Wednesday, October 28, 2020

racialized consciousness

 
 
 

 

It started before I was born. It began before you were born, too, 
this turning wheel of racialized consciousness.
 Its tracks are evident across the face of time 
and the threads of human connection.

Let us propose this is not an intractable condition but a legacy of human thought,
 speech, and physical behaviors. Our racialized consciousness 
and the suffering and confusion associated with it need not continue. 
This moment in our social history compels us to invite ourselves 
into a path of discoveries, learning, and practices to transform our karma.

I ponder the wheel, an ancient invention of great practicality.
 Its shape appears throughout human history in art, culture, science, 
and spiritual traditions. It has provided a powerful image and metaphor
 for the spiritual journey of humanity. 

We must wake up.

In the Buddhist tradition, the wheel is a primary symbol 
of an eightfold path of healing and transformation leading to freedom. 
But the wheel also describes a repeating pattern of suffering called samsara,
a Sanskrit word referring to the experience of wandering, trapped through
endless cycles of suffering.

The diagram here is a map of the turning wheel of racial karma.
The Sanskrit word karma and Pali term kamma, which gave rise to
our modern-day word “karma,” literally mean action or doing.
Any kind of intentional action, whether mental, verbal, or physical,
is regarded as karma. Karma covers all that is included in the phrase
“thought, word, and deed.”

This diagram of karma shows how intention affects phenomena
in an interconnected cycle of manifestation, transmission, retribution,
and continuation. If you are an imaginative learner, you can visualize
how it relates to your lived experience.


Karma here means the living power of these three actions of thought,
word, and deed to shape the quality of our individual and collective experience.
In the Buddhist understanding, karma is not at all a fatalistic doctrine;
the Buddha transformed it from the older meaning of cause and effect
into a practical understanding of what it means to be
conscious of your own intention.

The wheel of karma is set in motion by intention.
This circle starts with what we intend and then manifests in our thinking,
our speech, and our behavior.

While practicing being more conscious of setting my own intentions in life,
I learned a scary thing: our brain is designed to use the least amount of energy
necessary to get things done. I’m not just talking about brushing our teeth
or driving a car or exercising. I’m talking about deeper things.
Unless we make a conscious choice not to live on automatic pilot,
most of us go through our days without thinking too deeply
about the motivations that drive our actions.

Most of us know that changing habits is challenging.
How much of what we do is habitual?
Studies by neurobiologists and psychologists researching habit formation
indicate that 40 to 95 percent of human behavior—how we think,
how we respond with emotions, what we say, and how we act—
falls into the habit category. So when it comes to deeply rooted thoughts
and behaviors, however good we think our intentions may be,
without insight about the need to change, the strong resolve to make it happen,
and the corresponding action, a good 50 percent of the time
we will default to habit.

The second station on this circle is manifestation.
Whatever we intend gets manifested, whether we intend it consciously or unconsciously.
Studies show that most of our behavior is unconscious. That’s scary to contemplate,
but we must. When it comes to our habits around race, we must acknowledge
and make what is unconscious conscious, so that we can set wise new intentions
as individuals and as a collective.

We must wake up.

The third station is transmission.
The manifestation of our unconscious intention gets transmitted outward
into the world through our actions and words, as well as inward through our thoughts
and emotions. What we manifest, we transmit. We communicate what’s on our minds
whether we want to or not. We communicate consciously and unconsciously,
verbally and nonverbally.

Also, very importantly, we communicate through vibration.
How did human beings communicate before language? We felt it.
Have you ever walked into a room, and when you opened the door you knew,
Boy, somebody was in here a minute ago, and they weren’t very happy?
We have this sensitivity, if we haven’t let it be educated out of us,
this sense of feeling what it is like to be in one another’s company.
Our mirror neurons fire, building empathy and understanding.
Neurologically and evolutionarily, we know we are capable of being together
because we are designed to be social creatures.

The next station in this circle is retribution.
Retribution doesn’t mean final judgment. Retribution means the here-and-now
consequences of a previous action, because karma means “action.”
Today’s adjective for someone who is aware of injustice is “woke”;
the quality of being awake to suffering is what defines the Buddha,
whose very name means “awakened.” If we aren’t awake,
our retribution won’t come in the form of enlightenment.

