by Gregory James
With a much needed and sought-after shift in Consciousness apparent in our world — both individually and collectively — inevitable questions are raised regarding how to proceed in the face of intense change, and where to stand in light of them. Some of the changes we are facing, and will face, may be difficult to bare, and yet to bare them or not is no longer a choice of which we have the luxury. The hour of our humanity is too late for our precarious and volatile global society to resort to escapism, even via the comforts of our preferred ideals.
It has always been the case that one must face the hard reality of one’s own demons in order to become truly upright on the Path. Without a serious and ardent effort to Work on oneself, to accept and address one’s own issues and suffering, so to Know Thyself (distinct from the impurities of the unconscious and afflicted self resultant from societal conditioning, faulty preconception, and emotional injury), Awakening to the True Nature of Being and a Natural Awareness of the Reality of existence is not possible. As an inherent product of this Work and the Realization it provides, it becomes Revealed that this Truth extends in principle to all things and All Beings, of which we ourselves are One. As such, the turmoil we see occurring within our world today is no less a necessary part of a natural process, causing us to face the ugliness of our collective damage and disharmony. It follows that only in facing this fact can we arise from within ourselves to be a salubrious part of this process.
Problems to Avoid or Opportunities to Embrace?
With the recent escalation of social unrest in our world today, including the protests taking place in New York and many other US cities, in an effort to intensify the awareness of, and bring much needed change to, our socio-political and political-economic structure, our collective participation in these events is unavoidable — whether we actively participate or not. These protests, known as Occupy Wall Street, and by extension, Occupy LA, Chicago, Huston, etc., within an incredibly short time, have become nothing less than a milestone in our human history, and a global phenomenon via the internet. With the combination of the mainstream media blackout, the overt police brutality and intimidation of peaceful protestors, and concerted efforts to censor major internet forums and media providers, the already hot topic of the corporate-controlled government and its diverse destructive influences has become a profoundly dire situation where our civil liberties, our global economy, the environment, and our basic humanity is concerned. The fact that it has taken so long to come to this point is mind-boggling to say the least, however, it is at the same time understandable when taking into account the unfortunate unawareness of the general public, the overall fear of financial insecurity, and the political and sociological transition toward a largely unknown outcome.
The purpose of this post, however, is not to outline the reasons for the current state of affairs or their necessity. If the reader needs a more refined scope on the specific political-economic conundrum, this can and ought to be researched via more qualified and informative sources, which are plenty. Here are just a few suggestions:
How Rich are the Superrich? – The Economic Collapse – Video: Ron Paul on Inevitable Collapse of the Dollar – Video: Economic Collapse: Why it Won’t Be Stopped – Video: Banking: the Greatest Scam on Earth
What I am addressing here is the place of the Spiritual Work and the spiritual practitioner with regard to these precarious and volatile socio-political and political-economic matters. Are the issues we face really “problems” to avoid or shove off onto someone else, or can you see the issues as “opportunities” to uncover Truth and Harmony within and without? How we answer this question will directly depend on our ability to see things objectively and to dig deep to understand ourselves.
It is challenging to truly understand the Spiritual Work, howsoever many seek to simplify it into short and sweet notions of nonviolence, good-tidings, positive thinking, and detachment. While these certainly are components to a sound Spiritual Practice, these attributes alone are not sufficient to provide a stable and effective practice where total development is concerned. When wise Masters refer to the virtues of compassion, kindness, honesty, moderation, humbleness, and so on, they are not merely suggesting that it is by the conceptualization of these that the “Substance” of the Work is Realized, but rather that an experientially refined Understanding of these virtues is achieved through the Realization of the “Substance” of the Work.
This is to say that if one is to truly Transform oneself into one’s Higher Nature and set oneself on the Path of eventual Liberated Being, then a great deal of Right Effort is required. This Effort invariably involves approaching and sorting the deepest, darkest aspects of ourselves and beyond, indeed from within a place of Presence, Compassion, Perseverance, and Equanimity. It is a mistaken endeavor however to assume success merely by recognizing the beauty of the virtues philosophically, or even through heartfelt dabbling. Even many practitioners who meditate and perform their prescribed rituals daily sometimes miss the mark, usually due to lack of proper guidance, and thereby fall prey to misapprehension and the mistaken solace of having achieved a few legitimate experiences and epiphanies — unfortunately the end result being an unrefined accomplishment.
