Category Archives: Change

STANDING AT THE FORK

March 13, 2019
THE CHOICE
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
     Robert Frost; The Road Not Taken

Last Weekend:

Twenty-one men and women who are involved in doing Restorative Justice work sat in Circle for an evening, a day, and half a day. Fifteen hours. A number of us were descended from people who were the original keepers of these American lands, many descended from people brought here by force from Africa as slaves, one who came to be in America from Korea through adoption; a few more who had come to America to study and to work; twelve altogether. Nine more of us were descended from ancestors who came to America from European countries, most of them in need, escaping oppression, famine, servitude, and poverty.

We had come together to work at bridging the divide between white-skinned people who enjoy privileges we barely know we have because we take them for granted, and black and brown-skinned people who have been deprived of even the most basic human rights of respect and safety.

The United States is a country who lays claim to being the greatest, to wearing the white hats in an evil world, to being the benevolent keeper of whom we perceive as lesser brothers around the globe. The United States is a country whose hands are bloody, and whose heart is sick with the lies and corruption it has hidden, whose foundations are crumbling under the weight of its violent legacy.

I am one of the white-skinned descendants of European tenant farmers who came seeking a better life for their children. Like the majority of Americans who are seen as “white”, I grew up believing what I was taught in school was true. I and my peers and my parents and grandparents were conditioned by our communities, our religions, our cultural backgrounds to see the world through a particular lens — America was great and good; a land of opportunity and equality.

Depending on where we lived, some of us white skinned Americans grew up entrenched in views that feared and dehumanized black and brown people. Many others, my family among them, did not hold with such views, but were oblivious to the subtle ways systems we took for granted — education, housing, economics, employment — were booby-trapped, even closed to non-white people.

But no longer. Very few remain who can honestly say that they have not been confronted with an alternate reality. The truth of America’s founding legacy of genocide, appropriation, theft and plunder, of slavery, and of our continued oppression of non-white people in many insidious forms is pretty much available for everyone to know. The silence has been shattered. The truth is mainstream news now. Perhaps in part because of social media. But even still the lies proliferate as those in power and those who are afraid (of what?) try desperately to discredit these realities. But even as the lies are told, reality and truth are holding their ground.

The first question posed to the Circle in which I sat was, “So, what are YOU going to do about it?”

It is a question that every white skinned person in this country needs to be asked, and needs to answer.

Most of us who are white, if we are even willing to look at the depth and breadth of the pain and suffering, don’t know what to say.

Many of us, at least initially, shrink back from the magnitude of our nation’s crimes against humanity. Many of us are shocked when we uncover the truth of the perpetuation of these crimes by government and corporate power and wealth. Those of us who are educators and social service providers feel trapped and entangled in the oppressive and harmful rules and regulations to which we are expected to comply.

I feel very small standing before this Goliath. I feel very weak looking up at the mountain that needs to be moved. I feel very confused by the chaos swirling around me.

It isn’t enough to say, “I’m sorry.” What am I sorry for? How will that change anything?

It is a beginning, though. Victims who have suffered great harm might say they want revenge. But often this actually translates into, “I want you to understand the pain you have caused me. I want you to acknowledge the suffering you have caused. I want you to take ownership and responsibility for it.”

So I begin by listening and acknowledging the pain that I hear and saying, “I am sorry for what has been done to you”.

But then what? What can I do to make amends? What can I do to make reparations? What can I do to bring healing? What can I do to dismantle the systems that have prevented my black and brown brothers and sisters from participating in the same privileges that I have taken to be my inalienable right? What can I do to stop the suffering?

I left that Circle on Sunday afternoon heavy with these questions. Heavy with the pain. Despair had injected its venom and my stress responses had kicked in and were screaming, “Run away! Quit! Who do you think you are to do this work (teaching restorative justice in education). Who the fucking hell do you think you are to write a book for educators on creating healthy learning environments?!”

And then I took a swig of Alice in Wonderland’s elixir which packed a heavy dose of anger. Where I had been shrinking to something very small and helpless, I suddenly began to grow. I got bigger and bigger. I didn’t sleep. Through the dark hours of the night and the sunshine of Monday I sat with the questions. I walked with the questions through the new layer of snow that belied the coming of Spring. I examined my work and my motives for doing it. I will not quit. I will not run away.

Tuesday

“The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.”   Ursula K. Le Guin, The Finder (2001)

This morning I received an announcement from Minneapolis based Mixed Blood Theater in my inbox. A one time member it has been awhile since I read what they are up to so I explored their website. I found the following under their [Community] Engagement page.

