Category Archives: pandemic

Got Time? Stand Up for Justice

“If you are free, you need to free somebody else.
If you have power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
   –Toni Morrison

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez became the first and only District Attorney in New York to release data on who has been arrested for social distancing violations and the results paint a grim reality. 40 people have been arrested. 35 were black, four were Hispanic, and just one was white. Despite making up only 25% of the population, Black people received more than 87% of arrests for social distancing. And this is only based on a small percentage of data released by DA Gonzalez in his district in Brooklyn.

My previous post was, “Got Time? Sit Quietly for a While.” Still a good idea in my view. But as with breathing, there is a time for inhaling, going in, and a time for exhaling, going out. A time to Be and a time to Do. If there is a message in the Covid-19 visitation, it’s that humanity needs to take more time to go within and find peace, AND to step up and out and act more with strength and compassion to bring peace and justice to this world.

The mistreatment and abuse of people because of their skin color, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation or gender comes out of fear, but also a belief that those people are essentially inferior. White male supremacy has been with us for centuries and it will take time, a long time, to undue that ignorance from the hearts and minds of all of us. But we can more quickly end the institutional systems that make it possible for people with privilege and power to act against those they deem less than. It will take those of us with privilege examining ourselves for the seeds of racism implanted in our psyche. It will take those of us with privilege standing up, speaking out, and supporting and joining those groups in the struggle for racial justice.

I’ve received so many beautifully written messages and posts that express the pain, frustration, rage, and fatigue of Black people who fear for themselves and their children, fear of participating in simple, normal activities in America. Many of the messages include lists of 5, 10, 15 or more things that White people can do to help. I’ve included here just a few quotes and a list of ideas for all of us to consider and take action wherever possible.

A personal story: In 1966 I participated in a sit-in to integrate a small restaurant in Gainesville, Florida, off the campus of the University. A White man took a seat next to me and was so filled with hate he could barely stir his coffee. His grin, the look in his eyes, his shaking hands and his hateful threats are unforgettable. My experience was nothing compared to the Freedom Riders and others, many of whom were beaten and burned and killed in those years. But I tasted the hate, and it’s just so painful to see it still alive today snuffing out the lives of Black people, one after another. How can we let this go on? As I’ve heard a number of times: it’s not enough to not be racist, we need to be actively anti-racist.

The vigils, marches and other forms of protest going on now are a hopeful sign that there is in fact an awakening happening. Please help keep it alive and strong by lending your support. At the bottom of this message are two links to people who do excellent trainings, (at this time online) for White people regarding racism. Please check them out.

peace with justice, justice with peace,

“…we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”
                                                                             –Barack Obama

“…………….this latest crisis precipitated by overt racism, along with the corona virus pandemic and the climate crisis, are all interwoven forces pushing to face the truth of the pathology of what we have created and how we need to do it differently if we want to create a healthy and just, peaceful, beautifully diverse, Win-Win World For All, which is the only way it is going to work for we are all in the same life-boat together.   May enough of us wake up and work together in respectful cooperation to make it be so.  Have no doubt about it, this is spiritual work of the first degree. If not you and me, then who?  If not now, when?
                                                                             –T0m Pinkson

“What deep possibility is activated now, with mass cries to finally see centuries of dehumanization, trauma, and brutality toward people of color as a monstrous crime against life? The disruption of a dominant worldview is unfolding. We witness the extraordinary power of ordinary human beings, allied to bring forth a shift of consciousness. 
                                                                            –Geneen Marie Haugen

From the “Movement for Black Lives” (These are issues that you and I can support through sending messages to elected officials and voting to elect those who are supportive).

“We call on localities and elected officials across the country to divest resources away from policing in local budgets and reallocate those resources to the healthcare, housing and education our people deserve. More officers, guns, jails and prisons are not a solution to longstanding problems of racial disparities, injustice and police violence.  We demand police free schools across the country and an end to the use of police officers in public universities. All public Institutions designed to serve the people, must cut ties with the police in the interest of public safety.

We demand an end to the war against Black people. Since this country’s inception there have been named and unnamed wars on our communities. We demand an end to the criminalization, incarceration, and killing of our people.

This includes:
An immediate end to the criminalization and dehumanization of Black youth across all areas of society including, but not limited to; our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture.

This includes an end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students, the removal of police from schools, and the reallocation of funds from police and punitive school discipline practices to restorative services.

An end to capital punishment.

