Electoral College: Last Stand Against the Putin-Trump Disunited Oligarchic States of Oil. One final act, (for now!)

The aligning interests between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s choice for U.S. president (Donald Trump), and Big Oil represents the gravest threat to humanity (and democracy) since the rise of the Axis powers in the 1930s.  — Mark Summer

So here we are, on the cusp of handing over the power to destroy the world to someone we wouldn’t even trust to look after our cat for one night. This amounts to nothing short of a screaming red alert, a wailing siren across the lands, an unprecedented and terrifying threat to everything we hold dear. If you felt on election night, as I did, that American democracy suffered a coup d’état, you were right. While there are many causes that brought about this elections outcome, the core of Trump’s pyrrhic victory points to Putin’s hijack of American power.  So, while a very slim chance, we can take one last stand, which is to write the Electoral College the next few days. (Details of how to below.) This is the very last ditch attempt to overturn Trump’s tainted and increasingly illegitimate ascendency to the highest office in the land.

This action transcends partisan politics. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all agree on the danger of a Trump presidency, particularly in the light of mounting evidence of Russia’s involvement. (During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, ‘he would be a dangerous president who would put the ‘nation’s sercurity at risk.’) But we don’t really need anyone to tell us what we already know, that a Trump presidency threatens the very fabric of American society. It will rip apart the already threadbare rights of marginalized, struggling, and oppressed, and will undermine constitutional freedoms such as the right to protest, the right to free press, and the right to free speech. But perhaps we still have to understand that the extensive surveillance and powers of State afforded to Trump and his craven cabinet, could very well mercilessly erode each and every hard won rights for you, for me, for everyone.

A Trump presidency will also likely take the environment, the global community, and all species to the brink of collapse. It absolutely threatens a sustainable Earth for future generations, even to the point of endangering human civilization. We cannot allow the demonization of climate science and the ripping up for the Paris COP21 agreement. Neither can we afford a reckless acceleration of extreme oil extraction alongside the total decimation of environmental protections, and unrestrained state sanction of severe predatory capitalism that seeks to colonize indigenous lands, state parks, and wilderness sanctuaries. We cannot allow the further dismantling of worker and union rights in order to cement an archaic feudalism that inflicts degradation and poverty while shamelessly and vindictively misdirecting anger toward the vulnerable, further endangering and demonizing Muslims, people of color, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, and women.

So friends, please set aside half an hour, even less, the next few days to do this one act of contacting the Electoral College. I feel, even as a newish citizen, I have a duty to implore the Electoral College to protect this United States of America, your children, grandchildren, and future generations. If you’re up for it, below are details of how to do that. Also below is the constitutional justification for an Electoral mandate to stop Trump. Right now is exactly the historic circumstance that the Electoral College was made for.(Non USA citizens can also lodge concerns)

HOW:

Online: Go to Ask the Electors to voice your concerns. Once there, you can write your letter. Here is the template I used. (Thanks to Maia Duerr for this, founder Five Directors Consulting, Liberated Life Project, former ED of Buddhist Peace Fellowship.)

Snail Mail: This is a great site to write via snail mail to your State representatives at the Electoral College. (I just sent a letter to all 11 electoral representatives in Tennessee.)

Protest: Join in protests at State Capitals across the country on December 19th.

This is also an action (below) that keeps the pressure on to investigate voter fraud & suppression, and the hijacking of the election.

Call: The Department of Justice is tallying phone calls regarding those who want the Vote Audited. Call 202-514-2000 and choose option number 4. At the end of the message, state your full name and say, “I am a US citizen, I live in _____, __ and that I would like to add my voice to all those calling for an audit of the 2016 presidential election.”

WHY:

The Electoral College is tasked with stopping someone who is:

  1. A demagogue
  2. Cannot practice foreign policy and national defence of the country appropriately.
  3. Who is influenced by a foreign power.

In the Federalist No. 1, Hamilton warned leaders about demagogues and tyrants, as did Madison at the constitutional convention. With this in mind, a series of checks and balances – the senate as a “necessary fence” and the Electoral College with an independent, non-partisan vote – have the authority to stop such a person from becoming president.

Trump qualifies as an authoritarian demagogue on the following counts:

  • His use of the presidency and world stage to feed his megalomaniac narcissistic need for domination, affirmation, and sycophantic adoration.
  • His extreme vilification of those challenge him, even to the tiniest degree, using the full force of his new found power in attempts to destroy them.
  • His threat to undermine and remove democratic checks and balances by attacking the free press, right to protest, disrespecting government feedback loops, avoiding answerability, and refusing culpability.
  • His hypnotic and repetitive statements that only he alone can solve America’s problems while at the same time dismissing and undermining intelligence briefings, the diplomatic corps, the state department, the C.I.A., and other norms of government that ensure responsibility and accountability.
  • His extremely divisive oratory demonizes marginalized peoples and communities, while energizing a fascistic white supremacist agenda, the most crass forms of racism, repulsive misogynistic rhetoric, and the sadistic belittling of the disabled and vulnerable.
  • Boasting he is above the law, “When you are a celebratory, you can do anything and they’ll let you.” “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not loose votes,” and his invitation to Russia to hack the DNC, Mrs Clinton’s emails, and to interfere with the election process.
  • His disregard (gaslighting) of facts while promoting wild and gross untruths at the same time responding to criticism and fact checkers by seeking to vengefully discredit critics, or their businesses. This has led to people receiving death threats, to companies losing $millions on the stock market overnight, and to legitimizing a violent culture of witch hunting.

Trump has numerous conflicts of interest and therefore cannot practice foreign policy or protect the national defence of the country appropriately:

We have already seen many conflicts of interest as Trump flagrantly uses his new position to further his personal assets. His private phone calls to heads of state, the ignoring of intelligence advice, diplomatic norms, and government checks and balances, has, for example, already triggered an alarming response from China. Provoked by his pandering to Taiwan and his dismissal the the “One China” policy, China just flew a nuclear bomber over the South China Sea as a direct message to Trump.

However, Trump’s most brazen conflict of interests is the Tillerson-Trump-Putin Oil alliance, which, due to policy being influenced by Russian interests, will definitely weaken America’s ability to negotiate as a world leader, while threatening historic alliances. In brief, Trump’s conflation of political power, the presidential office, and his and his families own business interests will usher in a full-blown American Kleptocracy.

A Trump presidency will be wholly influenced by a foreign power.

Analysis from the below seventeen agencies attest to Putin and Russia’s direct influence and manipulation of the election in favor of Trump. (Thanks to Genevieve Chase, founder & ED of American Women’s Veterans for this list.)

  1. Twenty-Fifth Air Force, United States Air Force
  2. Defense Intelligence and Security Command, United States Army
  3. Central Intelligence Agency
  4. Coast Guard Intelligence
  5. Defense Intelligence Agency
  6. Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
  7. Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  8. Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  9. Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Treasury
  10. Office of National Security Intelligence, Drug Enforcement Administration
  11. Intelligence Branch, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  12. Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, United States Marine Corps Defense
  13. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Defense
  14. National Reconnaissance Office
  15. National Security Agency/Central Security Service
  16. Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy
  17. Director of National Intelligence who oversees all of the aforementioned.

This sets an extremely dangerous precedent, which opens the door to Russian blackmail of the president, his staff, and the GOP. Further, Trump’s proposed Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Chairman of ExxonMobile, is someone who has deep ties with Putin and Russian oil interests. Besides ExxonMobile is a corporation under investigation for threatening global sustainability due to deliberate policies of misinformation about the devastating impact of climate change. As said by Bill McKibben,

Exxon helped organise the most consequential lie in human history.

