Launched by GPIW in 2008, the Contemplative Alliance is an inter-spiritual movement grounded in contemplative practices and approaches with the goal of heightening awareness and generating actions to address the critical issues of our times. We seek to accomplish this by creating an alliance of organizations and individuals from across religious, faith and worship traditions who believe that inner development is an essential element in the positive transformation of the global community.  By sharing this message, our vision is that individuals and organizations will act from a place of deep inner wisdom to advance the wellbeing of the global community. Currently the Contemplative Alliance is being organized under the auspices of the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) http://www.gpiw.org

IMG_3716

by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee & Hilary Hart

SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY:

THE PRACTICE OF SIMPLICITY

The ceaseless demands of today’s world so easily fill up our days. With our smart phones and computer screens we often remain caught on the surface of our lives, amidst the noise and chatter that continually distract us, that stops us from being rooted in our true nature. Unaware we are drowned deeper and deeper in a culture of soulless materialism. There is a vital need to return to simplicity, to create an inner and outer space that allows for a real connection to what is sacred.

In response I find it more and more important to have outer activities that can connect us to what is more natural and help us live in relationship to the deep root of our being, and in an awareness of the moment which alone can give real meaning to our everyday existence. Over the years I have developed a number of simple practices that bring together action and a quality of mindfulness, or deepening awareness, that can nourish our lives in hidden ways. These activities, like mindful walking, cooking with love and attention, can reconnect us with the web of life, our natural interconnection with life in its beauty and wonder. They can help us “declutter” our outer life and instead become rooted in what is simple and real. One of these practices, which combines action with mindfulness, is simplicity.

Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings
in the world.

 Lao Tsu

Simplicity

The boat people of Southeast Asia, the Moken, have few possessions. They can only carry what they need in their small boats. They also have no word in their language for “worry.” But when the tsunami came, they were attentive and watchful of the water; they saw the sea first come high on the beach and then recede far out. They remembered their stories, their myths of what happens to the seas, and so took their boats into deep water and survived the tsunami. The local fishermen did not survive; their boats were destroyed. They did not watch, they were not attentive.17

How can we be fully attentive when our lives are cluttered with so many possessions, so many attachments, so many desires? Will we have time to remember the stories, to watch and move our little boat to deeper waters? Or will we be like the local fisherman, inattentive to the need of the moment, sunk by the tsunami of materialism? We live in a culture in which we are constantly bombarded, our attention distracted, no longer just by the “ten thousand things” of the ancient world, but by ten million things. Everything is demanding our attention, wanting us to consume, to buy, to spend our money and our time. And we do not even know the depths and subtleties of this web of consumerism, its powers of deception.

How can we create a space of clarity, of attentiveness? How can we return to what is essential? How can we remember what really matters, what gives meaning and substance to our daily lives? How can we return to a simplicity of life that honors the simplicity of our essential nature, that gives space for the sacred?

First, we have to acknowledge that our whole culture is caught in the grip of unnecessary desires and recognize the poison of accumulation for what it is. We are conditioned and pressured to want more and more—this is the myth of continual economic progress. This myth has become a monster destroying our ecosystem, taking our money and our life energy. It has polluted our consciousness with its slogans and jingles, designed to distort, to manipulate. And we do not even know the power of its dark magic, how much it has us in its grip, feeding us false promises of a better life, assuring us that “things go better” with the purchase of a product. It has saturated every corner of our culture. We are pressured to consume packaged food and even packaged spirituality. We no longer know the ingredients of our lives.

Second, we have to have the strength to say “no.” To go against this toxic flow, to resist the power of its empty promises and the corporations behind them, we have to regain an essential simplicity, return to what we need rather than what we think we want. Only then can we begin to hear the music of life, be attentive to the inner and outer need of the Earth. Only then can we become alive with what is sacred and true.

Third, we have to learn to discriminate, to clear our inner and outer clutter. In the classical love story of Eros and Psyche, one of Psyche’s almost impossible tasks is to sort a huge pile of seeds. Like Psyche, we have to sort the many things in our life; we have to make conscious what is of value, what we really need.18 Discrimination is never an easy task. But as Psyche is aided in her task by some willing ants, we too have help, in the form of an instinctual wisdom, a quiet quality, that is present to us if we are paying attention. And it becomes easier after time and practice. As we clear more space in our inner and outer lives, we become more attuned to what is necessary, more aware of the deceptions and false promises of unnecessary “stuff.” We see more clearly how our possessions take more than just space, they also take our attention.

Personally I love the old Taoist ways, the ways of the hermits whose spirituality and nature were blended together, their poems a flock of wild geese crossing high in the sky. They lived an essential simplicity that speaks to my soul: their possessions one robe and one bowl, the decoration of their mountain hut “the moon at the window.” I have tried to recapture this simplicity in my life, but today we seem to need so many things just to get by. Again and again I have tried to empty my room, especially when I was younger. But family life demanded more and more possessions—many more than needed by a hermit in a hut—though my children would still complain that I threw out too many things.

So over the years I have tried instead to keep an inner simplicity, an empty space in as many moments of the day as is possible. Now I am getting older, once again I feel the tug of this other landscape, a longing for a small cottage and rain-swept hills—maybe the beautiful and bleak Scottish highlands I knew as a child. But my life remains full, though more with people than possessions. So I keep this simplicity as an inner secret, an emptiness that I crave.

Still I have to be careful. I use modern technology: a computer, the Internet, and I love listening to music on an iPod. All around me I feel consumerism and its dark web of desires that so easily entangles us, more than we realize. And often it is not enough to clear out the physical clutter in our homes; we need also to bring a simplicity to how we spend our time, how we use our attention—to be mindful in how we live.

The practice of meditation and mindfulness can clear the clutter of our minds. A few trips to the goodwill or charity store can clear the clutter from our homes. And then continual attention is needed so that the currents of accumulation do not fill the empty space we have created.

And beyond the clutter of thoughts and things, we also have to watch that we are not caught in constant activity, our culture’s emphasis on endless “doing” rather than “being.” We need space in order to watch, to listen, to walk, to breathe—to be present. The Tao Te Ching teaches the value of not doing:

Less and less is done until nothing is done,

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

Through a quality of emptiness we can access a deeper rhythm than the surface jangle of constant activity. We used to be held by the rhythms of the seasons and the soil. Now we have to struggle to return to a rhythm and a space that are not toxic with consumption, that belong to the seasons of the sacred, where life still flows true to its essential nature. Simplicity, patience, and compassion can guide and keep us inwardly aligned. Gradually we can once again listen to the Earth, to Her wisdom and beauty; we can feel the beating of both Her heart and ours. We can feel again the deep belonging that allows us to be present in every moment, not as a practice but a simple state of being. We can remember why we are here.

Simplicity PRACTICE

Simplicity is the essence of life. The word itself comes from the Latin simplex, meaning uncompounded or composed of a single part. Simple things reflect this essential nature, which belongs to everything in creation. When we honor the simple things of life, we bring ourselves back to this oneness, our true Home.

All the practices in this book are a return to simplicity. Breathing, walking, growing food, cooking … these are the “chop wood, carry water” of our day. If we honor what is essential in our lives, we connect with the life force that runs free of the dramas of our individual and collective psyche. Here we are connected and responsive.

Begin by giving extra attention to your simple daily activities, like rising from bed and putting two feet on the floor. Pause there. You are awake; you are alive. Take note of how you feel in your body, and how your feet touch the floor. Be aware as you move towards the bathroom, towards the kitchen and the coffee or tea. Be grateful for water in the sink, for oranges that made your juice, for milk in your tea. Drink slowly. Appreciate your food. Appreciate your family, the sun coming in the window, the beauty you see in your partner or children. Simplicity reveals itself through slowness, in quiet moments when you can see, feel, taste, touch. Take time during the day to stop rushing. Move through the day with respect and openness.

Take an honest inventory of your life. Look at the things you have that take up time and psychic space. Look at your activities and commitments. What of these things do you actually need? Which are habits and entanglements that take up space and weigh you down? Which reflect your real values, feed your soul, touch you with love? Do you need or just want that new thing, that new activity, that has caught your eye? For a short time, try going without some of the things of your life. Maybe you don’t need them after all.

Let nature teach you. In nature, we are students of simplicity. The way a tree grows towards the sun, the way a cat stretches beside the fire, the way the seasons come round again and again without fail, can teach the simplicity of what is. The essential nature of our own lives—the cycle of birth, death, suffering and joy, and even liberation—also reflects this simplicity. We might make our lives complicated by how we relate to these—fighting death, avoiding suffering, searching for freedom and happiness—but that is our superimposed experience, not what is. Look for ways to attune to the natural simplicity of life that underlies the complications of our human experience.