The last stage after retribution is continuation.
It’s a natural process. If you don’t intervene and don’t shift the wheel onto new pathways,
the wheel of karma simply rolls on. This is true of the modern evolution
of racialized consciousness. We see the same heartbreaking patterns repeating
again and again: lynching in the deaths of Black people at the hands of the state,
or slavery in the funneling of Black and Brown people into indentured labor
in the prison industrial complex.

Karma reveals how our consciousness continues to turn—creating, propagating,
cultivating, and systemizing racism worldwide. But every wheel has an axis
that sustains its momentum, its movement forward, and its accumulated power.
Like the characters in The Wizard of Oz, we are journeying with courage,
clarity, and heart into the center of the axis, the secret space from which
we can heal and transform the suffering of racialized consciousness.


 
----------- Exercise: Opening the Working Ground of Race ----------

This is a reflective exercise to understand how the energies of America’s racial karma are alive in your life story. Find a place where you may stop to reflect mindfully. You may speak, write, think, and meditate on these questions. If you write, keep your thoughts in a journal so you may read them again. What insights do you gain from going deeply into your storehouse of thoughts, feelings, and memories about race?

        What is the story of how your name came to be?
        When did you first notice differences in people’s looks?
        What stories about race and skin color did you hear growing up?
        What phrases do you use to describe racial differences?
        How is your body responding to this exercise?
        How is your body responding to these memories?
        What race seeds were planted as you look back over your life? Seeds meaning thoughts, words,                         actions, and events that remain with you, consciously and unconsciously.
        Which of these seeds were wholesome (leading away from racialized hate, greed, and delusion)?
        Which of these seeds were unwholesome (leading toward racialized hate, greed, and delusion)?
        Which seeds are most impactful in your life now?
        What is your priority in healing the racialized consciousness in yourself?



                            ~ Larry Ward                                
  Excerpted from America’s Racial Karma: An Invitation to Heal
quilt by Faith Ringgold
found here in Lions Roar
 
Larry’s introduction to Buddhist practice began in Calcutta, India in 1977 but it was not until 1991 when Larry met Thich That Hanh that this practice became the center of his life and service. He was ordained as a lay minister in Thay’s Plum Village Tradition in 1994 and a Dharma teacher in 2000. He has lived in spiritual community and has assisted Thich Nhat Hanh throughout the world. He has accompanied Thich Nhat Hanh on peace-making missions in China, France, Korea and Vietnam, as well as throughout the USA.
 
 

 
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

movement

 
 
 
 

 
 
V

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.



T.S. Eliot
excerpt from Burnt Norton
(No 1 of the Four Quartets





you will become


 
 
 



 
You too will find your strength.
We who must live in this time
cannot imagine how strong you will become -
how strange, how surprising,
yet familiar as yesterday.
 
We will sense you
like a fragrance from a nearby garden
and watch you move through our days
like a shaft of sunlight in a sickroom.
 
We will not be herded into churches,
for you are not made by the crowd,
you who meet us in our solitude.
 
We are cradled close in you hands -
and lavishly flung forth.

 
 
 
 
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Pilgrimage, II,26

 
 

autumn refrain







The skreak and skritter of evening gone
And grackles gone and sorrows of the sun,
The sorrows of sun, too, gone . . . the moon and moon,
The yellow moon of words about the nightingale
In measureless measures, not a bird for me
But the name of a bird and the name of a nameless air
I have never–shall never hear. And yet beneath

The stillness of everything gone, and being still,
Being and sitting still, something resides,
Some skreaking and skrittering residuum,
And grates these evasions of the nightingale
Though I have never–shall never hear that bird.
And the stillness is in the key, all of it is,
The stillness is all in the key of that desolate sound.





~ Wallace Stevens


a harmony





 

When you do things
from your soul,
you feel a river
moving in you,
a joy.

When actions come
from another section,
the feeling disappears

Don’t let others lead you

They may be blind
or, worse, vultures.

Reach for the rope of God

And what is that?