An end to money bail, mandatory fines, fees, court surcharges and “defendant funded” court proceedings.

An end to the use of past criminal history to determine eligibility for housing, education, licenses, voting, loans, employment, and other services and needs.

An end to the war on Black immigrants including the repeal of the 1996 crime and immigration bills, an end to all deportations, immigrant detention, and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids, and mandated legal representation in immigration court.

An end to the war on Black trans, queer and gender nonconforming people including their addition to anti-discrimination civil rights protections to ensure they have full access to employment, health, housing and education.

An end to the mass surveillance of Black communities, and the end to the use of technologies that criminalize and target our communities (including IMSI catchers, drones, body cameras, and predictive policing software).

The demilitarization of law enforcement, including law enforcement in schools and on college campuses.

An immediate end to the privatization of police, prisons, jails, probation, parole, food, phone and all other criminal justice related services.

Until we achieve a world where cages are no longer used against our people we demand an immediate change in conditions and an end to all jails, detention centers, youth facilities and prisons as we know them. This includes the end of solitary confinement, the end of shackling of pregnant people, access to quality healthcare, and effective measures to address the needs of our youth, queer, gender nonconforming and trans families.
                                                                   –Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)
                                                                   https://m4bl.org/about-us/

For White people seeking to understand racism and become better allies:

The Center for the Study of White American Culture (CSWAC) http://www.euroamerican.org/About/Who-We-Are.asp

Doing Our Own Work: White People Learning, Healing, and Acting for Racial Equity*
https://dianegoodman.com/public-workshops/

~Alan

Got Time – Sit Quietly Awhile

“We can only have insight and wisdom when our vision is clear. 2020 is the year for that vision. For generations into the future, people will remember you as heroes and sheroes for your sacrifice and your vision.”
               –”Commencement talk” from Sister Boi Nghiem to class of 2020

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
       
–Arundati Roy

A thread of wisdom is weaving its way through all the pandemic confusion and fear: this time, this Covid-19 time, is giving each of us (and humanity as a whole) the chance to reinvent ourselves. From the social and political systems that we have taken for granted, to the patterns of inter-personal relating, to the understandings of who and what we are and what we are here for; everything is up for review. What better time than now.

Spiritual teachings have always offered us the pathways and methods for seeing more deeply into ourselves, beyond, above or behind our ego personality, to a truer, more awakened way of Being. We live in a time that allows us to hear the voices, and sometimes see and be with, people who have devoted their lives to these teachings from the different lineages of the world . They are able to share with us what can truly be called medicine for our minds and hearts. What better time than now.

Responding to the needs of the many people seeking solace in their grief, fear, anger and confusion, there are now many daily offerings of guided meditations by experienced teachers. I’ve gathered together some that have come my way and want to share them with you. Please save this as a resource and share widely. What better time than now to deepen your practice of meditation and attunement with the true nature of the one you are, and to find the peace and strength to face all that is arising around and within you.

May you and all beings be healthy, safe, happy and free.

Sister Boi Nghiem lives at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi, (one of several monasteries in the world founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. In this video “dharma talk” we have a beautiful expression of the consciousness of wisdom, happiness and compassion that comes from devoted meditative practice. Addressed to graduating seniors, but relevant to us all:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhipUITeVWM

Sharon Salzberg is a widely known and beloved teacher of meditation. She has been offering free teachings online during the pandemic and has generously created a site with many other free or low cost teachings available on a daily basis. This is an amazing resource:
https://www.sharonsalzberg.com/covid-19-resources/?fbclid=IwAR1xRjD4Pkdl9iuk_aEiulIO4rHKwXZYgsSLVijiIc0fZXh-Jfg9zdi5dLo

Krishna Das is a world traveling chant master and teacher of meditation. He is offering what he calls “Chai and Chat” sessions online. Some are for a nominal fee. (Everyone still has to pay rent). This link is for one on June 6th, and you can find others dates from there. 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/group-chainchat-with-krishna-das-india-tickets-106136920386?aff=enews

Dr. Tom Pinkson (Tomás), offers a weekly online talk and exchange, “Live Love Now – Soul Support in the Time of Covid-19”.  Tomás apprenticed for many years with Huichol shaman and presents prayerful, inspiring messages of  “wisdom guidance from Great Spirit to enrich your life.” This is a Facebook gathering:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/874420176244116/about/

Jonathan Gustin, is the founder of Purpose Guides Institute and its new projects: Climate Change & Purpose, and Pandemic as Practice.  At the following link is an interview with Joanna Macy on these subjects and you can get more information about his online meetings by sending a message toinfo@purposeguides.org
https://www.purposeguides.org/free-webinar-pandemic-as-practice-1#unique-id

By the way, Sharon Salzberg, Tomás Pinkson and Krishna Das each are featured with extensive interview in  Crossing the Boundary – Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths, available at CrossingTheBoundary.org.