Mixed Blood’s Cedar Riverside neighborhood has long been a home for immigrants and refugees, including one of the nation’s largest concentrations of African and Muslim immigrants and refugees in the U.S. today. Mixed Blood is working on multiple fronts to engage with its neighbors:

Health Care — In partnership with Hennepin County Medical Center, Q Health, Cedar Riverside People’s Center Clinic, and Riverside Plaza Tenants’ Association, Mixed Blood uses artistic endeavors to help health care providers improve patient-centered care for the residents of Cedar Riverside

Education — Mixed Blood resident artists teach drama classes to neighborhood youth and host performances and workshops for teachers who serve the schools that Cedar Riverside children attend.

Safety — Through Mixed Blood’s work, Minneapolis Police officers and young adult Somali men, change places to gain knowledge, awareness, and sensitivity of the other’s experience and perceptions. One recent participant entered the police academy and is currently an intern for Transit Police.

Performance — Mixed Blood hosts plays by Somali writers and directors as well as story circles with Somali elder women.

Assembly — In a neighborhood choked for common space, Mixed Blood’s auditorium and rehearsal hall provides a steady place—without charge—for meetings, performances, trainings, and social and political events.

Hope rekindles in me when I know things like this are happening.

Here in Duluth (where I live), there have been several campaigns during the past 10 years with town hall meetings, billboards and other lectures and plays to raise awareness of Race and Racism. Next week there is another community discussion on Anti-Racism sponsored by a local TED TALK style forum held once a month on a variety of issues. Last month it was on Restorative Justice, which is the field in which I work.

Are there still mountains to move? Yes! Does it take too long? Yes! But with each swing of the pick-ax, with each bucketful of mountain dirt removed, that mountain shrinks a little more. With each white-skinned soul that wakes up, each heart that is turned to love and justice, each step taken to right the wrongs, we are closer. There may be thousands of star fish stranded on the beach at low tide, dying in the hot sun, but for each one that the small boy throws back into the water, one more life is saved.

Before Trump won the election, as I read the various articles about his campaign and those who followed him, I turned one day to my husband and asked, “As terrible as this sounds, do we (mainstream, white America) need this to happen in order to fully wake us the fuck up? To blow us out of our comfortable slumber where we expect some vague “they” to solve the problems we abhor?”

We talked a long time. I cried in anger and frustration and it took me days to rise back out of the funk I sunk into.

And then to the shock and dismay of the majority of Americans, Trump won. But what I have seen happen in the years since is exactly what I asked my husband that long ago June day in 2016. We are being dragged out of the poppy fields of Oz and waking the fuck up. We are being driven to action. To our shame, it has required these awful times for the wool to be stripped from our eyes and the rugs to be rolled up exposing the garbage that has been putrefying there to motivate us to care deeply enough to do more than read, think, shake our heads and cluck our indignation. Now we are arguing and debating, screaming in pain and reaching out to one another to do something about it all. It is chaos out there. Confusion. Pain. Just like cleaning out a house, it is messy and ugly and chaotic and layered — it has to be before it can be put back together. We have to expose the wound before it can heal. Every ugly inequity, every lie, the destructive and violent acts — whether against a culture/race, against women, against children, against our economy and our environment, or to the detriment to our health…hell, fill in the blank! Truth is exploding out of long perpetuated lies and suppression. But in my opinion, the biggest whopper of all is the myth about our great and noble, innocent, America.

American people have done some great and noble things. And everyday great and noble people live and work and write and make art and teach and fix cars and dispose of our garbage and save our lives on operating tables. But the other side of that truth is that these United States were founded on genocide and slavery, both of which have been perpetuated into today even though disguised by other names and practices. The absolute dishonoring of life in this blatant way has allowed us to do the same in all the other categories where we are complicit in the destruction of life — whether of the minds, bodies or souls of people — especially our children, or of the Earth, or of animals, or of cultures.

It is a hard choice to leave safe havens and walk straight into the war.

Because of my white skin, my European ancestry, and the privileges accorded to me because of that heritage this debt and the responsibility for it is laid as equally upon my shoulders as those directly responsible, past and present. My attitudes and past actions have sprung from a heart that as long as I can remember desired to bring healing and restoration and equality. But since most of our current destructive systems were developed and are still perpetuated by white people, systems that have benefited me, I am complicit simply because my heritage makes me a member of this mainstream culture who wields the power.

