Tag Archives: politics

The Animals are Watching

I woke at dawn as I usually do. And forced myself back to sleep. It’s Sunday and I’m working on relaxing. Respite in bed is not a reprieve for me but today it came easily.

My dog, used to my habits, came at our usual time. She climbed onto the bed where she’d been allowed once when a vertigo event triggered anxiety that only my warm puppy could abate.

Now she drank thirstily from the cool stream that was strangely swiftly flowing through a crevice behind my neck.

Alarmed, I rolled away from the warm comfort of my sleeping husband and rushed out of bed to the kitchen as usual to turn on the kettle and looked out the window.

Hilary Lindsay

The gentle slope from the terrace up the hill was a flooded field. The bird feeders hovered over submerged poles. And the field was patterned in stripes of black and white softened with brown that revealed a congregation of wild creatures sitting terrifyingly still with their heads just above the rising water facing me, my house, a silent call.

We are in trouble. We are waiting for help.

Herons, cranes, deer, even a monkey came into focus as I stood frozen.  The monkey rose from the water, writhed and slashed and struggled to move and I thought monkeys might not know how to swim.  They will die. They are dying. There are so many. They are wild and alien and yet they’ve come to us like they are domestic, part of this house.

I ran to the bedroom calling my husband. You need to come. It doesn’t matter if you are tired. Get up you need to see this.

It had just begun to rain. Again.

And I woke up.

Yesterday Elizabeth Warren announced and all I could hear was the word “fight”. Big money, unfairness in cash, race, …. Shift I screamed to her. Don’t talk about health care talk about the planet, the food, the water, the raped land. Talk about the poison we are ingesting. Tell us we are an extension of all and they us and if we are to survive we have to eliminate our toxic overlords. The toxin is greed. They give us charity to save us from cancer while they make us cancerous. They give us medicine for all the disease they cause us so all we do is worry and band aid our shaking, limping mutated bodies and stay alive though it’s a half life. Talk about rebuilding community, eliminating loneliness, feeding and educating everyone.

Get these damn guns out of here. In this town children are snatching them from open cars. Where are the parents? Are they made useless by despair? Have they given up, the invisible till their spawn end up on the evening news?

Another press cycle begins as the crippled make the tedious trudge to the next presidential election. Will we notice the deflation, the anemia, dementia of ourselves as we make the choices that guide us forward? We are distracted by the affairs of weak men.  We are guided to look away from the big picture to little pictures about little people and their pathetic or natural proclivities that are perhaps the worst of us.

Still, we go forward in small ways, in anonymity. This is as it should be and always was. We don’t need a megaphone and a platform to show us that.

But as the most powerful nation on earth influences the other superpowers that govern these small lives in our separate, intimate communal, we are bowled over, drowning in the sound and vibration of the doom broadcast through the sound and visual waves we flounder in, the undertow.

I know why the creatures came to me as the rain began to fall again. They are me and I am them and they and I know it.

 

Can’t you feel that too?

 

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The Pants Seller’s Circus; A Fairy Tale

The Pants Seller’s Circus

  A Fairy Tale

written in 2010;  the author was inspired by Lululemon and  the fiefdom of ambassadors

Long ago and far away a small group of sages designed a system of actions (SOA) that might save people from themselves. They called it yoga but that name had since been forgotten.

SOA lasted throughout time in a quiet fashion amongst a small group of people and it was too small a group to change the world but then the SOA spread to the land of America. Like all things in America it took root and prospered.

In SOA this was written: Do no harm, do not steal, do not covet, do not lie and do not overextend yourself as to make yourself self righteous or make others weak.  They called this part the first Limb with five branches and it was the first step towards the beautiful universe. This step had to be built to gain access to the next step or the next step would crumple.

A group of hawkers got hold of the system.  They were part of a universal tribe of hawkers who made a living by selling goods all over the world.   The hawkers came to each village and sought out the most influential and successful entrepreneurs of the SOA and knighted them. Those who were knighted were given gifts of gold and promises of glory in return for advertising the hawker’s wares. They became corrupted and shills for the hawker industry.  And the hawkers sang the leaders praises while selling high ticket gear that appealed to the leader’s people.

