Tag Archives: Love

Standing Rock On Every Street Corner

Being in a living prayer. The art of collective resistance; carrying forward the sacred flame of Great Spirit; honouring Mother Nature and Grandmother Earth. Taking to heart Seven Lakota Values and Guidelines.

Standing Rock was 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 real stretch from my regular 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 slaughter house, protecting a forest, at a fracking site, outside a bank, in any country, at any time, on any and at every street corner.

Two years after Standing Rock, at a climate protest in London, I was handed the bold green black Extinction Rebellion leaflet. For a split second 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, 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?

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

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; the seduction of money and the desire to control everything is wired so profoundly into the brain, we hardly see its insidious mechanisms. 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.

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 Christianised education at boarding “schools”, and on-going marginalisation 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 upriver at Bismarck city, 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 are now ramping up their strategies with more violent and insidious tactics.

Standing Rock, one of the most unique gatherings ever, also was a front line against the most powerful corporation ever, 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 servicing extortionate amounts of wealth for a tiny percentage of the global population (26 people now own as much as 50% of the world’s poorest). But we can also make different choices. Mindful choices that aid a necessary resistance upon which our survival now depends. At its core, Standing Rock rooted itself in 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 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, 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 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 unfolded there, because we all need to play our part 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 it’s own profit. Those who crave money will find out soon that they cannot eat their money. But, as said 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, 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 and 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 desacralised life by undertaking acts of loving service and sacrifice. We do this for all of us. Chief Arvol Looking Horse asked us to jointogether at Standing Rock in prayer and ceremony. To do so can help to help avert our catastrophe. We must continue to honour his request.

Standing Rock and its blazing heart lives on, through the voluminous, potent seeds that were planted long ago, as I was told, by the 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.

cheif arvol looking horse - lakota sioux
Chief Arvol Looking Horse – Lakota Sioux… Photo credit Ryan Vizzions

The Descent

So, there it is. A total wipe out.

For now, let’s stop battling and shoring up strategies. Instead of floundering around for certainties, for pockets of hope, let’s accept the invitation into something else. That is, a profound stripping away. The world that was, that we knew, that perhaps we loved, is fast being mutilated. Right now I’m not sure the United States of America will survive. I am not sure the United Kingdom will survive. Neither am I sure Europe or South Africa will survive. Certainly Iraq, Syria, and many other places have not survived. Actually, I’m not sure anything will survive in this age of climate mass extinction and nuclear codes in the … well, you know… the full catastrophe of the small handed one.

So, as we enter into solstice week, the encroaching night at the heart of seasonal shifts, let’s not run from defeat, but welcome its bitter medicine. Let’s taste helplessness, futility, exhaustion, confusion, upset, devastation, pain, abandonment, and the fear of not knowing if we will survive. This, friends, is what many others have felt before, (Chile’s stolen C.I.A election). This, is what many are experiencing in far, far more deadly ways right now (Aleppo.) And this, is what some have gone through with horrific pain and at high speed, (Oakland housing crisis & Ghost Ship fire)

Yes, we can draw together and warm ourselves in like-minded company, but not to exclude the encroaching night, instead to encourage our entry into its deeper teaching. Like therapy, usually we have to feel our deepest wound, the pain of it, before we can begin to circle back into health.

The pain we feel is the removal or our illusory comfort zone where we thought everything was sort of OK. But as everything is not OK, we need the curtains pulled back. Behold, the psychopathic, heartless gaze of the deadly machinery of predator oligarchic colonial capitalism. Behold its decaying, soulless, craven, narcissistic, violent, and ugly face. It’s sheer lack of beauty, grace, sanctity, poetry, love, and wise counsel. This machinery is set to destroy everything for profit and power. Before we can take it on anew, we have to fully get the depth of its utter moral and spiritual bankruptcy. It’s total lack of humanity. We have to FEEL, not just intellectualize. This is so we can really get those already sacrificed to its relentless agenda.

