Loving God in the Concreteness of the Human Person

3aa3535dd52efe120124589a0502db51Hello blog.  I’ve missed you!  I have been away on an inner journey that just felt a bit too internal to run around on the world wide web, but it is nice to be back.

I have reemerged into the outside world in the form of a student!  In my mid-40’s, I am currently at University, getting a Masters degree in Religions in Peace and Conflict.

How did I find myself in this place on my path, you wonder?  Well, I guess you could say that I realized that for me, “spirituality” and yearning to be One with Everything needs to have a practical component.  make-me-one-with-everything-12rnczBeing One with Everything necessitates some form of social action on behalf of all the other parts of my Self that I am One with.  It’s not about my awakening, it’s not about living nearer to God just for my own sake – doesn’t living nearer to God, who loves every single being in this world, entail taking action to embody that love?

Last July I went to see the radiant Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as Amma, when she came to Atlanta, Georgia.  She is an Indian world teacher, who travels the globe every year and who is known as the “hugging saint” – as she hugs thousands of people a day.  She also has extensive charities in India as well as Africa and around the world, including schools, hospitals, orphanages, toilet building programs and disaster relief.

amma-2This was my second pilgrimage to see Amma (in addition to my Facebook visitation).  I had seen her 15 years before in San Ramon, California.  I was very excited.  The first time I saw her I had gone into a very expanded state of consciousness.  I was sitting meditating in her presence, there were bajhans being played, the Indian harmonium droning, the tabla driving the music, Sanskrit chanting and Amma singing in a sort of ecstasy.  All of a sudden I entered into a consciousness beyond time and space –  and I was aware of the metric tempo of the music moving through what seemed to be time – and yet, I was in the timelessness behind time, the eternal NOW through which time moves.  When I went outside into the dry northern California hillside, I looked out over the valley and saw a gnarled tree standing on the opposite hill and it felt exactly like I was looking at my own hand – there was no space, no separation, everything was right HERE.  Even when I looked up at the moon it felt like it was right HERE in the exact same HERE as I was.

So, going to see Amma again, I thought I must have some expansive mystical experience again.  I entered the big hall with around 4000 other spiritual hopefuls.  I was prayerful and yearning, I was hopeful in a way where I was expecting to receive something for myself, some experience, some mystical moment that would revitalize me and heal me.  I sat there in Amma’s presence, I meditated, I chanted, I went up and received my hug, I helped serve food in the cafeteria alongside people from all over the world, I bought a rudraksha bead that had been worn by Amma herself, and late one night I even got to sit next to Amma and hand her the Prasad, or blessed hershey’s kisses she gave out to everyone after their hug.

1535012_10152081986113302_5640157212523432627_nYet, I didn’t have some expansive cosmic experience.  I didn’t go beyond time and space, I didn’t remember a past life as an Egyptian priestess or a Mayan elder, I didn’t expand outside my body to feel a mile tall, I didn’t cry and weep and feel the presence of Krishna or Christ.  I didn’t have any one big moment.  But slowly and deeply over the 3 days, like it was just something that quietly melted into me, I came to the realization that the only important thing, really, is simply to be more loving.  Without me even noticing, something changed inside of me and I stopped yearning for big experiences, I stopped listening to the little selfish voice inside of me that wants a shiny new spiritual experience to prove how very special I am – and I realized that all I really want is to be a good person.  The only point to me seeing a tree as if it were my own hand is to do something for that tree, do something for that child, that woman, that man, that “other” who is really my Self. 

It reminded me of a story that I heard James Finley tell in an audio recording from the Center for Action and Contemplation called Returning to Essentials, Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy – a story that haunted me for days after I heard it:

“Martin Buber, the Jewish scholar and mystic, one morning had a mystical experience and then went to his office in the university still in the aura of this mystical experience.  A student came to talk to him and he half-listened to the student and then the student went up to his dorm room and committed suicide.  And he left a suicide note and said he had tried to talk to Martin Buber but he could tell he was preoccupied.  So he killed himself.  And Martin Buber realized that he had been preoccupied with his ecstasy, and he said ‘I have given up on the God that delivers me from the incarnate preciousness of life, I recognize God in the concreteness of the human person.’

Wow.

Martin Buber being preoccupied with his own spiritual ecstasy kept him from being present with a human soul in suffering who came to him for help.  And the consequence couldn’t have been more drastic or more painful.  How could that be the point of spiritual awakening?

3043325-poster-p-1-these-amazing-photos-were-taken-by-young-refugees-from-syriaI have given up my fascination with spiritual experiences.  I am instead yearning to be closer to God in the concreteness of the human person. I know far too many people who run around after spiritualness, claiming to be doing it in service to God, while missing the chance to serve God in the people who are right in front of them – and I was myself included in this category for far too many years.  I no longer want to simply spread good vibes.  Not that spreading good vibes is not a good thing, in fact, perhaps it’s even important.  But I think we are missing the point of good vibes if we stop there.  The point of having a good vibration is to manifest that vibration into LOVING God in the concreteness of the human person, LOVING God in the concreteness of the animals, the trees, the waters and the atmosphere, LOVING God in the concreteness of the creation.

So, I have returned to school to learn more practical ways to turn my love for God and my love for my neighbor into real live social justice and peace building action – not just in smiling or giving daisies to strangers, but in using the UN, international NGO’s, politics, humanitarian action and public education to help make God’s love real in this world.

That is the result of my big life altering experience seeing Amma for the second time: the slow quiet melting into a knowingness that the only point to any of us having any expansive, mystical experience is to expand our capacity to love.

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Please check out the Outer Action page and share in the comments more ideas and ways to making LOVING a reality!

Changing our Consciousness for Chocolate

choc-backI love chocolate, of course.  We all do.  Today just happens to be National Chocolate Day, so it’s obvious that chocolate is appreciated by many.  Maybe it’s because it boosts serotonin levels, somehow causing my brain to produce more of the “happy” neuro-chemical.   Maybe it’s because in my body’s inherent wisdom, I wisely crave the cocoa bean’s antioxidant rich micro-nutrients (though if you’ve ever tasted 100% raw cocoa, you know that’s not true!  yuck).  More likely, it’s because it’s combined with so much sugar and cocoa fat that it stimulates both the yin and the yang ends of the macrobiotic food cravings spectrum.  But whatever the reason, one of life’s little pleasures is enjoying a few bites of a good chocolate bar every once in a while (OK, a lot of bites and on a regular basis).

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

Young boy rakes cocoa beans on a drying rack.

But the problem is, it’s NOT a simple pleasure.  Nothing is simple anymore.  It turns out that many of the world’s major chocolate companies have been buying their cocoa from Western African cocoa growers who use child slave labor to harvest and process their crops!  Not only that, but when this all came out in 2001, companies like Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars plead ignorance and resisted regulatory laws calling for mandatory “slave free” labeling and pledged to regulate themselves to put an end to this atrocity in their supply chain and to end child slave labor by 2005.  As the linked article states:  “It turned out, they didn’t do much.  It’s 2015 and there are now more child slaves than there were in 2001.  51% more, in fact.  There are now 1.4 million children carrying dark_side_of_chocolate2back-breaking sacks of cacao, having their bodies whipped and beaten and crushing themselves from dawn to dusk for no pay.”

