‘Kairos’ means crucial defining moment. The chance of a lifetime, or a lucky break. I’ve been blessed with many such defining moments, where I was changed, where my work as a chronicling activist sharpened, or a question arose and shoved my heart and mind toward a new direction. Here are a few transformative translations, revelations, and true stories all.
Take Back the Night
Take Back the Night is an international event with the mission of ending sexual and domestic violence in all forms. Hundreds of events are held in over 35 countries annually. Asked to speak, as a professor at my college’s first TBTN, I read this piece.
My mother always told me not to out alone at night. Not to wear short skirts, or go to parties without parents there, not to leave the shades open, not even a crack. I thought she was paranoid. I didn't know then that just ‘cos you're anxious doesn't mean they weren't also out to get you.
My mother's father was a monster. He incested her, and me, her sister, all my girl cousins, and he brutalized his wife. He was told by his world that we were his possessions.
She never told me any of this becasue she’d forgotten. As if a fine cloth had wiped something that happened to her body away from something that happened to her mind. At the age of 76, she remembered incest, she remembered abuse in therapy, but not the perpetrator.
Five months ago, my mother died. In the process of her dying, she fell through the ice of her life long secret, trapped in a three day long nightmare calling out from her tiny nursing home bed: “Papa, no! No, Papa, No.” Just her and me in that tiny cell together, and my father, pretending to sleep, and her father, deeply present, possibly the most solid energy in that room. And “No, Papa, No” was her metronome, her mantra for three days and nights while I tried to hold her tight, tried to winch her out of the ice water, tried to tie him down, tried to interrupt the terrible possession.
She was 94 years old. She lay there, semi-conscious, her tiny face a fist that couldn't hit, her bared teeth fierce and her hands fluttering like wild birds that had gotten trapped inside the breath of that space.
Nurses and aides moved through the room, moved her body, moved around me, where I knelt, frozen for days. I lay with her in that narrow bed and whispered in her good ear for hours at a time: “Let's go, Mama, we can just leave, right now. We can just walk right out of this room, together. I’ve got you.”
Not knowing how to reach her, or where she was, I spoke on and on, desperate, “Mama, whatever's happening, you're safe now. I'm with you. Come on. Let's go. I'm right behind you. I'm right behind you.”
But I had ceased to register on her radar. I was gone. All she could do was thrash and struggle, panting. It was just her and him. It was just Me and him. It was just him.
After the second day, I called my friend, the Jewish mystic healer, to come and clear the evil out of that room, to exorcise my grandfather from my mother's ancient, dying body.
That day, nothing changed. Her terror mask froze deeper, and the panting of “No papa no” became her breathing. On and on she inhaled and exhaled that plea. That night I slept on the floor in the space between my parents' narrow beds like a loyal golden retriever, except I didn't sleep. I lay there, triggered backwards in time. I couldn't stop crying. The strongest person in that room was my Zayda, and he'd been dead since 1965.
The next day, the healer sent me out of the room. When I returned, an hour or two later, Mama's teeth were unclenched, her grimace gone. Her wild-bird hands were still. She was breathing deeply, asleep. She was almost gone. “Don't touch her”, the healer warned, “She's very close now. Don’t do anything to bring her back.” She was shrunken and shining and peaceful.
And when she died, the rabbi came and wove defensive spells, and the Chevra Kadisha— the Holy Jewish Burial Society, dressed her in white, tied white silken knots in the symbols of Hebrew letters of Heavenly protection— around her wrists, her throat, her ankles.
And I brought her home with me, buried her 40 feet from my door on my mountain, and Adenoi, the Jewish warrior god came along to guard her graveside. He's still there, protecting her with his flaming sword, and we are learning to tolerate each others' fundamentalism. His son, my grandfather, is banished forever from our bodies. We sent him—my mother, her god, my goddess and I, away, into the airless depths of outer space, far from the tender flesh of little girls.
She is safe now. Safe to the night. Safe to walk alone, to dress how she pleases, safe to open the curtains wide. Forever, safed. Dead, she is safe.
I am a survivor of incest. Of rape. Of Patriarchy. A survivor of the catcalls of rape, the vampire gaze of rape, the relentless fear of rape that all women know and most men do not see. How do women survive the paralyzing fear of rape, the invisible secret that haunts our days? I want to tie white silk ribbons around our hearts and all the tender places where we ache with what we know.
Last year, I was invited, because of my credentials as a women’s studies professor, to speak on a panel about rape. This was on a morning radio show, our local groovy station— KGNU. It was a call-in show. There were five of us. The moderator began with some data—the numbers of women who are raped. When it was my turn, I corrected her grammar, the agentless passive. “Women are raped. Women are battered.” You English professors know what 'm talking about. “Women are raped by men”, I said.
We talked for 30 more minutes, about the horrors of rape, women's fear of rape, rape culture. Afterwards, the phone lines lit up, and the first 9 calls were from men who were furious at me for saying that men rape women, outraged that I had dared to state the obvious, and upset their morning coffee or yoga, or whatever. They insisted over and over that they do not rape. One actually said, ‘No wonder you get raped.’ This was KGNU, progressive bastion of Boulder. It was 8:30 in the freaking morning. Who the fuck were these guys?
This night is about women's voices. It's not about male bashing, but it's not about tiptoeing around the big secret of female existence. I know that not all men rape, but that doesn't matter much to me, cos the big secret of rape culture is alive and hardy in patriarchy. Men swim in entitlement and haplessness. We women drown in toxic acts and images of brutal masculinity and victimized femininity. We have ignorant legislators and right wing backlashers who only deepen women's hell.
All women are afraid of being raped, of being murdered if they resist rape, of being blamed or disbelieved if they report rape. We worry about our future promised rapes—it’s a stone in the belly, a shard in the brain, and yet we're taught to abandon ourselves in order to protect male comfort levels. We don't speak of it to them, to you, the good men. But what about the not-so-good men, of whom there are way too many? If you're too nice, you lead them on. If you're too honest, you risk violence. Either way, you're a bitch. We try to stand on thinnest ice, to not fall through.
Patriarchy. To not fall through the ice of patriarchy. The massive power differential between us, the sinister forms uncoiling, the relentless pattern of gender roles in our society. We live in a culture, in a world steeped in the domination of women; we women circle the cold sucking drain of misogyny. Misogyny—the hatred of women. You've heard the story of the battle: the one who screamed and fought back and got away, the one who was roofied and did not remember, the one who was killed. The stories of the battles surround us, but this is the battle of the story. History paves over the fear women suffer. Who's gonna name the terror, who will narrate the dark streets and corridors, the beds and bars of battle?
I say it—patriarchy is alive and thriving. It's the very real stage on which we all perform rape culture. It is the idea that a man has a right to have sex with a woman, regardless of her desires. It's the fact that his rights trump hers', or she just has no rights. Or she just has no voice, no place in the gender script except as an object to be desired and conquered and owned. This sense of being owed sex is everywhere. We owe them. They have a right. To us.
Because they need it, because life is hard and we are soft, because they bought us a drink, because rape culture keeps them in a constant state of aggression and arousal and because we are drawn as sexual delivery systems, objects, caricatures shaken like a red flag at a bull to slake those out-of-control hungers. Our bodies plastered over every screen, over every street, over every pornographic ad.
The invalidity of the word NO. The danger of the family home. The workplace, the party, the college campus, the night.
And rape is still somehow such a controversial subject. And, to dare to name Patriarchy is to end all conversations in mixed company. It's not nice to talk about rape culture, there's no polite conversation to be had there—only jokes, only fetishized images. Patriarchy isn't even a real word that most college students can put a definition to, like fish defining water. It’s just Life.
To win the battle of the story, women must become both credible and audible.
Violence is a way to silence people. Date rape. Marital rape. Incest. Domestic violence. Privilege, domination, power, and oppression.
At the heart of the struggle of Feminism is a passion and duty to name and re-name the world. We have come to understand, through Feminism, that sex, while beautiful and wonderful, is an arena of power and that power can be abused. We have to resist being bullied out of our own perceptions and shamed out of our interpretations. We have to resist the story that women are not reliable witnesses to our own lives, and that the truth was never our property.
And all the uncountable generations, the millennia of women who weren't allowed into the laboratory or the library or the conversation or the revolution or even the category called human cry out to us tonight to march, to change the world, again, even if it's just in a parking lot, because this is symbolic, meaning it's a ritual. We march, we dare, we fight back. Yes, things have gotten better, somewhat, somewhere, but this is a war. Rape is a war. It may be the oldest war. I depend now upon younger women to say what you need to say and be who you want to be and go where you choose to go—unencumbered. Proudly. Safely. Even dangerously, because what could be more dangerous than our silence? What could be more deadly to rape culture than our voices?
This one night of womens’ voices in a world where space opens up for men, shuts down for women. Where power is expressed in discourse and physical violence, and the world is still organized to silence and annihilate women.
We work so hard to rise up out of that annihilation. My Mama worked so hard. She clarified her story in the fragile beaker of her body. She crossed the threshold of alchemy and became pure gold. She did this for me, and for all her female relations. I believe she did it for All of us, and so I call her spirit here to march with us tonight, in our symbolic ritual to finish forever domestic violence, sexual assault, rape and incest, because my mother—Lillian Chezar would be proud to be a subject of this story in our battle, as we dare to take back the night.
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Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
Today, as all over the continent, womyns’ pussy cats are ignoring them and locals in the Midwest are mistaking dykes for men, while traveling dykes are mistaking men for cute butches in truck stops and airports. As bags are dragged up the stairs and dirty laundry dumped and fabulous prizes unpacked and we miss it so much we can’t wait for next August, Now, homo again, safe from the road, I sing the praises of womyn.
