All posts by Thanissara

Thanissara, from London, was a Buddhist nun for 12 years and teaches meditation retreats with her partner Kittisaro since 1992. Together they founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in 2000 in South Africa and co-authored Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism. She is also author of Time To Stand Up, A Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and several poetry books. Thanissara and Kittisaro recently launched Sacred Mountain Sangha, a California based Non Profit that hosts the Dharmapala Training, a two year, seven module training. www.dharmagiri.org www.sacredmountainsangha.org

Ghost Meditation

This is a poem that arose from grief post the August fire storms around our home, here in Northern California, and all fires storms, literal and metaphorical, around the world, where so much is being lost in these times. It honours the journey of grief as an initiation into the mysteries of the heart’s love.

Beneath distraction, anger, fear, dread, and paralysis of facing down the enormity of our times, lay the deeper river of grief that records our losses. Once felt and journey’d through, it’s possible for the clearer, warrior energy to rise that continues the fight for protection of a compassionate world that can offer fairness, justice, and safety to all.

May peace and wise action prevail at this time.

ghost meditation

There is a landscape
beneath the push, the pull
the taut face turned into a wall.

There is a distant sea
where the sail ship,
chartered by winds of loss,
carries your hurting soul…

Across
that buttoned down
defence of a hopeful future.

Here lives a musical box
of wailing hearts
waiting for your presence
to enter their memory hall.

Meet the ghosts…
lost to the fires of annihilation
the Covid dead roaming,
the psychotic war dogs unleashed.

They all wail at the empty feast
served in the valley of loss.

They surf the rip tide
where litanies
list the losses
echoing up from
lattice grids shut down
over the cargo of our long gone pieces.

While silent ash
of burnt forests
charred animals
birds dashed to earth,
billions of tiny workers of evolution
houses, cars, and life dreams …
Vanish

Algorithms march those confused
into the razor vortex
of truth is no more.

Fragments of countries,
families, friends,
swirl like ash storms
from fallen worlds
disintegrating our beleaguered minds.

The dark red sky at midday
announces,
‘you cannot live here anymore.’

We are now all queued refugees
from America’s strangeness.

In the gaping void
monsters rush in.

Float anyhow in your tear filled body.
Allow your aching chest,
gasping to hold
the karmic storehouse
of wounds,
to soften even more…

As you sail into shore
to meet the ancient siren
of ancestors grief,
your grief,
and all our grief
at this
nearing last station,
of our world’s end.

thanissara – sept 15th, 2020

I share this profound and haunting musical study on grief, composed by Nick Cave honouring the loss of his 15 year old son due to accidental death.

As California Burns, Showing Up For the Planet Inspired by Standing Rock

An address for Showing Up for the Planet, August 22, 2020, hosted by Marin Sangha, California, alongside Bay area green, economic, social justice, political initiatives.  

I wrote this,  updating  a previous blog on  Standing  Rock , before “Showing Up for the Planet” because I was not sure if I could read it myself  as an invited presenter. This is due to being on the edge of  the fires and an Evacuation Warning Zone here in Sonoma County.

Yesterday afternoon, I was drawn into the garden by an eerie orange light, but instead of delighting, I was sobered by the sun’s strange light refracted through smoke. Small particles of ash were falling, and for some reason, my mind went to ash from the Nazi death camps. I’m not sure why, but there’s some connection to that horror and the horror we’ve inflicted on Mother Nature, and because of that, the horror we have now inflicted on ourselves. I’m aware I’m now breathing in incinerated trees, foliage, creatures, small animals, maybe large ones too, redwoods, buildings, structures, cars, maybe even some people. I don’t know yet.

Yesterday, the morning was all business as usual, a universe of normality. By afternoon, suddenly scrambling to find batteries, passports, water bottles and essentials to pack the car. The car is still packed as we waited another night through, not sure whether we’ll be in our bed, or in car seats in a parking lot with sleeping bags for comfort.

Nothing feels particularly comfortable anymore. The hijack of the economy by oligarchs, the destruction of an already teetering political body by fascists, and the evolutionary hope pulled under by a devolving toxic QAnon and co-conspirator’s viral reptilian psychotic brain cult.

The daily sinking feeling of life unraveling under Covid, the tightening breath at disappeared mailboxes and organized Post Office chaos and horror at a private militia disappearing people off the streets of Portland and other American cities.

All the while from that frozen wilderness, the raw beauty of Greenland, the devastating news its ice sheet “has melted to the point of no return.” Reports from the unsung gentle Swiss glaciologist, scientist, and data nerd, Konrad Steffan, working, exploring, and who lived for long periods of time at their ice base established in 1990, to study the melting of this massive ice sheet. He noted, that such a tipping point, now reached, means a 5-metre sea rise within 50 – 100 years triggering mass migrations from costal cities. (There is other  interpretations of the data, this is just quoting him.)

Saturday, August 15th, 2020, as if the icy and watery spirits of Greenland themselves were claiming him to their own, Steffen fell 8 metres through a fresh melt pond, a melt not meant to melt. They have not found his body.

This all comes down to the body; bodies in a hierarchy of systemic importance. Which bodies get to survive, who is lost to the sea? Migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean, their calling card, an empty life jacket. Those in cages at the Mexican border, invisible under their space blankets. The sheer weight of the battle for basic rights, food, freedom, all the love invested, crushed under a knee to the neck, of BIPOC, Palestinians, reporters.

The White House 4 year barrage of sadistic cruelty, projected hate vomit, the misogynistic, homophobic oppressive demand for the this white plantation dominator choked cookie cutter 1850’s to 1950’s only allowed world view.

It all is breathed with specks of ash, with smoke from the fury of fire, the ancient redwoods, our ancestors, on the front lines, as our beautiful mother nature, grandmother earth absorbs the impact of our minds, burning, as said the Buddha, by the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.

It’s hard not to feel beleaguered. It’s hard to stay above the despair lurking beneath the exhausted emotions of outrage, fear, grief for what is being destroyed…

It’s getting harder to breathe. I can’t breathe, we can’t breathe. It’s not just oxygen, but space, lightness, hope, some sense of cohesive stability, of a future. As all is fast eroding, the crushing multiple crises converging in our bodies, minds, and hearts has heralded our new radical curriculum.

If you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, dispirited, deeply anxious, laden with tears that can’t quite spill, then please be gentle, kind, spacious, and pace yourself, our selves, accordingly. While all is urgent, we still have long haul ahead.

It’s hot, dry. I’m sweating

Mni Wiconi. Water is Life

Standing Rock was an act of resistance to stop the DAPL pipeline going through Sioux and Lakota lands, under the Missouri River, threatening 50 million people’s water down stream.

But it was also a training ground to resist the march of eco-destruction that is now triggering mass extinction and the collapse of human civilisation.

Seasoned activists taught new comers, like me, how to withstand militarised police and private militia, clean out tear gas from tender eyes, treat rubber bullets; how to huddle together, to move as one, arms locked, to circle and protect the vulnerable and those targeted first, Indigenous and People of Colour.

While a stretch from my safe world, it made perfect sense within the context of our dystopian future that is fast arriving. Interlocking my arms awkwardly while in a clumsy shuffle, a moment of prescience flashed, we will all likely find ourselves at a “Standing Rock” before too long.

Perhaps downtown on Main Street, at the shopping mall, outside a slaughterhouse, protecting a forest, at a fracking site, outside a bank, in any country, at any time, on any and at every street corner.

A few years after Standing Rock, at a climate protest in London, for moment I was back on those frozen lands of North Dakota. Of course, it made perfect sense. The spirit of Standing Rock was on the streets of London, in Extinction Rebellion, and was spreading around the globe through various forms of civil disobedience, protests, acts of challenge, and clear, brave words ringing out loud. The lines are drawn, internally and externally, and the fight for nature, for existence in all its astonishing diversity, is on. The question is what will be our response and contribution be?

Standing Rock brought everything to utter simplicity. There was no money to exchange or things to buy, none of our usual café’s and restaurants, no central heating or sheltered houses. It ran on sharing, on appreciation for a shaft of warm sunlight, a cup of hot tea, a shared meal, the warmth of human connection, and the passionate struggle for life, for justice, for a radically decolonised world.

Mni Wiconi

Water is Life.

It is an immense thing to try and understand that we are about to pull over the great planetary cauldron of life, bubbling for billions of years, and spill it into the dust. “How has it come to this?” as King Théoden said at Helm’s Deep, just before riding out, straight into the grotesque and overwhelming army of terrifying Orcs. The odds of success are low, the power of those who destroy is enormous; the seduction of money and the desire to control everything wired so profoundly into my brain with its insidious mechanisms that has made us all part of the machine.

However, there is another power that shone through with great brilliance at Standing Rock. The power of the spirit, of heart, of the collective, and of a learnt Indigenous history of what it means to survive centuries of extreme oppression while keeping the sacred fire alive.

Throughout, at Standing Rock, there was always the sacred fire, to sit by, to listen, to find solidarity with ancestors, the spirits, the elements, and with each other, often in a silence filled with pregnant presence.

Standing Rock was an Indigenous led resistance through the power of collective prayer and ceremony. Its context is the 500-year long impact of Colonialism on First Nation People, which inflicted one of the largest genocides in human history, alongside mass invasion of Native lands, a litany of broken treaties, legislated cultural oppression including removal of children through forced Christianised education at boarding “schools”, and the on-going marginalisation of Indigenous rights.

This generational domination was demonstrated by the State of North Dakota’s attempt to force, through intimidation and violence, the Sioux Tribe to accept what white society, a few dozen miles upriver at Bismarck city has rejected; the Dakota Pipeline through the heart of their community.

The assurance of Energy Transfers Partnership, who laid the pipeline, that there will not be an oil spill into the Missouri River, which the pipeline traverses, are empty given that that there have been hundreds, if not thousands of pipeline spills, including those from ETP pipelines.

In the fierce confrontation that unfolded, Standing Rock also became a learning ground for Energy Companies who ramped up their oppressive strategies with increasing violence and insidious tactics; it’s infiltration, surveillance and hacking of communications.

Standing Rock, one of the most unique resistance camps ever, was a front line against the most powerful and destructive corporation ever in the history of humankind, the Oil Industry. It was the first time, since the Battle of Little Bighorn in the 1800’s that Seven Lakota and Dakota Nations came together, alongside over 30 other Indigenous Nations.

This gathering of Indigenous Nations from all over Turtle Island (the Native name for America) has not been known in historical memory. The tribes represented were joined by First Nation peoples from South America, New Zealand, and beyond, and allies from around America and further afield. Over  two thousand military veterans who vowed to protect this courageous and determined community also joined up.

At the heart of this resistance is a commitment to break the cycles of violence born of a colonial mind-set, which feels entitled to extract for self-benefit regardless of the impact.

This mind-set is now the front line everywhere, within and around us all. Increasingly, our choices are influenced by a colonising, psychopathic corporate agenda extracting extortionate amounts of wealth for a tiny percentage of the global population (8 men now own as much as 50% of the world wealth, according to Oxfam).

But we can also make different choices, mindful choices that aid a necessary resistance upon which our survival now depends. Such a radically different path, demonstrated at Standing Rock, was the bedrock of an indigenous template for wise choice informed by seven Lakota values around which the community orientated itself.

These values speak to collective resistance as both an inner training as well as guidelines for family, community, society, and business.

This is how I heard them.

