Time to Act

2021 has arrived!   Holidays and celebrations are over.  It’s time to resume working!  The important work, however, has changed with the year. This time, our work is not simply to do a job to earn money. It is the work of healing our planet, restoring respectful and nurturing connections among our human species and between humans and the denizens with whom we share our planet and developing a social order supportive of these goals.  It is becoming a renewed kind of people, each of us the kind of people with whom we would like to live. It is the work in which each of us has a part, and which without each part, the chances of manifesting lessen.  This is the most important work we have ever had.  It is time to get started.  Time is running out.

There is so much to accomplish – work which takes physical activity, mental effort, emotional processing, spiritual energy. It is easy to hide one’s head in the sand, and pretend that all is well, and our government will do what is best for us and achieve the goal.   Opting out in such a way is abandoning the task and increasing the chances that we will all face either destruction, or an outcome we do not wish, possibly even one which negates our humanity. Why?  First, the work to be done cannot be accomplished from a top-down stance.  Big anything will not be able to get it done.  Big politics, big government, big technology, big business, big media, and the like will never, ever create a healed Earth or a healed web of life.  The “bigs” create what supports the “bigs”; Big Brother may take care of us, but will also tell us how to be, what to do, how to live, what to think.   That is the first reason.

In addition – perhaps this should be first, as it underlies the former – we are each responsible for who we are, how we grow, what we do and how we live.  For this, we do not answer to Big Brother or any “big”.  We answer to life itself, and to the results we produce for ourselves.  If one is religious, we answer to God.  Because we are responsible, we also have the power, individually and especially collectively, to affect our goals.  In microcosm, if we are adult, we can no longer blame our parents for our ills, because we possess within ourselves the power to right them, if we wish to exercise that power.    On a larger scale, we cannot blame the government, the opposite political party, religious organizations, people we think are maliciously trying to control us, people who we perceive as enemies, careless other people, being too young or too old, or anything else for what we dislike.  Each time we do that, we are giving away a bit of our power to create harmoniously, to make things right.

We need to heal our Earth, reforest, and renew her.  To that end, we also need to, among other things, adjust our economies, our lifestyles and consumption of resources.  We need to balance our consumption with our production and our capacity to renew that from which we take.   We need to create a social order that assigns equal humanity to each human being on the planet.  Note, that does not mean “same”.  Each of us is unique.  It means that we extend equal value, consideration, and use of resources to each human being, whether they are like us or not. We need to think about giving “rights” to others, not about how to get them. We need to wean ourselves from killing, especially knee-jerk killing, and replace that with respect and love.  We need to learn to listen to each other.  We need to learn to govern ourselves effectively, without relying on any of the “bigs” to tell us what to do.  We need to learn to grow food and medicines respectfully, in ways which replenish the Earth which nurtures us.  We need to eliminate war.  We need to learn to grow ourselves so that our actions, visions, and responses are rooted in the loving essence from which we all come.  We need to learn to express that essence and recognize the oneness between not only us humans but also each expression of life.

That is only the beginning, and already the task is huge.  It will take all of us to accomplish, but it is absolutely possible, despite the pull from entropy.  We can use our inner vision to project – what would the world look like if we achieve our goal?  What would it be like, if it survives at all, if we do not?  Here are two easily-read resources to check out: Brave New World combined with Brave New World Revisited, both by Aldous Huxley, and the entire Celestine Prophecy series, by James Redfield.  There are others, but those are good starts. 

Each of us has his or her own unique talent, his or her own thing that he or she loves or does well.  Large or small does not matter.  Current standards of pay do not matter.  Leading, supporting, or working independently does not matter.   Excuses to not act do not actually excuse; they only indicate an unwillingness to participate.  Even the bedridden can participate; the power of prayer and vision holding is great.  The power of extending love is infinite.  

Are you one who cares for the land, who grows food and medicines?  Are you one who can use tools and build?  Do you do best at designing structures?  Can you understand and translate the processes of nature into harmonious human activity?  Are you a cook, a teacher, a nurturer?  Are you a visual artist, a musician, a storyteller? Are you a philosopher, a priest, one who can perceive the surrounding world most of us find invisible?  Are you a healer? Are you an activist?   Find your talent and commit to the task.  In such a way, 2021 can be the year in which we respond to the challenge to grow, heal, and become.

