All posts by Thanissara

Thanissara, from London, was a Buddhist nun for 12 years in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah, and has taught meditation retreats internationally with her partner Kittisaro since 1992. Together they founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in 2000 in South Africa and co-founded several community HIV/Aids response projects in rural KwaZulu Natal. With Kittisaro, she co-authored Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism. She is also author of Time To Stand Up, A Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and the poetry books Garden of the Midnight Rosary, and The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra. Thanissara and Kittisaro recently launched Sacred Mountain Sangha, a California based Non Profit that currently hosts various trainings, courses, events, classes, including the two-year Dharmapala Training. Thanissara is a climate activist and co-founder of PAEAN, Peoples Alliance for Earth Action Now, an initiative in response to the failure of COP26. She is a devotee of Quan Yin and offers all devotion to the depth intelligence of Pachamama, the living spirit of Mother Nature, Grandmother Earth. www.dharmagiri.org www.sacredmountainsangha.org

“King Charles,” Not So Fast: The Queen’s Death, An Opportunity for Systemic Change in the UK.

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne four years before I was born. For those who grew up under the sway of the British imperial system, her stoic face was a constant tenor through the decades of seismic cultural shifts in Britain and the post-Second World War world. Like the glue we licked behind her miniature visage on our first and second-class stamps, the Queen was foremost an archetypal matron holding it all together. Her face alone, rarely breaking beyond a careful smile, imprinted duty, a stiff upper lip, and the stilted deflection, diverting “real speak” to the engrained platitudes that shape, and often imprison, the nation’s psyche. 

I am not immune from the sense of belonging to this strange, emotionally stunted tribe. I still have my letter from Prince Charles in a Kensington Palace embossed envelope thanking me kindly for a copy of my first published poetry book. I still have my special tea cups with monarchy portraits and the memory of my sweet, East End (of London) working-class grandparents, with the Queen’s congratulatory letter on their 60th wedding anniversary hanging proudly over their central mantel place. 

I have watched royal weddings at odd hours from different continents and kept an eye on the shenanigans of the Queen’s tumultuous household, mirroring the nation’s implosion of the nuclear family. And I am an avid viewer of The Crown. 

On Facebook, I posted the June ’22 Jubilee video of the Queen’s tea party with Paddington Bear to prickly comments about Paddington Bear being an immigrant (from Peru) and “look how badly Britain is treating its immigrants.” While painfully true, I still marvelled at the translucent vulnerability in the Queen’s eyes as she sat, so near death, opposite this beloved bear, enjoying marmalade sandwiches. 

Essentially, this staid woman invokes respect. She called forth double rainbows at her death. She embodied the “Keep Calm and Carry On” branding of my mother’s generation forged by German Blitz bombers, flying twenty miles long and twenty miles wide up the River Thames to unleash their devastation on London. During that whole time, the Queen refused to leave the Capital. 

But… and, this “but” is as deep and wide as the brutal plunder and oppression of the British Empire, which aches for acknowledgement and reparation for its centuries of devastating colonialism. All of which were underwritten by the Monarchy. So, while the government and Monarchy rush the nation to swear allegiance to a new King, I feel we should resist and instead engage this spell breaker of the Queen’s death with some serious questions.   

Not so fast with the sixteenth-century pageantry and assumptions that we are all onboard. Yesterday, a man who unwittingly got caught up in a procession in Oxford to proclaim the new King spontaneously called out, “who elected him?” He later said he doubted anyone heard him. Even so, he was promptly handcuffed, arrested and charged under the new Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Act 2022, a fascistic Brexit “law” criminalizing the public’s democratic right to protest. Paul Powlesland, a young Barrister, held up a blank piece of paper at Parliament Square. A police officer confirmed that if he wrote “Not My King,” he would be arrested under the same act. Here he explains how that moment shifted him to Republicanism.

Under the Monarchy’s gaze, Britain has endured twelve years of Thatcherite policies with her “there is no such thing as a society” austerity, which has sprouted food banks in most towns and cities across the country. The Tory government’s Brexit ideology, headed by the right-wing billionaire media, has crushed businesses. The UK has shifted from the world’s fifth largest economy to “emerging market economy” status in just a few senseless years. Tories, abandoning workers’ rights with alacrity, have left Britain at the mercy of unprotected corporate plunder. 

Currently, while the UK is officially under wraps for ten days of mourning, the Tory government is losing no time ripping up the Paris Agreement and its obligations. One of the first acts of yet another (the third since Brexit) just installed prime minister, Liz “rip out solar and wind installations” Truss, lifted the hard-won fight to ban fracking while transferring £130Bn for fossil fuels. To add insult to injury, throughout the summer, Tories did nothing to stop massive flows of untreated raw sewage from being released into pristine rivers and across coastlines, closing beaches and horrifying the public. 

Still, they continue ripping the country apart. Liz Truss’s encore is installing Jacob Rees-Mogg, a supercilious, top-hatted climate denialist with an affected upper-class accent, as Secretary of State for Energy, Business, and Industrial Strategy. Rees-Mogg advocates for extracting every last drop of oil and gas from the North Sea and adaptation to climate change. Just ask Pakistan’s 33 million climate-displaced people how that is going for them. 

With the “Sunlit Uplands” Brexit promise of the Tories failing so badly, Britain has yet to acknowledge it suffered a coup by an oligarchic, fossil-fuel-serving ruling, criminal class. Their lackeys are the graduates from upper-class public (private in the US) schools, who make up 74% of the current government or just 2% representation of the entire population. From a progressive forward-looking nation, the UK has devolved at dizzying speed into a nostalgic, backwards-falling country immersed in its mythic distortion of “greatness.” The reality is that Britain is now a glorified Petri dish for oligarchs to experiment with how far they can push a nation into hunger-games-type feudalism to maintain and grow their immense wealth and power.  

Given this demoralising context, I would vote for the Monarchy to be dismantled or downsized. Monarchy and its liege, the Tory party, are the lynchpin that sustains an outdated and oppressive class system with its deeply inequitable distribution of land, resources, and opportunities. The struggle to move from under the British class system is a theme running through my own life in tandem with surviving the violence of my Irish father, who grew up in extreme poverty in the Dublin slums. Primarily, I trace my father’s destructive effect on our family to the impact of British colonialism with its constructed famine, workhouses, and unrelenting generational oppression.

Even after decades of self-awareness and healing work, I’m struck by how perniciously, and stubbornly class conditioning is wired into the psyche. The “who do you think you are?” dismissal. For example, millionaire Lord Alan Sugar, tweeted to a young man, who is economically struggling but had the temerity, in Sugar’s mind, to criticize his luxury yacht, “Shut your bloody mouth, you jealous scum,

For the Monarchy to work, it has to veil the brutal mechanisms that enable its survival, which includes even brutalising its own. Prince Harry said he “had no one to turn to, even in his own family,” when his bi-racial wife, Meghan Markle, was pushed to the edge of suicide by the British establishment and the feral racism running through British society. In the end, the relentless hounding of the UK’s treacherous Tabloid press drove them from England.

While the Monarchy aims to bond British citizens to itself through nostalgia, charitable works, good press, and tradition, what we see in the actions of Liz Truss, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Lord Sugar is the more accurate face of the British ruling class. A class of colonisers now plundering Britain itself, all the while using the death of the Queen to force-feed an archaic national narrative that is creating a dangerous void into which an authoritarian police state is already emerging. 

In my view, we don’t need a new King, and he won’t help us. Charles won’t even stand up for his son, Harry. However, the Monarchy and its Tory liege will not implode by itself. Instead, we should withdraw sentimental allegiance (including my teacups!) and build a thriving, equitable, reinvigorated progressive democracy based on proportional representation. A system informed by local Citizen Assemblies that has some chance of meeting the enormity of the poly-crises we face. We are doomed if we fail, choosing instead to be dragged along by a system entirely ill-equipped to meet our new terrifying realities. 

Already an inspiring counter-movement is fast-unfolding in the UK that is in open rebellion, which is different and perhaps cuts deeper than Extinction Rebellion. Trade Union leaders have been massively organising working-class engagement through the Enough is Enough and Don’t Pay campaigns. Hundreds of thousands have signed up, are turning up for rallies, and have pledged not to pay bills. People literally can’t afford the cost of living due to the enormous price hikes the Tories inflicted, leaving little choice between freezing, starving or not paying. 

If the Queen’s death symbolizes the end of an era, it can also initiate the beginning of a new reshaping of the power dynamics in Britain. Increasingly, the planet is run to fit the agenda of oligarchs, fossil-fuel moguls and media robber barons. It’s the same old story. At some point, the peasants will have had enough and start strategizing how to storm the castle. That time is now. 

In the UK, there is tremendous potential in the two primary rebellions, Workers Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion aligning with organizations focused on an equitable, inclusive, sustainable vision for the future. Do we want a society with people reduced to living on charitable donations, like food banks from the government or patronage from the Monarchy? What if, instead, people have a fair share, are recipients of moral reparations and have equal opportunities to empower themselves and each other in mutually collaborative ways?  

Neither do we need an endless show of torturous royal duty that precludes deeper national inquiry. Suppose we want to express loyalty meaningfully rather than pay obeisance to a distant, billionaire Monarchy. What could be a wiser Queen to serve than Grandmother Earth? She produces everything we need and use, day in and day out. For myself, I acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II’s dutiful life, but I vote for Queen Earth. 

Mary Thanissara, 9/13/22

A Dharma Heart for These Times

This article has just been published by Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in their Insight Journal. A follow-up conversation will be on June 5th on Exploring Dharma Practice & Right Action in the Age of Climate Change. To register, go here.

If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.” * Murray Bookchin

Today, I’m relieved we are blessed with unexpected spring rains sweeping over Sonoma County here in California. This area is vulnerable to the rise of infernos that have decimated several small towns over the last five years. Now, as the fall fire season arrives ever earlier, anxiety rises in tandem with evacuations, red alerts, and suffocating smoke. Some consequences are less visible. In January, for example, our home insurance company raised its quote by 500% before announcing it was leaving California. The future, it seems, will not be covered. I find it easier to capture such apocalyptic moments in verse, like when the fires turned day into night across the Bay area.   

At midday, the black-red smoke sky announces,
“You can’t live here anymore.”
We are all queued refugees
from America’s strangeness.
In the gaping void, monsters rush in.

How do we sustain hope in the enormity of what we face? The monsters of environmental tipping points are in plain sight. Still, you would hardly know it from the greenwashing, and tepid responses of those holding most power in our societies. Right now, a heatwave is hammering India and Pakistan. “We’re living in hell,” said Nazeer Ahmed from the Balochistan region, as temperatures hit 50C/122F+. Despite the urgency of mass strategic mobilization, a disingenuous fossil fuel industry continues to press down harder on the gas pedal. Hope is hard when environmental, political, and societal disintegration hangs over us like Damocles’s sword. 

Most days, I don’t feel particularly hopeful. However, I do believe quantum revolutionary shifts can happen, though an upsurge of violence often precedes them before the old system gives way. For instance, a dominant narrative of post-apartheid South Africa is that it was a peaceful transition of power. However, as recorded in Gary Kynoch’s book, Township Violence and the End of Apartheid, this was not the case. What unfolded in the four years leading to the first democratic elections in April 1994 was the bloodiest period of the entire Apartheid era, with an estimated 14,000 deaths attributed to political violence. 

When Kittisaro, my husband and teaching partner, and I first led a series of retreats at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo, KwaZulu Natal during 1994/5, in an area bearing the brunt of a ten-year civil war, it was an initiation. Those holding power rarely support true democracy. Instead, it has to be fought for. Another glowering monster closer to home is the fight to sustain democracy here in the US. We are in this battle right now. If democratic rights are lost, it will have devastating consequences for climate justice, not only here but around the world. What does a battle we can’t afford to lose mean for us?