  1. Prayer: Honour and respect the sacred within all life, which includes nature, the earth, the elements of fire, water, air, and those living beings that are not two legged. (The reductive term, animals, is not in indigenous language, instead the term ‘our relatives’ is used.) Purify the heart. Connect with ancestors, and the overall indwelling spirit of creation while aligning within community through ceremony. This involves ceremony as resistance, resistance as ceremony.

 

  1. Respect: Respect begins with deferential listening, and from that, a willingness to shift into new ways internally and behaviour externally. It means not pushing ego agendas and strategies. Instead be willing to listen to wise elders, children, to feedback, to what is needed for the overall good of the community.

 

  1. Compassion: Take care of one another. Be compassionate towards ones self, and to self and others when making mistakes. The stronger let the physically weaker go first, for example, at meals, the elders, women and children go first. As a practice, step aside from assuming entitlement due to race, gender, class, wealth, and instead tune into the needs of the marginalised and vulnerable.

 

  1. Honesty: Be true and authentic with each other, while being self honest about our conditioning and how that plays out in ways that generate harm, even subtly, to others and the environment.

 

  1. Generosity: Put in more than you take out. Generosity is not just sharing physical goods, but is essential to generating sustainable life for all. It is the direct opposite of colonisation, which is based in domination and ownership at the expense of others.

 

  1. Humility: Be grounded in your own being, while checking your expectations of others and what is around you. Hold off from pushing your agenda, particularly if it is dominating the space with “I have a better way” or “My idea is best.” Be sensitive to internalised colonised conditioning, and be willing to own it.

 

  1. Wisdom: We all carry wisdom within us, but within the context of Indigenous or Elder wisdom spaces, listen and be guided by the understandings offered. Resist an “extractive” mind-set, or cultural appropriation of what is not offered. Be respectful of elders and learn to listen to all voices, even those you don’t agree with.

Bring it Home!

Not everyone could get to Standing Rock, and not everyone at Standing Rock could go on the front lines. But every one of us must now pay heed to what unfolded there, because Standing Rock is now our part of our strategy to ensure a liveable planet for future generations.

We are on a precipice and the lights are going out. We are losing the Arctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the great forests, most wild life, and we are being threatened by a craven political and corporate agenda that cares for no one, except its own profit. Those who crave money will find out soon that they cannot eat their money. But, as said by the Elders, those at Standing Rock stand for them too, and for their children and their grandchildren.

At the heart of this sacred, prayerful and ceremonial resistance at Standing Rock is a commitment to complete non-violence.

My understanding of this, from what I witnessed, heard, and experienced, is that there is an invitation to align with a deeper power. This power, articulated as guidance of ancestors, forces of nature, and the overall guiding intelligence of the Great Spirit, that pulses within us.

At Standing Rock, the heart was stripped down to its essential rawness. In place of socialisation strategies, what arose was strength of authenticity, of sharing, of camaraderie, and a wonder at the resilience of human beings rising up.

Here’s what I heard from an Indigenous man who is a Water Protector and leader of the heart and spirit.

What should be remembered about Standing Rock is that it began with children calling us to pray with them. Elders too. We must mean and do what we say. Fighting from violence disrespects the ancestors. The ancestors are fighting the battle also, and they need us to be here without violence. You must pray for yourself, to take out your pain and have love put in your heart instead. As we unify with nature, she will heal us. Respect Mother Earth.

He also said,

One day, at the height of the Iraq War, an Elder Grandmother prayed to the ancestors at the sacred fire to ask that the war stop. They responded by saying to her that her prayer was a good prayer, but it was not enough. That everyone must pray to stop war. We are at a precipice. Everyone must now pray.

Water is Life.

This meme is the underlying stream of consciousness at Standing Rock. The pipeline threatens the clear and beautiful waters of the Missouri River.

Every morning, as day broke with its icy chill, the pre-dawn circle around the sacred fire, buoyed by shared wisdom from Elders and water protectors, enacted a ceremonial and collective walk to the frozen bank of the river.

There, offerings are made. Sometimes we saw formations of geese fly across the limpid snow grey sky over the still glass waters and sometimes we felt spirit of the Missouri respond. It was felt as a subtle jubilant uplift within the heart. This earth is alive and she feels our intentions, our actions, and our hearts. The evocative experience of this living prayer was an invitation for us all to reclaim a sacred relationship to water, air, earth, fire, and to be attentive to our indwelling consciousness.

Everyday we use water. We depend on it for life, and yet we entirely take it for granted. One late afternoon, a woman spoke at the sacred circle fire. She had come from Flint, Michigan to join forces. She spoke of poisoned water in her city, of people drinking and having their teeth dissolve, of people getting sick, dying, and of her own infertility and pain at not being able to mother children due to the poisoned water.

Standing Rock is not just about Standing Rock. It is about everywhere. It’s about our struggle to reclaim the sacredness of water, of the elements, and of Grandmother Earth.

It speaks to our need to reconnect with each other in more direct, generous, authentic and respectful ways, and it speaks to our true spirit, which seeks to release from the mechanistic, disassociated, drudgery of a de-sacralised life by undertaking acts of loving service and sacrifice. We do this for all of us.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse asked people of faith to come together at Standing Rock in prayer and ceremony. To do so can help avert our catastrophe.

We must continue to honour his request.

Standing Rock and its blazing heart lives on, through the myriad, potent seeds planted long ago, as I was told, by ancestors of that very land who knew these times would come. The seeds are now fast growing as collective resistance. The Indigenous People are showing the way, as have many oppressed people throughout history, and for this, words of gratitude seem paltry.

The gift of Standing Rock bequeathed a clarified, strong, heart burning with a light of commitment and passion in the face of such wanton destruction, hate, and ignorance. This then, is our offering of gratitude. To pick up that flame of hope, and to carry it long into the shadowy night that is fast circling us all.

I want to finish by returning to Greenland, with a true story from my Danish friend. To help us consider perhaps, not only ‘what to do’ but where we ‘do’ from.

There was a man in the early 1900’s, he was half Danish and half Inuit, an anthropologist, who spent long periods of time with the Inuit First Nation People’s of Greenland.

One day, out on the ice, with a hunting group, they cornered a large polar bear. As the man crept forward and the polar bear, knowing he was about to be killed, he suddenly lifted his front paws and smashed them on the ice.

The ice broke and both the polar bear and the explorer found themselves suddenly thrust into freezing water. Immediately the bear and the man recoiled from each other, even as they were rapidly freezing to death. However, the urgency of survival turned them back toward each other. The man later recorded that looking in each others’ eyes in a moment of intense intimacy, the sense of ‘man’ and ‘bear’ dropped away, there was only one soul looking back at another.

They both moved toward each other, as the rest of the hunting party hauled them up and out. Immediately the bear and the man ran in opposite directions.

When I heard this story, what I understood, is this is where we are now. Struggling to survive against increasingly devastating odds. How then, are we going to see ourselves, this world, and each other and how will that seeing inform what we do?

Kittisaro’s Message to High School Students, Teachers & Parents.

A few weeks ago, Kittisaro’s former high school Baylor School in Chattanooga Tennessee sent an email asking if he could address the student body in these Coronavirus times. Kittisaro has a long history with Baylor alongside his two brothers, who are all held in high esteem for their many academic and athletic successes.

However, when Kittisaro returned to his home town as a Buddhist monk in the 1980’s, there was uncertainty how his old beloved community would react. The headmaster, Herb Barks, (author of The Magic Bridge and brother of Rumi translator and author Coleman Barks), was himself just beginning to enter into an inner practice of meditation and silent listening, so Kittisaro’s appearance felt timely.

Herb didn’t hesitate to invite Kittisaro, with shaven head and robe, to talk to the Student Body of about a thousand students. As news spread, a local powerful donor called Herb in his office. “Herb, if you let that Buddhist monk speak at the school, I’m going to withdraw my three million dollar donation for the new chapel.” “That’s OK“, replied Herb. “You can do that, but what’s more, you should come listen to this boy, you might learn something.”

So now, many decades on, Kittisaro still speaks from time to time to his old school. This may also be timely, not only for students, teachers and parents, but for us all.

 

MESSAGE TO PARENTS & TEACHERS

Do you have any general advice for people of all ages in all areas of the country and the world at this time?

What I said to the Baylor students (see below) is relevant for everyone. They are not just words for young people at a school in Tennessee. I’m encouraging myself in the same way.

This is an intense time of massive transition – a global confrontation with mortality – that is not easy to bear. Multiple interconnected systems are collapsing, our normal routines have been abruptly stopped, and we face profound uncertainty individually and collectively. As we shelter in place at home, we need to be kind and patient with ourselves and each other, so that we can metabolize this new reality. To reflect on death, loss, and impermanence, is vitally important and deeply transformative. If we receive this challenging experience as a mysterious gift from the universe, and deeply contemplate it, we can discover a deeper abiding, an inner ground of clarity, compassion, serenity, and safety. This isn’t easy, but I believe it is the task that lays before us.

In a mythopoetic sense, the storylines of our culture and individual lives have been radically upended. The old world is gone and the new world has not come into focus. It’s disorienting and scary, an in-between place – a liminal space – where we most likely feel unmoored. Listen in to those uncomfortable feelings, and honor them. As the wise ones of old have taught, there is an important Heavenly Message here. The structures and patterns of life are fragile, uncertain, and impermanent. This Is the true ephemeral nature of the conditions of life – all that we take to be me and mine, internally and externally.  Wanting things to be different, creates more stress and panic. In mindfully recognizing, accepting, and honoring the changing nature of our lives, we can discover an inner ground of stability and resilience.

Before Covid-19 we were always going somewhere. As Charlotte Du Cann says, we’ve now been “thrown into intimacy with home” and “brought back to the hearth.” We have a chance to come home to ourselves. Many of us have been refugees from our own heart. The hearth is the fire place, the vital and creative center of the home dwelling. As we mindfully and patiently listen in to the various difficult feelings that have been evoked in this pandemic “lockdown” – being afraid, trapped, isolated, lost, hopeless, resentful, discouraged – we deepen our capacity to be real and human. As we listen inwardly, breathing with and through the various sensations and feelings, we realize that they naturally keep transmuting, shifting, and dissolving back into an unmoving awareness – ever listening, ever awake. The sacred hearth of the spirit is this timeless awareness, always here and now, underlying everything, and yet so easily overlooked when we get enchanted by the external circumstances of our lives always pushing us on to the next thing.

It is a time to rediscover the magic of pausing, listening, mindfulness, kindness, and empathy – the widening of awareness into compassion. It’s like we’re living through a Biblical event – a worldwide flood – or wandering through the wilderness together as we search for a Promised Land, a new trustworthy, beautiful, and safe home. It’s a spiritual pilgrimage, and however overwhelming and scary it gets, there’s an opportunity here, if we heed the message, to awaken to precious timeless truths hidden right here in our own hearts, revealing deeper sources of strength, stability, belonging, and security that we’ve overlooked. The sacred ground is right here, and cherishing that attitude portends the dawning of a new beautiful world.

Seniors, perhaps, have lost the most as the shelter in place order has caused the closing of the campus for the rest of the year. How do you think you would have felt had something like this happened during your senior year at Baylor? What advice might you give our seniors?