Michigan is just us together, is the first safe place we’ve known, is an experiment in truth and fantasy, is the one place where I feel conservative, is culture like they don’t let us make it if we could make it out there in the real world. If. Michigan is a breathing pulsating IF. It’s an in-your-face THIS. It’s a fizzy, giddy, all-consuming and costumed NOW. If. This. Now.
Michigan is girls who look more like boys than boys do. It’s lesbo sluts, baby dykes, square dykes, s/m dykes, hippie dykes, daddy dykes, recovering dykes, and granny dykes. Michigan is a rainbow going to dance at the end of the rainbow, a week-long pot of gold. It’s oak forests, giant ferns, ancient sacred land covered in tents and banners, and prayers for revolution and for healing. It’s 6,000 womyn in line for lunch. It’s fisting workshops next to goddess chanting workshops; it’s 200 womyn on African drums following Ubaka back in time. It’s prophesy, it’s archetypal memory, it’s a jukebox of dreams and projections. Michigan is hacking the sac to the setting sun naked, and rocking our beautiful perfect bodies to the rising moon. Bring your chair, your plate, your spoon. It’s tarps and porta janes and foot traffic through the wonderous green forest passing neighborhoods of hammocks and coolers and womyn. Michigan is tattoos and piercings, high erotic costumes, and female creativity, claimed and reclaimed everywhere you look.
And do you ever look! Michigan is all about looking. You look at her. Look at her! She looks at you. She looked at me! Womyn pass each other in lines of looking, we turn, look back in longing. Look at that outfit, that painted body, that ass! Look at that hairdo, that tattoo, those eyes. Look at me, look at me! Womyn know better than anybody how to awaken hearts and pussies through elaborate images. Look.
Workshopping in the tall ferns.
And it’s about listening. Strange, familiar voices grab at your ears for attention. Womyn roar like wildcats, howl like wolves, scream in The Twilight Zone (b.d.s.m. space) all day long. Womyn drum, sing, teach, come, laugh, deal, shop. We tell the stories of our lives or we make up other lives for just this week. We speak truth to power in our actions and the green world holds us, the call-and-return to circles within spirals.
We feed ancient spirits with the theater of our lives, with imagination and un-bottomed invocation; we feed ourselves to unedited future-worlds as we dream up them in our power Now. We bow to the liveliest possibilities, and expand activism as we engorge desire. Here we’re connected by flesh, metaphor, and politics, and by our hunger to change the world we’ve been given. In the forests and meadows, the invisible world leans close—the ancestors, the future unborn beings, watching and listening with us— to what do we offer ourselves?
We breathe through shifting veils of light, we break through membranes of law and judgement, we open to magic. The air crackling with womyns’ visions—our passions bearing, our pulses sparking, flaming life into our new story. ‘Cos we need this. We need this story.
Because of this need and this now, imaginations dance to join our souls to time. We are sacred beings, endlessly branching like trees in the forest. We are a tribal stomp tickling someone’s gods to forgiveness of gorgeous potential humanity. We make the holes holy and the battered sacred. We are the beauty and beast of it. The guiltless facts surround us and we swoon. We are all angels and demons and the world is both dying and perfect. We are all that we have, all that we need, it fills us to our brims and we make art out of that overflow.
Clouds shade the sun, sun breaks free to dazzle all our colors and sounds. My boss’s breasts, the parade of puppets, parade of redheads, parade of femmes, The Butch Strut. Stilt-walking workshops, addictions meetings, womyn-of-color-sanctuary, weight lifting, female ejaculation, stone healing, babies and dildoes everywhere you look. Warriors and vibrators, butches and femmes of kaleidoscopic definitions. A thousand naked womyn walking slowly, proudly in procession.
Three stages revolve in a kaleidoscope of music and theater. Ferron, Tribe 8, Ferron with Tribe 8, Amy Ray with the Butchies, Rhiannon, Edwina Lee Tyler, Marga Gomez. The Dance Brigade sliding through all that genderfuck on sheets of water, naked. Holly Hughes, Holly Near, Ullali. Chem-Free, Chem-Manadatory, too many cigarettes and vehicle exhaust on the wind in RV parking, too much fun to complain, girl anarchy, these trees! Over-40’s, over-50’s, over-stimulated. More hacking, more food lines, more schlepping ridiculous amounts of stuff through the forest, Leather dykes on some eternal patrol, midwestern dykes watching football, joggers from not-here, wheelchair-bound dykes from everywhere, more deaf womyn than any deaf womin has ever seen, partying down. The sign-language interpreters stealing every show, the brilliant girl children being Free, the quilt, the nipples, the raffles. We mine each other, harvest each other, provide for each other. We are all-out and sacred. We have, we shall endure. We shall, we do fly. And we fuck, you bet we do—we rescue the good words. We rescue the good world held hostage to manhood. We open the doors, receive the temple of ever was and ever shall be.
We’re snaking through the forest, past big striped tents and stages in meadows. We bear what is essential to us and carry our dreams on our heads. We say what is essential, we author our dreams. Look at her! Home two days and it’s still all there inside my head. Femmes turn butch before my eyes and butches turn to men. Fuck the society that would deny us these images! We transform gender modes and blow open unbounded potentials of identity. This tribe with our brave core spinning and sinning, so fluid, so endurant. This dance claimed. And this one, and this—we move through the smorgasbord of the possible human woman, womin, womoon, wimmin, womyn. Move insatiable and limitless through themes and genres, through regions, syndromes, diagnoses, we Be, spun into possibility,and the lies fall away from our skins and we breathe deeply. We lie in the sun, in the rain, in the stars, on the earth.
Me, bare-assed and kicking the sac at Festival in the early 80’s
The pivot, the fulcrum, the still point only and always is Love. Love is the quiet consciousness presiding over the chaos with patient attention.We are The Amazon Love Army. Urban, suburban, cuntree dykes together imagining Love into form, imagining and so creating acceptance, honor and grace. Imagining and so creating beauty, desire, permission. Imagining and so creating freedom and stories and cosmic applause for the glorious she’s-been-waiting-so-long Action that changes everything. This herstoric effort, the heroic devotion to our own final perfection. Devoted to the satisfaction and the hunger of our lives—lives no one has seen before.
Here’s a toast to our changes, our adventures, our labile fertility. To our shapeshifting selves. To our perverse and persistent yearning to be Real. To be free. To seeing you next year in August. This is our fairy tale, blaze up the old fire, Now. Taste this sweet howling drumming wet satin rooted indestructible YES! Let it carry you through.
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Occupy and Greenham
A seasoned activist, I’ve been called. Many, many seasons and still the same landscape, and I’m always hoping, if I hope at all, for some new disobedience under this sun. Occupy feels like hope to me, like a crack in the bell that calls us forth into the delusional trance of Amerikkka. I’ve spent the last 3 months, exactly one season, observing and participating, raising funds and my voice and my bottomed-out hope as the activists, the homeless, and the vast silent masses pour past, a nation of occupation creating a fresh territory on the streets of empire.
When I open my queer mind & spirit to the spectacle of Occupy, on the cusp of 2012, what strikes me most is comparison to an occupation that came before. All movements rise out of the deep dirt of past actions, and I write to pay homage to a revolutionary experience of the 1980’s that changed my life and my trajectory, forever. This was Greenham Common Womyn’s Peace Camp, which was an occupation that existed non-stop from 1980-1999. I lived there for 3 years.
Since that time of living in occupation, I’ve continued my life as an activist and a performance artist; I’ve studied social protest and taught revolution. There’s a whole language to describe defiance to power. In the academic discourse of formal territories, claiming space is profoundly important. In discursive language, the naming of physical boundaries defines spheres of power and grants authority to the rules of engagement. “Transgress” just means breaking the rules. Transgressing these defined spheres of power, disobedient people can challenge a system, displacing order and power. It also can get you a seat at the table. The symbolism of declaring an occupation, commandeering and queering public space, declaring common ground and moving into it is where identity politics gay-marries geographical realism.
Both Occupy Wall Street and Greenham Common Womyn’s Peace Camp are place-based protests, and both arose spontaneously out of defiance to authority. In both, regular citizens are challenging a place by acting out of place, and through their subversion, they are becoming empowered. How queer is Occupy Wall Street? Probably more than the requisite 10%.
Both movements were built on the notion of reclaiming the commons, and creating an alternative society, a more “primitive” society that publically rejects industrial civilization, much as Rainbow Gatherings, Burning Man, and The Michigan Women’s Music Festival have done. These others are quasi-political spaces; they all manage to temporarily challenge the power of the status quo without being a threat. And each of these gatherings has created a queer space to accommodate a counter culture within a counter culture. The thrill of those tribal gatherings are that “we” can step outside the dominant culture, and create an alternative lifestyle, a utopian presence. But, these all fall far short of social change movements, and each has particular glaring deficiencies as utopian communities. They are legally sanctioned. They cost money to attend. And, they have their own status quo — mostly middle class, white, privileged, mainstream people having a cool vacation.
Occupy and Greenham Common Peace Camp are in a different category. People have staked their bodies out indefinitely, and illegally. People show themselves as joyfully deviant to the status quo. How queer is the Occupy movement? I’m not sure. What would Occupy be if it was filled with gender bending radical homos? Maybe more like Greenham was.
In 1984, when I arrived from Amerikkka, we had no internet, no cell phones, but no pepper spray either. There were 9 separate camps of womyn occupying each of the gateways into the base. The military called them “Alpha Gate, Beta Gate”, and so on, but we re-named them “Red Gate, Orange Gate Green Gate”, all the way around the base, staking out our rainbow. Yellow Gate was the main gate, where the road signs all pointed. And the signs, for 3 miles, in any direction, had been spray painted with womyn’s symbols, peace signs, anarchy symbols, and other declarations of war against the military base. Property damage was in full swing, and there were no discussions as to whether this constituted “violence” in 1984.
