END OF THE LINE: THE WOMEN OF STANDING ROCK

Quote from the fundraising page for a documentary being made by Shannon Kring.
As you can see, they have already got the amount they asked for.

“It’s very simple. We have to have water for life. And so we’re petitioning the world community to join our campaign. Every effort we make is for all of our children and grandchildren. We make a commitment to continue the struggle, and to make every effort for all of us.”        – A woman of Standing Rock

The women of Standing Rock do not call themselves protestors. They are protectors. In interview after interview, they explain that their fight is for the greater good. Standing Rock is their home, but Mother Earth is home to us all.

Since the women of Standing Rock began their peaceful protest on April 1, 2016, pipeline spills in the U.S. alone have dumped 244,900 gallons of crude oil and tar sands, and 384,300 gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline.

Last year, there were 132 major spills. That’s approximately one every three days.

Human rights, land rights, and environmental justice concern us all.

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Wisdom from Children

This happened at the Water Protectors camp at Standing Rock:

One morning, a 14-year-old girl asked those sitting before the sacred fire to reflect upon the trauma that may have occurred in the lives of the pipeline security guards who attacked members of the camp with dogs and pepper spray. “Something painful must have happened to them as children. Maybe they didn’t have loving parents,” she said. “Maybe they were abused. They need kindness. I ask you to forgive them.”

This quotation is on the DailyGood for December 5

When I find myself angry or scared about what’s happening in our country, I remind myself of this.  Also those men, who care only about money and power, have no compassion because they have shriveled hearts.  Hearts get shriveled by being hurt badly when you are a defenseless child.

This is why Jesus said from the Cross: Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

We had a totally wonderful experience after our performance of Journey Into Courage in Castleton.  There were a number of children in the audience from a camp that is an alternative to prison.  The day after our performance, we went to the camp and participated in their assembly.  At first the kids asked questions, but then they began to tell their own stories of what had happened to them, the abuse they had suffered.  Afterward the counselors said they had never heard some of the stories.  The one that was most moving was when a teenager stood up and said “I was a sexual abuser.  But now that I know what my victims suffered, I will not be able to do it again.”  The reason why one child will abuse another is to avoid feeling the pain of what happened to him.  This is how people’s hearts get shriveled.

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Some Tremendous Compassion

Woke up feeling bleak again.  Very disappointing when the news is good — the DAPL is stopped for the moment.  Well, I hope there will be some serious rethinking, and in particular a serious study of environmental consequences. which has been bypassed by trickery.

In church, in the time for our “joys and concerns” I asked for prayers for all the people at Standing Rock, prayers for the Water Protectors, prayers for the military and police who are trying to move them, prayers for the veterans who have come to support the Water Protectors.  I asked them to pray for a peaceful solution.

Snow is falling.  “The black hills are white…”  from a song called “Time to Move On” from the 60’s.  I hear the plows on Three Mile Hill.  I feel so sad.  Mostly my heart is with the Water Protectors, but also with the riders of Dakota 38.

I’m thinking about my realization from yesterday, that Spirit holds the whole planet.  How do I know this?  It’s from a quietness inside, that seems to connect with a vast quietness outside.  A sense of this quietness having solidity and weight even though it’s not material.  I feel a curve and realize that it goes through my arms, as though I am holding the planet.  I think back to the Ocean of Compassion.  This is bigger.

About Tommy, a character in an Elizabeth Goudge book, who is upset about a small boy killed in an automobile accident:  “He did not … wonder if his own warm anguish of pity was a faint echo of some tremendous compassion identifiable with the life that held the universe in being…”  Heart of the Family, p170

Could not find “Time to Move On” on the internet.  The relevant verse is:

The dry days have turned into years,
We watered the earth with our tears,
It’s been snowing all night,
The Black Hills are white
And it’s time, Babe, time to move on.

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Hope

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.  It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
— Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace

I’m glad I arrived at that understanding yesterday: that the earth has tremendous powers of regeneration, that the universe is not random, that the arc of evolution bends toward consciousness, compassion and justice.  These are things I know.  They are like bedrock, and stop me when I start to slide down.  The thing that’s missing is any sense that I am loved for myself.

To have something to stand on, to have something to lean against.  Even with that, I still feel bereft of human companionship which is the wound of trauma in infancy.  At least I don’t feel like I am going to slide down into major depression.  I do feel like I can hold on to my values and my vision, through whatever disasters are coming in the future.  I wish I could say with Etty that life is beautiful.  I can still occasionally, or in tiny flashes, see the beauty of nature, and I know it’s there even when I can’t enjoy it.  The ability to enjoy is destroyed by depressive brain chemistry, appreciation can be done by will.  I know that life is meaningful because the universe is not random.  I don’t know how my life is meaningful, but I know that it is in that huge context.