It has been said, “to whom much is given, much is required.” My white skin has inherited a measure of freedom and privilege. The question I am confronted with is “What do I do… and what will I do with this privilege to make a better world for everyone — especially for my brothers and sisters who are Indian, who are Black, who came or are coming  from countries torn by war (a war probably supported by my government), or who came because they had little to no opportunities to better their lives. Within my small world, within my sphere of influence, within the possibility of what my personal strengths and gifts and resources are… what will I do with this privilege I carry in my skin?

“Fear lives in the head. And courage lives in the heart. The job is to get from one to the other.”    Louise Penny, The Long Way Home

A group of educators and I were recently discussing the idea that hurting people hurt people. Healed people, heal people. There is a lot of information out now about how stress and trauma affect the brain and our behavior. There is also a lot of information about how to heal our trauma, how to manage our stress, how to move from mindless reflexive reactionary behaviors that ultimately perpetuate harm, to responses that allow us to remain compassionate and kind even in the face of someone else’s negative behavior.

Those of us who have the privilege of being able to do our own healing work have no excuse for ignoring it. I don’t have bombs blowing up in my city. My children are not starving. I am not fearful every day that my son might be shot or arrested for just existing. I have all I need at my disposal. I need to do whatever self-work I need to do so that I might be able to be a source of healing and help in our world — whatever that might look like based on my gifts and skills and sphere of influence.

That is the beginning.

I will do what I can do today to make a difference for healing, for change, for equity in my city, my state and my country. And tomorrow and next week? I will know what to do as I listen, as I pay attention, as I choose to keep my heart and my mind open.

I am standing at a fork in the road of my journey. A choice lies before me.

I choose the road less traveled. It is the one my heart knows it is meant to walk. The one that disappears in the undergrowth and I can not see where it leads. I fear it will not be a comfortable or easy journey. I fear there may be land mines and monsters. But I also know it is where love flourishes. It is the only path that will allow those of us who travel there to attempt to heal and re-create this suffering world.

I hope I find you there. We can walk together.

 

 

 

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WHAT’S UP WITH HER?

APRIL 17, 2018

THE MOODS OF MOTHER NATURE

One day last week…

I open my eyes to a lightening sky, grey melting into translucent blue — faint streaks of pink deepening into rose; setting the sky on fire. The ball of the Sun, orange and shimmering shyly peeks over the hill. The rosey clouds turn yellow then white as the Sun gathers all the color back to himself, now a flaming golden sphere slipping through the trees, breaking free, leaping high above the rooftops. Piles of charcoal grey clouds come racing across the ocean of sky, sails full. Soon a ceiling of slate has slidden into place, closing off all view of yellow Sun and blue ocean sky. The light of the Sun filters through — a cold drizzle of grey the color of water.

******************

Three days ago — April 14, 2018…

I wake up in the dark of dawn — the windows and doors are rattling, a great howling swirling about the eaves. After breakfast we decide to drive down to the Lake. It is difficult to open the back door as the wind presses hard against it. Running for the car, my mug of tea is nearly snatched from my fingers.
Arriving at the pier, we stand stunned watching Mother Nature roar and rage. FuryShe comes twisting down the Lake, pushing 12 foot waves over the pier walls, beating against the lighthouse, the bridge, and flinging herself as far out upon the land as she can reach, seal coating everything in ice: people, lamp posts, benches, birds, bushes and branches of trees. The parking lots are filling up with water. I stand silent, leaning into her, witness to her grief. My coat is crunchy with ice. My mittens stiff.

******************

Today — April 16, 2018

I drove past the Lake this afternoon. She is flat and brown, the color of rage spent.  She quietly kisses the shoreline.  The Sun is breaking up the clouds, shining through.

 

* Photo of Duluth Lighthouse on the shipping canal taken by David Jensen on 4-14-2018. Used with permission.

THE POWER OF WORDS — PART 3

April 4, 2018

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

The more you sense the rareness and value of your own life, the more you realize that how you use it, how you manifest it, is all your responsibility. We face such a big task, so naturally we sit down for awhile. — Kobun Chino Ottawa Roshi 

Recently I watched the movies The Shape of Water and A Wrinkle in Time.

Guillermo del Toro, the director of The Shape of Water, describes the film as “a Fairytale for our troubled times.” He says, “The shape of water is the shape of love. Love and water are the most malleable, powerful things in the Universe.” Sally Hawkins (who plays Eliza) said, “The film is about the transformative power of love. …we need this film in the world today. ”

Similarly, the primary message I took away from A Wrinkle in Time was the power of love to overcome fear, to overcome evil, to call us back to ourselves when we are lost in the pain of our own dark places.

I have been thinking a great deal about the power of love…of courage… and about the ripple effect of our choices. Sometimes it is one small, seemingly insignificant act or word on someone’s part that opens a door in someone’s life — or slams it shut.