During the twelve years I trained as a Buddhist nun in the Thai Forest School of Ajahn Chah, the teaching I most took to heart was the brilliance of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. I value its instruction to actively meet suffering, explore its causes, and cultivate a path of non-suffering. In his talk “Two Kinds of Peace,” Ajahn Chah distinguished between the peace of meditative calm, or samadhi, which primarily depends on a tranquil environment, and the more profound peace that arises from wisdom. This deeper level of peace is transportable regardless of the internal or external context. To quote Ajahn Chah directly,

So, when the mind is at its most calm, what should you do? Train it. Practice with it. Use it to contemplate. Don’t be scared of things. Don’t attach. Developing samādhi so you can just sit there and attach to blissful mental states isn’t the true purpose of the practice. You must withdraw from that. The Buddha said that you must fight this war, not just hide out in a trench trying to avoid the enemy’s bullets. When it’s time to fight, you really have to come out with guns blazing. Eventually, you have to come out of that trench. You can’t stay sleeping there when it’s time to fight. This is the way the practice is. You can’t allow your mind to just hide, cringing in the shadows.

We must look directly at what is in front of us. The recent reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change make it crystal clear we are on “Red alert” and “It’s now or never.” If we don’t act in support of systemic change, we will not avoid climate hellscapes becoming the norm. That knowledge is a challenge to us all. We have to act, not just as individuals but as a collective, which is a good thing. It means we have to think collectively and join the larger mass of people needed to tip the scales.

Even though hope for the future hangs by fraying threads, there is enormous potential in our ability to organize as Dharma practitioners and as citizens. Amid a world on fire, we have the skills to balance between hope and nihilism. This is not only a mindful practice but a heartful one. These are times when our hearts must lead. What do we truly love and can we commit to activism as a feat of love itself?

An essential motivation in these times is the intent, practice, and expression of the Bodhisattva path. What does it mean to show up as bodhisattvas in deep service to this sacred web of life? And what internal narratives and fears keep us from speaking out and standing up? As we face wars, flooding, fire, and the old ghosts of fascism, I want to advocate for a deeper inquiry that enables honest conversations about the monsters living beneath this “business-as-usual” and what we want to do about them.  

Meet the ghosts… They wail at the empty feast
of silent ash, burnt forests, charred animals,
birds dashed to Earth,
billions of tiny earth workers of evolution,
houses, cars, and life dreams … vanish

Here I offer my grief,
your grief and all our grief
at this nearing last station
of our world’s end.

One way or another, we have reached a world end. In The Creation of Consciousness, Jungian Edward Edinger says: The breakdown of a central myth is like the shattering of a vessel containing a precious essence; the fluid is spilt and drains away, and meaning is lost. In its place, primitive contents are reactivated

As our civilizational myth of endless growth and dominance over nature shatter, we either evolve or become dragged into a regressive free fall. In the intensity, we will likely feel everything possible to feel, grief, despair, wrath, disbelief, panic, and overwhelm. You name it, I’ve probably been there, and likely you have too. These days though, I’m also feeling something else shining through the anxiety and distress. 

The Dharma points to the indestructible nature of mind, calling it “diamond-like.” In the Shurangama Sutra, a foundational Zen text, Quan Yin/Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva states this about her/his/their awakening, illuminating the fundamental nature of the Citta – mind/heart.  

Suddenly, I transcended the mundane and transcendental worlds, and throughout the ten directions, a perfect brightness prevailed. I obtained two supreme states. First, I united with the fundamental, wonderfully enlightened mind of all the Buddhas of the ten directions, and I gained a strength of compassion equal to that of all Buddhas. Second, I united with all living beings in the six paths, and I gained a kind regard for all living beings equally.” 

While shadows are all around, there’s also immense light and tender love for the beauty, suffering, and all. This joyous lightness is the gift of the heart. Yet, we still have enormous hurdles to navigate, including the fears that hold us back.  

The other day, going 70 miles an hour down the freeway, my mind was connecting the obvious dots. I’m flying along in a fossil fuel chariot with millions of others around the planet, speeding our collective demise. Even though caught in this fearsome web, I feel the determination to break the doom scroll of inevitability by committing fully to a different world. This pledge means releasing social fear, including an internalized quietism that Buddhist culture usually elevates over speaking out, keeping us complicit. Releasing these subtle oppressions in my body feels daring, like a wobbly yet liberating ascendency.  

Despite the complexity we are navigating, I hope all our hearts can ascend from circling, freeze, flight, and fight so we can rise together, inspired by the spirit of those who fought for a better world, regardless of the odds. To break fossil fuel interests controlling the planet, it will take all the inspiration we can muster and us all rising together to shift out from under this dystopian descent. 

It’s my practice to infuse a hopeful realism into my life and climate work, which currently is an initiative that came into being during the fires. Talking together with sangha friends, we decided to put climate action front and centre, an intention that morphed into PAEAN: Peoples Alliance for Earth Action Now. I chose the acronym before the name as it expresses the hope for millions of voices rising with joy, wild love, and courage to do what we can. Our by-line is Dharma Based Climate Action, People Rising Together for ReLOVEution. If it starts with a revolution within our hearts, all else will follow.  

There always was, and still is
a horizon out to sea
beyond where the albatross
of our faded dream
lands on fields of plastic,
the wreckage or our waste
slips down her throat. *

Where storms in Africa
run their rivers through our soul
leaping like oryx
in the sunset of dying hope
spinning down to sludge
and shopping malls
draining the water away

Even so.
We rise.
Over and over again.

We rise.
Because of this,
Be this.
Be loyal to your true heart.
She will lead the way.

  • The albatross reference inspired by V.S. Jordan’s poem, Midway V Poem – On Witnessing an Albatross Feeding, inspired by Chris Jordan’s Midway documentary.
  • Thanks to Suvaco Norman Hansen for Murry Bookchin’s quote.

Thanissara, Sebastopol, CA, 5/4/22

Tibetan prayer flags in the vicinity of Lhasa.

2022: Breaking the Spell of Climate Denial: Launch of PAEAN

PEOPLES ALLIANCE for EARTH ACTION NOW
Jan 30, 2022 Online – DETAILS/Sign Up

PAEAN means the rising of many voices together in a song of joy, praise, and triumph. It is also the acronym for Peoples Alliance for Earth Action Now.

The Buddha was a spell breaker, and as we rise in service of the sacred web of life, we too are spell breakers.

The failure of leadership at COP26 clarifies that now is the time for people everywhere to join forces, locally and worldwide, in service of the just, conscious, and spiritually informed transition still within our reach.

At 23 years, I joined an alms mendicant order, shaved off my long hair, put on a robe, took on precepts and a rigorous daily schedule, which I observed for 12 years as a Buddhist nun. There was much to learn and unlearn during that time, all within the enduring and essential teaching, “look directly at the way things are and contemplate their nature.” That is, see through the eye of Dharma. In particular, see suffering and its causes, then attend to those causes by employing the medicine of meditative transformation internally and externally.

As bodhisattvas in training, we follow the Buddha’s encouragement to; “Go forth for the good of many, out of compassion for the world and the welfare, good, and happiness of all.” These days, we need to go forth from the trance of business as usual. 2022 could well be when this treacherous spell breaks. A UN global poll from last year, states two-thirds of people know climate change is a global emergency. In Europe, 90% of young people know it’s the world’s greatest threat. Most everyone on the planet knows we’re in deep trouble.

However, we face a wall of denial, distraction, and distortion from those who have the power to reverse course but do not see it profitable to do so. Most governments are under the yoke of the fossil fuel industry. For example, some governments’ more ambitious climate policies are threatened by $billions worth of lawsuits if they don’t shape climate policies around the demands of the foreign fossil fuel industry. In step, media barons ensure their wall of denial minimizes or actively distorts an accurate picture of our precarious situation.

People need to know we are passing truly significant, terrifying climate tipping points. Thwaites Glacier (the size of Florida) in the Antarctic is within years of collapse, raising sea levels by 2 feet/ 65cm, potentially (most likely) destabilizing the entire West Antarctic ice sheet. The world’s largest rain forest, the mighty Amazon, now emits more carbon than it captures. Extreme warming across the Eastern Siberian tundra releases significant methane gases, exponentially warming the biosphere. This is just one, albeit significant, snapshot of our collapsing ecosystem that is unfolding everywhere at speed.

Instead of grappling with this deadly diagnosis, we hope if we look away, it will go away. However, as Dharma practitioners, we train ourselves to meet challenges, knowing they have the potential to stimulate awakening from the morass of ignorance. As said the tantrika, Saraha Mahasiddha, “The greater the mental afflictions, the mightier the primordial wisdom. The larger the pile of wood, the greater the blaze (of awakening.)”

As the spell breaks, we start to touch into the enormity of our current reality. We are shifting from an internal narrative of a guaranteed future to the likelihood, in our lifetime, of civilizational collapse and mass extinction, not only of other life forms but of humanity. This actual probability is an extraordinarily challenging internal shift of perception to undergo. Breaking a civilizational meta-narrative is a dangerous moment. Even if we disagree with this shift, it’s happening anyway.

In his book, The Creation of Consciousness, Jungian Edward Edinger says, “the breakdown of a central myth is like the shattering of a vessel containing a precious essence; the fluid is spilt and drains away, and meaning is lost. In its place, primitive contents are reactivated. Differentiated values disappear and are replaced by the elemental motivations of power and pleasure, or else the individual is exposed to emptiness and despair.”

When, as is inevitable, the truth of our situation surfaces more fully into the collective consciousness, we can expect massive reactivity, which in actuality, is already happening in the march of truth as lies, lies as truth, a symptom in itself of a mass psychotic break from reality. Underneath this battleground for the future flow murky streams of raw fear, rage at the loss of power, and terror that the old God of our creation is abandoning us. The stage is set for a harrowing confrontation with our illusions from the force of reality. 

Grappling with our planetary reality, for me, is an ongoing journey cycling through panic, despair, grief, fear, anguish, wrath, unnameable horror, and all nuances in-between. Lately, I’ve also noticed early life somatic patterning being activated. Here lay fear, frozenness, impotence and isolation. If you find it hard to get mobilized, you’re not alone, especially in these times of Covid loneliness. Amid the urgency, we also have to slow down to metabolize the enormity of where we are so we can stay kind, resourced, and grounded.    

Within this intensifying planetary curriculum running through our personal and collective fault lines, opening up early, epigenetic, ancestral wounds, we can still track each breath into embodied, timeless presence. Rather than being swept away, a mindful relationship to “what is” opens into a freer, more liminal space, where intuitive leaps of creativity and understanding unfold. This free space is a more mapless territory allowing us to navigate by the starlight of inner intuitive guidance. Even just a sliver of spaciousness enables the revelatory light of awareness to shift our assumptions.

The feelings aren’t wrong or some kind of personal failure. They are the immune system of Mother Nature hauling us awake, and they are a barometer through which we track our collective pulse. Mostly though, we are feeling Mother Nature’s heartbreak. She, and therefore, we, are dying, though actually, we are killing her. Her billions of extraordinary life forms, woven together over billions of years, are now weighed by humans, treated as if machines, and sold on Amazon. All the while, the actual Amazon burns down.

Beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Only love can save us from climate change.” I believe this Koan he bequeathed runs straight to the heart of our task, one we can’t decode alone. It will take all of us to fathom this potent bodhisattva protector spirit of fierce compassion permeating our personal and collective souls. Meanwhile, we can hold faith in its power to dissolve obstructions to the long-awaited embodiment of our new story, of which we are the attending midwives. 

Implementing the Buddha’s “right action” and Saraha’s turning poison to nectar, together, we have the power to go against the stream of division, hate, and destruction. Rather than being pulled into the vortex of despair, let’s pick up the challenge and focus on the work at hand. We are all in the monastery now, simplifying, prioritizing, and keeping our Dharma eye on that guiding night star that shone on the night of the Buddha’s enlightenment and still illuminates our onward path through its subtle promptings of the heart.    

The Buddha said, “one who has nothing to serve lives unhappily,” pondering what to serve, he understood it is the Dharma. This service always includes uplifting and sustaining the welfare of all beings. Still, we overlook the centrality of this greatest of beings, Mother Nature, who was, after all, the only being that could fully affirm the Buddha’s awakening. We owe everything to Her, so now it’s our time to heed Her call for help. PAEAN is our response to that call.