I was a political activist, a lesbian feminist who’d worked with men for years on nuclear issues, and was exhausted with continually defending my space and calling right–on-males out on their privilege or disrespect. Separatism from men was the most radical thing I’d ever heard of, in 1984. Gender was fiercely demarcated for me; I was a dyke- I stood with the womyn, and feminism stood in sharp, unappeasable contrast to masculinism. I wouldn’t hear of crossing those lines, of the political movement of trans-consciousness, for 2 more decades.
In 1984, when I arrived there, Greenham Common was already separated, the peace camp from the base, cut apart by a mythic fence, a real fence that separated the forested commons from the military camp. Outside the fence was womyn’s reclaimed land, filled with ancient oaks and beeches, bluebells, violets and bracken. The base lay within the lines of the 9 mile oval fence, a great domesticated thing, sawed down and paved flat and surrounded by a fringe of old nature and wild feminists. We lived our lives up against watchtowers, runways, huge generators and vehicle compounds. There were many buildings in there — barracks and classrooms — the base commander and his family, and soldiers of an American Air Force and a British one all lived in there. Children went to school in there, and wives did…whatever wives do in there. That reality was enclosed within the jarring geometry of 8 rows of fences, all topped by concertina wire. There was lots of concentration camp imagery, accompanied by jarring and ceaseless sensory assault. Jet planes — F16’s, F-11’s, and Galaxy transporters — were a constant screaming overhead, soldiers shouted at us all night, and powerful arc lights perpetually pierced the nighttime darkness. Passing cars chucked bottles at our undefended circle. We slept on a slice of mud between a busy highway and a nuclear weapons base.
And we were being evicted daily, by 1984. Men called “bailiffs”, who were the garbage collectors of the village, came every morning to try and grab our stuff. Police accompanied them to make sure we were dutifully evicted. Every day, in the morning, we were herded off our reclaimed slice of mud. Strangely, we could just cross the motorway with the full weight of our camp, put it all down on that other side of the road, and be left in peace. Then we’d move it all back. In winter this happened 5 times a day. We didn’t fight them, but we transgressed; we learned to be prepared, and figured out how to move as slowly as possible as they surrounded and harassed us. It was easy to ignore them — we were women and we’d spent our lives surviving male domination. We stored all our kitchen and sleeping gear in prams, big baby carriages that we’d roll across the 6 lanes of traffic. We had terribly abused vehicles that carried a ton of bedding and backpacks, instruments and tools and books. We slept each night under long scrolls of plastic sheets, tossed over the base fence and staked down with stones. Some womyn slept in the forest, building plastic sheeted “benders” around trees. Some slept in the vehicles. There were no phones, no electricity, no running water, and, most importantly, there was no shelter.
It rained all the fucking time. It was cold all year long, and in winter it was dark. Dark. Cold. Raining. We lived under plastic and we circled around a fire. Our campfire had the power of a magical ancient symbol: endurance, hearth and transformation blended roaring in the rain. One lovely memory is of womyn, turning, rotisserie before that fire, clouds of steam rising off their wet forms as the rain fell. Each day the bailiffs would drench that fire, first thing, and try to grab all our wood. They took tea kettles, passports, guitars, backpacks, sleeping bags, everything they could grab. We knew that soon, it would all replaced by donations, and it was. We lived off donations. The camp had captured the attention of progressive individuals and peace groups the world over. Thousands of people supported us, and visitors filled the fire circles for years with the temporary warmth of their presence. So many womyn came! In winter, we had hot meals brought to us every night. We had “night watches” show up from all over the U.K. so we could sleep, protected in that open space between the woods womb and the bomb tomb.
By 1984, 3 years into the encampment, Greenham had become a center of the international feminist movement. There were still a lot of straight, white, middle class peace campaigners around, mums and grannies, religious women and journalists, but now there were dykes, tons of Lesbians from all over the world who’d come to join this amazing experiment.
Since the 1970’s, womyn’s lands were springing up in parts of the U.S. and in Europe. These were communes in the country that women bought cheap and moved on to. Womyn’s lands focused on womyn as primary, they were about revolting from the patriarchy , creating magical liberation, and through collective and sustainable living, women produced and pollinated a womyn’s culture. Under it all, we believed we could live separate from the Patriarchy, that we could heal from male violence, that we could cut the hierarchy and domination right out of our lives. We were wrong, on some levels, but on others, this was a revolution that had been coming for 5,000 years. It was complete heresy. It was re-membered and reclaimed magic blended with radical social protest growing in a petri-terrarium, a culture of feral wildness, and it was unbelievably powerful.
The gender bending at the mores politically-radical peace camp was an expression of feminism. Greenham womyn confronted the heart of gender oppression by turning the concept of “women’s place” on it’s spiky head. While we were not all dykes, the peace camp evolved over a few years from peace campaigners peacefully and symbolically protesting nukes, to an army of defiant radical feminists and wild lesbians who came to rage against the institution of patriarchy, so aptly symbolized by the military. Womyn formed coalitions and caucuses. In the 3 years that I was there, there was an anarchist camp and a separatist camp. There were also many homeless womyn, and mentally ill womyn. There was drugs and alcohol. As far as I know, there was no sexual assault, except what threatened us in the dark every night from beyond the flare of our fires. Except what we carried deep inside us.
The metaphors of confrontation and duality were everywhere. You either saw it or you didn’t, but you got it deep inside, on an unconscious level of awareness. There was the base, all concrete and steel and noise and lights. There were the underground silos that housed 96 first-strike nuclear warheads. There were the men, all soldiers and bailiffs and cops. There was the weaponry fortressed in there, the logical brutal consequences of our species’ separation from nature, the atom split, the matter of creation turned into pure destruction. That was our landscape when we faced through the fences. We were on the outside — outlaws, outcast — we were a physical female fringe around all that hardware. That fence taught me more about the conditions of the binary than any university full of discourse on gender politics, in 1984.
Contrasted to the gentle goddess circles, the gardens and folk songs, yurts and tipis and hand built houses of rural womyn’s lands, this was a theater stage of gender war. There were many rituals. There were actions every night. From our slice of mud, we reached in our fabulous deviance across time and space. Living outside that fence, casting our lot with the forest, womyn cooked, danced, wrote songs and told stories, built fires and knitted, built beautiful ornate nests in benders. Outside that fence we spent our days visiting, playing, loving, raging. We were mending. That was one intention we agreed on, when we agreed. Creation of something better, something that came through us like a baby dragon, but bigger, fiercer. Women had decorated that fence for years, and weavings of spiders and serpents, paintings of earth goddesses and avenging goddesses, photos of grandkids, broken eyeglasses and crutches, messages for soldiers and love notes for each other formed a happy wall, a gorgeous vertical quilt. There were snipped bits of wire covering the earth on the womin side of the fence like autumn leaves.
Our actions were fun, unique and brilliant. Our actions made us feel huge and triumphant and ecstatic. In one of the most famous, womyn broke into the base and ritually danced on top of a missile silo for hours. Another time they dressed up as teddy bears and bunnies and climbed over the fence to hold a picnic on the base. In another, we greased our bodies with cooking oil, and ran naked through the base, and no men in uniform could grab and hold us. We spray painted runways, repeatedly attacked military vehicles in their nighttime compounds, blockaded tanks, missile launchers, and built 20 foot high fires in the middle of the road. Womyn entered the base and stole official documents, entered the base and used the phone to call the press, entered the base and hid there for days. We snipped a thousand holes in that fence with our communal bolt cutters. And we used pieces of the fence as our fire grates, suspending our tea and toast over the flames we stoked below.
The presence of so many lesbians at the camp was disturbing to outsiders, and it added to the great heap of our transgressions of proper female behavior. Of course, we were called “man-haters”, and also, “hysterical”. This was because we lived a physical, mental, and spiritual resistance to the comfortable prevalence of the familial ideology. In local courts, in jails, on the roads and in The House of Commons, womyn were continuously challenging expectations about appropriate behavior and normalcy, both for females and for citizens of a participatory democracy. Why should courtrooms or government rules worry us when the threat of utter destruction hung over us constantly? Why should we obey madness? That was our constant question, and we used creative satire to mock power and the farce of law.
Back to a comparison with Occupy. Both of these encampments have been very successful in cultivating memes and spreading propaganda/information to the masses. Both created a spectacle that challenged the daily spectacle, and brought it to a screeching halt. The public spaces they claimed were both deeply symbolic spaces where behavior had been strictly controlled. Both Wall Street and a Nuclear Armed Air Force Base are formal institutions, stabilized by certainty. They’re also both heavily symbolic of the landscape of patriarchy. Nuclear weapons are seen as the ultimate solutions to conflict. Bankers are seen as the sole arbiters of debt and wealth. Governments are seen as sovereign and democratic to the will of the people. If enough of us can, en masse, withhold our consent, if we refuse to agree to these orderly hierarchical scenarios, then we reveal the naked emperor for all to see. And the more people pointing, the better.
Tugging away from my memories, I returning to the landscape of Amerikkka in 2012, there is Occupy, diverse and pollinating. I doubt that this movement could do lots of what the womyn at Greenham got away with doing. In this nation, in this time of the war on terror, (or twot), protestors of Occupy who directly confronted empire with criminal damage and direct civil disobedient actions would be shot, they’d call out the cannons and tanks against us. The conditions of our struggle have changed, the cops are way more militarized now, Amerikkka is a more fascist nation than Britian was then. We’re currently bombing 5 countries and we’re at war with a noun, and the media is more controlled now.