Bring yourself back again and again to what is simple, to what does not change over time, to what shines steady through the fog. Ask yourself, do we need more than these things? Do we need more than the beauty of a crab apple tree in spring, a warm house in the winter, the way water sounds flowing through a stream, a cup of tea with friends? Do we need more in our lives than love?

Practicing simplicity doesn’t mean giving away all our things, quitting our demanding jobs, and moving to a mountain hut or living off the grid. It simply means being very honest about what we value within our lives, what sustains us, brings us joy and meaning, and devoting ourselves to those activities, people, or things. While we might end up having fewer possessions or changing some of our habits, simplicity compels a return, not a rejection—a seeing through and within, rather than looking somewhere else. When we live from a place of simplicity we naturally find we need less, and instead are more open to life.

Don’t be afraid of simplicity. It can feel stark and empty because it is free of psychological complexity and the coverings of accumulated need and desire. But our attention and our genuine response—awe, gratitude, appreciation, and respect—help transform that starkness into the richest of human experiences.

 __________________________________________

  1. Before the 2005 tsunami that caused so much loss of life, the nomadic Moken sailors who live among the islands in the Andaman Sea, off Myanmar (Burma), recognized the signs of the coming disaster in the dolphins and other fish suddenly swimming to deeper water. So they too took their boats further from the shore and rode out the waves, unlike the Burmese fishermen who were not attentive to the signs of nature but stayed close to shore where they perished as their boats were wrecked by the tsunami. The Moken said of the Burmese fishermen, “They were collecting squid, they were not looking at anything. They saw nothing, they looked at nothing. They don’t know how to look.”
  2. In this love story of classical mythology, Aphrodite gives Psyche a series of seemingly impossible tasks. In She: Understanding Feminine Psychology, Robert Johnson gives a simple and profound interpretation of this story in relation to feminine psychology.

 Adapted from Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to Reawaken the Sacred in Everyday Life. www.spiritualecology.org © 2017 The Golden Sufi Center, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee & Hilary Hart.

 Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a spiritual teacher and author, Hilary Hart is an author with a focus on women and feminine consciousness.

 

 

 

bob-maat-2

There are saints who walk among us and we don’t even know them. Perhaps they choose their anonymity, working without the fanfare and distraction that prominence and fame can bring. They are often disguised, hidden as ordinary persons, working quietly in places of need. Every tradition has them. Here I will tell you about one of the lesser-known saints, a former Jesuit monk named Bob who had spent the last 37 years of his life in Cambodia.

Bob ended up in Cambodia on a whim and a bet, made whilst sharing a cold beer with a fellow Jesuit brother.  They had been watching a news report on the refugee camps in Cambodia. Under the cruel regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s almost a third of Cambodia’s people were killed or died, and camps were now burgeoning with the traumatized survivors of the darkest period in Cambodian history. These two young monks, who were also trained as health care workers, looked at one another and one said to the other, “Wanna bet we can be there within a week?”

The rest of the story I heard from Bob himself. In order to meet him, we were told, we had to send a hand-written letter to a post office box in Bangkok. Bob had no phone, and he didn’t use a computer. He lived in Cambodia but would walk to Thailand to fetch his mail, which meant that our letter might not reach him for months. He used the money he saved on bus or train fare to buy soap for prisoners in Phnom Penh’s prisons where he sometimes served as a translator. Our desire and curiosity to meet him intensified.

Bob worked in the refugee camps for years among starved and weakened survivors of torture and forced labor. Over years he tended to thousands who had TB, mysterious fevers and infections, all made worse by the heat and moisture of a tropical jungle and a people who were hungry and full of sorrow. Many had lost limbs from the land mines that lay buried in fields throughout the country. He worked himself to exhaustion, and even got the shit kicked out of him by Thai soldiers on Valentine’s Day, he chuckled once.

Bob eventually left the despair of those camps and decided to stay on in Cambodia to come to know the people of this land better. He moved in with a family of rice farmers. He lived as they did, planting rice, barefoot in the water paddies, sleeping on straw mats, eating simply and very little. “Not an easy life,” he told me.

A year later, Bob met one of Cambodia’s great Buddhist monks, Maha Ghosananda. A deep friendship of mutual respect developed and they came up with a tender-hearted idea. They would lead a walk for peace throughout the countryside announcing to villagers that peace had finally come. These walks, often attracting hundreds or even thousands, began to take place annually. Healing was needed, and bearing witness to the suffering of a people can help them to heal.

Years later, his monk’s cloak and Jesuit way of life long faded away, he was left only with the grief and love that burns away any outer identification, the experiences in life that melt away the last remnants of pride or self-centeredness. He is humble. He also loves to laugh and has a sharp wit and a wild, kind sense of humor. In a recent letter, he wrote that he needed funds for some monks to put a roof on their library. He added a PS: “Bank robbers welcome, we can be discreet”!

He still hangs out with the Buddhist monks, volunteering at a monastic university in a northern province. He teaches them English, but mostly he does the cleaning. The school can’t afford a janitor, he says.

Bob is no longer interested in religion. He wears a t-shirt, simple cotton pants, and the flip-flops, a size too small, of a wandering ascetic. The Sufi poetry of Rumi is what he reads, or he sits in silence, which is his preferred mode of communicating. There is something about his eyes. So much has been stripped away, that only the empty space in his big heart is present, making room for a mystical love to move freely to where it is needed.

His tall and slender frame, fair skinned and hair burnt blond by the Cambodian sun, can still be seen walking along the roads of Cambodia. He carries a simple bag with all his possessions slung over his bony shoulders. Now in his sixties, he sometimes accepts a ride. He told me a truck picked him up one day.  The overjoyed driver was close to tears. “Remember me? You gave me some soap when I was a kid back in the camps.” 

 By Marianne Marstrand. Originally published by Creator at WeWork

(Some of you have asked how to send a contribution to Bob for him to pass on to people in need in Cambodia  – if you wish to do that please write us at info@gpiw.org. Very little goes a long way there.)

bob-maat-1

standing-rock-teepee

“We are not protesters, we are protectors of the water.”

“Prayer is more powerful than any man-made law…Mother earth is calling out to all of us who can pray.” ~ Water protector at Standing Rock

In the last few days the country received the news that the Obama administration has put a stop to the construction of the Dakota pipeline, and will seek alternative routes that do not invade the sacred Sioux lands or threaten their water supply. Many see this as a victory for the tribes who stood their ground.  A victory it is, but a victory of far greater significance than the rerouting of a pipeline. Far more was taking place at Standing Rock than what appeared to be the story.  What follows are excerpts from a report by John Briggs, who along with other members of the Contemplative Alliance visited Standing Rock.

 ***

Robert Toth, John Briggs, and Tiokasin Ghosthorse traveled October 5-11 to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Since the spring of 2016 members of over 300 tribes from the US and around the world have come to Standing Rock as “Water Protectors” to stop a crude oil pipeline slated to run beneath the Missouri River immediately upstream of several Sioux reservations. The travelers represented the Contemplative Alliance, an inter-spiritual movement based on the premise that inner spiritual work can change the course of things and significantly impact the external world. This belief was in clear evidence at Standing Rock where for many months thousands engaged in prayer, meditation and sacred ceremonies around the clock in order to protect the sacred lands and waterways.  Indeed it was this prayer energy and Mother Earth’s response that led to the successful retreat of the Dakota pipeline.

The Lakota word for “white man” is Wasi’chu (Wa SHE choo). Wasi’chu means literally, “takes too much.” Early in our visit to Standing Rock, our colleague, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, tells us the Wasi’chu story. He says that at a time when the Europeans arrived, a starving immigrant showed up in a Lakota camp. Nutrient rich tallow fat from the sacred buffalo was drying on racks in the sun. Without asking, the man seized and consumed all the tallow that he saw hanging there. Tiokasin tells us, “He didn’t leave any for anyone else. The Lakota had never observed that behavior before.” So the Lakota word for “white man” describes this takes-too-much behavior and attitude–a manifestation of his thought process–not his skin color. The term Wasi’chu applies to any non-native.

The “takes too much” behavior of the Wasi’chu encapsulates metaphorically what the Standing Rock movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is about. As the indigenous peoples of North America come together and pray–creating an historic movement to prevent Wasi’chu’s latest desecration of nature–they illuminate a profound difference between the everyday holistic consciousness that has guided indigenous peoples since Paleolithic times, and the everyday aggressively anthropocentric (human-centered) consciousness that has led to our contemporary world. The visit to Standing Rock that Bob, Tiokasin, and myself made for five days in early October 2016, provided us with an unsettling glimpse into the mirror that the first peoples have been holding up to us since first contact. That mirror provided an enlightening perspective on how indigenous peoples view our Wasi’chu consciousness.

