September 26, 2007

I remember an occasion after the September 11th attack on the N.Y. Trade Centre; a multi religious prayer gathering was organized.  It was planned to include all major religions and denominations as a symbol of solidarity for peace.  Sadly, one of the major denominations of Christianity was not represented because both its divided bodies were invited.  Neither body would accept the invitation because the other faction was invited.  It seemed to me a very powerful example of the illogic behind the violence embracing so much of the world today.

 

Before peace can be attained we must be able to find acceptance for others just the way they are, before we can accept others the way they are we must be able to accept ourselves as good enough without needing to do anything.  Unfortunately very few of us can accept that others don’t need to change, that they are good enough just the way they are.

 

That is because few of us truly have accepted that God is perfect without our help.  Almost all of us seem to believe we need to help God to fix the world or at least the people of the world, because it’s just common sense to recognize all the things that aren’t working.  Common sense is a dangerous argument for changing others.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Our ‘prejudices’ will never improve the world; and we don’t need to fix anyone except ourselves.  If this is true then what remains of the purpose of our actions, our efforts to help others?  What would be the purpose for becoming a doctor or a missionary or expounding a religious doctrine?  What would be the purpose of helping anyone?  To help ourselves!  We can only see our feelings; our pain, our fear, our anger in our relationships, principally to others.  It is always our emotions that reveal the beliefs and ideas that keep us from God, or as the great teacher Jesus said, “the father within.”  If we of service could truly and honestly look at why we do the work we do, we would unanimously have to admit it is because of what we get that we give.  It is the payoffs.  


What do we get?  The answers are probably as varied as the people who serve.  For many it is as simple as the money, but it is very rarely just that.  It is much more likely the recognition we receive; when our friends and colleagues clap us on the back and congratulate us on a job well done.  Or our fulfillment may come through our clients ‘apparent’ recoveries and life changes.  We get to feel deeply when we witness a heart filled with pain; we are enriched when we feel those pains apparently dissolve and that life find new strength.
 But in truth what we are feeling is ours.  We can’t really feel their pain.  We can feel sympathy or empathy from our own experiences, so the feelings would then be our own healing.  We receive our own healing through helping.  But what if we really can feel another person’s pain?  Then it would naturally follow that we really are connected on some fundamental level.  In which case as we heal and help those other people we are really healing and helping ourselves.  In all cases it is what we receive that ultimately dictates our actions.  So when we are giving, when we are being of service let us remember that we are really acting very selfishly; it is not really about them except to the degree that it is about us.  And whether we are down there on the streets or up there in the corporate suites, to the degree that we are following and living our passion having a transcendent picture of the implications of our work in the world, we are being of service. 

All of this means that other people are exactly where they are for our own greatest good.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter what they think, what they believe or how they live except that with open minds we are able to grow by our relationship with them.  All that ultimately matters is that we have feelings, that we recognize the root causes of those feelings which come alive in our relating with those people we serve and that we be willing to embrace and grow through those feelings.  In so doing we truly will transform the world one heart at a time.

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September 19, 2007

 

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to move beyond the ‘how’ of a dream into the nebulous.  We can calculate the obvious but not the extraordinary.  In order to reach that extraordinary it is only necessary that we focus on being in our highest integrity in the moment; by doing that we open hidden doors.

 

For most people it is quite possible to imagine getting a raise, another contract or a couple more sales a month.  It’s a matter of simply working hard and doing the list of things those above you have told you to do.  Many of us have the capacity to imagine an exponential increase of income by taking on a second job, moving away to ‘where the market is better’ or by getting a better education.  For the majority this is where imagination ends; beyond the visible cause and effect we are left with, well, buy a lottery ticket.  And so dreams remain just that, the unlikely pipedream that none believe will ever come to fruition.

 

There is nothing wrong with any of these strategies but in all cases this kind of action is putting the cart before the horse, it is working on the level of physical exertion and is limited to the amount of physical energy we have.  More importantly this kind of strategy never taps into our true power, that of the unconscious.  Because of this it never brings our great visions to us. 

