Unity Points

Our connections to each other

Winning at all costs. It permeates our social culture, embodies a philosophy that is at odds with all things spiritual, even our own happiness. How can we justify feelings of empathy, love, and togetherness, when all that is coming at us through the media and through our leaders embodies the opposite?

We can search for unity points. We don't have to look far. We already have an internal compass with a foolproof mechanism that enables us to discern the way of conflict from the way of peace. Do I feel myself tightening and preparing for a fight? That is a red flag to look for a unity point with the other person. When a conflict is unavoidable, how can I influence the outcome to be more "frictionless"? Can I avoid ratcheting up the drama, foregoing whatever dubious satisfaction I might receive by doing so?

The answer is yes. Always.

We can start by asking ourselves what we are in conflict with. If it is, in fact, an aspect of ourselves we dislike, are we not engaging in hypocrisy? We are condemning a person for behaving as we do. We are forgiving ourselves and damning them. This is patently unfair.

We can extend the hand of understanding, acknowledge that we share similar unifying traits, and go from there. When another person is not an "other," but a brother or sister, it becomes a pleasure to learn more about them. If they are belligerent, we can withdraw, refusing to feed their conflict energy. If a conflict is inevitable, we can enter it with compassion, making the encounter short and decisive.

Unity is not about connecting two separate things. It is about uncovering that which is temporarily hidden, the underlying oneness.

I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
Abraham Lincoln

Where does our food come from? Part Two

Loss of biodiversity

Biodiversity benefits humankind by creating ecosystems from which we as a species derive nourishment and sustainability. Big agribusiness is based on a system that limits and wipes out this diversity. The practices of sustainable agriculture may indeed be the better way, but evidence of the benefits won’t readily show up in the short-term profit cycle.

Since the 1900s, some seventy-five percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers are forced by economic competition to replace diverse local seed varieties with central-sourced high-yield crops.

When we as farmers (anyone who works the earth to grow food) rotate our crops, many beneficial things happen. The nutrients in the soil are not depleted. Each successive crop leaves artifacts that are plowed under to build and benefit the next. This requires fore-planning and thought. Luckily there is a wealth of knowledge we can draw from to plan our gardens and fields most effectively. The changing of crops cuts down on insect blight, because a balanced ecosystem naturally discourages overpopulation of pests. We are then able to cut reliance on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

The decision to not use these chemicals results in food that is safe, that our bodies recognize as food, and that we as a species have been assimilating for millennia. Genetically modified, chemically soaked food that has been processed and packaged is poisonous, and it is wise to avoid it.

What in the last fifty years has become known as the “Standard American Diet” (or SAD) has not been based on nutritional worth; its value is determined by profitability. SAD includes ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. This magic ingredient seems to find its way into every processed food item. It is highly addictive, contributes to obesity, is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and contributes to the generation of cancerous tissue. It fosters poor health and early death.

If a corporation can successfully justify using such toxic ingredients in something so basic to survival as food, it is easy to extrapolate that being of benefit to humanity and the planet is not paramount on its list of priorities.

Can we avoid corporate food?

Yes. We can buy certified organic. But it's expensive and not always readily available at the local supermarket. We can support local organic growers by shopping at Farmer’s Markets, but again, this can get expensive. We can grow our own food. This is tough for city dwellers and those with limited time. But we should and can strive to move toward establishing these priorities of health in our daily lives.

We can become re-acquainted with our kitchens. Modern convenience often means eating at restaurants or drive-thrus, buying prepackaged microwaveable fare, and eating junk food while watching TV. Re-learning the lost art of food preparation is pleasurable and rebuilds connection within our family relationships. Slowing down and making a ritual out of food sharing can become the most pleasurable part of the day. By putting earning money above all other things, including taking responsibility for our own nourishment, we have lost one of the secrets to a happy life.

Next week, Part Three: Seed Saving

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Virginia Woolf

Where does our food come from?Part one

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Corporatization is not competition

In the United States, our food sources have become corporatized. This means that over time, large agribusinesses have bought out family farms. Vast tracts of land have been given over to mechanized monoculture.

Monoculture: Bad for the soil, good for short-term profit
The US has 96,000,000 acres dedicated to the production of corn, the majority of which is used for livestock feed. This corn is grown in the same geographical area again and again. This practice depletes the soil of nutrients over time. Monoculture crops are very vulnerable to insects, so increasing resources must be spent on chemical pesticides and herbicides. Chemical fertilizers must also be used to amend the soil.

Monsanto: Products that harm us for short-term gain
The Monsanto corporation has engineered solutions to these monoculture problems. Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It has recently failed to conclusively pass tests which would absolve it from a direct link to cancer in humans. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto'sRoundup. Monsanto has recently been shown to actively recruit scientists at the EPA who would be amenable to signing off on conclusion papers written by Monsanto executives. This would go a long way towards muddying the waters of scientific consensus regarding Roundup's safety.

