We stand on the footprints of our elders... -- Walking Thunder, Dine Medicine Woman
Anywhere is the center of the world. -- Black Elk
This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. -- Chief Seattle
We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who cannot speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish, and trees. -- Qwatsinas
One does not sell the earth upon which people walk. -- Crazy Horse
Bear Butte (for Bob Snyder)
broken heart silence -- Only One dance through emptiness and void
sun and rock -- no choice but to empty the mind
this fragile flower -- marvelous as the climb, the mountain, the sky
A rendition of Crazy Horse is being carved into a mountain in South Dakota -- as a lasting memorial (Mt. Rushmore is a few miles away) to the Living Spirit that yet inhabits this land, this continent, the "Americas"... A spirit is alive in the mountains and rivers without end, a spirit alive in the hearts and feet of a band of "Old Souls" yet wandering this land... who knows where you will find them? I saw one on top of Bear Butte. After a climb in the late afternoon -- with the crackling of thunder and the electric-white stab of lightening steadily approaching from the distance to consume the being and essence of this sacred mountain -- I saw him. He was a stranger dressed in the leather and black of a motorcycle rider familiar with the darker side of life. With no visible hesitation, he held up his arms and hands, a minute facing each of the four directions. His prayers concluded, he looked at me and stated matter of fact, "Holy, ain't it."
I met another one of these Old Souls, years ago, on the streets of Chinatown in Salinas. He's Lakota, like ol' Crazy Horse. It doesn't take a leap of imagination to picture Bob Snyder astride a pinto on the plains of what is now called South Dakota -- riding after the buffalo -- he's got a family and a tribe that depends upon his strength and courage... so it was... and so it is... Bob never rode a pinto through the Chinatown streets... as often as not, he would get lost for a while with his demons and dark thoughts... but he always showed up in the nick of time to catch the back of one whom he had adopted into the tribe of his heart. How he figured who was in was a mystery: most often it was the one who was really on the fringe, the edge of just barely hanging on -- ready to let go and drop into the abyss, sometimes for no other reason than it's exhausting being lonely all the time -- I saw him catch life after life (and yet he liked to play the game of it's all the same to him)...
Bob Dylan has a song about searching for "Dignity" -- listen to it sometime to get a handle on these stories. Once there was a dealer on the street after someone -- after directing staff to call 911 -- I took off on foot, down Soledad Street and around the corner. I could see the dealer's car racing down the alley ahead trying to cut off the one running away... I figured the runner was dead or worse if he got caught, so I had to try and catch up... finally I could see that the runner had escaped... whew, I didn't really want to try dancing with the dealer and the runner both... I took a grateful deep breath and turned around. Bob was standing there. He had my back. But that isn't what made him an Old Soul... that just meant that he and I both shared a certain kind of insanity... Bob was an Old Soul because he could see through a couple of veils that most of us miss most of the time. His heart beat in the broken rhythm of the One who has been hurt, who has hurt, and who has profoundly experienced the reality of Wakan-Tanka, the Grandparent Spirit, alive in his risk and willingness to Love...
Why these quotations from Native Americans, why these particular stories, with this Tenth Mindfulness Training? We want to invite you to deeply ponder community -- who is in and who is out of your community? We want to propose that our New Definition of Community include our ancestors -- everyone who has gone before us through this journey of life -- and also, including everyone who will follow after us, many generations into the future. This definition of community offers us a foothold that will enable us to hoist ourselves a little bit higher on the evolutionary ladder -- isn't that the point of it all? To want to live and to contribute to the lifting up of every life and the reverence and stewardship of this precious blue Planet, isn't this desire the point of it all?
"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services..." -- Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, 1948
So, we think this Tenth Mindfulness Training is especially a call to question our definition, and the reality, of our "communities". Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality are one example of a radical expansion of the definition of community to include persons on the margins of our society. Native American traditions and spirituality includes in its community definition, the earth, air, and every creature and inanimate thing. Most indigenous, ancient, peoples of the earth have a very expansive definition of community, like Native Americans, rooting community within an awareness of the earth as a living system of inter-related relationships -- which Thich Nhat Hahn proposes as "inter-being". We are thinking that a new spirituality, culture, and politics of "inter-being" is the Way into the future we hope for our children, and for every child everywhere. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "The end is the creation of the Beloved Community"... anything other than that is beside the point: and probably an aspect of the Dominator Paradigm.
The Tenth Mindfulness Training:
Aware that the end is the creation of the Beloved Community, I will practice an every-day spirit of inclusion and consideration: I will include in my community everyone on the margins of our Planetary society and I will consider the well-being of this precious blue Planet and every life that lives upon it -- seven generations forward -- in my every-day life, in how I live, in what I buy and sell, and in how I vote.
The world will be saved by beauty. -- Dostoevsky
How am I practicing and building beauty in my home, in my work-place, and in my community?