We hope PAEAN will inspire, help gather, and support small local, and online, groups engaging climate action that will collectively interlink with global initiatives working for the same outcome. Motivated by the tremendous legacy of faith-based social revolutionaries, our approach is grounded in a wise and compassionate practice. We invite you to join us!

Thanissara 1.24.22

 


Code Red: A World in Free Fall Calls Us to Rise Up

DIVEST FROM PATRIARCHY
ALIGN WITH PACHAMAMA

Each day intensity builds as climate disasters, biodiversity collapse, and a sharp rise of authoritarianism hollows out the stability of our lives. At the same time, we’re navigating the exhausting complexities of a politically weaponized Covid world with its tangled knot of discord fracturing fault lines in families, friendships, and communities.

What is being unveiled is the systems we live within, including our mental and emotional constructs, are ill-equipped to manage such an onslaught. Altogether, it seems we’ve slid into a state shift where the old Global order is moving into free-fall. Every day we feel the overwhelm, exhaustion, and disorientation of a civilization unable to sustain its contradictions, like the myth of endless growth triggering mass extinctions.

UN global climate poll in Jan 2021 revealed two-thirds of people worldwide think climate change is a global emergency. It states, “the voice of people is clear – they want action on climate change.” This is an extraordinary shift from decades of relegating our cataclysmic dilemma to the fringes. It’s even more likely this percentage swelled with the UN Code Red Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change report released in August ’21. This groundswell of alarmed citizens represents a significant global awakening, which, if mobilized, can radically dismantle the status quo that is destroying our living systems.  

Underwriting a possible paradigm shift within the broader collective is another growing realization. Our extractive worldview, built on human primacy over nature and embedded within oppressive hierarchies of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, is predominately fabricated to enable the transference of immense power and wealth to a tiny minority. This long-played dynamic has perpetually left the majority world scrambling to survive. 

The recent spectacle of white, male, sociopathic billionaires competing to project themselves out of Earth’s orbit in phallic-shaped space-crafts perfectly exemplifies the narcissistic sociopathy of predator patriarchy. Their plundering ego dominance, built on the backs of a vast, exploited workforce shackled to a ruthless machine of endless productivity and consumption, is not inspiring. Instead, their offensive enterprise strikes me as demonstrating the spluttering corpse of predator capitalism, which now bequeaths only dead ash in its wake.

However, even with mountains of evidence in plain sight proving that billionaires and governments are woefully unresponsive to the urgency of this moment, most of the population is still distracted and frozen in a trance. In a recent article, ecological philosopher, activist, and former XR Strategist Rupert Read was asked, 

What could be the trigger that could take the environment movement to the next level? 

It’s on the imminent horizon – Cop26. It’s going to be a huge wake-up call. After the terrible weather and the ‘code red’ IPCC report, the huge wake-up call is going to be when the world realises that the world’s so-called leaders are definitively not coming to the rescue.

So, here we are, in an apocalyptic time. All in the shadows is now unrelentingly spotlighted. There seem few places left to hide. Instead, our psychic boundaries are eroding under the force of an overwhelming toxic influx from our collapsing world, swirling into a gathering force, like the weather, flooding and burning as it rushes through our nervous systems.

She, it seems – Pachamama, the spirit of Mother Nature – is breaking free and puking all out into the open. With her wildness erupting, flooding, burning, freezing, melting, you’d think governments would be mobilizing on a massive scale. Instead, we’re stuck with the likes of patriarchal dinosaurs battening down their Gilead fantasy, as in Texas, while unleashing hate and fear, like heat guided missiles, trying to control any movement outside their narrow scope. No wonder we feel crazed.

We also feel scarily undone as the tectonic plates of our world spin beneath us. What we thought was solid and real is revealing how little we know of Reality itself. But just maybe, while falling apart, we are moving toward a core recalibration.

The way I see it, as time, space, and future collide into the increasing intense gestalt of now, it’s as if we entered a collective shamanic journey. What we thought was separated out from us through the mind’s endless demarcations of “other” now vibrantly appears in this one heaving consciousness made up of billions of tiny sparks of intention, action, and reactivity as the pressure of 5,000 years of Patriarchal history divorced from Mother Nature spews its lethal guts over us all. We can try and pick up the pieces. Or we can walk into another space and sit together in a circle.

There is a beloved circle that we are, outside the walls of conformity, where a storehouse of untamed dreams will decolonize our minds.

As shamans, we have left the ordered and expected human world and are undergoing dismemberment. In the process, we are traversing beyond all the known frames of reference. It’s so dreadful it makes us queasy. We forget what’s what and are often terrified, fearful, depressed, lost, sad, raging. Yet within this strangely disorientating journey, there waits a gift. A potent potential. An alchemical stone there for us to pick up.

In this free fall, we are swimming the unchartered flow of consciousness itself, plunging to the core, into a light nucleus that at the same time is here, there, everywhere, without centre or circumference. Wherever we touch is conscious-being-presence. Unbounded, creative, a bubbling spring birthing forth a matrix of light manifesting as matter.

It is here, intersecting this timeless presence with attention and intention at the point of emergent manifestation, that we can energize quantum shifts. “Mind,” said the Buddha, “precedes all things.” Here, we can bow and pay due homage while awakening into choosing a very different way. A pathless leap empowering us to seed, manifest, activate, and enable a world guided by the core impulse of love at the heart of all in service of all.

At this dangerous moment, we can’t grasp the kaleidoscope. There are just too many moving parts that are overwhelming us. But we can steady, ground and embody our authentic potential with each breath. We can prayerfully and ceremonially call on body, heart, and soul at cellular and ancestral levels to renounce collusion and perpetuation with patriarchal dominance rooted in disdain and severance from the life-nourishing feminine soul within the heart of nature. 

So, take some time to write out all your agreements with the hierarchies of patriarchal power that instil violence, abuse, and manipulation to control, exploit, and oppress. Feel each line in your list within the somatic patterning of your body. Then, withdraw your energy from the ways we all habitually, unconsciously and consciously collude.

For sure, it’s an exacting task, withdrawing from our colonized constructed illusion of human superiority controlling everything. But She is taking this sleight of hand down to the ground, burning up our oil-made comforts and crashing our twinkling, electrically fuelled civilization. With one of her tears, she can unleash a roaring hurricane shredding a waterlogged path from Louisiana to New York in a few hours. We must indeed be left in no doubt. We humans are not in control in the ways we thought we were.

We’re on notice. So, let’s pause and prepare ourselves inwardly for the challenge. It’s time to simplify. It’s time to renounce the driven exhaustion of predatory capitalism that leaves division, deprivation, and destruction in its wake. This old story is finished, with its tiresome and deadly perpetuation of misogyny, homophobia, racism, sexism, imperialism, nationalism, white supremacy, specism, and all ways that hold others or any part of Mother Nature’s creation as inferior.

Dance, sing, play music, write poetry, breathe more fully, meditate and free body, mind, heart, and spirit from the ancient controlling mechanisms of fear, shame, guilt, lack of worth, violence toward self and others. Let go withholding the nourishment of Her eros life-pulse. Release from the tight biblically instilled religious-social conditioning passed from generation to generation. Trust Her empowering arrow ever moving to its mark, opening hearts to taste the blissful love flowing through Her creation.

There is another way here. Our heart-pulse prayer can align with mother nature’s indwelling spirit, ever embracing the light of illumination manifesting this universe. 

A deathless awareness can travel with each breath, grounding mind, soothing body, connecting soul, and enabling our authentic truth-telling rewired brain to free us from allegiance to this old dying world. Free to dream our new story of collaborative stewardship as we return to the root, reach to the stars and walk with the songs of whales, eagles, hummingbirds, and our indigenous ancestors.

Small and big steps within our gathering community of renewal mean we no longer serve the empire making machine but instead are devoted to Earth and each other. This is a devotion that requires action. We cannot allow our exquisite home with its myriad life forms forged over billions of years to be hijacked, raped, and murdered. We must transform our inner path of evolutionary consciousness into visible resistance and active radical transformation. 

I see a network of local groups connecting and supporting each other, networking around the globe, as we move out of our silos and help one another unfreeze the immobilized and distracted parts in ourselves and each other. We need to shatter the spell perpetuated by craven media barons, derelict politicians, and deadly corporate interests. We can only do this if people rise together. It’s time for us all to join the heavy lifting and break set, unleashing a chorus of beautiful, authentic, true voices. 

As Rupert Read said, “If our children can go on symbolic (climate) strikes for an hour or day, then why can’t the rest of us?”

Showing up with love for whatever comes next

When I pitched this focus for Sunday’s Livestream on the Ram Dass Foundation platform, I knew we would be sailing stormy seas from here on. But, of course, I did not know we would be navigating the high-noon showdown of Trump’s cult-driven coup with its far-reaching tentacles wrapped around almost every aspect of American life, from its core power structures into the depth of its disaffected psyche.

The last few days, while shocking, are not surprising. Yet, the speed of so much unmasked, while profoundly unsettling, is oddly gratifying. To have made clear and conscious, for so many, the foundational rot within the American project, alongside this moment of clear choice going ahead, feels cathartic.

The journey through Trump has always been, in significant part, about catalyzing an expose of America’s shadow, and within that gaslit, brutish curriculum, an opportunity to clarify where we stand individually, institutionally, collectively, and because the American empire is still a primary power fulcrum globally.

In 2016, just before that terrible election, I wrote a blog warning titled, “Trump, America’s Ebola Virus,” making the point that he was worse than Ebola, which eats away at flesh. In contrast, Trump was about destroying the very soul of America and radically stymying a world on the cusp of marshalling its collective will to tackle the multiple crises that constitute our planetary emergency.

None of us wanted the curriculum for the last four years. Still, it’s been both unavoidable and inevitable, given the unaddressed, unacknowledged, uncompensated grievous injustices the US founded itself on. That, in brief, would be the Eurocentric, Patriarchal, Racist, Imperial, Colonial project.

While we’re not “out of the woods” yet, by any means, we have collectively dodged a dreadful bullet, which is Trump’s Fascist takedown, and with that, a rapid devolving of the higher dream of humanity to which we are called to more fully realize.

We all know time is ticking down on securing any hope of a sustainable path forward. Still, perhaps, we now also irrevocably see that we cannot embody such a course without a core systemic overhaul and a deconstruction of hierarchical oppression.

In a chaotic, distorted way, those baying, pissing, defecating, dressed in cult garb, ransacking the hallowed Capitol, are trying to access some deeper shared initiatory “truth.” Perhaps, some meaning and placement within the failed American dream, from which they probably never felt included.

However, engaging this malcontent through an inversion of all societal norms, without any ethical or wise guide rails, left them wide open to possession by the unprocessed shadow. A ghostly, cold planet where not only rage and hate stalk but also the great demons of the past who have resurfaced in horrific slogans like “Auschwitz Camp Staff / 6 Million Wasn’t Enough.”

With no real, worked out, integrated inner ethic beyond a tribally based, obsessive narcissism, millions, it seems, have been made vulnerable to occultish manipulation and mass delusion. While complicit themselves, they have been taken advantage of by Trump’s psychopathy, by craven politicians, by those peddling conspiracy fetishes, and by media hate mongers, to name some of the primary players feeding off their loyalty.

All of this has delivered a pseudo-culture that is so abstracted from a more profound sense of real, embodied belonging that what is a soulless vacuity is parading as an all-knowing messiah.

This profound loss of bearings, when instead we need to know we belong to each other in a vastly complex, ensouled world, has left a mass of the population in a psychotic break from reality. Unfortunately, just at a time when we need to face hard truths straight on. Instead, encouraged by sociopaths to surf an absurd, alternative universe, where lies are truth and truth is lies, our shared, liveable world is being pulled apart and fast destroyed.

This cultivation of hate and delusion is profoundly consequential, not only for society but also for friendships, families, communities, and institutions. We have all likely been impacted by a twisted agenda that has successfully sown a seemingly irreconcilable division through the fraying fault lines of our relationships.

As I write this, I’m struck that while 2020 was an initiatory year through the shadow and its curriculum, 2021 is about applying what we have learned. If we’ve discovered anything, it is that we cannot reach for our evolutionary arch without undoing the foundations of white supremacy, misogyny, and extractive, predator, oligarchic Capitalism.