So that is my certainty that “things make sense.”  That doesn’t mean that I expect that everything’s going to be all right, especially for myself.  Nevertheless, I can still take a stand for the things I value — peace, love, justice, mercy, truth, hope — and hold my vision for my country (courtesy of Bernie) where everyone has medical coverage as a right, there is paid medical and family leave, colleges and universities are tuition free.  We can lead the world in transforming our energy system and combating climate change, break up the large financial institutions, and demand that the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes.

I do not expect this to come true in my lifetime.  I do think that the unsustainable way we are living will soon collapse, and I don’t know how many of us will survive.  I doubt very much that I will.  I’m 74 years old, not terribly robust, and dependent on medication.  I do know that somewhere in the future, people will learn how to live in a way that works for all, that we will understand that the earth is sacred, and treat her that way.

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Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for Mocha.  I’m thankful for a body that’s in pretty good condition.  I’m thankful for my friends.  I’m grateful for food to eat and a roof over my head.

A visit with a friend.  I told her I was badly depressed because of the election.  She said she always had hope and she preferred not to think about bad things.  Then she started telling me what she says to people who complain — “Oh, I don’t mean you” — but as she went on I had to say, as gently as possible, “please stop.”  She did, and didn’t seem to resent it either.  Yes, denial is a very effective mechanism to keep you from feeling pain.  But I have too much respect and reverence for the truth to be able to ignore it.  What I need is some kind of balance, a faith like Etty’s that life is beautiful and meaningful.  I keep losing that, and then the awful things that are happening pull me way down.

Driving home, I thought about hope.  Had I given up hope?  No.  I think we are in for a bad time.  How we are living is unsustainable and will have to collapse.  Some sort of community will come together in the ruins.  What I hope is that they will have learned that we need the skills to live sustainably in community, we can’t live any other way.  So that’s my hope.  My fear is that we will have damaged the earth’s life-support system so badly — but no, I know that the earth has tremendous powers of regeneration.  I know that the design of the Universe is not random.  I know that the arc of evolution is long — millions of years long — but it bends toward consciousness, compassion, and justice.

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PEACE. LOVE. JUSTICE. MERCY. TRUTH. HOPE.

PEACE.  LOVE.  JUSTICE.  MERCY.  TRUTH.  HOPE.

This has been my mantra during these days of darkness.  I wanted to put a positive intention out there, and to remind myself of the things I really value.  But I have crashed really badly.  I still try to say those words, but they are empty.

I think it happened because I suddenly understood that we can’t believe ANYTHING that’s printed or shown on TV, the internet, etc.  Photographs and videos can be fakes.  The side I’m on may be exaggerating something to scare you into sending money.  The other side has an investment in NOT telling the truth.  They would probably say the same about me.  On Sunday a friend retold one of the stories that’s been going around – it’s about the play “Hamilton” and I haven’t watched so I don’t have any idea what really happened – she told it in a way to make Pence look not so bad.  I asked her where she got the news.  She said “The New York Times.”  That reminded me of a post on Facebook showing two different front pages for the same day.  I didn’t read — though maybe I should have — and I remember years ago seeing two different covers for Time magazine.  One was for people in this country, the other was for the international subscribers.  I suppose that was the first crack in the wall of my adolescent belief in “freedom of the press.”  Then I had the experience of being in protest actions and finding the newspaper account belittling what happened.  I was RIGHT THERE, so I knew they weren’t telling the truth.  The other painful memory is after Kent State (I was in Davis California at the time).  I went into a 7/11 and the woman behind the counter was saying “Those kids were pissing and shitting on the guardsmen.”  I asked where she got the story.  “From an eyewitness in the dorm.”  It took me quite a while afterward to visualize the story at which point it became ridiculous.  But my highest value is Truth, though I know that my understanding has changed many times since I first thought scientific knowledge was truth.  I’m not sure I could say what it is even now.  The best I can do is to say Truth is what is in alignment with the Great Powers of the Universe.

