Category Archives: Evolutionary Activism

Waiting for the Bell to Ring

This phrase came to me recently while sitting in a large room with many other meditation practitioners. Waiting for the bell to ring isn’t simply about sitting on a cushion but applies to pretty much everything we do every day. When you are not being present to what’s happening for you or around you right now, often your attention goes to anticipating what you expect to happen next – with the accompanying sense that what comes next will be better, more interesting, more fulfilling.

I believe there is a deeper issue hidden in this posture of waiting for the bell to ring or for the next moment to capture your attention. I want to understand how it inhibits us, not only from fully inhabiting the present moment, but also how it keeps us from action. Waiting is a practice that holds us back, keeps us from going forward. 

I’m thinking about how we respond to crises in our lives – individually and collectively. I need to know how it keeps us from responding to the biggest crisis affecting us and our planet. Waiting for what happens next is essentially inaction. This current and developing Climate Crisis requires us to do more than wait.

I have an image of the starting gate at a horse race. All animals and jockeys poised and ready for action, waiting for the sound that signals the start. The Climate Crisis, however, is not a horse race – if it were we could burst into action because we would know exactly what to do. We would know what was required of us. Instead we dither about on our cushions waiting for the bell to ring so we can legitimately offer our attention to the next passing thought. Perhaps we look around and see that others are doing the same – waiting for the bell to ring.

So how do we respond when we are not sure what to do – when the expectations are not clear? I believe first is to let go the idea that if those in power, in government, are not charging ahead then the Climate Crisis is not so urgent. Science and the experience of millions all around the world show the opposite is true. Warming oceans, more intense storms, increasing areas of drought and wildfires are all driven by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that are released into the atmosphere to a greater degree by industrialized countries. We who live in those countries are accustomed to a way of life based on the use of fossil fuels. Our response has to be to change the way we live.

Making this change requires acknowledging that we all must do this together. This is a fact that we should find more comforting than scary. We can take individual steps, but it is collective action and speech that will shore up our courage and lead to the changes we need without leaving anyone behind. 

Do what you can do now without waiting for the bell to ring. That’s all. In reality there is no one at the front of the room holding the bell. It’s our inner knowing that something is terribly wrong that is actually the bell that is ringing loudly. Take a moment to listen deeply, and I’m sure you can hear it.

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Nothing to Say & the Climate’s in Crisis

After many years of feeling that I had so much to write about, that I had a deep well of something to say and that it was of value, I have come to a point where I’ve got nothing. I actually have a store of half written posts and poems that remain on my notepad and haven’t been published. Reading them over, I see that they are indeed reflections of me but are not what I need to be saying now. So they stay hidden.

If I am to be honest, digging a bit deeper into what I feel, what I come to is that I have too much to say right now. I have a sense of urgency to speak and at the same time am overwhelmed by all that needs to be said. I am awed by the changes in our climate, and struck by the slothful approach to meeting a crisis of this proportion that consumes not only ordinary citizens but also our government. We have all the information we need to understand what’s happening – heating of the atmosphere, trashing our planet with waste that will not degrade, a sixth extinction that is well underway. Actually it seems we have so much information that we cannot reasonably process more than bits, let alone come up with an appropriate response. 

What we face is huge and challenging and yet we are all able to continue our day to day lives in many respects as we have always been doing. Somehow it feels like our individual decisions to change the way we eat, build our houses, travel and accumulate objects are purely elective. Somehow the necessity for altering how we live our lives, especially in industrialized nations, escapes us on a daily basis. We are in a society that is fostering attention deficit disorder in all of us – always and ever is the next email, tweet, call, advertisement in the middle of any attempt to read a serious article online and reminders that you’ve left something in your cart! So easy to get sucked in that we are like the dog in response to a squirrel sighting!

So, today, it’s not that I have nothing to say – I have something to yell, to scream, to rant and rave and hope that someone is listening. This is a time to stop – FULL STOP!

The time has come to decide how we want to live, how it may be possible for future generations to live. The scale of worldwide conflict is rising with increased numbers migrating due to water and food insecurity in combination with the hunkering down of factions whose interest is only in protecting their own and keeping others out.