Every single time that we read through the Mindfulness Trainings, whether our "massaged" version or the original as written by Thich Nhat Hahn, we experience a deep interior shredding... "Did you notice another piece of my ego and my pride and my feverishly constructed self-identity slip off into the mud beneath our feet?" "Did you notice mine, too?" And then on into, "Gee, is everyone looking at us? Are we the only ones this hits square on the nose?" While the shredding is genuine, it is also true that there is no easy escape from the human condition -- there is no easy path forward into one's personal transformation, just as collectively we seem to only move forward by circling back much of the time, only to be nudged ahead again by the words shining and shining light of another prophet...
On the Chinatown streets of Salinas, "Bobby" was a goof-ball, crazy-happy, mixed-up young man: always loud usually obnoxious, frequently intimidating and threatening. For him, "let's party", meant a no-holds-barred night of anything-you-can-get-away-with-goes... on and on, month after month, year after year... his only "down" time was jail time. If you were to flip this Ninth Training on its head, and maybe turn it inside out into its opposite, you'd have the daily life story of "Bobby"... not exactly an endearing character... and yet, and yet... We had increasingly frequent conversations as to the "whys" of his behavior. One day we were in the office together and he told me the story of his father beating him and sexually assaulting him as a young boy... in the midst of flowing tears, his final question was an endless "Why?" (He asked me why, God Almighty, I don't want no cheap word to come out of my mouth -- so what could I say?) "Bobby" asked if he could use the phone -- he made a call to his brother, saying he needed to talk to him...
I don't know if "Bobby" ever got to talk to his brother... One bad-decision-too-many caught up with him that night: he sold some laundry detergent or some such powder to a couple of out-of-towner's. When the powder didn't do for them what they wanted, they came back to Chinatown and shot "Bobby" dead. He died by the railroad tracks just as the train was leaving town... just another day-another night-another life ending in Chinatown... and yet, and yet... The irony of our fractured human condition slapped me across the face a few days later when I was greeting our guests at the Soup Kitchen door... "Bobby's" father came up to me, shook my hand, and in the midst of tears, could only ask me, "Why? Why? Why?"
When we stand for justice and serve the dignity of every person, especially the most powerless among us, we are choosing to stand on Holy Ground -- wherever it is that we are. We may not have the "right" word to say at just the "right" moment -- but the truth is: when someone is living in any sort of version of hell they have no interest in hearing a "right" word. It Is Our Bodies That They Want! They want to know that someone is standing, living, crying, salvaging, working, losing, struggling, winning, and dying With Them. Sometimes we'll be surprised by the words that will leak from our mouths -- like, where the hell did THAT come from? The only wisdom that's worth anything at all is the wisdom that flows from solidarity and the wisdom of US! This is Beauty and Love made tangible, made edible, made worth entering into the whirlwind of history for -- just to see what little bit of hell we just might be able to raise! "Pray for the dead... fight like hell for the living." (Mother Jones)
Have you noticed that each of the Mindfulness Trainings is specifically serving us, like a magnifying glass, by focusing our attention on suffering? Each and every one among us is / has / will cause even more suffering on this precious blue Planet. So the Mindfulness Trainings are a sort of crash course on how each of us might reduce a bit of this suffering. This is of great importance! Many, many, lives hang in the balance between our will to act in solidarity or our retreat into "getting along to go along"... But there is another suffering that needs, not a magnifying glass, but Books, Lights, Videos, Academy Awards, etc. etc. It is suffering voluntarily endured for life, for peace, for justice, for equality, for hope, for the children, and for the Planet. Mahatma Gandhi made voluntary suffering an art form in his Satyagraha campaigns. This moment in time requires of us the courage to go deeper than the Mahatma in questioning the Dominator Paradigm -- and in deconstructing its myths and legitimizing power so as to reconstruct a human civilization that will work for and include all.
The Ninth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of my contributions to suffering, I am choosing to activate my passion for possibilities! I am choosing to practice beauty and liberation through my everyday choices and actions. I am choosing to stand and act in solidarity with everyone who suffers from injustice and oppression. I will serve the dignity of every person especially the most powerless among us.
Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. -- John Steinbeck
A questing mind is a great help in withstanding violence or oppression. Aung San Suu Kyi
God expects something from each one of us that no one else can do. If we don't it will not be done. -- Dorothy Day
Write a story -- not more than 250 words -- in you are the one to do / say something great and heroic. How can you make the story of your life as great as it can possibly be?
This is a humdinger of a Mindfulness Training! Who hasn't been in a relationship, at a workplace, or let's face it, "in a world" in which irreverence and abuse were not an everyday common experience. It seems to us that there is a contagion of an abuse of power loose upon this precious blue Planet. Everyday the news is replete with examples -- and every sort of justification flowing easily from the lips of the unthinking, the fearful, the mad, and the powerful. But as Hafiz wrote, "I know the idiot's warehouse is always full. I know each of us could run back and forth there all day long and show everyone our vast collection. Tonight though, Hafiz, retire from the madness for an hour, gather with some loyal friends or sit alone and sing beautiful songs to God."
