BE YOUR OWN OBAMA!
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?
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.
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