If this had happened to me in my last year at Baylor, I would have been upset and frustrated. It’s a great loss not being able to be with your classmates for the final months of your senior year: the formal and informal times together with your friends savoring and celebrating your life at Baylor, the senior trip into the wilderness, and the graduation ceremonies marking the rite of passage as you embark into the hopeful potentialities of your future. But, this is how it is. Wanting it to be different just creates more pain and distress. Feel the feelings. You’re human. Share them with your friends (in whatever ways you can) and listen to yourselves and each other patiently and kindly without judgement. But don’t cling to them. Let the feelings come and go, and know that your graduation is mysteriously consecrated, blessed, and potentized by a worldwide corona phenomenon.

Corona means crown, and the Commencement ceremonies that you were preparing for, signify a new beginning, a threshold marking your entrance into a new territory of heightened responsibility. Christ had a crown of thorns. There’s no resurrection without a crucifixion. When suffering, hardship, disappointment, and adversity is respected, profoundly received, and contemplated, it mysteriously reveals a new beginning, a truly fresh start, and an end of suffering. It might not be what you want to hear. It’s counterintuitive, but all the saints and sages of old – and many of our heroes too – have realized this eternal truth.

The future is for those who can adapt. It’s easier to be agile and let go when you are young. As Dr. Rick Hanson says, “When everything falls down around you, you’re left with what’s inside you.” Don’t be afraid to feel the turmoil, if that’s what is happening. As you patiently tend to your inner world, there’s a wondrous alchemy that takes place. You can cultivate a resilient mindset that is not easily overwhelmed, an unshakeable core of well-being.

This is work. It takes practice to cultivate resilient well-being in the midst of turbulence. You can do it. My good friend Dr. Herb Barks, the visionary former headmaster of Baylor, told me that education should include 3 things: silence, wilderness, and community. In moments of silence, we give ourselves the opportunity to listen and bless the inner world with careful attention, infusing the various sensations of the body, thoughts, and emotions, with awareness and wise reflection. As we gain skill, we find an inner steadiness and appreciate the simple joys of being alive.

Although you won’t be able to join your friends in the wilderness for the senior trip this year, you can walk outside and appreciate that Mother Earth offers you each and every breath from her green trees, sustaining your life. All the food that nourishes every cell in your body comes from her fertile soil and life-giving waters. Everything we own and wear comes from Mother Earth, and returns to her. Mother Earth is our root support and only home. But, we’re not honoring her carefully enough.

As silent listening and appreciative awareness deepens and widens, it includes Mother Earth and all our fellow beings. Contemplation reveals that our life is deeply interwoven with all things and all creatures. We literally would not be here without our precious planet, ancestors, and parents. In times like this we realize we need each other. We are in this together. We are part of a wider community. How can we serve this community of interbeing?

In times of crisis like this, as we shelter in place, consciously choose the most precious principles you want to embody and become. Let them be your compass and guide, so that no matter how bad it gets, you preserve your integrity. If we all do this, helping each other, we will get through this time, and the new post Covid-19 world will be a beautiful place to live.

Can you offer any encouragement or positive thoughts about our future, post-coronavirus?

In this in-between time, the old world collapsing, and the new world unknown, we have a critical choice. Do we recreate the old story of the self-centered mind, intent on acquisition, domination, and control that we have seen playing out in so much of the pre-coronavirus world? Or, do we heed the powerful shock from mother nature and listen deeply to her message. We must learn from this. The seemingly insignificant and earthbound caterpillar, eating everything that’s green, suddenly stops, hangs upside down, and spins a cocoon. In that self-imposed isolation, deeply digesting and metabolizing all that is within, there is a wondrous and unexpected transformation into the vibrant color, vitality, and flight of a butterfly. Psyche is the Greek word for butterfly. May this sheltering in place be a conscious cocoon, allowing for an urgently needed transformation of our personal and collective soul.

We have treasures within us, but they are forgotten when we’re too busy going somewhere, imagining that all the good stuff is out there, somewhere else.

A very important teacher in my monastic training, who’s been a huge inspiration in my life for the last 40 years, is Chinese Buddhist monk Master Hsuan Hua. Through all the ups and downs in the many different cultures, geographies, and life situations I’ve encountered – some of which have been deeply challenging – his verse has been a guiding light.

            All living beings are my family.
            The universe is my body.
            All of space is my university.
            My nature is empty and formless.
            Kindness, compassion, joy, and giving are my way.
                                                                        — Master Hsuan Hua

 

Kittisaro, May 7th, 2020Also published here in the Baylor site.

Kittisaro - head shot copy

 


 

MESSAGE TO BAYLOR STUDENTS

Hello Guys. How are you doing? This corona virus has really turned the rhythm and shape of our lives upside down. My good friend Tim Williams just wrote me and asked if I would offer a few words for you, the Baylor students.

I hope you and your families are staying well. However, this is a challenging time where a lot of our fellow human are not well. Quite a few of our friends, people near and far and in the world around, are ill and facing all sorts of difficulties, anxieties, and fears about the future. I’d like to encourage you today not to judge or be harsh with yourself for any feelings and reactions you are experiencing, but to take this opportunity to be kinder to yourself and others. Welcome all these feelings and uncertainties. Listen into them. Listen to this moment.

Sheltering in place. How are we sheltering in place? Where is true shelter? I know that many of you, and me too, have seen our plans and expectations upended. I have a dear young family member, like you, who was travelling abroad, but then was suddenly stopped. She had to come home. Her exciting summer job, all lined up, was put on indefinite hold because of this unexpected disruption of all the norms of our life. Naturally she felt sad and a sense of loss.

How are you doing with the loss of your normal routines? The disappointment of not being able to have certain events, not being physically together with your friends and colleagues, your teams and activities, your classes and vacations, and the social gatherings where you can celebrate.

I encourage you to remember that we are not the first ones to have the routines of our life upended. The structures and patterns of life are fragile. They are uncertain. Many peoples around the world have lives that are totally disrupted by wars and natural disasters. This is not the first pandemic or sickness that has swept over societies. About 100 years ago during the flu pandemic tens of millions were stricken sick and died.

In the midst of this corona virus pandemic, there is a lot of political polarity, conflicting views, and confusion. But on the human level, I encourage us to take this opportunity to reflect on what’s important. With sheltering in place, rather than just seeing it as just something that is imposed upon us, a great loss, reflect on the gift that we make to one another when we are patient, relax, and align with this policy, which is helping mitigate and slow the surge of infections. Even though we might not be worried about getting sick ourselves, as we stay at home, practicing physical distancing and maintaining care around our interactions, we are making an offering to protect those who are more vulnerable – perhaps protecting your parents or grandparents, and those of us who are more immunodeficient or have weaknesses or underlying conditions that make someone, you likely don’t know,  more susceptible to being really stricken by this COVID-19.

I suspect many of the people you and I have admired in our lives, in history or around us, have faced challenges and hardships, things not going the way they wanted. But in the midst of a real challenge, they persevered. Through patience, wise reflection, and beginning again, they discovered qualities, beautiful noble human qualities that are forged within the hardship, within challenge, within the unexpected.

Many great wisdom traditions see challenges like these as heavenly messengers that convey important truths from a deeper dimension of this mysterious journey we call life. The external forms of our lives are very transient, very fragile, and very changeable. All of us at some point or other, will encounter the ageing process, sickness, and death – the dying of this body, the dying and fading away of forms we’ve loved, of circumstances, of various phases of our life.

To reflect on this uncertain nature of our life is important. If we listen to this message, it reminds us that what seems reliable – our strength, our vitality, things unfolding the way we expect them to be – is impermanent. If we just hold on and want things to be a certain way, then when they are gone, we get rocked and shaken. We get distressed. But those very feelings, those very reactions, also are a significant message. They help us see, “Wow, I’m suffering because I wish things were different. But things are this way.”

Sometimes we can’t change the outer circumstance, but we can change our responses. In being able to let things be the way they are – relax into them, breathe into the sensations of now – we can discover something deeper, something enduring that’s not affected by uncertainty. The school year is not unfolding the way we thought. Our normal activities, going around doing this and that, meeting with our friends, are gone. But what is still here? This quality of heart, this quality of presence, remains. Why is this heavenly message something precious? Sometimes in being so attached to all the external activities, we miss what makes them meaningful and real. What is witnessing, responding, and experiencing our lives? Have we ever looked at that?

May this shelter in place be a time of discovering awareness, your own heart and its inner silent listening. This is the core of your being where you touch into stillness, presence, and peace. These deeper, more mysterious dimensions of yourself, are places where sometimes there are no words. But we can listen in, especially when we pause. While there’s still a lot going on, all the online activity, maybe this time of being at home can also be an invitation to listen inward.

If we’re feeling isolated, missing our friends, also listen in to those feelings, discovering that we can bear the feelings and thoughts, “I’m lonely, I feel cut off. How long will this last, what about all my hopes and plans?” These longings, these disappointments and worries – can we breathe with them, listen into them? Awareness, which can inwardly observe as the thoughts and feelings come and go, remains peaceful.

As we shelter in place, we begin to discover a deeper shelter. We can discover that timeless awareness has a quality of quiet inner listening. Awareness can widen to include your body and how you feel. It can include your family members, listening in to your little community at home, including the frustrations and irritations with one another, which is natural. We can widen this inner listening, so our siblings, parents, pets, relatives, or whoever is with us sheltering in place, are all within unifying awareness. The whole world we experience is also within our awareness. We are not so much ALONE, but part of an ALL ONE-ness

We can also use this time to check in with friends. When we share with each other how we’re doing, then we see we are not the only ones struggling. I encourage you to expand your awareness, realizing that we’re in this together. As you develop this inner listening, you will experience a deeper connection to life, to friends, to all you meet. As you relax into being a bit more patient and at ease, it not only helps you, but it will help others to feel more relaxed.

Finally, I encourage us to honor Mother Nature. Let’s appreciate that we are all on this one Earth, sharing this one presence, one spirit, this one mysterious awareness that allows us to be conscious beings. Can we be open to the possibility that this disruption, while difficult, is also a heavenly messenger that is giving us a chance to appreciate what we have been given here.

May we touch this Earth lightly. May we treat one another well. May we learn to appreciate the simple things. One breath. One kind word. One kind deed.

We will get through this.

I’m grateful to have the chance to share a few thoughts with you today. I wish you well. May you take advantage of this opportunity to hear the whispering of deeper truths.

Blessings. Take care
Kittisaro (Randy Weinberg, Baylor Class 1970)  – April, 16th 2020 

Photo below:
Kittisaro returns to his old school as a Buddhist monk, early 1980’s

Baylor

Corona Virus: The Journey to In-Between

The thing that got interrupted had no business continuing. This virus, this is a god; that is not overstating things, and the gods are in the house, and god is having god’s way as god’s tend to do. Our obligation is to exercise a radical hospitality to this anarchic presence and to learn how to be undone by it. (SJ)

Its arrival was like a distant ship, a small spot on the horizon that belonged to other realms, not our shimmering shores. It took a while to slow down enough to read the whole word, to pronounce it. Coronavirus. Then abruptly, a flurry of hand washing, sanitizers, distancing and creeping unease as it dawned that this tsunami speeding toward us was aiming at all carefully laid plans. Suddenly, lives crashed. A rush to get home, stock food, toilet paper skirmishes, and then, just like that, a door slammed – lockdown.

The first waking morning, as the streets went quiet, really quiet, a ripple of anticipation and fear while feeling the tectonic plates of our hyper world shift beneath. The nether worlds started their ascent as notice was given. There will be increased pressure arriving into your personal and collective fault lines. Then the new curriculum of corona descended into bodies as the ancient door to the in-between was flung open.

