the Dalai Lama

Protests are Celebrations!

There are a lot of people around these days (some of whom may think of themselves as terribly “spiritual”) who are quick to express the view that “opposing” things has the opposite outcome to that we desire. “What we resist, persists,” they say. And I get what they're saying...

There is no question whatsoever in my mind that I am opposed to the company in Pembroke that spews tritium onto the local populace (& into local air & groundwater, in what I have come to think of as the GRAND TRITIUM EXPERIMENT or GTE), & I’ve worked hard to try & get it shut down (we failed, btw, & the company has just been given a new, 5-year licence by its nuclear “regulator,” the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, or CNSC. You can find more information about all this at the Tritium Awareness Project Web site, a site & project dedicated to "telling the truth about tritium").

For the record, I am not sorry I put in all those hours I put in. No regrets whatsoever about my role in this modern day David & Goliath struggle.

What’s occurring to me is this:

I see all the work I do – the writing – the efforts aimed at polluters of any & all kinds – the participation in “protests” – as a celebration!

I love to celebrate what is best in human beings & in this kooky mess of a society/culture we’ve created for ourselves here on Planet Earth.

I celebrate our

  • caring
  • compassion
  • energy
  • community-building
  • individuality
  • creativity
  • big generous hearts
  • capacity for fun/joy
  • music
  • freedom
  • laughter
  • love
  • hope

 

& the list goes on!

& I celebrate the possibility & promise of democracy & cooperation among those of us who work to build a better world – & even those of us who don’t, either because they are too lazy, apathetic, cynical, miserable, oblivious or fearful – or because they are really all caught up in the “S/he who dies with the most toys/power wins” game…

Because you know what?

We’re all in this together, whether we like it (& each other) or not.

As someone pointed out at the Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle held in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) on Earth Day (April 22nd), 2008, we need a “big tent” story that is big enough for ALL of us – & you know what? He’s right.

So I’ll keep right on with the work I’ve been doing for 20 years now – working to build a “better” world. Sometimes that may take the form of opposing something nasty – & sometimes I’ll mostly use my words – & I’ll keep right on going to “protests,” because protests are joyful gatherings of like-minded, energetic citizens who care – & who, like me, celebrate what is best in all of us – as individuals, & as a society. & who like to get together once in a while in a big, noisy way – cos’ hey! That’s what democracy looks like!

& if that somehow makes me less “spiritual” than some of the folks I know, well…so be it!

We all gotta do what we gotta do!

Janet

p.s. I don’t know whether folks consider the Dalai Lama “spiritual” (heh heh), but I heard him quoted in an Elisabet Sahtouris DVD as having said, “The best meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.” (The film is called "Crisis As Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet.")

p.p.s. I am often reminded of Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1964), a Nazi victim who was imprisoned at the Sachsenhausen & Dachau prison/death camps in Germany, & who said so memorably, “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

More recently, in the March 2010 issue of the CCPA Monitor, monthly newsletter of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives– a most excellent group & publication – I saw an updated version of this:

The Price of Silence

When they came for the poverty-stricken,

I was silent because I was well-off.

When they came for the unemployed,

I was silent because I had a job.

When they came for the homeless,

I was silent because I had a home.

When they came for the pensioners,

I was silent because I had a good RRSP.

When they came for the Aboriginal peoples,

I was silent because I was Anglo-Saxon.

When they came for the immigrants,

I was silent because I was born here.

When they came for the sick and disabled,

I was silent because I was healthy.

When they came for the students,

I was silent because I had my degree.

When they came for the youth,

I was silent because I was middle-aged.

When at last they came for me,

No one was left to hear my cries.

 

(with credit to the afore-mentioned Paster Niemöller for his inspiration.)

p.s. EONS later: another posting about protesting here -- with essential quotations!!

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Energy always flows either toward hope, community, love, generosity, mutual recognition, and spiritual aliveness or it flows toward despair, cynicism, fear that there is not enough, paranoia about the intentions of others, and a desire to control.” ~ Michael Lerner, quoted in The Great Turning – From Empire to Earth Community, by David Korten

 

The Problem with God…

<October 2007>

Before I get going, I have a confession to make. The problem is not with God at all. I’ve been deliberately provocative in using this title – a writer has to grab your attention somehow, hmmm?

There is actually no problem whatsoever with God.