Putting aside self-will.

Because of willfulness
people sit in jail,
the trapped bird’s wings are tied,
fish sizzle in the skillet.

The anger of police is willfulness.

You've seen a magistrate
inflict visible punishment

Now see the invisible.

If you could leave your selfishness,
you would see how
you've been torturing your soul

We are born and live inside
black water in a well.

How could we know
what an open field of sunlight is?

Don’t insist on going
where you think you want to go

Ask the way to the spring.

Your living pieces
will form a harmony.

There is a moving palace
that floats in the air
with balconies and
clear water flowing through,
infinity everywhere,
yet contained under a single tent.




~ Jelalludin Rumi
from The Soul of Rumi 
translated by Coleman Barks
art by van gogh


Sunday, October 25, 2020

'le bapteme de solitude'

 
 
 

 
 
 Immediately when you arrive in Sahara, for the first or the tenth time,
 you notice the stillness. An incredible, absolute silence prevails outside the towns;
 and within, even in busy places like the markets, there is a hushed quality in the air,
 as if the quiet were a conscious force which, resenting the intrusion of sound,
 minimizes and disperses sound straightaway. Then there is the sky,
 compared to which all other skies seem fainthearted efforts. Solid and luminous,
 it is always the focal point of the landscape. At sunset, the precise, 
curved shadow of the earth rises into it swiftly from the horizon, 
cutting into light section and dark section. When all daylight is gone,
 and the space is thick with stars, it is still of an intense and burning blue, 
darkest directly overhead and paling toward the earth, 
so that the night never really goes dark.

You leave the gate of the fort or town behind, pass the camels lying outside, 
go up into the dunes, or out onto the hard, stony plain and stand awhile alone. 
Presently, you will either shiver and hurry back inside the walls,
 or you will go on standing there and let something very peculiar happen to you, 
something that everyone who lives there has undergone 
and which the French call 'le bapteme de solitude.' 
 
It is a unique sensation, and it has nothing to do with loneliness,
 for loneliness presupposes memory. Here in this wholly mineral landscape
 lighted by stars like flares, even memory disappears...
A strange, and by no means pleasant, process of reintegration begins inside you,
 and you have the choice of fighting against it, and insisting on remaining 
the person you have always been, or letting it take its course.
 For no one who has stayed in the Sahara for a while
 is quite the same as when he came.

...Perhaps the logical question to ask at this point is: Why go? 
The answer is that when a man has been there and undergone the baptism of solitude 
he can't help himself. Once he has been under the spell of the vast luminous, 
silent country, no other place is quite strong enough for him, 
no other surroundings can provide the supremely satisfying sensation
 of existing in the midst of something that is absolute.
 He will go back, whatever the cost in time or money,
 for the absolute has no price.
 
 
 
 

 ~  Paul Bowles, 
from Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue: 
Scenes from the Non-Christian World
 
 
 


 
 

under the calm influence of the heavens?



.

 
 
Long afternoons of childhood..., not yet really
life; still only growing-time
that drags at the knees -, time of defenseless waiting.
And between what we will perhaps become
and this edgeless existence -: deaths,
uncountable.  Love, the possessive, surrounds
the child forever betrayed in secret
and promises him to the future; which is not his own.

Afternoons that he spent by himself, staring
from mirror to mirror; puzzling himself with the riddle
of his own name: Who? Who? - But the others 
come home again, overwhelm him.
What the window or path
or the moldy smell of a drawer
confided to him yesterday: they drown it out and destroy it.
Once more he belongs to them.
As tendrils sometimes fling themselves out from the thicker
bushes, his desire will fling itself out
from the tangle of family and hang there, swaying in the light.
But daily they blunt his glance upon their inhabited 
walls - that wide innocent glance which lets dogs in
and holds the tall flowers,
still almost face to face.

Oh how far it is
from this watched-over creature to everything that will someday
be his wonder or his destruction.
His immature strength
learns cunning among the traps.

But the constellation
of his future love has long 
been moving among the stars.  What terror
will tear his heart out of the track of its fleeing
to place it in perfect submission, under the calm
influence of the heavens?



