Imagine a World

“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk.  

Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run.

Obama ran so we could fly.” – JayZ

 

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Imagine a World where each and every one of was committed to discovering who we are truly here to be, committed to unwrapping our gifts, to living from our deepest being.  Imagine a world where we support each other in that quest.  Imagine a world where we see in each other our potential to become – Buddha to be, Gandhi to be, Einstein to be.   Imagine a world where we greet  each other with compassion and an open heart – Dalai Lama to be, Amma to be, Mother Theresa to be.   Imagine a world where we thirst for justice and respect – Mandela to be, Ang San Su Kyii to be, Joan of Arc to be.   Imagine a world where we stand up for the planet as part of who we are – St. Francis to be,  Julia Butterfly to be,  Al Gore to be.   Imagine a world where we dare to be ecstatically different – Rumi to be, Mary Magdalene to be, Wonder Woman to be.   Imagine a world where a black man can become president of the United States of America – Rosa Parks to be, Martin Luther King to be, Barack Obama to be.  

Imagine a world beyond imagined boundaries of race, class,  colour or creed.  Imagine a world where each person reached just a little bit further, towards compassion, sustainability, harmony and creativity. Imagine a world that stretched even further, to the place where ecstasy lives.   Imagine  a world of celebration for life in all it’s joy and all it’s pain. Imagine a world where nothing stands in the way but fear itself.   Imagine a world where fear is just a passing fancy, replaced by unyielding hope, undying trust, indestructible vulnerability.   A  world where everyone and everything that happens to you is part of an extraordinary opportunity to learn and grow and evolve.    Imagine a world that reflected back all the love in your heart, beaming right back at you, blinding you with it’s brilliance. Imagine a world where the extraordinary life you are here to live is here.  Your Fierce Light shining bright.  Imagine if you could start living that life, right now.

You can.  Yes, you can.

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BYObama

BE YOUR OWN OBAMA!

arlyn

As we move closer to the date when Barack Obama steps into power, there is an enormous sense of anticipation.  There are those who are floating on cloud nine, and there are those who are down in the basement of cyncism.   Somewhere in the middle lies a place of hope, possibility, and realism.   Right in the midst, in that liminal zone between rose coloured glasses and dung coloured glasses is a pair of clear lenses that can help us stay the course.

Yes we can!  And yes we will.  It’s up to us, not anyone else, not Obama, not your mama, not Santa Claus.  Change begins first and foremost in your own heart.   This is one of the central principles of Spiritual Activism – one by one, drop by drop, we fill the bucket of change, with our sense of personal responsibility, of heart felt compassion, the kind that comes from a deep authentic impulse.   This means we don’t change because we feel we ought to, because our mother told us so, because it will impress someone (even ourselves), etc.  That kind of transformation is short lived and brittle.

The kind of change that I call “Fierce Light”  comes from getting in touch with who you really are.  This takes some work, cause a lot of what we think we are,  is coming from the outside, from culture, from our history, from our fears and desires.   When you strip all that away, who are you really?

At last weekends Zen retreat with Roshi Enkyo , we did an amazing excercise, which she borrowed from Joanna Macy (who is featured in Fierce Light).   You can try it for yourself if you like.

With a partner, sit facing each other, in a comfortable, sacred space.  One partner begins by asking the question, and the other answers, then you switch.

Take a moment to get centered and calm.   Look into each others eyes.  Sometimes the hardest part!!!  If it’s easier, you can wear a pirate patch and just look into one eye.  Just kidding.  Try to keep your gaze soft and unintrusive, and try to maintain eye contact throughout the excercise.

Become aware of your breathing.  

Partner one asks: “Who are you?”

Partner two answers with whatever pops up.  Try to be spontaneous, loose, not premeditated, clever or right.  Simply speak whatever comes out.

Partner one responds, “Thank you.  Who are you?”

This continues for five minutes.  Then take a few moments to reflect on all the possible answers that emerged, before switching roles.

It’s a powerful, simple practice, that flipped my lid.  I was everything from a slug to the planet to the person in front of me, to a brother, son, soul, cell, spiral nebulae and so many other things.  Amazing all of who I am. Some of them not so pretty. Some of them incredibly beautiful.  Some of them just plain silly.