Native Peoples understand, with an anguish that we don’t feel, that the Wasi’chu form of human-centered, or anthropocentric, consciousness has conjured up idea-things such as profit, ownership, domination, salvation, information, knowledge, the mainstream media (with its limited attention span), and the vast empire of science and technology. Wasi’chu consciousness has commoditized nature, leading to the oil extraction technology and corporate profit dogmas that drive the Dakota Access Pipeline to the brink of completing $ 3.8 billion line intended to carry toxic shale sands crude oil underneath the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock reservation.

standing-rock-encampment

We learn from Tiokasin that in the Lakota’s earth-mind way of thinking (and experiencing), water is a living being. Beings, Tiokasin says, “are not objective or subjective,” whether the Lakota are talking about the beings we call animals, plants, rocks, or water. Mother Earth is not made of things but of beings. The being of water is the First Consciousness of Mother Earth. This First Consciousness means “the awareness of the movement that sustains life.” Water provides a “shining mirror to the universe, its transparency offers a model and a path to creation.” Water, Mni, he says can be translated as “that which carries the feeling between you and me” –and the “you” and “me”–and the “you” and “me” are not just humans: trees, sky, wind. Mni also translates as “mother’s milk” or a “mother’s breast.” This is earth-mind thinking. The Lakota are calling attention to water in a way that makes you feel water as you and as your connection to Mother Earth.

For many of the first peoples drawn to Standing Rock, the central issue is not the environment as an organic assemblage of objects, as it is something profoundly spiritual.

For many of the first peoples drawn to Standing Rock, the central issue is not the environment as an organic assemblage of objects, as it is something profoundly spiritual, an issue of human consciousness and purpose in the mystery of life, an issue of solidarity with one’s relatives: the water, the buffalo, the hawks, the grass, the wind, the hills and the countless beings that cohabit the earth along with the individual, collective and ancestral spirits of the human tribe, the last tribe of beings to appear on this earth, and still the most ignorant.

We arrive at Standing Rock to observe, experience, and acknowledge the earth-mind spirit, if we can find it, in addition to offering our support to the practical effort to stop the pipeline.

The brief meeting with Starkey [Lakota elder] alerts us to a truth that will become abundantly clear as the week wears on: What the first peoples bring to this moment in history is a spiritual awareness of the earth that indigenous cultures (including about 500 extant tribes in the US alone) have kept vibrantly alive for 10,000-20,000 years and that has no parallel in the consciousness of the dominant anthropocentric society. The earth-mind is a spirituality of reciprocity and obligation to the natural world in all its manifestations–a spirituality of intimate, holistic relationship with other beings. Mitakuye Oyasin [literally, “my relatives you all are”] is the central expression of this spirituality: we are all related, all beings, animate and inanimate, are related.

Our speculation is that when early humans roamed the world, maybe even when they were still evolving, they naturally possessed the anthropocentric mode of consciousness that allowed them to invite new technology and navigate their terrain by engaging it as objects. At the same time, their holistic earth-mind mode of consciousness kept them in touch with all their relations, with the understanding that the Buffalo they chased and killed was not actually an object; it was a being, a spirit, a relationship, a gift for their own existence so that they could enjoy the blessings of life.

Standing Rock seems to be a proving ground for a process that some here term the “de-colonization” of Native people’s consciousness. Simply put, de-colonization means scraping away the anthropocentric thinking encrusted on the earth-mind by the forced education of generations of Native Americans; many were removed from their parents’ homes, forbidden to use their native language, restricted or forbidden to engage in their religious ceremonies, propagandized into the anthropocentric ideas of ownership, economic advancement (the American Dream, or as Starkey might put it, the American Illusion) and conditioned to the American ideals of ambition, evaluation, and status, and the supreme importance of the self and ego. All of that overlay obscures the earth-mind and leaves people born into Native cultures with sicknesses difficult to heal.

Simply put, de-colonization means scraping away the anthropocentric thinking encrusted on the earth-mind by the forced education of generations of Native Americans.

One level of de-colonization seems to involve resetting the relationships among the tribes, a coming together over the deep roots of Indigenous spirituality.

“When you have peace with Earth, she is the ultimate consciousness. She is the first consciousness. She is the sanity. She is the intelligence…Why aren’t we asking her, can we go to war? Why aren’t we asking her, can I build here? Why aren’t we asking her, can I take your water? We are not doing that because we’re assuming that that one god said this was built for you.” ~ Tiokasin Ghosthorse

 From the Native perspective, Standing Rock is a spiritual action, Mitakuye Oyasin, not a political action. Because for the first peoples, spirituality means relating with the earth, our anthropocentric, human-centered consciousness doesn’t provide us with the language that can adequately describe it, we should probably first accept that the Indigenous peoples simply think and feel differently than we Wasi’chu do about what we rather blandly call the environment.

standing-rock-flags

Flags from the more than 300 tribes that joined in actions at Standing Rock

Prayer

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the woman who started the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline by allowing land she owns to become the site of the Sacred Stones camp, said “the camps that have grown up near Cannon Ball, North Dakota are about “healing and empowerment of the people. I see song and dance and sharing and families and children. So much more is happening there than what we we’re allowed [to see] with the press right now.” “Did you see where I live? Oh, my god, it is so beautiful. I mean every day the buffalo are out there. The eagles are out there. I love my river.”

“Every breath in our body is a prayer. You are a prayer answered by our ancestors.” ~ Woman water protector at Standing Rock.

Linda Black Elk (Catawba Nation) is an ethnobotanist, restoration ecologist and instructor at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation. She has been present at the movement since its start on April 1, 2016 on Ladonna’s property.  “Over and over, people come to the camp and then they leave camp and they say to me that they miss it. My soul wants to be there. Because it’s so positive. I think a big part of it is unity.  “We are seeing the tribes—and not just the native people, our allies—coming together. It’s just so beautiful to witness. Because we are the peaceful revolution. We are working to heal all these past wounds of mother earth, also of ourselves, our souls.  She says, “The other day there were folks from a country near southern Africa and they were playing their drums. It’s not just Lakota drums, it’s drums from all over the world that are coming and singing and praying for the planet. This is the center of the universe right now.”

 Prayer — ceremony and ritual — is communitarian. When there is a disturbance in the balance, when Earth is traumatized and grieving, her Spirit calls out to all beings to pray with her, and those who pray hear her and come, bringing their spirit to the place of her pain. Their presence is their prayer and the connection of their spirit to the spirit of the place, and all who are present there makes it difficult to leave it until balance is restored. That is the calling of the Natives gathered at Standing Rock. The prayerful response at Standing Rock confronts the destructive spirit driving the construction of the pipeline to bring it back into balance. Until the spiritual balance is restored, the physical destruction continues.

When we hear Indigenous people say that they are standing at Standing Rock “to protect the water” we think of their heroic action as one opposing the modern day consumer culture and protecting a fundamental environmental resource. But the truth is they are protecting something more fundamental than that. They are protecting the spirit of earth, which includes the human spirit. They’re doing their job as humans.

This is the deeper significance of what has been taking place at Standing Rock.

This report comprises extracts from a full report by John Briggs.

All photos courtesy of John Briggs

 

Part One & Two

By Dena Merriam
TSDS7161

Dena Merriam & Ven. Mae Chee Sansanee of Thailand & young Kashmiri women, Srinagar 2015

There is perhaps no more critical undertaking now than to bring together women who have the
commitment, knowledge and vision to make a difference in bringing about the needed global transformations.  It is increasingly clear that we have arrived at a pivotal moment in the history of the world.  There are forces  pulling us forward toward the next stage in human evolution, and there are forces resisting this advance, seeking to pull us backward or at least to keep us from progressing.  In almost every region of the world, we feel this tension between a movement forward and the resistance. Even for those of us who feel the forces of advancement, it is not clear where we are going, what is the next stage in our social evolution. We know that the current systems are not working but we don’t know the new formations that are quietly arising.  This inability to put our current situation into larger context is creating anxiety.  How do we ease this tension?
I would describe the new mindset that is emerging as one based on a sense of unity –human unity and unity with the natural world – and I would describe the old mindset as one based on a sense of separateness and division. We see these forces playing out around the world.   Globalization and communications technology brought us together in the physical sense.  Now something akin to this is happening on a spiritual level.  The interfaith movement played a role in that, bringing people into much deeper spiritual exchange.  But now we have moved beyond interfaith into a new experience of spiritual unity.  In response to this new reality, retraction is also occurring – people retreating into their separateness, into known and comfortable identities.  But this retreat can only be temporary because the movement of evolution is a forward one.   
 In addition to the tension between unity and separateness, we are feeling the tension of shifting from a paradigm of domination, which has lasted for millennia and is deeply imbedded in our psyches, to one of collaboration.  The urge to dominate is based on fear and for a period in human evolution this fear was a necessity – it was self-preservation.  But it has outlived its usefulness and has now become destructive.  This shift is not a cosmetic or minor change in thinking but entails a significant growth in consciousness and involves deep systemic changes that will affect all aspects of our economic, political, social and religious life.  This shift in consciousness away from a domination mentality applies to how we interact as a human community and to how we interact with the rest of the created world.  So much of human history has been about one ethnic, national, religious or racial group seeking to dominate another, one gender seeking to dominate the other, and one species, the human species, seeking to dominate all that resides on Earth for our sole benefit.  These old mental patterns no longer serve us.  In fact, they threaten our survival.  
What we are experiencing now as a global community is the breaking down of old patterns and the beginning of the formation of new ones.  This is a painful process.  As women know, it is only by passing through the agony of labor that we give birth to new life.   This is not an easy or quick task. For an individual it takes a long time to change habits.   For a global collective, the formation of new modes of behavior could take decades,  but at least we can lay the foundations, and we do this essentially through our understanding of what is taking place and by changing our own consciousness.
If you look at what is happening in the world today, on the surface, it can seem dismal.  It almost feels like we are moving backward.  Every region is experiencing tension – conflict, human barbarity, climate changes, environmental degradation, increasing economic disparity, the list goes on and on.  In the US, on a political level we are in a state of deep polarization and paralysis. But spiritually something else is happening and a deeply unifying spiritual movement is emerging.   The spiritual landscape of the country is changing quite rapidly, and in a positive direction, because it is based on unity rather than division.  How long will it take for this to affect the political and economic life of the country – that is an unknown.