My heart breaks.  I cannot abide by this, I cannot support companies who callously ignore the suffering of innocent people for profit.  I cannot stand to accept a world where this injustice occurs!

So – I did my research and found a list of Slave Free Chocolate companies and I downloaded my Chocolate List app from the Food Empowerment Project.  I went on line and found End Slavery Now and Walk Free and signed ALL their petitions and shared them on Facebook. OK.  Crisis averted.  I can once again enjoy my massive amounts of chocolate slave-free style!

The problem is, this happens with practically EVERYTHING.

This video from Follow the Frog is one of the funniest social action videos I have ever seen.  But it accurately captures what I feel like sometimes.

all-natural-cotton-padsLike the protagonist in this video, I, too, recycle, reduce, reuse, buy organic, eat vegan, think globally and act locally.  I even use non-disposable menstrual pads and Thinx period panties, ok?  I menstruate consciously!

IMG_5534_b_largeSometimes I just feel like it shouldn’t be so hard to be a good person in this world!  It shouldn’t be so complicated to buy food or goods without being a part of atrocities perpetuated on fellow humans or innocent voiceless animals.  It shouldn’t be a full time job to make sure that my daily actions aren’t contributing to environmental catastrophes or unspeakable labor crimes.

I can’t buy that $5 t-shirt at Wal-Mart without supporting both unfair wages in the U.S. and abusive child-labor in Bangladesh.  So, I buy a $32 t-shirt from Sudara made by women rescued from sex slavery.

The only fast-food joint I can go to is Chipotle without contributing to massive factory farm animal cruelty and the toxification of low-income food choices.  It’s not even safe to buy “Cage-Free” eggs, because the factory farms simply removed the metal cages, Perdue-chickensand instead cram the living birds into barns so full that the chickens still can’t spread their wings, go outside or live any semblance of a normal chicken life.  And even “Certified Organic” eggs only guarantee each hen a space of 18 square inches and kill those chicks unfortunate enough to be hatched male in a grinder, so I just gave up and decided to go vegan.

I can’t buy craft supplies from Hobby Lobby because their owners are imposing their personal religious beliefs about birth control onto their thousands of female employees who are grown-ass-women and should be able to make their own decisions about their own lady parts with their own lady brains.  I can’t even donate money to charitable organizations supposedly set up to help people without checking them on something like The Charity Navigator or I might support something as benign sounding as the Children’s Charity Fund where only 9.1% of their donations actually help the children!

So, I end up having one app for slave-free chocolate, another app for Humane Eating, the Good Guide app for checking product ethical scores and a whole list of Top Ten Socially Responsible apps.  If 13 apps aren’t enough for you, here is a list of 83.  But I just can’t use 96 apps every time I make a purchase!  It’s enough to drive you crazy.  But what’s the alternative?  Apathy is not an option.  Endless senseless suffering is not acceptable.

Truly, the only way out of this insanity is to change our society as a whole – to change our collective consciousness!  And before you say I’m a dreamer – it IS possible!

Farmer-working-on-the-fieldRecently, I spent 10 days in my native Sweden.  It was lovely.  For many reasons.  One being that I felt like I could go about my life without trying SO HARD to make conscious decisions that wouldn’t destroy the environment or harm people and animals around the world.

I could drink the tap water knowing that it didn’t contain anything toxic, and it even tasted delicious!  I didn’t have to refill my BPA free 5 gallon jugs with filtered water to combat the American plastic water bottle frenzy. I didn’t have to bring my recyclables home from work to be sure they don’t end up in a landfill.  Sweden recycles EVERYTHING and less than 1% of it’s trash ends up in landfills – and this is how the whole system is set up, it’s not done by counter-culture activists. plastic-bottles Sweden enacted a Farm Animal Bill of Rights in 1988 and every animal in the country has a legal right to be outside each day.  The agencies that regulate food and consumer products actually work to protect people’s health – in Sweden and most European countries, there are nearly 1400 chemicals that are not allowed in face creams for health and safety standards while the U.S. has banned only eleven.

And yes, Sweden still has societal issues, prejudices and growing discrimination towards refugees.  But overall, I felt like I could relax!  I felt like I was surrounded by a general consciousness of care, compassion and common sense!  And I felt like I wouldn’t unknowingly contribute to cruelty and greed if I didn’t check my 96 apps.  And like Bernie says, we can learn from how other societies like Sweden and Denmark have implemented societal change.

So, we can do the same in the US.  We can do the same worldwide!  It’s about LOVE.  It’s about recognizing that we as humans mostly WANT to do good.  Most people are good people.  And we can all start making the world a more peaceful place one person at a time and we can insist that our social and economic systems reflect the basic human values that any normal person would attest to.  We can change our “business as usual” to be more like socially advanced countries and not accept anything less.  We can educate each other and love one another.

josiah-love-lyraAt our core, humanity is GOOD and we are meant to love our neighbors and to fill this world with millions of examples of God’s Love because we are made in God’s image – we have LOVE at the center of our beings.

This morning, on National Chocolate Day, I read yesterday’s Richard Rohr Daily Meditation on Martin Luther King, Jr. where he wrote:

The problem is not first of all “the flesh” or personal sin, but systemic evil and structural, disguised violence. As King writes: “It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. Those of us who struggle against racial injustice must come to see that the basic tension is not between races. . . . The tension is at bottom between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. . . . At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. . . .” Like Gandhi, King was hopeful because he saw God’s love as the foundation of existence…. We must never forget that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness, that man is not totally depraved; to put it in theological terms, the image of God is never totally gone.

I-love-humanity-photo-by-shankboneSo, as I adjust my chocolate habit to conform with the love in my heart that truly cares for children in Africa I have never met – I remind myself that changing our consciousness is the radical solution that gets to the root of the problem.  And instead of despairing or tearing my hair out, I can fill my heart with love and have my hair, and every other part of me, express compassion!  I can have my emotional impact and my actions reflect love.  Empathy is our natural state – it’s in our neurons and our DNA.  Peace is possible.   Evil is like pee in the ocean of good.  And Love always wins!

humanLove

The Radical Oneness of Equality

onenessI wrote a post about the Radical Equality of Oneness – about how if we want to Awaken and live in Oneness, we cannot judge others and we cannot refer to the greater parts of humanity as “the unawakened masses.”  If we are to truly Awaken into Oneness, we must have the ability and the humility to see ourselves in all of humanity, to see ourselves as part of a greater whole and to love that wholeness as our Self.