But the conditions in the world are even more dire than they were in 1984. We’ve had years to imagine and to practice fighting back, we have decades of radical analysis to hold us up. I imagine that queers could really have a blast in Occupy, and like we did at Greenham, find playful, creative devices and loopholes and theater stunts and spontaneous attacks on real targets that will be successful. At least we have each other. And we can occupy ports, oil facilities, foreclosure sites, courtrooms. We can occupy fracking sites, student loan offices, military recruitment offices, health insurance offices. We can occupy our representatives, the Supreme Court, the RNC and the DNC. ….the possibilities are indeed endless. All we need is a fire and the spirit to endure, and we can find our freedom and fly.
* The first Occupy protest to receive widespread attention, Occupy Wall Street in New York City's Zuccotti Park, began on 17 September 2011. By 9 October, Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and in over 600 communities in the United States. *If you need info on Greenham Common, read my memoir.
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The Work That REConnects
I wrote these notes up from a 10-day retreat with my teacher, Joanna Macy, at Rivers’ Bend Retreat Center in Mendocino in 2014. We came to be trained to facilitate this work, and left as voluntary bodhisattvas. Most of the words are Joanna’s. At 90 years old, she led 50 of us from daybreak through dinner with fabulous mini-lectures mixed with interpersonal activities. Some of it is my own journaling.
Joanna said she was giving this work away to us. I give it away to You.
Driving through Nevada. Hot wind. Sage plateaus. Who are we? What if a photon was a character with consciousness who wanted to slow down and smell the roses?
In the side view mirror, i watch my face running beside the landscape. My hair is an antelope, freshly crowned. Windmills comb my spikes. My eyelashes grow blue and swirl skyward. My neck lengthens to a swan, a heron. I sprout grey and black and pin feathered, i arrow, face first, through the bright air. I am the wind. These outrageous green alfalfa fields applaud me. I think basalt, red granite, railroad bed—one long plate nailed to the earth with spikes cut from redwood trees. The full and emptying earth.
Joanna — We've known each other for years. We've shared this path. Such grief for what's been lost, such a strong desire to be of use, to be together, to strengthen each other far bigger than our own separate selves. This intensive will be like being in a monastery, in a think tank, in a psychological laboratory, at a wild house party.
Meditation: Life is breathing us. The immensity of interconnection. Breathe. This knowing that we can connect to anytime.
The sound of the harmonium fills the room. Seventy people line up to set their altar objects. The little suitcase of harmonium opens slowly and closes and out comes the voice of god and we join in the wordless vocals. Praise be.
The Spiral has 4 stations, which constitute the roadmap, the plot line of our work.
Are we preparing to go to war with Russia? When you hear a terrible thing, you can go through the spiral. For everything troubling, for every single aspect that occurs, go through the spiral.
1. We enter in the east, ground and give thanks. In all root traditions, we begin with Gratitude. I'm here! I can breathe! I can see! This sense of wonder, which has been so trampled out of us. Here are the words and practices that can summon it all back. Begin with Gratitude.
How can you give thanks in a time of total destruction in ways that will last forever? What do we do this for? Because what we focus on expands. It changes the vibration. It is TRUE. It dissolves the abstractions and builds on actual concrete details. Honor what is GOOD.
Don't take for granted the creation that surrounds you— Gratitude is a Counterculture.
I know this because it makes me SMILE.
The giving of thanksgiving for life, and for the elements that give us life.
Today, Gratitude is a political act.
We install a needy, grabby, insecure mind into younger and younger children, so instilling anti-capitalist, corporate Gratitude is REVOLUTIONARY. Gratitude is our birthright.
Then we can look at what we've been carrying all along, which has been so repressed. So much of mainstream thinking of the Industrial Growth Society teaches us to put a lid on the truth of what we see and feel and know. So, this gratitude gives us the strength to feel these terrible things that we usually PROJECT into the shadows, or pave over to help the Industrial Growth Society keep going.
2. We honor and befriend our grief for the world. This too is SUBVERSIVE. Our love for the world and our pain for the world are not opposite. This is the hinge in the work, the Turning Point. We are not pathological, not depressed, not neurotic. This anguish is not private. It comes from our deep interconnectedness. The immensity inside each one of us.
3. Seeing With New Eyes — flows out of THIS. All the rituals, practices, ceremonies emerging here.
4. Going Forth — we consider our vows, and make commitments to the future of the Work That Reconnects us.
This system of punishment was here before we were born and will be here after we're dead, so there are no mistakes. Only opportunities to learn.
We are NOT SEPARATE. We impact and are impacted by each other's choices, by our own agreements.
Everyone matters. How deeply is our MATTERING. Exercise those muscles. Practice mattering.
Conflict and discomfort are gifts. We’ve got to distinguish between discomfort and harm. We don't know till we engage in relationship.
Annie: Practice being impacted first. Notice how and where you are impacted. Then distill what you need to speak. Notice your impact. Practice being self-connected before speaking and while listening. Ask yourself, "What is my intention in speaking?"
Be impacted, then ask, or offer a gem. Just pay attention, with humility.
TRUST IN YOUR MATTERING. We are all significant and precious. We need to show up and give to life what ONLY WE can give. So, trust in your great mattering.
Power — We either submit or we rebel. Pay attention to that particular default.
Is there a 3rd way?
Celebrate the I DON'T KNOW. It's the start of opening up space to figure it out. And we don't know, but we can ask for support to find the 3rd way together. "What we can plan and predict is too small to live." (David Whyte)
"I don't know" is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. It's a dance between thresholds. Ask for what we need and be willing to let it go. Practice being present to the fear and the anger and the sadness.
What's said here stays here.
What's learned here, leaves here.
Skillful infiltration of any group.
Joanna: Re-conceptualize speaking to the choir as “just a waste of our time”. From the systems point of view, that's not how nature works. You move from STRENGTH. You move from where it's working, from where there's power. To go where you’re automatically misunderstood is a terrible drain of your power. With permaculture, when you want to restore a place, you go to where the native thing still survives and grow it out from its own fertility and complexity.
Gratitude. The Elm Dance starts every morning. It's a song disguised as trees and mothers, but it's a call to resistance, the dance choreographed to bring forth intention and determination to carry out the choices that the heart has made. It was originally sung and taught to Joanna at Chernobyl, over one million deaths and counting.
The easiest Gratitude exercise: stand, shake, stretch.
Find a person and sit. Choose A or B by tapping the knee first.
Open Sentences for gratitude —
What do you love about being alive?
What do you love doing or making?
What do i really appreciate about myself?
A person who helped me believe in myself, or ways i've been helped in my life by other beings.
A place that was magical to me as a child.
What embarrasses me about my species?
When you're giving a talk, you can let people have a chance to speak in any size crowd, by turning to the person next to them and roll through these questions. Or, use concentric circles that face each other and rotate.
Write with your non-dominant hand the answer to the question the dominant hand poses.
Do The mirror Walk. Also, The Wheel of the Great Turning (p100)
We're not making things up to be grateful for. We're remembering what makes us glad. This is authentic and grounded in our lives and in the world. The voice people most need to hear from is the inner one. Deep inside, beneath all the petty neurotic complaint, we want The One Thing. Truth force, satyagraha—SPEAK THE TRUTH (Here’s why i hate the phrase "it's all good")
For a one-day facilitation, tell a few sentences about the work. Then do the spiral. Go right into gratitude. Gratitude is the ignition point of every one of the great religions.
In Buddhism, there are 6. Call to mind how rare and precious is a human life. Not superior, no. Just we have the capacity to CHANGE THE KARMA. We have the self- reflexive consciousness, the advent of the capacity to CHOOSE.
With systems theory, the self is a flow-though. Who and what you are becomes visible through your choice making. This changes over time as responses mature. Your life changes your perceptions, your habits that limit choice making change with awareness. Who you are becomes apparent in your intentions and how you are GUIDING your life. Not just going with the flow, but you steer in the flow. Being the rudder in the flow. Size that intention to find your identity. Whatever’s happening, you can choose your response, We choose, in response to each others' choices. How do we talk to people about what's happening in our world when they don't know what we know.
If you can, write a book to find out what you think.
If you have a choice, write a book with another person.
We have a choice in how we see the reality of our time. There are different realities all going on at the same time.
The Three Realities
Business as usual,
The Great Unraveling,
The Great Turning.
These exist and are accelerating, but we can choose what we want to get behind.
1.The Industrial Growth Society, or “business as usual”, is driven by industry, but the operative term is GROWTH. Growing what? Wisdom? Health? Happiness? Love?
Corporate profit is the only way we measure growth. We take everything out of the body of the earth; we make goods (so they don't last too long) and we make weapons. This is all based on the constant depletion and unsustainability; we dump faster than it can be absorbed back from where we took and so we have contamination. But if you say that, you won't get elected in the U.S.
This story is costing us the world. Justice. Cultures. Weather. All of nature.
2. We call out from the 2nd story of The Great Unravelling. All systems end with unraveling. They lose their coherence, their resilience, they fall apart. We hear this from activists, scientists, and ancient voices.
3. The 3rd story — The Great Turning. A transition to a life sustaining society. How do we live after coal and gas? How do we live without electrical power, without google and communications technology? How can we govern ourselves? How can we live without cops and wars? How can we come to our senses for what we NEED to endure? Sustainability is a cultural meme now. That's encouraging. The Great Turning- most of the people involved throughout the world don't know that term.
It's The Blessed Unrest. Millions of grassroots organizations. Pachamama: "socially just, environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling". This is something we can be grateful for. This choice we get to get behind.
Things are getting better and better, worse and worse, faster and faster.
We can help people open their eyes to this in a workshop.
The Industrial Growth Society
It's not just human cognitive systems that are making these choices, but SYSTEMS of industry, military, and production that have taken on their own momentum. From a systems perspective, it's unlikely that we will convert people who are controlled by and hostage to the Industrial Growth Society. They make short-term decisions. If they restrain themselves for noble reasons, they are out of a job. You gotta act fast and take it all for shareholders and profits.
