Selfless Action

The Bagavad Gita is set during a time of great social change in India. The protagonist Arjuna wrestles with a moral dilemma. Before him on the Kuru plain stands the families of the Pandavas and Kauravas ready to fight for the throne.  Arjuna  sees the violence, death and destruction as a waste of life with out meaning… he can’t see the value of this senslessness fight. He is troubled and decides to quit and with draw from the battle.  He turns to his charioteer Krishna for council on this moral dilemma.

Krishna guides Arjuna in the karmic duty to uphold the Dharma through selfless action. The self is eternal and unchanging. It is fixed like the sun and stars. Like the thermodynamic process that says everything is neither created nor destroyed it moves through states of mass/matter and energy .. work and entropy… order and chaos. The soul or “atma” in Sanskrit is eternal and returns again age after age and will until the universe ends. This is the awakening.

To see everything as part of the cosmic turn of the wheel.

Today this story has relevance. We all are now seeking what to do or what is needed to bring the world back into balance. We are sorting out how to fight the evils of suffering, war, indifference and put compassion, peace, and love back in it’s place. Humanity is struggling with the moral dilemma of how to proceed to in the complex entanglement of humanity, resources and the planet.

Dharma as the infinite cosmic law that binds all and prevents the universe from shattering.

One of my favorite operas by the composer Phil Glass is Satyagraha. It is the story of Ghandi and his birthing of the concept of Satyagraha as a way of resistance and change during his time as a lawyer in South Africa. Gandhi based he’s teaching on the Gita and read it more than any other text. Using it as the inspiration for his life and work.

“Satyagraha, or holding onto truth, or truth force, is a particular form of nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. It is not the same as passive resistance, and advocates resisting non-violently over using violence. Resisting non-violently is considered the summit of bravery.”

Wikipedia

From the first time I heard this back in the 80s and even now it still moves me. I feel the tensions of the opening scene as this battle is set and the struggle to question the situation and explore what is right action.

To listen press the link below:

Act1 Scene 1: The Kuru field of justice

This story and it themes of good and evil. Right and wrong. Self vs selfless. Moral duty and right action. Reminds me of the state of the world right now. We are in a circling turmoil. In the awkward pause before a great battle. To be fought for the next millennium.

The social media echo chamber, the climate, humanitarian crisis, wars, and the overwhelming sense that this is a fight to set things back into balance. To bring about a new age not of some abstract  bliss but of a renewed connection to the earth and all its beings.

It starts with the resistance to injustice and the persistence to be  non-compliant, non-violent. These are the tools for weakening the systems that have fed us an over saturation of polarizing views, unchecked consumerism, fear, othering, doctrines that have served to blind and overwhelm us to the true nature of who we are. Engaged actions on a mass scale are how we are to build a sustainable society and future.

We are all capable of being the Satyagraha.

Peripatetic Odessy

I-81 South Virginia- 2019

Today started with a lot of rain and the random shuffling of tunes from the ipod. From Upper Black Eddy in Pennsylvania along the Delaware river to just south of Harrisonburg Virginia. A short drive in comparison to some of my epic drives this year. The mind often takes a different route into the folds of gray matter. These twists of thoughts, memories and the creative. Today was long, meandering…. an almost slow motion dive into the unresolved. Touching on the work a head, my art, and the still sore and challenging places that are in flux and recently defined.

As good as it can look in social media. My heart still aches some days. Travel doesn’t relocate me. It only forces me to dig deeper to uncover more of the stuff that needs to be addressed. Healed. Shaped.

My universe is a windshield and the stillness of my body going down the road. Like my view of the stars as the earth spins, I see a universe of things pass by: Trees cows, sky, roadside attractions, signs and offerings. And yet for all the movement it seems I haven’t moved at all. I am fixed and solid. An earthling with a very busy brain.

“….You know that feeling you get, just at the edge of winter….when you can’t remember what it felt like to be warm…. My thaw came early and my current is stirring….”