Neither can we project all our power onto a President, political and religious authorities, or take refuge down some conspiratorial rabbit hole without deadly consequences. In other words, we have to grow up, and roll up our collective sleeves, and do whatever it is our heart is calling us to do.

So, then. What is showing up with love got to do with all this?
I aim to explore this a little in this Livestream. I’d also like to inquire whether our spiritual practice equips us for the task ahead or enables a massive bypass and an abdication from this decade’s great work.

To pick up the proverbial snake at the wrong end is to deliver a poisoned chalice at a moment when instead, the portal is open for us to take our power back, from wherever we’ve projected it, and marshal ourselves for the task ahead.

SIGN ON HERE
https://www.ramdass.org/event/showing-up-with-love-for-whatever-comes-next-with-thanissara/

Lovecraft country: Meet the US’s DEvilish racial coding

Since watching the last episode “Full Circle” last night, I’ve been trying to find words to do justice to Lovecraft Country, HBO’s horror, Sci-Fi- Magic fest, which is firmly set within America’s Black historic struggle. Instead, I’m undone after a sleepless night roaming the underworld of the US, aware its current election and political dystopia, with its far-reaching noxious tentacles, is actually the sequel of Lovecraft’s 1950s.

Being undone is the agenda of our times. The US is currently being dismembered by the pervasive sulfuric fumes from the horror of America’s ancestral coding of white supremacy and black trauma. The devil’s bargain of Black enslavement, landing on the Eastern shores of Turtle Island (Virginia) in 1619, is now the toxic overwhelm washing up on the shores of our collective karmic reckoning.

Words still don’t come easy, and I’m mindful of them pulling up and away from this necessary undoing through their abstracted descriptions, placating, and attempted solutions. However clearly words describe, they do not reach far enough into our subconscious coding, which is why Lovecraft is actually so very brilliant. It conveys an imaginal, somatic transmission of America’s undigested racial violence and trauma. In doing so, it intends to generate more considerable magic than the spells its characters cast within the story.

Lovecraft’s power is in its use of liminal transmission to break the spell of racist coding by viscerally taking us into its incestuously raped, bloodthirsty, horror-filled heart. It’s a hard, unnerving watch because it loads a full armory with its archetypal, wildly potent metaphor and aims its terror at the heart of white psychosis.

As someone in a white body, the impact is primal. This undoing is a journey into dislodged cellular energetic holding, a vulnerable, wobbly disorientation, and a wave of un-named grief that can’t be cried out. It’s a waking night filled with demons and an entering into how this viral download of “whiteness” lives afloat in a partitioned, monochrome picture frame, oblivious of the unleashed roaming fear beasts that keep control.

The monsters in Lovecraft very well depict the unavoidable disease of ancestral trauma that continually re-infects through the subliminal coding of extreme fear, made visible in the relentless sinister threat and sadistic violence used by Lovecraft’s keepers of segregation.

The practice of satanic occultism by White power, a primary Lovecraft theme, is not as fictional as it first appears. It tells us that white supremacy itself is a form of occult shadow magic, honed through intent, focus, and incanted generational memes that hold enormous enduring power. In the end, the fear, violence, and psychosis infect everyone. This is obvious in the full-blown disaster of Trumpian America, itself a vicious diseased beast that knows no holding. 

If Lovecraft tells much about psychopathic whiteness, it also speaks of the fierce courage and generational heroism threaded through Black struggle. The scene in the first episode of the heroine running through a monster-filled forest at night to bring help replicates the terror of the Underground Railroad’s escaping slaves. The courage is enormous. We also see the power of Black ancestors and shamans, as they interact with their living descendants bringing much welcomed sanity, wisdom and protection. 

The Black struggle, however, is not without casualties. While not always directly caused by white people, harm is still at the hands of systemic oppression. Lovecraft deftly brings in the theme of homophobia and its internalized violence alongside toxic masculinity with its generational violence. It also paints a nuanced picture of the victim-perpetrator complexity threaded through most of its relationships, which saves Lovecraft from becoming overly simplistic and formulaic. Instead, it offers glimpses into how all are ultimately caught in a larger demonic shape that at its core is violent and degrading.

Nether-the-less, in Lovecraft’s Country, we root for the brave Black heroes and want the ever seeming upper hand of white supremacy, and the terror it unleashes, to be thoroughly undone. To this end, the one vital, central message within Lovecraft is that if there’s a code for white supremacy, then there’s also a code for its undoing.

Like any oppressive system, white supremacy can be hacked and inverted. In Lovecraft’s Country, there is magic for this to be found in the ancestors’ keep and through holding faith that the evil spell of racism can be broken. But the real magic rests ultimately in the human heart’s capacity for love, and it’s the willingness to sacrifice for those who are loved.

This final courage is demonstrated by not running but instead turning to meet the whole coded racist gestalt, in all its complex and terrifying guises. This last act is needed to transmute that raw scream of terror into a code-breaking incantation that dispels the trance. An incantation in our present time that speaks out words in our daylight life, like, “Black Lives Matter.”

Ultimately, Lovecraft Country makes perfect theatre for the times. It doesn’t always take words to understand where we are, and to know that past injustices have brought us here. It is this deeper knowing that ripples into core truths. Lovecraft just underlines this knowing by cracking through the veneer of US normality to let us see why this moment in American history is precisely the way it is. It is in this seeing that the call to reparation lay.

We may not be able to fully crack the codes of oppression, but we stand a better chance of doing so when, as Lovecraft inducts us into, we are willing to be taken through a journey that makes the unconscious conscious. 

Stop Fascism. Vote for Nature, RBG, Equity And Justice

I want to pause for a moment, soften around my tightening chest to breathe deeply. We have reached a terrifying moment here in the US. The fear and dread we feel confirm how dangerous it is. This was not an easy write. It’s nothing you don’t know, or sense already, but we must all keep naming truths. To name facts is an act of resistance against fascism. I aim to call in truths, as I see them, to support the final push these last weeks before the watershed of this election. 

The journey of naming exorcises Trump’s defiling influence by placing his psychopathy and fraud under the spotlight. Speaking truth breaks the spell. It has power. It affirms what we are voting for. Our vote is our voice expressing that power.

The news of the New York Times bombshell of Trump’s Tax evasion (surprising no one), revealed his pimping of the U.S. to manage his bankruptcy and debt. It also broke the spell. As did his crashing the debate, employing the same venomous, bullying tactics he’s using to crash democracy.

As the spell breaks, I remember when the Communist block, which seemed impenetrable, fell so unexpectedly. I saw the moment on TV when Nicolae Ceausescu, the brutal Romanian dictator, realized the crowd he bussed in had turned against him. Standing on his balcony, it was the look on his face when he knew it was all over that stayed with me. Trump is a wannabe dictator. Aided by the GOP, he is grooming America for their Fascistic Theocracy. But he will fall; let’s do all we can to make sure it’s this November.

This is a treacherous moment for America. Trump’s calling on the white nationalist Proud Boys to take up arms is his last best strategy. Trump, and his use of brute violence, should not be underestimated, but neither should, “We the People.”  We the people are not about to let freedoms won through extraordinary acts of courage like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s, be signed away.

Ruth worked on through multiple cancer diagnoses, chemo, radiation, broken ribs, her beloved husband’s death, and she didn’t stop until her last breath. Let’s be Ruth leading up to this election, adding our courage to the lineage of warriors and change-makers. Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the willingness to stand our ground. As RBG lived, speak you mind, even if your voice shakes. 

WE THE PEOPLE VOTE FOR DEMOCRACY

  The Threat to Equal Rights
The untimely death of RBG was crushing. The loss of such a bastion of justice, whose unrelenting fight for universal rights not only underlined the colossal stakes of the coming election but also plunged the country ever deeper into the bottomless, mendacious chasm forged by the GOP. Hardly did we take a breath before Trump, McConnell, and their attack hounds denied due decency that such a passing demands by announcing their intention to ram through a new supreme court justice. Their hypocrisy is just one more assault thrown on the mountainous pile of craven strategies to upend democracy and abandon America to their daily diet of gaslight, shredded reality. 

In replacing RBG, Trump and the GOP aimed for a likely destroyer of hard-won rights, attempting to whiplash us back decades, overturning everything RBG fought for. According to the New York Times, Trump’s nominee, Amy Comey Barratt, is a member of an extreme Christian sect, the People of Praise. They teach, “husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.” They also mandate that “members are accountable to personal advisors called a “head” for men and “handmaiden” for women.” The GOP’s use of a female judge to devolve us into theocratic patriarchy would be in line with their decades-long hateful attack on women’s rights to their own autonomy. Barrett’s nomination is the GOP’s revenge on RBG and, therefore, all women. It is also the clearest statement that the GOP has devolved into a theocratic, dogmatic cult. 

Neither does this nomination bode well, given Trump’s ban on diversity training, race theory, and education on the US’s racist origins, for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Also in danger is the Marriage Equality Act as attests Barrett signing a letter to Catholic bishops that “marriage is founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” Most likely, the first casualty, if her appointment succeeds, will be the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans afloat in the middle of a pandemic. Without a shred of empathy, destroying the best of Obama’s legacy is Trump’s revenge. 

WE VOTE FOR RBG & TO STOP THE GOP 

Trump’s Nazism & QAnon
Trump’s presidency has incrementally pushed us into a war. It’s taken a while to accept, here in the land of “American Exceptionalism.” Yet, here we are, confronted by a disturbing mix of society’s extremists galvanizing themselves under the banner of Trump’s Army, many showing up with QAnon insignia. Trump endorsement of QAnon chills those who know it’s a recycled anti-Jewish trope, written in 1902 as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Nazi’s reproduced its central lies, kidnapped children, the anti-Semitic “blood libel,” and a devious conspiracy against the white race, to mobilize their “Storm Troopers,” helping Hitler rise to power.

Fast-forward to now and the Texan Republican Party’s new slogan “We Are The Storm” reveals their allegiance to Nazism. Concerned founder of Genocide Watch, Gregory Stanton, has this to say about QAnon, I have studied and worked to prevent genocide for forty years. Genocide Watch and the Alliance Against Genocide, the first international anti-genocide coalition, see such hate-filled conspiracy theories as early warning signs of deadly genocidal violence.

Trump is no ordinary Banana Republic President. With concentration camps cemented on the Southern border, Trump is weaponizing himself as Hilter’s heir. Trump’s “evil genius” is his ability to induce a spell-like trance, so people whose violence and hatred was held in check by social mores have permission to project their raw emotions on whoever Trump scapegoats. Carl Jung spoke of how the archetypal power of the unconscious could overwhelm civilization, causing a mass psychosis that can lead to genocide. A demagogue, evoking primitive instinctual forces in the masses, who have no possibility to transform those instincts, could “sweep everything before them like a torrent, and turn men into creatures for whom the word “beast” is still too good to name.” All it needed was for a demagogue “to set himself up as a megaphone“, which is enough “to precipitate a catastrophe.” 

WE VOTE TO STOP NAZISM

Trump’s Subversion of American Power & His War on Truth
Trump’s war is psychological. So far, it is not actively militarized, though he toyed with the possibility, as we saw when his violent Militia disappeared people off the streets of Portland. Instead, he has subverted American power to give free license to the worst totalitarian regimes, particularly those he has business dealing with, enabling their war crimes and violations of international humanitarian norms. Trump has lent American power to the Saudi led genocidal war on Yemen. He emboldened the far right in Israel under Netanyahu, helping crush Palestinian rights. Trump delivered up American allies, the Syrian Kurds, to Putin, Assad, and Erdogan and weakened Ukraine’s freedom struggle. Over and again, he undermined the US’s closest allies in Europe in favor of repressive regimes, delivering a blow to democracy around the world. 