On the individual level, when we see that we're causing suffering (greed, hatred, delusion) we can choose to stop. But now there are the INSTITUTIONALIZED forms of greed (a consumer society), hatred (military and foreign policy and racism), and delusion (mainstream media and entertainment/social media distractions). Functionary individuals are expendable. If you reach one, they will replace him.
How do we challenge the conditions that support the institutional structure of systems?
How do we challenge POWER? Beyond our control, we have been given choice. I can choose how i use my life. If i think i need to take care of myself cos i'm all alone and fragile and needy, then this becomes literalized and co-arises from my neurosis.
Give people ways to SEE the Great Turning as it's happening.
1.Holding Actions to slow the destruction down. These don’t address the source, but they can save some species, some of the gene pool for a life sustaining society. This is what most people think of as “activism”, and it’s the hardest, most physically debilitating part. The system can absorb that, so it’s important, but not final. (This is so important to my understanding of the frustration i've experienced, and the refusal to go to jail again, and the burnout we all feel when we lose loss after loss.)
2. At the same time, you have to be building what will endure. Transforming the cultural and economic foundations of our common life. How we do things: grow food, settle conflicts, make what we need, distribute it all, and understand and practice power.
Building another way of self-governance, currency, restoring the commons, protecting the earth.
3. These new forms can't sustain themselves unless we are motivated and have the courage and creativity to make it obvious and clear to others that OUR PLANET IS ALIVE. We can use science and spirituality. We can say that Earth is worthy of our reverence and gratitude. This shift in consciousness of the earth as a sacred entity is so important. The power of indigenous voices, the most oppressed, can show us how. Remember that the Great Turning is the 3rd great revolution that we know about. The Agricultural and Industrial revolutions came first. When yr in the middle of a revolution, you don't know. These all changed our ideas of work, each other, god, property, identity. This one has to be FASTER and it has to be CONSCIOUS.
And of course, we don't know.
We don't know that The Great Turning will work in terms of saving complex life forms on earth. we don't know if there will be enough diversity and resilience to keep going. Our attitude towards uncertainty is so important! Strengthened by uncertainty, we go on (recall the image of the 4 goddesses in the pool at Valley View) If we knew it was a sure thing, would that bring out the courage and creativity? If we knew it was too late, we'd just go get high (YOLO) This uncertainty thing needs to be celebrated, played with, storied. UNCERTAINTY FREES US! (Greenham exemplifies this)
At the intersection of these 3 dimensions is the Great Turning.
Open Space Technology- runs off 4 basic principles- when it starts, it starts; when it ends it end. Whoever shows up are the right folks. Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen.
The Law of Mobility- If yr there, be there; if yr not into it, go away. If yr not engaged, you need to leave or your presence will be deadening to the process. Only the host has to stay. You can cross pollinate like a bumblebee or you h=can hang out like a butterfly. the host takes notes. A couple of sentences to summarize.
Teaching Strategy —
When it's a sad reality, end with gratitude to bathe the brain in dopamine.
Morning silence. We pass and smile on paths to our mornings. I am porous: i absorb; i allow; i leak a little. I leak a lot. i share without effort.
Enter the space to 3 concentric circles swaying silently to the Elm Dance. Step back, sway, step forward, step in, sway, step back. Fingers linked, hearts braided as the sweet music ribbons like elm branches sending to the radioactive sky. We remember through the soles of our feet, thru the souls that we are, sailing flute takes us past genders and races, a blender, shaken and stirred, baby organism cooing the beauty, sobbing for all our pain for the world that slays me, forehead to the dance floor. Then a fantastic gospel song about freedom and we are jumping, stomping. An amazing arc of passion and color, vivid, to wash our pain and each other.
Part 2 of the Spiral: HONORING OUR PAIN FOR THE WORLD
This is beyond what's happening in our personal lives, but a response to what is happening to the world, and to life. This is the feature of TWTR which we don't find easily, anywhere. It's the fulcrum, the hinge to how we're related, to each other and to the living earth.
She speaks again the Shambala Prophesy. (I almost have it memorized by heart.)
Compassion is not soft or sentimental. It takes courage, strength, grit. You need insight of the inter-being of all phenomena and you need compassion: cool and hot. You need to be fearless with the pain. Cry. Breathe. Touch the Earth.
The Truth Mandala.
So much racial diversity in this intensive: the most EVER. we talk so much about genderqueer, pronouns mostly, and about racism. We all want to be in love with each other, and when someone's hurt, they can say OUCH! and the response is OOPS. It's a teachable moment, but people have to be willing.
In this culture, you're taught to have the right answer, so you could grow up to solve problems and fix things. With nukes, there is NO solution. There is nothing that would make it something that we can live with. What do you do when there's no solution? Learn that we can't fix some things. Our world is not like a broken down car. That fixing notion belongs to the cartesian mind that separates, that see clearly/ objectively. That never was a good system.
And then there is the well of deep humility. Letting the very assumptions of who we are dissolve. Our institutions are also what needs us to let go...but how? It's in our language, it's how we were brought up.
Maybe the path is Confusion, Beginner's mind— What a thing to ask of a proud Western mind! The empty bowl in the truth Mandala. The caterpillar in the chrysalis. DISSOLVE like that. And the caterpillar of our minds says, "But i was so special! I did everything that was asked of me! I was gonna be such a good caterpillar! And now I’m GOO. We are dying in that way-- dying to old identities, dying to certainties. Might as well; it's gonna happen if you give a shit about the world. We gotta learn to love the confusion and the dissolve. What a beautiful journey! It's death and resurrection! You don't wanna be stuck half formed, do you? So, we die a little. The I-Don't-Know-Mind. We're goo.
Prayer before lunch for the food— Thich Nat Han— "In this food, i see clearly the entire universe supporting my existence."
HARVESTING THE GIFTS OF THE ANCESTORS
Deep Time Exercise-
We slowly stepped backwards through inhabited time, moving from a review of this day, through yesterday and last week, to months, years, decades, stepping backwards so slowly as Joanna spoke us backwards, narrating the scenes we passed through. We were born. We were conceived. We moved through the lives of our parents, my 2 rivers of them splitting to 4 as the grandparent's lives came to us through our feet, stepping slowly backwards. All the people it took to make me: I had rivers! I had people! All their gifts and talents and terrors and diasporas, back and back through the history of humanity, the wars, ice ages, the hunger, the intelligence, all the way back to the savannah in Africa. To the beginning of our species, and then she stopped and had us reverse direction, reverse the journey through history up until now, until here, in full narrative detail. it was so vivid! i cried through the whole thing!
And then she left us. It was late. She left us as we fell apart, caught by each other's arms, and Jaq caught me. They held me and loved me and sat with me and asked for one sentence. It was something like "I have always been alone, the Solitary, the lonely only, no sibs, no partner, no kids, no parents even. And i am the end of the line.”… it's like i've always known this, and it's always been a heavy, unspoken stone in my throat, my heart, my belly. But now i feel SEEDED, feel like a seed that grew from a specific gene pool, and i know that sounds obvious, but i'd never considered that scenario before. NOT ALONE.
And then we had brilliant puppy piles and songs with Anne hanging out being the mom, and so much energy! So many new songs! And we sang and danced and drummed and piled for hours till we couldn't any more.
And now i get it that these specific talents and gifts and proclivities that i have — making people laugh, being disarmingly charming, being able to write and tell stories that make people FEEL, to express my passion for justice, and even my rage, the tilt of my head and my pattern of eyelashes and my toes — these all came from other people who came first. These were my ANCESTORS. I have ancestors! How has this fact eluded me for all these years?
My personal history and human history combined. Amazing to experience myself existing in the actual flow of history! I have a place. I am a record of what came before. like a fossil. But alive and dynamic and full of free will and deserving of an ancestry and a story that forms this one, right now.
morning notes: Dragonflies surround me.
Embodied spirits in the cool lake of the Navarro River where we talk story through the laughter and the drums, the flutes and harmoniums. Great reach of forest and we drift over the water. Wanting pen and tea.
I consider the 2 choices available to me of lover —Wanting to write back to Deb who is totally cracking me up, overthinking romance in a way that reminds me of me. To Ynyra, who throws herself off every cliff in pure childlike excitement, who does not think but flows and feels and falls through ice shelf after trap door, exclaiming to the bruises of the beauty of the sky, and peace descending. Deb watches from above, circling the sky like a hawk, like a transcendent god, separate and feeling that. Hurls bolts of wry humor, holds a paintbrush, sits lotus, and nothing happens, and that's fine with her. Ynyra moves. She touches deals and wheels and butts her head and drags the whole resistant and strangling trajectory forward towards perceived salvations, jumping rope with traumas, covered in rope burns and a tightness in her exhausted face that never shifts except when i am fucking her to heaven. She is so pretty. She needs me. She now says she wants to be a chamo artist--perfect gig for her. Deb's big green eyes take it all in. Her mind registers everything, said and unsaid, for further contemplation. She rolls ideas like marbles in the mouth of her mind. It takes time to image every mental possible outcome. Ynyra doesn't measure by any standard i know of. She leans in, fully, anticipates the plunge, takes quick reading, sprouts wings from her holy holes, and flies. She flies straight towards me. Nothing to do but open up.
This morning, swaying to the Elm Dance, i felt myself a tree in the forest swaying in the center, drawn in closer, closer like a soft skin pouch on a silk string. There, hands raised and swaying we were the trees in the Chernobyl forest. The holocaust trees. The tears start early this morning, this fabulous morning, swaying as irradiated tree, surrounded and held, in and out by the forest.