Most of our daily actions come directly out of our subconscious patterns of thought and because they come from unconscious patterns they often serve more to destroy our opportunities than to enhance them.  I’m sure you can all recall moments of self-sabotage, I know I certainly can.  In fact at times in my life I thought I was the master of  such self-sabotage. 

 

Likewise we all have patterns of behavior that will naturally elevate us into a world of greater opportunity.  The key is to become consciously aware of those patterns and cultivate the ones that work.

 

Just recently a young man who is working at a local light industry in town was refused a raise that he was eligible for.  His work record was perfect, he was on time every day and he worked hard, always seeking to improve his productivity.  He was refused because he has plans to travel abroad. 

 In the face of it there was some very obvious business sense involved; why train or pay him more than necessary when he was just going to leave anyway.  The problem with this approach is the creation of a negative ripple effect.  The employer has already invested close to six months into this employee.  Now they have ensured they have not only discarded a future possible return employee, they have also created bad publicity for themselves in the work force because unhappy people always talk; corporate self-sabotage.


 

Right now there is such a surplus of employers in Calgary that companies that get bad employer reputations are wasting thousands of dollars training people who will then walk away to better paying jobs.  They have not created employee loyalty.

 

I remember, many years ago, working in a garage for a wise old mechanic.  At that time he was in his late sixties; now he’s in his late eighties or possibly nineties.  One day in the middle of the summer while I was working on some relatively unimportant project a couple of the neighbourhood kids came by with some very old, worn and holey inner tubes for a bit of repair.  After about seventeen patches the young boys and girls pooled their money which in total didn’t amount to five dollars; not even close to paying for the patches.  Mr. Beddie, the owner/mechanic of the service station, simply said “that’s good” and sent them on their way. 

 

The revealing part of this event actually happened afterward when a customer suggested to Mr. Beddie that he wouldn’t get rich that way.  All he said (at sixty-eight years) was "they’re my customers of tomorrow."  We all knew he wouldn’t likely be in business for more than ten years, but to him that didn’t matter.  What mattered most to him was that he act in integrity with his principles.  Mr. Beddie is still alive today and often visited by those same children.  I’m sure he doesn’t regret for a moment that 'poor' business sense as he reaps the benefits with the many generous visits and calls he continues to receive today.

 

His dream was humble; it was to be of service, to do good work and to make the world a better place.  He is not particularly wealthy in the financial sense although he is certainly comfortable.  More importantly he is wealthy in the ways that matter most to him.  He is regarded highly in his community and will never lack for friends and admirers. 

 

Today his dream is still incomplete, he still has purpose.  That humble mechanic still has people calling on him to lend of his talents and wisdom.  His vision continues to give him life.  And all he did to fulfill his vision was to cultivate his good habits, something every one of us can do.
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September 12, 2007

What struck me was the statement, “noisulli na si dlrow eht”.  I have heard this stated over the years (generally in common syntax) by many people newly introduced to eastern religions and philosophies.   They hear words like maya (meaning the illusion or immateriality of substance) and think this means that nothing they are looking at has any meaning.  Many then go into years of meditation practice where they seek to deny the existence of all the things of their lives, including their own bodies.  They will seek to shut down their emotional responses to any physical stimuli.  Many ‘cults’ will encourage this view and tell their followers it is better to just give their possessions and money to the organization; because, their logic follows, if it is illusion then it is a distraction to their ‘spiritual growth’. 

 

Don’t mistake my message here, I see nothing wrong with giving, in fact it is one of the most powerful growth and increase practices I know of.  Illustrated in this quote from author Greg Barrette, “Every scientific study of volunteering shows that tithing of time can add years to your life, health to your body and stability to your mind. Studies have even shown that the more people who volunteer in a given country, the higher is their standard of living and the more democratic is their government.”

 

The problem arises when we are led to believe that it is some how more spiritual to deny the physical.