Tillerson, Oil, and Russia:

Tillerson is close to Vladimir Putin. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens. Tillerson came up through the ranks at ExxonMobil by managing the company’s Russia account. After Tillerson became CEO, ExxonMobil bet billions on Russia’s vast oil resources through a partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft, owned partly by the Kremlin. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal. Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat. Further, Tillerson has advocated that the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine be dropped and economic ties between the two nations be restored. When sanctions were imposed, the Arctic drill deal between ExxonMobil and Russia tanked and ExxonMobil suffered as much as $1 billion in losses. Basically, Trump’s appointment of Tillerson is the equivalent of the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.

None of this is good news at all. To be honest, it’s hard to finish on an up note. Right now, there really isn’t one. Though, on a brighter day, I do believe that the up note is that human resilience is tremendous. When we pull together in non-violent acts of resistance, as demonstrated at Standing Rock, we begin to generate a different kind of power. The power of collaborative community. It is this power that will ultimately show the exit door to the reign of Moy’s. (A term used by the 12 Indigenous Grandmother’s, which means boy-men (not necessarily limited to gender), who want it all for themselves at the expense of everyone else.) This is the last ugly gasp and grasp of the Moy’s. It has to be. We have to organise to turn this around. But meanwhile, it seems clear that we are being asked to enter into the depth of the shadow, to see clearly the total catastrophe so we can wise up and be fully on board for the resistance movement. We do that while never giving up on midwifing the new world still struggling to be born.

end-empire

 

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STANDING ROCK: Being in a Living Prayer & the Art of Collective Resistance

Standing Rock is 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 Christianized education at boarding “schools”, and ongoing marginalization of Indigenous rights. This generational domination remains firmly in place illustrated by the State of North Dakota attempting to force, through intimidation and violence, the Sioux Tribe to accept what white society, a few dozen miles away at Bismarck city, rejected; the Dakota Pipeline through the heart of their community. The assurance of Energy Transfers Partnership, who are laying the pipeline, that there will not be an oil spill into the Missouri River, which the line traverses, are empty given that that there have been hundreds, if not thousands of pipeline spills, including those from ETP pipelines.

campStanding Rock, one of the most unique gatherings ever, is a front line against the most powerful corporation ever, the oil industry. Certainly, this is the first time, since the Battle of Little Bighorn in the 1800’s that Seven Lakota and Dakota Nations have come 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 have been joined by First Nation peoples from South America, New Zealand, and beyond, and allies from around America and further afield. Also joining are over two thousand military veterans who have vowed to protect this courageous and determined community.

sr-stand-offAt the heart of this resistance is commitment to break the cycles of violence born of a colonial mindset, which feels entitled to extract for self-benefit regardless of the impact. This mindset is now the front line everywhere, within and around us all. Increasingly, our choices will be influenced either by a colonizing, psychopathic corporate agenda servicing extortionate amounts of wealth for a minuscule percent of the global population, or they’ll contribute to a necessary resistance upon which our survival now depends.

Standing Rock offers an indigenous template for wise choice from seven Lakota values around which the camp orientates itself. These values, elaborated on by what I experienced and heard at Standing Rock, speak to collective resistance as both an inner training as well as guidelines for family, community, society, and business:

  1. Prayer: Honor 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.) Purify the heart, connect with ancestors, and the overall indwelling spirit of creation while aligning within community through ceremony. This involves resistance as ceremony.
  1. Respect: Respect begins with deferential listening, and from that, a willingness to shift into new ways internally and behavior externally. It means not pushing ego agendas and strategies. Instead be willing to listen to wise elders, to feedback, to what is needed for the overall good of the community.
  1. 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 marginalized and vulnerable.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 colonization, which is based in domination and ownership at the expense of others.
  1. Humility: Be grounded in your own being, while checking your expectations of others and what is around you. Hold off from pushing your agenda, particulalry if it is dominating the space with “I have a better way”, “My idea is best.” Be sensitive to internalized colonized conditioning, and be willing to own it.
  1. 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” mindset, 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.

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, pulses within us. At Standing Rock, I experienced my heart being stripped down to its essential rawness. In place of socialization strategies, what arose was strength of authenticity, of sharing, of camaraderie, and a wonder at the resilience of human beings rising up.

Here’s some of 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.

to-waterWater 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, 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 bank of the river. There, offerings are made. Sometimes formations of geese fly across the limpid snow grey sky as the still glass waters and spirit of the Missouri responds. It is felt as a subtle jubilant uplift within the heart. This earth is alive and she feels our intentions, our actions, and our hearts.

sr-missouriEveryday 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 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 and our struggle to reclaim the sacredness of water, of the elements, and of the 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 desacralized life, by undertaking acts of loving service and sacrifice.

Bring it Home! Not everyone can get to Standing Rock, and not everyone at Standing Rock can go on the front lines. But every one of us must now pay heed to what is unfolding there, because all of us need to play our part to ensure a livable planet for future generations. We can’t rely on politicians or other leaders, instead we have to all pull together. 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 it’s own profit. Those who crave money will find out soon that they cannot eat their money. Those standing at Standing Rock stand for them too, and for their children and their grandchildren.

protectWe do this for all of us. The Army Corps of Engineers, who claim the land of Oceti Sakowin Standing Rock, have stated the intention of evicting the camp on December 5th. It now looks like the peaceful Water Protectors will be confronted by a highly militarized police force, alongside a private, mercenary army on behalf of the State, the pipeline and the oil company, who have already proved their capacity for shameful, wonton violence. Chief Arvol Looking Horse has asked us to join together in prayer and ceremony. To do so can help to help avert this potential catastrophe. Please do what you can.

Whatever happens on that fateful day: whether Standing Rock and its incredible blazing heart stands of falls, what is assured is that voluminous, potent seeds are fast growing in support of collective resistance. The Indigenous People are showing the way, as have many oppressed people throughout history, and for this, words of gratitude seem paltry. What one is bequeathed through the gift of Standing Rock is a clarified, strong, heart, burning with a light of commitment and hope in the face of incalculable odds. This then, is our offering of gratitude. To pick up the flame of hope, and to carry it long into the shadowy night that is fast encroaching us all.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Here is a fund raiser to support the Dharma Dome @Standing Rock, for practitioners, meditation, and prayer in support of the camp and water protectors. Donations beyond needs of the Dharma Dome go to www.standingrock.org and will distributed according to priority by Indigenous leadership.

11/9: The Day America Fell is The Day We Rise Up.

It’s been a very long night-day-evening-night (is it day or night?) … I can’t remember how long since the sinking and rising horror evoked by the disappearing blue and bleeping red states. As we grasped the straws of “urban votes still to come in”, it was the text from my friend that broke the spell, This is terrifying Thanissara! What is going on?! This, our most terrible nightmare, is going on.

This weekend isn’t the moment for strategies, (though Michael Moore’s Morning-After-To-Do-List is good.) First, we need a breather to feel what we need to feel – all of it. To let the full impact sink in. It is incredibly, incredibly painful. Words from my Facebook feed: scary, torn down, devastated, dark night, despair, rage, implode, collapse, praying, danger, damage, heart-break, robbed, coup d’etat, cracking, catastrophique et funeste, shocked, leaving U.S.A., I cannot believe, disconnect, armageddon, horrifying, toxic, etc, etc.

We have to allow the full cellular body blow of anxious, grief-rage waves of feeling so we really get the heart of this shadow energy that we emotionally feel, instinctively know, and intellectually appraise as a profound threat to all we hold dear. A friend just wrote the phrase “the age of the dangerous psychopathic masculine is breathing its last through many leaders, male and female, around the world.” This election result friends, is the deep cry of resistance at the heart of white supremacist patriarchy that knows it’s on history’s losing side. Yes, it is also from those who feel utterly run over in the march of Reagan-Thatcher neoliberal capitalism that has unhooked itself from ethical constraints, social responsibility, environmental care, and increasingly, from sanity and reality.