The problem (& it’s a major one) is with human beings & our conception of God – our misconceptions – & with our reliance on outmoded religions/religious practices. (God did not create religion, in case this not-so-small fact has escaped your notice; human beings did. If you muse on that for a moment or two, you may find what follows a bit easier to digest.)

The problem with God is very simple (although the ramifications are pretty considerable).

Most people think of God (by whichever of Her/His many names you choose) as a force outside themselves.

Increasing numbers of us have come to the strong suspicion that God/the Creator/the Goddess/the Great Spirit/the Divine One is not outside us, but inside.

This makes all the difference.

When we perceive all the power – the goodness – the knowledge – the wisdom – all the compassion & forgiveness & non-judgment to exist in a being outside ourselves, we seem to think it’s perfectly alright, normal, acceptable& reasonable to abdicate responsibility for working miracles in the world ourselves. We leave the miracles up to God/Whomever (&/or to the mere mortals around us who clearly seem to have grasped that miracles are indeed possible for mere mortals. Clearly, we do see around us many individuals who are up to the pretty miraculous rather routinely. We can call them saints or we can think of them as Very Special People & either put them up on lofty pedestals or patronize them for being oddballs – either being our lazy way of allowing Someone Else/Them – to do all the work, while we content ourselves with looking after our own very tiny personal agendas) – or we can stop being obsessed with our own selves, our own problems & our own (mostly self-imposed) limitations – & get crackin’!

Tom Harpur’s impressive book The Pagan Christ - Recovering the Lost Light was quite an eye-opener for me on the subject of Christianity & organized religion & I cannot recommend it highly enough. Very well worth spending some time reading!!

I’ve become utterly convinced that locating all the goodness & power outside ourselves (whether in God, the Buddha, Christ, Allah…our neighbour or Whomever…) merely strips away our own intention & ability & potential to be powerful forces ourselves.(1)

It seems to me (& not just me!) a rather pivotal time in human history (slight understatement here…).

We human beings are wreaking unbelievable havoc on the planet. We are rendering thousands of species extinct (200 species every day)...  & we are also clearly placing at risk our very own selves & our own species.

This destruction – this potential human extinction – was not inevitable. The situation we now find ourselves in comes as the result of choices human beings have made.

Surely it is time for us to make different kinds of choices?? Radical ones, even. After all, the situation itself is what can reasonably, fairly & accurately be described as pretty goshdarn radical…

We might start with the conviction that we are, each and every one of us, power-ful – that is, full of power. Because we are.

We can philosophize until the cows come home, if we like, about whether the Goddess/God/Great Spirit/Supreme Being is in-side or out-side – but I’d say this is more a time for concerted action than for time-consuming nitpicking, philosophizing & study (nor is it a time for reliance on some Supreme Being outside ourselves to whoosh in & save our asses. Not going to happen, Gentle Reader…).

The need to turn our heads & minds & actions around is urgent – mindbogglingly urgent, actually.

As a new acquaintance of mine said rather eloquently recently, “We don’t have time for fear.”

Nor excuses, either.

Nor abdication of responsibility – nor weak-kneed excuses for acting as though all that matters are our own puny individual selves & our own selfish personal agendas.

When all we think & care & act about is ourselves, we are puny creatures.

When we act from an inner conviction that what we do matters – that we are indeed each power-ful – we are no longer puny, we are a force!

The voice of the Goddess/God/Allah/the Great Spirit is there inside each one of us. It’s the voice of conscience & conviction & big-ness & … endless potential.

I think we need to get pretty quiet with ourselves on a regular basis, mind you, if we are to discern this voice. The noisy way most of us live these days tends to drown it right out (2)…

Tune in to silence & to nature – & listen to the voice of your conscience, your inner convictions & your decent & generous impulses. Be guided by your indomitable spirit & your amazing inner potential.

And then, take action.

Your divine & power-ful presence (as well as your brains, heart, hands, feet & voice) are desperately needed

Janet

p.s. Under the ‘Recommended’ tab on this blog, you’ll find a couple of lists of recommended reading (& films) that you might enjoy checking out.

p.p.s. The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying, “The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.” I came across this is in the amazing, inspiring Elisabet Sahtouris DVD “Crisis as Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet.” Check it out!!

p.p.p.s. There are 2 other items on this blog on this topic: “What is Spirituality FOR?” and “Spirituality: More Thoughts.”