 
 
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from his uncollected poems
translation by Stephen Mitchell




the way you see things

 
 
 
 

 
 It is not by preaching or expounding the sutras (scriptures)
that you fulfill the task of awakening others to self-realization;
it is rather by the way you walk,
the way you stand,
the way you sit and
the way you see things.




~  Thich Nhat Hanh
 with thanks to louie louie
 
 
 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

to the sorrow string











You invisible one
resounding on your own
whatever the others 
happen to be playing
source of a note
not there in the score
under whatever key
unphrased continuo
gut stretched between
the beginning and the end
what would the music
be without you
since even through
the chorus of pure joy
the tears hear you
and nothing can restrain them


~ W.S. Merwin






Friday, October 23, 2020

one great thing






And I thought over again
My small adventures
As with a shore-wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And thought I was in danger,

My fears,
Those small ones
That I thought so big 
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.

And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing:
To live to see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world.





~ Inuit song
photo by Alvis Zujevs






Thursday, October 22, 2020

happiness

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Monday, October 19, 2020

while things are quiet






Things are easier to control while things are quiet.
Things are easier to plan far in advance.
Things break easier while they are still brittle.
Things are easier hid while they are still small.

Prevent problems before they arise.
Take action before things get out of hand.
The tallest tree
begins as a tiny sprout.
The tallest building
starts with one shovel of dirt.
A journey of a thousand miles
starts with a single footstep.

If you rush into action, you will fail.
If you hold on too tight, you will lose your grip.

Therefore the Master lets things take their course
and thus never fails.
She doesn't hold on to things
and never loses them.
By pursing your goals too relentlessly,
you let them slip away.
If you are as concerned about the outcome
as you are about the beginning,
then it is hard to do things wrong.
The master seeks no possessions.
She learns by unlearning,
thus she is able to understand all things.




~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching
translation by j. h. mcdonald



it needs the metaphor of the body ...






The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning

in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather

plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body's world,
instinct

and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
sweetness
and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is --

so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star. 




~ Mary Oliver 




Sunday, October 18, 2020

crossroads

 
 

 

My body, now that we will not be traveling together much longer
I begin to feel a new tenderness toward you, very raw and unfamiliar,
like what I remember of love when I was young —

love that was so often foolish in its objectives
but never in its choices, its intensities
Too much demanded in advance, too much that could not be promised —

My soul has been so fearful, so violent;
forgive its brutality.
As though it were that soul, my hand moves over you cautiously,

not wishing to give offense
but eager, finally, to achieve expression as substance:

it is not the earth I will miss,
it is you I will miss.
 
 
 
 
Louise Glück
 from A Village Life
with thanks to brain pickings

 
 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

about this mind

 
 
 

 
 
About this mind,
in truth there is nothing really wrong with it.
It is intrinsically pure.
Within itself it's already peaceful.
 
If the mind is not peaceful these days,
it's because it follows moods.
The real mind doesn't have anything to it;
it is simply an aspect of nature.
It becomes peaceful or agitated because
moods deceive it.
 
The untrained mind is stupid.
Sense impressions come and trick it into 
happiness,
suffering,
gladness, and 
sorrow,
but the mind's true nature is none of those things.
 
That gladness or sadness is not the mind,
 but only a mood coming to deceive us.
The untrained mind gets lost and follows these thing;
it forgets itself.
Then we think that it is we who are 
upset or at ease or whatever.
 
But really this mind of ours is already unmoving and peaceful -
really peaceful!
Just like a leaf which remains still 
so long as the wind doesn't blow.
If a wind comes up, the leaf flutters.
The fluttering is due to the wind -
the fluttering of the mind is due to those sense impressions;
the mind follows them.
If it doesn't follow them,
it doesn't flutter.
If we know fully the true nature of sense impressions,
we will be unmoved.
 
Our practice is simply to see the "Original Mind."
We train the mind to know those sense impressions
and not get lost in them,
to make it peaceful.
 
Just this is the aim of all this difficult practice.
 
 
 
 
~ Ajahn Chah
 from Food for the Heart -
The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah
art by Cameron Gray