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?
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.