Mirror Project

Get to Work

August 21, 2019
Los Angeles, CA
Weather:  clear, warm/hot

“Who is asking?”

This question is such a great question because the query opens up the possibilities of so many paths to deepening one’s understanding.

What is “understanding?” It is realizing that everything is as it should be, given the conditions we find ourselves facing.

How did we find ourselves facing these conditions? That is where we enter into the recognition of the infinite — how many things had to happen to bring us to this moment? It is mind-boggling.

Today,  news was released that the US government will indefinitely hold children in custody conditions if they are caught crossing the so-called “border” at the southern edge of the place of the Planet we call “California.”  This is so interesting. Here’s what it looks like on the ground:

 

 

The so-called border

Yes, this is the reality of the so-called “border”

Yes, this is the reality of the so-called “border”.  It is a plaque, set in cement and at this point, there are all new things that manifest:  language, culture, cuisine, physical differences in the majority of humans that are populating the space/time of the part of the Earth that has been set up as a place called “Mexico”.  Literally, it is a line in the concrete.

And this is what it looks like when you are “returning” to the U.S. from the Mexico side of the Earth:

 

Another view of the border

The border when you are “returning” to the U.S. from the Mexico side of the Earth

Yes, that’s razor wire and those are hundreds of cars, sitting in neutral, creeping up to the stations where passports and people are examined by agents of the government who believe that such apparatus will keep families from being united.  

Some agents recognize that the migration as a product of conditions of violence and threats of death;  or poverty that has been created by government policies that discard the poor; or environmental conditions that have left the natural resources of a region fallow.  Most have a job to do, so they enforce policies like the one announced today.

What is there to do?  Find ways to bring love and compassion alive in the face of heartlessness and willful apathy and ignorance.  

How?  

For the Earth: Recognize that we are the Earth herself and that we all are living beings are intimately related in this inescapable network of mutuality. Contemplate a whole picture of the Earth from space and feel what evokes in you. 

For others:  be gentle. Find a way to kindness and examine your role in creating whatever tension or conflict may exist in relation to others.

For oneself: get quiet — go into the great silence and see what you see; understand what you understand.

Get to work on building that bridge that is one of the hardest to achieve — that’s the one that goes from head to heart.

Support the Gifts of Love and Compassion in Action at www.gocompassion.orgwith donations that will go to a sanctuary for Haitian, Honduran, Salvadoran, Cuban and Guatemalan, Mexican families migrating to peace and security.

 

 

Posted by admin in Mirror Project

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.

Zero-to-Infinity-2

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.

Zero-to-Infinity-3

… 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.

Zero-to-Infinity-4

… 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!

Posted by admin in Mirror Project

Healing is Why I Do It

Billy TiangWhat is the part of our California narrative on health and wellness when it comes to formerly incarcerated people?  Those are the folks who are coming home from prison, back to community, having paid their debt to society, and searching for ways to re-enter communities and families, in a different way than when they left.  The answer:  A lot of healing comes from medicine that is readily available within.

Here is part of the conversation that took place between the Mirror Project and a former lifer who was released after 22 years of incarceration in California’s prison system.  (And then, within 24 hours of freedom, he was detained for 6 months by ICE until being released on bond.)

I asked what part of the narrative on health, wellness, and well-being comes from his experience as someone who is a former prisoner having served more than two decades inside. After 22 years in state prison, he had clarity and firmness in his reply.  The crime was both serious and violent – kidnapping, armed robbery of international tourists traveling to Las Vegas on a bus.  He and his co-conspirators held up about 15 people and created a terrifying experience for the victims.  No one was injured.  No one was killed.

The defense had to try the case because there were no reasonable offers, even for those with no criminal history, a past that included being a part of the national guard reserves, and college education that was unfinished. 

“When did you start to meditate?”

He replied, “I think it was about 5 years before I was released.  I was going to a Buddhism/meditation class inside; the guy leading the class wanted us to take refuge and I didn’t feel right about making that kind of commitment inside there.  I just went (and there were very few who attended) because it was a quiet space.”

“Why did you stay with it for years?”

After a slight chuckle, he said, “The other guys thought it was sort of weird in the beginning – but I kept doing it because it seemed to calm me down and give me more clarity about what I had done.   The meditation is really healing.  I think the main point is HEALING.  I used to sit facing my locker so I wouldn’t be distracted by the action around me.  At first, it was challenging.  But then after a while, I noticed something.  The guys would quiet down when I was doing my meditation and I thought to myself, ‘Wow.  They’re showing me consideration.’  And that was really something.  It was like, ‘Hey, they are being human.’ “

“Did other people ask or join you in our meditation?”

He said, “Nah, but they left me alone and I also noticed after a while, that the area around me got calmer, too.  So I think when you meditate, you can affect other people and the space. At least, that’s what I experienced and that was cool.  I think the practice is something that is very individual.  You either get it, or you don’t.  And it’s not easy to do, even though it looks like you’re just sitting there.  But when you do it – a lot of things are going on inside your head and you have to confront things that you can easily ignore when you’re just living your regular routine.”

“How was it when you came out – was there a difference in the meditation experience?  And why do you keep on meditating now?”

He thought for a minute and then replied, “You know, when I think about it – it’s weird. Inside you are constantly thinking about freedom, and being able to do whatever when you get out.  And when you get released, it’s kinda frantic because you have to look for a place to live, work, re-establish relationships with family,  and all that stuff is really stressful.  Freedom is not an easy thing.  So when I came out, I knew I had to keep my practice because I experienced how much it helped to keep me stable and clear when I was in prison.  It doesn’t cost anything, it’s something you can do no matter where you are, and the effect seemed to be the same. “

As life would have it, when this former prisoner re-engaged with family and community after being released, he had the support of a re-entry program that was culturally sensitive and accessible in southern California.  He also found the regular sitting with Gift of Compassion – a weekly connection to communities and people, beyond the formerly incarcerated.  And, over time, with consistency and commitment to the practice and self, another community was discovered.  That is a community that uplifts humanity, the spirit, and struggle as a part of living.

He continues to face life with courage,  knowing struggle is a constant companion.  Yes, he is “free” – but anti-immigrant sentiment bleeds over to refugees, refugees have no pathway to citizenship, work requires an education or opportunity to come into view.   The heart and spirit are strong.  His material circumstances are equally tough.

He has an aging mother to care for because his older brother is on the streets, homeless and drug-addicted.  Younger  brother (by a different dad) has his own family to take care of and is constantly traveling for work.  And his extended family (all refugees) can barely make room for his mother to survive by providing a small apartment for her to live. 

After gaining freedom, he realizes, “I am it.  And because I took so much from my mom, from now on I will make sure to take care of her.  My goal is to get an education and work with young people to prevent them from making dumb mistakes that can take away the good years of your life.  I want to study sociology.  I also will apply to get into an apprenticeship program to become an electrician.  I was in line for this but then got detained by ICE so lost my place and then, because of a deportation order, I could not get a work permit.”

And here’s the end of this chapter of  his story:

Governor Jerry Brown, in his last week in office, granted this man a full pardon for the crimes he committed as a youth.  The effect:  no more criminal history, ability to lift the deportation order, and life continues….as a refugee from Cambodia.

Not bad, so far. Life, for now, is good. 

Meditation continues to heal.

Posted by admin in Mirror Project