This shadow energy, that at its heart pulses with anger and disdain, is rippling around the world and finding its foothold through legitimisation by those politicians who crave power and greed. This, as succinctly termed by Van Jones, is the whitelash of our times, the attempt to “take back” what was put in place by colonialism, racial supremacy, and class division. This is an anger and sense of entitlement that justifies utter disregard for the vulnerable and marginalised. Except now, the vulnerable and marginalised is going to be pretty much everyone, even those who voted to try and hold onto the illusion of control.

The greatest loser from this election though, the most gut wrenching blow, the true victim of the ultimate witches hammer of inquisitional sadism, is our beautiful, and now deeply vulnerable Mother Earth and her innocent species. As new cabinet members are being lined up, we are bearing witness to the psycho-fest and ghoulish nightmare of the twisted and deformed soul at the heart of this shadow patriarchy. This shadow patriarchal mind set, now emboldened, is aiming to plunder her completely, to take it all. Friends, feel it, feel the utter grief and shock of what we have done.

We have to feel this full impact, this terrible dark night of the soul and planet, to know this shadow energy that is fast focalising in America’s halls of power, because we have to face down its tentacles within our own psyches. We have to feel the blow to be woken from our deepest recesses of denial and our lingering allegiance to our comfort zones that are literally costing the earth, and are throwing disenfranchised communities, people of color, immigrants, the poor, and future generations under the bus.

We have to wise up to how this shadow energy operates at systemic, psychological, political, legalistic, and emotional levels. How it psychopathy manipulates, divides, intimidates, and distorts our natural heart energy. How it seeks to control and destroy the soul for its own fetid gain. Friends, we have to know that the power elites, the corporate fossil fuel oligarchs now emboldened, the war machine marching to tunes of the debauched masculine and crazed feminine will not give up until there is nothing left; no beauty, no wild places, no humane, sensitive and dignified modalities of relationship, no sacredness.

We have to know that we have reached the bottom.

Only then can we be stripped down to our blazing true heart, our invincible courage, and to the absolute certainty of what actually counts; our love of each other, our willingness to sacrifice for each other, and the bedrock of our humanity, which is the ethical commitment to protect what needs to be protected — the environment, nature, all other species, each other.

So, this election has had the result of fast forwarding us into an urgent curriculum. These are some of its central themes:

  1. Keep the heart strong
  2. Gather together in sacred community
  3. Resist
  4. Organize
  5. Overcome the machine (sorry, I am friends, from the wave of the 1960’s!)

This is what we practice for. When times of crisis and extreme challenge is upon us. This, friends, is what mindfulness is ultimately for. To hold steady at the face of the inferno.

We are in uncharted territories… but the walk has been walked by heroes before. We have their blessing. Our ancestors are here, the legions of earth defenders, seen and unseen, are here. We will hear the guidance as we listen.. listen in, listen out, listen…

Listen, because we are exactly where we need to be. We are the immune system that has just been given shock therapy so it can rise up.

One more word from the twitter storm and facebook scroll of that dark night: A word my nephew in Dublin signed off on at the close of our WhatsApp, what the feck’s going on, chat.

Reality.

My friend Andrew Harvey says, “Let’s get real.” Friends, let’s get real. As real as we can. Our real hearts together will lead the way.

Before I wrote this, I didn’t know what would be written. As I sign off, I now know that for the first time I feel something as really true. It’s banded around as something we should feel, but frankly, while giving lip service, I wavered all over the place around this. But signing off, I realise there is a true bedrock that I now do authentically feel. It is encapsulated in this one word.

Hope.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever we’ve done — I love you, I love me, I love us all, and in this moment, I love the frightened heart of the “craving to be seen” vulnerable masculine, and the confused contraction of the disempowered feminine, within and without. So, yes, one last word for our revolution.

Love.

Take courage friends, show up, rise up, and with your blazing heart in full operational mode, together, let’s meet the challenge of our times.

Let’s do this thing!

earthheartbeating

 

Buddhist Response to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

A dear friend, Israeli clinical psychologist, therapist, and Buddhist teacher Itamar Bashan, was invited to attend the Buddhist World Peace Conference at Sagain Hill, Mandalay, Myanmar in January of this year to deliver a lecture on peace. Itamar and his family are on the front lines of this “peace koan”, “What is a wise response to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Below, you can read Itamar’s compelling, honest, and moving response “DEPENDENTLY CEASING in the MIDDLE EAST: A Personal Account.” I’ve taken the liberty to context Itamar’s speech with these few paragraphs to encourage Buddhist participation in this dialogue. It’s important because, as Itamar lays out so very well, the Dharma has a valuable contribution to make. 

While a strong progressive Buddhist voice is emerging for climate and racial justice in the form of articles, petitions, activism, websites, social media, and trainings, for the most part Western Buddhist leadership 8and Sanghas’ have remained silent in response to the extreme use of Israeli force against a highly vulnerable Palestinian population, especially since the Israeli Defence Forces 2014 military operation in Gaza. For those who deeply care about this conflict, our Buddhist silence has become deafening. In the face of Western involvement in the destabilisation of the Middle East, including the unchecked provision of American, British, and other Western funds that are enabling Netanyahu’s “forever rule by the sword“, here’s an invitation to widen awareness and engagement.

I do understand the reluctance. The Israel-Palestine dynamic is a hot, divisive, complex, and loaded issue, even to mention, never mind negotiate. Most people shrug and conclude that it’d likely be easier to configure the Rubik Cube blindfolded than try and reconfigure the Middle East in alignment with a just and collaborative solution. Yet, all conflicts tend to come down to simple, common themes, which is why, even though ideal solutions remain illusive, israel-palestine1middle ground can be gained through the recognition of our shared human suffering and aspirations.

A middle way is exactly what the Buddha pointed to, both as a subtle Dharma insight and as a non-violent response to conflict. Over the last decade, my husband and teaching partner Kittisaro and I, have led retreats and workshops in Israel. We love the passion, heart, intelligent inquiry, and depth of soul of the Sangha there. Yet, the power of the Israeli gestalt and the poignancy of Israel-Palestine haunts. It just seems impossibile. After the Buddha’s awakening, he too felt that the task at hand was impossible. So why then, did he persevere and teach his Dharma for four decades? Because even in the face of darkness and ignorance, he recognised all beings have potential to awaken, to transform, and to live good lives.

Ultimately, it is the practice of mindful awareness, depth inquiry, and empathy, both personally and collectively, that opens up the middle ground the Buddha walked. These days, a little more middle ground, wherever it can be found, is the difference between maintaining democracy or sliding into fascism; between life and death.

DEPENDENTLY CEASING in the MIDDLE EAST:
Personal Account by Dr. Itamar Bashan, Bhavana House, Tel Aviv.

What should a peace seeker do in such times? Facing violence, hatred, injustice and
atrocities, what is right action? What is right speech?

iamarI was born in Israel a few years after World War II to parents who were Holocaust survivors. Most people in the neighborhood where I grew up were survivors of the inferno ignited by the Nazis, people that have lost family members, friends, property, hopes.
Many of them have lost their sanity too. Interrupted life. During the two years after the war, my parents were in a refugee camp in Italy, and in 1947 they crossed the Mediterranean from Europe to the Middle East, the same route taken currently by hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees in the opposite direction. After a perilous journey on a rickety boat they arrived in their ancestors’ historical land, with the hope of a new life. The Arab inhabitants received them jewish-exoduswith suspicion, hostility and violence. Shortly after their arrival the War of Independence broke out and a few months later the State of Israel was founded. Since then to this day, nearly 70 years, Israel is in a constant state of war with its neighbors.