So for the last couple of days I have been in the bottom of the Pit or severe depression.  The only difference from severe depression in the past is there’s no personal component in it.  It doesn’t have to do with me being worthless, etc.  It just has to do with the times in which we find ourselves.  Right now I am simply not up to what I would want to do, at the least hold on to my values.  I expect that will come back it always has.  But cooking and eating is very hard, anything else is impossible.  I haven’t even walked the dog – I’m just letting her out to run before I feed her so she’ll come back.  I haven’t been able to take a shower or change the sheets or do yoga (except in class).  All things that have to do with taking care of myself.  Well, I’ve come out of it before.

Right now it’s just keeping on keeping on, and reciting those meaningless words that once sustained my heart.  I do believe that the arc of moral history is long, but it bends toward justice, compassion, peace.

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Bearing the Cosmic Pain

“Let go of any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of pain entrusted to you.

Like the mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, you are sharing in a certain measure of that cosmic pain, and are called upon to meet it in joy instead of self-pity.”

-Sufi master Pir Vilayat Khan

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Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum is a Dutch Jew who died in Auschwitz in November 1943.  Before she died she wrote a journal that she started in early 1941.  Her writing shows her growing spiritual strength.  I have gone to her for help in these times where the ovens don’t seem very far away.

[When I say life is beautiful and meaningful] does that mean I am never sad, that I never rebel, always acquiesce, and love life no matter what the circumstances?  No, far from it.  I believe that I know and share the many sorrows and sad circumstances that a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them, I do not prolong such moments of agony.  They pass through me, like life itself, as a broad, eternal stream, they become part of that stream, and life continues.  And as a result all my strength is preserved, does not become tagged on to futile sorrow or rebelliousness.

And finally: ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness?  One day I shall surely be able to say to Ilse Blumenthal, “Yes, life is beautiful, and I value it anew at the end of every day, even though I know that the sons of mothers, and you are one such mother, are being murdered in concentration camps.  And you must be able to bear your sorrow; even if it seems to crush you, you mustn’t run away from it, but bear it like an adult.  Do not relieve your feelings through hatred, do not seek to be avenged on all German mothers, for they, too, sorrow at this very moment for their slain and murdered sons.  Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate.  But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge — from which new sorrows will be born for others — then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply.  And if you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand, then you may truly say: life is beautiful and so rich.  So beautiful and so rich that it makes you want to believe in God.’”

— Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life, pp100-101

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Doing the Only Thing I Can Do

Hatred will not cease by hatred,
But only by love.
This is an ancient and eternal law.
— The Buddha

I woke up this morning with a burning heart, and sat with grief and fear while trying to write.  “Mocha next to me.  I feel my love for her.  That’s all there is.”  I have tried to make lists of gratitudes.  I think it’s a valuable practice, but although I know I am thankful for things — my dog, my car, a roof over my head — I don’t actually feel grateful.  Which always makes me worry that I’m not really grateful.  So I started to write about all the things I love, and fear are being slowly or quickly destroyed.  Something totally unexpected happened.  My heart opened and I felt a lot of love, for the underdogs, the outcasts, the marginalized and vulnerable.  I realize that my heart opens whenever people are in trouble.  I’m so glad to have this, it’s all I have.  I wrote:

I love the Dakota people and their supporters at Standing Rock

I love the people in the LGBTQ community

I love the rivers that will be poisoned by fracking, and the rivers that are still clean.

I love the trees that clean the air for us, and that are targeted for exploitation.

I love the people of Flint, Michigan, who are still having to drink poisoned water, or pay for clean water.

I love the immigrants, the Muslims, the disabled who have been targeted by our fascist government-elect.

I love the underdogs who are struggling with a burden too great to be borne.  I even love the underdogs who wanted change so badly they voted for Trump, and had no idea what he had planned to do.

I love Mocha, and I love the trees around my house, and I love the birds that I see.

That helps a lot.  It seems that it’s easier for my heart to open for things that are in trouble.  That’s always been true, hasn’t it?

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Words for Survival

It was 1996, the Summer from Hell.  In February I had tried Paxil for 5 days while my terror shot through the roof & got worse & worse until the 5th night when I didn’t sleep at all.  So I stopped taking it.  I was fine for a while, didn’t feel depressed at all, but gradually I began to have trouble eating and sleeping.  In the hot weather I began waking up in terror, soaking wet, after only 90 minutes of sleep.  I would be able to sleep again, but for no more than 90 minutes when I would wake terrified again.  My weight went down to 105 lbs.  I was in a pretty constant state of terror.

I went to a week-long writing retreat with Deena Metzger in the summer of 1996.  I was hoping it would be intense enough to help me “forget” my terror.  Instead, I continued to have a hard time.  I had no idea that what I was really dealing with was PTSD.