I asked another Zen master I met in Boulder recently, Junpo Roshi, what he thinks spirituality is.  He said, “Embodied Compassion.”    To him, that is the core of it all.   What are we here on this planet to do?  Embody compassion.  Who are we?  Compassion on two legs.

There’s a different answer to what that might look like for everyone. But if we all were to step up to the plate, and start moving through the world from a heart centered place, grounded in real compassionate action, we would begin to see the fruits of this massive spirit of possibility which the world is feeling right now.  Right in the midst of this spirit of crisis, enormous flowers of change are blooming.   And that’s an exciting place to be – in the midst.

So who are you?  And how do you embody compassion?

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HOPE ON A TIGHTROPE

* Cornel West on the Election of Barack Obama: “I Hope He Is a Progressive Lincoln, I Aspire to Be the Frederick Douglass to Put Pressure on Him” *

Princeton University professor of religion and African American studies, Cornel West, speaks about the election of Barack Obama, his selection of Eric Holder to be Attorney General, the possible selection of Lawrence Summers to be Treasury Secretary and the role of the progressive left to push Obama. West is the author of the new book Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom.

Listen/Watch/Read
http://www.democracynow.org/2008/11/19/cornel_west_on_the_election_of

 

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 OBAMA’S UNYIELDING HOPE

“Unyielding hope” – Obama is a meliorist (even if he, knowledgeable as he is, may have to look that word up).  The meliorist is the one who holds dear the conviction that we can, through our own efforts, make better lives for our selves.  The meliorist is neither the pessimist who sees gloom nor the optimist who sees brightness as automatically given.  Betterment is our doing, our energy, our achievement: so says the meliorist.  That Obama is a meliorist makes him a pragmatist and an American of the best variety our history has to offer.” – REQIEUM FOR CERTAINTY BLOG 

Truth is a Pathless Land

“Because I am free, unconditioned, whole, not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth that is eternal, I desire those, who seek to understand me, to be free, not to follow me, not to make out of me a cage which will become a religion, a sect. Rather should they be free from all fears – from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself.” – Krishnamurti

 

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I just spent the weekend in a Zen retreat, with Roshi Enkyo O’hara, of the Village Zendo in New York. My friends Michael Stone and Michelle McAdorey run a meditation center here in Toronto called The Centre of Gravity  and lucky for us, have been inviting her up once a year to lead a retreat.

I first came upon Roshi Enkyo through a remarkable series of synchronicities.  In 2000 I was in Hiroshima, shooting  Scared Sacred, my feature documentary based on my journey to the ground zero’s of the world.  Scared Sacred is inspired by the meditation practice  of Tonglen, the practice of breathing in suffering and breathing out compassion.  

While I was filming the ceremonies on the anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb, I met Daniel, a Zen monk from New York City.  In fact, turns out he was the first married ordained gay Zen monk in North America.  Daniel and I were both at Hiroshima for a similar reason. He was doing a series of poems and photographs about searching for light in places of darkness.

A year later, I found myself in New York City, in the wake of 9.11, at a reading of poets for peace.  That night I filmed  Ann Deaver Smith quoting Professor Cornell West on the difference between hope and optimism: “optimism is based on the notion that there’s enough evidence that allows us to think that things are going to be better. But hope – hope is saying,  it doesn’t look good at all – so we’re going to make a leap of faith to create new possibilities based on new visions that allow us to engage in heroic actions against the odds.  That’s hope!”  

That quote was in  the film for a while, but I finally it cut out.  I still miss it.  I compensate by reading the quote aloud at every Scared Sacred q & a.

The walls of the Cooper Union Building were decorated with poems by children about 9.11.  The little ones were there, buzzing with excitement about their poems being displayed.  I asked one of the parents if I could interview some of them, and she said I would have to talk to their teacher.  She pointed him out across the room.  It was Daniel.  

Later I talked to him about why I was in New York City – continuing my journey to the Ground Zero’s of the world in search of stories of hope.  He told me of his Zen teacher – Roshi Enkyo.  He described her as a remarkable invidual, someone who is both deeply spiritual, but also deeply engaged in the world, committed to activism, to creating positive change in a world of suffering.  She is  a member of  the Zen Peacemakers Order, and does a lot of work with AIDs activism.   But right now, in the midst of 9.11, her Zendo had become a place of refuge and peace activism.  It was only two blocks from the twin towers.   A few days later I was in front of Roshi Enkyo, interviewing her for Scared Sacred. Her words became the heart of that 9.11 scene in the film.