 

I certainly understand the appeal of this idea; it makes life so much simpler when we can make a blanket statement that will solve all our moral dilemmas.  We can blame all situations that may arise on someone’s attachment to an illusion.  Then our only response necessary is “give up your attachments!”  Unfortunately this doesn’t really fix anything; words never do unless there is real understanding.

 

Now that I have argued against its validity, “the world is an illusion” does actually have some real truth to it, depending on our meaning.  If, for example, we are saying that all space on a subatomic level is equally 99.999% empty (including the walls of your house, the rock that you stub your toe on and ‘empty space’) then we are perfectly correct and scientifically verifiable.

 

It seems apparent to me that it is not so much the world which is an illusion but rather our perception of it.  A leading biologist, Richard Dawkins, has postulated that we make up the appearances of a uniformly empty landscape in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt.  If we didn’t see colour and texture we might actually try to walk through walls, dive into granite and walk on water; and that just wouldn’t serve most of us well.  So collectively making up our world would serve to promote our survival.


 

The question then arises, what happens if our collective agreement no longer serves our basic survival needs?  The sensible thing to do would be to change it and carry on.  Unfortunately if these core race beliefs really do exist we are unable to collectively see them because we are looking from within them.  It would be the same as trying to imagine the colours on the outside of a box when you have always been only on the inside.  If our agreed upon ‘facts’ are pointed out to us as myths we will laugh them off.  Most of us will go to the grave before we will even realize a need to change our minds.  Having realized the need the change will still be extremely challenging.

 

There are so many historical documentations of  the costs of an inability to change that one would think today we would be collectively searching for our limiting beliefs and consciously working to change them before the next possible cataclysm.  Unfortunately our deepest core belief appears to be a collective self righteous egocentricity.  We believe that what we perceive is our reality, and we could not possibly be mistaken on such a fundamental level.

 

This is a wonderful thing for life’s greatest visionaries, inspirational speakers and writers.  They will all continue to have work because the majority of people the majority of times will collectively nod their heads and carry right on walking to the precipice.

 

The good news is that every one of us can change if we can only, as the great philosopher Emerson once said, “get our bloated nothingness out of the way.”  We must be able to first admit that what we are seeing, what we are doing, might not be working; that the world as we see it may just be an illusion.  We must be able to admit that we have been wrong. 

 

May the Force be with you.
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September 5, 2007

 

That first success may be the most important in a person’s life.  It will be the proof of perseverance.  It will be the foundation on which every other success story is written.  In a normal healthy life that first victory will be the protocol and only a series of profound setbacks will steal the victory, for it has been the drive within every normal life.

 

Almost always there is only one setback repeated that will steal success from a human heart and that is a denial of love; parental love, the love of a friend, a spouse, a colleague or employer.  The denial of love whether we term it friendship, appreciation, support or any other word is the only action that can take victory from the human soul. 

 

It is in each one of us to create, to give and to appreciate; and only the withdrawal of love can take our deepest desire from us.  Likewise only the gift of love can re-inspire us.  It takes a supportive environment to take real risks which is why we are told that “behind every successful person there is a loving spouse.”  This is the power of Napoleon Hill’s mastermind process.   True success needs belief, it needs faith and it needs love; when this is given we find ourselves willing to reach out and take risks.  And if we fall we naturally get up and try again.

 

So what happens when we are denied love?  We start to doubt ourselves.  We start to quit, to give up, to become losers.  We start to fear failure more than we desire beauty, and in the human soul every success is a beautiful thing.  As a society starts withholding love the results inevitably show up on her streets, they show up in her armies, they show up in corruption and greed.  And the only solution is the gift of love unconditionally given.  In every moment the balance is in our hands.  In every moment how we show up as individuals is how our world reflects back to us.  It is never up to someone else to fix a problem.  It is always up to the witness to bring love into the situation.