Now with the Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage in June and all the talk of equal rights for all, I realize that there is also a Radical Oneness in Equality. Sometimes, as a card carrying member and facebook follower of the Human Rights Campaign, from time to time I see t-shirts, tote bags and facebook emblems where you can choose between “Lesbian for Equal Rights” or “Straight Ally for Equal Rights” or Transgender for Equal Rights” etc. and while I can see the value of showing that ALL kinds of people support Equal Rights for LGBTQ people, I sometimes wish there was a “Who Cares What I Am, I’m a Human Being for Equal Rights.” And that is because saying that I’m a Straight Ally makes it seem that I’m fighting for equal rights for someone other than myself, but I feel that equal rights for ALL people is MY issue.

Equal rights for gays and lesbians, for transgender, bi-sexual and queer human beings affect ME, even though God happened to make me heterosexual.  It affects all of us.  We ARE one, whether we live in the realization of that truth or not, we ARE – and other people living under oppression and prejudice, other people living with harassment and even violence affects ME.  My quality of life is affected by the LGBTQ community not being treated as equal human beings.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Supporters of marriage equality gather outside the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate support for LGBT couples on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

I can’t pin point a specific moment in my day when I am refused services, denied benefits or sneered upon.  I am free to marry and adopt and share my life with whoever I may fall in love with in any state I may go to.  I don’t have any experience in my life of being bullied or beaten with baseball bats.  But all I can say is that my life is unquestionably effected.  My whole being is effected.  I feel the pain of all the gay and lesbian beings in the world living in oppression, prejudice and derision.  The fact that 40% of transgender human beings attempt suicide because of the pain they feel  in a society that refuses to accept them for who they are hurts my heart, even though I was born with both female identity and female parts.  The fact that so many Americans still do not have the right to marry who they love eats away at me – the injustice, the wrongness weighs on my conscience as a member of this human race.  The fact that a gay or lesbian citizen of Brunei could actually be stoned to death for who they are makes me want to weep.  It is the same with the deaths of so many black men at the hands of police brutality, the same with the pain of the disenfranchised in Baltimore and Ferguson and in so many places on earth – it has an undeniable, actual impact on my life and my being.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  That is not just a theoretical idea or a poetic way of saying injustice anywhere is wrong.  Because, it is not just a theoretical Oneness – we live in an ACTUAL Oneness.  And the pain and injustice suffered by the LGBTQ community or any other persecuted or oppressed people creates a very real and actual pain in my being.  It’s not theoretical – it’s visceral.  I can feel it in the cells of my body, I can feel it in my human heart, I can feel it in my soul in a way that is tangible.  I know we are taught that the outer world is real and our inner world is not real – but that is not true.  The inner world exists within every aspect our outer reality and it is in some ways more real – and in this very real way injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  The pain of injustice in any human heart is a pain in every human heart, even those of the persecutors.

jesus-faithThis is why I am so passionate about equality.  This is why I feel so strongly that God loves ALL her children and that to legalize discrimination of gays and lesbians in the name of God is an atrocity!  Jesus would have wept at this hatefulness committed in His name.  I know in my heart of hearts that whatever quotes from whatever scriptures anyone spouts – God loves ALL her children (lobsters and all).  God is Love, and if we are made in God’s image, we must also learn love and we must stop promulgating hate in the name of God.

Once again, God conspired with Father Ted to bring me the perfectly relevant sermon for my internal process – showing how even in the bible there is the argument for inclusion (of course).

Father Ted’s sermon was about the reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we had just heard, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian was reading Jewish scripture, even though as a eunuch, a castrated male, Jewish purity laws would have prevented him from being accepted into the Jewish community.  Yet Philip, who had preached the Good News of Jesus the Christ to Samaritans and other gentiles, accepted the Ethiopian eunuch and baptized him, despite his different nationality, the different color of his skin and his different sexuality.

As Father Ted put it:

“It is a story about the inclusion of someone, who by many of the standards of the day, should have been excluded.  This story of the Ethiopian eunuch is relevant for today’s Church… This story of the Ethiopian eunuch is also a story relevant to public events this past week.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the validity of same-sex marriages, and Bruce Jenner, who won the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics as a male, announced that he is transgender.

I believe the most important question before us is not about sexuality. It is about witness. It is about the question “What witness will we make?”  Our witness is the public affirmation of our faith. It is how we let the world see that we practice what we preach.  This is our opportunity to be what we say we are…

Our witness is to the unconditional love of God.  There are no gate-keepers at the doors of this church.  As we proclaim in our Baptismal Covenant “we respect the dignity of every human being,” and are never ashamed of who sits next to us in worship. We are all the children of God.

The story of the Ethiopian eunuch is about including someone who would otherwise be excluded.  The Church and our society are struggling with that same issue today.  We, in this particular community of faith, proclaim God’s unconditional love, and God’s unconditional love includes everyone and excludes no one.”

10423916_956135247753224_6797323417058110768_nThen I read a blog post from my favorite Bishop (yes, I have a favorite Bishop.  Don’t you?), Bishop John Shelby Spong.  He wrote a wonderful article about how there can be no compromise on the moral issue of ending homophobia in all its forms. He compared it to the moral issue of slavery in the 1800’s.  Before the Civil War, the US government had tried very diligently to compromise on the issue of slavery, trying to find ways to allow the Southern states to maintain the brutal institution while the Northern states recognized the dignity of every human being.  But there is no way to compromise on such issues where our very humanity is on the line.  And even though people used the bible to justify slavery and even though a diminishing minority clung to their false righteousness, there came a time where the injustice of slavery could no longer be accepted in our collective consciousness.

It is the same with homophobia, it is the same with all civil rights.  As we evolve in human consciousness, as our collective consciousness grows in love, we can no longer accept the hatefulness of the past.  I cannot accept it!  Hate anywhere is a threat to Love everywhere.  Pain and persecution anywhere, is pain and persecution not just in some theoretical “everywhere” – but HERE, in ME.  I am a straight ally and I am a human being, and Equality is MY issue.  I am working to heal the pain in my own heart, to end the suffering in my own life.  I am working from the Radical Oneness of Equality.


WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28:  Supporters of marriage equality gather outside of the Supreme Court of the United States to demonstrate their support for LGBT couples on April 28, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for HRC)

There were so many sections of Bishop Spong’s article that I wanted to include that I could have just posted his post and said “exactly!”, so I decided to put them all at the bottom of my post.  Below are my favorite parts, or you can read the full article.

In the slavery debate, those who shared the new consciousness were quite clear. Human beings cannot be held in bondage. This new consciousness challenged those definitions, which suggested that some people did not qualify as human beings; that some people were primitive, childlike, created to be subservient, and were, therefore, fit for nothing other than manual labor. Within that definition, slavery was deemed to be morally acceptable.

I thought about this period of history as I read of my own church, the Anglican Communion, seeking a way, “for the sake of unity,” to accommodate divergent opinions on the issue of homosexuality. The Church’s leadership is acting as if negotiation is possible in this conflict, yet the obvious fact is that homosexuality, like slavery, is a moral issue and thus not amenable to compromise.

