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.

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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!

Posted by admin in Mirror Project

Borders and Bridges

The long walk of  my friend Francicso Ramos Stierle – aka Pancho or Panchito – began on March 12, 2019.  It began as a way to honor the sacred act of migration – an act that occurs among all living species that seek to survive and dance with the rhythms of Nature. The idea came to him in final fruition during the Fall Gathering of 2018 at Commonweal.

Our deep bonding happened without words, over several days during early morning, silent meditations. Over dinner one evening, we talked about the news of the migration of people coming from South and Central America.  We shared stories about how we arrived in the part of the Planet we call the United States (this description, “the part of the planet we call…” is how Pancho describes  the arbitrary and imaginary lines created to mark nation states.  Our conversation turned to what was happening in that moment at the southern part of the state that meets at the San Diego – Tijuana region. We envisioned another Overground Railroad project in which people from California could join to walk toward Mexico and the pilgrimage would be to express something more welcoming and kind that what was being expressed by the federal government and “Customs Border Protection” (CBP), also known as the California Border Patrol. Originally, we thought it would be incredible to host a giant holiday celebration for the families migrating north; then, the realization that the heavens, human considerations, and timing would not work in favor of a year end rendezvous

The thing about Pancho is this: he is clear.  Pancho is a deep meditation practitioner, and his life is dedicated to being in service to others. He realized as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) that everyone and everything is so deeply interconnected that one small change could lead to huge differences in outcomes.  As a student of astrobiology and astrophysics, he understood that his doctoral research could be used as a facade by the institution and government to produce “safer nuclear weapons” threatening all life on this Planet.  In his realization of what might happen with his work, Pancho decided he could not allow the possibility of his studies to be used for such a purpose.  He loves the planets, the stars, the galaxies that exist across the universe(s) and his meditation practice gave him an appreciate for the preciousness of the life that each has been given.  As he puts it, “I decided not to cooperate with the University of California anymore.  I chose to leave the research I was doing and it opened up all of these most incredible ways to learn more deeply about the known, the unknown and the unknowable!”  

The fundamental practice of being in silent meditation aligns around compassion, wisdom, and love. In expressing and living in this way, a person can overcome the blind spots that get in the way of letting go of unhealthy ideas and actions.  Becoming numb to toxic conditions or insensitive to human needs can easilyhappen as a person gets caught up in what is called “daily living”.  Over time, a sadness or confusion about what is happening in our world can arise — and this is when the question of what to do to change things becomes a tug at the conscience, the heart, the being. At this moment insight is needed — and in many cases, there is no “figuring it out”.  Rather, it is time to go into a place where no one is telling you what to do, how to think, what is possible and not.  In a place of silence, determination, discomfort – things happen; lights turn on; connections are made.  What happens next, is up to each individual who has the experience.

The departure date of March 12 was identified when Pancho met with a good friend, Nipun Mehta.  The two had built a relationship around meditation in the home of Nipun’s parents for several years.  The trust and care between the two led to the creation of mutual love and insights.  March 12th was when Mahatma Gandhi started the great Salt March in 1930 to commit a massive act of nonviolent civil disobedience.  The intent was to defy and break the imposition of unjust British taxes.  Also, it was New Year’s Day of the Aztec calendar whose civilization flourished in Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City where he and his family grew up; and March 12th also happens to be the date upon which Pancho made entry into this world.

He was “feel-thinking” that the day was the right one – and he wanted to invite anyone else who wished to activate their desire to “do something” in the face of all that was happening.  So he began the walk with a half dozen or so others with whom he kept company in the days of slow movement across the region where he began – in Huichin, Ohlone territory, now known as East Oakland.  His intention was to go to the so called “border”. And the entire way, he would carry an image of what he calls the true “ultimate” selfie – it’s a flag of the Earth –  the blue marble. It is beautiful, unifying and peaceful all at once. He carried this big flag on a 6-foot bamboo pole for the entire time of the pilgrimage.

The company of others was always welcome and mutually beneficial to taking on the conditions that were encountered:  changes in weather, meeting people along the way, foraging for food, and searching for shelter. (They left with nothing – literally, no food, no water, no currency, no intoxicants, nothing but their certainty of receiving all they would need was met with exactly what they expected:  generosity, curiosity, and supportive words and gestures that took care of everything necessary during the pilgrimage.). It was a pilgrimage, with meditation anchoring the day and night.

The response of the heavens gave the pilgrims a clear endorsement:  rainbows appeared and stayed with them for nearly 45 minutes in their first week;  farmers greeted them and offered fresh fruit, nuts, and a place to rest/wash up; and people brought them many questions and advice for how to be safe on their walk.  

At some point, others left and Pancho was left by himself.  Perfect, again./p>

When Pancho began the walk alone, the feeling was of a different kind.  Lots of solitude, no idea of when and where encounters could turn into unexpected delays – but the flag garnered a lot of good will, with many people expressing agreement and understanding that this was a true photograph – it is us and we are all in it together.

The core was about exploring this issue:  We may be living in a time when laws and borders that limit the migration of people who need to move to survive – should be raised as an issue to examine.  What does it mean to have restrictions in the name of nationality when we are living in a time when it is clear we are inextricably tied to one another across the Planet

For some, the idea is preposterous, for Pancho and many others, there is no question that it is time to hold space to both honor national origin and to internalize the fact of our politically-maintained notions and practices being at odds with conditions that are clearly saying it is time for the world to work together.  Harmonizing is necessary for many reasons – the most obvious of which, is human survival and prevention of the collapse of societies across the globe. What do every day person think?

The migration of thousands of people leaving untenable environmental conditions, man-made conflict, and crushing poverty — has sparked a new kind of conversation that has to happen.  But it won’t happen until there are actions that will raise the question being posed by the pilgrimage. It is not just a question of justice and the need for a civil society to follow the rules of law.  It is not just a question of sharing resources that will meet the needs of newcomers. These are things that we are capable as a society of working out. How do we know? Because we have met much more challenging conditions.  This is best evidenced by the fact that we have figured out how to travel human curiosity into the galaxy and beyond, and we have created tools to study other life forms or places where our life form might survive.  This is a field that Pancho knows well from his training and education. He is certain that if people wish to do it, solutions to the many imagined “problems” related to the migration of people can be solved.

On June 15, 2019, Pancho was detained while trying to cross the so called border to attend to a people’s assembly in Tijuana. He became the first “Mexican” deported to the part of the Planet we call the U.S. by the Mexican police. Confused by what to do with any human being who shows up at the border proclaiming to be “a citizen of the World” with no ID, he was handed to the U.S. Customs Border Protection where he was imprisoned for two days. Later, the Mexican authorities realized the absurdity of the situation –as they found old information about him– and he was released from the U.S. jail, “allowed” to enter Tijuana and he was “repatriated”.  Since then, he has connected with pastor Gustavo Banda and his wife –also a pastor–, Zaida Guillén, a couple who has been ministering to refugees from the parts of the Planet we call Haiti, Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil and even Mexico. They live in a place called Cañón del Alacrán (Scorpion Canyon) – where hundreds of migrants have been offered a home.

We are in conversation weekly/daily about what is next.  The idea is to share thinking and events and occurrences with those who cannot go to the so called “border” now;  but who can offer strength in the spirit of knowing that it is possible to ease some of the suffering that exists because we have not yet had the conversation that needs to happen.  We are building bridges from spirit to soul; intellect to conscience; and head to heart. Meditation made it happen for Pancho. It is an act of healing and compassion and wisdom that is sorely needed by individuals and communities across this glorious Planet.

Look forward to more stories from the place of the Planet we call Mexico in the weeks to come.

Posted by admin