 


(1) There is a song called “Hands” by Jewel in which she says, right at the end, “We are God’s eyes, God’s hands,” & I think there are worse ways to perceive the purpose of human beings than this. I’d say we are also God’s voice – & I’ve posted another blog item about that; it’s called “Raise your VOICE.”

(2) A parenthetical word here about prayer: some of us may think we get quiet pretty regularly, when we pray. But I think when we pray there is actually a pretty serious lack of silence. Generally, I suspect, we hear our own voice asking, entreating, begging, whatever…. Even if our prayers are for a better world, & even if we are very diligent in praying for all of our loved ones & the starving children, & the decaying planet, & world peace & so on & so on, our prayer is not, I think, a time of silence. We need some true, actual silence in our lives in order to still the constant barrage of noise, & experience the quiet within. There are several ways of finding silence. Solitary walks & communing with Nature is one method. Yoga and/or meditation practice is another. For sure, solitude is essential.

 

What is Spirituality FOR? (1)

<June 2008>

Everyone and her cousin is reading Eckhart Tolle right now, & this is a good thing! I’m one of his biggest fans, & if I had to distill my (usually exceedingly long) recommended reading list down to just one title, it would be, without question, A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts & insights & wisdom are spot on. They are just the words & messages we need to hear at this uniquely challenging time in human history.

I do, however, suspect that there is some confusion over the meaning & purpose of the term/phenomenon “spirituality,” & I think it’s important that we not miss out on the forest for the trees…as it were.

Let me say right off the top here, by the way, that neither I nor anyone else would ever describe me as a “spiritual-looking” person (can’t seem to make myself do yoga or meditate regularly, for example). I’m no “expert” on the subject of the meaning & purpose of spirituality, either. I just think (& read, & philosophize) about all these things quite a lot…

While a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle (& of Oprah, who has helped so hugely to deliver Tolle's ideas to millions of people)(2), I’m a little concerned that some of us may be missing the point of all this learning to live in the moment, understanding about the “pain body,” & learning more about energy & joy & enthusiasm.

We are not here just for ourselves, Gentle Reader; none of us is! We are here for each other, & for the whole (meaning the human race & the Earth). This is what (most) religions & religious leaders have always tried so hard to teach us, but got derailed by becoming self-perpetuating & self-righteous institutions. Nowadays, of course, so many of us find that organized religion doesn’t “speak” to us, & indeed, the beauty of the amazing Eckhart Tolle is that his wisdom transcends all the old man-made religious divisions & dogmas.

Spirituality is for each and every one of us – its purpose (I think) is to help us become more fully human. Inevitably, becoming more fully human brings us into intimate contact with other human beings & with suffering of all kinds, since Planet Earth has billions of human beings & is rife with suffering in myriad forms.

“Spirituality is that aspect of ourselves which enables us to transcend our isolation and move into communion with life and with one another. When our lives lack any kind of experience which connects us with the sanctity of life, it is as though we have lost the very ground of our being. Spirituality is central to community and to effective political work.” So said Margo Adair & Sharon Howell in their essay “Women Weave Community” in the book Circles of Strength – Community Alternatives to Alienation.(3)

Spirituality & spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation & chanting exist to help us rein in our egos & their attendant emotional excesses & to become more wise, giving, compassionate & caring people; at least, that’s my understanding of their purpose.

I suspect there are still at least some people I know well who think spirituality is “woo woo” – too “out there,” too weird, too anti-intellectual…too…airy-fairy.

I think too that some of us think doing yoga & meditation are ends in themselves. After all, they make us feel so good.

It seems to me it would be a terrible shame if all the people who are “awakening to [their] life’s purpose” simply begin to exchange one form of egotism for another.

We are here for one another. We are not here just to look after ourselves & our own immediate situations. (I don't think so, anyway, though for sure, I could be wrong about this!)

There are many serious crises taking place here on the Earth at this time, & there is so much work to do!

I pray (yes, although I am not conventionally “religious,” do not attend church & don’t appear outwardly very “spiritual,” I do indeed pray) that more & more of us will grasp soon – as we learn to let our egos/minds grip us less & less in the negative ways to which we’ve become accustomed – that we do indeed each have a purpose here, & that our energy & efforts & caring & compassion are needed in a whole variety of ways.