The old definition asserts that homosexuality is a choice that evil, perverted or subhuman people make. It cannot, therefore, be tolerated… The emerging new consciousness, on the other hand, rejects every part of that definition. It asserts that homosexual people are neither morally depraved nor mentally sick, since one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; but something to which one awakens. It is like the dawning realization that one is male or female, part of a particular race or nation or even right or left-handed. A just and moral society cannot be erected on a premise that some human beings are subhuman or perverted, not on the basis of their doing but on the basis of their being. It matters not what any source of ancient wisdom has previously declared. The Bible, for example, was once quoted to support slavery, to oppose science and to prevent women from achieving equality. On every one of those issues the Bible was quite simply wrong. To quote it now to uphold the evil of homophobia is no less wrong.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy simply takes the old definition and labors first to defang it and then to perfume it. They call homosexuality “unnatural,” or “a deviation,” urging that it be suppressed wherever possible and controlled where not possible. Homosexuality, however, has now been incontrovertibly identified as present in the world of higher mammals. It also appears to be a stable and unchanging percentage of the human race at all times and in all places. These data suggest that homosexuality is not unnatural at all but is a minority aspect of the created order that appears quite normally in all higher forms of life.

The leaders of the mainline churches pretend that some compromise is possible. They seek to protect unity by attempting to civilize the debate until a new consensus arrives. They count “the unity of the church” as a worthy goal even as that forced unity violates that Institution’s integrity. Can you imagine that part of the Church that said no to slavery being asked to apologize for upsetting the consciences of the slaveholders? Can you imagine Church leaders saying to slaveholders, “we will not challenge the morality of your decisions about slaves because we would rather keep our faith community united?” Can you imagine coddling slaveholders so that they will not separate themselves in schism from the Church? Can anyone imagine any slave-holding church claiming to be the body of Christ?

Yet if you substitute the word homosexuality for the word slavery, that is what is present today in the main line churches. If homosexuality is a given not a chosen way of life, the continued violation of gay and lesbian people, in order to preserve unity with the Church’s homophobic constituency, is simply immoral.  Not to bear corporate witness to those who still languish in the dying definitions of the past is to turn one’s back on the very meaning of the Christ.

If the essence of our Christ is summed up in words that John’s Gospel attributes to him, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly,” then the choice is clear. Homophobia diminishes life; it does not make it more abundant. It must be ended; it cannot be tolerated even by making it kinder and gentler.

To the leaders of the Churches today I say: “Stop playing ecclesiastical games. Compromising truth never serves the cause of unity…. There is no room for waffling on this moral imperative. The idea that you will allow politicians to advocate placing discrimination against homosexual persons into the Constitution of this country, while your voices are either in agreement or remain deafeningly silent, is an embarrassment. If it takes a split in the body of Christ to make this generation understand that homosexuality, like slavery, is a non-debatable, moral issue, then for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake, you must be willing to pay that price.”


 

HRC_Red-LogoPlease join HRC to support the Radical Oneness of Equality!

Love is Love is Love

Recently, on that ambivalent modern phenomenon called Facebook, I came across this video about the Universality of Love!  It is my new favorite thing!  Seeing people hugging and kissing, dancing and pranaming on an x-ray screen, it’s plain to see that Love is Love.

Love has no gender
Love has no disability
Love has no age
Love has no race
Love has no species
Love has no religion

Love is love is love.  Love is a wave and the ocean.  Love is compassion and empathy and Oneness.  Love is Radical Equality – equal down to the very root of Being – more than equal, ONE, just not the same.  Love is timeless, eternal, constant and immutable.  Love is Perfect.  Love is messy.  Love is yearning, striving, struggling, growing and awakening.  Love Itself completes us.  Love is physical, metaphysical, quantum physical.  Love is the entanglement of particles everywhere – molecules, electrons, amoebas and the space they are all contained within.  Love is the very fabric of the Universe.  Love is life.  Love contains all that is not Love.  Love is God.  God is Love.  Love is a Mystery.

praying handsAs much as I love all the manifestations of God – all the mantras and chants, all the prayers and communion, all the images and idols, all the psalms and bhajans, all the wisdom or all traditions, it really just comes down to Love.  We can all have different religions, we can honor all religions or no religion, but we all have Universal Love.  Love IS – the rest is commentary.

And at the root of all those rituals and spiritual practices, it is all really about getting to the Love that is at the core of every person, every creature and every cell in this universe.  We can access this Love by honoring the love in all families, couples and peoples, without judgments about the particulars.  We can access this Love by serving the love in all humans and in caring for and protecting the love in our furry friends.  We can access this Love by nurturing our Earth and the creation we live in.  We can access this Love through prayer, meditation or sadhana.  We can access this Love through gratitude, awe and prostration.

In essence, we not only access this Love, but we BECOME this Love through LOVING.

Love is Love is Love.  Love the Love.  Be the Love.

Hari Om!  Namaste.  Amen.

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Please share and spread the love around!

LHNL_ProfilePicFor more support in ending bias, even subtle bias inside your own mind, visit LoveHasNoLabels.com

To support the equality of Love and help counterbalance all the politicians trying to “protect the sanctity of marriage” ( while proving how very much they love the institution by being married themselves 4 or 5 times!) – please visit the Human Rights Campaign.

Are Lobsters Going to Hell?

lobsterOk, I haven’t done a silly post in a long time.  Given that I haven’t been posting every day I have not felt in danger of taking myself too seriously, but I should stay committed to my policy of regular silly posting none-the-less.  I guess the real danger of taking yourself too seriously is when you think you are not in danger!

So, my silly post this week is about my idea to stage a protest outside of Red Lobster!  We could make signs, form a picket line, stamp back and forth yelling slogans.  It could even be a nationwide Red Lobster boycott that could make for silly nationwide news coverage!

Why am I picking on Red Lobster?  What have they done?  Violated workers rights or paid their employees paltry wages like McDonalds?  Served french fries with 19 ingredients like McDonalds?  Why am I not calling for a boycott of McDonalds instead??

Well, it’s biblical.

The bible says that shellfish are an abomination!  In fact, it says so 7 times, so it must be like a really bad abomination!  So, that is why I’m asking the question (despite the fact that I don’t believe hell exists, that happiness is inevitable for all living things, including lobsters, and that in the end Love always wins):  Are lobsters going to hell?

Leviticus 11:10 says “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.” 

RedLobster_ext2_cropped_959_487_90_c1I’m not really clear if this means that those who eat lobsters are going to hell or that the lobsters themselves are going to hell, but someone sure is going to hell and it definitely means we should stage protests outside of Red Lobster!  Right?

I always think of this when I see people protesting Equal Rights for LGBTQ persons on the basis of the bible.  I want to join them with signs saying “Lobsters are Going to Hell!” and “Poly-Cotton Blends are Sinful!” and “Stop Women from Braiding Their Hair NOW!”  (Yes, Leviticus also bans wearing cloth “of two kinds of material mixed together” and women braiding their hair or wearing gold, pearls or costly garments.)

churchsignIn looking up Leviticus verses for this post I actually came across a website called God Hates Shrimp.  I was relieved to find out that the site was in fact a parody, pointing out just the sort of thing that my Red Lobster boycott aims to – that to pick and choose which bible verses to plaster on neon green poster board is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.