Trump’s ascendency in 2016 heralded a new kind of global war. To bring down democracies, like the US and UK, an act that delights nationalistic governments and totalitarian regimes, you don’t need an army. Instead, you need a massive assault on reality. Trump can stand on a presidential podium and state disinfectant cures Covid, which is easy to dismiss as just more inane idiocy in the litany of Trump’s pandemic lies. Good fodder for social media jokes. But then one day, you wake up and find factual information from the US Center for Disease Control has been corrupted into another portal for Trump’s propaganda war. This strategy is how, step-by-step, lie-by-lie, almost all government departments protecting democracy and the environment have been destroyed under Trump. The consequences are measured in real-time deaths. 

WE VOTE TO STAND FOR TRUTH

To Abandon Facts is to Abandon Freedom
Trump’s war on reality, and his groundless inversion of facts, has been alarmingly effective. Fascists win the war on the truth when people keep quiet. Instead, it’s essential to speak out. The small handbook “On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale, offers 20 succinct tips on overcoming fascism while protecting fact-based democracy. Tip 8. Stand Out. “Without unease, there is no freedom. Remember Rosa Parks, the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken.” Tip 10. Believe in Truth. “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, no one can criticize power… the biggest wallet pays for the most blinding light.” 

Trump’s daily mugging of truth to build his rotting castle of lies inverts an effective response to the enormity of a mortal threat out striping every other peril faced by humanity. The dire impact of our heating biosphere and the immense on-going collapse of bio-diversity is speeding up. From California’s firestorms to an enormous ice melt in Greenland, the effects are clear examples of what is now impossible to ignore. 

Just as Trump unleashed violence against American citizens enacting their First Amendment rights, he will have no qualms about unleashing climate genocide. It dovetails into the Nazi theory of “race hygiene,” which he touted at his recent rally to a white audience in Minnesota. “A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it” Don’t you believe? The racehorse theory,” Trump said. “You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.” Far-right ethno-nationalists see global warming as a rallying point for protecting white supremacy while abandoning the rest of the world. All Trump needs to do to inflame and energize eco-fascism is to repeatedly promote climate denialism, block an urgent response, and deregulate all environmental protections. 

WE VOTE TO STOP ECO-FASCISM

Trump’s Tactics Stifles Response to Threat
On September 17th (2020), New York installed a clock in Manhattan’s Union Square that counts down the time remaining to avert climate disaster, which is about seven and a half years. When the clock runs out, global temperatures will have moved to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. At this point, many natural systems begin to traverse points of no return, transforming life, as we know it. Living in or near evacuation Zones in the last three years, as fires storms raged around us in California, demonstrated how extreme weather events reduce normal life to continual crisis management. It’s simply not possible to function well when in shock. 

Trump continually activates trauma and shock in the population to maintain control by destabilizing the norms of civil society. Keeping attention diverted and people unbalanced, as they try to deflect the daily round of abusive tweets, incoherent ramblings, and sadistic pronouncements, is his weapon for overturning the moral order. Trump’s shock tactic is immobilizing America’s ability to strategize a coherent response to the climate threat. His attack on science, progressive education, bi-partisan collaboration, and democracy sets the stage for the US to deteriorate into violent tribalism and inhumanity in the face of our unraveling world. 

WE VOTE FOR A CLEAR RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

The Battle for Earth
In the battle for Earth, the immediate front line is the upcoming US election. We are in a dire struggle for America’s soul and what kind of future it will shape for itself and the world. Under Trump, the conditions have been created not only for fascism, civil unrest, perhaps even civil war, but he has also tacitly endorsed the rise of nationalistic governments. These tend to be the least willing to tackle climate change, demonstrating what happens in the US still vastly influences the rest of the world. 

Trump’s unrelenting cudgel against truth has drastically subverted the moral imperative globally, sabotaging decisive action needed to curtail descent into civilizational collapse. One of Trump’s first heinous acts ensured that at lightning speed, hope from the Paris Climate Accord, which passed on November 4th, 2016, was turned to dust. Trump’s ripping it up severely undermined the possibility of global collaboration. Instead, it gave a green light for psychopathic leaders and predator capitalists to throw the world into a sickening battle for our collective survival. 

In the wake of this, despite the herculean efforts of multiple climate movements, mass demonstrations, and the IPCC report of October 2018 (by 91 scientists from 40 countries who received over 6000 references and 42,000 experts, peer-reviewed publications), we are witnessing a growing psychotic break from our urgent reality. 

This break is not an accident. It is a deliberate strategy generated by some powerful players in the political, media, banking, and corporate worlds, alongside fossil fuel and animal agro-factory interests that continuously spawn and nurture a denial culture. Instead of using their goliath powers for the common good, they hide their malignancy by deflecting attention from themselves while sowing confusion and division. These are the untouchable “high priests” of the Church of Power and Greed. They generate a storm of media misinformation, climate denial propaganda, and manipulative green-washing memes to obfuscate the facts. 

WE VOTE TO END CLIMATE DENIAL

The Forces Using Trump
Climate denialist and kingmaker, Rupert Murdoch, has merged Trump into his 24-hour right-wing network Fox News and his all-pervasive global media machine. Two men of no morals in a transactional deal giving Murdoch an extraordinary degree of influence over America’s democracy, and Trump the means to cement his cult following. 

In the face of such a swift descent into a shadowy mire orchestrated by political arsonists and their enablers, it’s clear those of us holding and working for the higher dream of a green, sustainable, just, and equitable future are losing the battle. We turn up with science-based data, loving-kindness, wise mindful practices, and passion to implement workable solutions. While those determined to control the planet’s destiny, grabbing whatever spoils left for themselves, turn up with billions of dollars, media empires with tentacles into the highest reaches of power, and a nuclear arsenal. In their wake are battalions of lawyers, lobbyists, think tanks, and data mining companies distilling mass information into psychological profiling to drive opinion and manipulate behavioral change. 

We see the results in our teetering democracy, and in the deregulated environmental protections radically changing Earth’s landscape, drying up aquifers, decimating rainforests and wildlife, poisoning rivers and lakes, all for the sake of power and profit. Those driving this ecocide are, for the most part, completely unaccountable. 

The motivation for this unrelenting attack on mother nature, whether evangelical rapture, owning the planet, sitting it out on Mars or in a bunker in New Zealand to take what’s left, leads to only one possible conclusion. Immoral narcissistic criminals and psychopaths are currently controlling the destiny of the planet. 

They care absolutely nothing for sustaining a living Earth. They care only for themselves. Some don’t even care for their children. Murdoch ruthlessly pitted his two sons against each other from their childhood as rivals for his empire. This coterie of transactional, pitiless wheelers and dealers, who know the facts and don’t care, are the men that are willing to let the world crash and burn. They don’t mind that our exquisitely beautiful mother in all her gracious abundance is being doomed to become a barren desert devoid of life, wandering cold space, and weeping for her death at human hands.

Perhaps that sounds extreme, but the impact of global warming, which is unraveling the web of life, has left Mother Nature fighting to survive. We read ecosystems are “dying.” But nature isn’t “dying.” She is being killed. While conscious lifestyles are, of course, critical, it’s not the average person, trying to recycle, reduce energy consumption, and animal products that are holding a knife to Her throat. 

Primarily it is extractive, predatory corporations crashing through pristine ecosystems and indigenous lands, destroying everything in their path. From the US, Russia, and China vying for the Arctic, to the Alberta Tar Sands in Canada, to India’s Adani’s massive coal mine in Australia, an environmental nightmare that aims to steal 270 billion liters of groundwater, for free, over 60 years. 

Many of these companies, further enabled by Trump’s “Tax Acts and Jobs Act,” pay O% tax, including Chevron who was party to one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters. An oil dump roughly 30 times the Exxon Valdez spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They never cleaned up or paid damages. 

WE VOTE TO STOP PREDATOR CAPITALISM 

Biden’s Green New Deal Up Against Trump
In the coming election, Biden, in alliance with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, has unveiled a $2 trillion energy plan firmly focused on the Green New Deal agenda fronted by the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. This is not the moment to give a vote to Trump because we don’t approve of Biden, the Democratic Party centralists, or because of ideology. A vote for Biden, Kamala Harris, and the DNP is a vote to stop fascism and a step toward a workable, survivable future. It’s as simple as that right now. I am on my knees to beg against throwing a vote to Trump by punching the ticket of a 3rd Party candidate. 

By contrast, Trump is a vote for chaos and death. He is the perfect vehicle for extractive predator capitalism. His turning the Environmental Protection Agency into the Environmental Predatory Agency and his sadistic assault on wildlife delivered yet more blows to decades of hard work to secure protections for nature. While the majority world is grappling with climate change, Trump is doing the exact opposite. McConnell’s defense of Citizen’s United in 2018, a ruling that put democracy up for sale, ensures interest groups can buy political power and plunder at will.

WE VOTE FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL 

Patriarchy’s Last Gasp: The GOP’s Kakistocracy (rule by the worst.)
This week Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. In response, Bernie Sanders stated, “This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win.” The GOP is using Trump to push through their archconservative agenda. To do that, they are abandoning democracy. 

Trump is their perfect vehicle to bring about that end. Regardless of how egregious his lies or how dangerous his actions, a racist and misogynistic GOP have utterly failed to restrain him. Instead, they are destroying the government and replacing it with rapture intoxicated and extreme “Christian” theocrats, criminals worthy of the Mafia, and Trump’s cold, heartless, thieving nepotistic relatives. All buddies, it seems, of Putin’s poisonous reach. This craven Kakistocracy personifies the dinosaur of patriarchy’s last gasp. They have only one reptilian drive. To control and loot by the use of all means foul. In their necrotizing march for domination, they have set the stage for mass upheaval and death, gruesome migrations, and unimaginable suffering. 

In the figure of Trump himself, we see the personification of a graceless, heartless, cruel, and sadistic destroyer of the best of human nature, disabling the higher dream of humanity, so needed to guide these times, at every turn. Trump’s vacuous soul makes him a perfect vessel for those propagating the decade’s long war on the truth of anthropocentric climate change to deadly effect. We cannot let such a depraved man determine the destiny of so much.

WE VOTE TO BRING DOWN PATRIARCHY 

Truth is Truth
Regardless, however, truth is truth. Global collaborated science lays bare the brutal reality before us. We have almost no time to turn around this nightmarish trajectory. We also have virtually no time, and few moves left to stop Trump and his decrepit fascistic, supremacist, misogynistic political coup. 

By now, it’s clear how dangerous Trump’s psychotic cult is. It’s also clear we cannot afford to descend further another four years of Trump’s barbarism. We also know there’s a radically different new world trying to be born that we must lend every effort to midwife and protect. However, where we falter is galvanizing mass mobilization to preserve our beloved Earth. But if democracy starts to fall in November, we must take courage and mobilize. 

WE VOTE TO MOBILIZE TOGETHER 

Meeting the Challenge
If your heart is breaking with all this, you’re not alone. But, that is better than entering this critical decade of the 2020’s asleep. In the Ayurvedic medicinal model, which inspired the template for the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the first step to overcoming suffering and ignorance is to diagnose the sickness. The second step is to meet the illness directly rather than hoping it will magically disappear. It tends to be easier to diagnose the problem than activate the third and fourth steps, which are finding the cure and applying the remedy. The difficulty is that however harmful the circumstance, our default mechanism habitually resists change. To cure ourselves, we have to clear out any last illusions and commit fully to the remedy. 

My primary Buddhist influence, the Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah, said, “when you can’t escape, you can’t go up, down, or to the side then the real practice begins.” When up against a wall with no apparent means of escape, there is no other option than to face the challenge directly. 

With the challenge of Trump, it’s important to remember that the point of malignant narcissism, which is Trump’s mental disposition, is to create victims and render them powerless. Unrelenting abuse is a tactic to ingrain the belief in beleaguered minds that an all-consuming ascendency of evil is unstoppable. 

Therefore, the initial battle, to counter his toxic virus, is an inner one. However much we wobble, we must energize and bring to life our inner warrior who stands for truth. For that, it’s helpful to focus on what we are fighting for and against. We fight for a sustainable, just, equitable, and compassionate society. We fight against patriarchy, the umbrella dominator system within which all other oppressive systems exist and thrive. 