Therefore, to come to terms with how we, as spiritual practitioners, are to address our shifting socio-political and political-economic situation and the upheavals it will invariably produce, we must first consider our world as an interdependent whole. That is, we must at least recognize that — while the ugly truth of our world is actually quite fragmented and fractious — we still share the same earth, the same resources, breath the same air, and need the same basic things. And as such, we must Serve that One, interdependent whole as we would Serve our own Self in our own Practice. This is the Bodhisattva Way in Buddhism, and the Way of selfless Service outlined by Jesus, Lao Tzu, Yogi Patanjali and many, many others. I recognize it is very tricky to understand how we can contribute to and participate in social activism without feeding negativity and still remain a Lighthouse of Peace and Love that is the core of the Spiritual Practice.
The Positivity of Facing Negativity with Equanimity
These and other such questions are now being raised to me by my students and others who seek some kind of clarity on what to do in these times. Many feel as though focusing on the issue and judging the various aspects of it only contributes to the overall negativity. While we must take considerable care to manage ourselves appropriately and objectively, as we do in our own Practice, we must employ this same Effort to what is Right in our greater community, especially where something is obviously very sour! I tell you, ignoring the issue is not the Way. There is value in awareness, especially of what lurks in the darkness.
First of all, we must not confuse True Spiritual Practice with being inactive or afraid of standing up for what is Right for worry of contributing to negative forces — which are actually already present, albeit more “quietly” for those who are unaware. Parallel to our individual Practice, when negative forces and disharmony are ignored and even unrecognized, it doesn’t mean there is nothing there; and when we shine the Light of our Consciousness upon it, we often experience struggle and periods of upheaval before the eventual Liberation of an affliction. So to support the protests in our national and global community is not to contribute to negative energy, but rather to raise awareness and shine a Light upon a disharmony that already exists. The police-incited violence we are seeing on Wall Street, and what we may see elsewhere in the near future, is not an addition to negative energies, just an inevitable stirring of it as a result of the energy’s critical tipping so far out of balance.
When one is able to see that this movement of energy is completely natural, one can then grasp a greater overview of the matter as that of a process; while now in the stage of disharmony, this disharmony is simply a part of the process on its return to harmony, which is the Way All Energy Works. Harmony (balance) is the most natural and healthful state, this is True, and so we who Know the value in harmony, naturally prefer it. But if we are to support an actual path toward harmony — and not just a self-serving illusion of satisfaction — we must first remember that we are an inseparable part of the disharmony! And because we are not separate from the problem — because it effects all of us one way or another — we must make a choice: either you are a part of the problem (whether an active contributor or passive enabler) or a part of the Work toward harmonious resolution. And we must not succumb to fear of disharmony along the way, but rather approach it with unwavering Equanimity — as it is only Herein that True Harmony is possible.
Many novice Spiritual Practitioners recoil at the sight or thought of such unrest. And while peacefulness will remain the preferred virtue of the Master and novice alike, Equanimity is of greater virtue — as it is only from Here that Energy may be guided without trying to control it, and without being sullied by the possibility of contributing to disharmony. With this Power of Equanimity, one may release from the misapprehended concept of positive versus negative and simply BE with what must be done. Remember that Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi shook things up with the establishment a great deal, yet from within a place of Equanimous Resolve so to achieve their aim.
That being said, I personally do not agree with the manner by which protestors are protesting — with the loudness, inflammatory speech and crazy costumes, etc. — but I do see why the protest is necessary, and indeed how it is simply a natural movement of energy. Where we see both police and protestors behaving badly (which is not difficult to distinguish the much greater offense of the former) is a matter of the afflictions of those individuals becoming amplified and drawn out as the result of the collection of negative energies. It remains, however, a natural upheaval in the same way that when we look inward into ourselves to find the source of disharmony, there is upheaval as the Conscious Energy put forth amplifies the dynamic. How we deal with this personally requires patience and guidance.
