a national de-fund Planned Parenthood day on Saturday, Oct 10th. There was a big protest planned in Ventura, CA, and so Jamie and I decided to attend in support of Planned Parenthood. Obama has clearly stated he will veto any bill that de-funds Planned Parenthood, so our desire to attend was not for any practical political motive, but because we truly felt the protest was immoral and we felt inspired to lend Planned Parenthood some support. In short, we were protesting the protest. (If you want to read more about this issue, you can check out these articles: NPR, WP, Cosmo, Bustle)

It was only two weeks prior that a nearby Planned Parenthood in Thousand Oaks, CA was the victim of an arson attack. Moreover, the thought that people using possibly-sensitive medical services would have to face protesters as they walk into the building just seemed awful.

So we went to the dollar tree, bought some supplies and made our own signs.Stand with PP

The next day Jamie and I drove to Ventura, where Jamie’s sister joined us at the protest. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew we would be outnumbered, but I didn’t know we would be the only ones there in support.

There was just the three of us with our homemade signs surrounded by a crowd of over a hundred anti-abortion protesters. They were a well-organized and cohesive group.  They had T-shirts, big signs, and a PA system that blasted live sermons about the value of life and faith.

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