This is a time for waking up, paying attention, becoming more aware of our choices. And then staying focused on the changes that we as individuals and nations need to make. Because at some point, in the not too distant future, these options will be gone.

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World Views

Our World Views are closely tied to our perspective on reality. We really do go through life believing that what we see as “real” is in fact real. That what I see, hear, taste, smell, feel is the same as what you and everyone else sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels. Somehow I think if that were true we wouldn’t be so preoccupied with our differences. We’d probably be much more accepting of each other

Each of us walking around in this shell of human skin. Each struggling to be the person we assume we were born to be. Consider how much time and energy is spent developing the individual personality that we hope will serve us through adulthood. 

It takes a lot of effort to define an identity and to a large extent it is an individual identity. Even if we grow up in a culture with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Within such a system we essentially create boundaries that separate those within from those outside. In that case, the differences of outsiders help solidify the identity of those within. It can be easier to know who you are by comparison to who you are not. 

The clearer the demarcation between me and others not like me, the harder to imagine how it might be to be the other. It’s more comforting to live in the certainty of your own culture or belief or social system. After all, our ancestors’ survival benefited by staying connected to & accepted by the tribe we were born into. No going off on your own in those days – it wasn’t safe.

Fast forward to today. We still seek comfort in being with those who share our world view. This may be family and friends. Or a community sharing religious or political beliefs. Are we more relaxed when interacting with those who see, hear, taste, smell and feel within the same world view? 

Perhaps the most powerful effect of living in this shared view is that it lends itself to a conviction that what “we” are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling is the right or correct view of reality. By definition then those outside my circle of shared perceptions are living with an inaccurate view of reality. It’s not a big leap to go from there to attaching other judgments to those who are outside. They may be viewed as ignorant, stupid, dangerous, evil, deplorable. At the least they are unwelcome.

So here we are. And where do we go from here?

I wonder what it takes to be motivated to reach out beyond our boundaries. Is it necessarily a question of being dissatisfied or restless? Is it having a glimpse of the bigger picture? Or does it require the equivalent of a bolt of lightening to open our hearts to one another? Maybe we need to be more curious to appreciate what lies beneath appearances, but we can only do that if we are willing to expand our world view. How do we come to know that staying within our boundaries is often more of a risk than moving beyond them or allowing the outside in?

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Moving Forward

Lately I have been feeling as if I have a label tattooed on my forehead that says: “Fragile: Handle with Care.”  Perhaps it’s actually that I feel the need to alert others to my fragility.

When I walk down the street, the process has been “one step at a time” for months. I cannot be focused on my destination because I have to summon the energy to take the next step. I can’t worry about whether I will get to where I am going; my whole being is taken up with moving my foot forward. It could be that the label seems an extra layer of protection since it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone looking that my self-experience is the way it is.

I have been slowly gaining strength over the past few weeks. But still the layer of vulnerability remains strong. That may sound like an oxymoron, yet vulnerability can be a powerful force. It can affect the interface between taking in experience and engaging in action. It feels like a cloak that I have been wearing without ever consciously having put it on. Now I can’t take it off, though as I write this, I am aware that it won’t come off until I am ready to move forward without it.

Such a way of being seems particularly at odds with the need for resistance in the face of current political and world events. Every day I feel called to act to help counter the actions that are feeding social injustice, isolationism and climate change denial. I feel diminished in myself as I see what others are actively doing. I am called to meet energies fueled by fear and anger, but meet them how?

How do you take a stand when standing in itself is sometimes more than you can manage? I remember past experiences where I was recovering from some trauma and impatient for wholeness. Always there was the issue of how much to push; how many steps forward can you take before being caught by as many steps backwards? It comes down to how to be with vulnerability in a way that holds the intention of standing up and being strong.

I recall some years ago being in warrior postures during my yoga practice and noticing how vulnerable I felt. This sense showed itself in an energetic backing off from a full expression of the poses as if the attitude and the physical postures were incompatible. At some point my awareness shifted to where I could see that vulnerability and strength were like two sides of the same coin. They can exist simultaneously in a person – in me! It doesn’t have to be just one or the other. I realize that insights can often appear to be simple as this one does but still represent a deep shift in attitude.