Remember that top down does not work; top down most often gets in the way.  Big anything does not have the power to do anything for us.   Each of us is responsible for the outcome; each of us has the power to affect it. 
We can choose to give up our power, and declare ourselves helpless, or victims that need rescuing.  That sinks us deeper into the quicksand.  Each of us needs to listen to the other, and each of us needs to work.  Let us be the people who rise to the challenge.  Let us choose life.     Happy New Year!

Peace, Diane

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Difficult Discerning

With so much chaos surrounding us, with so much conflicting information circulating in the Internet, and so much use of doublespeak and manipulation in persuasive media communication, it can be difficult to discern just where truth lies.  The temptation is to magnify the story that calls to us, and to demonize those who are called by an opposing story.  An oft-repeated Zen story about a farmer and his fortunes points out the difficulty in deciding if an event is good or bad.  Because the terms “good” and “bad” are related to the perspective from which things are viewed, and because none of us has the wide overview that embraces all time, those of us who think we know may have widely differing viewpoints, some, or none of which may be “real”.   Here is the story, as taken from the Internet.

There once was an old Zen farmer. Every day, the farmer used his horse to help work his fields and keep his farm healthy.

But one day, the horse ran away. All the villagers came by and said, “We’re so sorry to hear this. This is such bad luck.” 

But the farmer responded, “Bad luck. Good luck. Who knows?”

The villagers were confused but decided to ignore him. A few weeks went by and then one afternoon, while the farmer was working outside, he looked up and saw his horse running toward him. But the horse was not alone. The horse was returning to him with a whole herd of horses. So now the farmer had 10 horses to help work his fields.

All the villagers came by to congratulate the farmer and said, “Wow! This is such good luck!”

But the farmer responded, “Good luck. Bad luck. Who knows?

A few weeks later, the farmer’s son came over to visit and help his father work on the farm. While trying to tame one of the horses, the farmer’s son fell and broke his leg. 

The villagers came by to commiserate and said, “How awful. This is such bad luck.” 

Just as he did the first time, the farmer responded, “Bad luck. Good luck. Who knows?” 

A month later, the farmer’s son was still recovering. He wasn’t able to walk or do any manual labor to help his father around the farm. 

A regiment of the army came marching through town conscripting every able-bodied young man to join them. When the regiment came to the farmer’s house and saw the young boy’s broken leg, they marched past and left him where he lay.

Of course, all the villagers came by and said, “Amazing! This is such good luck. You’re so fortunate.”

And you know the farmer’s response by now…

“Good luck. Bad luck. Who knows?”

We often try to control the events of our lives by deciding what outcome would be good and what would be bad, and then working very hard to achieve one and avoid the other.

When things go according to our plans, we’re overjoyed. But when things don’t turn out as we’d hoped, we’re deflated. We might even lash out at others who we think are responsible for creating the ‘bad’ outcome. 

It’s as if we’ve drawn these two rigid columns of Good and Bad in our minds, and we’re constantly chasing more checkmarks in the Good column and none in the Bad. 

But as the story of the Zen farmer shows us, we don’t always know whether an event will ultimately prove to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. 

So much of life can’t be neatly categorized as Good or Bad. 

Something that seems like good news in the present moment might turn out to bring inconveniences or even heartbreak in the future. And something that appears to be a bad thing in the present moment might become very useful on another occasion.

Think about where this is true in your own life…

Maybe there was something you were very upset about when it occurred (like a breakup or job loss), but in time, it turned out to be an important catalyst for growth, new relationships and fulfilling experiences. 

Or maybe there was a time when something happened that seemed like wonderful news (like making a new friend, or the political candidate you voted for being elected) but over time, you realized that supposed ‘good’ thing wound up making your life far more unpleasant.

What would it be like to go through life like the farmer? 

Taking the perspective of “Good luck. Bad luck. Who knows?” allows for a deep sense of equanimity – in the meditative traditions, this is considered to be one of the highest forms of happiness we can experience, because we’re not constantly fighting our moments. 

Equanimity means we look at life with calmness and an even temper, even in difficult situations.

This doesn’t mean we become numb to the real difficulties in our personal or collective lives. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we rationalize and passively accept injustice in the hopes that one day it’ll lead to a good outcome.

