Becoming Warriors of Presence

William Butler Yeats wrote over a century ago, in the wake of the First World War,

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…

 

We easily feel this today. One minute, I look outside my house and see an apple tree greening with spring and hear a raven’s raucous call. The next a car horn. Then, faintly, an NPR report of a bombed Mariupol, and of a GOP Congresswoman repeating Russian disinformation.

 

Which way does my mind turn? Do I relax into the calm beauty the tree and natural universe provides in this moment? Or do I get ready to battle those aiming to rip the constitutional rights and protections from my limbs and claim them all for themselves? Or who threaten to deny us the very air we need to breathe because we are not able or willing to pay their price?

 

How do we know what future will be revealed? We don’t. But we know the price we’ll pay for doing nothing is unpayable.

 

We all want an enjoyable life. One that satisfies. Maybe one with meaning. That makes the world a little better. But when the natural world itself or the sustainability of the climate is threatened⎼ and the human world is degrading so fast it’s impossible to have any idea what will happen tomorrow or if anything caring, humane, and democratic will be left for us⎼ how do we not burn out or give up? How do we live day to day without degenerating into a blubbering mass, knowing we must act but not knowing what it is we can do?

 

David Loy, Buddhist philosopher, eco-activist and author gave a talk on Friday, April 29th. He spoke about a fellow Buddhist, from Boulder, CO, Wynn Bruce, who had immolated himself on the Supreme Court steps on Earth Day, one week earlier. Wynn’s father said he did it out of concern for our world and the lack of determined action by our political system to save it.

 

Loy quoted philosopher Noam Chomsky saying, “the world is at the most dangerous moment in human history.” How do we face this? Wynn Bruce acted. But his act was so painful and terrifying. Not the most skillful of actions to take, said Loy. But Wynn’s concern, his fear is in all of us who look and see the climate emergency that is occurring.

 

Loy went on to share author, eco-activist Joanna Macy’s piece on the Tibetan legend of a Shambhala Warrior. “There comes a time,” she recounts, “when all lives on earth are in danger.” Barbarian powers use unfathomable technologies to lay waste the world. To remove these weapons, the warriors must show great moral and physical courage, and go forth to the very heart of barbarian power. (Putin? The GOP who plotted Jan 6?)

 

But since the weapons are made by mind, the way to fight them involves mind. Our strongest weapons, she says, are compassion and insight, heart, and knowledge.

 

It seems right now that we can’t look, and we can’t look away. But maybe we’ve got it wrong. Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions….

 

**To read the whole article, go to The Good Men Project.

 

The Party of Hungry Ghosts: What Reveals the Origins of Our Thirst So We Find the Water that Fulfills Us

The political situation we are in today reminds me of a frightening dream I had as a teenager. I was outside, at night, on a mist-filled city street and felt something calling to me. I didn’t know what it was, but I followed it anyway to an old storefront, the kind with a door set between two showcase windows, which were empty of everything but darkness. The door was partly open, so I stepped inside.

 

The dark and emptiness continued inside the front room. But the call grew stronger as I walked. I followed it to an even darker back room where I could feel but could not see. And the room was not empty. The call was ringing in my mind, emerging from one corner filled with what I thought were people standing eerily still. I approached one, then another, tentatively reaching out to identify them. They were not breathing, not alive. I started searching more frantically, to find the source, the being, the life that was calling out for me.

 

And then I felt it, there, before me. A powerful, child-sized mannequin with a voice. But it had no head.

 

Teenagers can easily feel a type of solipsism, a fear that they are alone, isolated, or afraid that what they feel, no one else feels. That they are, in a way, the only human, or only human like them. Their need calls out for them, but they fear no one will be there when they respond, so they don’t. Adults can, of course, feel something similar. It is too easy to lose touch with the rest of the world.

 

Zen teacher Katsuki Sekida, in his classic book Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy, said we suffer when we don’t understand the reflecting action of consciousness. Although the world is always whole, never divided, we don’t always experience it that way. We first sense the world, then have thoughts about or reflect on what we sense, then reflect on reflections.

 

This goes on moment after moment. We reflect on what has already gone and can mistake the reflection for the reality. Consequently, we are always rushing to catch up. The reflection can be powerful; but it is so much smaller than the total reality that gave birth to it.

 

Out of such thoughts self-consciousness is born. Self-consciousness can mean “aware of oneself” or distant from oneself and uneasy about it. We separate the object of awareness from the act of being-aware and create this distinct being, with specific characteristics and history who has thoughts. We fashion an ego and then try to pin it down, give it life, and maintain it, but we can’t. Because it’s an apparition. It’s more like a suit of clothes we put on than the body that wears them.

 

One of the key battles of human history is to feel the life of the world, the life that resides in all of us. To feel that the world is alive, not dead ⎼ not a machine, not just dead matter. So much of the world breathes and feels. We struggle as a species to even feel the reality of others and thus to come alive to the reality of ourselves….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.