In an interview, author Elizabeth Gilbert once described that she regards her ability to write as a sacred trust… she’s been given a gift that is meant to be shared. What happens to what she writes isn’t her problem, she said. Only that she makes the time to write and does her best. I may never meet her. She may never know of my existence. But her comment, recorded in an interview… changed my life. It is why I keep hanging in there with my writing, even if sometimes I abandon it for months at a time. I come back. Because of Elizabeth and her sacred trust.

What if Harry Potter had said, “Hey, I’m just a kid… I can’t deal with this.”

What if Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) had said, “This ain’t my ring… ain’t my problem.”

What if Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time) had been unwilling to gather her courage, remaining frozen in fear, unwilling to act ?

I realize these are characters in a story, but like all great stories, they accurately portray the choices we all struggle with. No superheroes here, no easy answers. The hero’s journey is not an easy road. So why do we bother?

Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam : I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Yes, our world is worth fighting for. My grandchildren, your children, all the children — they’re worth fighting for. But most of us won’t be packing our bags and heading out on a quest. We won’t be marching in the streets or laying down in front of the bulldozers. We won’t be arrested for refusing to stand up or stand down when ordered to by those who abusively use their power.

Most of us will be minding the store, minding the children, doing what needs to be done to keep the world going.

The opening quote by Kobun Roshi was my pardon for sitting down — which I seem to often need to do. It was also what helped me get back up. I agree that every day I am responsible for how I use my life, for the energy that I radiate into the world through my thoughts, my beliefs, my emotions, my actions; for what I create around me. There is no one to blame, no one else responsible for my choices, neither my presence nor absence negates that I am making an impact in the world around me. Because I am.

When I remember this, when I allow it fully into my being, I realize that I am changing the world every day — for better, or worse. I am radiating energy into the world that is either aligned with the energy of love, or the energy of fear. This energy attracts like energy… and so it grows, it multiplies, it merges with like energy and makes stuff happen.  And it ripples out… through time, through space…

 

 

THE POWER OF WORDS — PART 2

March 14, 2018

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN

My husband and I have begun reading The Four Agreements, a Toltec Wisdom book by don Miguel Ruiz about the power of our thoughts and words. I remember the first time I was introduced to these ideas. It was the late 1990’s and I was attending a Truthought Criminal Justice conference titled Mind over Matters — Corrective Thinking. It was there I first learned a formula that has stuck with me ever since:

  • Our repeated, ingrained thoughts become our deeply seated beliefs —
  • Our Beliefs become our individual and collective values —
  • Our Behavior is a result of these beliefs and values.  As are our words.
  • ThoughtsBeliefsValuesBehavior (actions and words).
  • Feelings? They are the messengers…but, like our behavior, they are a result of our thinking, our beliefs and our values.

Our words are the building blocks with which we construct our world. But it all begins in our mind, with our thinking. You want to change your behavior? You have to first change your mind.

When the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? hit the theaters in 2004, followed soon after by the movie The Secret, positive thinking and manifesting abundance became a hot new topic. But as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9 of the Old Testament, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Books on the subject had been coming out way before the movies of the early 2000’s opened the floodgates. Napoleon Hill’s 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, and Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 release of The Power of Positive Thinking were two well known books from the early 20th century.  The behavioral sciences had been studying the power of our thoughts as the conference I attended attests. In the early beginnings of the field of quantum mechanics (physics) researchers stumbled upon the impact that the thoughts of the observer of an experiment had on the experiment’s results, which has led to greater research into consciousness. Scientists studying water and the effect that our thoughts and words have on the properties of water have been going on since the middle of the 20th century.

And yet, none of our “discoveries” are new.

There are numerous references in the texts of various religions and spiritual practices that describe the importance of “positive thinking”. In the New Testament we are counseled to “take every thought captive to Christ” (who embodied love, compassion, forgiveness) and to think on: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

The Buddha taught: “What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine you create.”  

Abu Amina Elias in his commentary about the teachings of the Quran wrote: “After understanding the effects of positive and negative thoughts, we then need to direct our thought processes towards positive trains of thought and learn to dismiss negative thoughts before they take us into a downward spiral. Many of the Prophet’s companions considered the skill to direct thought in a positive way as the enlightenment of true faith.” 

And then there are the Toltecs. The Toltecs lived thousands of years ago in southern Mexico. They were scientists and artists who formed a society to both explore and preserve the spiritual knowledge of the Ancient Ones. The Toltecs came together as Naguals (Masters) and students at Teotihuacan. But over time, due to European conquest and misuse of personal power by some of their apprentices, the Naguals were forced to conceal the ancestral wisdom. They embodied and passed it through the generations of different lineages of Naguals. Their ancient prophecies foretold the coming of an age when it would be necessary to return the wisdom to the people.