GMOs: Utilizing the "straw-man" argument
Monsanto is at the forefront in genetically modified seed products. One of it's most successful GMO efforts are crop seeds that resist the toxic effects of Roundup. This way, the plants are protected from harm, but the humans who ingest the plants that have been soaked in Glyphosate are not. This is the main reason people are clamoring for clear labeling of GMO products. They simply want to know if they are buying products that might be toxic to themselves and their families. Many in the skeptic community have used the argument that GMOs have gotten a "bad rap" and that, if clearly labelled, their products will not sell. They label those of us who are resistant to Monsanto's efforts as "anti-science." This is a classic use of the straw man fallacious argument. "Straw man" is defined as an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.

What does all this have to do with meditation and consciousness?

Stick with me. More will be revealed in parts 2 and 3.

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  - B.K.S. Iyengar

Martin Luther King's Tactics

Civil Rights, Non-violence

King is the only home-grown native son in our illustrious list of heroes, and the most famous in the West, but nonetheless offers us useful lessons.
 
He was a black American leader in an era that saw immense hatred, vitriol, and enmity against his people. In the “Jim Crow South,” prejudice was abetted by the racial scapegoating that bubbled beneath the surface of America’s growing prosperity. Blacks in America fought in the integrated armed forces defending our freedom, only to return as veterans to a lower class status and segregation in their homeland. Post-slavery America was, and continues to be to this day, a white male dominated social structure. In the late fifties and early sixties, this racial tension came to a head.
 
King was inspired by leaders like Gandhi and increasingly employed his tactics in a surprisingly effective fashion. We will focus on the 1955 incident in Montgomery Alabama, the “Montgomery Bus Boycott.”
 
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus. Leaflets were distributed to black citizens calling for a one day citywide boycott of the bus system. This went so well that the leaders extended the boycott. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Reverend King was elected president of a newly formed organization, MIA (the Montgomery Improvement Association). He committed to further organize the boycott.
 
Montgomery’s response to MIA demands was to cut service to “most negro districts.” King responded by organizing carpools. Black cab drivers started charging ten cents for rides in defiance of a city enforced minimum of a forty-five cent fare. Throughout this protracted battle, King was arrested picking up riders in his car, received daily death threats by phone, and saw his home bombed. Angry crowds gathered outside his home, but King pled for his followers to adhere to his stated principles of non-violence.

After an intense back and forth debate with city officials over many meetings, the MIA did not concede any of its demands. They lost many battles but ultimately won the war. In the end, Montgomery realized that integration would be good for business. One by one, city officials conceded. Legally, Jim Crow would recede on both a national and a local level. 
 
On December 21, 1956, over one year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, Montgomery City Lines resumed full service on all routes. King was among the first passengers to seat himself in the former white section.
 
King traveled to India in 1959. He met with the Gandhi family, as well as Prime Minister Nehru. Later King preached on the significance of Gandhi’s 1928 salt march and his fast to end discrimination against India’s untouchables. King ultimately believed that the Gandhian approach of nonviolent resistance would ‘‘bring about a solution to the race problem in America’’ (Papers 4:355).*
 
King observed that only by steadfastly adhering to nonviolent principles was real progress toward liberation possible.
 
Be like Martin.

The Journey of Leymah Gbowee

Trauma healing, peace-building

We have abundant potential within us, and all of nature to guide us as we navigate through the world.

Leymah Gbowee was seventeen when the First Liberian Civil War broke out in 1989. As a native of Liberia, she suffered major privations and hardships at the hand of brutal soldiers from Samuel Doe's ruling government, only to face worse conditions at the hand of former government minister Charles Taylor, who ousted him. She survived as a refugee, fleeing to Ghana when rebel forces took the city of Monrovia. Her family scattered, and her home looted and destroyed, she was witness to countless atrocities at a very young age. She married a serial abuser and bore four children. The abuse she suffered at his hand informed her later activism and led directly to honing her skills as a social worker and Women's Rights advocate.

Trauma healing
Leymah volunteered at a program at St. Peter's Lutheran Church called the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Program (THRP). They were tasked with repairing the country's considerable collective psyche of damage caused by the war. One of Gbowee's first assignments was working with children who had been employed as soldiers in Charles Taylor's army. These boys, some as young as five, had been forced to carry and use weapons. They were taught to murder, to take alcohol and drugs, and to recruit others. It was in the process of helping these seemingly hopeless boys learn to heal that Gbowee formulated what she later used as the basis for political change. She realized if change were to come to Liberia, it would be at the hands of its women.

