Image: Frida Kahlo, Love Embrace of the Universe
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace. Wangari Maathai
Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realize their full potential. Aung San Suu Kyi
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Gautama Buddha
The Body Politic has a Psyche, It Must be Healed; a Former Nun, a UN Special Rapporteur & a Yogini Show How
By Richard Power
The Tibetans chop up their dead and feed them to the vultures in the high places. The vultures feast, and then soar far into the limitless sky, until they disappear into the clouds. It is called "sky burial."
The wings of the vulture are profoundly symbolic. One wing represents emptiness, and the other wing, compassion. A bird cannot fly without both of its wings. Compassion keeps emptiness honest, emptiness keeps compassion balanced.
This is how the mystic lives in the world.
Occasionally, someone from one dimension of my life or another will remark, "I didn't know you were so political," or ask "When did you become so political?"
The truth is that I am not political at all.
Oh, I understand that world. I even have an aptitude for the horseracing/handicapping aspect of it (I am Irish, after all). Yes, I could have followed that trail.
In my youth, I was passionately involved in Democratic Party reform politics in New York, and worked closely with people who went to either the White House or the Cabinet, some under Carter and others under Clinton.
But I took a different trail, and if humanity and the Earth had not been so poorly served by the leaders of business, government and religion over the last twenty years, no one beyond my immediate circle of personal friends would know my political views.
I would rather be writing about the paintings of Frida Kahlo and the music of John Coltrane than speaking out on the moral failures of the US mainstream news media. I would rather be savoring the arcane subtleties of obscure Vajrayana texts than highlighting the anti-social behavior of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
But unfortunately, at this time in history, for me, the political is inescapable, and it will be for awhile yet.
My interest in it, however, is Shamanic not ideological.
Another type of resistance I occasionally encounter is the view that somehow "politics" and "struggle" are by definition at cross-purposes with any journey into oneness.
I experience it differently.
The realization of the oneness of all life led Jesus to the path of non-violence ("Peter," he declared, "put up your sword"); but the realization of the oneness of all life also led Krishna take the reins of Arjuna's chariot and drive the young prince into battle on the plains of Kurukshetra. Different circumstances demand different responses from different personalities. There is no fixed pattern.
Increasingly, though, the detour through the political realm is coming full circle into the spiritual and psychological dimensions of the human journey, and for me, chronicling one is becoming inextricable bound up with chronicling the other.
I have gathered three stories here for you. They concern our common humanity, and taken together they carry a powerful message that is both spiritual and political, yet neither dogmatic or ideological.
None of them will be headlines in the US mainstream news media, nor will the message they carry be championed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
It is up to you and I to look into our own psyches, and consider our own karmic wheels, and then determine what they call forth from us.
2008 TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun, has manifested her vision and published the Charter for Compassion:
Ceremonies were held in 32 countries to mark the publication of the document, which it is hoped will inspire decision-makers as well as grassroots campaigners to promote equality and fairness. The text includes calls on men and women to do the following:
* restore compassion to the center of morality and religion;
* return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate;
* ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures;
* encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity, and
* cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings ~ even those regarded as enemies. Radio Netherlands, Charter sets out global campaign for compassion, 11-12-09K
In a recent GRITtv interview, the indefatigable Laura Flanders talked with Deirdre Summerbell, who is teaching yoga to survivors of the Rwandan genocide:
In Rwanda, the bodies of women were too often the site of battles–rape and abuse were used as weapons of war. Trying to overcome that trauma, the women and children–many of whom are HIV-positive–have an almost unimaginable struggle.
When Deirdre Summerbell was approached about teaching yoga to the women in Rwanda, she was skeptical, but she decided to try it. “Yoga is slow medicine but it is medicinal in character,” she says now of Project Air, where she helps women and girls reconnect with their bodies and heal their spirits.
Summerbell joined us in the GRITtv studio to talk about her project and her plans to expand it into the Congo and other areas of the world, like Gaza and Afghanistan. GRITtv w/ Laura Flanders, Bodies as Battlefields: Yoga in Rwanda, 11-13-09 (You can view the interview on the other end of this hyperlink!)
Raquel Rolnik, a UN special rapporteur from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who had been blocked from touring the U.S.A. by the Bush-Cheney cabal, has now been allowed to do her job by the Obama-Biden administration:
A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as "invisible" a deepening homeless crisis.
Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing.
"The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US," she said. "I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn't been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless."
She added: "I think those who are suffering the most in this whole situation are the very poor, the low-income population. The burden is disproportionately on them and it's of course disproportionately on African-Americans, on Latinos and immigrant communities, and on Native Americans." Guardian, UN Investigator Accuses US of Shameful Neglect of Homeless, 11-13-09
I do not know if these stories will compel you to bold action or deep meditation, or both. Only you can know what they call forth from you.
All I hope is that they do indeed reach you.
Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.
Raquel Rolnick, Charter for Compassion, Karen Armstrong, Diedre Summerbell