We are in-between worlds. Our Icarus civilization suddenly plunged through the layers of our collapsing grasp. We became unmoored, out in the ocean, floating. I’m not sure what the raft looks like. Thrown from our speeding agendas onto our back, like an upturned porcupine, belly vulnerable. Even if we tried not to notice and started to stand upright, we are still sinking to our knees.

At first it was the old, the weak, then the famous, rich, powerful, the young … We consumed all info about it, got the narrative down trying to get this roving invisible thing pinned as each new study dismantled the last, until … Coronavirus has mutated into at least 30 different strains (JP)… Unabashed, it roves on.

In a heartbeat, we transitioned online, settled down in front of our computer screens reasserting some sense of control and normality. We’re just Zooming along, we can do it all online, look at us go, go, go … while in the nether regions, death counts mount. Ice rink morgues, sick friends, medics with mask bruises, exhausted tearful nurses, no PPE, and sobering stories unleashing anxiety waves washing over our citadel, reminding us how exposed we actually are.

It is a hard thing to tell a healthy and functional person who felt fine and well six days ago they may be dead in a day or two … I have never had more harrowing, more frequent, more brutally honest, more meaningful, more exhausting conversations in my life. Complete strangers open up to you in profound ways during such times and you can only hope both your expertise and your humanity serve them well.

After all the words are spoken, the decisions made, the medications drawn, the bed positioned, the tubes and drips and ventilators readied, there is a final stare. It is a stare of intention. It is a moment of humanity. It is a shared space, a hallowed space, the final moment of someone’s awareness, possibly forever.

It is a space where fear and hope mingle, where autonomy fades into trust, uncertainly into acceptance, and all they have left is placed firmly in your gloved hands. It’s brief, and you’re busy, and time is essential, but you find a few seconds to share this final breath. That stare lasts a moment. That stare lasts a lifetime. And the eyes stay with you. (JH)

This morning. How many days in are we? We lost count. What day of the week is it anyway? A question pops up. Who, anyhow, decided there are seven days with a name for each? The slipping feeling of a world held together by nouns that don’t mean much of anything. The vague suspicion of an authority that names things, that names mean we know everything. I never did quite trust that central command even though I crawl to its throne every day.

That’s not surprising, given the little boat of our naming is far out into the ocean of the infinite. There’s not much holding this whole thing together. The 12 miles of biosphere, where all life exists, the warm home buffer between our next breath and cold vast dark space. In all of this, it’s important to have some compassion for this brave, obsessive self, running around its labyrinth as it teeters on the edge, trying to buffer itself from falling through the cracks.

In the face of dying, what is the etiquette of relating to a time like now where we get to glimpse how utterly exhausted our acquisitive way of doing things has become. (SJ)

Look what it took to hold the mind’s architecture together, this world together, as these errant thought forms ever weave narratives of cohesion that all too soon shape shift to competitive dominance, even in this unraveling time. The driven-ness of it all has been so very endless. What then does it take to trust the unraveling, to soften and let open those old fault lines into a loosely cobbled psyche, shaped around purpose. And what constructs this purpose?

The severed buildings of commerce and war, the body abandoned, a lifetime holding at bay whirlpools of generational trauma. All has to lead to the inevitable immersion into the murky ocean beneath, where the turtles, sharks, and dolphins of our unconscious swim. Honed navigation of interior landscapes at least allows descent into the coldness of the water.

There’s something important here, in the nether regions of the shapeless. The dreams that bring their disturbed messages, like faded calling cards leaving scant impressions from our night roaming the Axis Mundi. In the morning light, we lay curled under blankets, courting nameless trepidation as day breaks and ahead seems about as real as that papery crumb of a virus. We can’t see this thing, yet the world shuddered to a halt on its command. Our disorientated self, woven into that world, shuddered along with it, and is now looking out, searching into the long horizon. Waiting for the Albatross to call us back to land.

To be uncertain is the medium of meditation, is the portal of now. Here, now, now, now, now, now… Where? Our new teacher and initiator sent us all home. Home to the hearth, to where the intimacy we seek and fear, waits. What about the home of our body? How is that going? Our long embodied story holding all primal epigenetic transmission in the cells, bones, hips, chest, and thighs. So, enter gently. Kindly. How is it now? What is felt now? Softening attention into feeling breath, experiencing breath calming this somehow deserted body.

The only truly effective medicine we have is Oxygen We blow it at high flow rates into people’s mouths and nostrils, a crutch to help the lungs that are struggling and staggering. And it’s in a shorter supply than I’d like Oxygen means something different in this new reality. We give oxygen. Everyone staying gets oxygen. Needs oxygen. (JH)

The frequent pauses at the unravelling have become port-of-calls for this lost-ness as attention falters on the future tense. Whatever lies beneath, the crocodiles in wait to pull me under, the familiar riptides I try to pull up from, sends repeated invitations. It’s time to unhook from that authority holding it all together. In this stepping down and unbinding from the creations of productivity, the rawness of the undoing lands. To feel what is felt in the nether regions is another kind of coming home, and its reward is relief. It is out-breath into “what is” with no pretence.

It is a home into inhaling, exhaling into awareness moving into the felt sense of our inner sensate landscape. The lungs, do they feel tight? Nature’s lungs are so tight. She can’t breathe. She is choking. Her lungs are chopped down. She is strangled by the millennia of our abandonment and she screams and weeps all the time now. So hard-core this teacher taking us to the far regions of our ending world, tasking us in this strangeness to feel the grief held in our lungs. It is a surrender of sorts, the weeping here, at the outer post of our togetherness.

Grief hallmarks the in-between and can truly open into the love we know, but forget. What else lives there, in our wilderness at the end of all naming? Soften inward along the pathway of the breath; breathing in and out experiencing body, calming the mental body, feeling body, physical body, relax and let the moored boat of your inner attention gently lift into the tide of your deeper being. Focus attention now on the flickering transiency, and see how all is unstable. Here dwell the dragons of dispassion, cessation, letting go, and giving back. Here we soften the grasp unto death.

He looks at us puzzled, somehow still not fully understanding. Esta muriendo senior. Es el fin. This is the end. He gets it. He’s stoic despite the tears. He’s strong. If this disease attacked character instead of lungs he would have a fighting chance. We set up a video call with his family. He says goodbye. They say they love him in a dozen different ways. He touches the screen. A digital handhold in a pandemic age. (JH)

Death demands our presence. The moment of death has arrived, when we know for sure, it was all a dream. Distill already the remnants of our poignant love-grief-I-love-you-for-always nectar and let it fill this wandering heart, so it knows what home truly is.

Breathe into being guided by awareness inwards. Traverse the crumbling worlds into the liminal aquifer of your soul. She is there. Present. Aware. She has things to say. Like, this Covid-19 thing has intelligence. Allowing spirit, breath, and awareness to suffuse each encoded energy center in my body, the virus feels real close. It is everywhere. It’s tightening my chest. The quieting down listens into tightness, feeling each precious breath now.

It’s time to lie down under a blanket, to give over to the ground so I can deepen into waves of slow breath through the mouth coursing gently up the body, from pelvis, belly, torso, heart, throat into the brain. Hold the breath for some moments, slowly release the breath and feel subtle pleasure sensations ventilate and unify, rewiring the nervous system. My body is a raft and she is the ocean, my medicine has something to do with dissolving all splits into her ground.

I’m floating in that ocean now, with the sound of silence, with no raft, no reference, no center, and no edge. Listening-feeling-knowing as all returns back, all is finding its residence in the primal essence of consciousness. We all came here naked. Love is here. We all belong here. I glimpse the black jaguar drinking the moon essence it loves as it reads messages from the spread of stars while the vast river ever flows on to the ocean.

Perhaps corona is in us all because somehow, maybe we brought it forth. Maybe we unwittingly summoned this invisible god. Perhaps we knew we had to be stopped and have the calcified armor sloughed off our hearts. We just didn’t know how to do it together.

We’ve been left to our own devices, but we’re not getting it straight, so we’re going to have to be defeated. The sooner we are defeated, the better for all concerned. (SJ)

There is a medicine that has been waiting since the beginning. The long patient exhale of love is here to defeat the narcissistic death cult of our psychotic paradigm that equates nature, time, life, and everything sacred with profit. As shadow kings offer up their poisons, hyenas laugh and madness is complete. More will unravel… It has just started, this time of dismemberment.

O Noble Friend, The time of death has now arrived.
All that you know yourself to be is dissolving.
The time of that which we call death has arrived.
You are about to be face to face with the Clear Light.
In this ego free state, all things are like the void and cloudless sky,
And the naked, spotless awareness is luminous and transparent.
Know yourself as that awareness and abide in that state. (BT)

A burial is needed, a reckoning and healing calls for the disease offered up. The volcano of wounds erupting through the cracks of our collective fault line. This ancient dominator mind plowing its wreckage into her soil is vomiting up its sickness. She can’t absorb it any more. It’s ours to transmute, this litany of violence and trauma from the severed connection, loss and loneliness. It’s hard to breathe under the weight of our intolerable separating out and the endless projected-transference-counter transference shadow drama of our addiction. At the confessional box of our collective soul, it all spews out.

May all that blesses and redeems have mercy on us at this hour and at the hour of our death.

No one living thing is more important than other living things; we are all equal. Let us not tamper with mother nature, because the day you are going to die, you Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, Mother Earth will claim you because you belong to her, your body is going to be buried in the earth, or thrown in the ocean, I appeal to the international community, never, ever tamper with Mother Nature. (MK)

This corona pause has gifted our world with a weighty question, what kind of future are we going to create? The intense pressure of Covid-19 is already catalyzing a reconfiguration of our global structures. The level of our collective consciousness will influence how much this restructure will commit to healing our separation from the natural world on which all lives depend.

Even if corona is the god that tips the scales in favor of overturning 5000 years of patriarchy, 500 years of colonialism and the wreckage of our foray into cannibalistic capitalism, which would be a tough job even for corona, we still have a vital part to play. Our curriculum is to see the places in our selves that collude with these old wounding stories, energizing their presence in the world, and to let that old story die.

This old story goes deep. The systems underwriting the sixth mass extinction we’ve hurtled into are subconsciously hard wired into our nervous and energy system at a cellular level. The internal narratives and core beliefs seeded by generational fear, lack, and the legacy of violence, empower our collective primary psychosis that perpetuates a profound break from embodiment as participatory beings within an en-souled, speaking, listening world.

The essential remedy therefore is freeing human consciousness from trans-generational dysfunctional and wounded conditioning that keeps us inwardly imprisoned. The voices of “not belonging,” “not good enough,” “can’t do,” constrict the fullness of our energy, undermining our ability to fully show up. The opportunity here is to step out of the old hardened bridles and shake off musty cloaks of fear, separation, and division.

This stepping out is fraught. We’ve seen the battle cries for freedom wrapped around flag, religious texts, nationalism, guns and a breath taking level of narcissistic rage. This is the inevitable shadow of the evolutionary arc into a more empathetic, collaborative vocation of shared service to recover, heal, and do what we can to re-establish a respect for the sacredness of nature and a very real understanding of lived interdependence.

In other words, we have work to do.

The message is simple.