 This unifying spiritual movement, which is emerging around the world,  is drawing upon our many faith traditions.  It is not negating our difference but rather it is using this diversity as a unifying force. Instead of dividing people,  the world’s incredible religious diversity can and should unify people of all faiths.   The premise for this is to embrace the “other” rather than to feel threatened by it. The old competitive pattern of judging which religion is right or superior is discarded, replaced by a new thought pattern of appreciating the special gifts of the “other.”    The old pattern of seeking to convert others to our way of thinking is replaced by a celebration of the “other.”  This shift will occur when we move away from the fear-based domination way of thinking.
Just as we must evolve beyond our need to dominate other groups of people,  we must evolve beyond the need to dominate the natural world.   This will give rise to a newborn sense of love for the Earth and Her vast communities of life, and the feeling that we must do all we can to protect Earth’s precious life forms.  The climate crisis presents a great challenge to the human community but also a great opportunity to change the way we view the Earth and to come together as a global society.  We can choose which direction we will take, greater unity, or greater division.  I believe the forces of unity are stronger and will eventually pull us forward.  
 
I travel continually and I see these feelings shared by people around the world, regardless of culture or region.   It is an undercurrent but one that is growing and will soon have enough momentum to trigger change – a sudden change in a positive direction.  There is no denying that we are up against formidable structures that resist change.  I believe women have a great role to play in guiding the human community through this transition, in building this momentum, but to do this we must fully come into our feminine awareness.  Before going into what this feminine awareness is, I want to share a bit of my history and how I founded the Global Peace Initiative of Women to provide a global platform for the spiritual contributions of women.

I began working in the interfaith world nearly 20 years ago when I was invited to help organize a large religious summit at the United Nations headquarters in NY for the millennial year, the year 2000.  The then Secretary- General of the United Nations, His Excellency Kofi Annan, consented to the organization of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, to be held in

A few incidents occurred during the process of organizing the summit that deeply affected me. The Secretary General’s office had put together an advisory council from the United Nations, and we kept them informed and updated on how things were progressing.  One woman on the council, an under-secretary general of the UN, was particularly concerned about having women religious leaders participate in the Summit.  I was unaware of any problem in this regard, and so began to seek out women religious leaders.
I was seated at a dinner at Oxford, England with a group of religious leaders when I happened to mention to the man seated next to me that we were having trouble finding women religious leaders for the Summit at the UN.  I was only trying to make dinner conversation, but he reacted strongly to my remark and asked in a rather stern voice,   “Why do you need women religious leaders?”  When he saw the surprise on my face, he added, “take my advice and stay away from that issue or you might find that nobody will come to your summit.”  That was in 1999.
 
We had difficulty finding women religious leaders and so we compensated by finding women public figures.  I was not happy with this solution, but I was still in a learning phase.  Much of our time during the organization of the Summit was involved in dealing with political issues – like the fact that the Dalai Lama could not be invited to the United Nations because China would object, and the response from some prominent religious leaders who said they would not come if the Dalai Lama was not invited.  So the gender issue got lost amid the political negotiations.
On the opening day, as we were waiting for the religious leaders to enter the General Assembly Hall to begin their prayers, we encountered another gender crisis.  A prominent monk was to open the prayers, but he wasn’t permitted by his particular order to come in close contact with any woman, and there was a Buddhist nun, the only woman in a delegation of about a dozen Thai Buddhist monks, who was seated near the entrance where he was to enter.  I was told she had to be moved, and when I asked why, the response came, “because she is a woman.”  A number of people on our staff had tried to get her to move, but she didn’t understand English and refused to be separated from the monks of her delegation.  The clock was ticking and we had to begin, and so I was told that I had to move her.  It was a difficult moment for me.  But when I went up to her and took her hand, she smiled and followed me. The crisis was solved but it left a deep imprint in my mind.  Later when the Thai delegation came to greet me, I apologized to her, and we became fast friends.  Ven. Mae Chee Sansanee became  one of the founding co-chairs of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.
There were very few women religious leaders at the Summit, and they were not happy.  They requested a follow-up Summit specifically for women religious leaders.  We went back to the Secretary-General’s office and he agreed, suggesting that we hold it at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.  Work began with the religious communities in Geneva, and the first response that I received was, “we don’t want your American feminism here.  We don’t have women religious leaders.”  I was again taken aback, because I never thought of this work as a feminist matter, and I began to wonder why this issue was threatening to so many.  In order to get around the subject of women religious leaders, the Geneva community suggested we change the title of our event from “The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders” to “The Role of Women in the Faith Communities.”  I refused to give up on the idea of women religious leaders, and so began the difficult process of bringing this vision to fruition.   
 
In 2002, we managed to bring over 500 women leaders, mostly from the religious communities but also some from business and government, from over 75 countries to the Palais des Nations. Whereas there were many political issues and much competitiveness at the 2000 world peace summit in New York, there were no politics at the Geneva Summit.  It was a far greater success.  We had no thought of forming an organization out of this gathering, but we immediately received requests to come to conflict areas and help organize peace dialogues, and so The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders was born.   We later shortened the name to The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW).
un-group

Photo: Jonah Sutherland

We spent our first five years organizing dialogues with those in conflict and post-conflict areas ––  including Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and between India and Pakistan.   The dialogues were initially with women, and then young leaders, then both male and female religious leaders, and finally a mix of everyone.  What was distinctive about these dialogues is that they were shaped and led by a diverse group of women religious leaders, always balanced between East and West.  So we brought Buddhist nuns and women swamis to meet with the group from Sudan, Iraq and other conflict areas.  This had a tremendously positive impact as it opened the participants to the wider world and they saw the role women can play in other cultures.

When the Global Peace Initiative of Women was established in 2002, it was the only global interfaith organization founded and led by women.  Soon after other interfaith groups began to notice and develop special women’s programs.  But in my mind this missed the whole point.  Separate chapters or programs designed for women would not compensate for the lack of women’s participation in the leadership.  What we wanted to convey was that women must be empowered to shape and lead the interfaith and religious movements, along with men.  Without a true partnership,  only token changes would take place.  I cannot count the number of times when I have been invited to speak on a panel to find myself as the only woman speaker.  It is daunting to have to represent my entire gender!    Not surprisingly, the absence of women’s voice in the religious and interfaith world continues today. Just a few months back there was a major global interfaith gathering.  I was pleased to hear that for the first time they held a pre-conference one-day’s women’s summit.  But at the official opening of the event, during the opening plenary session,  among the array of men on the stage, I am told there was not one woman.  I don’t allow myself to be discouraged, but after 20 years of trying to make this point…..

After many years of advocating for a greater role for women in interfaith work, we began to realize that the gender issue was deeply embedded in our theologies, and without addressing theology, it would be hard to achieve true gender balance. So we organized a larger conference in India in 2008 on the theme of the Divine Feminine – the female aspect of Divinity.  Most people would acknowledge that the Divine has no gender, and yet in institutional religious life the Divine is always referred to as male – the Father – at least among the Abrahamic faiths.  Hinduism is an exception.  In India, it is far more common to refer to the Divine as the Mother, rather than the Father, and in fact this is what drew me to India when I was young.  The Mother relationship seems far more intimate and loving.

women-faith-leaders-retreat-master-sheng-yen

The conference that we organized on the Divine Feminine was revolutionary in many ways. One of our Co-chairs is a prominent and courageous Catholic nun from the US, who is very committed to women’s issues.  She was speaking at our conference in India and even for her, it was a stretch to talk about the Divine as Mother.  She approached me and said, “Dena, I don’t know if I can do this.  I have a theological problem with it.”She was clearly anxious.  I replied, “address the theme as you see fit.”Well, it forced her to do some deep reflection and she spoke beautifully on the Mother aspect of the Divine.   Since that conference, for years after, she spoke on the theme of the Divine Feminine – the Mother qualities of the Ultimate Reality.  Now, of course, there are many books and talks on this subject.