So, we have a new curriculum. One that many marginalized, oppressed, and vilified people have already been schooled in. One that the Indigenous Peoples of Standing Rock know well, which is why so many were pulled to go there, like moths to a glowing light. We needed their courage, their guidance, their deep understanding of sacred resistance for these times.

We will also need everything learnt from our spiritual practice. Ajahn Chah said that practice is preparation for when real challenge arises. That preparation is over. Now is show time. We may not be in perfect shape, we certainly won’t be in perfect shape, but if we undergo the stripping down of this solstice devastation, if we can hold to each breath in order to track this unlit pathway; we will be taken into the sanctuary of our unshakeable, indivisible, brilliantly sane, undying, and loving heart. And it is this true heart that will save us. With this heart, tuned to the deeper intelligence of the Dharma, the spirit, we will be ready for whatever is ahead. Together, we will get through this.

 The Ending of Hope

 Crushing abrupt
tectonic shifting
power
washing away bridges
into chaotic descent.
Ice melt, ocean rise, land erodes,
and certainty makes no sense.

Blind election vortex
schemes twisted thoughts
conspire and distract
within intensifying solar fire.

Yet, between
this thought
and the next,
in that unguarded pause,
hope waits its constant song
where angels soothe
and breathe their shining
along uncertain pathways.

Their voices lilt high
over fields of desolation.
For all times, they say,
we are the holders of your dream.
The whispering seed planted,
the remainder of your journey
through the bleakest watch of night.

So, invoke angels appearing
within this shattering world,
dragging the light
into shadow kings
that march fear along
highways of predator folly
and perpetual toxic news.

But, when even hope vanishes,
and what can’t be won
disturbs our waking nights.
Then, in that ripe hour,
distant bells will summon
our hallowed dissension.
As jaws soften and hands open,
prayer turns to a new dimension.

The movement beyond city voices.
A gentle wind that blows so quiet.
A silent singing from this turning earth.
A calm knowing of life’s worth.

The dream of this fevered longing
will wake us up cold.
There is a knowing within each breath
that keeps this holy world gathered
within spheres of our communion

Here we always are,
moving in the ancient stillness
with fluid steps tracking
our one recurring song.
It echoes across the halls of destruction and creation,
this timeless breath with you, my love.
It’s a long, cold, lonely night.

— Thanissara, Dec 19th, ‘16

angel
The Wounded Angel  by Hugo Simberg, Finland.

 

From Her Body…..Money, Enslavement, Debt, Extinction, Revolution

A scroll through authentic news outlets is an intense confrontation with a planet in crisis. Like: As Alaska Burns, Anchorage Sets New Records for Heat & Lack of Snow / Corporate Capitalism is the Foundation of Police Brutality and the Prison State / Greek Voters Deliver Stunning Rebuke to Austerity / Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Here is something else from the fringe news, fast moving to central awareness, for reality atune-ment (atonement.)

From Her Body….by artist Nona Faustine, who says, “New York has a reputation for being a melting pot, but it also from her bodyhas a strong history of slave trading.” Her photo series, “White Shoes,” calls attention to that history and its enduring legacy. Here is something else for our history lesson, The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes. You can click on one of the multitude of dots as they fly from Africa toward the Americas and West Indies, and it will show the ships name and flag, (always the flags), and numbers of African slaves on board. The post summarizes, “By the conclusion of the trans-Atlantic slave trade at the end of the 19th century, Europeans had enslaved and transported more than 12.5 million Africans. At least 2 million, historians estimate, didn’t survive the journey.”

Those grand old stately homes we use in Europe for Buddhist retreats; well, just know that we sit in the midst of slave supported comfort… think of that from time to time with each mindful breath of loving kindness. I think of it a lot in South Africa, for obvious reasons, as I move within a country built on the back of black servitude. It’s none too comfortable… I breathe with it and the layerings of deflecting thoughts and reactions, some of which I scribe here. I think of origins when in the USA; to be honest, more recently than when I first arrived in Tennessee in 1992. My fast learning curve, through the layerings, began in 2008 when invited to co-facilitate the consciously diverse CDL4 at Spirit Rock.