That “future age” has come. We are living in it. don Miguel Ruiz is a Nagual from the Eagle Knight lineage, and has come forward to share the powerful teachings of the Toltecs, one of which is, The Four Agreements. Ruiz says that if we were to take these to heart and live them, all conflict would be resolved. I believe him. Certainly all my conflicts would dissolve. These agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable (do no harm) with your word;
  2. Don’t take anything personally;
  3. Don’t make assumptions;
  4. Always do your best.

These agreements are where the rubber meets the road and expose how we really think. Being “into” positive thinking and intention and manifestation is a good thing to  be “into”. But, are we living it? How well are you able to live according to these Four Agreements?

A VALUES AND BELIEFS EXERCISE

Consider what behavioral values are really important to you in terms of how you show up in your relationships. Maybe honesty, or kindness, or with humor. Jot down a few.

Now think about what you believe about how life works that makes those values important to you.  Write down a few sentences about these beliefs.

For example, it is important to me that I show up with gentleness and grace. I believe that in doing so, the other person feels safe enough to be themselves.

Now, choose one of your values and think about the last time you violated that value. Lied, lost your temper, used humor to harm.

Now, here’s the tricky part. Figure out what belief was bigger in that situation than the one you just wrote down that made living that value important to you.

After you have identified this “other” belief, think about which belief more often runs your behavior. Many people doing this exercise, if they are really honest, find that their idealized values and their lived behavior are frequently not in sync. Rather takes the stuffing out of some of us.

I believe the verdict is in. Our words are raw, creative power. They do create our experience of life. It is our thinking, our beliefs, and our words that construct the world we live in. We are waking up to this powerful truth at a time when it is absolutely essential that we begin deconstructing the way we’ve been running the world, and build something better. We cannot do this with marches and posters and petitions and elections alone. We certainly cannot do it with violence — we’ve proven that over centuries of carnage! But maybe, just maybe, if each one of us begins to make serious changes in our own mental constructs of the world, if collectively we can imagine a thriving world, we will indeed heal our Earth, and build a world of peace, where all are allowed to thrive.

But even if I don’t live long enough to see such a world, I at least can heal my little corner of it. I can create my own wild, wonderful life, sending out vibrations of love and joy and peace. Who knows where the ripples will end — in what time, in what place?

Next:  The Power of Words — Part 3: The Ripple Effect 

THE POWER OF WORDS — Part 1

March 11, 2018

WAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

The chaos and suffering in the world frightens me. It feels overwhelming, especially when I contemplate the fact that the power to change it not only lies within me, but the responsibility to do so is also mine, ours, all of us together. I echo what I hear others say, “What can I possibly do?”  The words are said with a sigh of defeat. I feel helpless. I want to turn away, go back to sleep. 

Waking up is hard to do, none-the-less living wide awake and taking responsibility for how I impact the world around me. Shifting deeply rooted paradigms and habits of being is no easy task, no matter how much I intellectually agree with the idea! But I see no other way. So I am choosing, day by day, to mindfully, intentionally co-create a thriving world beginning in my own small corner of it. Beginning with mySelf.

*************************

Words conjure images — paint pictures in our minds. Words generate feelings. Words create the structures of the stories we create and within which we live our lives.

Many years ago I read a number of books about intention and manifestation and how we create our reality with our thoughts. I was fascinated.  I dove right in. After awhile, the shine wore off. It wasn’t working for me. I saw it working in the lives of others, but I wasn’t manifesting what I wanted. I had a wish list. And I intensely wished for the things on it. Yet, my life continued much as it had been, and it wasn’t the life I wanted.

I’d get another book about positive thinking. I would try to shift my thoughts. But in too many of my real-time moments I didn’t have the energy to work through the negative thoughts inundating my brain. It felt more satisfying to wallow in the role of victim, to be angry, to hunker down in depression and despair, or to blame others for the lack of happiness and abundance in my life.

Then, eureka! One day it dawned on me that this power of thoughts and intentions thing was working! I was indeed creating the story I was living with my thoughts and words. I was creating the real experiences of my life with my beliefs about myself and others, with my assumptions, with the stories I made up in my head about situations and people. Yep, I had a wish list, but what I manifested was linked to what I actually thought, actually believed, actually felt, and from the words that I spoke, too many of them pessimistic and negative. I had a little tiny smear of positive thinking on top of a whole mass of negative thinking. Sweet frosting on top of a bitter, burned cake.