For many years I could not understand how the citizens of Nazi Germany kept silence when Hitler came to power, declared war and conducted the Final Solution, the demonic plan for the mass murder of all Jews in the world, based on a racist ideology. I could not understand how ordinary people – teachers, merchants, artists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, people of law and justice – most certainly honest, decent, educated people – could keep silent. How could they remain silent in view of the human monster that developed right before their eyes. That silence was incomprehensible to me, a crime that was second only to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

As a karmic irony, the answer is given to me now on a daily basis. And that answer is painful. As an Israeli, I am a citizen of a country that lives by the sword. A country that was founded to address the needs and to protect the rights of Jewish war refugees to have a new and just life, but gradually became violent and oppressive towards a population that lived in this country for many generations, the Palestinians. Gradually, after its greatest military victory in the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has become an arrogant, depriving, occupying state, violating the international law and trampling basic human rights. Last year, following the strengthening of the extreme right wing forces in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and in the government, this process gained momentum, and I see how ordinary people – teachers, merchants, artists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, people of law and justice – most certainly honest, decent, educated people – keep silent. I see first hand the mechanisms of incitement, I see the threats and violence that are directed towards those protesting against the repressive actions, and I understand directly how this was possible in Nazi Germany, how it is possible today in Israel, how it is possible anywhere. We, human beings, have the potential to be either pure or evil. It is our responsibility to choose, we are the owners of our actions and we inherit the results.

In the summer 2014, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a military operation in the gazaGaza Strip following the incessant firing of rockets at Israeli towns. According to the United Nations, 2,176 people were killed in this operation of which 72 Israelis (65 soldiers, seven civilians) and 2,104 Palestinians (including 495 women, 253 children).

The large number of dead children and women among the Palestinians caused conscientious Israeli citizens to take to the streets, protesting against the lack of proportionality in exercising power by the gaza2IDF. These demonstrations sparked waves of hatred and violence against the Israeli left wing, whose strength has dwindled considerably in recent years. A question was raised whether such demonstrations, provoking so much anger and hatred, is a skillful action, or whether silence is the right action during times of tension. I would like to ask you, dear Dhamma friends: What should a peace seeker do in such times? Facing violence, hatred, injustice and atrocities, what is right action? What is right speech?

From its inception, Israel advocated liberal values, humanism, equality, democracy and human rights. Though it did not reach the level of evil of Nazi Germany at it’s peak, witnessing it’s gradual withdrawal towards becoming a racist, nationalist, clerical-fascist state in a short period is scary and sad. The nationalist right wing is growing stronger, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just informed the citizens that “we will forever live by the sword”. Israel was well known for encouraging pluralism and independent thinking, but now the Ministry of Education advocates uniformity of thought, and it finds an echo in the mob: whoever deviates from the rigid Jewish-nationalistic identity dictated by the government is marked by broad sections of society as a traitor and a collaborator
with the enemy.

These words that I write just now will probably be interpreted by the Israeli majority as unfaithful. I would like to emphasize that this is not an exaggeration: Those who seek protest-signspeace, who are asking to maintain coexistence with the Palestinian citizens of the country, who support equal rights to all citizens either Jews or Arabs and support the founding of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, are considered by a growing portion of Israeli society as traitors. This ethical and moral decline is a result of the continuous state of v3iolent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. These are the fruits of unskillful emotions such as fear, insecurity, hatred and revenge. “The Other” is tagged as daemon and inhuman, and thus develops the view that he is untrustworthy, the only security lies in having him exterminated.

Describing the process of change it is going through, I’m not pointing at Israel as the guilty party. It must be said clearly, loudly and with deep compassion that both parties in the conflict are based on painful and traumatic foundations, suffering victims of mutual ignorance. The Holocaust for the Jews and the Nakbah (disaster; the Palestinians’ exodus in 1948) for the Palestinians are constitutive events, personal and collective traumas, the core of both identities. Generally speaking, both sides refuse to acknowledge the other’s narrative and painful 20th century history. The process of dehumanization, based on denial of the other’s catastrophe, is mutual, and is blinding both peoples’ eyes to see that “The Other” also has family, dreams, rights and feelings of fear, insecurity, grief, insult and revenge.

4Trapped in these views and fears, both sides tend to identify with their views and fears and define themselves through them, then those feelings and views dictate acts of violence and revenge in an attempt to destroy “The Enemy” that makes them feel that way. They hope to achieve peace, security and survival by eliminating and destroying what is perceived to be violating the security and peace that they crave for.

When we are not aware of “views as views and of emotions as emotions”, as instructed by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta (MN10), when we identify with these mental states, when we define ourselves by them, consider them as “me, mine and myself”, we continue to operate automatically according to old patterns and mental impurities. This process is well described in the first link of the Dependent Origination: ignorance conditions karmic7 formations (avijja paccaya sankhara). Becoming aware of mind states and mind objects allows us to know our views and emotions, their source in conditions and circumstances, and allows us not to attach to these mind states and objects. It also allows a more empathic view of “The Enemy”. With clear comprehension, the idea of separation disappears and wisdom (panna) arises, seeing clearly the dependent arising of phenomenon and the eternal law: “You can not stop hatred by hatred, but only by the lack of hatred” (Dhp 5). And more importantly: alongside the development of awareness and wisdom, the Brahmaviharas* also develop and enable the reversal of the dehumanization process.

And there is the argument of “he started it”, pointing the finger to the other whilespecifying the point in time when seemingly all began. But with Right View, it is clear that there is no such a starting point. Each event that we indicate as a starting point stems from the conditions and circumstances that preceded it, thus in a beginningless chain of events. There is no point in looking for “the guilty side” in this story, because it’s not a story of a victim and a victimizer but a story of mutual ignorance, blindness, denial, refusal to acknowledge the other’s narrative, that results in shared human suisraelffering. It is a story of two peoples dependently arising, or maybe I should say dependently ceasing, in an endless deadly conflict. The fruit of violent acts arising from fear, hatred and desire for revenge, is more hatred and more violent acts of revenge by the other side and so, in an endless chain reaction, the tendency to act violently out of hatred and vengeance is getting stronger every decade creating a mutual revenge cycle. So it is according to the law of karma and so it is in the bloody actuality of the Middle East:

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desire, … upon thoughts of ill will, … upon thoughts of cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of non-cruelty to cultivate the thought of cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of cruelty. (Dvedhavitakka Sutta MN19)

The more we incline towards thoughts and actions of a certain quality, the stronger becomes our inclination to repeat them. This, together with discernment between the wholesome and the unwholesome, is the basis of Right Effort. The individual’s mind works in this way, and it works in the same way in the collective consciousness. What each and everyone of us can do is take care of our own minds, our own actions, and open our hearts. We have no responsibility for the collective consciousness.

Having said all this, I’m still torn by doubts. One can cultivate Right View and Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood, train the mind, cultivate the wholesome and weaken the unwholesome, maintain awareness and stability of the mind, develop compassion and equanimity, be aware of mental proliferation and not let it develop. All these have wonderful fruits. But is this sufficient in view of incitement and political persecution? Is this an answer to the moral decline of an entire society? Is this enough to affect the decline of my homeland that my parents came to, as refugees of war, with the hope of establishing an egalitarian and just society? I have full faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, but is cultivating The Noble Path sufficient in view of the frightening and painful disintegration of Israeli society and its deterioration into a fascist and repressive one, that is happening before my eyes? I made the long journey from Israel to hear from you, good Dhamma friends: what is your answer to this question?

Some of my Buddhist friends claim that the right attitude is to keep practicing and propagating the Dhamma, and just “bear it”, as the Buddha advised Angulimala (MN86); bear the worries, the concern, the frustration, the pain of heart. Mind my own mind. But this doesn’t seem to be enough.