Everyone who has been around activist circles for a while has probably participated in a workshop or two on "Nonviolent Communication" -- these workshops should be required of every legislator on every level of government! And they can make a difference in relationships and by extension in intentional communities. But the secret problems are the real problems and they are all the Shadows that lurk behind our good intentions! Inevitably, when once we have been hurt by another, we automatically erect defensive systems that allow us to cope and meander through life. Our Shadows can justify absolutely anything -- their subtlety is addictive and powerful (for many of us our Shadows are the only power we will ever experience -- at least until we explode). This attention to the fact of our Shadows must be mentioned because we will always be ineffective in developing both the willingness and the skills of compassionate listening, a gentle, reverent use of language, and the ability to dialogue (for listening deeply without judging or reacting): if they are never brought out into the Light.
Really, could you imagine all the world's religious leaders actively looking for ways to renew and recreate their relationships? Could you imagine every political leader, operative, and pundit no longer willing to demonize anyone else? How does one organize a protest movement if you love your enemy? How does one speak ill of someone if you recognize that you are the same One? How can one yield to expressions or actions of hate if you had even the least inkling that there is a Beloved Consciousness creating, sustaining, and animating all of creation?
It is time for a New rEvolutionary Movement beginning with "I" and with "You"... stepping then into "Us"... When "We" come to believe that by sharing there is an abundance of every good thing for "All" -- and act accordingly -- all of our competitions for power can gracefully cease... and "We" will come to know peace... Until then, our Shadows will seek to keep us in fear, with our hearts in lock-down... But, here is a Key for those locks: our Shadows live in our minds, and we can change our minds! Whew, and you thought this was going to be difficult!
Are you ready? Okay, what do you want? Is it peace in your life? Abundance? Friendship? Respect? A New rEvolutionary Movement takes steps from "I" and "You" into "Us" -- "Us" begins to step into "All" when we name the reality we intend to construct (peace, calmness, forgiveness, gentleness, harmlessness, pleasure, meaning, etc.). So we take up our chosen intention: "I desire peace in my life, therefore I will be peace for everyone I encounter today." The intention is declared, along with the conviction that "I will manifest my desire as a gift for everyone I encounter today." You see, genuine spirituality and change is always about the Other, the good of the Other, and the love of the Other! When "IT" is no longer about "ME" I automatically stop feeding my Shadows; when "IT" is about the Other, "I" become free, and then I can freely practice my freedom and beauty... then, OF COURSE compassionate listening makes sense! Of course, a gentle, reverent use of language makes sense! Of course, I can dialogue, I can listen deeply, I don't need to judge, I can look for ways to recreate and renew relationships! And, of course, peace, justice, equality, food, safe shelter, and health care for all, are certainly possible! Everything connects in the human heart...
All You Will Ever Really Need To Know Is In The Following Paragraph
Imagine hell. But it is not what you might have been taught, so start over. Imagine a banquet table stretching from horizon to horizon laden with an incredible array of food. Everything has been lusciously prepared. An overwhelming aroma fills the air. Unfortunately, there are two lines of folks, from horizon to horizon, on each side of the table. After the blessing of the meal, they all pick up their forks to have at it. Everyone is thinking about the team of idiots who made the forks... each fork is about six feet long... but everyone gave it a try. Every time they were able to get some food on their fork, they would try to turn and angle it into their mouth... gosh darn it, the food would fall off every single time... for all eternity... Now put the same picture in your mind: a banquet table in Heaven extending from horizon to horizon laden with the most incredible (vegetarian!) feast the Holy One could imagine! And the same lines of folks from horizon to horizon on each side of the table, with the very same blessed six foot forks... And after the blessing of the meal, everyone picked up their fork (blessed their makers) with great big smiles on their faces -- this was going to be fun! They each carefully picked out the delicacy of their choice, and extended their fork across the table to feed the person opposite of them. Everyone was happy and forgiving of the occasional spill on the table or floor. No one needed to bother reading the little notes in every flower arrangement gracing the table. The notes all simply read: "There is Only One. Love Every One. Feed Every One."
The Eighth Mindfulness Training:
Aware that I desire harmony and peace, I will manifest harmony and peace in my every encounter today. I will be compassion and kindness. I will listen with care. I will revere the different, the Other. I will find ways to become the change I am helping to build in the world.
The primary aspiration of all history is a genuine community of human beings -- genuine because it is community all through. -- Martin Buber
Peace comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. -- Black Elk
I am the life and verdancy of good works, I am the yoke of all virtue. I am the delight and illumination of love of God. -- St. Hildegard of Bingen
We are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love. -- William Blake
How can we re-orient world cultures to the "practice of beauty"; where art, music, poetry, literature, theatre, etc. are recognized as essential for the full development of both the human person and the human community?
With someone you love (actually, it can be anyone), sit for one minute (or five minutes or a full day, alternating fifteen minutes "on" and fifteen minutes "off") looking into the eyes of your partner. Say nothing, just look, holding each other's gaze. Do not look away. At the conclusion of one minute (or the chosen time frame), each person places a hand on the shoulder of their partner and says, "One Love Blessing". This is the deep practice of Rumi and Shams...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.