That was the turning point for me. What followed was a journey of exploration to search out old, gnarly and deeply rooted negative beliefs living in the shadows of my Self. Craggy giants, parasites quietly hogging all my energy.

I had to wake up. I had to face up. I had to ferret out the agreements I had made in my past as to what would keep me safe, or make me acceptable. I had to open my heart. I had to change my mind. The Old Guard had to go.

I often walk along the railroad tracks that run along a service road carved between the trees that climb the bluffs above my neighborhood. The tracks became a metaphor for the path to the life I wish to be living. The only way to manifest this life, is to keep my feet on the track, walking it every day, step by step. If I lose my balance and fall off, I must courageously step back up and keep on going. My life, at least the life that I wish to be living, depends upon my keeping my feet on this track: It is a path of Love and Joy.

It has been absolutely necessary for me to fire the Judge who pompously struts about within my mind and  arrogantly assumes she is in charge. Unfortunately, she keeps showing back up for duty, and sometimes I forget that I fired her and before I know it, she’s taken charge again, and I have to rein her in and dismiss her from her post yet again.

I have to choose each day, sometimes hour by hour, what I will think about, how I will perceive others, how I will respond to the situations I am experiencing. Sometimes it is as easy as choosing to smile when otherwise I may have remained glum of face, and a bit rough in my thoughts. Sometimes it is as difficult as choosing to bless someone that I have perceived has wronged me. Sometimes it is as crazy as imagining the world differently — cleaner, safer, happier, more compassionate. It is as simple as looking for the beauty in the world and in the people I encounter. It is as unsettling as trusting that health and wealth are flowing to me effortlessly.

I am aware of the ugliness and the cruelty and the insanity happening in the world, yes, but as I respond in the “now” — offering compassion or comfort, signing a petition, contributing money, attending a meeting, voting, teaching, writing — I also choose to imagine it transformed. I look for what already may be wonderful that otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed or may have dismissed in the face of the overwhelming chaos that surrounds us daily.

As the sun quietly rises this morning with feathered scarves of orange and pink and purple, I am happy. Because I choose to be. I am grateful for the blessings that fill up my life. I open my heart to the flow of Love, my mind to the Wisdom of the Creator who dwells within. I choose to allow the Light that is within me to shine today.

Next:  The Power of Words — Part 2: Nothing New Under The Sun 

 

THE PRICE FOR THE FUTURE

December 6, 2016

THE FUTURE DOESN’T COME FREE–THERE IS A PRICE

The storm that snowed-in North Dakota has now blown across Minnesota, spilling into Wisconsin. All night the wind battered at the trees and leafless shrubberies; its howls given eerie voice across chimney tops and rain gutters. I got up this morning expecting to see deep snow piled up in drifts. But the storm split at the point of Lake Superior, just miles from my home. The snow went north and south–we caught only the ragged edges.

As I move through my morning, I am thinking about a quote I wrote down the other day  from the book, The Song Poet. Author, Kao Kalia Yang wrote: “…the price for the future is the present.”

When the week began I continued to carry a heaviness that had begun slowly over the past few weeks, a heaviness that was draining my store of energy. Each morning I stretched my will long…longer, on mental tip-toes, trying to snag the edges of happiness and joy so that I might wrap my arms about them and press them into my body. But I could only brush the edges as they sat shiny on the shelf high above my head. I was weary of the effort.

But Kalia’s words keep repeating themselves in my mind–“the price for the future is the present.”

I cannot retreat. I cannot hide. If I am creating in this present what will be in the future, I cannot stop planting seeds of hope, seeds of wisdom, seeds of truth, seeds of beauty. I must water these seeds–or there will be no harvest. No hope, no beauty, no wisdom born of truth honestly faced to guide us tomorrow. I cannot shut my eyes, but must keep them wide open, searching for even the tiniest gifts of loveliness and laughter that bestow  upon us a little sip of joy. I cannot close my heart, but must keep it wide open so that the flow of love can fill depleted tanks of any who may have need among those with whom I live and move and share my being.

I stretch my will again–no halfhearted effort this time–I snag the edge of Gratitude and hold it close…for the small comforts and privileges I mostly take for granted…for the big things that I oughtn’t ever take for granted. I take myself out for a walk in the grey light of a new winter. I stand by the waterfall where the creek tumbles down the bluffs a few blocks away from where I live. I throw my arms wide and release my little prayers of gratitude, a kaleidoscope of butterflies spiraling up into the heavens.