Sarah Biggs (singer/songwriter)

Music has a random uncanny way of triggering tears as well a laughter. The irony or intuition of the random shuffle can almost feel like the powers that be are pulling strings. The Devil might play dice but the Gods play songs with mischievous grins just to see if you are paying attention.

The ridiculousness and the complexity of life… tears heal…. the world rolls by… mind wanders to a new thing.

“…. We’re on a road to nowhere… Come on inside… Taking that ride to nowhere… we’ll take that ride….”

Talking Heads

Plastic Deities

Plastic Kali – 2019

Freedom of religion, an internet connection and the run away consumerism in this country produces some strange things. Odd tokens of spiritual access. Plastic Jesus, Glow in the Dark Mary, Ganesh window decals, Buddha garden statues, all manner of the Pagan pantheon in resin. All cast and readily available in newage shops and the internet. These icons and deities will live forever. Literally.

They also send a mixed message in the now deeply demanding fight for the climate, water, the soil and the morality of this kind of consumption. Unless you live under a rock or practice willful ignorance you know plastic in all its forms is choking the planet. Earth is becoming littered with the cast offs of one use plastic and the durable plastic of everything else.

I went to the Parliament of World’s Religions a few years back. I listened to a panel of women I knew were in the forefront of creating a new way of being on the planet. They were writers, activists, proclaimed environmental protectors of water, seeds, and earth. They spoke of the evils of GMOs and the fight ahead to move towards a sustainable world that protects all life. They said inspiring and useful things.

They also were drinking water from plastic single use bottles. At one point you could see they had to address this and they did by saying they were refilling the bottles. It also felt like they were covering their obvious hypocrisy. It was awkward. And for me personally, it raised alot of questions around the integrity of walking one’s talk.

In 2009 I went to Egypt and experienced mountains of plastic waste, water bottles, and other things that could not be absorbed by the tourist industry of a nation that thrives on the spiritual pilgrimages of others wanting to connect to the mystery that is there. I also saw this first hand in Mexico, Costa Rica, across the United states…. etc…. it made me really aware of the way we are sold the access to these sacred spaces and the impact it has on the people who have for centuries worshipped and revered their heritage. We are guests yet most people see these countries and places as zoos for their personal gain…

Experience colonialism. Spiritual Colonialism. We trap countries and the people in an endless cycle to support our consumption to find ourselves.

The pilgrim, the spiritual seeker is also a consumer of instant gratification and a polluter. This is embodied as spiritual bypass with the acceptance of certain actions for the greater cause at the expense of cultures, art, ideologies, self discovery, that elusive enlightenment that drives this bus.

Adhi Two Owls

The easy of access through social media to other cultures and beliefs has fueled an industry of cheap one time used spiritual experiences that hack away at the deeper practices of how we are part of a complex ecology of consciousness and engaged experiences.

Spiritual education/enlightenment should create a mindful understanding of our connection to a Divinity in whatever name you wish to call it as embodied in the world around us. It needs to offer a process to grow more aware of our interconnectedness and inter-reliance on each other and all things.

This more tangible experience requires sacrifice and work. The knowledge that there are consequences for actions and that an individuals needs are not more important to the whole.

The spirit leftovers of our exploring should be of stuff that can be composted into new ideas and forms. Clay. Wood. Metal. Stone.

Plastic is the material of a false God.

The Moon

Full Moon – 2019

She rose from the horizon full and bright.

Holding back nothing with her glow. The brightness dimmed the heavens. She laughed loudly.

Keeping the stars in their place. Shimmering rays across the surface of the waters….

Adhi Two Owls

Stilling the Mind

My mala – 2019

Twice in my life I have said Om Mani Padme Hum 108,000 times. Each occasion this mantra filled the spaces between work and sleep. It ran through every bead in my mala. It buzzed in my head. It beat in my heart. It whispered between the membranes of my cells. It fell off my tongue and the visceral resonance of it hummed in me for a long while afterwards even in my dreams I could hear it.

The practice entrained my mind into a place of silence. A space so vast and quiet it stunned me. No thoughts. Just the breath rising and falling. Fully present in the body. I could deeply listen to the sounds near and far in some hyper stereo surround sound. My eyes saw the world with out the attachment of past judgments and prejudices. I was free.

