Light on the Path
We take up the Mindfulness Trainings because in our moments of Awareness we know that we will forget... and in our frequent states of forgetfulness we need light on our path... we search out many sources and they are all true, deep, and good: Yeshua has stories and counsel, Rumi has poetry for the mid-night soul, Dorothy has a strong hand and a potato-peeler to share... Thich Nhat Hahn, our brother, suffered war and exile and the blessedness of return and teachings of peace. From the once-napalmed forests, fields, and villages of Vietnam (napalmed by American planes and chemicals), came the liberating insight that we are all One, that with this precious Planet, we all exist in the steady state of "inter-being"...
With the deep breath provided by sabbatical time, we are able to take a look at the Trainings and offer a few insights -- and an updating of the wording of the Trainings -- as a sort of "introductory course" in intentional community for the "mystic-activists" who will lead in the transformation of our culture, politics, economies, and religions, into the Way of Beauty and Kindness...
If you are new to these pages, please review the previous entries for the "Light on the Path"; especially give attention to the section entitled "Opening Meditation". Begin every reading of these pages with an attentive focus on this meditation (copy it for we won't be including it in the following pages). Begin with the
"Opening Meditation" followed by the "Three Refuges"... centered and focused in your sacred heart, let the gentle flow of your breath embrace these next few moments as we together shine a little light upon the path...
"In the Name of the Holy One, Boundlessly Compassionate... Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty within Beauty within Beauty..."
Fifth Mindfulness Training:
Aware that happiness is rooted in gratitude, service, and compassion, and not in the pursuit or exercise of power, we are determined to practice simplicity of life, thought, and motivation.
We suppose, if there were to be only one mindfulness training, if there were to be only a thirty word summary of the Sermon on the Mount or a thirty word biography of Mahatma Gandhi or St. Francis, these thirty words of the fifth mindfulness training would suffice. Happiness is what every human being craves, and here in this training, the means to that end are articulated -- as well as the "tripping point" on our life-journey's: the pursuit or exercise of power... and then there is power's antidote... When we find ourselves covered in the mud of our power-tripping, we have the option of soaking in the hot tub of simplicity of life, thought, and motivation... and then getting back on track...
One need only briefly (very briefly) consider the plight of Mitt Romney -- his every word, his body language and facial expressions, everything about the man exudes a pronounced hunger for power. Unfortunately for us, he has convinced himself that his pursuit of power is a "public service" -- and not a "filler" for the emptiness of his heart...(but this is generally true for every political actor)... here, though, is another "but": but this is also true for every human being! The myth of power is that it can fill the emptiness of the human heart. And so on every level, we all follow the seductive gaze of power into the back-alleys of our minds and relationships -- this "following" has become entenched as the "dominator paradigm" which reveals its ugly face in predatory capitalism, fanatical religious fundamentalism, the justification of violence, the oppression of women and minorities, and the willful disregard and destruction of this precious blue Planet.
To write these thoughts down is, in a clear way, to present power as "something out there" and only marginally "in here" -- in our own heads, hearts, and lives. When we wrote "we all follow the seductive gaze of power..." we understood that the dominator paradigm is built directly upon our habitual thought patterns, ways of communicating in our families and work-places, and in our networks of relationships. The dominator paradigm exists because we feed it! We don't just toss it the bones from our plates or the dregs from our cups, but we give it entire harvests and the very best vintage -- year in and year out! Absolutely everytime that we are disrespectful to our partner, that we yell at our children, that we curse a lousy driver, that we marginalize and abuse a fellow worker, that we hunker down into smaller and smaller lives and circles of interests, we are feeding the dominator paradigm. This goes on and on and deeper and deeper, until it becomes our unspoken and unwritten self-definitions: we are not perfectly delightful images of the Holy One! We come to fear-believe that we are best defined as "sinners". We come to fear-believe that we are fundamentally worthless -- and that any "worth" that we might have only comes to us from outside of ourselves. We come, sooner or later, to the end of the human person: we know ourselves to be radically and truly unloveable. And that horrible knowing is the source of the emptiness that invades our hearts and gives power to the dominator paradigm.
This fifth mindfulness training is intended to alter "reality" by lightening our loads! "We are determined to practice simplicity of life, thought, and motivation." Okay! So we clear the deck of our minds and hearts and relationships! Let's get really radical and speak absolute truth (repeat after us): "I was created by Love, for Love, to become Love" (Simone Weil). "I am worth the very best -- always." "I am beautiful, right now, just as I am." "I can, and will, change my mind." "I will think and speak positively and constructively." "I will become an agent of transformation in my family, in my workplace, in my community, and in the world." "I am the one that I have been waiting for." "I will change the course of human history."
To truly live as a human being is to consciously choose a place to stand... this fifth mindfulness training suggests just such a place... Listen to this story... "Yeshua was walking with his friends by the lakeside, enjoying the gentle breeze and the blue of the water. The pathway eventually veered away from the lake and up a hill-side. Up ahead, there was seen to be a dead vulture lying directly upon the path -- they would have to step over it -- someone muttered that it was a bad sign. The steps of Yeshua, though, did not hesitate. He walked up to the dead body of the old vulture and stopped to gaze upon it. Some steps later, he asked if any of them had ever seen a vulture consuming another vulture? Coming to think about it, none of them had. Yeshua, remarked he wished people could be so judicious... and that was why his heart embraced the lives of the poor..."
And this story, too: We think of Frances, a homeless woman, someone who has spent years on the margins of our society. Her journey has carried her through the harsh realities of drug addiction, of losing her children, and of losing her way. Yet, she always came back to the Kitchen. As the seasons of her life changed, she found her place in our shelter. She found the beginnings of purpose in volunteering. She found meaning in facilitating a regular NA meeting... What was it that we could see in her through the many years? What is it that we strive to see in every person who somehow gets lost and finds her / his way here? What is it that keeps us going back for more and more? The answer is in the seeing. First, there is the living light that swirls around us, everyone, and everything. It's very brightness becomes a veil... yet, they are, each and all, transparent; their true reality or nature is desperately seeking ways for breaking through. In the end, we are tasked with assisting in the co-creation of reality through seeing the truth of what has always been there. By affirming the beauty of the person before us, we assist in activating her / his possibilities. The way of service for nonviolence and justice blesses us everyday with opportunities to help Frances name her reality: Who is special? "I am special!" Who does God love? "Me!" Who do you love? "Me!" Who else do you love? "You!" And what are you worth? "The very best! I am worth Love!"
An Alternative Fifth Mindfulness Training:
Aware of the common human desire for happiness, safety, health, and the sure knowing of being "wanted", I will exercise my will and energy in humble service of this common good.
Question of the Week:
How can we encourage people to commit to lifestyles that promote equality and the common good?
Practice for the Week:
Search the internet for "Get Money Out". Sign the petition for a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics and to re-define corporations as "NOT" people. Spread the word!
To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that Love is the reason for my existence, for God is Love. Love is my true character. Love is my name.
I love, therefore being is, and life is worth the pain of having lived. --Emmanuel Mounier
Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. -- Eugene V. Debs
Love is an action, never simply a feeling. -- bell hooks
Walk the streets with us into history. Get off the sidewalk. -- Dolores Huerta
With love and End of the Year Blessings,
Michelle and Robert
"In the Name of the Holy One... Boundlessly Compassionate... Boundlessly Merciful... Beauty within Beauty within Beauty..."
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.