Going forward, I am hopeful that I can bring this insight to bear in meeting the events that are happening now. If I can remember the experience of being both vulnerable and strong then I can show up in a way that appreciates the soft underbelly of those who appear strong in opposition to the values I hold dear. This may help in preventing me from responding purely out of anger or frustration. Perhaps it will allow for some deeper listening on my part so that my response will be not be intentionally antagonistic. Maybe coming forward with this attitude will invite an openness that leads to dialogue instead of intransigent positions. I don’t know for sure, of course, but I am willing to see this as a next big step.

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Filed under Cancer Trilogy, Evolutionary Activism, Mindfulness

Stumbling in the Dark

IMG_1729The idea that our civilization follows a path of reason or logic or unfolding wisdom seems not unlike the trust we might have had as children in the adult world. That is, until we began to see and understand the consequences of adult actions. Yet even then, as adults ourselves, we so easily fall into the practice of imagining that there are intelligent, wise beings guiding us.  Or, one great and all powerful, wise and intelligent being…

I understand that it might be in some sense comforting to feel that way. But doesn’t that relieve us of some responsibility to dig deep and get a grip on what’s really happening? I appreciate that holding such a trust in the all-knowing or those who appear more powerful, stronger or smarter than ourselves may help prevent us from sinking into despair. And maybe that is the door you choose as you move through life.

I wonder sometimes whether such beliefs let us off the hook, not just individually but as a species as well. If I trust in a plan that is inevitably controlled by forces beyond me, then I am helpless to change what happens. My influence is limited, and whatever choices I make will ultimately have no effect.

There are times when I am able to take a huge step back and see the BIGGER picture of how we are living on this planet. That’s when I wonder how there could possibly be a PLAN for the way we have developed. Seriously! What kind of plan is it that we perpetually treat each other as trash? Is the plan that we war with each other until there is only a handful of us left, and then how will they live? What part of this plan dictates that we use up all the resources on this planet while expecting that we won’t suffer while waiting for someone/something to bail us out of the predicament that results?

I ask you, “What the f**k kind of PLAN is this?” Wouldn’t it make more sense to take a look around and find some common ground with the other beings on this planet? Seems to me we have a great deal in common.  We are more alike than not.  We breathe the same air. We all require sustenance in the form of food/water. We all want to be healthy and safe from harm. We all want to live peacefully. We all want to know that we are worth something. We all want to love and/or be loved.

So, listen up! As we stumble around in the dark on this earth, see if you can find a hand to hold and then offer your other hand to someone else. That’s when you may actually feel that we are all connected, that in order to make our way forward, we must depend on each other. We have connection to all livings beings and the earth, but as human beings, we alone are capable of the conscious awareness needed to change direction. We have a responsibility to do this or else we must take responsibility for failing, and that would be a tragic ending to this human story.

Don’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

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Skeptics and Deniers

While reading a recent article on denialism, I was reminded of two quotes by the writer Anaïs Nin. The first, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” clarifies for me the reference point for those who are skeptics or deniers regarding climate change and the causal aspects of human contribution. For them the determining factors are personal, not a lack of facts and figures. It’s not the science that’s the problem; it’s the idea that humanity could actually be responsible for what’s happening to the planet.  While we secretly want to be that powerful, when faced with the consequences of using that kind of power, we have difficulty believing we have made bad decisions. The industrial revolution and the burning of fossil fuels was all part of our progress forward, wasn’t it? How difficult it can then be to accept that perhaps it’s time to change course. So, it may seem that the actual determinants for skepticism or denial are grounded in the path leading to and then holding on IMG_1179to such a position.

Ultimately the drive to maintain the status quo, absent being in the maelstrom of an event undeniably tied to climate change, makes it easier to buy into the skeptic/denier mindset. Taking action in response to climate change means changing current business practices and lifestyles.  More than switching to LED lightbulbs or composting veggies, however, the actions required to respond to global warming are complex and have greater consequences.

