Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Am So Sad

I know it is the holiday season, a time of celebration, joy, gratitude, family, food and gift giving. I hate to be a downer, but I am feeling so sad. When I look within what do I find? Great sadness over being part of so much corruption and deception that does so much harm to so many. I cannot extricate myself from it. I am mired in it. It is inside me. It is me. It is my corruption and deception. It is harm that I carry out or is carried out in my name, with my tax dollars or investments, with my action, inaction or  impotence.

I am helping maintain a depraved system of lies and torture. Not just the CIA’s torture but the torture of the Earth, women, children, native peoples, the poor, immigrants and workers in sweat shops around the world. I have not personally engaged in waterboarding or beheadings but I am part of a system that makes use of drones, airstrikes, invasions, slave labor, unlivable wages, voter suppression, police brutality, hate crimes and poisoning of the Earth from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
I drive my car full of gasoline. I turn on electricity generated by dangerous nuclear energy. I am ensnared in a corrupt, deadly system. Yes, I could buy a used electric car. Yes, I can change the source of my electricity to wind or solar. But can I stop paying to feed the beast? Can I stop purchasing products made in sweat shops? Can I be so self-aware, so diligent, so disciplined that I am free of guilt, free of the system? Or is it that no one has clean hands? We are all part of the Global Industrial-Military Empire.

How do I speak out, express my horror, separate myself from it and cleanse myself of the blood and filth? I don’t know. I will celebrate this holiday with my family. I will be happy. I will be grateful. But I will also be profoundly sad at so much suffering outside me and inside me. I will confess. I will grieve. I will do all that I can to relieve the suffering of all beings everywhere. This vow is my gift to the world and to myself. It is an impossible vow but it is more real to me than anything else. May it be realized here and now and forever.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It Is Time For The New Humans To Act

I have been wrong. I have thought that what is needed is the reinvention of human society, of human civilization. What I am coming more and more to realize is that what is needed is nothing less than the redefinition and reinvention of the human being itself. What is a human being? Who are we? What is our essence? What is our purpose and our destiny? We cannot merely be consumers and shoppers. We cannot merely be producers and salespersons. We are not merely citizens of the state. We are not merely animals. But what are we?

Sometimes we seem so utterly depraved. We torture, murder, rape, destroy and steal. We engage in wars that kill millions of people. We put people in gas chambers. We strangle unarmed citizens who are trying to make a living. We drop atomic bombs on helpless children, women and men. We pollute the air, the waters and the soil. We raise animals in tiny cages for our food. We annihilate whole species. We pump carbon into the atmosphere bringing searing heat, mega storms, flooding and droughts. The rich live in luxury while billions of people do not have food, water, toilets and housing. Who are we? Are we devils?

Yet on the other hand sometimes we seem so divine. We share with others. We give our lives for others. We give birth to others. We nurture and educate and care for others. We create beautiful art, music and dance. We invent magnificent theories about the universe, evolution and the atom. We craft wonderful beliefs about love and truth, compassion and wisdom. We engage every day in billions of acts of kindness and understanding. We help the poor and heal the sick. We invent political systems that allow everyone to participate in self-governing. We create laws and policies that protect the weak and promote justice. We respect one another and honor differences of sex, culture and religion. Who are we? Are we angels?

This has been the question for so very long. Are we humans half way between heaven and hell, part angel, part devil? And which will we choose to embody and make manifest on this Earth? We have come so far from our caves, jungles and savannahs. We have grown into a giant of over 7 billion strong. We have erected great cities and connected humankind through the air and the airwaves. And what now? How do we wake up? How do we make the necessary leap? How do we transform ourselves? How do we die to who we have been and redefine and reinvent ourselves? And what is my role? And yours? How can you and I become the new human and how can we together create the new society?

The new human knows that each moment is the Moment of Creation. I choose to be divine or depraved in each moment. I can act out of compassion, kindness, understanding, peace and happiness or I can act out of pride, greed, fear, anger, hatred and violence. In each moment we observe, reflect, interpret, decide and act. That is it. That is how we reinvent the human being – by reinventing ourselves moment by moment. And then the new humans together invent the new society, the new culture, the new institutions and the new policies – the new civilization of compassion. There are already millions of new humans around this Earth. It is time for us to act.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What Are You Inventing With Your Life?

Even though the universe is 13.3 billion years old, because a human life lasts only one minute to 122 years, we tend to think in extremely short durations. How does this short-termism affect our decisions and actions? In politics we think in two to four year periods because of election cycles whereas the challenges we face often require 10 to 100 year perspectives and coordinated solutions. Capitalists measure success in the stock market second by second.

Also because a human body is so miniscule we tend to think about the immediate space around us rather than the scale of planet Earth or beyond. So our imaginations are often trapped in a tiny bubble of space-time. And because we are so dependent for our existence on air, water, plants, animals, medicine, other people, institutions and fiscal currencies, we are further trapped in worrying about our survival hour by hour and day by day.