 

This same demand is for each of us as it is for those we see.  If I feel loss or fear, if I feel I have been maligned or abused it is up to me to love and appreciate myself; it is up to me to find the faith within myself.  I must rise to the occasion before me and take the risks necessary to move myself into a place of greater success.  In all that I receive from others I must always give myself all of myself, all of my faith and willingness.

 

Because no one in this world has received more than enough love the process of growth seems to become more and more difficult for most people.  They get old in their struggle to succeed in a world that does not know how to give support.


 

Every person reaches a point where the desire to get out of a nowhere pattern becomes a driving force.  Stepping into the new becomes all important and to do it we each need support, we need someone to believe in us.   With a relatively healthy life the one supportive person may be able to be ourselves; it is possible to support ourselves.  Many of us practice this and have great success.

 

However, it is the cost of our victory that will be our aging process and the reward will be the discovery of love and beauty within.  With every moment a person pushes forward without faith, without support she or he grows old and tired.  When the support is found within or without inexhaustible reserves of energy are found.  It seems the only way we can truly move into the full realization of our dreams is through this victory process.  We must prepare ourselves; we must prepare our hearts, which is what courage is, to have heart. 

 

In this process of finding support we are making a space within for our greatest battle.   The real battle is a stepping out of an old and limiting idea of who we are, an idea of ourselves we have come to love; for it is the memory of a past victory.  At some point, often at many points in the journey of self fulfillment we must give up that self image we love in order to achieve a greater good.

 

Just recently it was given to me to do this.  I was called to let go of working with a most inspirational inventor and one who I am proud to call a friend, Jonathon of Freedom Water Company, in order that I might pursue with the full focus of my heart my own passion and ministry.   I once again had to let go of my ‘coffee table’ in order to take those first baby steps forward.

 

If this is where you are in your dreams, I applaud you; I know that your bravery is adding to the good in this world.  As you take those steps knowing you have it within yourself; against all appearances, that which is needed; strength, great support, timely opportunities and supportive people will step forward in the promise of your success.

In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”  I know with you that with perseverance your success is assured.
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August 29, 2007

 

We are certainly in a time of change, possibly greater than any other time in our collective history.

 

Change is exciting; often good and always it is a little uncomfortable even to the most ardent transformers.  For many of us change is hopelessly confusing, it is grease under our feet that gives us speed we never really wanted, usually at the expense of balance.

 

So how do we deal with these constant upheavals?  How can we maintain balance in a world that seems to refuse us even a passing grasp on stability?  That appears to be the question determining our continued survival. 

Although any answer seems difficult, in truth the solution is not particularly complicated.  The biggest problem for most of us is our continued urge to fight every change, particularly the ones that call on us to act consciously. 

It was back in the late sixties and early seventies that recycling first came into the publics awareness, thirty years later we are just becoming conscious on a collective level that it is up to each of us to make the difference.  Today it appears we like the luxury of such sluggish shifts. 

 

We must be that change and act completely in integrity with our desire. 

 

When we do this we find that opportunity seems to precede us.  Doors open where for others they are closed.  Almost as if the energy of life were seeking to reward us for our integrity.  This isn’t like some great oceanic wave that knocks us into the next kingdom (you know the one, that kingdom of honey and roses).  No; this is a subtle process that works with our tendencies, our patterns that are primarily maintained subconsciously.   This process of change is definitely activated by our conscious thoughts but it is not maintained by them.  Like a ship in the ocean, it is the steady throb of our unconscious beliefs that drives us to our ‘destiny’.  Our conscious thoughts start the engine and trim the rudder but without constant focus the rudder is grabbed by the currents of human thought tendencies.  We end up right back where we started from and if we are normal we claim in our minds something like: “It’s hopeless!”  “Nothing I do works anyway.”

 

Psychologists, motivators and personal trainers claim that any new pattern must be maintained for at least twenty-one days in order to make it a habit.   This is definitely the minimum.  Often a real change takes years to truly complete itself; it will take unceasing vigilance and constant inner reminders of our new ways of thinking and behaving.  Many members of AA groups have discovered this.