WE VOTE TOGETHER AS WARRIORS

The End of Vampire Trump
Trump, like Hitler, is a vampire. He feeds off hate, fear, violence, and the pain he inflicts through his unrelenting, cruel abuse. The destructive power of Trump, extracted from the shadow energies he unleashes, is dangerous, catastrophic, and overwhelming. His weakness, though, is that he believes himself to be invincible. However, the power Trump is tapping into is not enduring. Malignant energies ultimately consume those wielding them. One way or another, Trump will be defeated. It’s inevitable. The question is how much damage will he inflict in the process, so we must do all we can to end his reign quickly.

WE VOTE TO DEFEAT TRUMP 

Trump, the US’s Mirror
Trump, reflects America’s violent and racist psychotic shadow. He is like the decrepit, twisted, ugly portrait in Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Gray, the leading character, exchanged his soul for youth, indulging his every impulse. He is seductive and charming. However, his sinister deeds, reflected in the ever-fouling portrait in his attic, states the truth of who he is. Whatever happens to Trump, he has underlined the extreme urgency of working for a more just and equitable society. 

WE VOTE TO UNDO WHITE SUPREMACY

Another Kind of Power 
There is another kind of power, which endures. The power of the human spirit, with its ingenuity to overcome challenges regardless. This spirit is capable of extraordinary achievements. It can marshal love and compassion and has a yen for truth. The truth eventually wins out. Lies do not. The power of love, as the Buddha stated, overcomes hate. “This is the eternal law.” Love isn’t weak. It endures beyond time and space. After all, isn’t that the central message of Christ? Not bibles to bash people, or guns. Wasn’t unconditional love his real power?

In Buddhist lore, the guardian of the world is conscience. It can discern what is harmful and what is not, and fears wrongdoing. These all are superpowers, alongside so many others, that we employ at this time. We saw these powers at Standing Rock. The Elders invited People of Prayer from all over the world to join them in their act of resistance. At dawn on those cold frozen lands, every day began with honoring ancestors, invoking protector guides, and offering prayers to the spirits of the Missouri River. 

We, too, can create a shrine to Mother Nature with representations that inspire. We can set the alarm and get up earlier, and like RBG, do some strengthening exercises. We can align with the warrior lineage of justice, truth, and love for Earth and all. We can offer prayers for all. The Elders at Standing Rock said their prayers are for everyone, even those fighting against them. This is the superpower of the heart. 

We can make daily offerings, so our shrine is a supportive space for contemplation. Every day, we can vow to serve as Her protector and the protector of the human realm. In doing so, we join the Great Spirit’s lineage, the deep intelligence of mother nature, and the intuitive impulse of reality itself.

WE VOTE TO PROTECT MOTHER NATURE 

Put On Your Warrior Cloak
We are here to heed the call. It’s time to midwife the beautiful new world of our higher dream. Let’s not dream small. Instead, keep that higher dream alive and assert its reality, over and again, and not doubt it.

Let’s put on the warrior’s mantel and get to work. We, the majority, join the spirit and struggle of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, Greta’s School Strikes, Extinction Rebellion, and all non-violent Resistance Movements. 

Let’s do everything we can to stop Trump and the GOP, and overturn all they stand for by delivering a Democratic landslide. And, most important, let’s keep naming the truth of what is happening. It undoes the lies of fascism and it gives courage. 

So, let’s roll up our sleeves for this last push. Let’s follow the example of RBG and to fight to the end.

Let’s do this because a revolution is at hand.

“WE THE PEOPLE” ARE POWERFUL. WE WILL CRUSH FASCISM

Thanissara, 9.28.20 

Guardians of the Sacred Prayer Circle for Peace. Join us for a daily online gathering for protective mantras, chants, meditation during this election cycle. The focus is to contribute to a frequency of safety and wellbeing for all, dedicated to protecting goodness, wisdom, and compassion, and dispelling the forces of harm, division and delusion. DETAILS HERE

Ghost Meditation

This is a poem that arose from grief post the August fire storms around our home, here in Northern California, and all fires storms, literal and metaphorical, around the world, where so much is being lost in these times. It honours the journey of grief as an initiation into the mysteries of the heart’s love.

Beneath distraction, anger, fear, dread, and paralysis of facing down the enormity of our times, lay the deeper river of grief that records our losses. Once felt and journey’d through, it’s possible for the clearer, warrior energy to rise that continues the fight for protection of a compassionate world that can offer fairness, justice, and safety to all.

May peace and wise action prevail at this time.

ghost meditation

There is a landscape
beneath the push, the pull
the taut face turned into a wall.

There is a distant sea
where the sail ship,
chartered by winds of loss,
carries your hurting soul…

Across
that buttoned down
defence of a hopeful future.

Here lives a musical box
of wailing hearts
waiting for your presence
to enter their memory hall.

Meet the ghosts…
lost to the fires of annihilation
the Covid dead roaming,
the psychotic war dogs unleashed.

They all wail at the empty feast
served in the valley of loss.

They surf the rip tide
where litanies
list the losses
echoing up from
lattice grids shut down
over the cargo of our long gone pieces.

While silent ash
of burnt forests
charred animals
birds dashed to earth,
billions of tiny workers of evolution
houses, cars, and life dreams …
Vanish

Algorithms march those confused
into the razor vortex
of truth is no more.

Fragments of countries,
families, friends,
swirl like ash storms
from fallen worlds
disintegrating our beleaguered minds.

The dark red sky at midday
announces,
‘you cannot live here anymore.’

We are now all queued refugees
from America’s strangeness.

In the gaping void
monsters rush in.

Float anyhow in your tear filled body.
Allow your aching chest,
gasping to hold
the karmic storehouse
of wounds,
to soften even more…

As you sail into shore
to meet the ancient siren
of ancestors grief,
your grief,
and all our grief
at this
nearing last station,
of our world’s end.

thanissara – sept 15th, 2020

I share this profound and haunting musical study on grief, composed by Nick Cave honouring the loss of his 15 year old son due to accidental death.

As California Burns, Showing Up For the Planet Inspired by Standing Rock

An address for Showing Up for the Planet, August 22, 2020, hosted by Marin Sangha, California, alongside Bay area green, economic, social justice, political initiatives.  

I wrote this,  updating  a previous blog on  Standing  Rock , before “Showing Up for the Planet” because I was not sure if I could read it myself  as an invited presenter. This is due to being on the edge of  the fires and an Evacuation Warning Zone here in Sonoma County.

Yesterday afternoon, I was drawn into the garden by an eerie orange light, but instead of delighting, I was sobered by the sun’s strange light refracted through smoke. Small particles of ash were falling, and for some reason, my mind went to ash from the Nazi death camps. I’m not sure why, but there’s some connection to that horror and the horror we’ve inflicted on Mother Nature, and because of that, the horror we have now inflicted on ourselves. I’m aware I’m now breathing in incinerated trees, foliage, creatures, small animals, maybe large ones too, redwoods, buildings, structures, cars, maybe even some people. I don’t know yet.

Yesterday, the morning was all business as usual, a universe of normality. By afternoon, suddenly scrambling to find batteries, passports, water bottles and essentials to pack the car. The car is still packed as we waited another night through, not sure whether we’ll be in our bed, or in car seats in a parking lot with sleeping bags for comfort.

Nothing feels particularly comfortable anymore. The hijack of the economy by oligarchs, the destruction of an already teetering political body by fascists, and the evolutionary hope pulled under by a devolving toxic QAnon and co-conspirator’s viral reptilian psychotic brain cult.

The daily sinking feeling of life unraveling under Covid, the tightening breath at disappeared mailboxes and organized Post Office chaos and horror at a private militia disappearing people off the streets of Portland and other American cities.

All the while from that frozen wilderness, the raw beauty of Greenland, the devastating news its ice sheet “has melted to the point of no return.” Reports from the unsung gentle Swiss glaciologist, scientist, and data nerd, Konrad Steffan, working, exploring, and who lived for long periods of time at their ice base established in 1990, to study the melting of this massive ice sheet. He noted, that such a tipping point, now reached, means a 5-metre sea rise within 50 – 100 years triggering mass migrations from costal cities. (There is other  interpretations of the data, this is just quoting him.)

Saturday, August 15th, 2020, as if the icy and watery spirits of Greenland themselves were claiming him to their own, Steffen fell 8 metres through a fresh melt pond, a melt not meant to melt. They have not found his body.

This all comes down to the body; bodies in a hierarchy of systemic importance. Which bodies get to survive, who is lost to the sea? Migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean, their calling card, an empty life jacket. Those in cages at the Mexican border, invisible under their space blankets. The sheer weight of the battle for basic rights, food, freedom, all the love invested, crushed under a knee to the neck, of BIPOC, Palestinians, reporters.

The White House 4 year barrage of sadistic cruelty, projected hate vomit, the misogynistic, homophobic oppressive demand for the this white plantation dominator choked cookie cutter 1850’s to 1950’s only allowed world view.

It all is breathed with specks of ash, with smoke from the fury of fire, the ancient redwoods, our ancestors, on the front lines, as our beautiful mother nature, grandmother earth absorbs the impact of our minds, burning, as said the Buddha, by the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.

It’s hard not to feel beleaguered. It’s hard to stay above the despair lurking beneath the exhausted emotions of outrage, fear, grief for what is being destroyed…

It’s getting harder to breathe. I can’t breathe, we can’t breathe. It’s not just oxygen, but space, lightness, hope, some sense of cohesive stability, of a future. As all is fast eroding, the crushing multiple crises converging in our bodies, minds, and hearts has heralded our new radical curriculum.

If you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, dispirited, deeply anxious, laden with tears that can’t quite spill, then please be gentle, kind, spacious, and pace yourself, our selves, accordingly. While all is urgent, we still have long haul ahead.

It’s hot, dry. I’m sweating

Mni Wiconi. Water is Life

Standing Rock was an act of resistance to stop the DAPL pipeline going through Sioux and Lakota lands, under the Missouri River, threatening 50 million people’s water down stream.

But it was also a training ground to resist the march of eco-destruction that is now triggering mass extinction and the collapse of human civilisation.

Seasoned activists taught new comers, like me, how to withstand militarised police and private militia, clean out tear gas from tender eyes, treat rubber bullets; how to huddle together, to move as one, arms locked, to circle and protect the vulnerable and those targeted first, Indigenous and People of Colour.

While a stretch from my safe world, it made perfect sense within the context of our dystopian future that is fast arriving. Interlocking my arms awkwardly while in a clumsy shuffle, a moment of prescience flashed, we will all likely find ourselves at a “Standing Rock” before too long.

Perhaps downtown on Main Street, at the shopping mall, outside a slaughterhouse, protecting a forest, at a fracking site, outside a bank, in any country, at any time, on any and at every street corner.

A few years after Standing Rock, at a climate protest in London, for moment I was back on those frozen lands of North Dakota. Of course, it made perfect sense. The spirit of Standing Rock was on the streets of London, in Extinction Rebellion, and was spreading around the globe through various forms of civil disobedience, protests, acts of challenge, and clear, brave words ringing out loud. The lines are drawn, internally and externally, and the fight for nature, for existence in all its astonishing diversity, is on. The question is what will be our response and contribution be?

Standing Rock brought everything to utter simplicity. There was no money to exchange or things to buy, none of our usual café’s and restaurants, no central heating or sheltered houses. It ran on sharing, on appreciation for a shaft of warm sunlight, a cup of hot tea, a shared meal, the warmth of human connection, and the passionate struggle for life, for justice, for a radically decolonised world.

Mni Wiconi

Water is Life.

It is an immense thing to try and understand that we are about to pull over the great planetary cauldron of life, bubbling for billions of years, and spill it into the dust. “How has it come to this?” as King Théoden said at Helm’s Deep, just before riding out, straight into the grotesque and overwhelming army of terrifying Orcs. The odds of success are low, the power of those who destroy is enormous.

However, there is another power that shone through with great brilliance at Standing Rock. The power of the spirit, of heart, of the collective, and of a learnt Indigenous history of what it means to survive centuries of extreme oppression while keeping the sacred fire alive.

Throughout, at Standing Rock, there was always the sacred fire, to sit by, to listen, to find solidarity with ancestors, the spirits, the elements, and with each other, often in a silence filled with pregnant presence.