Being “spiritual” – especially in the year 2009 – does not mean “workin’ 9 – 5” & caring only about our own immediate situation, & perhaps doing yoga & meditation in order to benefit our own immediate self. Doing yoga & meditation & chanting & becoming less selfish & less ensnared by ego free us to contribute to the world around us; this, I believe, is what spirituality is really for.

When we free ourselves from the old yoke of egotism & the more recent & all-too-prevalent “Everything is all about ME” mentality, a lot of energy is freed up.

But don’t take old un-spiritual Janet McNeill’s word on this. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader recognized, loved & respected around the world. I heard him quoted recently in the Elisabet Sahtouris DVD “Crisis as Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet” saying: “ The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”(4)

Janet

P.S. There are 2 other items on the blog on this topic: ‘The Problem with God’ & ‘Spirituality: More Thoughts.’


 

[1] With apologies and gratitude to farmer, poet and essayist Wendell Berry, whose essay collection “What are People FOR?” is an excellent and inspiring read (as is everything he writes!).

(2) with her Webcasts, I mean, which you can find here

(3) Circles of Strength – Community Alternatives to Alienation, edited by Helen Forsey, New Society Publishers, 1993.

(4) Elisabet Sahtouris is a wonderfully inspiring evolution biologist, writer and international presenter. To learn more about her, go here. The film mentioned is very, very inspiring. It can be ordered on-line…

 

Pain Bodies on Parade (or Oh, To Be a Duck)

<Sept. ‘08>

Have you read Eckhart Tolle?

If not, my most excellent & heartfelt advice to you is, run out as soon as possible and buy (or borrow) his books & read him!!!

Read A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. You’ll find you’ll want to dip into its astonishingly helpful life truths again & again & again. (1)

This is an extraordinary time in human history.

Hmmm. Allow me to re-phrase that.

This is perhaps the most astonishing, beyond devastating and tragic to potentially apocalyptic, time in the history of our species (it certainly isn’t boring, though, is it?)

Only if you have your head planted firmly in the ground, ostrich-style, with ears and eyes firmly closed up with duct tape, can you miss seeing the truth that planetary devastation and the collapse of “civilization” as we know it are staring us squarely in the face.

We’ve waged war on each other and on the planet that sustains us, for between 5 & 10,000 years now.

War, poverty, greed, violence, cruelty, discrimination –  all are major stars on the world stage.

In our personal lives, greed, self-delusion and obsession with the past (our hurts, our pain) and the future (when we will triumph! When we will be rich/thin/admired/retired/“well”…) keep us from “being here now” to see what is really going on in our personal lives, and to the very planet we inhabit. There is also, I’d venture to say, a rather extraordinary epidemic of terminal, blind self-absorption.

Well. To pain bodies, hmm? My own pain body(2) made a big and rather noisy appearance recently. It stunned me – took me completely by surprise – and “got the better of me,” big-time. I thought I was “past” that kind of unconscious being-swallowed-up-by my own “crud,” for lack of a better way of putting it.

Oops! Not quite! Haven’t quite, yet, transmuted all that old … crap.

The specifics are not particularly relevant. I was in a setting where I suppose pain bodies make rather frequent appearances (a hospital), and where family “dramas” probably happen at the drop of a hat; for sure, though, the spectacular appearance of my own PB took me entirely by surprise.

It wasn’t actually until a couple of days later (with the help of Tolle and Oprah) that I actually “got” what had grabbed hold of me.

I do believe what we are seeing around us – in our individual lives and on the societal/world stage – is a spectacular, earth-wide drama of “pain bodies on parade.”

What is a person to do??

Well, I don’t have any simple answers or guarantees, dear Reader.

I can recommend that we all begin by reading Eckhart Tolle (whose views and insights, by the way, are consistent with all or most religious traditions and also with non-belief, actually – he’s an equal opportunity kind of guy!) – grasping that this pivotal time in human history is calling each one of us to heal ourselves (by learning to live in the present moment; sounds easy, huh? Bit more challenging than it sounds, but do-able…) – so that we stand some chance of helping heal “the world.”

And then, I’d say, we all ought to follow the advice of that amazing and inspiring Dalai Lama, who has said, “The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”

And oh dear me, I’ve gone & forgotten to explain the duck part!

Tune in to “Ducks, Unlimited; Humans? Also Unlimited…”

Janet

 

P.S. Another blog item about Eckhart Tolle, ducks & pain bodies is ‘Flap Your Wings.’