 

At the end of the day, when you are in your darkest of ‘darknesses’ the only question remaining is how willing are you?  Because a true willingness to change is a willingness to be in complete integrity with our new choices every day, every week for years if necessary; whatever it takes to create the life we desire.  True willingness is about quitting doing a thing our way, it  is letting go of the how and focusing on our compassion and desire for the greater good of life as a whole. 

 

True willingness is not complicated yet it may be the most difficult journey any of us take.  And the most difficult part of this willingness is to witness all the failures on our path saying and thinking “You can’t do that.”  In order to make change happen in our lives we would do well to find people who can believe in who we would choose to be, rather than who we have always been.

 

In a world of change there is only one way to find peace and that is to become the change; be vigilant and seek ever opportunities to be in flow with the unfolding goodness of life.  We have all been given the power to choose, nowhere more freely than in our own thoughts.  Like all gifts it is up to us to use what we have been given.
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August 22, 2007

 

Well I’m here to let you know there is another way; inexpensive and effective, and better yet you are probably using it in a number of ways in your life already.  What is it?  It’s drama, yes if we keep busy enough we don’t need any technological devices to block out that noisy inner silence. 
The greatest challenge most people have with meditation is listening to the noise.  Listening to the cacophony of thoughts that come rushing to the fore the moment their eyes are closed; or in some cases the moment the thought of sitting silently comes in.  Thoughts of every possible scenario of hurtful action and intention seem to surface from nowhere.  Stories we never knew we had playing come to light; about the intentions of the driver who cut us off, of our family members who have neglected to contact us for the last six weeks.  Our bosses, our colleagues, coworkers… again the chatter comes from nowhere and goes on forever.  For most people there is no such thing as silence. Any moment will bring on the chatter, it’s normal and because it reveals all our dark and petty thoughts and feelings it is supremely uncomfortable.  After all most of us would prefer to think of ourselves as good honest loving people; but these hidden thoughts tell a different story.

 

So what do we do?  We get busy, we create drama, and we seek thrills because when we are on the edge the voices go quiet.  And that silence, an easy imitation of bliss, is addicting.  Whether we get it from skydiving, cheating on our spouses, gambling or fighting wars it is the same, the silence of a little human being totally focused on survival for just a few minutes.  It is so very seductive. 

 

And typically that need to avoid the inner voices; that need for the edge, will drive the addictive personality further and further into the realm of the extreme.  Because it continually takes more to take us to the edge, whether we are using alcohol or parachuting.

 

And we are taught at such a young age.  We are taught to dislike and fear the silence. The modern society has adapted the ‘time out’ as the punishment, and doesn’t it just make sense.  If we don’t like to be alone with our guilty dark thoughts then it must follow in our twisted human logic that our children will be terrified.  Double programming, we give our children exactly what we seek most to avoid ourselves, giving ourselves and our children the subtle message that quiet is to be avoided.


 

 

The truth is that quiet is ultimately the only way to disempower those inner voices.  In truth we must come to recognize that they exist and that it’s okay that they exist. 

 

Once when I was in my early twenties I was assaulted and left for dead.  For years I was haunted by dark and violent thoughts. In order to become comfortable with those thoughts that seemed to come from some violence I did not even understand, I had to accept them, let them be and let them go.  Over time they lost their power, I no longer had panic rushes when they would come up.  But it took time and it took forgiveness, I had to release myself from guilt for being, somehow the author of thoughts that were against every enlightened idea I preferred to hold of myself.  I had to realize those thoughts were a part of me in order to realize they weren’t all of me.  In fact they were only a small (but very persistent) part of me.  And once I truly heard them they finally went away.

 

Today I have to search my memory for those thoughts; they are more like an old movie that still haunts me a little in the shadows of the night.

Now I no longer need the thrills of risk I once demanded; now silence is usually preferred.  I have found what I used to get from thrills doesn’t come close to the joy of sitting in meditation.