People would ask me why it was important to tackle the gender issue theologically. It has to do with deep subconscious feelings about oneself, feelings of which we may not even be aware.  I remember seeing a study some years ago that determined the one feeling most common among women across the world, regardless of income, education, status in society, etc. is that they don’t feel their voices are heard.  Women don’t feel that they have a voice.  If our concept of the All Knowing, the All Powerful, the All Beneficent Divine is male, than the female is subordinate, of lesser value.  But if this Divine power has both female and male aspects– there is gender balance, and this can serve as an inspiration and model for the rest of us.

Our inability to see the feminine aspects of the Divine has led to great gender imbalance, which affects so much about our world – from our economy to our social, political and religious structures.

What would the world look like if we could truly awaken the feminine wisdom and restore Her to Her rightful place?

For my generation, the challenge for women was to be able to rise to the top of their professions – to be heads of businesses, governments, etc., to break the glass ceiling. There was no talk at that time of what type of leadership would be natural for women.  There was no talk of the need for a transformation in our institutions.  Women were meant to just fit in and follow the mold.

I was born into a secular business family. I have two sisters, one older and one younger, and both became successful business women. I was less interested in business and more interested in literature and religion.   But after my divorce I had to go into the family business to support my sons.  I was told, and have been repeatedly told over the years, to cut my hair so I would look more businesslike.  I was told to stop wearing flowing skirts and to take up suits.  In other words to succeed in business, I had to fit into the male mold. Many women of my generation have had this experience.  If you wanted to succeed in business, politics and even religion, you had to downplay your female attributes.  This was very unfortunate because the very attributes that can bring about creative change were being dismissed and seen as a disadvantage.

So what are the qualities of the feminine? What is feminine wisdom and how can it help us address the challenges we face?

A few months ago we invited a delegation of spiritual teachers, men and women, to the UN Climate Summit in Paris to speak about the spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis. The formal negotiations were on ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. We were astounded that there was little mention of the spiritual perspective of climate crisis. We are causing an untold number of species to go extinct, killing how many millions of trees, destroying our soil through chemical inputs, and the list goes on – and we take no responsibility for this destruction?  We have brought spiritual teachers to most of the UN climate summits to speak about the moral dimensions of the issue, and increasingly the women in our gatherings are sharing dreams where the Earth, in a much weakened state, addresses them.  According to them, the soul of the Earth is crying out.  I have also heard this cry.  It is interesting to me that it is mostly the women who are hearing this.  Why is that?

Women are deeply connected to life. We have an intuitive knowing of that which gives and supports life.    Since the beginning of time our bodies and minds have been programmed for this.  We function from a space where we know the interconnections of life, this vast web, one part supporting every other.  That is, if we are tuned in to our feminine wisdom, if we have not repressed that aspect of our being in order to fit in to the prevailing mold.

And if we are more connected to life, we are more connected to Earth and the natural forces, because they are the systems that support life. So, more of us can hear the cry of the Earth now, the cry of the rivers and forests – all of which have been so degraded due to a domination mentality.    Rather that respecting and caring for these living forces of nature, we have abused them to the point that many of our ecosystems are dying.

The violence against the Earth and the suppression of women come from the same source – from a mindset that rationalizes the right to domination.   To restore the Earth, we must restore women.  To restore women to our rightful place, we must restore nature to its rightful place.  We must honor the natural world for its own intrinsic value rather than its monetary benefit.

In the Eastern or Dharma religious traditions, the feminine energy is considered to be the transformative power, the energy that brings change. There is the understanding in the East that the Ultimate Reality, the Divine, has both a masculine and feminine aspect.  One might say that the masculine maintains the universe, keeps everything functioning, but the feminine force drives it forward, providing the transformations that bring about new life.  This would apply both at the macrocosmic as well as the micro level, in the greater scheme of things and also in the movements of everyday life.

It is this evolutionary force, this driving forward that we very much need now to move us into a new global consciousness – which is intuitive, inclusive, non-hierarchical, more compassionate and balanced.

It is not only women who have access to this feminine force. We have found in our work that many men resonate with this energy, more than some women.   Ultimately, just as the Divine can be considered to have both a male and female aspect, so do we all.  What is desperately needed now to move the world out of its conflict, tension, and destructive tendencies, is to allow for the feminine wisdom to come forward.

img_3577

Gathering of the Women’s Partnership for Peace in the Middle East, Oslo, 2003 – Photo by Nancy Bundt

 

As long as the female is repressed, the world will be greatly out of balance, and imbalance creates tension and destruction. As long as the Earth is abused, the same will be true.  A similar imbalance would occur if the feminine forces were to overpower the male.  It is balance that is so essential, and this balance will help us move beyond the paradigm of fear, domination and division to one of greater collaboration, trust and unity.  Some of the themes that I have discussed may be obvious, and some are quite subtle.  This is because the issues that we face in our societies and globally reflect deeper shifts that have to do with larger movements of time.  The changes we seek may not manifest for centuries, but the only thing we can be sure of is that change will come.  Yet we must stay focused on the specifics of what we can do now.  What can we do as women in our everyday lives to help foster change?

I think the most important task for us now is to connect to our intuitive nature, and to begin to question what are the life-supporting actions and positions that we can take that will bring balance to our societies – not further polarization, not anger and distrust, but greater unity. Ultimately the greatest change will come about not through any action but through our changed consciousness. That is where true transformation begins.

Can we ourselves outgrow the fear and domination mentality and not see the “other” — be it the religious, ethnic or racial other – as in any way inferior?    Can we know ourselves to be an intrinsic part of the interconnected whole, not apart from it, but one with it?  Can we evoke the feeling of love for the Earth and truly see Her as a Mother?  Can we speak to Her and hear Her response? Can we feel our connection to the plant and animal worlds and know that they have as much right to life as we do?  Can we look beyond our limited time frame and know that we are providing the foundation for changes that may be decades, even centuries ahead, changes that we may never see but that will benefit our grandchildren?  Can we believe that if we ourselves overcome the consciousness of division, separation and domination that perhaps our grandchildren will know a more peaceful, balanced, inclusive and compassionate world?  This belief is what inspires my work.

Streetby Ellen Schaplowsky

We often find that we cannot easily give up the tendency to hold rigidly to patterns of thought built up over a long time. We are then caught up in what may be called absolute necessity. This kind of thought leaves no room at all intellectually for any other possibility, while emotionally and physically, it means we take a stance in our feelings, in our bodies, and indeed, in our whole culture, of holding back or resisting. This stance implies that under no circumstances whatsoever can we allow ourselves to give up certain things or change them.

—David Bohm, American-born quantum physicist, philosopher and neuropsychologist.

As I write this, the world population clock on www.worldodometers.info ticks away and we approach 7.35 billion human beings on our beautiful blue planet. For the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of helping Nan Lu, OMD, Grand Master of Wu Ming Qigong and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, write his most recent book Digesting the Universe, A Revolutionary Framework for Metabolism Function. It’s a major work and a comprehensive look at how our metabolism system works at the body, mind and spirit levels and reflects the greater metabolism function of the Universe.

What did I learn? You might say I didn’t sharpen my math skills. How can one plus seven billion equal one? Ah … what if this is true? If each of us could, for a second, open our minds—as physicist David Bohm advises—and step back for a moment to relinquish certain ways of thinking, if we could understand this simple equation from our heart, the world would change dramatically. We would change dramatically; the way we approach health would change dramatically. We would not be such ardent fans (or should I say slaves?) of fragmentation, separation, distinctions, analyses and reductionism. The beauty of oneness would captivate us. Instead, we would search for commonalities, for similarities not differences. We would come to see oneness as the reality of existence. We would no longer ignore the astonishing fact of our existence—we are all energy beings!

Let me relate this to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) a system that arose out of this consciousness. What many people in the West may not know is TCM is a by-product of a spiritual practice. This time-tested system did not spring from the rational minds of men or women. It did not arise from science. Nor did it come about through long centuries of trial and error. It arose out of as a profound understanding of the nature of reality through the nonconscious voyages of ancient masters in deep meditative states. These states allowed them to travel far beyond third-dimensional reality to a plane where they perceived the laws of the Universe and Nature first hand. Their practice in a time long ago and far away from ours brought them a direct knowing that recognized Qi as the animating life force of all things—the invisible, underlying fabric of our reality. Qi infuses the world with information, force, wisdom and love. In effect, the visible system of traditional Chinese medicine and its Five Element energetic framework (like all objects in our reality) emerged from its invisible source. Thousands of years later, quantum physicists arrived at a similar, but not exactly matching, destination through science. They discovered everything is energy and, in the energy field, everything is connected. Their journey to an understanding of inseparability was sparked by the insights of geniuses like Einstein and his colleagues—pioneers of early twentieth century physics.