Standing Rock was an Indigenous led resistance through the power of collective prayer and ceremony. Its context is the 500-year long impact of Colonialism on First Nation People, which inflicted one of the largest genocides in human history, alongside mass invasion of Native lands, a litany of broken treaties, legislated cultural oppression including removal of children through forced Christianised education at boarding “schools”, and the on-going marginalisation of Indigenous rights.

This generational domination was demonstrated by the State of North Dakota’s attempt to force, through intimidation and violence, the Sioux Tribe to accept what white society, a few dozen miles upriver at Bismarck city has rejected; the Dakota Pipeline through the heart of their community.

The assurance of Energy Transfers Partnership, who laid the pipeline, that there will not be an oil spill into the Missouri River, which the pipeline traverses, are empty given that that there have been hundreds, if not thousands of pipeline spills, including those from ETP pipelines.

In the fierce confrontation that unfolded, Standing Rock also became a learning ground for Energy Companies who ramped up their oppressive strategies with increasing violence and insidious tactics; it’s infiltration, surveillance and hacking of communications.

Standing Rock, one of the most unique resistance camps ever, was a front line against the most powerful and destructive corporation ever in the history of humankind, the Oil Industry. It was the first time, since the Battle of Little Bighorn in the 1800’s that Seven Lakota and Dakota Nations came together, alongside over 30 other Indigenous Nations.

This gathering of Indigenous Nations from all over Turtle Island (the Native name for America) has not been known in historical memory. The tribes represented were joined by First Nation peoples from South America, New Zealand, and beyond, and allies from around America and further afield. Over  two thousand military veterans who vowed to protect this courageous and determined community also joined up.

At the heart of this resistance is a commitment to break the cycles of violence born of a colonial mind-set, which feels entitled to extract for self-benefit regardless of the impact.

This mind-set is now the front line everywhere, within and around us all. Increasingly, our choices are influenced by a colonising, psychopathic corporate agenda extracting extortionate amounts of wealth for a tiny percentage of the global population (8 men now own as much as 50% of the world wealth, according to Oxfam).

But we can also make different choices, mindful choices that aid a necessary resistance upon which our survival now depends. Such a radically different path, demonstrated at Standing Rock, was the bedrock of an indigenous template for wise choice informed by seven Lakota values around which the community orientated itself.

These values speak to collective resistance as both an inner training as well as guidelines for family, community, society, and business.

This is how I heard them.

  1. Prayer: Honour and respect the sacred within all life, which includes nature, the earth, the elements of fire, water, air, and those living beings that are not two legged. (The reductive term, animals, is not in indigenous language, instead the term ‘our relatives’ is used.) Purify the heart. Connect with ancestors, and the overall indwelling spirit of creation while aligning within community through ceremony. This involves ceremony as resistance, resistance as ceremony.
  2. Respect: Respect begins with deferential listening, and from that, a willingness to shift into new ways internally and behaviour externally. It means not pushing ego agendas and strategies. Instead be willing to listen to wise elders, children, to feedback, to what is needed for the overall good of the community.
  3. Compassion: Take care of one another. Be compassionate towards ones self, and to self and others when making mistakes. The stronger let the physically weaker go first, for example, at meals, the elders, women and children go first. As a practice, step aside from assuming entitlement due to race, gender, class, wealth, and instead tune into the needs of the marginalised and vulnerable.
  4. Honesty: Be true and authentic with each other, while being self honest about our conditioning and how that plays out in ways that generate harm, even subtly, to others and the environment.
  5. Generosity: Put in more than you take out. Generosity is not just sharing physical goods, but is essential to generating sustainable life for all. It is the direct opposite of colonisation, which is based in domination and ownership at the expense of others.
  6. Humility: Be grounded in your own being, while checking your expectations of others and what is around you. Hold off from pushing your agenda, particularly if it is dominating the space with “I have a better way” or “My idea is best.” Be sensitive to internalised colonised conditioning, and be willing to own it.
  7. Wisdom: We all carry wisdom within us, but within the context of Indigenous or Elder wisdom spaces, listen and be guided by the understandings offered. Resist an “extractive” mind-set, or cultural appropriation of what is not offered. Be respectful of elders and learn to listen to all voices, even those you don’t agree with.

Bring it Home!

Not everyone could get to Standing Rock, and not everyone at Standing Rock could go on the front lines. But every one of us must now pay heed to what unfolded there, because Standing Rock is now our part of our strategy to ensure a liveable planet for future generations.

We are on a precipice and the lights are going out. We are losing the Arctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the great forests, most wild life, and we are being threatened by a craven political and corporate agenda that cares for no one, except its own profit. Those who crave money will find out soon that they cannot eat their money. But, as said by the Elders, those at Standing Rock stand for them too, and for their children and their grandchildren.

At the heart of this sacred, prayerful and ceremonial resistance at Standing Rock is a commitment to complete non-violence.

My understanding of this, from what I witnessed, heard, and experienced, is that there is an invitation to align with a deeper power. This power, articulated as guidance of ancestors, forces of nature, and the overall guiding intelligence of the Great Spirit, that pulses within us.

At Standing Rock, the heart was stripped down to its essential rawness. In place of socialisation strategies, what arose was strength of authenticity, of sharing, of camaraderie, and a wonder at the resilience of human beings rising up.

Here’s what I heard from an Indigenous man who is a Water Protector and leader of the heart and spirit.

What should be remembered about Standing Rock is that it began with children calling us to pray with them. Elders too. We must mean and do what we say. Fighting from violence disrespects the ancestors. The ancestors are fighting the battle also, and they need us to be here without violence. You must pray for yourself, to take out your pain and have love put in your heart instead. As we unify with nature, she will heal us. Respect Mother Earth.

He also said,

One day, at the height of the Iraq War, an Elder Grandmother prayed to the ancestors at the sacred fire to ask that the war stop. They responded by saying to her that her prayer was a good prayer, but it was not enough. That everyone must pray to stop war. We are at a precipice. Everyone must now pray.

Water is Life.

This meme is the underlying stream of consciousness at Standing Rock. The pipeline threatens the clear and beautiful waters of the Missouri River.

Every morning, as day broke with its icy chill, the pre-dawn circle around the sacred fire, buoyed by shared wisdom from Elders and water protectors, enacted a ceremonial and collective walk to the frozen bank of the river.

There, offerings are made. Sometimes we saw formations of geese fly across the limpid snow grey sky over the still glass waters and sometimes we felt spirit of the Missouri respond. It was felt as a subtle jubilant uplift within the heart. This earth is alive and she feels our intentions, our actions, and our hearts. The evocative experience of this living prayer was an invitation for us all to reclaim a sacred relationship to water, air, earth, fire, and to be attentive to our indwelling consciousness.

Everyday we use water. We depend on it for life, and yet we entirely take it for granted. One late afternoon, a woman spoke at the sacred circle fire. She had come from Flint, Michigan to join forces. She spoke of poisoned water in her city, of people drinking and having their teeth dissolve, of people getting sick, dying, and of her own infertility and pain at not being able to mother children due to the poisoned water.

Standing Rock is not just about Standing Rock. It is about everywhere. It’s about our struggle to reclaim the sacredness of water, of the elements, and of Grandmother Earth.

It speaks to our need to reconnect with each other in more direct, generous, authentic and respectful ways, and it speaks to our true spirit, which seeks to release from the mechanistic, disassociated, drudgery of a de-sacralised life by undertaking acts of loving service and sacrifice. We do this for all of us.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse asked people of faith to come together at Standing Rock in prayer and ceremony. To do so can help avert our catastrophe.

We must continue to honour his request.

Standing Rock and its blazing heart lives on, through the myriad, potent seeds planted long ago, as I was told, by ancestors of that very land who knew these times would come. The seeds are now fast growing as collective resistance. The Indigenous People are showing the way, as have many oppressed people throughout history, and for this, words of gratitude seem paltry.

The gift of Standing Rock bequeathed a clarified, strong, heart burning with a light of commitment and passion in the face of such wanton destruction, hate, and ignorance. This then, is our offering of gratitude. To pick up that flame of hope, and to carry it long into the shadowy night that is fast circling us all.

I want to finish by returning to Greenland, with a true story from my Danish friend. To help us consider perhaps, not only ‘what to do’ but where we ‘do’ from.

There was a man in the early 1900’s, he was half Danish and half Inuit, an anthropologist, who spent long periods of time with the Inuit First Nation People’s of Greenland.

One day, out on the ice, with a hunting group, they cornered a large polar bear. As the man crept forward and the polar bear, knowing he was about to be killed, he suddenly lifted his front paws and smashed them on the ice.

The ice broke and both the polar bear and the explorer found themselves suddenly thrust into freezing water. Immediately the bear and the man recoiled from each other, even as they were rapidly freezing to death. However, the urgency of survival turned them back toward each other. The man later recorded that looking in each others’ eyes in a moment of intense intimacy, the sense of ‘man’ and ‘bear’ dropped away, there was only one soul looking back at another.

They both moved toward each other, as the rest of the hunting party hauled them up and out. Immediately the bear and the man ran in opposite directions.

When I heard this story, what I understood, is this is where we are now. Struggling to survive against increasingly devastating odds. How then, are we going to see ourselves, this world, and each other and how will that seeing inform what we do?

Kittisaro’s Message to High School Students, Teachers & Parents.

A few weeks ago, Kittisaro’s former high school Baylor School in Chattanooga Tennessee sent an email asking if he could address the student body in these Coronavirus times. Kittisaro has a long history with Baylor alongside his two brothers, who are all held in high esteem for their many academic and athletic successes.

However, when Kittisaro returned to his home town as a Buddhist monk in the 1980’s, there was uncertainty how his old beloved community would react. The headmaster, Herb Barks, (author of The Magic Bridge and brother of Rumi translator and author Coleman Barks), was himself just beginning to enter into an inner practice of meditation and silent listening, so Kittisaro’s appearance felt timely.

Herb didn’t hesitate to invite Kittisaro, with shaven head and robe, to talk to the Student Body of about a thousand students. As news spread, a local powerful donor called Herb in his office. “Herb, if you let that Buddhist monk speak at the school, I’m going to withdraw my three million dollar donation for the new chapel.” “That’s OK“, replied Herb. “You can do that, but what’s more, you should come listen to this boy, you might learn something.”

So now, many decades on, Kittisaro still speaks from time to time to his old school. This may also be timely, not only for students, teachers and parents, but for us all.

 

MESSAGE TO PARENTS & TEACHERS

Do you have any general advice for people of all ages in all areas of the country and the world at this time?

What I said to the Baylor students (see below) is relevant for everyone. They are not just words for young people at a school in Tennessee. I’m encouraging myself in the same way.

This is an intense time of massive transition – a global confrontation with mortality – that is not easy to bear. Multiple interconnected systems are collapsing, our normal routines have been abruptly stopped, and we face profound uncertainty individually and collectively. As we shelter in place at home, we need to be kind and patient with ourselves and each other, so that we can metabolize this new reality. To reflect on death, loss, and impermanence, is vitally important and deeply transformative. If we receive this challenging experience as a mysterious gift from the universe, and deeply contemplate it, we can discover a deeper abiding, an inner ground of clarity, compassion, serenity, and safety. This isn’t easy, but I believe it is the task that lays before us.

In a mythopoetic sense, the storylines of our culture and individual lives have been radically upended. The old world is gone and the new world has not come into focus. It’s disorienting and scary, an in-between place – a liminal space – where we most likely feel unmoored. Listen in to those uncomfortable feelings, and honor them. As the wise ones of old have taught, there is an important Heavenly Message here. The structures and patterns of life are fragile, uncertain, and impermanent. This Is the true ephemeral nature of the conditions of life – all that we take to be me and mine, internally and externally.  Wanting things to be different, creates more stress and panic. In mindfully recognizing, accepting, and honoring the changing nature of our lives, we can discover an inner ground of stability and resilience.