 

It still seems the old belief that I have better things to do often prevails because I am capable of many distractions.  Yet even with the distractions I take at least a few minutes daily to shut out the world, shut up my to do list and shut down my body.  What a relief.
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August 15, 2007

 

Difficult questions asked daily by thousands, possibly millions around the globe; yet these are the questions we need to ask ourselves daily.  These are the questions that will define our actions and lack of actions.  These are the questions that will define our children’s and grandchildren’s lives.  We must ask tough questions; yet more importantly we must act to the best of our ability in integrity with our core values around these questions. 

Probably the biggest challenge to answering these questions is the hidden desire to remain ignorant.  Ignorance is the last refuge of the hypocrite.  Slavers in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds viewed their slaves as sub-human, a hypocrisy of ignorance.  Men up through the early nineteen hundreds viewed women as intellectually inferior, again selective ignorance.   The military and corporate oppressors of the twentieth century have viewed their might and mastery as justification for oppression.  Continually religions have somehow viewed their brand of faith to be some form of license toward subjugation, manipulation and alienation.  All of these; ignorant declarations of the right to impose, in ways we would never wish upon ourselves, are violent undertones to organizations which talk the talk of peace.

 

It is in our culture; the language we use is often an adult version of the schoolyard bully.

Just a couple days ago I saw a sign stating that ‘real men love Jesus’. 

Do they really believe that?  What kind of violent manipulation of wounded, weak and confused minds is that? 

If you don’t feel like a ‘manly man’ all you need do is proclaim your love of some person or cause in order to establish your ‘manhood’.

 

And what then is being said about all those male Buddhists, Jews, Hindu, Sheiks, Pagans and other men?  

I would argue this is a subtle slur on the manhood of every male who professes any other religious or spiritual view.  Such statements are certainly not promoting peace, harmony and other universal spiritual or religious views.  They are built into a language and culture that promotes a ‘power over’ paradigm.

Two weeks ago I took some photos of a housing development cutting adjacent to a creek.  An interchange occurred in which the inference was made that ‘because I did not have the money to buy the property I had no right to challenge the position of the developer to log up to the creek’.  The inference made was that money has rights that surpass the rights of legal process and fair democracy.  For those who may have forgotten it the meaning of democracy is a ‘one person, one vote system’. 


Power over; as long as we seek personal or group fulfillment through the use of domination by any means will not bring peace.  It is not until we start to know ‘power with’ that we can hope to establish local or global harmony. 

The good news is that the change is happening; and the change is not a governmental phenomenon.  It is truly a grass roots occurrence; its leadership like its constituency comes from the masses.  Paul Hawken, (author, speaker and advocate) says it is organized into add hoc societies world wide, their numbers exceeding a hundred and thirty thousand, likely more than two hundred and fifty thousand and possibly more than five hundred thousand groups.  It is not possible to determine exactly how many because this is a people’s revolution, changing the world from the ground up.

 

Each of these societies has a membership speaking out for peace, environment and social change.  Every year the numbers grow; today there are millions upon millions of people pushing for a change whose time has come. 

And we are the ones.  Every time we speak in affirmation of a global shift we add to the rebalancing of a world economy, environment and society; one that has no controlling organization or leadership.  Every time we write to the newspaper, encourage a neighbor or show up at an event or a society meeting we add to the movement for change as we would like to see it.  Every time we spend our money we cast a vote.