What are these laws of the Universe and Nature beyond our manmade ones? Today, most people in modern society have no idea what they are; yet, these laws affect our health and healing in a critical way. Interestingly, whether we believe these laws exist or not, when we try to go against them—the invisible, real rules of this reality—we fall out of balance in minor or major ways. For more than 2,000 years, doctors of traditional Chinese medicine have understood this truth as it’s explained in one of the oldest Chinese medical texts:

The cycle of seasons starts with spring and ends with winter.

The cycle of Yin-Yang begins with Yang and ends with Yin.

Everything must follow this natural law because it rules the life and death of all things.

If you go against this law, then disastrous things will happen.

If you follow this law, then all things will be fine.

Nei Jing (475‒221 BCE)

These laws allow each living thing to emerge into this world—to be born, grow and die, all while being inextricably connected to profound planetary seasonal and celestial changes. It seems a far cry from the way we live our hectic lives today; yet, each of us enters reality imprinted with this “rule book.” We enter in a joyful state of love and creativity. Deep within, our consciousness has a special knowing of our rightful place and spirit’s ultimate purpose. This wisdom stays with us throughout our days. That’s why many religions tell us “the answer is always within.” At a cellular level, we know we are made for good. Every species is encoded with this knowing in a grand cooperative venture.

At the subatomic level of our reality, there is only oneness. Today, modern science confirms this. Thousands of years ago, traditional Chinese medicine acted on this understanding. Ancient masters recognized separation is an illusion. If we are to grow as a species, now is a critical time to transcend this limiting view. How can we use our limited minds to grasp this unlimited concept: as individuals, we are complete in and of ourselves. Though we talk about the body, mind and spirit as separate aspects of the self, the truth is each aspect of being is inseparable. Each influences the other in our journey toward harmony and optimum health. As a human race, we are one—white, brown, red, black. There is only one race, the human one. We are also woven into oneness through a cooperative dance with every other species. We are slowly recognizing our planet and everything in it or on it is a living breathing entity to be cared for and appreciated. The Earth is complete by itself; it partners with its brothers and sisters in a whirling, swirling solar system. It joins its riches to the galaxy that is stitched into the fabric of millions, if not billions, of others like it. Consciousness, purpose and good intent is woven throughout existence. From the subatomic to the supergalatic, there is only oneness. Ancient spiritual masters encountered this oneness or Qi, as they called it. They saw that it was filled with unconditional love, consciousness and purpose. As systems large and small begin to implode around us—environmental, financial, medical, social, political—as they inevitably must, now is a good time to turn our attention toward how things are connected and inseparable and away from differentiation, separation, analysis, reductionism and perspectives that divide us further.

Field of Wild Carrot - Queen Anne's Lace

When we open our hearts (and check our crazy-busy minds at the doorstep), we may see that embracing oneness and the inextricable interrelationships that infuse our lives offers a sustainable solution—a way to truly heal and grow. Instead of pursuing a path of differentiation, maybe we will, at last, give up our ideas of separation and begin to think of ourselves as magnificent individuations of the infinite, loving energy field or All That Is. Maybe, one day, we’ll wake from our deep sleep and see one plus seven billion does equal one.

For more than 20 years, Ellen Schaplowsky has been a Wu Ming Qigong student of Grand Master Nan Lu, OMD (taoofhealing.com), and co-founder of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) World Foundation. She has co-authored his latest work, Digesting the Universe: A Revolutionary Framework for Healthy Metabolism Function, and his three other TCM books on self-care published by HarperCollins. She writes about the intersection of TCM’s body–mind–spirit framework and modern science. She also serves as conference director for the Foundation’s educational forum, Building Bridges of Integration for TCM, now in its thirteenth year. This year’s focus is “Consciousness, Oneness and Everyday Health.” More information on the Foundation’s work is at tcmworld.org, tcmconference.org and breastcancer.com.

 

In March 2012, Chief Tamale Bwoya joined GPIW’s 10 year anniversary gathering in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya at the Gallmann Nature Conservancy. This gathering included many members of the GPIW global network committed to the protection and restoration of Earth’s community of life—many of the participants that gathered are active contributors to the spiritual/faith, social and environmental sectors. As one of the delegates to the gathering, Chief Tamale received a special spiritual message on the fate of the human community and natural world that he was instructed to share with the group. The message, now titled the Revelation at Laikipia, is documented and shared by SpiritualEcology.org: http://spiritualecology.org/artic…/revelation-laikipia-kenya

Since receiving the Revelation at Laikipia, Chief Tamale travels to the mountains of the Buganda Kingdom in Uganda, deep in the heart of nature, to commemorate the message of the revelation and honor the sacredness of the natural world the first week of March each year. Below he shares the experience from his reflection and meditation in March 2016.

“THE UPWARD RECONCILIATION STRATEGY”

Nature recommends that the Chiefs should put more effort in cultivating grassroots values by sensitizing indigenous communities in methods that preserve and conserve the environment, in order to encourage and help them awaken the silent values that supreme nature created to heal the earth.

Nature reveals that there are indigenous communities still existing, like the Aboriginal Australians, the Native Americans and Inuit people who still have hidden esoteric human values that can help to heal the Earth and to accelerate the reconciliation campaign.  Otherwise, targeting world leaders to make international climatic control policies alone may not effectively help to bring about the desired climatic reconciliation results before the situation goes out of control.

Nature reveals that the climatic problems and relationship between man and nature started falling apart during the time of an empire called Mesopotamia. One of the kings that ruled that empire had a lot of natural powers; he had the ability to appear in physical form as well as to disappear.  Because of his desire to conquer the surrounding kingdoms or states, he resorted to cultivating spiritual beings underneath the earth, which he then introduced to the surface of earth to help him overrun the surrounding states and to expand his empire.  These spiritual beings God created for a different duty and in another world. Naturally not meant to mix with human nature.

These spiritual beings introduced new wisdom and abilities to man. The character of greed and dominance of man toward his fellow man later spread to the vulnerable world societies.  Man discovered things he couldn’t have known otherwise, and the desire grew to make empires and later colonize other communities.  This was greatly facilitated by the super abilities introduced by the foreign spiritual beings to overrun other powerful spiritual communities across the globe.

The spiritual Chief should find a way to isolate and remove all foreign spiritual beings that were not created to work with human nature back to their original world.  Otherwise, it will be very difficult to secure this planet as integral, peaceful and harmonized.  In my spiritual knowledge and to other spiritual experts elsewhere, once nature reveals such information indicating the source of a problem that problem can be solved through a collective effort by all the Chiefs guiding their communities.

During my meditation retreat, in prayer, I requested nature to reveal how much of the planet Earth still holds to support life. On the same day and time as when the Revelation at Laikipia was received, 3:30 a.m., I received an answer as an image that showed a circle with 2/3 not active and only 1/3 still natural and supporting life.  The 2/3, however, is also still consuming the elements of life with so little contribution.  Physically, I felt a bit feverish with a lot of heat generated internally. Then I realized what scientists call global warming to be manifesting in me as an indicator of what is happening with the earth.   As supreme nature instructed me in Laikipia during the first Revelation, it was communicated again that: “This message is not for you. Record it, you have to tell them.”  In the same way, I share here again all that I received during the meditation retreat. I hope this message will guide the Chiefs and the world community in the struggle to save life, and in fulfilling the purpose of our existence in the most beneficial way.  In my own assessment, there are positive signs that our human effort to change what we have created is registering gradual progress.

Finally, nature reveals that in our generation, traditional values and religious values will get united.  Environmentally supportive and sustainable values will emerge out of that collaboration with scientific interpretation.  This is already evident.  Different religions are forming interreligious councils and indigenous Spiritual Chiefs are now invited to participate in their religious activities.

In September 2014, I was honored to be invited by the Union Theological Seminary in the United States, among other indigenous leaders for a conference on Climate Change.  Similarly, last year I was invited to a conference on land grabbing and just governance in Africa, which took place at the Jumuia Conference Center in Nairobi, Kenya and was organized by the Symposium for Episcopal conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the Africa Faith and Justice network (AFJN), the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), and the International Alliance of Catholic Development Agencies (CIDSE).

I was honored to make a keynote address on the conference theme from an African spiritual perspective.  In my view, this effort toward inclusion of the indigenous perspective is a big progress towards harmonizing our human differences, and brings us closer to the true purpose of love and oneness for which God created us.

Thank you, may peace be with you all.

Chief Tamale Bwoya Kingdom of Buganda , East Africa.