Over the years Roshi Enkyo has appeared in my life again and again, as a wonderful, brilliant, challenging and heart expanding spiritual teacher.  I did a life changing ten day retreat with her in New Mexico, at Upaya,  with Roshi Joan Halifax, I visit the Village Zendo whenever I can in NYC, and have sat two retreats with her here in Toronto at the centre of gravity.  This weekend I realized she is the most consistent teacher in my life.  

I am not a joiner.  This is something I have realized, and made peace with.  For the longest time, on my spiritual journey, I assumed that eventually I would settle into a single path and make that my home.  I can see the benefits – focus, discipline, the ability to really go the distance with support.  A solid container within which to work. Community. The vastness of a lineage.  

When I was in my twenties I was a student of Pir Vilayat,the wonderful Sufi saint of the Sufi Order International.  At one gathering Pir was doing initiations into the order, and I decided to join and receive my Sufi name.  When I came before Pir, he asked me what religion I was raised in.  I said the  Baha’i Faith.   He said, “oh, same thing as Sufism.  There’s no need for you to join.”  And that was that.  Although I was no longer a Baha’i, I was also not a Sufi. It was the last time I tried to join anything.

Today I am unapologetic – joining just is not for me- perhaps I’m  just too much of a spiritual rebel, too much of a trouble maker to rest in any one container.  I have this urge (ever growing) to continually blow up boxes.

But I’m not so arrogant to think I can do it all myself – I welcome guidance, I seek guidance, in all it’s forms. So it was a great moment of recognition for me this weekend, that I do have a teacher I can count on with the Roshi.  Even if I will never join her order, there is a source of wisdom in her, and the core teachings of Zen, that will always serve as a touchstone for me.

Not that those core teachings offer easy solace or any form of escape.  Zen asks us to stay right in the thick of things.  In the midst, the middle, right between form and emptiness.  Between the material world and the boundless ground of being.  Right where the friction is.  In a state of freshness, openess, a comfort with “Not-Knowing.”   Moment by moment, not knowing what’s next.  Spontaneous becoming, this is what faith is to me.   

Roshi focussed on the heart sutra this weekend, a deep deep well of wisdom – which demands us to let go of wisdom itself, to let go of the path, to let it all go.   No attachment. No grasping. Let go.

And in that letting go, a vast spaciousness occurs.  And in that space, life itself is renewed.  Fearlessly. The path forming below your feet with every step.

 

~                          ~                       ~

doorani

The original Scared Sacred was a interactive web site, done in 1995 at the Banff Centre for the Arts.  As part of the site, I did a peace called “Cyber Limbo”, about the pope’s elimination of limbo.   The piece culminated  in an excerpt from the Heart Sutra.   You read it by scrolling down…

Ecstatic Activism

“Mysticism is creation seeking its source” —Stuart Davis

 

Velcrow Ripper phot in Tasmania of Fern

Pump up the volume. Turn up the burner. To 11. Move over Spiritual Activism – let’s talk Ecstatic Activism. “It goes beyond tree hugging,” says Spiritual Cowgirl Sera Beak, “ecstatic activism is more about tree humping.” It’s about being utterly and completely in Love with this divine planet we live on, this astounding multi~verse we’re born from, this incredible unfolding kaleidoscope of life, of ever changing energy, shuddering with the orgasmic after shocks of G~d’s Big Bang. It sets your hairs on end and electrifies your Soul. It’s the rich ripeness of those moments when you dare to open Your heart and plunge face forward into the Mystery.

To be an ecstatic activist is to be a Love Warrior, fierce and fiery…diving into both the light, and the shadows, reveling in all that it is to be divinely human. That means all the mess too – it’s the creative friction that propels us to grow, and growth is what it’s all about, least it is for my being. One of my sacred symbols – I’m wearing a version of it around my neck right now – is a spiral, amongst the Maori known as the “Koru”, and modeled on the unfolding fern frond. Ecstatic unfoldment of life. You can feel it pulsing through you – it’s eros, it’s erotic, it’s hot. It gets me out of bed in the morning, makes me want to change the world, change myself, open my heart even wider, and go out and hump a tree or two. Make love to my morning bagel. French kiss G~d with every action. Dance the dance of Fierce Love.