 

It really is time for change; we really can be a part of that change and all we need to do is show up wherever our values direct us.
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August 8, 2007

To avoid enlightenment spend as little time in nature as possible. Observing nature can easily lead you to conclude that all living things are interconnected, interdependent, interactive and purposeful. These observations tend to further lead to the conclusion that we (human beings) are a part of nature, have purpose, interconnection, and are interdependent with every other living thing. The scary part of thinking like this is you begin to wonder; if everything is interdependent, interactive and interconnected, are we somehow part of a greater Mind or Intelligence? Left unchecked, such thoughts can easily take us down what can become a spiritual path with even more bizarre observations and conclusions. People having traveled this path often conclude there is Divine Intelligence.
They come to believe their thinking and physical actions are all part of a co-creation process. They start thinking the quality and character of their thoughts and behavior shape not only their experience, but also are the sum and substance of reality. It is apparent too much of this kind of thinking can become a very slippery slope for those wanting to avoid anything resembling enlightenment. For those having stumbled onto what some might call spiritual truths, it may be helpful to take a mental break and try out some religious thinking that avoids the pitfalls of logic, physical evidence and science. Purchase one of many available books and learn how the earth is only six thousand years old. Avoid asking how oil, millions of years old, managed to get buried deep under the earth’s skin. Such questions will most likely get under your skin and take you back to the slippery, spiritual slope. Learn how man and dinosaur lived together as well as the danger of forbidden fruit.


Consider Eve to be the physical mother of all human kind. Skeletons older than our six thousand year earth are a cruel hoax trumped up by non-believers. If done right, this kind of reading will lead you to close all books on all things religious and spiritual. If this happens you are off the hook. Your path to enlightenment is blocked and you are safe.  If, however, you are not deterred by diversity of explanations, opinions and fantasy, you may find yourself back on the spiritual path. If this happens you may need to do something radical. Buy a new and expensive car. Start a new relationship. Get a second job to pay for the new car. Watch a lot more TV. Drink too much on weekends and party during the week. If you are busy enough, tired enough and poor enough, you may find the nagging desire in your heart for enlightenment will no longer call you. Many people are successfully able to avoid the insidious grip of spiritual seeking their entire lives. “ Rev Bob Luckin is co-pastor of the Monterey Church of Religious Science, Monterey California.  This article is included with his permission for my personal distribution.

May this wonderful article help you to see yourself and your place in the world around you.

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August 1, 2007

The other morning from 7:30 on I was serenaded by a horrific racket.  I thought little of it as I was quite aware of the condominium building project happening in a lot on the north side of the creek. 

When I did finally go out I was greeted by a severe shock.  Loggers were clearing out the trees almost to the creek banks.  I went across the creek and was greeted by a cleared swath.  The developers had apparently received council permission to clear to the minimum older provincial standards of seven and a half meters.  This is just twenty four and a half feet, or less than the distance across a medium living room.  To put this into greater perspective, to remove a tree eight meters from a creek you have effectively removed the growth that provides shade to the creek, essential to a healthy fish habitat.  This is why the province extended the creek-side protective buffer.

I was left to do the only thing I can do. I said my prayers, in that moment I chose a prayer called the Serenity Prayer.  “Grant me the courage to change what I can change, the patience to accept what cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference.

I felt saddened by the loss of the little piece of wilderness removed that harbored its microcosm of birds and other wildlife, a half dozen large cottonwoods and all the underbrush worth.  I couldn’t change that or my immediate feelings. 

I couldn’t really blame any particular person; certainly not the developer, apparently some person living in California with a company based out of Edmonton.  He had no vested interest in the ecology of our community and was simply doing what most developers do; he was exploiting an opportunity taking advantage of weakened codes in order to make a little more money.

I couldn’t blame the City council; their mandate is to protect the minimum amount of nature to meet the demands of the greatest amount of people while raising the capital to build the city infrastructure.  They are not mandated to be particularly environmentally sensitive; their duties are primarily diplomatic, make changes while keeping their neighbours as friends.  That has got to be a hard position for anyone to be in and not one I would wish on anyone.


 

So it comes down to the voters in this and every community and what they want.  What do we want?  Do we care how many outside developers change the landscape of our cities?  Do we care whether we have green spaces where people can walk and meet others?  Do we want sanctuaries that encourage birds (other than pigeons and starlings) to enrich us with their presence?  Do we really need to eliminate ecology in order to experience growth?  What do we want our communities to look like for our children, and their children?