The blog 11 points put together a list of 11 things that are banned in the bible that we do anyway, and no one thinks a thing about it.  And there are much more than 11 things – and not all of them are silly.  Along with the rules stating how many camels should be given in dowry to the husband’s family, how many chickens should be given to the rabbi after each woman’s menstrual cycle before she may enter the temple again and how a man may not harm the edges of his beard, the bible also calls for stonings and all kinds of barbaric punishments for relatively minor offenses and endorses slavery, as long as the slaves are foreigners.

Personally, I believe more in tuning in to the Living Word of God that resides in our hearts and tells us what is right, what is loving and what brings us closer to Christ or Krishna, but for an alternate use of bible verses – here is a list of 15 bible verses that support LGBTQ Equality!

So, in a typical self-contradiction, and in a typical silly post turning social justice, I have changed my mind and instead of boycotting Red Lobster, I call for Lobster Rights!  Lobsters and Shrimp Unite!  Take a stand for your worthiness in the eyes of the Lord!  In my heart of hearts I know, God Loves Lobsters, too!

02food.600


HRC_Red-LogoIn the absence of a Lobster Rights Campaign, please consider helping Human Rights Campaign in their fight for equality!

 

The Implementation of Dumb Ideas

RENUZIT-500x247In this week’s silly post I’d like to talk about an ad currently running on Hulu for a brand of air-fresheners.  Aside from the fact that air-fresheners contain numerous toxic chemicals that can cause everything from reduced sperm counts to cancer, the ad is really stupid.  It has hunky men carrying air-fresheners in slo-mo, winking at the camera seductively from each room of a house – one in the kitchen, another in the living room and yet another sexy young thing in the bedroom.  The ad goes on to say that while having a different man in every room might be a fantasy, you can in fact have a different toxic scent in each room.

First of all, what woman fantasizes about having a man in every room?  That sounds terrible.  Second of all, the campaign is so ridiculous it makes me want to NOT buy that air freshener, even if I wanted to poison myself with benzene, formaldehyde, styrene, and phthalates. 

1075545_562888983757997_1303988084_oThe thing that gets me about really really bad advertising is that there are so many people involved in the process of actually getting it on TV.  First there are a number of people at the ad agency who come up with the bad idea, then their creative team does a pitch to a company, then the company sends the proposal up the chain of command and who knows how many people sign off on the concept and budget.  Then there are graphic artists, writers, producers, casting agents, actors, make up artists, cameramen, boom mic operators and even key grips, whatever the heck they do.  It must be at least 100 people who take part in producing a really really bad ad.  And nowhere along the line did someone say – STOP.

The same is true for some of the reality TV programming of today.  There are food shows about deep-fried-mac-n-cheese-hamburger-loaf. There are married couples flipping houses and arguing over every remodeling decision along the way.  There are housewives arguing in virtually every metropolitan area of the United States.  There are naked people who are either afraid or shopping or dating, or a combination of all of the above – of course arguing more or less the whole time. There are even horrific things like a man being eaten alive by a snake in some kind of snake-digestive-juice-resistant suit.

In all of these TV shows there are countless people who never say – wait, this is dumb, let’s not do this.

Thirteen Reality 2This ad for an apparently intelligent TV station is actually quite funny and points to the state of our TV entertainment.  I know there are quite a few really good shows out there, also.  There has even been some God centered shows that come and go, like ‘Joan of Arcadia,’ ‘Eli Stone.’ or the awesome good kicks evil’s butt ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’  But sometimes I look at some of the truly dumb ideas that actually manifest themselves as ads and TV shows and I wonder.

I guess it’s kind of like other really dumb ideas, like segregation or women not having the right to vote.  For a long time, they were just accepted and all the boom mic operators and key grips of life didn’t feel it was their place to say anything even if they thought it was a terrible idea.  It took people like Martin Luther King and Susan susan-b-anthony-quote1-300x200B. Anthony to speak up and say – STOP!  Then enough people joined them and said – yeah, I think it’s really dumb, too.  And then the Civil Rights Act and 19th Amendment could happen.

So, I guess, if the awful toxic air-freshener ad has any merit, it is to remind us to speak up against dumb ideas!  Why is racism and sexism still showing up in so many ways in our ads and TV programming and everywhere else in our society?  Why should gay or lesbian human beings have any less rights than any other human being?  How could such a bad idea still even be a thing?  Let’s just stop implementing all these dumb ideas.


hrc-logoPlease consider supporting the Human Rights Campaign – to speak up for equal rights for the LGBT community.

Or support any of the fine organizations listed on the Get Involved page who are working towards ending dumb ideas.

Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

article-2693000-1FA30DFD00000578-601_634x929This is something that falls both under the category Silly and Important.  I’m not even sure it’s silly enough to fall under the category of a silly post of the week, but with a name like ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables,’ I’ll say it qualifies.

I recently saw a video about a French supermarket, Intermarche, who wanted to do something to combat food waste.

Did you know that grocery stores throw out up to 40% of fruits and vegetables simply because they are ugly?  I had no idea, but I, too, look over the fruits and vegetables and squeeze and examine as if I actually know what I am doing.  I search through the tomatoes and the peaches to find the prettiest one, as if my fruit bowl at home needs to rival a French Provencal painting.  Little did I know that my finicky fruit and vegetable habits are part of such tremendous waste.

So, thank goodness for Intermarche for setting me straight.  They set out to prove that ugly fruits and vegetables taste just as yummy as DSC_3342their more beautiful counterparts.  They dedicated a whole aisle to the deformed produce and sold them at a 30% discount.  They also started a line of prepared foods made out of the two-legged carrots or bulgey eggplant.  This way people can take home a bowl of ugly tomato soup and taste for themselves how delicious it is before buying the lumpy things themselves.

An estimated 90,000 tons of produce in the U.K. goes to landfill sites annually, all because customers associate ‘ugly’ with ‘defective.’  I don’t know what 40% of the US grocery store produce equals in tons, but I’d guess it’s a lot more than that.  The same is true for all westernized countries.  The amount of fruits and vegetables that are thrown out world-wide simply because they aren’t visually acceptable to consumers is astounding.

It is even more egregious when you factor in the fact that there are areas in the U.S. that are called “food desserts” because there is so little access to nantesgood healthy food.  How many people are there in this country (or any country) who live in low-income neighborhoods that don’t have access to fresh produce?  When you also factor into that the fact that a head of broccoli in America costs more than a full meal at McDonald’s, that blows my mind.

So, my not-so-silly ending to my kinda-silly post for the week is this:

The ugly fruit movement should join forces with the Food Justice movement and design programs to take the less than perfect looking – but still just as tasty and nutritious – produce to lower-income neighborhoods and sell them for a discounted price.  And we should all stop being so prissy about our food.