By Marianne Marstrand

Rabbi Zalman Schacter and GPIW Co-Chair Sister Joan Chittister

Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi (1924-2014) with GPIW Co-Chair, Sister Joan Chittister, Aspen Institute, 2008

 

 

The Rabbi Who Love the Earth

We first met Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in Boulder, Colorado in 2008. We sat with him in warm and cozy surroundings, a home filled with books and handmade things, a place unfettered by excess. We had come to convince the Rabbi to participate in a think tank of America’s spiritual teachers that would meet at the Aspen Institute. “What is your agenda and what outcome do you hope for?” he asked with serious and kind eyes. “Well…, we have no agenda and we have no idea what will be the outcome.” I imagined by his expression that he was thinking we were very naive. “Ah, I see. You will leave space for divine spirit to enter the room,” he replied. “Then I will come!”

Reb Zalman had lived a spiritual life with a gusto and love for people and their beliefs that is uncommon in even the most open of religious leaders. He believed that the many streams of worship were each a unique flavor belonging to a “region” of the world, to the soil and the people that inhabit a specific place. For Reb Zalman, spiritual life was anything but boring. He could recite Sufi poetry without a halt or a stutter, and was even initiated into a Sufi lineage. He chanted with Hindus in Sanskrit. He knew history and politics, ways of indigenous peoples and sweat lodges, the beliefs of the Buddhists, Christians, and the Muslims. From the way he lived, it was clear that he cared, with all the patience of a loving grandfather.

He longed for the day when we would tell our religious stories a little differently, not in a triumphalist way, but each finding a cosmology and way to understand reality that our “Mother the Earth” would want us to have, a story that would see to the needs of the Earth as more important than the growth of our business. He compared each tradition to a vital organ of one body. If we want to contribute to the healing of the planet, each tradition had to make sure they were healthy in order to heal the Earth.

When he was young and waiting for his “papa” to come eat at the table, he tells, he would observe the tiny droplets of schmaltz that floated on top of his chicken soup. With his spoon, he would pull them together into one big circle of glistening fat. “The only way we are going to get it together, is together,” was his expression.

Last year, at a gathering at Naropa University, he spoke to a room of spiritual teachers: a colorful variety of characters that could only be found in America. We did not know that we had come to listen to parting words of this wisdom-keeper, who was now almost 90. Serious meditators, we listened with ears wide open, hoping for secrets of “truth,” or at least, a few reassuring words from this honored elder. “Our mother the Earth is calling to us. The spiritual tank upon which she was nourished is empty, it’s running on fumes,” he said. This tank was once fed by our songs and chants, the rituals and prayers that marked our day, that we have forgotten as we speed through life. These particular words stirred the room. He had difficulty breathing, but whatever the air was that sustained him, it was pure. It was the oxygen of another atmosphere, a unified ground of being where there is so much love.

This post was originally published by Creator at We Work June 2015

 

 

Dr.-Nan-Lu1

Grand Master Nan Lu, OMD, is the country’s foremost spiritual leader, practitioner and teacher of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Read More

The Nei Jing, a classical Chinese medicine text written several thousands of years ago, states: “Men are born on the Earth, but Life itself is held in the hands of Heaven. When the Qi of Heaven and Earth harmonize, this is called a human being.” In other words, the beautiful material forms of human beings enter this reality filled with life force and Heaven’s unconditional love. Just as sure as you are the child of your mother and father, you are also a child of the Universe, created from this source and connected to it every day and forever. You’re entitled to all its gifts and the nurturing love it provides to us through Nature. We are born with everything we need to fulfill our purpose. In fact, “being” is the purpose! Experiencing this spectacular, blue planet with its cooperative framework of Nature, man and all living species is purpose. We are here in search of creativity and to fulfill our destiny. No matter who we are or what we do, we expand the heart of Universal love.

At the spiritual level, being born is a monumental achievement beyond words. We come from unconditional love; when we leave here, we return to this state of being. Arriving here, we’ve already agreed that our body will follow Universal law, that is, every living thing in this reality must be born, grow and die. Throughout our lifetime, balance and harmony in body, mind and spirit are the keys to living well. The mind’s an impressive tool, but if we’re open, our body and spirit are far better interpreters of reality. Think of it, our genetic code carries thousands of years of wisdom passed down from our ancestors. This deep knowledge is actually cellular knowledge. Our spirit exists beyond this reality but casts a shadow within it. This shadow is not your true self. Your true self is unlimited; you exist beyond the bounds of time and space. Many religions and spiritual practices tell us this. Astonishingly, modern science tells us the same thing. It says each dimension is a reflection of a higher one. Look at your own shadow. It’s not really all of you. It’s only a reflection of who you truly are. In the same way, your solid body isn’t really the whole of you either. It’s a reflection of your existence at a higher dimension.

Child of Universe

No matter which way we choose to look at ourselves, we each exist, connected one to another, in the invisible energy field. Here inseparability is the only reality. Our body, mind and spirit are one. All seven billion of us on this Earth are one as well. In our world, we use our mental faculties to puzzle out many things that are beyond reason. If we only rely on our five senses, we miss experiencing Oneness and the amazing energy beings we are. There is, however, a special sixth sense we are born with that connects us to the Universal love of All That Is, or however you name or connect with this higher power. The sixth sense communicates to us through intuition, dreams and nonconsciousness states. In the deepest way, you are a child of the Universe—always connected to its love and light. Each of your cells vibrates with creative energy. Can you look at your life with happiness and joy knowing you are the unique harmonization of Heaven and Earth?

This post originaly appeared on InspireMeToday

Grand Master Nan Lu recently published a new book entitled Digesting the Universe: A Revolutionary Framework for Healthy Metabolism Function (Tao of Healing, 2016)

www.tcmworld.org

www.taoofhealing.com

 

 

by Doju Dinajara Freire
Earth, our old and wise mother, is most beautiful.
Life, of which together with Gaia we are part and expression, is most beautiful.
We are immersed in a treasure ineffable and of a mystery so transparent that we almost can’t see it.
Ol ari Nyiro

Ol ari Nyiro, Gallmann Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya – photo by Doju. D. Freire

For almost five billion years the Earth has welcomed and enabled the living systems that make life possible.

Ancient and beautiful Gaia is the oldest living organism, a vital and powerful force far beyond what we can see or understand with mere human perception. Wherever we are on the planet, each day brings us into direct relationship with her, and from her we are embraced and nourished.  Even our ancestors — all were born and fed by Gaia’s generosity and by the light of the sun.

Through this ancient line of human evolution we are naturally connected to the body of the Earth and her heart, just as we are connected to all beings — the many other species which she hosts. Since time immemorial she has transmitted her wisdom to all living creatures just as the mothers do with children, generation after generation. Among all the species that exist we are the last to arrive, and like children we are still unable to appreciate Gaia’s sweeping simultaneous expression of inclusivity that is in benefit to the whole.

Despite the thousands of years of human presence on Earth, our juvenile behavior causes a great deal of trouble and brings suffering not only to ourselves, but to other species and the planet. We don’t even have the ability to live together in harmony yet.  Selfishly we seek to control and exploit everything to our advantage; the life of plants, the water, animals of every kind, from insects to fish and mammals and even other human beings, believing we are separate and independent from it all. Within this illusion of separation we are blinded by ignorance and greed.

In our immaturity, although we know that we all breathe the same air and drink the same waters, are fed of the same soil, of an Earth that is round not flat, a sphere in an ancestral dance through an interdependent and infinite cosmos.  Yet believing ourselves all powerful we claim the right to own and manage everything in nature. Audaciously we claim the place of a more evolved species. Full of desire for power,  enslaved by our emotions, we find ourselves anchored to selfishness, asserting control of everything even if the damage we do is evident all around.

 

Ol ari Nyiro, Banda's Gallmann Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya - photo by Alice Kohler

Ol ari Nyiro, Gallmann Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya – photo by Alice Kohler

When we are confronted with the reality of the facts and information on the state of the planet that circulates the globe at great speed, shouldn’t our understanding be that we must wake up?  Realize that the time to mature has come and that time is now and the place is right here, where each of us breathe moment by moment.

Even so, despite this collective spiritual underdevelopment, we find we are in a great momentum of positive change and there are enough individuals whose spiritual maturity is such that they can offer support at this time — in this evolutionary wave in which we find ourselves. But still that does not give us enough skill or wisdom to embody the next evolutionary step of the future — no longer as Homo Sapiens but as Homo Spiritualis.

So how do we abandon the old to make room for the new, both in nature and in ourselves?

How do we befriend ourselves in a deeper way, for I believe, it is in this profound state where we find the space and opening to sincerely befriend others, where we can step into service for all. This is the ancient teaching of Gaia.

And at just the right moment, to leave behind what has outlived its time, and in this space recognize the new. This dynamic is not always easy but it is essential and will lead us to grow spiritually and will give us a vision with a depth of transparency to reflect the mystery of which we are a part and should honor.