Joanna: Conscious activism — the grief work, the truth mandala, the Bowl of Tears, the Chief Seattle sharing. Always a little broken-hearted and empty doing this work, always willing to be, and to be a little off center. "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding" (Kalel Gibran.) and so we are back to the goo; the holy dissolve.
I HAVE THE HEART OF THE WORLD INSIDE ME.
The fear of pain is the worst thing. It causes panic and paralysis--the 2 ditches on either side of the path as we walk this road. Paralysis- you're so scared that you enclose your heart.
Depression (twin sister) Addiction (another relative). All are about CHOOSING NOT TO BE HERE. On the other side, Panic. Once the pain does break in, we blame, we project all our fear onto the target of our choice. Now, we don't know if we're on the path to the sunny future, or to the mushroom cloud. We hold each other's hand on the path. The pain of what's been done to life and to us, to our ancestors, helps us to recognize the pain in other people's lives. Our deadened limbs begin to ached with memory and blood flooding back. It hurts to remember what's been done to our body. It hurts to remember how scared you were as a little child. There's that pain. Then, what's being done to others in our name, by the very ones who claim to represent us for our benefit. The lies hurt. The ugliness hurts.
None of the Industrial Revolution could have happened without the slave trade. Today we are haunted by that, and by the prison industrial complex. And what does it do to the ones who turn the key? and to the American Psychiatric Association who's agreed to help with torture techniques? How much pain can we tolerate?
The practice of gratitude, deep breathing, watching and being with beauty, all build our capacity to tolerate the emotional pain. We have a job to do. We have to learn to do this. Our job is to keep our siblings on this path and not fall into the ditches. Our job is to tolerate the pain so we can help others to tolerate the pain. THAT'S THE WORK. It's spiritual. By tolerating it, we expand our capacity in widening circles--family, community, humanity, the earth. We incorporate the pain by harvesting the gifts of the ancestors to save and heal our world. These are strategies for finding our strength and vitality and connection.
This work is so that people can become better activists, but more, it's so that when things really start to fall apart, people will not turn on each other.
We've got a job to do. this is just one path, with tools to be with what happens, no matter what happens. Be with it with an open heart, which loves. You're going to be a shelter and a guide, a comfort and an inspiration in the coming years. You will show up, listen, BE, and keep folks from falling into the ditches. People will know they are heard and that they belong, because of how YOU hear them. You will show up in your very vulnerability, in your laughter, show them that it's ok to laugh, to feel, in the storm. you will cradle the broken people in your arms. YOUR OWN GRATITUDE WILL GROUND YOU. Confusion will be ok. you will go far beyond the need to be right. "Why am i still doing this?" Joanna asks--"I can't hear. i need a stick to walk. I'm old. but, There's no where else i want to be with. Just you people." What you want more than anything else is to be with your brothers and sisters, and that's why i can't stop doing this work.
So, let's step back with our microscopes and telescopes; fuck the cartesian eye that sees from a distance and objectifies. It has a place, but we got stuck out here, seeing the planet as something to use and exploit..(see drawing of world and eye at distance, then world with eye within, crying)
Thich NH says "We are the planet seeing itself".
This is Recursively —a non-linearity that pulls us back in. Our universe is constructed to that it can KNOW ITSELF. Our earth is US. Not dead. Not a sewer. Not a stuff pile of goods.
We re-enter just at the moment when we are poised to destroy it all; we wake up to see the blood on our hands, the tar sands, just at this moment where it is perhaps too late, we realize our true identity. And in our grief, we come home to our true nature. We hear within ourselves the sounds of the earth, crying. We are So Not Separate, so inter-existent, that what's happening to the planet is calling to us all the time. Don't shrink! Don't want to be guiltless or to filter any of it. We can use the pain of feeling guilty to let that fuel compassion for everyone.
Joanna finds a bodily practice to stay with the pain:
BREATHING THROUGH. Picture your breath as a loop that connects you with the web and send it through your heart and back out to the web of life. Like the dance/prayer of the Elm Dance, name the pain that is there. Like granules of sand, breathe it through with the stream of looping air; take it through your heart. Don't keep it! It already hurts a little, but the heart is not an object that can be broken. It can hold the whole universe. This counter-acts the initial response where we're conditioned to be separate or to be in denial. When you get information like this, take it in like this. Take it in through the heart.
Exercise: FOUR VOICES
- an activist speaking about the issue
- 180 degree turn to a voice speaking in opposition to the activist voice
- a non-human creature about the issue
- a human being 200 years from now (7 generations)
This is how we get away from Descartes. We exercise and open to the mystery of unlimited consciousness and our moral imagination.
Day 5 is silence: i go to the redwoods and the sea.
"In the end, all i want is stretch marks on my heart."
My emotional heights are climbing me up the ecstasy ladder, heart-first.
My intention on the silent one-day: to love myself as i love the world.
Remember that HOME is as close as the next breath.
We're into the 2nd half- the juicy stuff. Look, she says, you all showed up again after sharing our pain for the world. After that piece, this is the moment of harvesting in the spiral. Before we move into Seeing With New Eyes. Also, it is comparable to the 2 weapons of the Shambala Warrior. Compassion- not being afraid of the suffering; it takes courage- its not all mushy-hearted.
Poem by Jennifer Wellwood —"Fear is alright: otherwise how do you know what to be brave about? So scare me!"
Emptiness and fullness require each other.
Exercise — We are asked to share a story with a partner about something we did that changed a situation for the better. Then let's unpack the QUALITIES that experience demonstrated. She calls up a right-handed person and a left-handed one. People call out the traits, the qualities exemplified and they write them down on a big sheet.
This list defines POWER. "I never used that word", she says. Good list.
The most important cognitive revolution of our time is in the understanding of Power. I didn't use that word, but look at this list! The old way of seeing power, which is at the root of classical science, is power over, to control, to dominate. We now understand differently how power is structured.
Back in early Greece, Pre-Socratic, there were 2 views of reality up for grabs. 1. Parmenides: something that's really real doesn't change. this leads to humans being separate. and 2. Heraclites: everything flows. The Buddha, at about the same time, said everything changes. #1 won.
Reality is made up of things: this characterized mainstream western thought for all this time. Aristotle categorized EVERYTHING. This was useful. Newton, Galileo said one thing hits another, etc. What they didn't pay attention to was the relationships between things, the influences of how we affect each other, the web of relations.
If this is your world view, then what is power?
What one thing can do to another: push it around, limit it's choices. Starhawk called this "power over". As you push something around, you can hurt it and shatter it into a million pieces, so we need strong defenses to hold ourselves together. (smiling is a defense). Look at our defense budget- the last remaining superpower, as it tells itself ceaselessly. We are so powerful and so heavily armored, there’s just a skinny slit in the helmet and so you can't really see. You're not flexible. If you fall, you can't get up. Also, this notion of power is property--it's something you can GET. All this has been so assumed and conveyed that it now characterized our condition. To have MORE. It's top-down, hierarchical, suspicious, watchful, spying and paranoid. You hide how much you know and find out what others know.
It's the structure of the teeter-totter, the win/lose, the zero sum game. scarcity. competitiveness. So painful, so wonderful to see the assumptions. People as objects to be controlled. Sacrifice zones and sacrifice people.
What happened in the 20th century was this breakthrough in systems thinking. This shift came through the life sciences, who found that this unilateral power model didn't help explain organic, biological systems. So, the old way didn't explain the world, and so they shifted the way they looked at things, and they let the separateness recede into a series of FLOWS of matter, energy, and information. And what had been separate entities were now seen as patterns, knots, recursively moving back on each other.
It's a figure/ground reversal. What had been dominant--the separateness of manifest objects, recedes and the relations come forward into a web of dynamic interweaving. This interweaving causes more relationships to arise and dance, making more patterns. Systems thinkers didn't try to find out what they were made of; forget the building blocks of physical reality. Forget taking apart nature- (that's what "analyze" means)- We go to the atom and then we take that apart too, but there's no stability there. And then you've split the atom, and we are fucked. The stuff-based view of reality vs. the process view of reality. Process view asks "How does it dance? What is it made of vs. how does it BE, move, interact?"
World As Lover, World As Self has a lot about this view, which helps us understand the thinking of the Buddha. Non-linear causality means everything is reciprocal. Helps us to understand the complexity. Systems Theory spread from biological to social sciences and even to political sciences. Such a wholesale change! The scientists groped for visual metaphors to explain the biggest revolution in millennia.
One metaphor is WHIRLPOOL- we are not stuff that abides. We are patterns that perpetuate. We are flow, we can handle the pain if we let if flow with the breath in and out, but we don't have to hold it. FLAME- a metaphor for matter in/matter out. The flame keeps its shape by burning. In a way, we keep our shape by disappearing. We are than evanescent. The sun is burning itself out, like a candle. It shines by perishing. And so do we. That metaphor is a doorway into such freedom and resilience. We shine by perishing.
Because of co-arising, there are cultures who've always seen the flow and the interdependence. Lao Tsu, Confucius, Native Americans knew this, so this was a revolution for the Western world. many cultures embodied this. Lunar tradition in the Paleolithic and Neolithic knew this.
As outdated as this first idea was, it has shaped the world and continues to through globalization and export of all our ideas to the globe. Our language shapes how we think. The flowing languages are all in danger of extinction from the Industrial Growth Society. The images that are helpful to us now are those that support the Great turning.
Parellax-2 views converging in a comparable way. Buddha and Systems Theory separated by 2 and a half thousand years! Allow yourself to find other ways of seeing to enrich your understanding.Another image: A nerve cell —we have 100 billion nerve cells in our brain. The image of a nerve cell and a neural net helps us to understand how we live, and ecosystem, and radioactive contamination, and lots of things.
