ON THE ROAD WITH FIERCE LIGHT

Well it’s been an exciting year of travelling around the world, helping Fierce Light shine. The responses have been so tremendous, and moving. Every audience is different, but again and again people are deeply transformed by the film. Last weekend I was in Charleston, at the Sophia Institute. On Friday night the packed screening at the American Theater offered up a standing ovation. The next day, the SHINE YOUR FIERCE LIGHT workshop was charged with energy and compassion. The insitute has been host to many of the great spiritual wisdom keepers of this age, and it was an honour to form a fierce light circle there.

Sunday, I took the plane to Atlanta where a wonderful group called “Evolver” hosted my workshop in an intentional community. Appropriately, the space we were in was called “Soul Shine.” Again I was moved by the depth and openess of the participants, and the feeling that there truly is a zeitgeist of compassionate action spreading around the globe, that people are ready for this synthesis of spirituality and action. The time has come!

As I write this I’m in New York City, where the Village Zendo is hosting a Fierce Light screening on Saturday night, Oct 10 at 7pm. Then, on Sunday, Evolver NYC is hosting a SHINE YOUR FIERCE LIGHT workshop, from 1-5 pm.

Please join us or spread the word if you can!

Check out the facebook group for more info.

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Defiantly Hopeful

merry-crisis

In the face of a world in crisis, I dare to care. In the face of materialism, consumerism, and me me me – ism, I recognize that I am because you are, that without you and you and you – plant animal mineral macro micro organism human- I would not exist. That we are all part of a brilliant multi hued tapestry, that we all add to the warp and weave and woof, that we all have a fierce light.

In the face of irony, cynicism, jadedness and despair, I choose hope. In the face of narrow empiricism, the confining corridors of quantification, of dogma of any stripe-rational, political, spiritual or religious, I choose to light a match to the fuse of possibility, and blow up all boxes, sending the church of reason, the church of ideology, the church of churchiness, into the air, with a deep and satisfying boooooom, so that emptied of their arrogance, these churches might offer us freedom, not more walls, love, not more hate, understanding, not more separation.

In the face of hatred, anger and fear, I choose love, compassion, and celebration. If I can’t party in your revolution, don’t put me on the guest list.

In the face of my own vulnerabilities and limitations, I choose to go easy on myself. I am not perfect, I am human, and that is a wonderful thing. My stumblings and fumblings make me real. I am simply doing my best.

In the face of my ego, which is always feeling either smalled or bigged, I smile gently and give it a little pat on the head, a kick in the butt, a nudge in the ribs and say,”hey we’re doing fine, we’re doing just fine. Get up off the ground, get down off of your pedestal and stand in the place of the real, neither inflated, nor deflated, just be yourself. That’s good enough.”

In the face of a sunny day, I cry out,”thank you! Thank you for this amazing world, thank you for 14 billion years of hard joyous miraculous work to get us to the point where we can really appreciate this magnificence. I’m going to stop pissing in my own pool and start truly loving this incredulous place, from the bottom of my toes to the tip of my tongue, gonna celebrate this one precious life, this next precious breath, this precious precious moment. To hell with the nay sayers and doomsdayers, the cynics and the pisspots, I will blow up the gates of the gatekeepers and storm the citadels of the power brokers with pure, unadulterated Love. Nothing-not anything- will stand in my way, not even myself. It’s the least I can do to say, thank you, thank you, thank you for the wondrous wonder of creative creation. And in case no one has told you this today, Universe: you rock!”

REVOLUTIONARY LOVE

 

 “At the risk of sounding ridiculouslet me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”- Che Guevara

dooropen3

It begins and ends with love.  If there is one lesson, one key to being all you can be – and I don’t mean being a soldier, I mean being a warrior – it’s learning to love.   But just what does that word, love, mean?  It has become so fraught and loaded with double meanings and empty promises that many are justifiably cynical at the mere mention of love.   I’m not talking sentimental love, I’m not talking hallmark love, I’m not talking ‘luv.’  I’m talking about a fierce love, a revolutionary love, a true love, a love beyond illusion, a love that is not afraid to freak you out with the truth, even when it hurts like hell.  This Big Love is agape love, it’s a universal love, and it is, I believe infused in all of creation.   

When I asked Archibishop Desmond Tutu one of my favourite questions,  “what is the meaning of life”, he replied, “The God in whose image we are created, is a God of love.  We are the result of a divine loving.  Ultimately we’re meant for love…we’re meant as those who will communicate love and make this world more hospitable to love.”   

You don’t need to believe in God to feel the power of this truth – somewhere deep inside us all, is a bonfire of love, that we are here to embody, to unleash, to liberate from captivity.

Take a moment and send your awareness down to your heart, and see if you can feel a little taste of this vast love which is hidden there, like a shining diamond – your diamond heart.   Can you feel it burning within?  Or do you find constriction? A little of both?

If you’re like most of us, there is a thick armour coating around the jewel of love at the heart of your heart.  We create this  shield in  an attempt to keep the pain away, but what it really does is keep the pain in.    If you could only release  this fiery love from it’s hiding place onto the world, your every word, your every action, would be a blessing and boon to all you encounter.  And all that love would come right back at you.

How do we unleash the vast reservoir of love from inside us?   Little by little, day by day, step by step we can open the gates.  Don’t expect it to happen all at once, but if you make a conscious decision to reverse the process – from building up that armour plating, to tearing it down – it will happen.

Sounds scary?  Of course it is!  What could be more frightening than loving and allowing love in!   But, what could be more rewarding?  Nothing on earth.   The love I’m talking about is not dependent on others – it’s not something that anyone has to give you. It is already alive, inside each and every one of us.   It is always there, just waiting for you to access it.  