First, how is your relationship with yourself, are you abusing your body?
Second, how is your relationship with others, are you promoting the spirit of oneness
Third, how is your relationship with the world of nature, how do you treat your environment?

There are some of the areas in the human world that we need to heal together. That need peace-making, the healing must be done urgently if we are to have good life on this planet earth. (MK)

Right now, corona has plunged us into the realms of the unknown. The full download, its impact, and our understanding of the strange landscapes we’ve landed into, are still unfolding. The trajectory of this process, as the data shows, tells us we are into a long journey. However much protest there is against the virus, the bravado of not wearing masks, or shaking hands in defiance, corona is not at the negotiating table. Instead it is here to demolish our human hubris. It is here as a master teacher. It is here to break set.

While corona is the purveyor of much suffering, it has given us needed time to contemplate fundamental and necessary changes we need to undertake. This is a shamanic journey we’ve entered, into dismemberment unto the gates of death. The Uranian gods of the underworld, Shiva, Kali, Yama, Hades Ala, African deity of Earth who holds the dead in her womb and Arawn, Celtic king of the Underworld, raised by Pluto conjunct Saturn, stalk our psyche, our body, bodies within corona hospital wards, the market place and city streets. They are the heavy weights whose job is to pull us into an abrupt harsh reckoning.

What is wrong with humanity, are we really normal, there must be something very wrong, it’s only the issue of traveling from the head to the heart. Listen to the heat, the heart is your creation, the heart is your creator, the heart is your ancestor, it is your great spirit.

Did you ever ask permission to walk the land? It is sacred land, did you ever say thank you mother? The moment I see Mother Nature the way I am describing, I will love her forever. I will begin to see myself in her. I have killed, I have caused pain on earth, I must go back and kneel down and ask for forgiveness, and begin to repair the wounds I have inflicted on the land.

This is my message that is coming form this monster illness, corona virus… Sit in circles around the world and contemplate this message delivered to us by Mother Nature. (MK)

There has to be humility in the face of this corona god and its ferocious gaze. It brings death and is collapsing business as usual. But, it also brings a great gift. We are being initiated, as co-participants, into the core matrix of unconstructed consciousness ever dreaming forth this universe. There, in the realms in-between, within the field of revelation and the inner temple of our collective soul, is the cauldron where the personal intersects the collective and the human becomes a conduit for this mysterious evolutionary impulse.

As we transition through the extreme contractions of an emergent world, the hope for that brighter future is now replaced with the injunction to be that future. We are to let die what no longer serves, here at the crossroad of our last chance on Earth.

The shaman is one whose final message is not death, but of radical rebirth and renewal. We are on schedule, and it is time to dream big, to dream beautiful, and to weave a matrix of an indestructible diamond-like womb of love for our new story to take flight.

Thanissara Mary Weinberg
Sebastopol, CA – April 27, 2020.

Many thanks to:
SJ – Stephen Jenkinson: Philosopher, Activist, Author
JP – Jerusalem Post, Study from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou
JH – Jason Hill – New York Presbyterian Hospital
BT – Verse inspired by the Bardo Thodol, Tibetan Book of the Dead
MK – Mandaza Kandemwa – Indigenous Healer, Conduit of Lion & Water Spirits, messenger of Mother Nature.

e2245c58527e8cf9cfc103bf0d41b211

A Dharma Voice for Animals

In support of the Nov 7th 2019 Dharma Voice for Animals benefit and educational day at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA.

My dear friend Andrew Harvey, talking about the multi-dimensional planetary crisis we are in, said “If there is one thing wakes you at night and breaks your heart, then get up the next day and do something about it.”

It’s many things of course; the wild fires sweeping across the globe, the collapse of our oceans, the devastating loss of wildlife and their habitat, the impact of extreme weather events on nearly all communities, and droughts that are destabilizing whole countries leading to mass migrations and wars; every piece of our dismembering world is a heartbreak.

However, if I was to focus on the one profound heartbreak, it has to be the way we treat animals, in particular the billions of animals caught in the truly hellish torture of agro-factory farms and their dystopian, heartless, mechanistic, violent practices. This is very challenging to talk about, because we have such a habit of orientating all experience, all dialogue, around the primacy of our human centric perspective, to the extent that we often don’t see the harm we cause other beings.

When it comes to the five great precepts, which essentially offer a training to do no harm self or other, the invitation in that training is to understand we live in a web of life and in a realm of cause and effect. The Buddha taught that the observance of the precepts offer, “immeasurable beings freedom from fear, hostility oppression.” In the same way, to those observing the precepts, the Buddha said we too, in time, will “experience immeasurable freedom from fear, hostility and oppression.”

animal-genocide2There are many lenses through which to regard our relationship with the animal kingdom, including reasons why we need to shift out of dependence on dairy and meat, for example, for health and for the planet. While all good and true, my own journey to a plant-based diet is in response to the terror, extreme pain, and torture of those innocents caught in the machinery of factory farms. Not just in factory farms, but all animals, fish and creatures subjugated to our human dominance, losing their right to life, control of their bodies, their sexual processes, their family, and freedom.

I’m sharing here my own reflections, how I think about this issue. I don’t intend to be “preachy” but to share my process into a deeper awakening beyond vegetarianism into giving up eggs, milk, and dairy products, which I found challenging.

For a long time, I was just unaware of the truth of dairy farming. It is really due to the activists, who go underground to film what actually goes on in the dairy industry that I was able to begin to make the shift. I have the deepest respect for these activists and their extraordinary bravery.

Even so, sometimes I would find myself reaching out in the super market, for “organic” cheeses and “organic” milk for my English cup of tea, to which I was addicted. So, I can’t honestly say that I just saw one undercover expose and that shifted me irrevocably. I feel some shame to even write this, how it took a longer time for me to renounce a product rooted in such extreme violence.

I had excuses. It’s hard getting vegan food traveling and working in Southern Africa, where I’ve worked for many decades. Or, it’s “organic”…. Or, we need to have probiotics in yoghurt. Or whatever. There was really no good excuse. Sometimes, I would walk up and down a supermarket aisle, struggling with myself, that pizza looked so good. My brain would disconnect, and my ethics would be muted, and I’d reach into the freezer and pull it out. As a meditator, I could feel the dissonance, but somehow, I still went through the check out.

So, I understand this involves an awakening journey. It’s not usually a clear-cut decision, but on the whole, is a process of steps along the way. One day though, the final shift came unexpectedly, like when I was 14 years old after I read my first book about yoga book and vegetarianism. From that day I became a vegetarian. Eventually, there was also a final day when the thread, keeping me attached to milk meant for a calf, finally severed.

It was in deep meditation process. I experienced an intelligence much more profound than myself. I felt it as Mother Nature. She made me aware of a sobering reality. This may not be the reality for you, but it is for me.

cow and picIt was a vision type transmission, a revelation of sorts. I understood that at a certain point of awakening, the implication being the point I was at, one is absolutely answerable for ones actions, decisions, and intentions. That is true all along of course, but before, there seemed to be some kind of buffer zone, a sort of deeper benevolent allowance of some kind; a kind of “benefit of the doubt,” that gave some slack for growing into a more awakened state.

It was clear that slack, a sort of gift of grace, was finished. I “saw” or felt all the animals whose lives I was implicated in taking. This wasn’t an ordinary state of consciousness, just a deep awareness and understanding. Further, I understood from then on, if any animal suffered, or had their life taken due to my actions, I would be karmically implicated and answerable to them. From that moment on, I gave up all dairy products and my beloved black and Darjeeling teas, became vegan and deepened a resolve to do what I could to help those beings, who are as my own family on some level, caught in a terrible predicament.

These days, we are in a much bigger picture, one where all harmful causes are ripening at lightening speed into a karmic maelstrom. We now absolutely know, that the assumption of our right to dominate nature and her myriad beings, is a root cause for the collapse of our living systems, and is heralding our possible extinction.

Shr FuMaster Hua, from whom I learnt the Kuan Yin Dharmas, said if you want to know why there are wars, listen to the sounds at the slaughterhouse; the sounds, smells, the agony of it all. He talked of the great dark cloud of karma from the killing of animals that is oppressing the planet. It’s all connected.

That’s our awakening reality. That we are all deeply connected, that the period of grace, where we could be unconscious for a little bit longer, has ended. Perhaps then, the message to me is now the message to all of us. The consequences of our actions are catapulting back to us at lightening speed. So we have to pay attention.

To meet this reality is now our task. Every decision and action has consequences. In the midst of such urgency, the teaching “we are here to awaken from the illusion of separation” must now be our daily contemplation. A contemplation, rooted in fierce compassion and expressed as dedicated action founded in harmlessness and in service of Mother Nature and her many children, whatever form they appear in.

Love, The Ultimate Touchstone

It is the hearts task to cross the chasm the mind builds.

— Sri Nisagardatta

It sounds rather cliche, but to state the obvious, the world is changing fast. Day-to-day everything we understand about ourselves and each other is being reconfigured, entrenching the feeling of groundlessness. Everything that was “out there” is now “in here” revealing that in the sphere of the mind, there are no boundaries.

While psychological boundaries are a basic mental health requirement, in reality, it seems that we are not just “selves’ but an inter-being experience through which awakening consciousness is seeing and knowing itself. A glimpse of this understanding shifts everything because eventually it inducts into the only real ground we can find, which is the heart itself with its listening, present, aware, receptive knowing.

As we go through a kind of shamanic dismemberment of the global ego-self, which has been in control over millennia, we are grappling with the loss of control as runaway climate change and environmental destruction threatens our collective survival. While all this is enormously impactful, turning us through an excruciating kaleidoscope of reactions and emotions, it feels there is a deeper evolutionary impulse operating here.

What is Truth? Truth is a dynamic unfolding, not a static thing that someone has written down. While there are undying truths, “hate is never overcome by hate, only by love. This is the eternal law,” as said the Buddha beautifully taught, can we also be agile and tune into the ever-new and present truth of this moment? Because so often we miss it when we filter what is before us through our preconceptions.

Where is freedom? This heart of knowing, as it taps the deeper flow of the living Dharma, the intuitive intelligence of Prajna-paramita, is quantum-like. Freed up and aligned with truth, its impulse is to dissolve the constructs the mind builds while at the same time unveiling the power of the hearts capacity for love.

How is it to Love? The small things, a bee powdering itself in the nectar of the flower, shows us something about love. That it is not a ‘me’ loving a ‘you’ so much (though that is definitely special), but more that love is the currency of life itself. All things ultimately depend on it.

It is our alignment with the deeper listening heart-spirit, with love, with a freed up view, that enables quantum shifts of understanding distilled from truths unfolding. This will guide us through and gift the courage we need to be in service of truth, of freedom, of love, as protectors of the Earth and her myriad beings.

heart cakra.jpg

Heart Chakra by Gloria Gypsy

A Brutal Year Ends as Extinction Rebellion Rises.

This year has been brutal. Specifically because it heralded a drastic state-shift, a tipping point and planetary crossing over thresholds that should not be passed. We have stumbled from the hope of sustainability to a deeply painful reality of rapid environmental dismemberment.

We’ve seen the shredding of democratic principles and processes, we’ve been horrified by a rise in fascism, dragging its ghosts from the 1930’s/40’s, and have been appalled and enraged as billionaires flaunt and force their lethal agendas, regardless of the cost. But most devastating is the eco destruction we can no longer escape or delegate to future times. In a blink of an eye, we suddenly crossed from the assumption of human civilisation’s unbridled bright future to the dawning realisation of our probable demise.