One of the great things about being so old is that i see the amazing rapid changes. It's encouraging that things can change so fast. If you were a nerve cell in a neural net, and you were convinced that power worked in a power-over way, and you made defenses, that would mess up the whole system. The nerve cell would die, and the whole system of which it is a part would weaken. These systems organize to flow through. They become more responsive; more adaptive. Just telling people this is words isn't enough, cos we're so conditioned to throw up defenses. But we can PRACTICE and help shed old dysfunctional ways of conditioningPower in the new paradigm is about connection, openness, flexibility, willingness, presence, vulnerability. Power with. Synergy is the phrase scientists use. Synergy is more than just working together. It adds that what happens is more than the sum of your strength and mine. See self as FLOW. The Buddha's term for the self pissed off his dominant culture. "Stream of Being" or "Stream of consciousness". How do you armor a stream? We practice dyads: How do you know when you're in flow? What causes flow?
Shambala, Pt. 2
Buddha doesn't just ask us to go with the flow, but to be aware and choose to act for the whole. Systems thinking says the same. In service to the military and corporate world, our IGS totally perverts the inter-flow.
Where is The Self? At the point of CHOICE. In that flow, there's a choosing, a rudder that helps us steer in the flow. What do we know? What are our gifts? Motivation and intention are hugely important in finding out who you are. More important than "effectiveness", cos how can you ever know if you have been effective? Do your long-dead teachers know how they've affected you a thousand years later? You can't know. Ah, but if you lose your motivation, it's all flat. If you cease to care, you can just throw all your work out. Intention is so critical. Boddhisatva is the one who understands that we're part of the web, and so there's no higher intention than healing the whole show. There is no private salvation; we are interwoven.
Bodhicitta is the intention. We ARE interconnected; we don't have to TRY to be, or work towards it. It's like 2 levels of living your life: tedium or drama or the chitchat mind, but when you think about it, Bodhicitta is always available to you. Oh yeah..i'm here in this room with you and working for the sake of all beings. I am here. This is my chance to be alive and care for this exquisite planet. These realms (i can't find a parking space; i'm late) coexist, like music can. You don't have to stop and make yourself different; it's just THERE. Trust that intention to show up and guide your life.
The Shambala Warrior, the Boddhisatva cares so much about the waking up of all that after a lifetime and your ready to step thru and be liberated, you turn back. You keep re-entering samsara until every blade of grass is illuminated, until everyone has enough to eat and everyone takes care of you. That's in YOU. We're here at a time when the choices are so clear.
If yr pedaling a solution, then people think you're trying to sell them something, but if it's a cry from the heart, then it's authentic, and other hearts will open. We have to confront the numbness that tolerates this level of poison.
We all belong to dominant groups and targeted groups.
What's wrong with our current system, both how it FEELS, and structurally?
What are alternatives?
Human law: we are caretakers of the planet, but we've made written laws where it's o.k. to kill anything and everything, legally. Corporations are both entitled and obligated to kill and starve and dominate it all. That's their law.
Each time a healthy pattern is repeated, it strengthens connections in our brains; in 7 generations, we have new healthy patterns.
7 Black churches were set on fire since we've been here. We've already had such passionate and powerful struggles about white privilege and supremacy in this group. Tonight there is an African Grief Ceremony from Maladoma Somey, brought to us by Maria Owl. She lays an altar under the banner "Black Lives Matter'". Logs make a border and newspaper lines the floor beyond. 10 double sets of bolsters, cushions, and tissues. Toilet paper rolls. As many drummed and we all sang the repeated African chant, calling on the ancestors, folks would go to the grieving pillows before the altar and someone would go with them, always there were 2-- "I've got your back" we say. "I hear you. I'm with you."
I followed Jade up there, held her for a long time. I don't know who followed me. We cried, yelled, pounded, and our physical snotty grief filled the newspaper. Everyone sang the song, just 4 lines, ending in a gesture of release, arms flinging the energy out the door. It went on for 3 hours. Finally 4 volunteers, all Black, changed into sheets and gathered all the snot and newspapers, all the grief, and buried it in the garden, lined with cedar. It took a long time. We kept drumming and singing to thank them, and we made up a big bed for them, and when they returned, they lay down and we brushed them with cedar, swaying on ancient feet, exhausted and filled with gratitude and something else. The depth of love, the height of inspiration, grounded in grief and community. We re-established the now-diminished realms of Grief and Praise in our current white/American culture.
To Shift to a Gaian identity is one focuses of this work. We belong to each other to the extent that we can accept each others' differences.
There are 4 dimensions to the crisis we now face:
1. Carrying Capacity- Destruction of the life support systems that permit us to continue. Understanding how this failure works, and that it did in all the civilizations prior to ours'.
2. Exhaustion of resources for future civilizations- All fossil and mineral resources are going to be used up. There will be no more Iron Age. No more nuclear age. No more industrial activity possible.
3. Loss of Biodiversity- these are threatened by #1. You lose life forms, there is habitat loss and contamination. This 6th great mass-extinction, The Great Unravelling, unravels complex systems and you lose complexity of life forms, including the extrememly complex life form that's developed consciousness and the capacity for self-reflexivity.
4. The loss of our oxygen capacity- Plankton in the oceans AND the forests' trees. This is happening very quickly and changing the weather. Over 40% of the plankton is gone. If it really goes, we'll only have a planet capable of supporting anaerobic life forms.
Let this drop from your brain to your heart and your gut.
We need to Re-Valorize Anger in the Truth Mandala. Anger= a longing for justice. A yearning to wake people up to conscious participation. join us!
A big problem with patriarchy is that anger is forbidden (esp. in women). Anger is seem as shameful, evil, bad. Feminist thinkers have reclaimed anger as a healthy response. it is NOT malice or hatred or ill will. It's about wanting to repair, to create or strengthen relationship, rather than rupture it.
It's a passion for justice, a "How dare you?!" It's good for your circulation. Gets you out of bed in the morning. Hatred is cold. Anger is heat: "listen to me!" It's alive.
Deep Time —
Living proof of the fact that if you let the disturbance, the anguish in, it brings a deep reward. For Joanna, it was about radiation from nuclear waste.
The one-way arrow of time booby-traps the nuclear age. We say "the past is done. The future is an abstraction. The now is the only place we have power." Market share and profits are only NOW; they cannot listen to the triple bottom line, which includes sustainability, but market forces speed up time. Wealth sloshes around the planet. "Hurry sickness" is wrecking our physical, psychological, social and mental health.
Open sentence: What does it feel like to be always in a hurry?
Damn! This computer is so slow! i could almost breathe a full breath before this fucker booted up! Hurry!
The world is so much slower.
But life has a rhythm; it's just not our modern day human rhythm.
Experiment with and find the range of rhythms you can move to. We don't even realize the pressure on us of the tempo of time. All the hurried mothers--kids need time.
We break our relationship to the past and the future. Rd "The Broken Connection" by Robert J. Lifton about psychic numbing. This produces shock in your heart-mind, and you freeze. We split the atom and released the strongest binding force in the universe, and since then, we've become UNGLUED.
In our time, because of technology and our growth economy, we've undertaken actions for which the consequences last forever:
Radioactive Contamination– the half life of depleted uranium, which we even use in the tails of our airplanes for weight, and in all wars now, is 4.5 billion years! It remains hazardous for that long! That's the whole time of our planet's existence. It's mythic. The karma, the consequences of our actions lasts forever. Also, Fracking. Injecting chemicals that are toxic to life into the only fresh water that we have or will ever have. This water is for all our time on our planet. And we don't know how to take those chemicals out!
also, Genetic Modification– New life forms are a very hit-or-miss operation. Once we do that, there's no taking it back. Also, Climate disruption, Extinctions, etc. (the sublime anxieties)
Because of this, the future isn't far away anymore, and because in our notions, there's a symmetry between the past and the future, it's as if, in our very choice-making capacity, they are Right Here.
The Study-Action Groups in Joanna's life changed her life. Don't leave it to the experts! Use people from all walks of life, all kinds of intelligence.
Work this on your right brain, on the dream level, because of the mythic nature of it all. This is how the ancestors reach us, in our dreams and in our moral anguish. Joanna says she doesn't do grief work just to be cathartic and purge us, but to OPEN US UP to what we can learn from ancestors, critters, the future, and the world.
My ancestors are in the shape of my cheekbones, the length of my neck, and this crazy white skin. The past and the future are wired into us. Right now are are all the same generation, cos we're alive right now. And this generation is very weak-- being distracted and exhausted, and made stupid, so we need those other generations, but they need our breath, our mouths, our voices, because we have access to those powers right now, and they don't have access, except through us.
When you can be present to all 3 times at once, the Tibetan Buddhists say that is the 4th time, which includes them all. We bring those present to our moral imaginations.. (I cuddle with Jaq (Vietnamese), Jade (Anasazi), and EdWord (Black) on the couch, and we love and cuddle and touch to blur those terrible lines.
We do The 7th generation/Ancestor (activist) dyads. (for the first time ever, i was the 7th generation and got to speak to the ancestor/activist. I like it better when i get to tell the story of this time. I am a superb storyteller. This is my gift from my own ancestors; I commit myself to this gift.)
The Holographic Universe- How one part reflects the whole. I am an open system; the world is an open system. Once you get away from a one-way view of reality and into recursive and reflexive systems, you see that the whole is reflected in the parts of the whole. "Recursive" is how you affect your world and how it affects you. Stan Groff proved that the experience of being born influences us by stamping capacities and inclinations of our minds to life. He found that in altered states, using LSD and holotropic breathwork, information surfaces that the subjects could not have acquired in their lives. It's stuff about the universe that's coded into us. So, we are part of the universe, but we also hold the universe within us. Thich Nhat Han writes about how The journey of the universe is in us. " Remember being rock, being gas. Firestorms in outer space manifest in you, and grass and chrysanthemums. The infinitely large is present in my tiny body. Measure time from the non-beginning to the never-ending". (The Flower Garland Sutra) Buddah says we can be in one moment and in all 3 at once.