But when we learn to stop grasping at life’s moments to coerce them into becoming only exactly what we want, we experience a greater fluidity and ease, which supports whatever action we choose to take. 

This week set the intention that you will take the perspective of the farmer as much as possible. If a challenging event occurs and you find yourself gripping in frustration, take a few deep breaths and repeat to yourself “Bad luck. Good luck. Who knows?”.

And similarly, if something exciting happens and you find yourself wanting to cling to that feeling, almost as if you’re scared of losing the good experience, repeat to yourself, “Good luck. Bad luck. Who knows?”. Notice what happens.

https://blog.mindfulness.com/meditation/are-these-bad-times-or-good-times-the-story-of-the-zen-farmer

I think the point of the story is not admitting that one’s own view is “wrong” or that any particular view, official or alternative, is the absolute “right” one.  As humans, we are given the capacity of choice, which comes with a responsibility to thoughtfully use that choice.  The point of the story is to not simplify perceptions and solutions into absolute categories called “good” and “bad” and to not assume that we know or can control the grand plan of creation. 

For example, there are three broad theories (of which I am aware) about the current chaos.  One is that if we all simply continue to wear masks a little longer and all get vaccinated, we will emerge into an age of prosperity and freedom in which there will be no more of the restrictions currently imposed – almost, but not quite, a return to an undefined “normal”.  Another is that we are headed by design into an era of complete collapse and emerging totalitarianism, for which we need to be alert and prepared.  A third is that we are in a stage of evolution which will not only result in a different social order (one which protects the earth) but in an entirely different kind of human.   Is only one of these “right”?  Even if one of these is the most probable, does that make the others “bad”, something to be condemned and perhaps even fought about?  What will such struggle achieve? Is it possible that each perspective contains a bit of truth?

Each of us, steered by our own set of experiences and our own reflections on these experiences, must do the best we can to discern meaning and direction in the currents and eddies that surround us.  Most of us apply, consciously or unconsciously, criteria in making those assessments.  For example, some may choose a path of least resistance.  Others choose to oppose or struggle.  Some choose to build examples.  One of my criteria is that we are each responsible for our own perceptions, actions, and well-being.  That does not imply blame for being “wrong”, or that we can never learn from someone else. It does not imply wholesale rejection of the guidelines we have been given from our various traditions, or values that have survived the test of time.  It is simply that it is counterproductive to give over our power to choose to governments, employers, spiritual leaders, heads of clan, or anyone else who is sure of the “right way” and demands we all follow along upon the path prescribed by them.  Perhaps the path leads where we would like to go; perhaps it does not.  We may never know if it is “right path/wrong path”, “bad luck/good luck”.  We can only deal with our choices here and now, and make sure those choices are in line with the best of our understanding.  We must stay ready to learn and grow.  We must know and envision what we are trying to create and align our choices with our vision.

The story of the Zen farmer is also in line with that to which many of the great religions and philosophies of the world adhere:  Judge Not.  In other words, discern as you must, but do not use discernment to call what is perceived as “good” or “bad” and set these against each other.  For example, joy is often perceived as “good” and grief as “bad”.  Yet each brings its own rewards, and the parameters of one actually facilitate the parameters of the other.  Without the polarities, we would know equanimity, but neither joy nor sorrow. Let us take our energy away from making judgments and instead strive to perceive ever more deeply and to respond with love towards each other, no matter the differences of opinion.  Wherever we perceive love (not talking about romance), that is the direction in which the polarities will weaken, and the chaos will dissipate.

The solstice is shortly upon us, when the seasons change and in the north the days begin to lengthen.  Let us welcome the solstice by suspending judgment in favor of respect and love.

Peace, Diane

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Fear Not

If there is one message that has resonated throughout the ages, forming a base for the millions of other messages given to aid mankind in spiritual or evolutionary growth, it is this:  Fear not; do not be afraid.  It is quoted by spiritual leaders, philosophers and statesmen.   Fear is recognized in psychology as a precursor to anger and a host of other negative assumptions.  From Ghandi comes, “The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate, but, it is fear.”  Jesus of Nazareth, according to John, declared, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  From Lao Tzu and Buddha come, “There is no illusion greater than fear,” and, “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”  Thoreau claims, “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”  Mahmoud Mohammed Taha asserts, “The greatest obstacle to love is fear.” Franklin D. Roosevelt declares in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  For years, mankind has been exhorted to release, let go of fear, and for years, mankind has mostly ignored that.