Give Thanks & Take Thanksgiving Off

MD-HappyThanksgiving_11-2012Happy Thanksgiving.

I am going to take Thanksgiving Off.

In all honesty, I’ve been writing my posts ahead of time and scheduling them to post on a given day, so I could easily take Thanksgiving off and still write a post that would appear on Thanksgiving Day as if I had written it this morning.

However – in protest of all the stores who are starting the Black Friday craze a day early on Thanksgiving Day, turning the entire heart centered warm and fuzzy gratitude filled holiday into one big materialistic consumer driven buying frenzy and forcing thousands of low-income minimum wage earning cashiers and store clerks to work on Thanksgiving, this is it – this is the only post you get.

Now – go and enjoy some time with loved ones, think of all the love and connections you have in your life, ponder all the blessings in your life and pray that soon you’ll even appreciate all those blessings-in-disguise.  Take some time this weekend to make some Christmas presents.  Give love to everyone around you.  Give to a charity of your time and/or money.  Give thanks to God, to Allah, to Shiva and to the Great Spirit!

Lokaha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Om Shanti


Grassroots efforts to Stop Thanksgiving Day Shopping

Boycott Black Thursday Facebook Page

 

 

Diamond Rings and Body Hair

shavingYou guessed it.  Here is this week’s silly post.  Last week it was about shaved heads.  This week – diamond rings and body hair.

You might be asking yourself “How are diamond rings and body hair even related?”  Well, they are related by the fact that they both have an arbitrary cultural meaning that really has nothing to do with anything.

Here is a video illustrating how diamond engagement rings didn’t even exist before an advertising campaign started in 1938 by De Beers Diamond Company.  It must be the most successful advertising campaign in all of history because now diamond engagement rings are just a part of our culture.  And not just in America, but all over the world.  Wow.  That kind of blows my mind.

Ok, so what about the body hair?

Well, women and body hair is really the same thing.  I don’t know who it was that decided that women should not have any visible body hair.  It probably wasn’t De Beers Diamond Corporation and maybe it wasn’t in an advertising campaign, but somehow this also became just a part of our culture.

If you actually think about it, it’s really weird. Who can even come up with something so weird?  The hair that grows quite naturally on our legs and in our armpits and around our secret places, for some reason this is considered unacceptable?  What?  Who had that idea? How did that come about the first time in history?  And why on earth did a second person agree that it was a good thing to do?  And then a third person, and then a whole society?

73383679.jpgFor some unknown reason women all over the world shave, wax, epilate and tweeze all kinds of hairs in all kinds of places.

And yet, as bizarre and non-nonsensical as these societal norms may be, they are barely questioned.  And what’s more – I’m sold. When I get engaged – I want a ring!  Don’t go thinking you can just propose without getting down on that knee and popping one of them boxes open.  It would feel weird not to have a ring on my finger (though I’d happily figure out a way to get around the whole diamond monopoly and have some other kind of stone so De Beers gets nothing!).

And I think my legs look better without any hair on them.  I get frustrated with shaving and then having stubble grow back in and itch like crazy and make me feel like my legs have been bitten by a thousand tiny ants.  So, then I go through the pain of pulling all my leg hairs out by the root only to have them grow back inward or side ways under my skin giving me not only little bumps and irritated hair follicles but red ugly dots as well.  Either way, it’s an ongoing physical nuisance.  What is the point again?  Why do I do this?

I’ve internalized the cultural norm.  I myself prefer my legs smooth.  I think it looks prettier.  Does this make me a shallow person? (no)  Does this make me weak minded and conformist?  (not really)  Should I rebel and grow my body hair out to make a statement? (if you want)  Does it really matter at all either way?  (probably not)

All I can say is that I guess it’s for the same reason that I speak English or I wear jeans and t-shirts instead of walking around naked – it’s part of my culture.  It’s part of the weird generally agreed upon societal norms that we all just made up.  And sometimes they make sense, like wearing boots in snowy climates, and sometimes it makes no sense at all, like shaving your lady parts.

shaving-2So, it’s good to be aware of this.  And it’s good to step back and question these norms.  Even if you decide to play along, it’s good to do so through conscious choice.

And sometimes these norms are a lot less silly than shaving your legs or buying an engagement ring.  Sometimes these societal norms we just accept as reality are disempowering and oppressive and it DOES matter if you question and rebel and choose to make a new reality.  Sometimes these accepted realities are world-wide – like violence between nations being an acceptable way to “resolve” conflict.  Sometimes these norms are societal, like women not having the right to vote or get an education.  Sometimes the norms can just be within one church, like gays and lesbians going to hell and being treated as less than human.  Sometimes the norms can just be within a family, like a wife being submissive and belittled.  And in each of these circumstances, it’s easy to see the wrongness looking at it from the outside.  And it’s important to understand that it’s not always so easily seen from inside that reality. That is where compassion comes in.

If another intelligent species were to come to earth and see how when men and women decide to mate for life the man spends 2 months salary to buy a common crystallized carbon rock ring and how all the women spend so much time and effort and discomfort to remove all their body hair – what would it look like from the outside? That’s where I’d hope they would have compassion for us and not just think we were really really weird or just plain silly.

The Ad Campaign that Nike Will Never Air

Womens_Nike_Free_TR_Fit_2_Blue_White_Lemon_YellowI’m sorry if the headline was deceptive and you think this is a biting expose of some ad campaign chronicling Nike’s appalling child labor record that got squashed by the powerful corporate giant.  It’s not.  That would be a much more worthy thing to write about.

Unfortunately, this is just my silly post of the week in which I will tell you all about the ad campaign that I came up with for Nike that never existed anywhere outside of my own head.

Remember all those ads that Nike used to do that said “Just Do It?”  Maybe they still run those, I’m not that up on the latest in sports advertising, but they were big back in the day. Well, I had this idea to do a series of ads that instead would say “Just Be It.”

1_thefalls2They would have an athletically toned person putting on their Nike apparel inter-spliced with vibrant scenes of nature.  The person featured in the ad would be filmed getting suited up in all the latest Nike gear in total silence, only hearing the sound of their breath.  It would be dramatic lighting – dark background, stark light shining from an angle creating intriguing shadows.  The person would be seen putting on a Nike training jacket, with an intense concentration on their faces like this is the race of their lives – then an image of a rushing waterfall comes in for a few seconds.  The person puts on some Nike wrist guards as if they are going to do gymnastics or go rock climbing – then the camera switches to an eagle soaring above a vast canyon.  The person then ties their Nike shoe laces – then a heard of buffalo stampede111120-Meditation-296x300s across the screen.  Finally, the person bows their head and silently prays inside as if they are about to take the Olympic stage -then they sit down in lotus position and start meditating.  Again, just a few seconds of each nature scene rushes through the screen – the water, the eagle, the buffalo.  And the screen fades into “Just Be It” and the Nike swoosh.