I smile at the water. I smile at the sky. I smile at the trees. I lean lightly against a cedar. I watch a little squirrel looking for where he buried his morning snack. I listen to the birds gossip. I watch what I think is a Raven playing in the wind. I think of my grandsons. I feel my belly waking up wondering what’s for lunch and remember I have leftover soup in the refrigerator.

Holding grief and rage in equal balance with love and joy is a high wire act worthy of Cirque du Soleil.

 

 

 

 

Change Isn’t Easy and Healing is Hard Work — Part II

November 27, 2016

HOW DO WE DO THE  DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL WORK OF CHANGE AND HEALING?

…We are confronted collectively as well as personally with choosing the way of Love and Compassion and Kindness and yes, Forgiveness on a local, national and global scale. How do we do this? This is what I wrestle with in the dark before dawn.

I move through my day, practicing smiling–meeting the eyes of strangers I pass in the park, greeting them. I pay attention to the beauty around me in this moment. I watch the children playing with happy abandon.

Finally I tentatively sidle up to the latest headlines.

Sometimes I weep.

Sometimes I push back at the stress and bury myself in my work and then find myself yelling at some technological device that isn’t cooperating with me–or my husband because he’s conveniently at hand.

Sometimes I close the news feeds and immerse myself instead in reading about the good things people are doing in the world and am moved to do the small things I think I can do: donating money to a school for Native American children and to the Central Asia Institute educating girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan; renewing my membership in the Sierra Club which works so hard to protect our lands and the animals that inhabit it; signing petitions, writing to the President and donating money for Standing Rock. I check in on  the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) as they continue their stand against the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC), [MIC–an informal alliance between a nation’s military and the defense industry which supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences public policy; something Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke strongly against].

The other day I took a break and went to see a fun movie. Comic relief.

But it is another morning and I have again awakened in the dark before dawn, fighting the panic and the grief and the deep dread of my helplessness. None of it seems like “enough”. And it certainly doesn’t seem like enough to focus on love and kindness in a world so terrified and rattled.  Yet, I know how difficult even this seemingly small work is. I sit with this in these quiet grey hours. Slowly, with the awakening dawn I  realize that no, it is precisely this that really matters. Without it, nothing else will change much or for long.

We’re reading all over social media and the internet and in magazines,  hearing on talk shows and discussing across kitchen tables that we must stand up for and protect those who are being targeted for harm. We must mobilize to put a stop to the raping of our Earth and oceans. We must protect the animals and plants and trees as well as our fellow human beings.

My throat swells up with the suppressed tears of despair. How do we do this? How can I do this? How do I stand in opposition to so much and love at the same time? How do I do this without acting from the same angry and arrogant attitudes as those who perpetrate the harm?

We just elected a man who passed himself off as someone who would make America great again–hearkening to a time when we were more prosperous, safer, stable. But when was America like that? For whom was it more prosperous and stable and safe?  Have we learned nothing from history? How many of you have watched the Netflix Original documentary “13th”?

During the period of change between what has been and what will be there is a time of chaos. There has to be. We certainly can thank Mr. Trump for this at least…he has shaken us out of our torpor. We can no longer think that somehow it will all come right while we go about our lives. We have to do the work to make it so.

But then we run smack into those who also have been awakened but think that what must be made right, or the methods for doing so are deeply contrary to ours.

Some view Trump as a sainted leader, others see him as a ravenous wolf who pulled the sheep’s wool over the eyes of those angry and desperate for change. Both say they have “proof”.

Many said despite his flaws, he was the man for these times in order to save the unborn innocents being slaughtered because of our permissible abortion laws. Others said, “if you want fewer abortions, look to improving how we respect and treat our women, our mothers and families and our living children–here and around the world.”

Still others strongly claim that they have the right to choose what they will or will not do about a pregnancy. Will their views be changed with a law? Will we really stop abortions with a law? Can the Supreme Court actually overturn Roe vs Wade? Would they really even attempt it?

I propose that a deeper, more fundamental issue regarding the abortion argument lives in our overall attitude toward life. Where in our American culture do we see deep respect for all of life? Can we really blame those who see no problem with aborting a fetus when we as a nation condone drone warfare, [see the documentary National Bird] and when we raise false flags so that we can make war on a people–killing their men, women and children in order to gain access to their resources? When we dehumanize black and brown people? When we allow torture and oppression and view those of another religion with judgment? Is the problem really about having abortion be legal or illegal–or is it about our failure to respect life.

Who among us can claim a deep respect for all of life?

Even your enemy’s? Even the family member you just ripped apart with your words?