SOA had eight limbs all together which were intertwined with one another. Step by step, limb by limb, the devout could move from the outer to the inner realm.  But if one step was missing, one had to go back because no one could stand on the next step without sinking if the one before was missing.  The steps were not just steps. They were actions that took one from the gross to the subtle. Like a wooden Russian doll with smaller and smaller dolls inside it, one had to uncover the surface to attain the doll beneath. The last limb, the last little Russian doll was called Bliss. Everyone wanted to get to it. Some were in a hurry.

There were some priests and priestesses among the leaders and their flocks who feigned knowledge of Bliss at the center of the system. They spoke quietly or in song cloaked in shawls and turbans. They did not have the patience to step limb by limb. They were desperate to have Bliss right away. They spoke knowingly of Bliss and the virtuous path to Bliss but they had bored a hole in the outer shells, in the outer limbs and crawled into the belly of Bliss like fruit flies and there hid out laying waste to all the outer layers that became porous as rotting wood.

The knighted leaders of SOA were lost souls.  Their attraction to it was fragile, born of a love of attention and an attraction to power.  They disseminated the SOA for their own means and they did not live by it. They fought amongst themselves and it was even whispered that a photograph was taken where they lined up with arms around each other striking a pose like hapless Rockettes but had knives to each other’s backs like Brutus to Caesar.

To get to the second Limb of five branches the people had to answer questions: Do I feel  pure of heart, do I have a desire to press on, do I have a desire to learn, am I ready to confront myself, am I capable of acceptance? It was easy to answer yes because they were delusional but it was the third Limb that kept the leaders’ purses full.

It was the third Limb that the hawkers could market to. It was the body. The body needed gear. The body had a mind and the mind could be manipulated. Though the human form might follow the thought of the first limb and the second limb it didn’t have to. All one could really see was the form itself. No one would know the difference.

SOA was in danger. Co-opted by the hawkers it would live on as an accessory to the high priced gear.  All the hawkers needed were its name and its form.

Seers and sages cloaked in the garb of modern folk started leaving the cities.  The planet was in danger. It was used up and angry. The cities were claustrophobic with frightened people who had lost their purpose. The seers went forth seeking space to focus on ways to sustain and replenish the earth and waters. They went to the mountains and plains to make peace with the planet. They carried SOA in their hearts. They carried the books and their notes and journals and they lived like Renunciates honing their skills of intuition tuning their minds to love.

Left behind were still hundreds of teachers who were also students of the SOA. The people didn’t notice them easily as their spirits were cloaked in such a way as to make them invisible except to those who sought them out.  Some say their vision was clearer in the shadows away from the glare of celebrity and fortune but I for one know that glare does not eclipse anything except in the eye of the beholder or judges. One can do both.

Life began to slowly change because jobs were scarce and money was more precious and the people began to appreciate that life could be good without so much stuff but the economy was predicated on buying stuff and it began to fail.  The leaders of the SOA were affected too and although they still had power and some fortune, it was dwindling. The leaders began to notice that the people were getting weary of the leader’s swagger and bored by the hawkers’ gear. The leaders began to fight amongst themselves. America’s success was predicated on selling systems and gear. There were the Great Marketing Wars. SOA was renamed and repackaged in hundreds of ways all over the country and much of the free market got involved to support that with gear and cheap labor and materials. There was no other way.  The people were distracted and anxious. They had so many choices and so much to buy.  Meanwhile the country was being decimated, torn to pieces by partisanship. SOA was just part of the chain of partisanship that was running through the desperate country.

The people supported the hawkers of every system whose advertising assured them of their inadequacies. They could benefit from the hawker’s wares.  They could benefit from the system of religion. They could benefit from SOA.  The people were insecure, broke, and emotionally bankrupt and the wars waged on exhausting their resources ever more.

Not the end: Just the beginning.

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Sunday Yoga Practice

Watch Face the Nation and not worry that Michele Bachmann is both despicable and a presidential contender

Face the fear

And rejoice in Bob Schieffer’s stern voice of sanity that holds her at bay

Face the gratitude

Remember that he’s one of many

Face the faith

Assume a backbend in tree pose

Face the sky

Walk my dog and when instincts send him lunging toward all running wild beasts, teach him;

“Live and let live”, “Do no harm”

Face the dharma

Sunday yoga practice is done.