For this, time is needed, and often in solitude, because the intensity of this highly creative process requires utmost care and a state of total surrender.

Feeding bird at the Bandas. Gallman Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya - photo by Alice Kohler
Feeding bird at Bandas. Gallmann Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya. Photo by Alice Kohler

It’s painful to realize that we are slow to evolve as a human community knowing that the fundamental changes that are necessary are needed immediately.  We have what it takes but still we are lacking in the capability.

Personally I feel tremendous pain, a sorrow that can border on outrage – that we are not yet able to recognize and respect the beauty of life. How sad to note that we are incapable of equanimity or respect for life in its innumerable and myriad forms. Respect for our human brothers and sisters, for our relatives the animals, our relatives the seeds, respect for our home and Mother Earth. How is it that we are so immature? My pain turns to despair when I see the limits of what I can do to help. What can a tiny grain of sand do in the midst of an ocean? Why can’t we free ourselves from our greed and just live in peace?

In these difficult times it’s easy for people to become depressed. It takes strength to act in a positive way in this time of despair and grief – holding firm to the human values of trust, goodness, common sense in the midst of so much suffering so that we don’t lose hope. I have found myself wishing to withdraw from society, my spirit calling me into silence. I remember as a child being attracted to a way of living that would be willing give up something if it allowed for an opening of the heart.

More and more I am longing to live for the spirit, with fewer possessions and distractions, free myself from the madness I see around the world today. Tears flow warm while my words have no more power and somehow I know that we must still offer our help, accepting that the present is not the time to retreat, but to remain engaged and offer oneself in service to life. There is a goodness in dedicating ourselves with humility and gratitude. Each of us bring gifts and possibilities, qualities within that can come to fruition. Not expecting reward we can act trusting in the grace and the fortuitous randomness of life, for we are all vehicles for Life.

As I rise each morning I am grateful for the deep love that blesses each of us, day after day. I try to remain in a silence that directs me to see each tiny leaf, every cloud, the song of the bird, the raindrops, the highest mountain peaks down to the depths of the sea. The light of the moon.  The cosmos takes care of all, including me and my incapacity. All that remains is the spiritual beauty of Gaia and of every being, this transparent silence revealing what cannot be explained.

Doju Dinajara Freire

doju@sanrin.it

DOJO ZEN SANRIN – www.sanrin.it  – Italy

 

               

 

            

 

 

 

 

by Swami Atmarupananda

On June 6, 2012, a meeting was held on Wall Street in New York City to discuss “Re-envisioning Prosperity”, organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women / Contemplative Alliance. Almost 70 people were invited, including financiers, investors, economists, intellectuals, representatives from the activist movement known as Occupy Wall Street, and a select group of religious leaders from different faiths known as the Contemplative Alliance. Swami Atmarupananda was one of three religious leaders asked to open the meeting with a short talk to set a tone for the ensuing day-long discussion. Below is the substance of what he said, adapted for suitability as an article.

Contemplative Alliance Baltimore

Swami Atmarupananda (right) with friends from the Contemplative Alliance, Acarya Judy Lief and Bhante Buddharakita

 

I would like to begin by asking, what am I doing here, addressing such a distinguished gathering of economic thinkers and economic actors? [Laughter] I have never attended a formal class on economics or finance; I have no money to invest and therefore am not involved as an actor in the financial world. What, indeed, can I contribute?

Worse yet, I’m a contemplative, dedicated to leading a spiritual life, and thus, according to common opinion, I’m hopelessly impractical. No, had I any sense, I should have refused when Dena Merriam asked me to open today’s discussion.

But I didn’t say no. Let me explain why.

First of all, it isn’t true that contemplatives are by nature impractical. An important member of the business community here in New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s was a man named Mr Francis Leggett, who was a major innovator in the wholesale grocery business. He was a wealthy man of the time, and a friend of a famous Hindu monk from India named Swami Vivekananda. Mr Leggett was once asked why a hard-nosed businessman like himself should be friends with an oriental mystic, and he replied, “Because I have never met anyone with more common sense.”

Nor is it true that a contemplative has no connection to the interests of economists and financiers. Where does our economic system come from? Our financial system? Wall Street? They aren’t in the air, natural products of the earth or water. They come from human beings, from inside human beings, from the inside out. All human institutions, human civilization, culture, sciences, arts, come from inside the human mind and heart, manifesting outside. And it is the human mind and heart that is the special field of research for the contemplative; not the surface, but the deep mind, the deep heart, the very roots of human existence.

And further, the true contemplative is in search of experiential reality, not theories or concepts. A prominent modern belief—and it’s nothing more than a belief—is that reality is what you make of it: there’s no such thing as reality itself. If that’s true, then we are all prisoners of our own concepts and illusions. The contemplative’s experience, however, is that there is reality, there is truth beyond his or her concepts and projections.

So the contemplative seeks deep in the human heart and mind, the same place from which all human activities proceed, all drives, all needs, all aspirations. But the contemplative seeks to go deeper, to an experiential reality which is prior to needs and drives and aspirations and activities.

What is found there? Certain truths, a couple of which I want to share with you before I turn the conference over to those who know much more than I about the actual workings of the economy.

First, one finds at a deep level of our being a remarkable freedom. A freedom that gives us a sense of inner inviolability, of timelessness, adamantine in quality, unaffected by the waves of action and reaction in the world.

One also discovers a sense of connection, connection to everyone and everything—an apparent contradiction, where we go inward to find connection with the outer; but it is a fact replicated in the experience of countless inner travellers over thousands of years around the world.

And then there is the apparent contradiction between freedom and connection. Freedom we think of as “freedom from”—freedom from people telling me what to do, freedom from things I don’t like, freedom from duty and expectations, freedom from all botherations (and most people and most circumstances we experience as botherations). Yet “connection” means connection to others, to the world, to everything that seems to deprive us of freedom. But the contemplative begins to experience both of these—freedom and connection—at a deep level, where they are joined, where they are expressions of the same thing, which can best be described as love.

What does this have to do with us gathered here today? A great deal, actually.

A deep inner freedom translates at the level of ordinary human activity to the freedom to choose the motivations of my actions, and to choose my reactions to circumstances. That means I need not be a slave of old patterns of behaviour, a slave of habitual reactions to situations. And so this deep sense of freedom paradoxically makes me more responsible for my actions. I can begin to take responsibility for my actions, and therefore I begin to make the effort, out of a sense of freedom.

And a deep sense of connection to everything makes me feel a sense of loving responsibility toward others. “Responsibility” is not the right word, being heavy, connoting something forced, and guilt-based. Simply love for others, the desire for the best for others. That, combined with the freedom that allows me to take responsibility for my actions, radically changes my relationship to the world in a wonderful, positive way, difficult at times, but eventually liberating, joyful.

How is this related to economics and finance? Intimately.

You, whether you are thinkers or actors, have a tremendous responsibility. Tremendous, because as Peter Parker tells his Uncle Ben in Batman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And you here have great power. Decisions you make help people or hurt them, even devastate them, as happened in 2008, largely through misguided and greedy actors in the real estate and financial sectors. The welfare of millions—vulnerable people, the elderly, the sick, the poor, those who have no alternative but to trust the system—is dependent upon you.

Responsibility to others. The US Supreme Court may say that a corporation’s responsibility is simply to enhance value for the stockholders, but that is much worse than nonsense, it is poisonous. Because it is a decision of the Supreme Court, it may stand in a court of law, but it doesn’t reflect the way life actually works. Whether we want it so or not, we are responsible to others: it’s the way the universe is built, because all this infinite diversity we see out here is founded on a deep inner connection, I would even say a deep inner unity, but at least connection, a connectedness that can be demonstrated scientifically, psychologically, morally, and spiritually. It isn’t a matter of belief, and that’s why simply ignoring it doesn’t work: what you do to others comes back to you. Not for some New Age touchy-feely reason, but because the outer world is intimately connected to you in experiential fact.

So I close by saying that many of you, perhaps all of you, are here today because you are sensitive to the welfare of others. Otherwise you wouldn’t waste time on a meeting like this. But the present financial system, and the even larger economic system, will last only if this understanding, this sensitivity becomes widespread within it. Otherwise the system is on its way out, not today, but in ten years, maybe, or fifty years, certainly less than a hundred years. And if the system breaks irreparably because people didn’t learn to care for others, then the breaking will be devastating to countless people, causing untold suffering. The only long term hope is learning to adjust the financial system to the way the universe is actually built, the way it actually works. This is no time for denial, and there is no time to delay. This is the raison d’etre of the Contemplative Alliance, why it was called into being, to be a voice for human concerns as illumined from the contemplative perspective.

Thank you.

 

To be published sometime in 2016 in the Prabuddha Bharata, a monthly journal published from India.