This brings me to the second Anaïs Nin quote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” When faced with such an overwhelming issue as climate change, staying in the “bud” may often seem the better, safer option.  Ultimately, however, the “risk” to remain will pose larger and more difficult problems that we may not have the ability to solve. There is a point, often identified as a “tipping” point, when this risk of holding on to the skeptic/denier posture becomes too painful.  Actually, I wonder if “tipping” isn’t too delicate a concept – this point may be more akin to the realization that locking the door of your house to prevent a tornado from ripping it off its foundation really isn’t the best response.
Hopefully, the skeptics and deniers will come to realize this before the tornado hits.

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Power and Vulnerability

My interest is in IMG_0192power and vulnerability as it applies to creating a sustainable environment.  We all have hopes or assumptions that we will continue living the good life here on earth in much the same as way we have been or better.  The bad news is that how we are currently living is not sustainable – not for those of us who benefit daily from technological advances or for those who fight daily to meet the need for food, water and safety. We are living a lie.

It is, however, a lie with comfort.  Ok, maybe not quite a lie, but an illusion.  We believe that we can power through a solution to every problem, that we have that power through science and technology and can overcome any roadblock to our continuing to thrive.  But it takes the will to survive, not simply the latest tools.  It takes collective will – an active, not passive, energy.  So, we don’t succeed by assuming someone else will work it out – not science and technology, not government, not private enterprise, not God.  It’s up to us.

For all of us to come together, there needs must be a galvanizing force.  I believe that acknowledging our collective vulnerability in the face of events like extreme weather occurrences, mass migrations from beleaguered countries, big money pressure to exploit the environment, and becoming aware of the injustice you’ve done to your neighbor can be what pulls us together.  The curious thing about “collective vulnerability” is that there is power in the sharing of it.  And being vulnerable does not mean without hope.  It’s more like acknowledging that I can’t do it alone and, looking around, realizing that we are all in it together.  Commitment comes easier if you are in it with someone else.

So, from the backseat of the car, my question to you is, “Are we there yet?”

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Changing Our Story

IMG_0349We all have personal stories that we hold close, because in some way we feel they function as the storehouse of who we really are.  These stories are our history, some from long ago and others perhaps from as recent as yesterday.  While they do influence how we see ourselves, we tend to give them a solid and immutable status in our lives. I believe there is some comfort in that.

There is also pain. Some of these stories are not the ones we would have chosen had we been able to select those that match the idea of who we want to be.  But we carry them with us all the same.  Somewhere in our collective upbringing, we learned that because we can’t change history, we cannot change our stories. This isn’t necessarily true.  It may not be easy but exists as a possibility for even those of us with the biggest, darkest stories.

Sometimes the story that appears most solid is not so much a personal one but how we live our day to day lives, how we make decisions about what’s good and bad, right and wrong.  Consider the following two examples: The earth exists primarily as a resource for us to use. New and improved technological/economic development allows us to use and dispose of objects so that we can continue to demand more, newer, better products.  These are just two of the shared collective stories that support both our social and economic structures.  They and others have become part of our everyday reality.

I believe we can change these stories if we discover that they no longer serve us.  But beyond recognizing a need to change, there must also be the sense that we do really have a choice.  Otherwise the prospect of letting go a familiar way of being can be terrifying.  This applies to personal and collective stories alike.  And if one has the experience of letting go a personal story, realizing that it may not reflect the whole of who you are or is based on a wound that no longer has to define you, then it may be easier to accept that a collective story may also be exchanged for a different one.

What is needed for these larger societal stories is a tipping point, where the number of people who understand that change is possible come together. They don’t need to all come with the same idea of what is needed.  Better if there are diverse thoughts about which way to go, better if there is dialogue, questioning and open listening. Better if what they share is a commitment to each other in moving forward, not remaining in the status quo.  These are the same qualities needed for oneself in taking on a different personal story but broader and more inclusive.  Above all, in both cases, it really is a matter of choice.

 

 

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Reality and Relativity

You don’t have to be Einstein to understand how the concept of relativity works us in our day to day lives.  For several years I worked in Vermont during the month of January.  Often during those periods the temperature in the early morning hovered around -12 degrees Farenheit.  Even the yoga mat in the trunk of the car was frozen!  And more than once, I would get stuck attempting to drive the winding mountain road and need to have the car towed out of a snowbank.  My point about this is that when I then returned to New York City, most everyone I encountered was complaining about the unbearable cold weather when the temperature was in the mid-twenties.  I didn’t feel cold at all; as a matter of fact I think I took some pleasure in saying that I thought it was balmy!