Face the Nation

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Svadhyaya in the Jungle

An unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates


Many of us are too overwhelmed with the imperative of getting through each day to spend energy listening to news or thinking outside our personal lives but the rebellion of a few has woken us up.  In a country which has gone wild with yoga, how many of us are practicing or living yoga as it applies to our life as a member of a collective that is bigger than the yoga class? The answer may be in how well we know ourselves. If we dig deep enough to discover that, perhaps it could change the heart of a country.

This weekend there was a country wide rally organized by MoveOn. Org Political Action to protest an attempt to kill collective bargaining rights by Governor Walker of Wisconsin. Tennessee may be soon to follow. Nashville gathered about 300 folks who looked to be mostly over the age of 45 and the signs they held indicated a majority of teachers among other union workers.

The teachers in Wisconsin had already offered to take cuts in both pay and benefits to accommodate the Governor’s quest to shave money from the budget. They have thrown in a compromise on tenure, which may not be a bad thing but had nothing to do with the plan to save money. It seemed like a desperate cry for mercy.  The Governor had cut corporate taxes which increased the state’s deficit. Then he needed money. Unions needed to be destroyed to make their members easier prey.

If we acquiesce that cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthiest  among us is more essential than ensuring the wages of public servants, doesn’t it seem by logical extension that down the line we might consider abolishing public education altogether?  After all, public education is socialist. Maybe it’s time to pay attention.

If taxes pay for state services, why cut corporate taxes? Wisconsin’s recent drama tells us why. A Governor is elected thanks to the financial support of businessmen with the understanding that he will pay those businessmen back by cutting their taxes and he does. Then he makes up for the tax revenue lost by taking from another group of people who he tries to render powerless by breaking their collective bargaining rights.

Then he goes on T.V. and earnestly recites a continuous loop of nonsense that makes no sense, knowing that most of us will give up eventually. He’s not alone.  We end up with a country that has an uneasy balance and as a result we are a people who are uneasy.

Many of us have adopted the fallback position of I can only change myself which somehow brings to mind fasting to protest world hunger. Politics is just us individuals as a collective. Who we’ve chosen to do our collective bargaining for us in the House and Senate may be doing us wrong. I heard someone say today that different people just have different ideas on what works.  Is there never right or wrong? It seems like our politics are nothing but a continuous argument. I hear the political pundits’ debate, exchanging words without discussion. People don’t seem to be communicating as much as reciting.

It takes humility to listen and shift. It takes security and self awareness to speak with honesty. It takes love to look beyond personal gain. If one is fully present, it takes moral bankruptcy to do harm. First, it takes introspection.

Svadhyaya  is described in the ethical observances of yoga as self knowledge. It is a step toward psychological freedom or self realization and it may be such desire for self knowledge that attracts so many of us to yoga. Many, if not most of us, are teaching yoga before we’ve achieved that. The business of yoga is subject to the same pitfalls as any business including government.  We may not be sure of ourselves but hopefully our attention to yoga will dictate our business practice. As we work to attain or maintain self awareness we can implement the ethical restraints that describe a fair, kind, and honest relationship to the world. Yoga has the capacity to make a contribution to society as an example of ethics in business. But yogis have the same challenges that anyone running a business or the business of country have. It’s not enough to go through the motions of setting up shop. If we don’t know ourselves we run the risk of doing unconscious harm.

Patanjali says that the vitamins we need to maintain in yoga are faith, courage, boldness, absorption and tremendous memory to understand exactly what is happening in us today, what happened yesterday, the day before yesterday and many days ago, with uninterrupted awareness. I you haven’t got these five vitamins you are not doing yoga at all but only bhoga which is translated as satisfaction. This can be described as health of the body and harmony of the mind. – “The Tree of Yoga”, B.K.S. Iyengar

Perhaps we might interpret this for today as a call to look at history to gain perspective on the nature of politics.  I’ve been thinking of poets’ and writers’ calls to attention in the 19th and early 20th centuries as the industrial revolution changed the lives of a people across the Western world. The world that Charles Dickens describes in his novels was not that long ago. In the course of human evolution, we are minutes away from the world of debtor’s prisons, child labor, and a general willful ignorance of people’s needs. Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” describes the corruption of human beings that took place because the workers had no rights. I wonder if we are so much more evolved now that we don’t need laws to protect people.  Are we enlightened enough to proceed as every man for himself or would the result of that be more akin to Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities” which describes a  starving people’s revolt against disparity.