The Viability of “Meditation Protest”
This is precisely why I suggest and would very much like to see a big difference in how the protests are handled, and I feel it would ultimately benefit the cause tremendously. I know that I am not alone on this, as yesterday I posted my suggestion for public meditation in peaceful protest on my Facebook wall and it has since received by far more “likes” and “shares” than any other piece I have posted on this issue. (You can view the post here.) Of course, just because many people are open to an idea doesn’t mean they understand it, however it at least indicates that more people would be inclined to participate if the protests were handled differently. Furthermore, this “Meditation Protest” effort would surely bring order and calm to a volatile environment — both internally and externally — making it very difficult if not impossible for the Media and police to falsely accuse protestors of misdeeds or provocation.
We ought to consider that it is not necessary to hype ourselves up and shout disorderly and inflammatory remarks, nor to dress and behave in shocking ways to get attention. I know this is somewhat of a tradition of protestors, but it is nevertheless unnecessary to prove the point and only serves to aggravate the people whom the protest seeks to influence. The women’s rights movement of the early and mid 19th century and protest lead by such great activists as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi did not utilize such tactics, and their messages were heard loud and clear! Moreover, our collective attitude and global outlook is shifting, and our protests would be far more effective if they were to reflect that attitude. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Gandhi so beautifully. And indeed, this quote is tossed around quite frequently these days, but I rarely see it acted upon in any manner that appropriately reflects the grandeur of the statement. How about we live up to it?
Therefore, Meditation Protest is what I recommend, and I know that this recommendation has already been very well received among many to whom I have suggested it, and I’m positive it would work far better than parading and shouting slogans — whatever the merit of this style of protest. I have been highly active in support of the protests in every way I can, and in this support I have presented and passed along a great deal of the videos, images, posts and ideas coming from New York and elsewhere. While I have presented these posts, etc. that I have mentioned to the same people to whom I have presented the recommendation for Meditation Protest, this recommendation has received at least ten-times the praise than anything else I have passed along. I’m sure if I could reach even more people, the power of this recommendation would become plainly evident to everyone. I ask for your help to spread this recommendation as far and wide as possible.
Meditation Protest doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply gather as many people as possible, choose an effective area for demonstration, sit and Meditate. When you cannot sit any longer, walk slowly, calmly and orderly, breathing, and remaining in the Center. Even if some protestors have no experience with Meditation, we will teach you on the basics and you will learn. In any case, the human mind is Powerful beyond measure; with the joined effort of many, this Meditation Protest will send a truly great message in favor of a Harmonious Resolve.
The protests have been ridiculed for their lack of organization and lack of ability to formulate a proper demand, the fruition of which would end the protests. The formulation of a demand is not so simple because no one really wants to replace one corrupt ideology with another perfectly corruptible idea — which all ideas ultimately are. We cannot expect the corrupt people within the system to meet the demands of the masses, reformulate the system and not corrupt it! However, if we were to become organized and Meditate together, not only would we make the “loudest” demonstration of all, but our Right Effort would eventually purify the very channels through which corruption works in the system. If this sounds far-fetched, I tell you, it is only a lack of the Work that causes you to think this way — nothing more. Group Meditation is scientifically proven to effect the collective in positive ways. This fact is greater in Truth than the efficacy of any other protest method or political posturing. Even if the evil in the hearts of the corrupt will not be abolished, the Purity in the Hearts of those who keep the Spiritual Work will show the world the Power of Truth, and that no evil can destroy it.
Moreover, the police cannot throw us to the ground if we are sitting on the ground Meditating. They can’t tell us to shut up if we are silently Meditating. They are less likely to pepper spray someone Meditating — this would be an offense equivalent to kicking a baby in the face! They may still arrest us, sure, but there will be no grounds for it, and we’ll be released, at which time we may resume our noble post as Meditating Protester. And so what if we are arrested this way; we are being arrested anyway! Why not be arrested while Meditating? Don’t say a word; don’t even resist. Offer your hands and remain Equanimous. Continue to Meditate while in jail, and when you get out, join your Brothers and Sisters again.
