Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blessed! Acting for social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment in my own backyard




At some point in our dinner conversation I noticed Kate, of Richard and Kate, had a piece of paper folded into a card standing next to her placemat, on it a cross-legged Donald Trump sitting in the kind of orange toga usually reserved for Buddhist monks. I bristled a bit at the juxtaposition, but Kate was inspiring with her gentle words reminding us that we can choose to despise someone (which is, they say, like taking poison and expecting the other person to die) or we can send energy of a new and improved version (of our 45th President--45 for short) into the Universe, careening toward and building like-energy. This is Law of Attraction stuff--getting exactly what we envision. If we envision and fear war, the law states, we get war. If we envision and seek peace, we get peace.

It's the perfect example of "for" work that appeals to those of us who are are longing to do something to quell our terror of our newly seated zombie government, but do so in a positive way. "For" work is attending a peace march instead of a protest. It's working for food policy instead of against Monsanto. It is building an emergency shelter bus to send to Standing Rock. We are often too tired to work "against" anything after a long week. Kate was urging us to consider a whole new way, holding positive energy for what we'd like to have happen. She meditates this positive energy 30 minutes a day. I was inspired by her invention and wondered how I could contribute something "for" that fit for me.

I couldn't help but think of our Peruvian Shaman saying with a smirk two years earlier:

Pachamama (Mother Earth) will be fine. It will be us who will disappear, because of our destructive ways. But we cannot be arrogant enough to believe we can save her. Our most valuable contribution is to create environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment each day in our own lives, starting with creating a reciprocal relationship with Pachamama--mutually beneficial, taking only what we need, and never taking more than we give. 


To avoid this work ourselves creates a double standard and hypocrisy for our do-gooding.



After Kate and Richard left my mind wandered--looking for ways to work for my values in daily actions. Take environmental sustainability--we compost and recycle, minimize purchasing new/excessive packaging, shop companies that support our values, are committed to native plants, don't use or dump hazardous material, the accepted practices. But there are plenty of volunteer hours I could spend in my own backyard.

I thought of the annoying invasive water plant crawling through my flower beds from up the hill, creeping down toward the creek behind our home. It is a pretty, and nasty little bugger that left unabated will overtake the stream (used by the neighborhood wildlife, including a beaver family), and create a hotbed mosquito nursery, which in organized city governments causes a call for chemicals that will wind up in the river a stone's throw from here. I can complain about my city government's knee-jerk application of Round-up (which has not been proven to eradicate this plant), or I can lead an effort on my street to get rid of the need to spray chemicals by digging out the spring sprouts as they appear. As luck would have it this plant needs to be removed by the tablespoonful, and disposed of without replanting--a tedious complication I find somehow satisfying.

I could also do some work close to home on social justice. I have tenuous relationships with members of my family. If I cannot initiate/support peace in my own relationships how can I expect other fallible human beings to fix such things across the globe? Resolution boosts my sleep and mental health and allows me to bring my best to my work and those around me. I make less mistakes, cause less accidents due to my pre-occupation with my own dysfunction. I am more productive when I am peaceful. I sleep better when I am peaceful. I can spread the wealth of cooperation and tolerance when I am peaceful. Because I teach, I have a unique opportunity to model integrity, authenticity, empathy and regard for human dignity. This is the world I want, not a divisive and cruel one.

While I was stuck, trying to figure out what to do next, I had time to consider that just maybe I was meant to save the only one I could save--my own mind, heart, body and spirit so I can be available to reach out a hand to others who need it. Others, who often did not enjoy the same privilege as did I.

By working "for" I conserve
my energy for "against" stuff, for the marching, chanting and sign carrying I might need to do when the time is right--March 8th for A Day Without Women and April 29th for the People's Climate March. I hope to see you there.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Thanks so much for the "credits", dear sister. I feel like we inspire each other so much. I'm inspired by your writing, your art, your big beautiful heart! Thank you for bringing it home to us... the critical need to offer up our time, energy, talents and passions to serving the highest good! Love, Love, Love

The Journey

by Mary Oliver



One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.