Peace-building
Gbowee later joined WIPNET, an acronym for Women in Peacebuilding Network. She led a contingent of Liberians from all classes to fragile peace talks in Ghana, which had bogged down in the egotistical torpor of the exclusively male leaders. She staged a sit in blocking the glass doors of the exclusive hotel's meeting room. The protestors held signs declaring "Butchers and murderers of the Liberian people - STOP!" Leymah passed a note in to the head mediator General Akubar, former president of Nigeria. She stated her intention to link arms with her compatriots, holding the delegates hostage until an agreement had been reached. Gbowee and her partners stayed on site for days. Weeks later, the war ended.

Leymah Gbowee pioneered the modern-day version of the ancient custom of openly sharing with a group the traumas one has suffered in war. She discovered that the deep sense of shame these women all carried kept them isolated, impotent, and demoralized. When she was first tasked with building a coalition of women across religious, tribal, and class differences, she had to appeal to their commonality, to their unity. She succeeded, and it was the women of Liberia that turned the tide and won the peace. I recommend her excellent memoir Mighty Be Our Powers.

Be like Gbowee.

Gandhi's Tactics

Nonviolence, civil disobedience

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a fanatic Hindu, who believed he was too accommodating to India's minority Muslims.

Gandhi's ideas were not new. He synthesized thoughts from sources as diverse as The Holy Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, and Thoroau'sWalden. Gandhi's brilliance was in applying his ethics stringently, without straying from the core ideals, but expanding the application of these tactics to a national level.

Ahimsa (nonviolence)
Ahimsa stems from the belief that all living beings have divine spirit; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.

Satyagraha (peaceful civil disobedience)
Satyagraha is a compound of the Sanskrit term satya (truth) andagraha (polite insistence). Satygraha seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves.

Gandhi strove to differentiate between the western concept of passive resistance and these two bedrocks of his strategy which eventually brought down the mightiest militarized colonial force on the planet. He won independence for India. No one was betting on the humble man in the loincloth, yet he prevailed.

Take the Salt March. On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and a handful of followers from his Ashram walked 200 miles over the course of three weeks. They arrived at the ocean outside the town of Dandi. Gandhi walked out to the water and scooped up some salt with his hands. This symbolic act was a gesture in defiance of British law forbidding Indians from gathering their own salt, requiring that they purchase it from the government. 

Gandhi did not act aggressively toward his opponents in this confrontation.

Masses of Indians followed his lead, gathering and processing salt. History sees this small victory as one of the turning points that ultimately culminated in the English defeat and the liberation of Maa India.

Gandhi absolutely adhered to the Vedic principle that we are all one people, yet his unwavering strength in the face of injustice brought down a violent occupying imperialist empire and freed his native land.

Be like Gandhi.

HeroesVertical.jpg

Trump presidency

The most effective protest

So, it happened. We took the shot we thought would work at the time. We were wrong. We took the polls seriously, and we got slammed. I'll not expend effort to soft pedal or sugarcoat this reality. There is only moving forward. Evolution is not optional.

One option we have is to study the lives and tactics of those who successfully employed effective techniques to protest injustice. Here are three:
Mohandas Gandhi, Leymah Gbowee, Martin Luther King.

How we treat others

Guru Purnima moon

Guru Purnima moon

How we treat ourselves

The illusion of separation is persistent and seductive. It becomes so much easier to blame an outsider for our own misfortunes, our own disappointments. This process of blame is a palliative, a salve that excuses us from taking responsibility for our own actions. We have a duty as citizens to care for the well being of others. The evasion of this duty comes in the form of demonizing compassion by terming it "political correctness."

At the risk of appearing to be "politically correct," I believe it is a compassionate act to defend those who have unjustly been marginalized in our society. I believe that white men between the ages of 40-70 are not endowed exclusively with the wisdom to enact laws. We can all participate in our democracy. Those who have been systematically shut out of this process in the past may need to be given extra attention or treatment until parity is achieved. This is not a matter of top-down legislation, it is a concern of the heart.

When we become more conscious through a meditative practice, we begin to gain awareness of what it means to be a global citizen. It is puzzling how the actor/director Clint Eastwood, a Transcendental Meditation practitioner since the mid-seventies, feels compelled to defend the racially charged policies of presidential candidate Trump. Perhaps Eastwood has chosen to remove himself from the illumination and knowledge with which the teachings of the Veda provides us. It is certainly possible for a meditator to hold right-wing views (Mike Love), although it seems a rarity.

If the Veda is correct, and there is only one thing, is it possible that one race or class of people can be held as superior or inferior to another? Is it possible to judge another as less human, less worthy of citizenship in this country, arguably the most fair-minded and generous social experiment in existence? We in the meditation community can always agree on one thing: that our practice makes the world a more balanced, peaceful place.

Kindness does not require study or diligent practice; it is a natural way of being, a baseline from which we are meant to intuitively operate. All that is required is to recognize the wholeness in all things.

Cali

Cali