Meditating Protest will work! If only we will do it! It may be the only thing that will work in this case, in fact. Furthermore it will inspire countless others to join the protests, many of whom would not otherwise. In fact, I have learned that even as I write this post, a group called Meditation Flash Mob has now begun to hold Meditations near Wall Street — so the organizational efforts for this are already in place and Meditating Protestors are already beginning to contribute. Others will come, and as the Meditating Protestors amass, ordinary protestors will also join, then many thousands, perhaps tens or even hundreds of thousands of Buddhists, Yogis, Taoists and Transcendental Meditation practitioners will join. I know the argument against it will be that people need to hop around and shout and wear crazy costumes to stay motivated and keep the protest morale hyped and enthusiastic. But I tell you, Meditating Protest will create such a fantastic Energy Field that people won’t want to leave, and countless more will be drawn to it! Furthermore, people who aren’t able to physically attend the protests will be able to join from home or other remote location — in groups or individually.
We can still create our signs and leave them by our seated body, or carry them around with us as we do intervals of walking Meditation (Mindful marching). We can still hand out flyers and serve and eat food in the same way. Video footage can still be captured and while it may not be as sensationalistic, it will certainly be more inspiring. Furthermore, many hundred of thousands of people, who cannot make it to the protest locations can submit videos of themselves doing Meditating Protest from home. Such a compilation of videos would be very inspiring and powerful, indeed! There is no good reason one can give why not to do this! Some may try to insist that Meditation will not be enough of a bother to those who we intend to influence, but trust me, it will bother them plenty! But the bother will be their own, not ours — as opposed to when we make ourselves their enemy by pestering them with behavior they despise. And when they have been bothered enough, they will change; they will change because we will change — All of us! Everyone will Change! And Everything will Change.
Taking Responsibility via Objective Discernment
While we may not see this ideal come to be immediately, for reasons I have already expressed, I am still willing to accept the protests as they are at this time and continue to advise their evolution toward the Enlightening aim of Meditating Protests. I will continue to offer my support toward a viable and appropriate resolution so long as things do not become violent from both sides. Wriggling defense so to protect oneself from harm is one thing, but retaliatory violence is not the Way, and I will not condone it. Furthermore, as actively as I have promoted the protests, I have spoken against the use of violence therein, and have asserted as much when I have seen videos or written posts suggesting a violent retribution for the actions of certain police officers. I hope that others will discern the value in doing the same.
On the subject of whether or not it is right to judge the actions of Wall Street high-rollers or violent police officers, it is not wrong to be judicious! In fact, objective discernment is an imperative part the Spiritual Work. And in our daily lives, we judge between appropriate and inappropriate in virtually ever matter we face, from what to eat, to whether or not we can make it through that changing traffic light, to how to respond to a co-worker in the office, to what to post on our Facebook page. We could not function in life or in the world without this faculty. The confusion for the novice spiritual practitioner over this matter of judgment versus non-judgment stems largely from a lack objective discernment, ironically, with regard to the use of one’s own mind. If one is able to remove the Self from the measuring-stick of the ego, this Truth immediately becomes lucidly apparent. In other words, worrying about whether to judge or not is itself a product of judgment, and furthermore one that originates in a lack of clarity on how to judge objectively.
When teaching my students how to understand this issue. I like to employ Jesus’ teachings on the use of judgement: “The measure you use in judging is the measure by which you will judged.” Now I could go on at great length with regard to the utterly profound implications of this beautiful maxim, however it is sufficient for our purposes here to simply point out that Jesus was not telling us to forgo our God-given faculty of discernment, but rather that we should mind how we judge and by what measure. In other words, we are not judging from a measure appropriate or applicable to Truth if we are to judge from the perspective of rigid ideology, or from general ignorance of a situation, or from a seat of bigotry or prejudice or any other manner of preconceived opinion not based in sound reasoning or actual experience.