Course this kind of intensity ebbs and flows in our life – there are times when I am a still pond, and other times when I am a turbulent sea. At the moment (in case you hadn’t noticed) it’s one of those times when I’m feeling the fire. Might have something to do with having just come back from another film shoot, this time for Redvolution: Dare to Disturb the Universe. It’s Fierce Light Films new feature documentary project, and it’s all about ecstatic activism in it’s many forms.

This time around it was a short shoot – four days in Boulder, but as always when it’s Redvolution time, a few days feels like a month. My co-director and co-conspirator in the project, Redvolutionary Sera Beak (who’s based in San Fransisco) and I, met up in Boulder to film and interview twisted mystic and punk monk, Stuart Davis, host of a new television show called “Sex, God and Rock n Roll.” Sera was a featured guest on the taboo smashing show, which dares to disturb the pants right off the universe.

Here’s an episode from Stuart’s previous show, “The Stuart Davis Show”…

 

 

 

“One could say that Davis’ work mediates between sensuality and spirituality. Davis practices meditation in a Buddhist tradition (and he has recently taken Genpo Roshi as his teacher), but he believes that religious traditions ultimately fail to transmit the transcendent events from which they spring. He has identified Ken Wilber, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Ramana Maharshi and Aurobindo as influences, and his work displays a deep understanding of Zen and Sufism.

Davis’ songs are populated by alcoholics, atheists, bulimics, drug addicts, egoists, false prophets, fetishists, sadists, masochists, narcoleptics, pedophiles, pornographers, prostitutes, rapists, sexual predators, suicides, swingers, and terrorists. But his lyrics also describe angels, artists, gods, gurus, messiahs, mystics, prophets, psychics, and saints.

This tension points to the profoundly integrative aspect of Davis’ thought—on his view, the theme of sexual deviance does not contradict the spiritual themes. His perspective is wide enough to coherently include much more of the human experience than most. Thus it is possible to see Davis as a mystical poet like Rumi, Kabir, Basho, Ikkyu, Rilke, or Emily Dickinson.”~ Wikipedia

 

“There’s a light bulb in everyone
bright enough to swallow the sun
Earth and sky are all One taste
there is just the Original face

—Stuart Davis, “Original Face”

 

Spending three days with Stuart was akin to standing in a bucket of water and putting my finger in a light socket and throwing the switch. Stuart is a phemomenom unto himself, the embodiment of Crazy Wisdom, but all the madness is rooted firmly in his big open heart.  

Chögyam Trungpa, a brilliant (and crazily wise) Tibetan Buddhist teacher, founder of the Naropa institute in Boulder, describes “crazy wisdom” as an “innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake. From this profound point of view, spiritual practice does not provide comfortable answers to pain or confusion. On the contrary, painful emotions can be appreciated as a challenging opportunity for new discovery.”

For the ecstatic activist, everything that life throws our way is a divine Koan, a chance to dive further into the mystery. Sometimes we learn through joy, and ease and sunshine, and other times it’s through what Liyanna Silver, (www.redefiningmonogamy.com), another guest this weekend on Stuart’s show, calls AFGO – Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. It’s all part of the sacred puzzle, and too often we ignore the shadow – I was one of those light obsessed seekers myself. Problem is, the shadow doesn’t go away, but instead percolates below the surface, where it is much more dangerous.

Stuart Davis is a trickster in the temple who brings our collectively unconscious shadow out into the light, with the power of humour and rock and roll, exploding our preconceptions and programs, all in the name of Love.  Walking home after the show on Saturday night, he pointed to the sky and cried, “look, the moon! Look at it, if you dare!”

What about you – do you dare to look at the Moon? Do you dare to stare at the Sun? Put them together, and what do you get?

 

 

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Trees humping.