To un-peel the layers of what has gone before is part of our awakening curriculum. Because the truth is, what has gone before is woven deeply into what is here right now. I originally thought awakening is to let go of everything from before. But it seems we can’t let go, or really move to a more hopeful future, until we honour a woman, with ill fitting white shoes, standing naked in the middle of Wall Street, attracting our attention to all that such an extraordinary, human art, activism statement, represents.

earth on fireHer Body, the body of Africa, India, Asia, aboriginal Australia and New Zealand – and where people of color were colonized for profit – is now the Earth’s body, plundered to the point of, “you have 20 – 30 years to sort this out – dear human species – otherwise write your last testament, but don’t worry about the will, there’ll be no point.“**

So money… empire…..accumulated wealth from Her Body, and… warp speed on a planet burning to a crisp…into a Greek OXI… the Mother of Democracy says absolutely NO.

NO to… well, pretty much everything it seems, because underlying all human life is the ability to share in our collective resources by means of flighty pieces of paper and lumps of metal, stamped with faces and numbers. That’s fine if you have vaults of money, but a country tyrannized by un-payable debt, an extreme austerity program, and relinquishment of its sovereignty to a remote governing system, is bound to finally revolt. Is this the beginning of a debt unraveling? Because all nation states are now pegged to an unreal debt based economy, which consistently punishes the poor.

imagesIt’s all pretty complicated, but the sight of the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, after delivering some stunning statements, (I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride), driving off into the sunset on his motorbike, peeks the human spirit. It is just what we all feel; even as EU “suits” cry foul, we root for the guy who kicks ass. Because we know what is really foul; the hijacking of our democracies and rights to a sustainable world by unethical politicians, oligarchs, media barons, banking institutions, wall streeters on crack, and psychopathic corporate agendas.

So, in brief… revolution is the next part of our awakening curriculum, dear friends. This agenda has always been coded into our DNA, because underneath the layerings, which are many, is the reality of a seamless world, divided only by the human propensity for delusion, fear and greed. The veils can part, from such an afflicted history, when we allow ourselves to touch into the truth the Buddha spoke, vimutti sara sabbe dhamma,** “Freedom is the essence of every circumstance.” This is because we are not just the money we have (or more often, don’t have), the job we do, the country we live in, or the color of our skin. Our human spirits will ultimately revolt against injustice and inequity, whether for ourselves or for others, as the truth is we are profoundly inter-woven with each other, and with all life. We are all present in each others awareness.

mandala2-720x400

Thomas Piketty, since writing Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is considered one of the most influential economists in the world. In his enlightening interview with Die Zeit, he challenges the view that Germany and France have behaved better than Greece when it comes to paying off debts. “Germany is the country that has never repaid its debts. It has no standing to lecture other nations,” Piketty states.

Piketty calls for a “conference on all Europe’s debt.” But perhaps we need a conference on Global debt. We need to ask what debt is really owed, and to whom. If we consider the foundations of our current capitalist wealth, then, from Her Earth, Enslaved and Genocided Peoples, Killed in Colonial Wars, Body”… then the debt discussion moves from Euros and Dollars to the bodies of billions and the body of our magnificent and abundant Earth.

May we weep for the loss, the terror, the pain, the abuse…may we deeply feel what our lives are built on. May we take the word debt from its power play dynamic, and shift it into acts of recognition, atonement, sharing, redemption, and passionate, careful love.

burning-cosmic-heart

* “The window of opportunity is closing: we have at best only 20 or 30 years left to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent; even better to arrive at 100 percent reduction by 2040.” Bhikkhu Bodhi, Simple and Practical Steps for Mitigating Climate Change.

** A line from the Mula Sutta – ANLV111

When the last tree is cut, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then we will find out that we can’t eat money. Cree Prophecy –