This is one of those places where Jesus’ teaching appears to diverge from Buddha’s, as the Buddha’s teachings extensively praises and encourages judicious and objective discernment. However, when one Understands Clearly, it becomes obvious that Jesus was actually giving the exact same teaching, albeit from a more concise and, paradoxically, a more freely interpretable perspective. I say “paradoxically” here because whilst this more freely interpretable teaching style leaves the spiritual practitioner a tremendous space for applicable usage and a Principle from which to gauge one’s Practice, objectively, it also provides an equally great space within which to completely botch the meaning of the teaching if one employs the hypocritical mis-judging-measure Jesus spoke against. While this teaching style is perhaps a hallmark of Jesus’s teachings, it is of course not exclusive to him; such lovely paradoxes and apparent contradictions are abundant in the teachings of any good Spiritual Teacher — old and new. And while this may seem to be of detriment to the correct Understanding of the Teachings, it is actually — at the deeper level — the True Platform by which the Teachings are Understood, when accompanied by a proper method and guidance (but this is for a different discussion).
Of course, Jesus gave us one other Teaching on the use of judgment, which was: “Judge not lest ye be judged,” or in a more modern vernacular, “Do not judge and you will not be judged.” But what does this mean, exactly? A dog doesn’t make judgments, and yet we still call her good or bad, cute or scruffy, obedient or noisy — all judgments. This Teaching is not asserting that we may not make judgements, but rather that our judgements are simply a reflection of ourselves; where we judge, we are ourselves judged. To judge means that you have put forth that which is in yourself as the judgment. And where you have mis-judged, you have perjured against yourself as the subject of the object in judgment, wherein Truth, there is no separation. Said differently, do not judge outwardly, and you will not be judged of yourself inwardly; or perhaps most simply: your outward judgments reveal only your own inward condition. That being said, if the measure of your inward nature is True, then you will find no shame in judging, nor will you be at fault therein. It is only when the measure you use in judging is faulty that you are at fault in your judgment — for example, as if to say that someone is wrong because he is a Christian, or because she is black, or because he is gay. This extends of course to say that a police officer who abuses his position of authority is not worthy of Compassion, when paradoxically, he my be in the greatest need of it. We may say that he ought to be removed from his job as a policeman, as he is sworn to uphold the law and yet he breaks the law, but beyond this, any judgment will mean our own ill-judgment — as it will not only contribute to disharmony outwardly but also inwardly as a compounding of the misapprehension that spawned the judgment.
Where we may enjoy the luxury of not judging, of course we ought to, as this frees the mind to concentrate on far more worthwhile things — such as the cultivation of Compassion. The deepest way to practice this non-judgment-state is of course in Meditation. The Teachings of the ancient masters regarding non-judgment, while a principle inclusive to the full spectrum of life-being, pertains most potently to the practice of Meditation, wherein the non-judgment-state is paramount to Realization. In the Taoist tradition this state is called Wuji (Infinite No-thing-ness, or Boundless Non-Duality), and in Buddhism, Hinduism and Yoga it is referred to as Samadhi (also meaning the Non-Dual State of Being). Of course, practically speaking, we are not always in that state, and so we use the Energy and insight we develop to allow objective discernment as our virtue where judgments must be made — such as in determining whether a corrupt corporate oligarchy is in the best interests of our freedom, or if our police ought to be prosecuted for violent and unprovoked attacks on fellow citizens. We cannot, objectively speaking, ignore the importance of such matters.
Again, it is simply not the case that Jesus or any other noteworthy Spiritual Teacher has asserted that we are not to judge. He said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged,” which is to say that the prerogative remains entirely yours! This is simply a statement of Truth regarding the True Nature of the Non-Duality within the ostensible relationship of subject and object — of perceiver and the perceived. While this remains one of the more overlooked and misunderstood aspects of the Spiritual Practice, both practically and esoterically speaking, it is nonetheless vital to the success of an individual’s Practice, as well as to that of the proper function of our fundamentally Interdependent existence. It would be analogous to say: that into which you do not tangle, you will be not entangled. However, when a tangle exists, we must work to untangle it before we are free again. And this is what we are seeing in our collective efforts to correct the now blatant and completely obvious disharmony of our current political-economic system and the disastrous social and environmental implications thereof.