In only a few weeks post-election Mr. Trump has named to his future cabinet men and women who actively and vocally support a white, supremist nation–a white ‘Christian’ nation (what does that even mean, really?)

As he gears up to put the oil pipelines through that the public have stood against, it comes out that Mr. Trump has invested heavily ($500,000 – $1 million) in the Dakota Access Pipeline alone, as well as other companies engaged in these dangerous oil endeavors. An article published in June of 2015 presented data on over 3,300 incidents of crude oil and liquefied natural gas leaks or ruptures that had occurred on U.S. pipelines just between 2010 and early 2015. These incidents had killed 80 people, injured 389 more, and cost $2.8 billion in damages. They also released toxic, polluting chemicals in local soil, waterways, and air–damages that can’t be measured except over time. In October of this year a pipeline run by the same company trying to put the Dakota pipeline through ruptured in Pennsylvania and spilled over 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the Susquehanna River. And that is not the first time this company’s pipelines have ruptured. But if Mr. Trump has somewhere near a million dollars tied up in just the Dakota Pipeline, where do his interests lie?

If we are to know someone by the fruit of their life, it would seem that those Mr. Trump calls friends, and the money he stands to make personally by the policies he supports, his disrespectful rhetoric, the 75 pending lawsuits against him  including fraud and sexual harassment, all  call into question whether the fruit of his life is real and healthy, or artificial and poisoned.

The country is erupting with fear, hate, division. It has even affected our children and our schools where bullying and fear and the language of hate has increased in sync with first the campaign, and then spiked even further since the election. I have sat with teachers talking about the increased incidents of bullying and hate language and the fear of their young students. One teacher said that the day after the election several of her immigrant students came and tearfully said that they were worried that either their parents were going to be taken away or their family would have to go on the run…something they had had to do in their home country before coming here as refugees.

Is Trump and his rhetoric and methods solely responsible for all this fear and all this hate that has erupted? Some say, no, he’s being maligned and misrepresented.

Some others who also say no say that he has simply torn the veil of pretense off the ugly truths that have bided their time waiting for release.

It has also exposed the depth of naivety on the part of many who have not looked much deeper than their own mental constructs of the world and what makes their life feel safe and comfortable.

But watching closely, listening to him, it seems that he has also directly incited an irrational hate among those who are impressionable and for whom being angry and rebelling against ‘the system’ seems like a good idea.

Fighting ‘the system’ is a good idea–it is broken in many ways, on that just about everyone could probably agree. Let’s remember that Mr. Trump has benefited and profited from this system, and though it remains to be seen, many think he has every intention to continue to benefit from it–changing only that which will further benefit him and those whose ideology he shares. Would a Clinton administration, or any other for that matter, have been guilty of the same? Quite possibly, to some degree. However, none of the other candidates had as a goal to re-create America into a white, supremist Christian nation at the expense of all those who aren’t of European descent or who are not “card carrying Christians”. None of the others blatantly disregarded the evidence of the destruction and havoc we are wreaking on this planet. None of the others threatened to bomb the shit out of any country spawning terrorists–fuck the collateral damage.

Yes, our political system, our education system, our Energy system…our military policies…they all need to be re-made. But what is needed and how we accomplish it is where those who have given their trust to Mr. Trump and those opposed to him seem to have parted company. Unfortunately, the way we have parted has ripped deep gashes in the fabric of our nation–our communities–and for some, our very families.

As we’ve heard before, change begins with each one of us. Like never before, we have got to take this seriously and attend to our own attitudes, our own prejudices, our own divisive mental constructs, our own fears and grudges. Until we can each open up the flow of love from within us, we will be subject to fear and all that it spews. Until we can listen with genuine respect to views in opposition to ours, we won’t be able to make even one tiny stitch to mend the ragged rips and tears in the fabric of our communities. The thoughts we think and the words we speak will either ratchet up the fear and division, or power it down.

It is a tricky dance, loving while standing firm against that which causes harm. Loving while being reviled, or beaten or jailed–or while watching this done to others. Loving while risking the comfortable life we’ve known in order to speak up and care for those for whom this comfort and safety have been denied. Loving and supporting those with whom we may not personally agree–but realize that it is not right that they are denied basic human rights and dignity.

This is difficult work.

We have always been called to the way of Love, but now it is imperative that we respond. There are very few mañanas left to us before it becomes impossible to turn back. Love the Creator and all that has been created because the Creator is inside of all that is; love the Creator and this Creation with all your heart and mind and body and soul.  And love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments and within them is contained all the laws and dogma and prophets…of every religion, of every spiritual practice, of every culture.

Change isn’t easy. Healing is hard work.

Love one another.