During the Saffron Revolution here in Myanmar in 2007, we watched on TV with great admiration and with deep appreciation, the quiet daily march of tens of thousands of burma1monks and nuns and citizens protesting against oppression and social injustice. The four assemblies were out on the streets. It was a non-violent resistance with a clear and courageous saying: Enough is Enough! Though it was a non-violent protest, it caused a lot of violence, with too many casualties. But for me and for many others around the world, and probably for many here in Myanmar, it was an inspiration to what is Right Action and Right Speech in times of oppression and social and moral crisis.The Suttas tell us that Right Speech is gentle and soft. But sometimes it is harsh and painful, and I refer you to the conversation between the Buddha and Prince Abhaya regarding the simile of a child that put a stick or a pebble in his mouth. “I would take it out even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have compassion for the child.”, said the prince. And the Buddha said: “…Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, but which is unwelcome and disagreeable to others: the Tathagata knows the time to use such speech.” (Abhayarajakumara Sutta MN58). It was clear to me and to the Lay Sangha at Bhavana House in 2007 that we can’t stand aloof. With other Buddhist groups, we demonstrated in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Tel Aviv, to protest. We were shouting, but with a mind of lovingkindness, without inner hate: “Free, free, Aung San Suu Kyi!” I still feel the shiver uttering these words. They might have been not very soft, agreeable and gentle words, but they came out of compassion and great care and love to the people of this country. To people everywhere.

‘Accepting reality as it is’ does not mean non action and just observing. Because compassion is not just another mental factor or feeling in the heart; it is wisdom in action. And equanimity is not indifference and detachment. True, the violent conflict in the Middle East ‘is what it is’. But facing it, an action is required, because as the Medieval Italian poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

It is each and everyone’s responsibility to take care of the situation. What is needed in this conflict, and maybe in every conflict, is a mutual emphatic acknowledgement of the2 narrative, suffering, fears and humaneness of the other, seeing clearly the mutual dependent arising and ceasing of both sides. Not only that we can’t allow ourselves to leave it to the politicians, we also can’t allow ourselves to hide behind perceptions like acceptance, equanimity, gentle speech, ‘the way it is’, etc. Understood with wisdom, these words are not to be grasped at or taken as a justification for non action. Yes, we have to act skillfully, with the Right Intention, with Loving-kindness and Compassion, with a pure heart, not with hatred and violence. But we have to take a stand in view of oppression and injustice. We have to speak up and engage. Otherwise, all this practice of the Buddha Dhamma is futile.

May all beings be free from hate, sorrow and blindness.

May all beings wake up. Thank you.

THANK YOU Itamar. Find out more about Itamar’s work here: Bhavana House (Buddhist teaching & meditation); and this article in Israeli Daily Newspaper Haaretz: Happiness Through Abstinence.  

Keep Informed via:

Breaking the Silence: Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: BDS works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.

Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights: Co-founded by Buddhist practitioner Sally Bowden-Schaible

Jewish Voice for Peace:  Work with diverse communities across the U.S.A. to achieve a lasting peace for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis based on equality, human rights, and freedom.

Tikkun: To heal, repair, and transform the world.

Get Directly Involved:

UK based Sangha Seva: Being Peace Retreats in Israel-Palestine

Connect with Israeli Sangha

Bhavana House, Tel Aviv & Tovana Meditation Centre

*Brahmaviharas – Four innate qualities of the pure heart, that can be consciously cultivated: Loving-kindness, compassion, joy at the welfare and success of others, equanimity.

Trump: America’s Ebola Virus

If equating Trump with Ebola caught your attention, then good, because we are in a red alert situation. Actually Trump is worse than Ebola. Ebola eats at the flesh, while Trump is not only tearing up the fabric of American society, he’s also eating its soul. This war for the soul of America is building to a terrifying possible outcome, the election of President Donald Trump. On Sept 21, 375 top scientists and 30 Noble Prize winners, including Stephen Hawking, warn, in a signed, open letter that a Trump presidency would have “severe and long-lasting” consequences, both for the planet and for the United States’ credibility.

When Trump first appeared on the scene in his Emperor’s red-power-tie gambit, this warning from Carl Jung keep floating in the back of my mind,

We know today that in the unconscious of every individual there are instinctive propensities or psychic systems charged with considerable tension. When they are helped in one way or another to break through into consciousness, and the latter has no opportunity to intercept them in higher forms, they sweep everything before them like a torrent and turn men into creatures for whom the word “beast” is still too good to name. They can then only be called “devils.” To evoke such phenomena in the masses, all that is needed is a few possessed persons, or only one. If this unconscious disposition should happen to be one which is common to the great majority of the nation, then a single one of these complex-ridden individuals, who at the same time sets himself up as a megaphone, is enough to precipitate a catastrophe.

Anne Baring, in her marvellous book The Dream of the Cosmos, which records Jung’s insight, explains further in her section Demonising the Enemy: the Manipulation of Shadow Projections.

Jung developed his ideas about the danger of the archetypal power of the shadow to overwhelm civilisation in his essays on events in Germany. There he analysed how negative projections onto others can develop and spread like a virus until they can contaminate a whole group or nation, causing it to fall into a psychosis, as in Nazi Germany or Maoist China. One of Jung’s most important realisations was that when we project evil onto others, particularly when we feel threatened, we may lose the possibility of insight and the ability to deal with evil, becoming very easily contaminated by it ourselves.

Many politicians display egotistical personality distortions, some more than others. Trump, however, is of an entirely different order. Do we want a president accessing nuclear codes, shaping the Supreme Court for generations, and leading the world in extreme climate denial, who, in the eyes of many psychologists is a narcissistic sociopath/ psychopath well accomplished in the art of gaslighting. (Gaslighting is when abusers undermine and distort the reality and truth of others’ perceptions and emotions in order to control or destroy them, i.e. Trump claiming victory for ending the birther myth he promoted for years by falsely shifting blame to Clinton.)

If you’ve ever been at the wrong end of such behavior, you will know it is devastating and hard to recover from. Psychopaths are masters of deflecting any responsibility for their destructive actions. They have no conscience and so lie, manipulate, and demonize with impunity. The people they use (and people are only there for their use), are fooled into thinking the charming, funny, guy actually cares. Instead they will be betrayed and left eviscerated as their guy moves onto the next “deal” without a backward glance. Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to read a person or group in order to pander to their fears and desires, but only for personal advantage. They seem empathetic but in actuality they are as cold as ice.

Add acute narcissism and you have ONLY self interest. To Trump, you, and everyone else, is a “loser.” Narcissists readily default to intimidation and violence when challenged, even to the smallest degree. Trump only wants a mirror to reflect his unchecked childish grandiosity, and if he doesn’t like the reflection, he will shatter the glass. He will shatter America.

trumpcuba

Clearly Hilary Clinton doesn’t have a halo. She’s not my first choice, Bernie is. However, Clinton won the Democratic nomination, which Bernie conceded. In Nate Silver’s commentary he furthers this opinion based on his highly rated statistical calculations,

My view is that the race wasn’t really all that close and that Sanders never really had that much of a chance at winning. From a purely horse-race standpoint, in fact, the media probably exaggerated the competitiveness of the race. But that’s not to diminish Sanders’s accomplishments in terms of what they mean for the Democratic Party after 2016.

The nature of Clinton’s relationship to Wall Street and the corporate world requires transparency, and her hawkish tendencies need to be curtailed. But to give credit, as Secretary of State she helped broker a deal with Iran in order to avert a nuclear crisis. Her comment reveals the kind of strategic diplomacy needed in our inflammatory times.

“Diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection — it is the balancing of risk,” she said, arguing that the risks of walking away from a deal that she helped shape would turn the United States, not Iran, into the international outlier. The Economist Sept, 2015

Unlike Trump, with his catalogue of bankruptcies, dubious business deals and lack of transparency regards his fraudulent Foundation, which is under investigation for impropriety. And unlike his compromising debts, ties to Russia, dangerous fawning of Putin, and absent tax returns, Clinton’s tax returns and financial dealings are publicly available. Further, innuendo’s about the Clinton Foundation fall flat before its A rating by the independent Charity Watch  Again, unlike Trump, she has a decades long successful career in public service, which is acknowledged by being voted in the U.S.A. as most admired person in the world for the last 20 years.

It’s true, Clinton comes over as defensive, but who wouldn’t after decades and millions of dollars funneled into endless investigations perpetuated by a GOP witch hunt, which have produced exactly nothing except endless conspiracy theories. Unlike Trump, who seems only answerable to his gut and who is a wild card his party can’t control, Hilary Clinton is guided by the Democratic party and a strong left leaning contingent, largely inspired by Bernie, who already successfully lobbied an aggressive Democratic agenda for clean energy. The ubiquitous posts on Bernie social media sites that protest there’s not a dime of difference between the GOP and the DEMS is not true. There is a huge difference between the Obamas, Sanders, and Warren, a true Robin Hood for our times; for example, and the likes of Pence who, like most all the GOP opposes marriage equity, hate crime protections and anti-discrimination measures, and Bevin who calls for blood in the event of a Clinton election.

Clinton’s Basket of Deplorables, a controversial statement, captures the shock at the swamp racism that Trump has inflamed and condoned. Yet, it is a partial truth. The whole uncomfortable truth is that Trump is the ultimate product of our collective ego-driven. racist, capitalist agenda that has no regard for the “left behind ones,” the environment, and for the resources of future generations. Trump is America’s shadow come to light. Trump represents, in so many ways, the last outpost of the heaving, screaming head pushing up out of the shifting sands of demographic change. His efforts are an attempt to hold power for the white supremacist patriarchy that feels threatened by our fast changing world. Eventually, like the dinosaur, he and his kind will lose. The issue before us right now is not the evolutionary change in the wings, but how much damage will the old order deliver in its death throes. That damage, just as Jung predicted, could be catastrophic.

Bernie is right. We need to be strategic. Trump has to be stopped. The dream dust imaginings that a Trump term will herald a full-scale progressive revolution is an extremely high risk strategy with absolutely no guaranteed outcome. A lot can happen in four years — a lot of irreparable damage. In the year 2000, I sat in a cafe in Berkeley drinking tea with a lovely liberal couple a few weeks before the Gore-Bush election. They were voting their hearts and ethics they said, for Nader. I empathized, but my heart dropped, not for their ethics and heart, but for the truth of political realities. Sixteen years later, we’ve weathered a horrific display of wanton violence during an eye watering “War on Terror” that has left the Middle East in ruins; 1.5 – 2 million Iraqi’s and Afghans dead, millions displaced throughout the region, thousands of American, British, and ally service men and women dead, thousands more wounded or who’ve taken their own lives, and trillions of dollars stolen and lost. We can only wonder at what could have been if not for the hanging chad and the loss to America of Al Gore’s integrity, intelligence, steadiness, and vision.

Actually, it’s hard to imagine there will be any kind of revolution while we still live in our comfort zones. Revolutions tend to happen under extreme oppression or if the vast majority are down to crusts of bread like the Russians and Chinese before their uprisings. Instead the Corporate Squeeze drip-feeds enough comforts and distractions to keep the illusion of contentment. So, the game plan for pushing American society into the extremity of a Trump presidency in the hope of radical change will cost someone, but probably not whites, the comfortable, and the privileged. It will cost marginalised communities, Native Americans, African Americans, Muslims, the recent won freedoms of the LGBT community, women and their reproductive rights, and probably the rest of the world. A Trump presidency also has the potential to irreparably exacerbate America’s deep divisions in service of an extreme nationalistic agenda, particularly as Trump continues to normalize and legitimize the use of hatred and violence for political ends.

Without a realistic political revolution within the next few weeks, the reality is that we have to strategically influence current political forces. There is simply a much better chance to continue momentum for the changes Bernie is advocating alongside a Democratic, rather than GOP Presidency, House, and Senate. Bernie built an extraordinary movement; and, in spite of not being the presidential nominee, he continues to be a powerful force for truth. In fact, it is likely that Bernie is a far better advocate for the revolutionary changes needed outside the Office of the Presidency. He is freer to be a political activist, for example his support at the Rally in Washington for First Nation Tribes at Standing Rock who have come out in force against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

But his leadership cannot be effective if we don’t get behind him. Stopping Trump, and working to end the influence of corporate power and money in the political landscape is Bernie’s agenda. A vote for a third candidate will, at this point, help put Trump in power and will undoubtedly sink that agenda.

Essentially, the key difference between Trump-GOP and Clinton-DEM is this. Trump’s primary strategy is vilification of the “other.” That “other” starts with Mexicans, but very quickly becomes a noose around all dissenters. Right now Trump wants to have the power to curtail the freedom of the press and the internet. He does so for only one goal, to aggrandise and empower himself. Such a pathological mind harnessing the mega political and military force of the United States has the potential to catalyse a fascist state. Again, quoting from The Dream of the Cosmos,

Holocaust and genocide never, repeat never, happen without lies about an evil “other.” A single human being may hurt or kill another human being. But in order to kill a hundred, a thousand, and certainly hundred of thousands, the victims must be turned into something sub or non human. … The demagogue never simply leads group A without systematically demonising and often destroying group B. He justifies his fixation on “the enemy” with all sorts of sophisticated rationales, including self-defence. But what marks that demagogue is that his leadership actually depends on, and is energised by, the existence of a hated “other.” Mark Gerzon – Leading Through Conflict.

In contrast, the Democratic message “Stronger Together” understands that the bedrock and future of American society is in its diversity. It also means something that Clinton has spent her career advancing women’s rights. Her voting records show support for reproductive rights, equal pay, and paid family leave. She supports the disabled, veterans, civil rights, LGBT rights, and women’s health globally. She is smart, examines the details, and does not shirk complexity. Much of the vilification coming toward her in the endless hate Clinton posts on social media have the hallmark of misogyny. If she pauses before answering she is “manipulative and secretive.” If a man pauses, he is “thoughtful.” If she speaks passionately, she is “shrill.” If a man is passionate he is “strong and principled.” The media has scrutinized Hilary Clinton over and over; fair enough, that’s their job. But what about the same treatment for Trump? Where are his tax returns? You hardly need a second glance to see that Trump and Clinton are simply miles apart in terms of their qualifications for the role of presidency. Trump is a bombastic, lying, con man. Clinton has been honed her whole life for the job.

This election process has dragged pretty much everyone into fear, hate, and confusion. As one of my New York friends would say, “It’s a hot mess.” It has sucked the air out of civil society. We now live in a post-truth media landscape, (thanks to Karl Rove), with a wild abandon of conspiracy theories fuelled by shadowy Wall Street, Corporate, Political, and Military machinations. We have a daily howl of madness, and a shite storm spraying across the globe.

At the end of the day the current political structures, while necessary to engage, aren’t going to birth the deeper changes we need. But right now they are the task at hand. The revolution we need, (not the revolution of chaos and the breakdown of functioning society, heightening the likelihood of violence and war), has to emerge from a deeper consciousness. It has to be informed by the insight that enlightenment is the intimacy of all things (Zen master Dogen.) That this whole hot mess drama is happening within one awareness. Clinton and Trump do not stand independent from our own collaborative intentions and actions, or from our own shadow drives for power and greed, and our hatred and propensity for delusion. They are our responsibility as we are theirs.