This was around the time of some Olympics or other, so the Olympics were on TV all the time.  Of course, this was many years before the whole issue of the Olympics, the symbolic world games celebrating cooperation and brotherly love, ironically being held in Sochi with Russia’s human rights violations against the LGBT community.   So, instead of giving me ideas of ways to stand up for my gay or lesbian brothers and sisters, the Olympics gave me more ideas to expand the silly ad campaign.

0f4267fa965c115b00da1147e9762208They could have an ad that looked like Olympic news coverage.  The sports caster would announce, with all the excitement that only sports casters can muster, that we were checking in on the Olympic meditation race.  The camera would pan over to the various meditators from around the world sitting on little platforms in lotus position – the classic Indian Yogi in orange robes, the ascetic from Burma with only a loin cloth and a beard, the Tibetan bald headed monk in scarlet.  Then you’d have the young American newcomer in full out yoga gear, the blond Swede with stubble and casual baggie pants, a Sikh representing the UK in turban and trendy track suit bottoms.  They can throw in the Nike logo wherever necessary.

The clock in the corner of the TV screen would be ticking away: 42hrs, 38min, 7 seconds and counting.  The sports caster would continue his commentary “The team from India is of course strong, as they always are, I think we even saw Swamiji Beyondananda start to levitate a little bit there.  But this year we’ve been surprised by Lars Torngren from the Swedish team.  His race for Oneness consciousness has been nothing short of amazing.  And let’s not forget young Ajeet Suresh Singh from the UK.  He started his career as a British Bhangra rapper, but when in his mid-twenties his thirst for fame and riches turned towards the Olympic meditation team, nothing could stop him – his name doesn’t mean Invincible for nothing.  It will be an interesting race to see who reaches Enlightenment first.  Back to you, Dave.”

Again, the screen fades to “Just Be It.”

I thought these were great ad ideas and I was sure Nike would agree.  I even looked up Nike business offices contact information on line and emailed them asking where might I send an advertising concept?  I was curtly told that Nike only accepts ad ideas that are patented – and as I was not about to go through that whole process, alas, Nike will never air the “Just Be It” campaign…

nike_child_labor_bigJust as well as it’s hard to Just Be It or to put your whole self into Oneness Consciousness if you’re violating human rights and child labor laws in foreign countries.  So, the whole idea is better off here as my silly post.


 

As this silly post touches on some un-silly issues, here are some links:

To help in ending child labor world wide:  Human Rights Watch

To help fight discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters:  Human Rights Campaign

The Blame Game of Karma

I-believe-in-karmaThe last couple of days I’ve been thinking about how the spiritual law of karma can often times be used as a form of blame or as a way of not caring about bad things happening to our fellow human beings.  It can be used as a way of saying that no matter what your misfortunes, it’s your own fault.

My new blogger friend Meyla wrote a very thought provoking post bringing up the question of how our patterns from the past create our future and that there is this theory that we might create suffering for ourselves because we haven’t learned our lessons from the past or changed our minds.  Of course, there is truth to this – but it is a personal truth for our own personal journey, not a truth to point a finger at someone else.  How that truth is interpreted makes a huge difference, and this is what got me thinking about the blame game of karma.

On a societal scale there are examples of the blame game of Karma both in the East and the West.

Here in America on the secular end, the wealthy and conservative elite and their mouth pieces in the media would have you believe that being on welfare, needing food stamps to have enough to feed your family or being poor is somehow a character flaw.  The ugly side of “the American dream” is when those who have made it and are enjoying wealth beyond their dreams turn around and judge or shame those less fortunate, refusing to share or show any compassion to those who might be hungry.   This unfunny phenomenon is shown quite hysterically in this clip from John Stewart:

 

If you enjoyed that – you can watch the equally funny second part here.  

On the Judeo-Christian end there are passages in the Old Testament that make God out to be some kind of Cosmic Hall Monitor, busily watching our every thought and secret deed in order to administer swift punishment for any transgressions. Therefore, there was the thought that if something bad happens to you, it is God punishing you and you must deserve it. That misconception of God as a punisher was supposed to be changed with the teachings of Jesus (and the teachings of several other Jewish rabbis and prophets as well), but let’s face it, that is not a thought form that is foreign to Jews or Christians today and there are far too many who are more than willing to throw the first stone. And somehow the Golden Rule of love thy neighbor as thy self doesn’t always apply.

castoutcasteIn India there are still social ramifications of the caste system – closely related to the class system in the West but also different.  There it is thought by some that those born into the lower classes have been born into poverty and suffering due to their karma from past lives and it is simply what they deserve.  When someone is born as an “Untouchable,” who according to scripture should eat their meals from broken bowls and wear the clothes of dead people, there is somehow a karmic loop hole in the whole idea of seeing the Self in the other and honoring the Divine in all of life that is central to Hinduism.  Karma is used to justify oppression.

I have also come across this twist on the eternal truth of cause and effect in my own personal spiritual path.  I was once in a very dysfunctional relationship.  I was being mistreated, yelled at and belittled on a daily basis.  There were many more dynamics to the situation that I won’t go into, but this was supposed to be a very spiritual relationship.  When I finally got up the nerve to speak up and say something about it I was told that being treated this way must be what my soul was calling forth.  It was explained to me how we create our own reality from our past karma and because I had not had the courage to heal my childhood issues of being yelled at and belittled, I was creating this again.

Hmmmm.  This sounds a lot like “I’m yelling at you because you asked for it,” except in much more spiritual terms.  When I asked, “well, what about your own responsibility for your own behavior?” there was not an equally gymnastic spiritual answer, so the topic was changed.  I didn’t feel like debating karma or if I deserved what I got, so I decided I deserved to leave.

The bottom line that I learned is this: while on the highest level of reality it might be true that we are all responsible for creating our own reality – that does not mean that an abused child deserves the abuse because it is their karma.  It does not mean that abused wives who married husbands similar to their abusive fathers deserve what they get because they never went to therapy.  It doesn’t absolve the husbands from their responsibility of choosing to be assholes.  It does not mean that poor people deserve to go hungry because they don’t have enough character and gumption to live the American dream or that God is punishing them for the sins of their fathers.  It does not mean that Untouchables or lower caste people in India deserve to eat out of broken bowls or be discriminated against and treated as less than human.

CompassionAs in most cases when the selfish ego mind gets a-hold of a cosmic truth – it goes terribly wrong.  Karma is not meant to be an excuse for prejudice and blame.  Karma is just an isness of cause and effect.  The awareness of this cause and effect and the fact that we create our own reality is meant to empower us to create a kinder and more loving world. But we can only use this truth to look at ourselves – our own karma, period.  It does not apply to us placing judgment on anyone else.  Karma is not some justification for social injustice and it is certainly not an excuse to be anything but compassionate.


To do something towards a more compassionate world, you are invited to both Inner Action and Outer Action.