This psychological shock and unremitting assault is shattering. Our overly stressed deregulated nervous systems struggle to cope. On the one hand we experience a plethora of hot reactivity and outrage, on the other a frozen stupefied, bargaining disassociation. As the ground beneath dissolves with such velocity, it feels impossible to grapple with the enormity of the threat we face.

Part of me is doing every day tasks, shop, cook, get through emails, scheduling, turning up for teaching engagements, meetings, zoom calls, planning, trying not to use plastic, buying recycled Christmas cards, while the other half is screaming as I run down the high street, through supermarket aisles (in my imagination), shouting “Wake the F#!K up people.” In my everyday (real) transactions, I lean in to figure if others are also screaming inside.

This leapfrog into our encroaching dystopia, as it stalks our night dreams, rampages through the our day world, and tears apart our fragile cohesion, has made it hard to hold normal life together. I’ve found myself dragging, sometimes strangely lost, taking hours to do a simple task as my mind swirls searching for a some kind of secure landing, some kind of sense.

Everyday, I get stuck to the latest twists and turns while resolving to unstick myself. But it’s hard to avert ones gaze as rapid ice-cap-melt cascades into rising oceans, as catastrophic floods turn cities into black mould, and as an inferno raced 15 miles in 10 minutes levelling a small town, ironically called Paradise, just a few hours north of us.

With 60% of wild life gone, insects vanishing apace, daily despotic legislation poisoning yet another river, ocean, waterway, or killing some other kind of wildlife, or stealing more indigenous land, the true magnitude of our human ignorance is desolating. When the blue macaw parrot that inspired “Rio” was declared extinct this week, and when the crowning apocalyptic IPCC Report stated “we have 12 years” or go the way of that parrot, our hearts broke all over again.

Such bad news filled with sorrow, anguish and extraordinary trepidation at the colossal challenges ahead. Yet, underneath is also a calm, steady determination building apace each day. A clarity forged as pieces of the puzzle that form the systems we live within are unflinchingly dissected in our daily reads and viewing. We understand that the Wizard of Oz, pulling all those crazy-making levers, has been outed. Our fast learning curve is into the roots of our calamity. We have to get the vastness, depth, and fullness of the truth that our economic, social, religious, and political systems, built on imperialism, unregulated capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy have to be rapidly deconstructed for anything or anyone to survive.

So, is there any good news? Well, there’s no happy Hollywood ending here. Instead, this is a clarion call to the depth of our souls. It’s the moment to listen carefully into our spirit, to what is actually important here, and what stirs at the most profound level of our being. What is felt it in our bones. For that we have to adopt a fearlessness, a great courage that breaks through our timidity, the “should’s” and “should not” in order to re-prioritise and align with the sweeping changes needed.

Centuries of systemic conditioning and false narratives have to be abandoned. We have to strip down the layers to stand present, open, and real in the face of this great evolutionary initiation. We should not follow authorities just because they have positions of power, but tune instead into the voices that emerge from truth, from the unexpected. Such a voice, sounding clear over the waffling response of Cop24, is Sweden’s 15 year old Greta Thunberg

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. That people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.
— Greta Thunberg.

Voices from People of Colour, Indigenous, and women newly elected in Congress. From youth crashing into the halls of power asking for a Green New Deal . Voices at the heart of the chaos in France protesting the vast inequities spawned by decades of neoliberalism and predator capitalism that turned humans into fodder and consumers for profit. The voices of  the long enduring unsung heroes of Indigenous peoples who by-rights and by the depth of ingrained wisdom must be vaulted and respected as guides at this time. And from the land of my birth, the galvanising force of Extinction Rebellion moving like wildfire across the globe, sparking inspiration and the allegiance of hundreds of groups, and counting.

So where do you and I land in all this? Here we are, in the midst of a colossal global and civilisational transition from the era of oil, which is not only burning up the planet but is a deeply false and failing economy. With France imploding and yellow jackets showing up beyond its borders, with Egypt banning the sale of yellow jackets, and with Britain wobbling in the vortex of an arrogant elite cannibalising its own. As Russia, the USA, and Saudi Arabia go rogue on climate action and Australia remains silent, it is clear this is not going to be a nicely negotiated, peaceful transition. It’s going to be a slogging match, a devastation for parts of the globe, one already forewarned by Syria, Yemen, Puerto Rico, displaced migrants and the Pacific Islands disappearing under the ocean. So how do we find our way in all this?

For myself, self care and resilience has to be primary. This is going to be a long haul. Let’s try and stay well, balanced, loving. The tending to close relationships, family, is also primary, we need beloved partners and true friends. The reaching out to build community, alliances, networking, sharing. All that is implied.

The daily restoration of a clear, clean heart that can mount a challenge free of hate and division. The daily surrendering of pettiness and grudges. A forgiving heart that cleaves to love over and over. Practices that reclaim the sacred, that establish mindfulness, that free and nurture the body. Choices made, food eaten, products used, and actions taken that understand consequences and renounce harm.

As all this swirls in my being as we race toward the end of this calamitous year and as everything is devolving into tangles of complexity and impossibility. However, the heart itself speaks in simple terms. It has its own true voice if we care to listen. When you hear its prompting, trust it. Follow the guidance. Relish its undaunted, diamond-like clarity. Know that it knows all is resident within its conscious awareness. In the swirl of shadows and the ranting cries of our dismembering times, there is a mystic thread, a trail to follow through the jungle of confusion.

When you follow that thread, you will not tie yourself to the waning light of unreal hopes that come crashing down. Instead, you will claim your full empowered truth that rises to shine its undying light on your pathway forward. You may stumble, but you will know, in the passionate, disciplined, focused, flamenco-like dance that the heart is, you will know how to be. You will know where to go. And you will know when to leap.

Thanissara, Dec 12th 2018

HOPE Beyond HOPE
Between this thought and the next
hope awaits its constant song
that angels murmur within our longing.
They breathe a shinning into our uncertain pathway
their voices lilting high over fields of desolation
saying,
“We are the holders of your dreams,
the whispering seed
planted in all cells.
The remainder of your journey
through the darkest of all times.”

But when hope vanishes
and things that can’t be hoped for
disturb our waking night.
Then
in that ripe hour
distant bells summon
our hallowed ascension
with jaws soft and hands open,
prayer turns to a new dimension.

The movement beyond city voices
a gentle wind that blows so quietly
a silent singing from this turning earth
a calm knowing of your life’s worth.
Our timeless core unfolding
the easy swing of an opening gate
as the terror of separation
fades with an early bird song.
It is a dream only, of the fevered night.

This deep sleep of remembering
reveals a knowing
within each breath
that keeps a holy world gathered
within spheres of our communion.

Here we always are
moving in the ancient stillness
with fluid steps
tracking a silent song
through the halls of our creation.
This timeless breath with you my love.
It’s been a long, cold, lonely night.

Garden of the Midnight Rosary – Poems by Thanissara, 2002.

XR logo

Patriarchy Must Fall. Notes#1

It’s been hard to get to my writing. It’s just the sheer overwhelm of our planetary crisis underwritten by a crazed patriarchal, misogynistic, oligarchic, war mongering fiefdom who plot to have and control it all.

It’s the staggering daily venomous assault from the White House’s diseased diatribe. The mind boggling, inane English Tory cul-de-sac circling my homeland down the drain. The heart breaking callous death march of an unrepentant fossil fuel industry. The billions of animals suffering torture and sadistic killings in agro-factories. “Cry the Beloved Country” South Africa not having enough tears to heal the trauma, overturn corruption, or staunch the violence. The vile pedophilia of the Catholic Church. And, closer to home, the crumbling refuge in the Dharma for many who experienced betrayal at the outing of predatory male Buddhist teachers these last months. The litany goes on. The culmination being Kavanagh’s raging misogynistic elitism; his snarling, uncooperative belligerence in full contrast to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s dignified, impeccable, truth telling. That, finally, got me to this page.

The urgency of dethroning patriarchy, including Buddhist patriarchy, is clear. Both its external systems and, regardless of gender, our own internalisation of its de-sacralising, wounding impact. It’s time for those who keep the wheels turning, including our own allegiances, to step down and give over. If we had any illusions that patriarchy is beneficent, that is over. It’s unfettered display is clear. The curtains are pulled back on its misogynistic, patronising, predatory, raging, bankrupt and bankrupting underbelly in all its delinquent, exploitative, criminal, deadly, violent, greed and fear ridden paucity.  You doubt that? Then read “Trump Administration to Polluters: Earth is Doomed, So Go Hog Wild” here:

What is clear is that our worst human narcissistic impulse, now emboldened and given free reign over colossal political, legal, economic and broadcasting powers, is crushing all in its path, grabbing what it can while it can. Screw the children and grandchildren. The only focus is domination, receiving accolades, accumulating untold wealth, and for some, (you know who), to sadistically exact revenge and enact cruel abuse. For others, to establish Gilead’s theocratic rule. This has to be stopped, because either patriarchy falls or our ability to survive falls.

To decolonise ourselves from the imprint of patriarchy, it may be helpful to visit our long allegiance to the warrior archetype, or more exactly, the devolved warrior who is intent on conquering and domination. In its purity, the warrior impulse has clarity of intent, the hallmarks of which are compelling. The warrior has purpose, works to harness intention, energy, and force, has courage, determination, detachment and discipline. The warrior is also loyal to a cause, an ideal, a tribe. However, if not informed by wise consideration, empathetic resonance, and self reflection, the warrior can devolve into a blunt drive for power and use of violence compelled by a deep seated need to prove fealty to patriarchal tribes that serve shadow kings.

The monastic school I trained in for twelve years, the Thai Forest School of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Chah, lionised the warrior path to enlightenment. It was a lifestyle based on renunciation and a demanding discipline, a rigorous daily schedule, weekly all night meditations, the observance of an intricate set of rules, and a life honed life to complete simplicity. The intention of the life style is to focus the mind inward to create the optimum context for awakening. While effective, bearing enduring fruits, it also, like all patriarchal religious systems, generated a number of complex shadows. In particular, the split between the “world” and “enlightenment.” This split goes back into the mists of time.

The Buddha, from the Kshatriya warrior caste, became the founder of one of the primary Axial Age religions that emerged in about 800–200 BCE in India, China, the Middle East, and Greece— all of which have seeded present-day religions. Axial age philosophy focused on individual salvation that merged with divinity and aimed for otherworldly transcendence. The idea that an individuated person could be divine or be saved by a divinity was probably radical in its time. It lifted consciousness from an earth bound tribal identity that was at the mercy of the caprices of nature whose threatening forces needed constant appeasement and sacrifice. Instead the Axial age of personal enlightenment enticed men to heights of the divine far from the confines of being a mere mortal.

However much a glorious promise, axial age religions seeded a profound split within the psyche due to the tendency to posit “salvation” and “nirvana” as apart from this world. While Buddhism dissolves this fundamental divide in texts like the Heart Sutra, this duality is still deeply embedded in a philosophical template that sees the world as samsara and therefore seductive and corrupting, rather than understanding samsara is generated from ignorance within the mind. This fundamental split, and the rise of a patriarchal —earth and female-averse— religious doctrine, set the template for our perilous situation where we now stand poised on the collapse of human civilisation and the destruction of our eco-systems.