We live in extreme times where forces of divisiveness are so seductive. But, if we can hold to the deeper reality of a shared field of consciousness and relationship, where the interface between so called “internal” and “external” is a mutual happening; then, rather than our collective shadow running amok, vilifying, murdering, and plundering, we can own and transform it. This challenging yet necessary work will lessen the extremes of separative egoistical consciousness, which inexorably veers toward hate, hardness of heart, and paranoia. As a result, the revolution we absolutely need, currently being demonstrated at Standing Rock, will be propelled by evolutionary consciousness rather than a descent into primitive tribalism.

Meanwhile, whatever goes down on election day, and from now until then, may we continue to hold the whole hot mess with a mind of practice – to see into the deeper empty nature of phenomena, to not give rise to hatred, and to continue to extend compassion, kindness, and authenticity.

dt-cartoon-1

Sacred Feminine: (Part Two)

The Sacred Feminine interview with North Atlantic Books, publisher of my book Time To Stand Up, An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth

Q: What role does the sacred feminine play in addressing our time of environmental crisis?

A: Well firstly, investing in women is one of the best ways to generate a positive force for change. Many studies show that when women are empowered financially, it increases the well-being of their families and communities. Offering educational opportunities and scholarships to girls also gives them a better opportunity to influence society. Educating women around political power and voting rights is also essential. Women who act as conduits for the sacred feminine are desperately needed on the political stage and in the halls of power.

wombTo ensure a sustainable Earth for future generations, there has to be some way of moderating population. The best way to do this is to educate girls, and boys, around reproductive processes, and parental responsibilities. In particular, it’s important to empower women by allowing them full access to birth control methods, and power over reproductive choices. It is a travesty that this basic right is still unavailable to millions of women due to patriarchal religious views, or misogynistic Katherine-Skaggs-1002.Black-Madonnagovernment policies.

On a more personal level, we, as women, have to learn to access the power of the sacred feminine and use it well. Sometimes, because of generational repression and abuse, our ways of using power can be manipulative. Deeply held anger, which is socially unacceptable for women to express, makes us resentful or passive-aggressive, or we collapse into depression and helplessness. All of these symptoms can be worked through once we understand that the core issue is the reclamation of power, truth, and an authentic voice.

Overall, the success in overcoming our environmental crisis will depend, not just on new technologies and systems, but a radical change of consciousness. The new consciousness is one infused with the sacred feminine, which is as old as the earth, immanent within all life, and intimate within all beings. I believe, when we tune into her mysterious promptings, we will find our part to play, personally and collectively, in overcoming this unprecedented global crisis.

Q: How do you see feminism changing in the 21st century, in terms of making sure it supports and is supported by people of all races and gender identities? How far do we still have to go, and how do you think we each can work to get there?

A: Another good question! I tend not to project into the future, as it’s so uncertain. But it’s important to acknowledge that there are extremely malignant powers at play these days, which threaten everything we hold dear. We’re in the midst of a terrible battle that is playing out on so many levels. What is at stake is the ability to secure a feasible future. We should not underestimate the deep psychotic patriarchal dinosaur that in its belligerence and hatred would rather see a burnt and tortured Earth than give up its quest for katnissdomination. In the face of that, we can’t take the hard-won rights and liberties of the last century for granted.

It’s up to all of us to do what we can to safeguard the future. This also means acknowledging the plight of those reeling from the impact of a warming biosphere, due, in great part, to the high level of resources we use in our entitled lives. We also have to understand that there is no “safe” place, where we can sit out our collapsing world. So we must recognize our common ground, and work together to change what we can. Many from marginalized communities already know how difficult it is to go up against power, so we have much to learn from their struggle.

Feminism is now an issue for everyone. It’s not necessary to have a female gender to understand that. The inclusion of feminine attributes—for example, empathy, mutuality, nurturing, and receptivity—alongside cooperative consensus building, is the bedrock of our new, emerging world. The relationally collaborative energy of the feminine, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into women supporting each other. An aspect of patriarchal wounding is that women are conditioned to support men, and not always each other. So this is something to be aware of as we work to reclaim the sacred feminine in everyday relationships, regardless of gender.

earth radiantThe hierarchies of patriarchal power move in linear, vertical lines, where competitive energies forever undermine deeper trust, alignment, joy, and mutual success. Instead, the healthy feminine moves into circles, shares, and hears into the collective process, and from that, discerns the wisdom from the communal field so it can inform action for the welfare of the whole, not just a few.

As we learn to listen into our own being, through meditative, therapeutic, and body-aware processes, then we’ll better be able to heal and uplift the collective. The new world is emerging, not only from outer changes but also from a deep evolutionary shift of consciousness. While we see the forerunner of this understanding in the work of quantum physics, for example, it is actually old wisdom. This wisdom is articulated well by Zen master Dogenji, when he said, “Enlightenment is the intimacy of all things.” It is this realization that we are being initiated into, and it is this truth that will save our world.

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Sacred Feminine (part one)

It’s been hard to get back to my blog due to the last six months being consumed with retreat teaching, and supporting Dharmagiri. So I thought I’d get back in the saddle, so to speak, with a simple task; sharing my interview on the Sacred Feminine with North Atlantic Books, publishers of my book Time To Stand Up. This is the first part.

Q: What is the relationship between the sacred feminine, Buddhism, and an environment in a state of crisis? In any sense, was the Buddha a feminist, and how did he access and balance femininity and masculinity on his path to enlightenment?

A: Buddhism recognizes the interdependence of all things. This means we exist in a web of life in which we are all connected. For example, our collective survival depends on humans evolving out of an egoist consciousness that falsely believes it exists in an independent state. The individuated self has its own necessary function, but when the truth of interdependence is consistently denied, we become imprisoned. It might be a very attractive prison, but the depths of the mind’s energy will invert and be trapped into reactive patterns of fear and desire. The lack we feel, that burns so deep, continually generates an insatiable restlessness that fuels our poignant, destructive, and ultimately futile attempts to control, own, and dominate the world around.

On the other hand, a direct knowing of our interconnection initiates us into the sacred feminine. While women likely have an easier access into this truth, the sacred feminine is not defined by gender. Essentially, it is a deeply receptive way of being in relationship with a living world, where everything is consecrated by an indwelling consciousness. Even the molecules in the air are pregnant with life-giving energy. Trees, plants, rocks, animals, and the beings around us are all part of one living gestalt. When we tune into that, then the Eros energy of undifferentiated love suffuses our being.

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Unfortunately, our current worldview has de-souled the living world, rendering it inanimate, dead, and devoid of any sacredness. Patriarchy, and patriarchal religions, of which Buddhism is one, fears the energy of Eros due to its connection with sexual power, birth, and the instinctual realm of primal feeling. Patriarchy goes to great lengths to repress and demonize the living influence of the sacred feminine, and therefore women, only to replace it with the distortions and oppressions of power.

The reclamation of the feminine is supported by body-based awareness practices. Meditation that opens into the felt experience of body is a good starting place, and is primary to the Buddha’s teaching. It reconnects us to the energetics of being within a relational field. Our thoughts make us feel independent and separate, but sensitivity to the energetic experience of embodiment reveals how deeply interconnected we are with the environment, people, and the world. The body also carries ancestral, familial, personal and karmic history, all of which can be accessed through awareness-based practices. Bringing attention to the body, its feelings, and sensations, is not easy, at least until we develop some meditative capacity, but it is important. Increased body awareness opens beyond the cognitive into a different way of knowing, one that is born of contemplation. This knowing is intuitive, and while not dependent on the cognitive, when actualized through the cognitive, it distils into authentic wisdom.