How can such a creature ever raise its head and sniff the infinite? Yet the philosophers among us have done so as well as those we call scientists who have mapped the known universe of trillions of stars and its time-scape of billions of years of evolution. And yet we worry about what we will have for lunch, where we will get money to live, how we will get to work on time and so forth.

How do we live this paradox between the immense and the immediate? How can the immense help us think beyond our tiny lives to at least encompass our city, our nation our planet? How can an understanding of the vast stretches of time in cosmic and planetary evolution help us deal with the long term social, economic, political, cultural and environmental challenges facing our species and all life on Earth?

I have found that motivation and perspective are released as we expand our context in every direction – our present, past and future, our spatial sense and our understanding of intention and energy. Expanding our sense of the future is especially important. We usually think about a day, a week, a month or a year, maybe two to five years, at most 20 years. What if we started thinking about the next 100 years, the next 1,000 years, the next million years, the next billion years? How would we act differently this day, in this moment?

I think that we would realize that what we choose to do in this very moment causes and effects all time. It is as though we are sending an energetic, causal ripple throughout space-time that is vast beyond imagining. This is how everything that we take for granted has come into being. This includes such notables as the Big Bang, the universe, the Milky Way, our Sun-star, planet Earth, life itself, homosapiens, fire, the wheel, compassion, language, the city, democracy, the scientific method and the theory of evolution, to name a few of the wonders of our lives.

And where and when does this creative act take place? Always in the present moment, that is the locus of our inventiveness and responsibility, and it touches everything and everyone.

What are you and I inventing with each thought and action of our lives? What ripples are we each setting in motion for all time? I hope that I am catalyzing a compassionate civilization by how I treat other living beings and how I walk lightly on this precious Earth, moment by moment. How about you?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Privilege, Power, Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is a novel written by Jane Austin published in 1813. It deals with conflict and love between the classes in the 19th century. It also names what is going on throughout human history including our own times. We see on every front that those with privilege and power are proud and prejudiced and dominate and harm those without privilege and power.

Men are prideful, prejudiced against, dominate and harm women. The majority or favored race is proud, prejudiced against, dominates and harms minority races. The rich are prideful, prejudiced against, dominate and harm the poor. Ethnic majorities or elites are proud, prejudiced against, dominate and harm ethnic minorities. Religious majorities are prideful, prejudiced against and dominate and harm religious minorities. Straight people are proud, prejudiced against, dominate and harm gay people.

Our names for the above are misogyny, racism, class-ism, ethnic demonizing, religious fundamentalism and homophobia. But the common denominator in all of them is that those with privilege and power tend to be prideful and prejudiced and dominate and do harm to those with less privilege and power.

What can we do to wake up from this nightmare and create societies of universal equality, justice, participation, tolerance and sustainability? We must change our mindsets, behaviors, cultures and systems from exclusion to inclusion, from pride to compassion, from prejudice to respect, from domination to collaboration and from doing harm to acts of kindness.

And how to do that? We must create and offer new education, spiritual teaching and meditation, new leadership, motivation and incentives, new symbols, rituals and stories and new policies, institutions and projects. And how to do that? We must change our political, economic, social, cultural and environmental systems. And how to do that? We must stop what we are doing and reinvent the human enterprise itself, based on values of universal compassion and wisdom. And how to do that? We must each practice, practice, practice new ways of thinking, doing and being moment by moment for the rest of our lives.
May it be so.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is Your Life Worth 50 Cents?

If you are rich (especially “white”) your life is worth a lot and you are too big to jail. If you are poor (especially “black”) your life is worth little and you are ready for jail and ripe to be killed.

Eric Garner, 43, father, husband, American citizen, child of God, was trying to sell cigarettes for 50 cents each. This is not legal so several white policemen approached him. They swarmed him and choked him to death pressing his head into the sidewalk. He died saying over and over, “I can’t breathe.” The breath of life, breathing in and breathing out, a focus of meditation and enlightenment. When I saw the video of his murder I was horror-struck and gasped for breath. The Grand Jury recommended no trial. His life was worth 50 cents.

Michael Brown, 18 years old, African American, unarmed, shot to death by a white policeman with 12 bullets. The policeman said that the boy looked like a "demon." The Grand Jury recommended no trial.

12 year old Tamir Rice, African American, playing alone in a public park with a pellet gun, shot and killed by a white policeman two seconds after being encountered. Will there be a trial?

What is a human life worth? What is a human being? Are we spiritual beings having a human experience? Do we each have a unique gift to be realized and contributed to the civilizing process? Are we each Einsteins and Mother Teresas in hiding?  