Imprinted deep in the psyche is the view that the “world” is lesser, tempting, vulgar, or even as one of my male monastic teachers put it, a cesspit. Picking up the challenge, the warrior is one who reaches for the ethereal, while undertaking the heroic battle of bringing the body under control and very often, bringing women, the receptacle of men’s desire, under censure. The vaulted task of purging spirit from the temptations of the flesh and the world eventually led to a horrific and far reaching persecution and subjugation of women, who in medieval Europe came under the published Bull in 1485 of Pope “Innocent” VII Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer of the Witches. The torture, burnings, hangings, disinheritance, inquisition, systematic degradation of women’s knowledge and healing capacities over hundreds of years has left a devastating legacy.

Carrying the cellular memory of such deeply negative projections onto her as well as the terror arising from this persecution, it has been immensely difficult for women to find their voice and their true role in society and for men to overcome their fear and distrust of, and even their contempt for women.

Anne Baring — Misogyny: The Origin & Effects of the Oppression of Women, from The Dream of the Cosmos, A Quest for Soul.

The war on women never stopped. On this day of writing, September 27th 2018, the witches hammer of venal, decrepit Republican patriarchs is being brought to bear against a lone, courageous, vulnerable woman, Dr Ford, who gives testimony to the ancient story all women know, that of being held hostage to the humiliation, violence and sexual abuse of men. While the man in question assumes his entitlement to rage with arrogant belligerence, displaying an inability to control his temper while arrogantly resisting cooperation, especially when questioned by women. He paints himself as the victim even as he uses his power to abuse. He is angry to be held accountable, and splutters with the injustice he feels that anyone should question his right to sit on the highest court in the land. It is a torturous, sickening spectacle, worthy of the inquisition, directly harking back to the the Papal Bull of the 1400’s.

Nature too, has not escaped the wrath, rape, extraction, and vindictive ire of man in his free reign to extract and dominate the Earth. The complete lack of respect for the rights of Mother nature is something we’ve all been party too. Every day, it goes without question that nature and her myriad species are at our service. This view harkens back to the 16th Century, with philosopher Francis Bacon and the ascendence of the rational and scientific mind.

Nature, bound in service, hounded in her wanderings, put on a rack, must be tortured for her secrets.
— Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626

The warrior that enables the hounding of nature, has an extraordinary dynamism, without it we would not have survived, brought about the comforts of our modern life, excelled in the fields of medicine, technology, exploration, or had the will to strive to fulfil our human potential. However, it has also thwarts us, where more often than not there is pressure to conform  and contribute to patriarchy. For men, the price of belonging is the evisceration of sensitivity, the shaming of emotion and feeling, and loyalty over and above everything else. For women, acquiescence, silence, a suppression of creativity, power, and intelligence are mandatory. For all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, the patriarchal duty saps our life force and exacts a never payable debt. For the planet and her species, they are under sentence of death.

The shadow-warrior, divorced from nature, fearful of women, distorted in their relationship to Eros, competitive and desiring to dominate, not only plays out in religious metaphors of old but has shaped our family, social, educational, political, and economic systems over millennia through the establishment of power pyramids: God (the god of our projections) over man, man (father) over women (mother), whiteness over colour, humans over nature and animals. At the top of the pyramid sits the lonely, stunted patriarch, the abusing priest, lama, teacher, the conniving shadow king or corporate oligarch guarding his obscene wealth, who humiliates others, who envies those who have joy and happiness, and who becomes dependent on sycophants.

The loyal warrior, who once desired to serve truth from a great sense of devotion and purity, is so easily hijacked by patriarchal “kings” who do not love, and do not care, and so use people as pawns in their games of acquisition. Powerful people, who initiate illegal wars, like in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and are responsible for the deaths, injury and displacement of millions. They profit from obscene wealth and influence, while veterans from those same wars commit suicide because they can’t live with the internal desolation they experience on return home, when, in their agony, they are abandoned by the very state that was a predator of their youthful energy. In a devastating suicide note, Iraq veteran Daniel Somers said:

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day, a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body, it is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I cannot laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again.

The compelling need for belonging, and the need to be seen, accepted and blessed within the patriarchal dynamic, is an impossible loyalty. It mostly leads to abandonment. Instead of dutifully following these old well-worn pathways of loneliness and disconnection, it’s time to engage a loving imperative that doesn’t seek to conquer but to connect, empathise and nurture.

These days, as the air is sucked out by the march of death-dealing merchants of power who seem unstoppable, there is a radically different drum beat sounding persistently, clearly and beautifully in our hearts and souls. We hear the urgency in the air, the deep need to forgo a transcendent, abstracted metaphor that, while compelling, holds us to a desolate road where we throw away the world like an old rag. We want so badly to let go of our inner desolation compensated by a cannibalistic predatory capitalism that has brought Mother Nature to her knees.

The shift is happening. In the midst of our planetary calamity, a new world is being birthed. A world grounded in the sacred feminine, which respects and cooperates with nature, that understands interdependence, that is fast moving into a green economy and seeks creative, collaborative partnership rather than endless wars. A society that works for humans and is humanising, that puts empathy and social justice as central. A spirituality focused on the immanence of divinity, that works for collective awakening, that is engaged and responsive rather than overly focalised on the heroic individual and his personal transcendent enlightenment.

An awakening that radiates into all spheres of life with a blessed healing touch, that experiences the sacred within all beings, all mountains, rivers, forests, oceans, cities, peoples, each breath, all materiality. That works to uplift the whole. For this vision to be fully realised in all spheres, the shadow kings need to be toppled and the dedicated and loyal warrior needs to forgo the temptation of power and instead enter the path of love.

From Shadow-Warrior to Lover-Nurturer
Archetypes are shared collective energies that are transpersonal, but which focalise around powerful ideals that interact with the personal. These energies are held in the unconscious as well as in our individual and collective psyches. When we move into archetypal roles, for example parenting, leadership, teacher, we engage an energetic dynamic that taps a force beyond ourselves. It’s like we put on a mantle, for good or bad, which intensifies the personal through a collective charge. We can’t avoid archetypal energies, as they are continually interacting with our personal self. Once we touch into an archetype, the resonances of that transpersonal energy are available to us.

There are many different archetypal forms; understanding some of the primary ones can help us chart our journey. The template of Queen/King, Teacher, Warrior, Nurturer-Lover is useful for understanding the path of integration. As our awakening matures, we need to enter the realm of the lover-nurturer in order to move beyond the power fixation of the warrior. We will need to resolve our trauma and aversion with regard to the world and our embodiment, heal early relational wounding, and overcome distaste for the so-called mundane—and instead embrace the relational field in order to learn the difficult road of love.

But first, we have to be honest enough to recognise that our current path is not working. Something has to change. When we pause at that place of uncertainty, in a meditative and prayerful way, there’s a prompting from our inner intuitive intelligence. When we authentically align with this guidance, there is a response. This is a living and responsive universe. Signs will come, books or people, or an event we feel drawn to attend. The important thing, especially with the lover energy, is to stay open, inwardly soft and receptive.

The lover is not necessarily romantic or sexual love—though that is often a powerful doorway, nor love for one’s own, which is a good place to start—but the love that feels life deeply and cares for it, weeps for our callous disregard, and knows ultimately that life and our selves are one and the same. Often we open into deep love when the strategies of the mind soften, or even collapse, and we find ourselves vulnerable, as in illness or death or when we are in real need of help.

Once, when on pilgrimage around Mount Kailash in Tibet, I found myself suffering from a bout of serious altitude sickness as I neared the Dolma Pass, which is 19,000 feet. It was a dangerous situation where another another step was impossible with no way out. Unexpectedly, a young man showed up bringing a yak. My friends unceremoniously hauled me onto her back. As the yak and I ascended the pass together, I tuned in to her every breath. I felt myself merging with her body, her spirit and life force. Each breath was a miracle. As we neared the top, a flood of gratitude toward this patient brown shaggy haired yak completely flooded me. I vowed that I would be there, in any lifetime, if she needed me. Gratitude, real gratitude, is a sign that the lover energy is present.

In South Africa, warrior-turned-lover energy transported a whole country, through the presence of Mr. Nelson Mandela. He is someone who, embodying the wholesome male, moved through the warrior to embrace the lover, and in so doing become a benevolent and powerful teacher-king. Such was his regal power that he moved a whole nation through the excruciations of apartheid and its dismantling, into a level of consciousness rarely seen on the international stage.

In smaller ways, the lover energy appears to us in everyday experiences, not as something we buy, command, control, or manipulate, but often through the spontaneous and unexpected. It is not about who we are, what we’ve done, or whether we deserve to be loved. It is freely offered. The lover is the abundance, beauty, and nourishment of nature; the first daffodils in spring, the scent of a rose, the majesty of an ancient tree, the music that moves our bodies and gives wings to our souls. Whenever we are touched and find ourselves softening and connecting with a sense of faith in life, the lover is there. It appears in the  cherished companionship of friends, our smiles and laughter, the innocence of animals, the need to write a poem.

If the process of awakening is not informed by the energy of the lover, then those stunted at the warrior level are still caught conquering life. They will never really confer blessings on others and the world around them. The ability to truly bless comes to its fruition when we understand the pathway of release is through the sacred feminine. Here, we allow our self to feel our vulnerability and broken-hearted tenderness. We feel with others, the poignancy of their pain, and so cease to compete with them; instead we seek to befriend and help them, unlike the immature warrior who is attached to the power of control and aloofness of independence.

While control gives the warrior the illusion of being immune from the pain of the world, ultimately they are thwarted when stuck in an immature dependency on inauthentic affirmation, or as enablers of shadow kings. They become King Théoden of Rohan, in The Lord of the Rings, under the influence of Wormtongue. Alas, too many of our leaders are like this, outwardly grandiose and inwardly too feeble to really take the risks that the lover and nurturer takes in order to protect life. In the spiritual realm, they can be cardinals, lamas, priests, guru’s who brush aside pedophilia, sexual scandals, and the abuse of power, while ensuring the system they depend on is immune from valid criticism.

Decentralising our internal controller initiates us into the lover energy. Here, we open to life and allow ourselves to be deeply undone so we know the mind is not in charge. The heart is. This happens when we fall in love, which can be like liquid lightning that cracks open the heart. While we still have to mature that love, an important journey has begun. There are many ways into the heart. Whatever way, when we open to the Eros energy of life, its initial intoxication has to then be matured into a global and less personally focused compassion. If the integration of the lover energy as it matures into compassion is not undertaken consciously or successfully, then there’s the tendency to seek constant affirmation from those around, or be caught in compulsive behaviour, whether the drive to acquisition or more shadowy and harmful addictions and obsessions, or through invasive acts of sexual violation and abuse of power.

In Buddhist structures, when the relational field lacks psychological health, maturity, and safety, it can be rife with projective dynamics between monks, laywomen and nuns. The same in lay sanghas between teachers and their community. The feminine in her lack of authentic integrated power will seek attention and direction from the immature masculine, onto whom she’ll project un-lived needs. He, in turn, won’t be able to let those women be empowered, as this would eclipse his subtle control of their projections, off which he feeds. Including his feeding from their emotions, and in some cases, their bodies. There can also be a dynamic around elevated monks, lamas, or priests, who have no real, lived relationship with women. They nurture female disciples but would never allow them to take an equal, public seat of spiritual power. At the same time, women who court such relationships sometimes diminish their own potential and ability so as to preserve the fragile ego of immature men, who they manipulate, keeping them as boy-men.