Consider how our experience as well as our body-mind perceptions of our circumstances contributes to this issue of relativity.  If I hadn’t spent time in Vermont, I would certainly have been one among many complaining about how cold it was.

I realize that this seems relatively simplistic – I imagine you’re thinking of course that makes sense.  But suppose you apply this concept to other aspects of how we order or relate to situations, ideas and relationships.  For instance, the where and how you grew up, the place where you lived and the people with whom you shared your early years,  are the basis for comparison later on.  Again, of course. Well it might have been that you grew up in a remote part of the rainforest in Ecuador where your day to day life is dependent on the natural environment around you.  Then you meet people who regard this environment of yours as a resource to be used but with an agenda that, relative to your way of being, is abusive and disrespectful.  At the least, it would make appreciating their point of view very difficult.  And, considering that the story they have lived by is focused on furthering technological development and doing whatever they can to support that way of life, it would be difficult for them to appreciate your perspective on the environment.  Each of you looks at the situation from a relative position.  There is a different reality for each of you.

Consider another story where you grow up in a poor urban environment with a family constellation that shifted many times during your early years.  Perhaps there were often struggles for food, shelter and education.  From this perspective, those that had a stable family and enough money to serve their needs might seem privileged in a way beyond your own options.  They might not have much awareness of the circumstances in which you are living just as you may have a sense about how they live based on assumptions about how different they seem.   Again each of you has a different reality relative to your circumstances and experience.

What I wonder is how the sense of “differentness” might be set aside to see/understand the other more clearly.   Somewhere along the way, during the development of our species, we decided that our experience is THE ONLY REALITY or THE RIGHT REALITY.  What we need to appreciate is that there are multiple realities and they are all relative to who is in it and who is outside. Perhaps the solution resides in each taking his/her own sense of reality a little more lightly so we can be more open to the reality next door.  Relatively speaking, that is.

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Terrorism as The Dividing Line

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In recent weeks we have witnessed a significant dose of terrorist activity – “we” being France and other parts of the world as well.  Shootings and bombings never  remain isolated in the geographic sense of the word as news highlights and reactions on social media reach us 24 hours a day/seven days a week.  (I’ve spelled that out because “24/7” is so automatic that it’s almost lost its significance in recent years.)  So, the “we” is really everyone – even if you live under a rock or if your head is stuck in the sand with the other end of you up in the air.  The energy of terror can still be felt.

I appreciate the tools we have at our disposal to accomplish this level of communication.  It is truly extraordinary.  What concerns me at another level, however, is that what gets transmitted is more than facts or even speculation and interpretation of events and motivations.  We do, in fact, transmit the energy of terror, and somehow, when that happens, terrorism is winning.

If you’ve ever experienced terror, then you know that it’s not simply anxiety or fear.  It’s much, much bigger than that.  It’s an energy that grips your whole being in the face of what’s happening to you that is beyond your control and is an immanent threat to your life.  It is more than fear of the possibility of death, because there are no possibilities.  The situation you face is a certainty.

Witnessing the terrorist events in Paris through the media is different than being there but great journalism does its best to target the emotional as well as cognitive centers in us.  So we share a bit of this energy of terror.  And our experience is an isolating one that causing a contraction in our bodies – all aspects of the body including our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves.  This energy is one that triggers the impulse to do whatever can be done to protect the living, breathing body we inhabit.  It is not an energy that supports connection with others, but one that defines and separates the individual.

The more we as observers, however removed we think we are, tune into this energy of terror, the easier it may be ultimately to buy into the notion that we are all separate.  It can foster a sense that, ‘While I feel your pain from afar, I must preserve my own personal being, family, town, city or country.” This intention to preserve requires distancing oneself from an energy that terrorizes and that means letting go the sense that we (this “we” being all of humanity) are interconnected, interdependent and share a common ground on this planet.

It will take some effort on all our parts not to give in, to remember that the way forward to a world beyond terrorism is through the wisdom of connection.  The understanding that there is no separation among peoples is critical if we are to bring forth an environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling presence on this earth.

 

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