And what is justice? Is it only for the rich and powerful? Do we live in a police state? Is our democracy of, by and for the people dead and gone? Is there any hope for a resurrection?

Systemic racism is alive and well. And race doesn’t even exist. We are all part of the human race, one singular species. And then there are sexism, homophobia, classism, religious fundamentalism, nationalism, ethnic prejudice and ageism.

It all begins with ignorance which leads to a sense of separateness which leads to pride which leads to greed which leads to fear which leads to anger which leads to hatred which leads to violence. Cut the flow of cause and effect! Cut it now! Awaken to compassion and wisdom!

Photo above: The late Eric Garner and his child

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Miracle of Happiness

Tragedy has to do with coming to ruin, extreme sorrow, the disastrous, the calamitous. Does this not describe human existence exactly? As a human being we are fraught with anxiety about our survival, our identity, our status, our possessions and our relationships; we suffer horrible diseases of body and mind; we lose those we dearly love; and then we die, each one of us. Is that not coming to ruin? Is such an existence not filled with sorrow? Is this not the story of disaster and calamity?

So what can you and I do when we become aware that human life, our life is tragic? What are our options?

We can despair and curse our existence. Or we can delude ourselves by turning our back on the glaring evidence and fight for as much pleasure, comfort, status and power as possible. Or we can have compassion for ourselves and everyone we encounter, acknowledging their and our own suffering and vowing to relieve as much of it as possible, bringing into being the miracles of peace and happiness.

I choose the latter. By acknowledging and accepting the universal nature of impermanence, suffering and inter-being, we can literally transform our relationship to our lives and to our relationships. We can turn tragedy into treasure, sorrow into sustenance, disaster into determination and calamity into calmness.

Nothing life brings can separate us from the ecstatic gift of being alive for this precious moment. Let's celebrate truth, beauty and love. Let's champion justice for all. Let’s practice kindness and generosity rather than living out of fear, anger, hatred and greed.

This is our chance. Let’s live our lives with abandon and passion. What do we have to lose?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"I Ain't Gonna Study War No More"


Our spiritual teachers say “do not kill”, “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemy” ,“relieve others’ suffering” and “nonviolence is the only way”, yet we ignore their wisdom and continue killing, hating and reacting to violence with violence.
There are alternatives to war including dialogue, negotiation, diplomacy, economic sanctions, UN resolutions and peace keeping, nonviolent resistance, forgiveness, global shaming, economic assistance, pacifism, protecting the innocent, indirection, distraction, removal from danger, and self-sacrifice.
War is nationally sanctioned mass murder, is immoral and is an abomination that brutalizes and traumatizes everyone.
War has been tragically romanticized to appeal to a young man’s self-image as warrior and hero.
The technologies of war make it appear to be a life size video game. It is not. It is real blood, real suffering and real death.
Nations call their young into harm’s way yet if they return home they are not supported with adequate health and employment opportunities and often end up poor, sick and suicidal.
Only one nation has ever dropped atomic bombs on innocent civilians. On behalf of my beloved country, I express limitless sorrow and regret and vow “never again.”
War is mass insanity. No other species engages in war. It is a uniquely human disease.
There is no such thing as a “just war.” All war is unjust and criminal. Wars are a collective expression of delusion, greed, fear, anger and hatred.   
Wars will stop when people refuse to kill other people.
Every human being desires happiness, love, peace, health, respect, long life and friendship.
Note: Title of this post is from the gospel song “Down by the Riverside”

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Empire: Bow Down or Rise Up?

How do we wake up and change our ways? That is the question. How do we wake up to the fact that we are destroying billions of years of life on Earth and turning a blind eye to the suffering of our fellow and sister human beings because of our ignorance, fear and greed?

And when we wake up, what should we do? How can we facilitate or lead in acts of repentance, which means turning around and going in a new direction? What will turn the tide? Teaching meditation? Publishing books? Having a TV show? Doing seminars? Teaching grad students? Caring for the homeless? Marching? Voting? Solar panels on the roof? Raising the grandchildren? All of these? Any of this? Something else?

And who are the deluded forces we face? Fossil fuel companies, banks,  armaments companies, toxic food companies, stock markets, billionaires, millionaires and religious fundamentalists are a few of them.

There is so much suffering in the world. It is overwhelming. How can we go on moment by moment? Where is hope? Where is joy? The good news is that whatever we do there will still be suffering and everyone will still die. That is the way life is at least in this part of the galaxy. We shouldn’t feel like failures for not being able to get rid of all suffering and death. But we can do a lot. How can we best relieve suffering and embrace death by living with open eyes and a joyous heart?

We are waking up, waking up to the reality that we live in a global empire controlled by and for the wealthy and their corporations. That is real. That is true. It is our empire. People before us lived in other empires such as the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire, the various dynasties of China and so on. Ours is the Global Corporate Empire of the 1%. Welcome to our times. Welcome home child of the empire.