We currently live in a kind of Alice in Wonderland world, and we are already down the rabbit hole.   It seems that anything can happen, and that reasons, arguments and common sense make no difference.  Events occur in rapid succession, without apparent order, and in complete disconnect with any former idea of order.  Emotions rule, and the bandwagon is king; not much quite makes sense.  This is the breeding ground for fear.  We do not know just what will happen, and we are unsure of how to respond.  What will happen to us?  Fear raises its head.

One example of this is the current coronavirus outbreak, which, according to authorities, may become a pandemic, and which has already sickened and killed many and devastated economies.  The messages in the media accentuate its threatening nature, sometimes suggesting ways in which we should be prepared.  Fear grows.  We either ignore it so we don’t have to feel it or devote energy to watching out for it and trying to prepare.  Theories of the origin of the coronavirus abound.   Officially, the outbreak originated in a Chinese meat market which was selling wild killed meats; the virus first affected the Chinese and grew to epidemic proportions.  Much of China is now on lockdown/isolation, and movement of people from China is under high restriction, with flights being canceled, mandatory quarantines and the like.  This official summary is well reported in the news, together with the further spread of the virus.   Other theories hold that the virus is manufactured.  One purports that the disease was created to be vaccinated against by vaccine manufacturing companies that already had a vaccine to sell in the pipeline.  “Buying” this explanation requires acceptance of cold-blooded murder as a prerequisite to such an action, but in an Alice in Wonderland world, anything can happen.   Another theory of manufacturing asserts that the virus was developed as biological warfare and escaped from a laboratory in China.  Accidental, but not very comforting.  Aside from theories of how the virus originated are the speculations on why the media continues to cover it in detail, emphasizing the doom and gloom.    Granted that the media often loves the emotionally negative in order to attract attention, there is a lot of fear generated.  What might be the result of the high dose of fear?  Might people then give up their civil rights in order to ask the government to protect them and give them security (one result of 9/11 as well)?  Whatever one thinks about it, the message is clear: be afraid, and let anger and paralysis result.

If we refuse to fear, much of the power that events, or governments or oligarchies have over us is eliminated.  That does not mean that we close our eyes and refuse to see, or that we neglect to prepare in the best way we possibly can, or that we distance ourselves from others.   It does mean that when we are seeing, preparing, and acting compassionately towards others, we are doing this not because we are afraid of what is, or of doing or being wrongly, but because what we do is the best, most loving thing we can do to build a healthier, kinder, more just world.  If that means seeing the undercurrents of what goes on, then it is not because we fear those undercurrents, but because the understanding is needed before we can lovingly act.  If we are preparing, it is not because we are afraid of what will happen if we do not, it is because we are in the process of creating a world that does not hold in forefront those things towards which our preparations are geared.   If we try to help others, it is not because we are bad people if we do not, it is because helping them is the most fearless, loving thing we can do.  We see and strive to learn more; we understand and try to grow in wisdom; we object to that which destroys life – human, animal, plant or planetary – not because we are afraid of being destroyed, but because we love that life in all its aspects.   We do not grovel or cower.  The intent is key; to act lovingly erases fear.

Granted, it can be difficult to overcome fear.  Fear has been with us for generations.  The saber-toothed-tiger of today is far more complex and amorphous than that physical threat our ancestors could run from or fight.  Nevertheless, our growth as people, even our survival, depends on our overcoming ingrained fear.  Fear responses, including secondary fear responses such as anger and cruelty and war, are no longer viable.   The healing will be a grassroots effort, the combination of many of us actively growing towards a greater courage and love.  It will not come from governments, from the top.  The top perhaps fears more than any of us, and has the hardest time letting go of fear.  It is time to hear the message of our prophets and pundits, philosophers, artists and statesmen – Fear not!   Do not be afraid!

May we each encourage others, give and receive support as we learn as quickly as we can to let go of our fear and to grow in the courage of love and its qualities.

Peace, Diane