It never lasts though. That is why it is a practice. More mantras. Another bead rolling over my finger. Repeat. Mantra. Bead. Stillness . Breath. Repeat…. This rhythmic tactile activity that shifts consciousness.

“Om Mani Padme Hum”

The most common translation is “a jewel in the lotus” referring to the deity Avalokiteshvara. The deity of love and compassion.

Another possible interpretation of this mantra by the Tibetan Buddhist scholar Daniel Lopez, is that the middle part “Mani Padme” is a female deity Vidya known also as “Wisdom” the consort to Avalokiteshvara this would make the mantra translate to:

“She of the lotus jewel”

I would like to think the mantra as neutral and androgynous. Representing the potential in all of us to remember the jewel that birthed us. The jewel being the Universe…. that singularity that began this Universe. Stars are the lotus where all is created and destroy in the cosmic experience…. Lotus grow from mud, the ferment and rise to bloom in the sunlight. We are all born from those star lotus wombs.

We are of the Universe

We are born of the stars

Regardless of it’s etymology and my personal musings. The exercise of repeating the mantra, moving a bead, works to slow and stop my mind. The busy nebulous of endless thoughts, thinking, images, ideas, problem solving, the cosmos in the cranium….

… that stillness is the unknown that place where everything begins.

A jewel

The Taste of Soil

Root vegetables can grow most of the winter if the preparations are done right. It is the rituals of generational knowledge, the practices of things that build our folkloric memories of home and family. The way traditions are passed down.

On my mother’s side they used their hands. They worked the soil. They built things from wood and stone. This wisdom is in me as the story I belong to. The history in my bones.

After the Harvest – 2019

I have memories of my Grandfather in the fall of the year digging trenches in his garden and lining the sides with ply wood. He would transplant the escarole and other greens into this trench and cover it with a canvas tarp before the frost. This gave us fresh greens for most of the winter.

Lentils – 2019

Escarole was a main ingredient in almost every soup while growing up. It was delivered in a recycled paper grocery bag by my Grandfather. Picked fresh. It needed to be washed or it would be gritty. I remember standing at the sink washing it and draining the leaves in the old dented colander.

Escarole

My favorite soup to put escarole in is chicken. It was the last thing added to the soup. It mixed with the onions, celery, carrots and broth to add just the right amount of bitter. That tang that marked the green’s unique flavor. Chicken soup is not quite right without it. Escarole brought the essence of the earth. The taste of soil. A much needed reminder during the winter months

These kinds memories are the stories that defined what we internalize as home. That sense of belonging to a place and a time. We know the taste of the soil that grows our roots, strengthens the fibers of our being and gives us the nutrients to be whole.

Take time to taste the soil that feeds your soul that gives you the resources you need to make the world what it needs to be.

A New Year and Road Ahead…

Prayers for the year.
Prayers for those I met for those I met for the first time
Prayers for those I held in sacred space
Prayer for the ones transitioning
Prayers for the new ones just born
Prayers for those resisting
Prayer for those who have walk along the road with me all these years
Prayers for the kind
Prayers to those who fight for the waters
Prayers for those who have lost their way
Prayers for the addicted
Prayers for those who seek answers
Prayers for those who hear the song of the universe
Prayers for the artists and those who make things
Prayers for the ones who fight for what’s right
Prayers to the ones that know every thing is connected…. prayers to all of those I forgot …

These prayers were offered into the Shamhain fire this year. The beginning of a new direction and perhaps a deeper root into the next evolution of my life. To serve is often a foggy road with very little to guide you. What is certain is the ground beneath the feet and the movement forward. Meeting each moment as it presents itself. Trust is the hardest lesson to navigate. The signs and signals present and disapear. The power of choice and knowing when and where to push beyond the hesitation and risk.

The best laid plans are not part of the Cosmic GPS for mortals. We are tested. Each day we get to start again. We get to show up and the explore the mystery and if we are lucky, the curiousity, the choices we make and everything else aligns, then life will take us on adventures.

I am Blessed by all of you in my life.