Mr. Iyengar goes on to interpret Patanjali’s teachings:

When the body , the mind and the senses are cleared by tapas ((ardor and self-discipline based on burning desire), and when understanding of the self has been attained through svadhyaya (self-study) only then is the individual fit for Isvara-pranidhana (surrender to God).  He has brought down his pride and developed humility, and that humble soul alone is fit for bhakti-marga, the path of devotion.

We are a nation whose catch phrase is “meant to be”. We are also a nation of religion. We fall back on God’s will. We are also now a nation of yoga. And that nation of yoga tends to fall all over itself to avoid negativity or avoid admitting it. While some fall over backwards to be fair and open minded, others of certainty are pushing onward. While some refuse to engage, others take what they want. The people in between are often victims of ignorance and inertia.

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity”……William Butler Yeats, “Second Coming”

In a country which stands so often on the mandate of “God” have we “given it up to God” instead of doing the work ourselves?  Certainly in Mr. Iyengar’s translation of Yoga as subscribed to Patanjali it seems fair to extrapolate that we need to get right with ourselves before turning ourselves completely over to anything else. I may be alone but I stay clear when I see a bumper sticker that says “Jesus drives this car”. How many times has God’s name been invoked for the sake of war? It is delusional. We have work to do. My mother used to say that God helps those that help themselves. It was her way of ensuring that I took charge of my own fate. There are things that are out of our control. There are times that we have to surrender and trust the universe. But first we are called to introspection.

An interviewer asked Halle Berry tonight, Oscar night, what she liked best about the Oscars. She said she liked to see what outfits people wore. She said that people’s outfits revealed how they saw themselves. If it was only that easy……..

(Published in Elephant Journal)

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Caught in the Cross-hairs: Meditation in a Moment of Silence

The Author

The Author

All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the dropKabir

The news unfolds
The Obama’s heads bowed
The nation called to share this moment of silence
For the gunned down and slaughtered

A telling scenario of a complex country
Reminds me that
Sorrow also hides in lonely places that no one shouts about

The ocean merges into the drop
How much of US can we hold?

And I’m trying to hold the moment
Where time is space, I’m stretching space

On this frigid day black birds huddled in the white snow around my neighbor’s tree
Like mourners at the alter
In the stillness of winter
We’re an extended family for this moment selected for us
Held in thought, held in prayer

Beyond the silence designated for this time, this moment, I wonder, can we hold it; can we hold the space to care about others? How long can we maintain this moment for love, for fellowship as the clamor moves in

And the sound comes in with a song from Nelly in my head

I was thinking ‘bout her, thinking ‘bout me
Thinking ‘bout us, what we gone be
Open my eyes yeah, it was only Just A Dream
So I traveled back, down that road
Wish she’d come back, no one knows
I realize it was only Just A Dream

Hold the space while semi-automatic guns are sold to the insane and the angry
Hold the space while we debate about that

As a gunned down child’s ghost conjures corpses in Africa
Someone’s husband vanished and someone’s father murdered
Hold the space in this moment for a wife, mother, and grandmother no more
Hold the space while leaders run for cover

If you ever loved somebody put your hands up
If you ever loved somebody put your hands up

In this moment of silence I don’t know you but now I know your name
A moment of silence for 19 victims; six dead and 13 wounded
John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, Christina Green, Dorothy Murray, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Schenck

And now they’re gone and you wishing you could give them everything

In this moment my heart breaks the silence for someone’s son so crazy that hate stole his life
For someone’s daughter born amid terrorism and dead by a terrorist, my heart breaks the silence