When meditation and Dharma practice is overly focused on a hierarchy of attainment, and the development of techniques, it tends to be subsumed into a patriarchal agenda of power and control. Then rather than understanding our inner processes, we are disassociated from them. Our collective wound of soullessness, emerging from centuries of being ripped from the web of belonging, undermines our ability to trust the Dharma. Instead, we sometimes try to fill our inner lack by using the Dharma for accumulating prestige, wealth, and acknowledgment. When this happens the liberating potential of Dharma practice is distorted and diluted. Instead, we become conditioned as “good meditators” or “nice, spiritual people” and perhaps unwittingly acquiescent in another competitive, money-based industry, which leaves us forever chasing the illusive goal of “peace” and “enlightenment.” These pitfalls—alongside introversion and ambivalence about engaging the world, or settling for being a bit more functional in dysfunctional systems—undermine the ability of Buddhism to vitalize its radical edge in service of the environment.

What is important to understand is that the Buddha was radical; he engaged his culture, challenged it, and changed it; his example can inspire the kind of activism we now need to secure a livable planet. It is also my understanding that it was not possible for the Buddha (or any one else) to open into “enlightenment” without going through the door of the sacred feminine. This happened for the Buddha when he realized the utter uselessness of his attempts to control his experience through the life-denying spiritual practices of his day. On the verge of death, due to his self-inflicted asceticism, he finally accepted an offering of milk rice from the maiden Sujata.

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At that moment, he opened to the energy of Eros or the archetypal feminine. This, and a childhood memory that led him to be with his breath, became the ground of his awakening. An awakening that was confirmed by Mother Earth, who had borne witness to the struggles he undertook through numerous cycles of rebirth.

Once the initiation of the sacred feminine is undertaken, then, as the Buddha, the balance of masculine and feminine energy is actualized through service to the Dharma. The masculine defines, clarifies, and directs, while the feminine attunes, resonates, and responds. A Buddha is one who perfectly balances both energies. This ideal is depicted in Buddha statues, which tend to be androgynous. The Buddha’s own service led him to open the doors of his new religion to women. Women loved the Buddha because he offered them self-determination. He accepted and supported them. The erroneous misogynist distortions scripted into Buddhist transmission over centuries, is not the work of the Buddha. He did not fear women; he freed them. In the same way, honoring the sacred feminine, and restoring its rightful place will not only invigorate Buddhism, but it will help bring our world back from the brink of destruction.

Q: What can women, and those attuned to feminine energy, qualities and values bring to a world in crisis?

A: The feminine is primarily relational. It feels with others, and also tends to be receptive to subtle levels of energetic information, nuance, and complexity. Relationship implies responsibility, the ability to respond authentically. What the world really needs, at this time, is merciful, healing, and empathetic alliance, not more brute, exploitive use of power activated by a separative consciousness that seeks to dominate and extract from nature.

Sometimes compassion is considered weak, but to withstand hatred, and turn it around into clarity and careful consideration, takes far more strength than the use of violence. We can see that in the examples of Aung San Suu Kyi and Mr. Mandela. We can use examples of those who challenged power without defaulting to hatred, to help us see how it is done. What is important in these times is to realize we can’t act alone. We need to collaborate so that together we can generate, as Gandhi called it, Satyagraha, a “Truth Force” that can challenge the corporate oligarchy, which is condemning us all to live in an unviable world.

Q: To you, what is the source of the sacred feminine? Is its domain the heart, the mind, the earth, a combination of these, or elsewhere?

A: That’s a good question. I suppose I would say primarily it is the earth, which is the Great Mother. She nourishes us all. For First Nation Peoples—and those living within a shamanic perspective where consciousness is understood as immanent within all life forms—Earth is sentient, deeply intelligent, and conscious. Back in the mists of time, this immanence within the natural and human world was equated with the Goddess energy of pre-patriarchal religion. Before patriarchal religion placed itself as a conduit for the sacred, shamans engaged directly with cosmic and immanent consciousness, often through the use of sacred psychotropic plants, trance, or meditative-based methods. Fortunately, shamanic knowledge and rites could not be completely repressed. In fact, nowadays, there is a revival of interest in these methods, which is helping reclaim the sacred.

Consciousness itself has evolved from the instinctual to being self-aware, particularly within humans. This same consciousness is mapped in Buddhist, and other

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contemplative traditions. Outside much of Western Buddhism, many Buddhist schools attribute consciousness to the earth and elemental spirits, as well as to a vast range of subtle realms.

In the Shurangama Sutra, a Mahayana text, the primal root of the mind is named as “pure consciousness.” To say pure consciousness is the “sacred feminine” is not correct, as pure consciousness cannot be located within any attribute. However its essence is buddhi, which means, “pure knowing.” This “knowing” is equated in Buddhism, and other contemplative traditions, with the feminine. Buddhism has the female figure of prajna-paramita, who represents the deepest wisdom that emerges from intuitive knowing. It is this space of intuitive insight that gives birth to the wisdom of the Buddha’s. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that consciousness is a mystery. We could, therefore, say that the sacred feminine, while profoundly ancient, instinctual, embodied, self-aware, and immanent, is also profoundly mysterious.

Q: How can we reclaim and mobilize feminine energy to transform ourselves, and the world?

A: That is another good question; one that I am still pondering! To tell you the truth; I’m not altogether sure. This is because we are so deeply immersed in patriarchal conditioning it’s hard to recognize there are other ways of being and living. Probably a good place to start is to explore cultures that still remember and honor the primal Mother, the living Earth, and who have direct knowledge of the web of life. For that we need to, very humbly, look toward those First Nation Peoples who have managed to maintain their spiritual and cultural integrity. They should be invited to advise and lead at this moment, while at the same time, our Euro-centric world should express profound regret at their decimation, and seek to make amends.

We can also pray. That means we need to recognize our lost-ness, acknowledge our pain, Seven+Sisters+-+Maia+Mystery+School+-+Find+out+more+at-+www.KaraMariaAnanda.com+-+Art+by+Jahsah+Anandaand ask for guidance from the forces of wisdom and compassion. Then, we need to listen into the living silence. We should do this together, through ceremony, and carefully held spaces where we can share, and talk authentically.

We can also resist the force of violence that inverts and undermines a more caring relationship to our selves, our bodies, and so on. We should protest against the abuses and destruction of other beings—the animals, the forests, the oceans, and the great expanse of Mother Nature. We should join forces with others to protect the earth at this time. We should also move toward a plant-based diet as the extreme cruelty of factory farms is a travesty and affront to Mother Earth. The animals are her children, and not ours to exploit.

Q: What are some consequences of failing to recognize and incorporate the sacred feminine in one’s own life and what impact might this have on others?

A: Well, unfortunately, society tends to remunerate the narcissistic, sociopathic behavior we see in the uber-billionaire class, in corporate excesses, Wall Street, the NRA, and the military-industrial complex. Historically patriarchal power is rewarded, and what is ignored are the voices of parents, for example, losing their children in another mass college shooting, or in wars, or as a result of political demagoguery that crushes careful, diplomatic processes, for example, in Iraq, where children now suffer from extreme birth defects due to the “dirty bombs” loaded with depleted uranium that were dropped by the U.S.

In the face of an out of control capitalist empire, that pays corporate CEO’s thousands of dollars an hour, and school teachers, maybe $15 to $20 an hour, it is hard to have courage and confidence in the power of the sacred feminine. But, at this critical juncture, we face a clear choice: either we learn to enter a respectful relationship with the earth, to live sustainably, and to negotiate careful international relationships, or we must prepare for the appalling impact of a warming biosphere, increased desertification, extreme weather events, resource wars, continued mass migrations, and the likely collapse of human civilization.

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PART TWO to FOLLOW….

Dharma & Climate Action