 

 


(1) Watch his Webcasts with Oprah, too! They are wonderful and inspiring and definitely have the potential to be life-changing. Catch them here

(2) Tolle has articulated the concept of the “pain body” in both The Power of Now and A New Earth. It’s a concept that illuminates a very great deal, I must say! Google it and watch a short YouTube for an explanation.

 

This Stunning, Stunning World!

<August 2007>

It’s a stunning summer day, and as usual, I went out for my daily morning walk.

As I walked, I looked at trees and sky (mostly trees; to me, they’re magic!) and I thought, “Yikes! This amazing, amazing stunning, stunning world!”

Have you noticed – do you notice regularly – how utterly beautiful and abundant this world – this Earth – of ours is?

Maybe not. Most of us are in such a darn rush all the time…

Why are we in such a darn hurry?

I think it’s because most of us live rather like rodents on a treadmill, running so madly in circles that we not only don’t notice the bars of the cage we’ve placed ourselves in, we don’t even see that a whole world exists outside the cage.

We don’t realize that life has other options.

There is another way to live!

I think the name of the game that most of us are playing is “Keep up with the Joneses.” It’s a pretty all-consuming regimen. Takes a ton of energy – and lots of money and time.

It doesn’t allow us a whole lot of time for thinking – walking – reflecting – re-considering.

Most of us don’t realize we’re “rogue primates,” in the language of John A. Livingston, author of the book by the same name (Rogue Primate – An exploration of human domestication). As he points out in the book, we humans think we “run the show.”

Everything is a triangle – a hierarchy – and we humans sit at the apex of the triangle and “run” things.

This is not the true situation at all. As Paul Hawken suggests in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, “take a winter off” and see if you can order up Spring.

We are part of the world/Creation/the Earth – one integral part – and we have overrun it with our numbers and our technologies and our creations.

What we have wrought isn’t very pretty, is it?

But life isn’t about triangles, it’s about circles.

And hey! It doesn’t take a lot to change it all – to transform it. It just takes a bunch of us stepping off that darn wheel and starting to look around the cage, and outside the bars of the cage.

It can be as simple as “getting back on your feet.”

Take up daily walking. No Walkman, no I-pod. Just you and Nature (even cities have parks and trees!)

Read some. Think some.

Then, take some action.

You won’t regret it, I promise you.

Janet

P.S. Don't take my word for it! The Dalai Lama has said “The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”

Earth Day 2009 - A Photo Essay...

limited-vision-sign So, I'm walking down the street in Vancouver, and I see this sign.

I think, "Wow, never seen a sign quite like that one before!"

I walk out onto Kitsilano Beach, and I see this neat-looking tree trunk.

tree-on-kits-beach-1

The trunk is really quite stunning, I discover as I examine it up close. Every square inch seems to have a beautiful pattern.

tree-shot-2

Swirls, bumps, indentations… It is very, very neat-looking.

tree_shot_4_1

Every angle I look at it from, it’s like a whole completely different tree!

tree_shot_5_1

It makes me think of human beings, all of us caught up in our little lives, all of us thinking we have a grasp of “the big picture” – of what really “matters” – all of us unaware that from three feet away (in any direction), to anyone else, the world looks completely different.

tree-shot_6

What is “the big picture,” really?

It’s 2009, and the environmental crisis (and the planet) just keeps heating up.

Who is really “minding the store”? Is anyone??

What might happen if we were all to move from “limited vision” to “unlimited vision”?

If we all began to see the whole tree trunk (and world), not just our own teeny-tiny little piece of it?

Thomas Berry has said about the environmental crisis, “It is something like being in a lifeboat. There may be problems of distribution of food, there may be people that need medical care, but if something happens to the boat, the boat has to be taken care of immediately or else everything else becomes irrelevant.”

Astronomer Carl Sagan said, “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.”

Lester Brown says, “Saving our civilization is not a spectator sport.”

Joanna Macy has said “If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear. People who can open up to the web of life that called us into being” and with Molly Young Brown, that “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” 

The Dalai Lama has said, “The most important meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.”

19th century writer Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I say, we are quite amazing creatures when we allow ourselves to stop tripping over our own feet. Isn’t it time for us to step up to the plate, instead, and live up to all that incredible potential?

Limited vision…or unlimited potential?

It’s our choice!

Janet