If you ever loved somebody put your hands up
If you ever loved somebody put your hands up
Now they’re gone and you wishing you could give them everything

Tea Party targets mark the spots
Gabrielle Giffords caught in the cross-hairs
America the beautiful
In this moment of silence

“Don’t retreat, reload!” can’t be heard in this moment of silence

We hold the space

…the anger and the hatred in this country are out of control”… Tucson Sheriff Clarence Dupnik
In this moment

Haters drop into this silence
They enter this space and we stretch the space
Stretch the space so much the haters disappear into space
So small they can’t be heard, impossible to notice

And in this moment remembering another time and the cautions of another leader
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hold the space

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation- MLK

We hold the space

In this moment
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people- MLK

We hold the space

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear-MLK

This moment, stretch this moment, hold this moment of love

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power- MLK

The ocean merges into the drop
In over our heads drowning
Hold the space
Find our breath
Take a breath
In this moment of silence

And I think it’s time that we do some soul-searching,” the sheriff said.

In this moment of love

(Published in Elephant Journal)

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While I Was Sleeping

Row row row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily merrily merrily merrily

Life is but a dream

“Mr. Raff, please take her out of here!  All she does is stare out the window!”

Headmaster of The Kimberly School to my father

While I was sleeping

Wars were waged and politics shifted

While I was sleeping a nation rebelled and while I was sleeping a nation drowned in apathy

While I was sleeping the internet was formed and social media was a club you joined even if you didn’t want to

When I was sleeping I could see you but you didn’t notice me

When I was sleeping I saw the terrain, trees and sky but I didn’t notice the tweeting of twitter or the beeping phone or la de da of a wakening computer. I didn’t care

While I was sleeping yoga became business

While I was sleeping I watched thieves but I was too deep in my dreams to stop them

While I was sleeping the church of rock and roll became the alter of kirtan

While I was sleeping the phrase “heart center” was created and it was one of the full –of- shittest things I ever heard

While I was sleeping nothing changed. Not really. The climate did but it always had patterns. Now it is patterned toward demise

While I was sleeping I didn’t change. Not really: Maybe on the surface, maybe my behavior, like yours

I grew up by a wilderness sanctuary and now thousands of miles away I live by another one.  I know it’s more than good luck. I dream of wilderness

When I was sleeping I was avoiding and you call it detachment and I was pure happiness and you call it Bliss

While I was sleeping non-attachment became a chicken shit way of saying detachment, paying attention was named consciousness, thoughtfulness was named mindfulness and it became acceptable to refer to the emotions as the heart center where the assumption is that all things of the heart are goodness and light

“Snap out of it!” I say. Some things can’t be taught but remembered. They were always there. Don’t escape into schools but stare out the window and dream and live in a timeless place

You say”Wake up! The world is changing while you are sleeping and you will be left behind”. But I will wait for it to change again while I am sleeping

I am sleeping and you are naming things Yoga and Buddhism and energy work and talking about chakras. Who gives a shit! These things existed before words stole their fire.

Three times means listen. Three times I’ve turned on the radio to hear one of my favorite bands, Boston, singing one of my favorite songs,

“I understand about indecision

and I don’t care if I get behind

People living in competition,

All I want is to have my peace of mind”

http://s0.ilike.com/play#Boston:Peace+Of+Mind:29526:s50204

And I remember part of a poem I wrote in the 6th grade that earned me a lousy grade

“…Schools and rules and books I’m told, are necessary to unfold the truths of life

The need for strife, to modernize they say is important to our lives

But I know life is dreams and haze and this progressive system’s just a maze.”

Give me a break. I was probably twelve.

Life has changed but not me. “Mr. Raff PLEASE, take her out of here!”

It snowed; a lot. The winter storm advisory in Philadelphia recommended people stay off the roads. The Mayor cancelled the Eagles Sunday Night Football game in an unprecedented display of moderation. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was apoplectic:

“We’ve become a nation of wusses”, he declared.  The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything.  If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down!”

That’s a riot and probably true and Ed Rendell may be one of the last members of the Home of the Free and the Brave

But the snow continues to fall

While we are sleeping

(Published on Elephant Journal)

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