On Wednesday, November 9, I started to clean out my art room  A friend was helping me. She found a piece of paper with a computer printout on it.  I realized it was essentially instructions for how to get through a very hard time.  Because of Deena’s name I knew it was from the summer of 1996.  I hoped I had typed it up, and found it in a folder in “Journal Archive” labeled “unfinished.”  The reason I was afraid it might not have been typed up is a story told in a blog post.

O Great Compassionate One, I ask you to gently remove whatever has been getting in my way.  I don’t know what it is.  I’m tired of thinking I have to know.  I’m tired of trying to control.  I’m willing to be willing to surrender, but I am very scared.  Please be gentle with me.  Please help me.  Please heal me.  That’s all I know how to ask for: healing.  I don’t even know what healing might look like.

O Great Compassionate One, please help me to receive the love that is available to me.

What do I want to preserve, to take with me?
The song of the thrush.  Daffodils.  The Moon.
The sacred circle dances and chants.
The knowledge that love is the only thing there is.

What visions do I want to put in my seed?
of a gentle green world, where people act with patience and reverence,
where babies are welcomed as new beings without any expectation, and given space and support to grow into their authentic selves,
where people do their work with care, and with satisfaction, and have a sense of its spiritual dimension,
where people care for the earth, grow their food, enjoy their bodies and the natural world, in a spirit of reverence and gratitude.

This is the piece of work which I am trying to do both for myself and for the planet.  I am trying to heal from a wound that’s very deep and very early.  I am trying to treat my baby self with the same kind of care and compassion that one would treat a baby they had rescued from some awful disaster and who was terribly wounded.  I want to do this work in the spirit of painstakingly, reverently, patiently, persistently working on a task that one knows will take a long time but that is of infinite value.  I don’t know what healing is or what it might look like.  I ask for healing, I ask the Great Beings of the Universe to help me.  I acknowledge my helplessness, my inability to heal myself.  I offer myself to the healing process of the universe.

I will continue to do what work I can, to be kind and gentle to my wounded baby self, to be patient and persistent, I will stop trying to look for quick fixes and resolutions and breakthroughs, I will stop pushing myself to be different than I am.  I will just try to do whatever actions I can during the day with patience, gentleness, and reverence.

GOD WANTS ME TO HEAL.

I LONG FOR CONNECTION WITH GOD, WITH THE PEOPLE I LOVE, WITH NATURE.

Breathe softly.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be patient.  This is going to take a long time.  We are trying to heal the planet through this body.  How can you imagine that it would be fast?  On the other hand, it will get easier.  Respite is possible.  There was respite yesterday.

The winter wind whispers there will be spring.  Love will keep us alive, help will finally arrive, there are so many ways to survive.

Deena said of my doll that she was such a sweetheart that you want to take care of her.  Not just a duty or a responsibility, but something you want to do.  I’ve had that feeling occasionally, the gush from the heart — “O she’s just a baby” or “O she’s been so badly hurt,” but too often I feel it as duty, a hard task that I must do because I’ve been called to it, despite my wish to turn away from her pain.  Deena also reminded me of Caroline’s story of the pinpricks in the curtain and said that in this painstaking, patient work, it’s like making pinpricks.  First the darkness is absolute, then you make one pinprick.  The next day perhaps there are two.  She said one way to do the work was to remember my skills and tools — she said my chant last night was beautiful, my voice was beautiful, not to encapsulate that moment and forget it.  She said I could write, that I knew how to craft a sentence.  That I had my voice and my writing and could use them everyday to keep making pinpricks.

The Song of the Thrush, the Moon, and Daffodils represent the three most beautiful things I know.  When I could not find any spirit of god in the universe, and needed to pray, I prayed to the one who had created those three things.

The “seed” was part of a ritual we did during the retreat.  The day was August 13, the Feast of Hecate, the Dark Goddess, and the retreat house was on Long Island Sound.  So we picked an object to represent our “seed,” and filled it with things that we wanted to see  happen in the future.  Then we went down on the wharf, at night, where a wind was blowing and there were strange lights on the shore.  We chanted and sang, and held up our seeds, and then went and planted then somewhere on the property.  My “seed” was a beautiful little shell, and I planted it in the flower garden of the retreat house.

The words “the winter wind whispers there will be spring…” come from a song I heard a woman sing at Kripalu.  It was a song she had written about the Holocaust.

The “doll” that Deena comments on was a doll I had made for a workshop to represent my “inner child.”

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