Opening your heart does not mean giving away your freedom, it does not mean surrendering to every person who comes along and demands a piece of you.  The kind of love I’m talking about begins with loving yourself, and then radiates outwards.  If you do not love yourself, you cannot love others effectively. And sometimes, the most effective and compassionate way to love another is to say ‘no’, especially when they are hurting you, the planet, or other people.   

Do you love you?  Really?   Chances are, if you are like most of us, there’s at least a piece of yourself that you just do not Love. Maybe it’s even the whole package. You are not alone – there is an epidemic of self hatred in our society.  Not all cultures have been trained to dislike themselves in quite the same way those of us in the west have, though the disease is spreading, with a global, all pervasive media campaign that teaches us that we lack…something.  It doesn’t matter exactly what it is we are lacking, just a vague sense of lack is good enough to make us ripe for commercial exploitation.  We might be lacking the right clothes, the right car, the right brand of cigarettes, we might be lacking youth, the right butt, a big enough penis, an HD TV.  There’s always something that we need, and we’re never quite good enough. But we could be, if we only had the right appliances, the right deodorant, another hit of viagra.   

There are  many other sources for this pervasive sense that we are not good enough – or not good period. Parents, peers, friends and relatives can all be dampers, stomping out our spark. We each have our own personal moments when this feeling may have taken root, turning points in our life that become touchstones of self loathing.   It’s important to recognize them, see them, bring them into the light of your conscious mind, and release yourself from their hold.  Because you are worth it. You deserve to be loved, by the world, and by yourself.  You deserve to be loved, simply because of who you are.  Not because of what you do, what you have, what you look like, but simply, because of who you are.  You don’t need to be anything more than yourself.  Your true self.

Tibetan culture is one of the lucky ones – as a community, they’ve largely escaped the disease of self hatred.  Some years ago an interviewer was explaining to the Dalai Lama how we in the north suffer so much from self worth issues.  He was genuinely puzzled, “really?  You hate yourself?  How strange.  Very very strange.”  In Tibet, they love each other, and they love themselves. 

 It is very difficult to truly love others, if you do not first learn to love yourself.  If we all loved ourselves, we would soon find that conflict would disappear in the world.    If every tin pot dictator learned to truly love himself, if every general, every leader, every jailer, every gang member, every would be killer, were to learn self love, this would be a very different world.   We project our self hatred outwards, onto others, and onto the planet herself.  In the feature documentary, “The Age of Stupid”, a man from the future,  looking back at the mess we made of this beautiful world,  wonders how we could have let things go so wrong.  Why did we fail to save ourselves?  Perhaps, he suggests, the answer might be that we didn’t think we were worth saving.

But we are!  We are so very worth saving, each and every one of us.  We are part of an extraordinary wave of manifestation, an incredibly rare and precious pearl of self aware consciousness in a vast expanse of silent space, and we are so very beautiful.  You are so very beautiful.  This does not mean you are perfect. Neither am I.  You’re not here to be perfect. You are here to be human.  You are here to be perfectly imperfect.  It’s how the light gets in.   This doesn’t mean  rest on your laurels – keep growing, at all costs, keep growing, but do it with self love, not out of self hate. 

WARNING:  self love does not equal narcissism.   One of the major pitfalls on the road to true self love is the trap of narcissism.  It’s an important but sometimes confusing distinction.  Narcissism means seeing only yourself, loving only yourself, to the exclusion of all others.  Perversely, many of us are self hating narcissists, obsessed with ourselves, and unable to truly see others.   Hitler was a narcissist, and projected his extreme narcissism onto a public willing to be seduced by claims that they were the chosen ones, the Aryan race.   This is not self love – this is hatred disguised as self love.   

In order to distinguish between healthy love of the self, and unhealthy narcissism, ask yourself:  am I loving myself from a place of ego, or from the authentic self?  The authentic self is Love.  It only Loves.  It does not hate.  To hate is to be inauthentic.  At the same time, the authentic self Loves in an egoless manner, as it is by definition beyond the ego.  This kind of self love is true, deep and sustaining, and will never draw you into the trap of self obsession, a sad and depressing addiction in our society.   True self love is a window to loving others, not a doorway that shuts out the world.  

To serve the world, to truly be of service, we need to be very very conscious.   We need to look at old programs, and see if they are running the show, instead of our true heart.  For women, in particular, the old models of serving others have been put in place and maintained by the patriarchy.  All of us, men and women, have to take a good look at how we go about serving this planet. We are not meant to live on our knees, we are here to stand tall on our feet, to truly shine.  We serve best from a place of power, not from a place of submission.  Not patriarchal power, but true power, a more feminine power – a generous, compassionate, loving power, that has no desire to dominate, but refuses to be dominated.

This week we interviewed Shandra Alexandre, founder of the Sha’can Tradition, for the film Redvolution.  She described how,  in Hindu mythology, the goddess Kali is shown with four arms.  On the one side, her arms hold gifts and boons.  On the other, a sword and a severed head.  The sword is for severing the head of the ego.  Painful as this may be, it is also the path to true freedom.   Terrifying as those Kali moments might be in our life, they also can be much more powerful and transformative than all the cuddling and coddling in the world.  We tend to want the gifts and boons of life, and want to avoid the fierce rewards of truth, but we do so at the expense of our growth.   

Fierce Self Love is not about denying our shadow, it’s not about being lazy and settling for less.  It’s about loving your potential, and choosing to water that seed.  Believing that no matter where you are right now, at the bottom of the barrel, or the top of the heap, inside is a divine spark that can never be extinguished, a glowing ember beyond the vagaries of fame and misfortune.     A sense of fullness, of deep, radiating satisfaction.  Beyond the power of lack.    Love is indomitable, unquenchable, unstoppable.  It can be hidden, but never destroyed.  It is at the core of who you are.   

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 

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.

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