Just before dinner, Joanna takes us out to the basketball court for the Being Death exercise, not found in any books. It's a surprise, because it needs to be.
Look across the huge circle and connect with the person facing you on the other side. You will be their death and they will be yours'. First, you make eye contact. Then, you meet each other. Then you interact. In silence.
Finally, you sit down and prepare to die. I was with Allison, gorgeous, young, queer angel. I was a clown throughout, honking her nose, switching shoes, drawing in chalk, watching bees in the blackberry blossoms, and sniffing each other. She cried and laughed through the whole thing, taking it way more seriously than i could.
I did it like i do everything. Fast and skimming the surface. Moving too quickly to go too deeply. Cracking others up. That's a good way, and it's my way. I don't give death like I give sex. for the other. This one was for me. I didn't feel like her death; i just felt her as my own. And i had to disarm her, make her like me. I took death and shaped it to my desire. As her clown, i took charge, set the pace and the tone, and she followed. Like with sex, and so much else in my life, i don't open as much as i manage. And i really do plan to manage my own death. To play with it; it is MINE.
Tonight, we had sex workshops at dinner, and then cuddle puddles, and finally did The Cradling in the big room: I had Jo, who is twice as heavy as me. We lifted each other's arms and legs and head, and then whispered messages into each others' ears.
Then sang kirtan to Joanna "Thank you for all you do and for bringing us together..." Totally spontaneous, and then we danced. They are still dancing.
The 4th of July. I send a greeting to my people partying and blowing shit up back home.
Why Are We Here? What are our goals? Joanna asks how we are doing in our spiral of our time together. This work includes many facets —
To sharpen our perceptions of the unraveling, and the transition to a life-sustaining society.
1. To understand — cognitively and psychologically, spiritually and perceptually —The Great Turning. To participate in The Great Turning, Deep Ecology, Living Systems Theory, and understanding current evidence of the destruction of the unraveling.
2. To enter into spiritual practices that are drawn from many traditions, including Buddhism.
3.To play together — Interactive practices, processes, exercises, rituals, collaborative work, ceremonies, dyads.
4. To build strong, lasting connections with sibling warriors for survival of life on earth that will provide support for breakdown, collapse, and political repression.
5. To review our lives, reflect on our gifts, and clarify our motivations and intentions for taking part in The Great Turning.
The spiral is the shape of the overall experience, but it's also a fractal that reflects the movement of the soul in this experience. Gratitude makes us glad to be here. We claim our gifts, and the gift of life itself. Then, we see how our wounds can make us more effective; we go beyond self-victimization and see the power of going beyond our limitations. Our hearts break open to the beauty and suffering of life, and we get that magnificent paradox that makes us both so joyful and so sad (like my experience of the Elm Dance) Magnificent paradox.
Every open system is a whole. That means that when parts come together — molecules to make a cell, individuals to make a family, families to make a nation, something is there that wasn't there before. (The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.)
Emergent Properties happen. Synergy happens.
Ex: oxygen + hydrogen= water. Who cd predict that something abrasive and something explosive could make water? Where does that come from? How does it happen? So, don't bother waiting till you have a clear ad confident sense of what you're gonna do. We can't know when we put our energies together what new emergent properties will come. Each step changes what we can see. Just TRY. Here is evidence from the universe to inspire us.
Each system is self organizing and it does what it does and has its shape because of its own dynamic nature. It is self regulating. Self correcting. (Joanna speaks; we cuddle on the couch)
Flow is matter, energy, information. A system is a knot, sustained by what flows through it. Elements of change are a constant flow. What's amazing is that with the constant flow through, the system can be homeostatic and stay reasonably the same. What's flowing through you at the moment?
And, through it all, we keep our shape, like a flame, by burning. By burning, we keep our balance. Balancing requires an awareness, which is a function of bringing in news and results of what i just did. Feedback causes mindfullness and change in awareness. Pain is a feedback. Feedback is when yr aware of yr own actions. They feed back to you.
Open systems don't need orders from the outside. An open system cannot stay in balance if the mind is located outside the natural world, like in god or in leaders. It transcends god, and Descartes.
Our truth may be "I don't know", but the system will know.
That's why corporate capitalism is unsustainable. It externalizes cost, and thus refuse feedback. It grows no matter what, blind to limits. And it only grows one thing: their own profit. When one variable trumps all others, that's tyranny.
Sir James Lovelock was hired by NASA to find life on Mars. He asked how would we know on Mars that life existed on Earth? He saw the self-organization of this active balancing system of nature on earth, and called it Gaia Theory. Each is chaos finding balance all the time. We all are.
This is dynamic equilibrium. It's like riding a bike. If you stay still, you fall over. You've got to maintain balance by constantly moving all the time. We make micro-adjustments, negative feedback maintains balance.
All systems change. Dynamic equilibrium has certain codes. We self-regulate our temperature to keep at 98.6. The invariances around which we organize evolve. Open systems evolve. Any learning actually changes the patterns and codes by which we make sense and see the world. Industrial society teaches that we are separate. We need to unlearn and re-wild. We can change the very codes by which we make meaning.
ex: I'm formed in a culture with 2 pronouns. I get the feedback from trans-folks and about "they", and i get the correction. I observe how I want to argue about grammatical correctness. Change isn't easy.
Negative feedback is about balancing — it's a message that says No, we're not deviating. Positive feedback is a need for change; it says Yes, we are deviating. From sub-atomic to highly complex, we are all wholes, but we're also part of a larger whole. We are subsystems to a larger system.
Information comes in from the world around us through sensory data. Behaviorism believes stimulus causes response- Pavlov's dog salivates at the bell, anticipating food. But systems theory says, no —We don't respond in those terms. We respond in terms of how we understand the stimulus. Perception + code. We add these 2 steps to the bare stimulus. The ruts and grooves of our inner world condition by rewards and expectations of our past experiences. This is where we CHOOSE. At a certain level of complexity, rewards and punishments don't work anymore. We see trajectories in the simplest choices we make. This is the nature of self-reflexivity, which we have because of the complexity of our neurological systems. We're able to imagine a variety of choices. We can change the karma by inserting choice with a purpose. We can set a new purpose; both individuals and cultures can do this.
It's comfortable when the data coming in matches our codes. So the Amerikan way of like keeps going and is "not negotiable". We can keep burning coal. But now, new data is coming in. We can't. We go to great extremes to block the information flows. When the information breaks through, we need to find another code to help us understand. Exploratory self-reorganization happens all the time through evolution. The point where what you believed in is taken away.
Ex: Copernicus didn't match the code. It's so painful when you don't. We all don't match the code of our society any longer. It's like a dark night of the soul. So, part of the drive to understand white privilege is that.
Positive Disintegration: It's very acute in this time. We've been raised to succeed, and so we go to college to be successful and independent, and then we go into debt, and then into wage slavery to pay. Our old ways of thinking are all ground up and we need each other hugely because WE’RE MOLTING. We have to drop the shell that told us we were a good person. When the feedback that comes in matches our expectations, negative feedback is reestablished.
Are we ready to tolerate pain? Can we change?
350.org got thousands of people to be arrested and it did nothing to influence Congress, which was their plan. It didn't work, so they moved away from that and into divestment campaigns.
Joanna would rather work with activists who are burnt out than with spiritual practitoners who are into feeling SERENE in this turbulent unraveling.
Premature Equanimity and Spiritual By-Passing —These are spiritual TRAPS. They tell woo-woo folks that if you’re in distress, it's cos of your attachments. Goddammit! I am attached! says Joanna. I'm attached to life continuing. I want to stir people up rather than calm them down.
That's why the spiritual concept of the Boddhisatva- that there is no individual salvation-
is so important to this work. Fuck serenity and personal comfort! We ARE interconnected. it feels good to know that, and to be dedicated to the welfare of all beings. We need to meditate. to dissolve ourselves regularly. This stillness teaches us.
Joanna: I am so moved that you are here, we have been together for years, the same love for our planet has been in our hearts, we have been together but just did not see each others’ faces, we have been hearing the voice, the same call.
Everyone in this room is being breathed by life, in this moment across Mendocino county, California, the continents, critters, birds, fish, in the sky's, people in taxi cabs, hospitals, supermarkets, beings being breathed by life. So we learn more and more in this time that the breath can teach us about the great web, that links us all, it is our wider nature, reminds us that life within us is so vast, an immensity of life.
What do we seek in our life, our intentions for our separate lives and our collective lives, in this moment in history and for this intensive? Intentions could be expressed in so many different ways. We want to remember who we really are, when we all could wake up to our true nature which is not separate from our life on earth, then the folly would diminish, the killing, destruction, misery, deliberate installation of fear and isolation.
And so it is wonderful to have your main task be something that makes you so happy. You do not have to whip yourself, mortify, starve yourself, the main thing is to find out that we are already home, already alive, and a living earth. It is an exquisite expression of the universe of incredible intricacy and interdependence, we are part of that and what we do together and our bodies, the way we think together can be a celebration of that, that moves us to learning more and more about who we are, our ecological self.
We brought something to put on the altar, or we find something in this land that expresses our deep sense of the sacredness of life, the desire to experience that sacredness.
Feelings free us from the need for having Solutions. If we learn to be present with the situation, to dare to take it in, then the response will come as we begin to name the despair. You don’t need the right answer, just a boundless heart. You don’t move on from the despair, but you learn to live with it, and as the tides of awareness are allowed to wash through you, the caring for the world grows deeper, and you learn to love it all.
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