Zero to Infinity

Smiles still there . . .

Last night, the weekly meditation came to an end, and many things came out of a 45-minute sit in which two new people entered the space. The end was not just in the cycle for this one sitting, but it was also the end of a cycle of this space which had held us every week since late 2014. The next space awaits and it is in a part of Los Angeles that is feeling a transformation in its infrastructure, a shift in its population, and a change in culture – change never ends.

At the end, we introduced ourselves and two women appeared who had come for the first time. One was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet – she had served 23 years in prison and was then detained by ICE and then was released on bond and a condition of release was wearing this device. The other, had served 15 years, and her identity was zero – in other words, upon release she was somehow not given any instruction on what to do as a person who had entered the prison with an identity that was in limbo because immigration processes were in progress and never finished. Her release was without any indication of her “status” – she lives in the world but has no “official” identity. As we chatted, I learned that both women are oriented to life with nothing – but hope.

What is it about hope? It makes it possible to dream. What is it about dreams? It is a portal to infinite possibilities. What is it about possibilities? It invites a person to make choices, moment by moment. And what is the way to stay in the moment with love, compassion, and equanimity? There is only one way to enter stillness and empty space so that everything can open, and that is through meditation. The two women felt this. They knew nothing about meditation. They had no idea “how to do it”. But somehow, they had a sense that they should come and see what might happen if they were very still, for a very long time, with a group of practitioners who could help “hold space” for themselves and others.

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Joy!

There is a kind of richness that is not calculable in material terms. It is the beginning of entering into a different ecology and economy than what is conventionally recognized. The ecology of gifting time, energy, and compassion, the economy of relationship and connection with others, and the possibility of seeing more clearly what direction to take when those forms of wealth begin to build. The two women, though imprisoned for half their lives, upon release felt there might be something important to understand and they made a choice – to simply be in silence.

In an entirely different space/time reality that simultaneously unfolded as the meditation group was sitting in quiet in Los Angeles, were the events and occurrences taking place at a migrant and refugee community in Tijuana, Mexico. Hundreds of migrants from Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala arrive as families in a location that is in the countryside and what do they find? They find a safe place to rest, a place to shower, a place to have a warm meal, and kindness, compassion, equanimity in the midst of chaos. In this space, where two pastors (a couple) and their 15-year old daughter, have lived into service to all of those who seek stability at a moment in their lives when violence, starvation, ecologic degradation left them with little choice but to depart from their homes, they find the most valuable thing they need now: peace and humanity.
Loving kindness, deep faith, and realization about the purpose in life being to care for one another while on this planet, wherever one may be – materialized into a small church/sanctuary and this is where many migrant families have landed. The decision to build a church in the middle of nowhere, based on some deep calling was the decision that took this small family from zero to infinity.

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… and laughter

How?

Because as the pastor and his family was making choices that kept moving toward establishing a sanctuary (without knowing that was what it would be), another person was making choices of his own about what he would do – as a proudly undocumented and unafraid migrant witnessing the terrible consequences of a government’s policy to take children from their parents or caregivers upon arrival at the so-called border in southern California and Texas. That person was a friend who people call “Pancho or Panchito.”

With no strategic planning process, no credentials of any kind other than a commitment to live a life of service, no currency – greenbacks or credit cards, and no idea of exactly what he might encounter, a huge choice was made out of recognition that his life’s circumstances, his commitment to grow compassion and kindness among people, and a purpose that was beyond his own life – Pancho began a pilgrimage to meet the migrants at California’s southern so-called “border”. It took 95 days or so. And he had the benefit of many others who could never make the same choice, but trusted that Pancho’s decision was right and from their own spaces, they made it possible by providing counsel, connections to housing, company for a few days on the walk, washing and showering opportunities, and so much more – love.

Once he arrived at the line between what is known as California and Mexico, another choice had to be made — knowing that no papers could mean no return to Huichin (the original name of East Oakland), he made a choice: he carried the earth flag and walked through the gates that led him to the next chapter in life. — A chapter that is infinitely more meaningful to him than anything else he could have planned, saved for, or competed to get: He is in service to the sacred act of migration. He is the first and only full-time volunteer at the sanctuary, now operating as a place of faith/worship and as a nonprofit called the Foundation of the Gift of Love. (translated). And how interesting it is, that the name seems to match the Gift of Compassion. Maybe a choice needs to be made to co-create a new kind of non-physical bridge between love and compassion in this moment.

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… and peace

The two women former inmates in California’s prison system come to mind. They talked about their choice to come into the meditation circle this week – it was moving and gratifying to realize how powerful holding space can be. There is no materiality in this act, but it is so powerful.

In the last conversation of the day, Pancho called. He shared in excitement that there were 30 children sitting in a circle one night – meditating; being in silence, sitting full lotus (flexible little bodies!), and after 10 minutes, he asked, “So what was that like for you?” Generally, they all said they felt more peaceful, and calm. One boy said he felt like he was in the presence of God. Kids get it, so fast!

And the looks of sadness and despair and worry with kids melt away when one small act of caring is shared. Pancho sent photos of the resilience and joy that erased the sadness and fear when a group of children were taken to the beach for a few hours. The smiles, and the antics – you would never know, they had just been part of a grueling journey to safety and were living in complete uncertainty about where life will lead them, next.

In making choices as conditions unfold, all of us find ourselves in a place where we may help something to emerge that needs to exist – but doesn’t yet exist in the world now. How to get there?

One main mode of operation: meditation (or silent prayer, or silent reflection, or any other name one might wish to give this practice of moving into a place of silence, no action, no reaction, nothing).

Not too much thinking, planning, calculating, but deep entry into a place where the essence of who you are can be revealed.

And that revelation may look scary or impossible at first glance, but if one knows who they truly are, and can begin to cultivate a way to take that inquiry deeper and deeper, the possibilities are infinite as to what may emerge!