Monday, January 16, 2012

Occupy The Spirit

I was invited to speak at an event called "Occupy the Spirit." It was all about exploring the spiritual roots of activism and social transformation. We had, among others, an Imam, a Buddhist, a radical lefty Christian, a Transition Town organizer, a civil disobedience teacher and a poet.

There was so much spoken about what we must do to transform ourselves before we can transform the world, so much to learn about living with conflict and bearing witness to discomfort and grief without having to solve it. Big stuff, and very inspiring.

My remarks as follows:

Occupy the Spirit

I’m so honored to be here. The truth is I’m a bit of an unlikely participant, so I want to give you the rundown on my spiritual street cred:

Historically Jewish - This is right in line with Occupy because Jews don’t need amplification and naturally communicate by yelling at each other. There’s also the concept of tikkun olam. That God made the world a little broken and that it’s our job to repair it.

Very inspired by Buddhism - Dalai Lama’s comment: my religion is compassion resonates deeply

Yoga teacher - which makes me a BuJuHindu.

Ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, which believes in democratizing the marital process and that everyone should have as much access to food, shelter, and sex as they want. Totally a dogma I can get behind!

I’m also married to a pagan whose sister is an evangelical Christian, and we live next door to Ruah the Quaker and another neighbor, who is a witch. So I feel like I’ve pretty much got most of the bases covered!

This gathering tonight is powerfully important. It’s vital to support the spiritual underpinnings of the Occupy movement. They’ve done a brilliant job of starting a huge, exploratory conversation about where we are as a people, and articulating the reality of how things have gone astray.

However, it’s very easy, when we start talking about the 99% and the 1% to get into an Us vs. Them mentality. Which is understandable, as there are great systemic and resource imbalances which must be addressed in the name of social and environmental justice. And it seems pretty clear who the perpetrators are and who’s not taking responsibility for making a great big mess of things.

But we, here, are also a gathering of spiritual seekers, and I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that each of us are, fundamentally, an aspiring Bodhisattva. We are, each of us, committed to the liberation of the human spirit and of all sentient beings, and we are working, ultimately, for a planetary psycho-spiritual transformation.

We are working to lift the veil of illusion that we are somehow, in any way, separate from each other. We are working to release the myth that our human hearts beat to a rhythm that’s any different from the powerful, eternal pulse shared by all life on the planet.

We are constantly, committedly, reminding each other that 99% plus 1% equals One. We are One. While we might look like distinct little waves upon the sea, while we might wear the temporary mask of individuality, the essential substance of our being is an undivided whole, and the energy driving our momentary existence is nothing - nothing - but pure, Divine love.

That means Everyone. That means Everybody: the poor, the needy, the underserved. But it also means anyone trapped in the belief that they can find comfort, solace, and peace from the pursuit of endless power and material gain. That means anyone who would hate us for the essence of who we are and what we stand for. It means anyone we might be tempted to hate. It even - I daresay - means Newt Gingrich.

So how do we do it? How do we undertake this major gigantic colossal unbelievably huge whole systems inside-out top-to-bottom liberation and hopefully, thereby, repair the world? We accept the challenge. We Occupy ourselves. We work on shedding our own illusions, releasing our own fears. We strengthen the slow-twitch muscles of our compassion and our quick-twitch empathic reflexes. We tell fabulously inspiring tales about our inherent immanence - the truth that we are made of One Eternal Love. We choose to believe that as a people we are heading somewhere we actually want to go, and we share visionary stories of our remarkable, righteous, resilient future.

Now, nobody - from Moses to Mother Theresa to Mohammed to Martin Luther King - nobody said this work was easy. It's not. But we do it, as it says in 1st Corinthians 13, with faith, hope, and love. We do it because we must. We do it because we are the children of an utterly miraculous planet, a tiny aquamarine jewel floating in a sea of black velvet infinity. We are her warriors and her guardians and we do this work because our hearts demand it and because there is no one else to do it. We are, as the Hopi elders said, “the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

So, hold each other when times get hard and celebrate the joy, wonder and unbelievably good fortune of just being alive - even in These, our rather Interesting Times.

I’ll leave you with a poem from a man I like to call Saint Mullah Rabbi Brother Gary Snyder Rimpoche:

For the Children

The rising hills, the slopes,

of statistics

lie before us.

the steep climb

of everything, going up,

up, as we all

go down.

In the next century

or the one beyond that,

they say,

are valleys, pastures,

we can meet there in peace

if we make it.

To climb these coming crests

one word to you, to

you and your children:

stay together

learn the flowers

go light

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