Taking Right Action
To shift the focus from that of fear to that of Love and Trust, we must first be able to recognize and face the disease of which we are already a part. To say that it is not spiritually proper to take part in this acknowledgment is to deny the possibility for Liberation from it. This is True within our own selves as well as within the collective. We must first recognize that there is suffering — the first of the Four Noble Truths expounded upon by the Buddha. The next step — the second of the Four Noble Truths — becomes clear that the affliction is due to attachment and ignorance. Such is the case within our fallacious yet largely accepted paradigm that the government is serving the people and that the best we can do as citizens is consume more and more each day to support this broken and increasingly wasteful system — leading ultimately to our own collective and environmental degradation. The third or the Four Noble Truths is that Cessation and Liberation from the affliction is completely viable, but only through the Work of the fourth Noble Truth — known as the Eight Fold Path: Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.
These Truths are completely self-evident under the most exacting scrutiny; that is why they are called Noble, and it is why the components to this Realization are called Right. This Rightness is not an ideological or philosophical “right,” but a fully Objective and self-evident Virtue both implicit to and resultant from the observation and Practice of Truth. This self-evident Truth is what we see in the process of our individual Spiritual Work as well as our collective plight. Were we as a humanity to stand up and Follow these very obvious and necessary steps, the situation will become resolved — and in a manner well beyond anything we can formulate with our limited human thinking.
And so the actions we are to take, while perhaps not immediately clear to everyone, are obvious to anyone truly immersed in the Work. As such, we must continue to support this necessary Work of the movement of energy; it is our Dharma, our Way, our Truth, and our Light!
Perhaps we are not all Warriors of Spirit, but we are all Beings of the Spirit. And we need Spiritual Warriors as surely as we need mothers! Those of us trained of the Way of the Warrior Spirit Transcend the violence of the mind and cultivate Gentleness — wherein even our enemy is Liberated! The Spiritual Warrior is not to be confused with the combatant, no! A combatant has not True Strength, although outwardly, his forcefulness appears strong. A Spiritual Warrior Knows how to battle the corrupt, even without raising his fist. His Will is Fortitude; his Sword, unspeakable Truth; his Prowess, unshakable Love. A mere combatant may succeed only in dominating others. A Spiritual Warrior Knows the virtue of Compassion, and always chooses it — even in battle. The combatant is riddled by conflict. The Spiritual Warrior is settled in Equanimity. The combatant is desolate, lost, and doomed to faultier — even before he begins his fight. The Spiritual Warrior is Absolved in Victory — even without an enemy to contend.
Whether you are a Warrior or a mother, lover or activist, son or daughter, secretary or factory worker, policeman or banker, hippy or soldier, politician or school teacher, minister or clerk, this issue we now face is a collective matter, and as such our collective participation is assured — on one level or another. The protests on Wall Street and elsewhere are not an insignificant and isolated event; this is a part of a collective sickness permeating not only our economics and government, but also the health of our planet and its inhabitants. As we observe a mounting escalation of natural disasters, bizarre mass animal deaths all over the world, wars and threats of wars, critical environmental issues, depletion of our natural resources, and increasing civil unrest, we are reminded point-blank of our interconnectedness with All Things and All Beings. One would hope that this recognition would encourage an inherent responsibility to this obvious fact!
It is much easier to make an excuse and turn your back, for sure. But pretending to remain unaffected, uninformed, or disinterested is not a worthy excuse. Apathy is merely a cold hand over a shallow heart. And with a greater resonance than anytime in recent history, our collective will and collective actions may well be a determining factor in the state of our individual satisfaction and peace-of-mind for the rest of our lives. Your prayers are certainly helpful, but we need action as well or our prayer becomes just another hollow conviction. The Transition we are now witnessing is a part of a Greater Awakening. How you participate remains your choice. As a Teacher, a practitioner, a father, and a human being, I will stand with Truth!
“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right. “
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
“I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.”
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