We each have a choice: to bow our head and be a loyal subject of the empire; or to raise our head and challenge the empire with our thoughts, words and deeds. Whichever you choose don’t forget to enjoy your one wild, ecstatic life.

Photo above: Gandhi and colleagues on the Salt March

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dysfunctional Politics to Participatory Governance: Krugman, Wilber and Me


Paul Krugman writes today in the New York Times that “politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth.” Many would say that politics is the art of the possible. I believe that politics itself is dysfunctional, is leading us to disaster and must be completely reinvented. This is as true in the USA as it is anywhere.

The politics of personality and persuasion, of command and control, makes it impossible for the collective intelligence of 7.3 billion people to be applied to our most pressing problems. To paraphrase Ken Wilber, as I did in 1997 in the UN’s first policy paper on governance: humanity’s greatest challenges are not climate change and poverty but our inability to achieve “mutual understanding and mutual agreement concerning means for dealing quickly and effectively with the profound threats to the well-being of people everywhere and to the environment.” This is a crisis of governance. Politics has become a dangerous game blocking us from mutual understanding, agreement and action.

We must shift to a political process of authenticity and substance based on principles of truth and wellbeing for all. We must shift to a modus operandi of “participatory governance for sustainable human development.” Governance includes government but goes beyond it to include civil society and the private sector. It is through the healthy interaction of these three actors that societies can best protect the environment, promote socio-economic development, ensure gender equality and achieve cultural and religious tolerance and understanding.

It is by enabling the voices and concerns of every citizen to be heard and felt in policy making and implementation that we can best achieve sustainable human development. The perceptions and priorities of scientists, woman, students, elders, workers, parents, business leaders, academics, journalists, minorities, religious leaders, artists, the homeless, civil servants and others, must all flow into and guide the governing processes.

Of course there are many obstacles that can block this shift to participatory governance for sustainable human development. Vested interests of all sorts must be dealt with. When we the people identify corruption based on greed or harmful behavior based on fear, anger and hatred we must shine a light on the people involved and call them to account and to change their ways. Truth and reconciliation are powerful transformative processes as we saw in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

There is a pathway. But what other strategies will carry us forward? How do we get from dysfunctional politics to participatory governance?

We must first tell the truth, that things are not working, that there is a systems failure. Then we must outline a future vision as we have begun above. We must ask everyone to participate in fleshing out that vision with their best insights. We must ask people to identify the biggest obstacles that we face. We must ask people to create strategies, tactics and action plans for reinventing our societal decision making and action taking.

We can do this. We must do this, or continue careening toward the abyss.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grieving, Self-Care, Learning & Gratitude

When we experience loss whether it is the death of a loved one or the loss of an election, grieving includes disbelief and anger in addition to sadness and a sense of abandonment. In order to move on, we must let grief take its natural course. Then we must let go and get on with living in a new reality.    

We must also take care of our wounded heart. We should get sufficient rest and nourishment, take time for ourselves in reading and reflection and should stay in touch with family and friends. Furthermore, we should engage in soul-searching and analysis so that we learn as much as possible from the situation for the sake of future engagement. We then should apply our lessons by modifying our behavior and actions in future situations and relationships.

Finally, we should take comfort by experiencing deep gratitude for the gift of life itself and for our unique life as it unfolds in mystery and perfection.    

In the case of yesterday’s midterm US elections, some of us, myself included, are grieving. I can’t believe that the rout was so bad. I am angry that certain personalities now have even more power. I am sad that millions of people could be harmed by new policies, especially women, the elderly, students, the poor, the middle class, gays and immigrants. I feel a strange sense of forlornness. What are your emotions?

How am I to take care of my wounded heart in this situation? I will make sure that I get enough rest and eat healthy food. I will do some reading related to my work and spiritual life. I will have conversations with my spouse about what is going on. She has already sent me an article from the New Yorker that cheered me up. How will you care for yourself? 

In terms of soul-searching and analysis, I am reading about the election and what we may face over the next two years. I am deciding how I will be more engaged as a citizen from the local to national levels. I will submit Op Ed pieces, blog posts and articles, contact my representatives regarding issues, sign petitions, donate to candidates and NGOs, speak with my students and colleagues and engage in dialogue with people of other points of view. I will focus especially on supporting climate chaos mitigation and women’s empowerment but also on promoting socio-economic justice, cultural and religious tolerance and participatory governance. How will you go about your soul-searching?  

Finally, I am comforted by deep gratitude for life itself, for my life, for family, friends and colleagues, opportunities for engagement and service, for health and for my spiritual practice. Please consider making a list of what you are grateful for.

May everyone everywhere realize the Great Happiness that embraces both the ups and the downs of living with Yes!