If we as individuals do not ask these questions and then stand firm in our conclusions I know that tomorrow our communities will look exactly as good as the lowest necessary standards in order for developers to make the maximum profits.  In other words we will have beautiful gated communities for the wealthier people surrounded by slums and ‘industrial parks’ for those who cannot afford better. 

A democratic community demands that people participate in a conscious way, a spiritual community demands that people participate in a conscious way.  We must get clear in our own minds about what we want our world to look like for our children, and then we must stand up. We must act in accordance with our desires.  When we do less than this we give our power away and resign ourselves at best to an autocracy, either political, military, corporate or religious. 

We must be the change we wish to see because we truly are the ones we have been waiting for.  No one but us will make our heaven and no one but us can take it away.
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July 25, 2007

As I remember it, the story opens with a couple visiting their Rabbi for advice; their two children are messy and uncooperative and their small two room cottage feels too small.  The Rabbi advises them to invite their parents to live with them and come back in a week. 

A week later they return expressing their stress around the added number of people in their small space, the Rabbi simply invites them to bring their pet dog in.  Over the ensuing weeks they are told to bring in all their animals; the goats, the chickens, the rabbits and any other animals.  One day they arrive at the Rabbis home wondering how they could squeeze even a mouse into their over crowded home.  To their great relief the Rabbi asks them to send all animals and people to their respective domiciles and return in a week.

The following week the Rabbi asks the couple how they are managing in their little cottage.  The husband and wife, in deep relief, have come to appreciate how big their space actually is.  They are full of gratitude for the wisdom of their Rabbi and the abundance of order and organization in their home, with only their two young children to share it.

When I remember this fable I am filled with gratitude.  I recognize how much I enjoy the luxury of being able to share by choice. 

What makes this story more poignant to me is another story recently shared by a friend of mine. He spent a few months working in the north of China a few years ago, While there he saw a farm commune hut. In the hut across one whole wall was a bed, it was large, it could sleep eight couples.  On the other side of the room there was another bed (no curtain separating them) that could sleep another couple.  Each couple had one night a week to sleep ‘alone’ together and then they rotated out to share the large bed.  For them things we take for granted were not an option; hygiene, solitude, independence and many other basics of our society.

To fully grasp the meaning of these stories is profound.  It instills a sense of tolerance; and even more a deep humbleness. 

I am truly grateful for this place I live in, the relative paradise I have come to accept as my right – and the common standard for the world. 


It is not!  Most of the world, about 80%, lives in abject poverty, even though they may not be in the midst of the wars and genocides of the isolated places like Darfur they still lack virtually every convenience I take for granted; including basic safety.  They lack virtually all the basic freedoms the UN has declared to be the right of every living person.

Today in our world the average quarterly profits of one bank may exceed the monthly income of a billion people.  The wealth of the worlds richest man could pay the wages of a country like China or India for over a month leaving him with pocket change to live comfortably for the remainder of his life.

When Jesus said there would always be the poor and the suffering, somehow I do not believe he was referring to eighty percent of the world’s population.  In a world of religions that believe in life values how is it that we can so fiercely protect our national, personal and corporate wealth while starving people need loans of as little as a couple dollars to turn their lives around. 

My purpose here is not to accuse any of us of greed or thoughtlessness.  My purpose is to keep the actual state of our world in our consciousness because I recognize the first step of change whether on a personal or global level is to be honest about the challenges we face.

There is more than enough love and generosity to bring balance to this world. All any of us need do is simply act with integrity.  Even the least of us in this part of the world has so very much.  We have the freedom to give of ourselves with our time and our skills, we have the freedom to give money and many other forms of wealth and we have the ability to use our money in morally responsible ways.  Simply by truly acting in integrity with our recognition of the needs of all people locally and globally we do and are making a supreme difference.  The only real need is that we act and act visibly; if we are doing something to make a difference be proud, speak out and raise awareness.
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