 

The Fierce Fire of Radical Authenticity

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“All of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart—perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakable public example—but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.” – Ken Wilber

Radical authenticity – isn’t it time?   Last night at the Fierce Light workshop I led in Toronto, there was a buzzing in the air.  Change is afoot, magic is alive, in the midst of the tremendous uncertainty of this era, in the wake of the Obama phenomena, we are experiencing a downpour of possibility.   This is a time when things are getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster. The change we need, as Obama repeatedly says, is not going to come from one leader. It’s going to come from us all. And it starts inside the human heart, not in the head.  We of course want to utilize these great weighty brains evolution has given us, but as an adjunct to our true source of wisdom, a soul level wisdom.  We stand on the threshold of a new era, an era in which each and everyone of us is called to our highest Self, our True Self.  Why settle for less?

Andrew Cohen teaches that if we can get to a place where we operate from what he calls the “Authentic Self” for 51% of the time, we no longer need to apply will power. It will just maintain itself, without continual effort.  Awakening is tangible, real and possible. Not a pie in sky ideal.  It happens right now, this very moment.  You don’t need to wait until you have succeeded in annihalating the ego.  For most of us, that ain’t gonna happen anyways.  So more realistically, all you have to do is choose to align yourself with your highest impulses, and disobey the cavetching fear mongering smalling of the ego.   Not that this is an easy thing to do – in fact, it’s nothing less than heroic.  But I believe we can do it – we can all become what Redvolution co-director Sera Beak calls a  “Spiritual Super Hero.”

I asked the room last night if people were familiar with the difference between the ego and the true self, if they noticed a distinction, if they were aware of this fracture.  Most said yes.  Then I asked, what percentage of the time are you operating from that True Self.  100 % of the time?  No one raised their hands.  70%?  50%?  40%?  20%? 5%?   The numbers were pretty low.  Not surprsing, given our enculturation, the teachings that the media and society instill in us of  fear, contraction, and a sense of lack.   We’re always lacking something.  The answers the corporations offer is – fill that lack with stuff.   

In the wake of economic uncertainty, those materialistic solutions are less and less appealing.  So where to do you turn?  Where do you find meaning?   What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Obama’s Fierce Light

Here’s a moving video clip with Congressman John Lewis, speaking on election night.  Congressman Lewis is featured in my new feature documentary on spiritual activism, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.  He is the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington, during the American Civil Rights movement, and lead the historic march across the Selma bridge.  Today, that dream of Martin Luther King Jr, of Congressman John Lewis, of millions and millions of compassionate souls, has taken a great leap forward.

From the perspective of spiritual activism, of the stories behind Fierce Light, the election of Barack Obama is a powerful, powerful affirmation that the zeitgeist we set out to capture in the film, is very very real, one that is being felt around the world, and one that is reflected on this historic occasion.   A man who stands for authenticity, internationalism, equality, compassion, hope and integrity, has been chosen by the american people, over the old paradigm of spin, manipulation and a politics that speaks to fear and hatred.  It is a huge step forward, and a show of true democracy.  In the midst of so much crisis, ecological, financial, and humanitarian, a new source of hope has emerged.

Yep. Yes. Yessss. We can! We did! We will!

I’m in New York City, on election day, and the count down has begun. What will happen? The polls give Obama a lead, but no one here is taking anything for granted. Will small mindedness and fear, the lowest common dominater power of the collective ego, win the day, once again? Or will hope and the possibility of real change finally get it’s chance to revitalize the American political landscape? The global political landscape?

If he makes it in, then I think we will finally see authentic leadership in action. As much as he’s had to placate the American penchant for war mongering and sabre rattling, I believe that once the dude has got the reins, he will tap into something we all hunger for: authenticity….

Come on people! Take a chance on change!!!!

As we drive through Times Square the count down has begun. For some reason, the famous “Naked Cowboy” is up on the podium with his guitar in front of the CNN news monitors, as the results slowly come in we wait with bated breath…

I am praying….

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256 facebook status updates…variations on this theme:

Velcrow is thrilled, moved, misty eyed, and ecstatic that Obama is in! A ferocious yes we can!!!!

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“Today we become the nation we dream of being, a place where everyone can rise to the level of their true worth, with no false barriers. Today truth triumphs over lies, hope over fear. Today we become the people who can do the great things that are needed to restore health and balance and abundance for all. Today we take the dream and make it real.” –Starhawk