Before Covid-19 we were always going somewhere. As Charlotte Du Cann says, we’ve now been “thrown into intimacy with home” and “brought back to the hearth.” We have a chance to come home to ourselves. Many of us have been refugees from our own heart. The hearth is the fire place, the vital and creative center of the home dwelling. As we mindfully and patiently listen in to the various difficult feelings that have been evoked in this pandemic “lockdown” – being afraid, trapped, isolated, lost, hopeless, resentful, discouraged – we deepen our capacity to be real and human. As we listen inwardly, breathing with and through the various sensations and feelings, we realize that they naturally keep transmuting, shifting, and dissolving back into an unmoving awareness – ever listening, ever awake. The sacred hearth of the spirit is this timeless awareness, always here and now, underlying everything, and yet so easily overlooked when we get enchanted by the external circumstances of our lives always pushing us on to the next thing.

It is a time to rediscover the magic of pausing, listening, mindfulness, kindness, and empathy – the widening of awareness into compassion. It’s like we’re living through a Biblical event – a worldwide flood – or wandering through the wilderness together as we search for a Promised Land, a new trustworthy, beautiful, and safe home. It’s a spiritual pilgrimage, and however overwhelming and scary it gets, there’s an opportunity here, if we heed the message, to awaken to precious timeless truths hidden right here in our own hearts, revealing deeper sources of strength, stability, belonging, and security that we’ve overlooked. The sacred ground is right here, and cherishing that attitude portends the dawning of a new beautiful world.

Seniors, perhaps, have lost the most as the shelter in place order has caused the closing of the campus for the rest of the year. How do you think you would have felt had something like this happened during your senior year at Baylor? What advice might you give our seniors?

If this had happened to me in my last year at Baylor, I would have been upset and frustrated. It’s a great loss not being able to be with your classmates for the final months of your senior year: the formal and informal times together with your friends savoring and celebrating your life at Baylor, the senior trip into the wilderness, and the graduation ceremonies marking the rite of passage as you embark into the hopeful potentialities of your future. But, this is how it is. Wanting it to be different just creates more pain and distress. Feel the feelings. You’re human. Share them with your friends (in whatever ways you can) and listen to yourselves and each other patiently and kindly without judgement. But don’t cling to them. Let the feelings come and go, and know that your graduation is mysteriously consecrated, blessed, and potentized by a worldwide corona phenomenon.

Corona means crown, and the Commencement ceremonies that you were preparing for, signify a new beginning, a threshold marking your entrance into a new territory of heightened responsibility. Christ had a crown of thorns. There’s no resurrection without a crucifixion. When suffering, hardship, disappointment, and adversity is respected, profoundly received, and contemplated, it mysteriously reveals a new beginning, a truly fresh start, and an end of suffering. It might not be what you want to hear. It’s counterintuitive, but all the saints and sages of old – and many of our heroes too – have realized this eternal truth.

The future is for those who can adapt. It’s easier to be agile and let go when you are young. As Dr. Rick Hanson says, “When everything falls down around you, you’re left with what’s inside you.” Don’t be afraid to feel the turmoil, if that’s what is happening. As you patiently tend to your inner world, there’s a wondrous alchemy that takes place. You can cultivate a resilient mindset that is not easily overwhelmed, an unshakeable core of well-being.

This is work. It takes practice to cultivate resilient well-being in the midst of turbulence. You can do it. My good friend Dr. Herb Barks, the visionary former headmaster of Baylor, told me that education should include 3 things: silence, wilderness, and community. In moments of silence, we give ourselves the opportunity to listen and bless the inner world with careful attention, infusing the various sensations of the body, thoughts, and emotions, with awareness and wise reflection. As we gain skill, we find an inner steadiness and appreciate the simple joys of being alive.

Although you won’t be able to join your friends in the wilderness for the senior trip this year, you can walk outside and appreciate that Mother Earth offers you each and every breath from her green trees, sustaining your life. All the food that nourishes every cell in your body comes from her fertile soil and life-giving waters. Everything we own and wear comes from Mother Earth, and returns to her. Mother Earth is our root support and only home. But, we’re not honoring her carefully enough.

As silent listening and appreciative awareness deepens and widens, it includes Mother Earth and all our fellow beings. Contemplation reveals that our life is deeply interwoven with all things and all creatures. We literally would not be here without our precious planet, ancestors, and parents. In times like this we realize we need each other. We are in this together. We are part of a wider community. How can we serve this community of interbeing?

In times of crisis like this, as we shelter in place, consciously choose the most precious principles you want to embody and become. Let them be your compass and guide, so that no matter how bad it gets, you preserve your integrity. If we all do this, helping each other, we will get through this time, and the new post Covid-19 world will be a beautiful place to live.

Can you offer any encouragement or positive thoughts about our future, post-coronavirus?

In this in-between time, the old world collapsing, and the new world unknown, we have a critical choice. Do we recreate the old story of the self-centered mind, intent on acquisition, domination, and control that we have seen playing out in so much of the pre-coronavirus world? Or, do we heed the powerful shock from mother nature and listen deeply to her message. We must learn from this. The seemingly insignificant and earthbound caterpillar, eating everything that’s green, suddenly stops, hangs upside down, and spins a cocoon. In that self-imposed isolation, deeply digesting and metabolizing all that is within, there is a wondrous and unexpected transformation into the vibrant color, vitality, and flight of a butterfly. Psyche is the Greek word for butterfly. May this sheltering in place be a conscious cocoon, allowing for an urgently needed transformation of our personal and collective soul.

We have treasures within us, but they are forgotten when we’re too busy going somewhere, imagining that all the good stuff is out there, somewhere else.

A very important teacher in my monastic training, who’s been a huge inspiration in my life for the last 40 years, is Chinese Buddhist monk Master Hsuan Hua. Through all the ups and downs in the many different cultures, geographies, and life situations I’ve encountered – some of which have been deeply challenging – his verse has been a guiding light.

            All living beings are my family.
            The universe is my body.
            All of space is my university.
            My nature is empty and formless.
            Kindness, compassion, joy, and giving are my way.
                                                                        — Master Hsuan Hua

 

Kittisaro, May 7th, 2020Also published here in the Baylor site.

Kittisaro - head shot copy

 


 

MESSAGE TO BAYLOR STUDENTS

Hello Guys. How are you doing? This corona virus has really turned the rhythm and shape of our lives upside down. My good friend Tim Williams just wrote me and asked if I would offer a few words for you, the Baylor students.

I hope you and your families are staying well. However, this is a challenging time where a lot of our fellow human are not well. Quite a few of our friends, people near and far and in the world around, are ill and facing all sorts of difficulties, anxieties, and fears about the future. I’d like to encourage you today not to judge or be harsh with yourself for any feelings and reactions you are experiencing, but to take this opportunity to be kinder to yourself and others. Welcome all these feelings and uncertainties. Listen into them. Listen to this moment.

Sheltering in place. How are we sheltering in place? Where is true shelter? I know that many of you, and me too, have seen our plans and expectations upended. I have a dear young family member, like you, who was travelling abroad, but then was suddenly stopped. She had to come home. Her exciting summer job, all lined up, was put on indefinite hold because of this unexpected disruption of all the norms of our life. Naturally she felt sad and a sense of loss.

How are you doing with the loss of your normal routines? The disappointment of not being able to have certain events, not being physically together with your friends and colleagues, your teams and activities, your classes and vacations, and the social gatherings where you can celebrate.

I encourage you to remember that we are not the first ones to have the routines of our life upended. The structures and patterns of life are fragile. They are uncertain. Many peoples around the world have lives that are totally disrupted by wars and natural disasters. This is not the first pandemic or sickness that has swept over societies. About 100 years ago during the flu pandemic tens of millions were stricken sick and died.

In the midst of this corona virus pandemic, there is a lot of political polarity, conflicting views, and confusion. But on the human level, I encourage us to take this opportunity to reflect on what’s important. With sheltering in place, rather than just seeing it as just something that is imposed upon us, a great loss, reflect on the gift that we make to one another when we are patient, relax, and align with this policy, which is helping mitigate and slow the surge of infections. Even though we might not be worried about getting sick ourselves, as we stay at home, practicing physical distancing and maintaining care around our interactions, we are making an offering to protect those who are more vulnerable – perhaps protecting your parents or grandparents, and those of us who are more immunodeficient or have weaknesses or underlying conditions that make someone, you likely don’t know,  more susceptible to being really stricken by this COVID-19.

I suspect many of the people you and I have admired in our lives, in history or around us, have faced challenges and hardships, things not going the way they wanted. But in the midst of a real challenge, they persevered. Through patience, wise reflection, and beginning again, they discovered qualities, beautiful noble human qualities that are forged within the hardship, within challenge, within the unexpected.

Many great wisdom traditions see challenges like these as heavenly messengers that convey important truths from a deeper dimension of this mysterious journey we call life. The external forms of our lives are very transient, very fragile, and very changeable. All of us at some point or other, will encounter the ageing process, sickness, and death – the dying of this body, the dying and fading away of forms we’ve loved, of circumstances, of various phases of our life.

To reflect on this uncertain nature of our life is important. If we listen to this message, it reminds us that what seems reliable – our strength, our vitality, things unfolding the way we expect them to be – is impermanent. If we just hold on and want things to be a certain way, then when they are gone, we get rocked and shaken. We get distressed. But those very feelings, those very reactions, also are a significant message. They help us see, “Wow, I’m suffering because I wish things were different. But things are this way.”

Sometimes we can’t change the outer circumstance, but we can change our responses. In being able to let things be the way they are – relax into them, breathe into the sensations of now – we can discover something deeper, something enduring that’s not affected by uncertainty. The school year is not unfolding the way we thought. Our normal activities, going around doing this and that, meeting with our friends, are gone. But what is still here? This quality of heart, this quality of presence, remains. Why is this heavenly message something precious? Sometimes in being so attached to all the external activities, we miss what makes them meaningful and real. What is witnessing, responding, and experiencing our lives? Have we ever looked at that?

May this shelter in place be a time of discovering awareness, your own heart and its inner silent listening. This is the core of your being where you touch into stillness, presence, and peace. These deeper, more mysterious dimensions of yourself, are places where sometimes there are no words. But we can listen in, especially when we pause. While there’s still a lot going on, all the online activity, maybe this time of being at home can also be an invitation to listen inward.

If we’re feeling isolated, missing our friends, also listen in to those feelings, discovering that we can bear the feelings and thoughts, “I’m lonely, I feel cut off. How long will this last, what about all my hopes and plans?” These longings, these disappointments and worries – can we breathe with them, listen into them? Awareness, which can inwardly observe as the thoughts and feelings come and go, remains peaceful.

As we shelter in place, we begin to discover a deeper shelter. We can discover that timeless awareness has a quality of quiet inner listening. Awareness can widen to include your body and how you feel. It can include your family members, listening in to your little community at home, including the frustrations and irritations with one another, which is natural. We can widen this inner listening, so our siblings, parents, pets, relatives, or whoever is with us sheltering in place, are all within unifying awareness. The whole world we experience is also within our awareness. We are not so much ALONE, but part of an ALL ONE-ness

We can also use this time to check in with friends. When we share with each other how we’re doing, then we see we are not the only ones struggling. I encourage you to expand your awareness, realizing that we’re in this together. As you develop this inner listening, you will experience a deeper connection to life, to friends, to all you meet. As you relax into being a bit more patient and at ease, it not only helps you, but it will help others to feel more relaxed.

Finally, I encourage us to honor Mother Nature. Let’s appreciate that we are all on this one Earth, sharing this one presence, one spirit, this one mysterious awareness that allows us to be conscious beings. Can we be open to the possibility that this disruption, while difficult, is also a heavenly messenger that is giving us a chance to appreciate what we have been given here.

May we touch this Earth lightly. May we treat one another well. May we learn to appreciate the simple things. One breath. One kind word. One kind deed.

We will get through this.

I’m grateful to have the chance to share a few thoughts with you today. I wish you well. May you take advantage of this opportunity to hear the whispering of deeper truths.

Blessings. Take care
Kittisaro (Randy Weinberg, Baylor Class 1970)  – April, 16th 2020 

Photo below:
Kittisaro returns to his old school as a Buddhist monk, early 1980’s

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