Why does it take so long to ‘out’ these dynamics and especially abusive spiritual teachers? Clearly it’s not so simple to see. It’s also scary to speak out when there is collusion and co-dependency. There’s often fear, confusion, delusion, complex needs, idealisations, and secrets at work. Those who stand up first to speak out are often shammed or marginalised. It’s a thankless task. But speak out we must if we are to enable the Dharma to transition to the next generations free from these immature and abusive dynamics.

What we have witnessed in religious tradition, including contemporary spiritual transmission, and in the distorted and immature relational dynamic between the masculine and feminine in the Buddhist tradition –(this can also be applied to secular political, work and home life, where men and women interact)– is an inability to access the wholesome energy of the lover who has overcome their fear of the world, of women, the feminine, the body and its sexuality, feelings, emotions, and the complexity we meet within the personal field of relationship. This is not about blame, or “them,” but about us. About our painful journey into healing and maturity. About owning our fear of the Eros energy and the distorting ways we try to access it. It’s about learning to move beyond unhealthy dynamics and deconstruct systems that diminish and thwart us personally and collectively.

Re-enter the compassionate warrior.
Offering safe passage through the lover’s journey of maturation, is the seasoned warrior who informs the need for discipline, boundaries, respect, and is able to sustain the long haul of awakening built on the precept to doing no harm. The true warrior has humility. Where there has been harm, there is the ability to authentically acknowledge and apologise while seeking amends. Why is he willing to do that? Because he feels deep empathy, recognises when harm is done, and is willing to sacrifice the benefits of patriarchal belonging, a belonging which demands silence and complicity. The principle of truth and the active support of the feminine and women, who have been abused, can and must overcome allegiances to an ancient system of entitlement, which works to cover the tracks of abusers and sanctify them as heroic, misunderstood victims.

If we fail to mature the lover and warrior into nurturer-protector, we will be susceptible to ambivalence, passive aggression, deflection, and cynicism. We will be unable to transmute the narcissism of personal love into the energy of fierce compassion needed to protect a sustainable Earth. Without the strength of the warrior, we will be unable to sustain the tremendous undertaking of waking up in these immensely challenging times. Without the lover, we will be unable to feel and respond to the urgency of our times. Together, the warrior’s strength of focus, discipline, purpose, clarity, courage and determination combined with the lovers compassion, intuitive intelligence, deep resilience, passion, undying commitment and willingness to leap beyond conventions will provide wings to traverse the enormous territory ahead, eagle eyes to see precisely, and the enduring, stubborn persistence of an ox.

As we grow into balance and wholeness, healing the ancient wound of being ripped from the Sacred Feminine, which is long denied in patriarchal religions, we will find our authentic energy needed to serve life. We will be able to fully embody beloved community in order to meet the storms of our times. Like Mr. Mandela, we will be able to say with confidence, “it always seems impossible, until it is done.”

42677852_10156915786298900_6572926441225191424_o

This piece is the first of future ‘Patriarchy Must Fall’ pieces to follow. It has drawn from my book Time to Stand Up, A Buddhist Manifesto for the Planet – A feminine view of the life and teachings of the Buddha. While using basic constructs from the book, this piece is updated.

Notes From the Botswana Road

We traveled for nearly a week through the Greater Kalahari, Makgadikgadi Pans, and Moremi parklands onto Savuti, the Place of Lions, over interminable dust, scree, and sand roads as if the vehicle was riding waves, up and down, rather than the earth. ThenC the landscape suddenly changed. The Botswana landscape is mostly flat, but this was different. The geology and contours weren’t dramatically different, but the feeling was. Small rocky hills and Baobab Trees encircled us heralding the arrival into a deeply sacred space. It felt ancient. When we explored, there was a painting on the rock from 4000 years ago. It was the simplest art. An Eland, Elephant, Oryx Antelope (or Gemsbok), and Snakes. Essential meat and medicine for survival.

Tsonxhwaa Hill, Savuti Marsh, Chobe National Park.

All through we had been traveling the lands of the San/ Bushman/  Khoisan “First Sitting There People” where we peeked through a timeless portal into a peoples who for 30,000+ years roamed this dry and brittle ground, rejoicing when the rains came. One day, bees invaded the camp looking for water. As we drove out, we saw the Oryx antelope dance. Rock, our Botswana guide, told us they felt the rains coming. And then the black water laden clouds swept in and dumped the rains. We weren’t prepared; our tents were washed out.

Once, a long time ago, when we were new to Southern Africa, an Elder Bushwoman told a friend that they, the San, were the peoples “on track.” That we, in contrast, in our modern world, were so off track, we didn’t know there was a track. She said that as they, the first peoples, crossed over from this world first, we would follow not so long after.

We all know we live under the terrifying shadow of a rapidly warming biosphere that is radically changing weather patterns and threatening sustainable life. Alongside this, the immensely destructive power in the hands of a few wracked by greed, hatred and delusion is endangering our collective well being. We have read and heard so many words and perspectives in response. We have anguished and put ourselves to task to try and step down the looming disasters. And while we must maintain hope and work for a sustainable, just, and equitable world, we too must remember, as the KhoiSan knew so well, that we are only dust on this ancient Earth. One day, the winds will blow our foot prints away too.
Kittisaro & Thanissara, notes from the Botswana road, 
Dharmagiri Ubuntu Tour July 2018

The Wind Intends to Take Away Our Footprints
Its name is ≠Koaxa, while the Europeans call it Haarfontein; and it was at Haarfontein that Smoke’s Man saw the wind. He saw the wind but thought it was a !kuerre-!kuerre bird, and therefore, he threw a stone at it, and it burst into wind, it burst out blowing, it blew hard, it blew fiercely. It raised the dust, and it flew away and went into a mountain hole: and he, Smoke’s Man, being afraid, went home. The wind was once a man, but he became a bird and wore feathers on his skin and went to live on a mountain. He became a bird and no longer walked, but he flew. He wakes up early and he leaves his mountain and he flies about, he flies about, about, about, about, as he flies to eat, and then he returns, he returns there to sleep; and because he feels that his feathers used to blow, he, too, blows. They were the wind and therefore they blew, and he, the son of the wind, is now a bird.
So said /Han≠kasso.

Leaving.
We are leaving.
Shredded and raw heart seeks calm shore.

We dream another shore waiting
and we need to know how to go.
Not flights of fancy
of awakenings’ glitz
floating eloquences
of enlightenment.
Tongue bright with witty rational
flowing from throat to head
shaping realities of transcendence
while in the core of burning samsara
swirling emotions
float free
on upward circling perceptions
divorcing themselves from our heart connection.

Ascenders into the light,
we descend before you.
An exhausted pile of bones
smouldering in cold ash
from words sliding sideways
in mega churches
preaching crazed dissonance non-union.

But here is the truth.
There is no heaven in the sky.
No nirvana apart from samsara.
No paradise virgin to your violence reward.
And no Planet B.

So sit the night patiently through
and gather your wayward mind.
Take up your own power
as in your heart
is the earth’s body
and all bodies,
the stars, mountains, oceans,
flowers, trees, cities and moon.

Sit until dawn, without flying to the light,
instead, plunge your life
into your unfathomable yearning
so you can be pulled to the intimacy
that this direct path heralds
within each beating heart
where every precious breath
redeems your lost soul.

And when preachers promise a far off place
challenge them
with your honest voice.

Can you dissolve walls of the mind
and into the undivided heart arrive
to stand up fierce
for our Earth
and her all living beings
?

Because from common ground
we move from birth into destiny
while death dream reality
and bone ash wait.

Because all is possibility
with no substance found.
Particles of no-thing-ness
transform into each other
in universal systems
of potentiality
where space, time, matter and light
forever melt like waking dreams.

The wind does thus when we die, our own wind blows; for we, who are human beings, make clouds when we die. Therefore, the wind does thus when we die, the wind makes dust, because it intends to blow, taking away our footprints, with which we had walked about while we still had nothing the matter with us; and our footprints, which the wind intends to blow away, would otherwise still lie plainly visible. For it would seem as if we still lived. Therefore, the wind intends to blow, taking away our footprints.
So said Dia!kwain.

Time with relentless harvesting
your precious human life
is short.
As all life
gathers proof of our faith
through the pilgrimage of the night
that tests the grounds of our being
so we may know
the measure of courage
and the wellspring of our heart,
from which we sip nectar.

Just as the brown, striped bug
drinks from the white elderflower,
and the orange, thin-winged butterfly
skips through ochre grasses,
and the grey, knowing wolves
move through cold, white snow,
and the rhinos through dry, bush veldt go
as lions stalk impala
along the river slow.

Slow is the Earth’s rhythm,
deep and unfathomable in our collective soul.
The rhythm of the days tick-tock,
winding through the web of our connection
of Internet consumption
where we search what we hope to know.

But to truly know is to not know.
And to not know
is so much evidence of where faith can go.

And even when the realms of empty space are exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karmas of living beings are exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, we will still accord with this, our deepest heart, endlessly, continuously, without cease. Our body, speech and mind never weary of service to living beings and to this great Earth. So whispers our true heart.
                               Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha

 


AA

B
Extract from The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra by Thanissara, written at Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat KwaZulu Natal, 2013, which includes extracts from The First Bushman’s Path, stories, songs and testimonies of the /Xam by Alan James, University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg 2001 SA.
Photos by Thanissara
KoiSan Community Painting – Garden Castle Drakensberg Park, Underberg.

From Jerusalem to Gaza

What psycho fest hunger game (the Capital voyeurs’ extraordinaire Ivanka & Jared called by.)
Bye bye those still hoping.

Dissonant (white dress floating, stars and stripes tin soldiers in step
to rogue captured state U.S.A.)
Grotesquery rendering so much endless…
so much,
so very much
Heart Breaking

(mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, babies for god’s sake.)

Shattered bodies, (designer bullets exploding in flesh, deliberately severing limbs, faces, disintegrating bone.)
Despair (in the world’s largest ghetto-prison.)
Rage (it will never end.)

Death. (Against this ‘fence’, oh impenetrable wall, there’s only death.)

& war crimes – future horror karma – stacking up on those doing live target practice,
(so very precisely, methodically)
and those who set the war dogs loose.
(They were once children too, they have mother’s. So very sad.)

While Tel Aviv’s bubble hurrah’s to a song contest
and sips cafe au lait as blood flows unnoticed
through these ancient streets that crave a return
of the ghosts from before.
Each stone remembers.

Where to from here Netanyahu, Sheldon, Donald?
And you power playing shadows behind the thrones, and you too,
ya’ll freakery’s longing for rapture.

Where are you taking us, all you shadow kings
with your twisted toxic war games.
Your $$$ billions can do nothing for your cold dead body.
You.will.die.too, and stand naked before her.

There is a deeper intelligence.
She flows and moves through our dreams.

She is with us always, breathing our breath, beating our heart…
Our lady of the night, who roams the Negev.
Who wanders her sacred lands, every inch of earth, oceans,
mountains, forests, valley’s, cities, jungles, stars, moon,
and that insect crawling she knows.

You are magnificent, so powerful, you know it all.
You were here before time began and will be here when it ends.

You, sweetest of hearts, most terrifying remover of poisons.

You listen so intimately into each being.
You know every living cell as your body.

I beg of you, have mercy on this terrible day, and for the times ahead.

heart