And if you haven’t already, please consider signing the Charter for Compassion.

Evil Is Like Peeing in the Ocean

I came across this science video that explains about peeing in the ocean and it reminded me of evil.  No, I’m not saying that pee is evil – it is a natural part of human life, and all other animal life for that matter, that can often feel quite enjoyable and relieving. What I mean is – evil is like a tiny amount of pee and God (good) is like the huge vast ocean.

 

Maybe Gandhi said it a little more eloquently than I:

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

As the video explains: Urine is more than 95% water anyway. The average human potty break contains 1 or 2 grams per liter of sodium and chloride ions and even less potassium – elements that are all naturally found in ocean water.  Urea is really the main waste product in pee – it is what is formed as our body rids itself of excess nitrogen – but the amount of urea in our urine is only around 2%.

The volume of water in just the Atlantic ocean is 350 Quintrillion liters. That is 350 followed by 18 zeros or 350,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters. There are roughly 7 billion people on the planet and if every single one of them peed into the Atlantic ocean all at the same time the amount of Urea in the ocean would still only be 60 parts per trillion. So – almost nothing.

So, why did this video remind me of evil?  Many years ago I watched the movie The Green Mile.  If you haven’t seen it, it is about an innocent sweet-hearted black man wrongly convicted of hideous and cruel crimes against little children and his eventual electrocution.  It was heart breaking.  My whole insides were aching with the pain and the horror of both the terrible fate of this innocent man and the horrific things that people do to children.  Even though it was a work of fiction the cruelty of humanity depicted is all too real and I was overcome with deep deep grief.  Ramakrishna_image_cropped

I went into my little room, sat on my little mat on the floor and looked at my small little altar.  I started crying and praying, praying and crying, rocking back and forth, holding my aching heart as I looked at one of the pictures on my altar, one of Ramakrishna.  I looked into the eyes of this holy man who lived long ago and kept asking why?  Why?  Why do humans do such things?  How can we be so evil and cruel?  How can we cause so much pain and unbelievable suffering to other human beings?

I started feeling the presence of Inner Beings, of Christ and Ramakrishna.  My prayers were being answered and I was being comforted.  As I began to calm down, I received the peaceful and eternal feeling that was entering into my heart.  In my mind’s eye I was shown a picture of the Earth as if seen from outer space.  The planet was alight, radiating a soft golden glow of warmth and love.  So beautiful.  The Light was God’s Goodness in our humanity radiating both from the inside out and the outside in.  On the planet I saw specks of darkness, little black spots where the Light wasn’t shining through.  The specks were the evils of humanity – the cruelty and maliciousness of all human atrocities – Hitler, Stalin, rape, murder, war.  No matter how dark and vicious, they were tiny specks on the Light of God.

I think about that moment very often.  I didn’t take it to mean that evil is “nothing” or that evil “doesn’t matter” or that we shouldn’t do everything in our power to make the world right.  My heart still breaks at the suffering of children and women and men due to the evils of poverty, violence, oppression and war.  But I am able to hang on to the Love and Goodness of God and see in us the Goodness of humanity – our original innocence, our fundamental core of Light.  So, the darkness no longer overwhelms me.  I not only have hope, but I know that God will always win, that Good and Love and Light will always be bigger than darkness.

I imagine that is how someone like Nelson Mandela could struggle against the evils of apartheid and live through 27 years of prison, torture and suffering and not succumb to hate, anger or vengeance.  I imagine it is from some connection to this Absolute Good that he could maintain his sense of forgiveness and continue to radiate such peace and love throughout his life.  I know it helps me to keep moving forward in my small endeavors to create more Peace on our planet and to unlock the ultimate goodness of humanity.

As Gandhi said – and here I paraphrase – we must not lose faith in humanity.  Humanity is like the ocean and evil is like pee and the ocean will always be beautiful.

Changing Our Selves AND Changing the World

be-the-change-you-wantWhen Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” he did not mean to just be the change on your yoga mat. Can anyone accuse Gandhi of sitting idly by in meditation – transforming himself inwardly as the world around him was unjust, brutal and violent? No. Gandhi did not simply meditate for peace and justice – he used the inner peace he found in meditation to take action and create real and meaningful change in the world.  The inner transformation through spiritual practice awakens in us a hunger for more love, compassion and justice in the world.

To me, what Gandhi meant is for us to have a unity of inner life and outer life – to have our quest for peace and justice in the world be reflected by peace and equanimity inside. Otherwise, we could be working for peace on the outside while raging with hatred against the world on the inside – and no matter what the anger or hatred is about, it is still putting out the vibrations of anger and hatred into the world, it is still polluting the collective mind. And, the nature of anger is that it cannot be contained or aimed just at one thing – it seeps out in how we treat those around us, those we love and anyone we come in contact with. So, if we are working for peace and we continue to rage inside, we are being counterproductive and working against ourselves and against peace.

Yet, I have often encountered people who say “Be the change you wish to see in the world” as a way to ONLY focus on change inside and not do anything in the outer world for change, to simply meditate every morning or say a prayer for peace before bed each night, but not think about the social impacts their choices or actions have on our world and the people around them. And yes, prayers and meditation for God’s Peace on earth are very good, but I don’t think Gandhi meant for us to ONLY change inside, to go to church on Sundays or take a yoga class on Thursdays and not take it any further than that. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “Union” – and how could you truly practice Union and realize the Oneness you share with all of life and then stand by and do nothing? When you truly realize the Union of life, the Union of God, you cannot sit by and watch the suffering of others and just say, oh well, I’m meditating.  I think our prayers for peace are meant to be ceaseless and to encompass all our actions in life.

The Dalai Lama has also said “Change only takes place through action, not through meditation and prayer alone.” And in a recent public talk when asked “What is the most important meditation technique at this time?” his answer was “Action,” – to meditate in order to take it into action.

There needs to be a balance of inner and outer focus. If we only focus on social activism and political action we get burnt out and bitter. There are plenty of politicians or social activists who start out with a mission for good and end up with toxic thoughts and angry actions. If we only focus on inner prayer or meditation we get self-absorbed and isolated in our own little world.  There are plenty of well-meaning people who set out to change the world by changing their own hearts but drift off into la-la land and lose touch with reality.

I think that the great spiritual leaders of peace and social change in our world have modeled this balance for us to apply in our own small ways. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and those who have changed entire nations through Love and Truth Force – they use their inner focus on the Divine or the spirit as a way to keep them inspired and in a state of love in their actions for change in the world.

Amma-5201There is also the truth that we cannot change the world simply by changing the outside circumstances – that to create lasting change we must create a change in consciousness. As the beautiful Ammachi put it “Simply transferring the world’s nuclear weapons to a museum will not in itself bring about world peace. The nuclear weapons of the mind must first be eliminated.”

So, to create this change in consciousness we must first do it in ourselves – we must first be the change we wish to see. And then through action, inspiration, education, osmosis, transmission and electromagnetics we can begin to change the consciousness of others – and thus, change the world.