Catastrophe & Opportunity

Earth, isn’t this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there’s nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love,
I want it too. Believe me,
no more of your springtimes are needed
to win me over—even one flower
is more than enough. Before I was named
I belonged to you. I see no other law
but yours, and know I can trust
the death you will bring.

See, I live. On what?
Childhood and future are equally present.
Sheer abundance of being
floods my heart.

     – Rainer Maria Rilke (from the Ninth Duino Elegy,
 translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

There is a very difficult notion to express clearly and wisely.

When an individual is in pain, (or as with the pandemic, for a whole population), to even hint that it’s “really anopportunity” can be infuriating and painful. Those who are suffering right now from the illness itself, those on the front lines of “essential services,” or those deeply impacted by the social and economic responses to the pandemic deserve our empathy, our support, our prayers…period. They don’t need to be told, “Hey, this is really an opportunity for us all to grow into a better world.”

But a great many of us are sitting or working in relatively safe and comfortable conditions and have the time to take a deep look and assess where we are and where we are headed. We may direct attention to the broader meaning of what is happening and possibly find ways to effect the course of human life going forward. The catastrophe, the immense suffering of the Covid-19 pandemic, may be an opportunity for a wake-up to create a better world.

No one knows the future. But it does seem clear that there are forces that will attempt to use this moment to advance totalitarian controls of the population and increase the wealth and power of a small number of people at the expense of everyone else. At the same time, there are signs of increasingly empowered voices that seek to advance a transformative vision and bring about a society based in compassion and living in greater harmony with Mother Earth.

The spectrum of possible futures lie at or between these poles. The question for each of us is where are we putting our attention and energy.

I’ve included here three essays that were sent by way of Kosmos Journal, an online journal dedicated to global transformation integrating psychology and spirituality with social and political change.

Below that, I’ve copied a story from the New York Times that offers an example of our global inter-relatedness and an expression of empathy and reciprocity between a Native American tribe and the people of Ireland.

Three Essays from Kosmos on COVID-19

Searching for the Anti-Virus | Covid-19 as Quantum Phenomenon by Martin Winiecki – The author brings focus to the ideas that physical disease is not separate from our mental and emotional nature and that subjective experience is not separate from objective reality. He states, that, ” If we exclusively fight the symptoms without exploring the deeper root, we might survive the disease but other symptoms are still likely to materialize.”
 

True Health | What if the Virus is the Medicine? by Julia Hartsell and Jonathan Hadas Edwards – This essay urges us to look at the potential for this being an initiatory process, “There is the hope that what is dying is the caterpillar of immature humanity in order that the metamorphosis yields a stunning emergence. That whatever survives this collective initiation process will be truer, more heart-connected, resilient and generative.”

Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era | What’s Next? by Jeremy Lent – Taking both a spiritual and political look into ‘what’s next,’ Lent shares historical accounts of radical shifts in ‘what is possible’ and offers us a look at where we may or may not go now. On the positive side, he offers these elements of the opportunity: a fairer society, ecological stabilization, the rise of “glocalization,” and compassionate community.

===============

A story of reciprocity and empathy:

By Ed O’Loughlin and Mihir Zaveri in the New York Times

Published May 5, 2020 Updated May 6, 2020, 6:55 a.m. ET

DUBLIN — More than 170 years ago, the Choctaw Nation sent $170 to starving Irish families during the potato famine. A sculpture in County Cork commemorates the generosity of the tribe, itself poor. In recent decades, ties between Ireland and the Choctaws have grown.

Now hundreds of Irish people are repaying that old kindness, giving to a charity drive for two Native American tribes suffering in the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, the fund-raiser has raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water, food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Irish donors, according to the organizers.

Many donors cited the generosity of the Choctaws, noting that the gift came not long after the United States government forcibly relocated the tribe and several other American Indian groups from the Southeastern United States, a march across thousands of miles known as the Trail of Tears that left thousands of people dead along the way.

“I’d already known what the Choctaw did in the famine, so short a time after they’d been through the Trail of Tears,” Sean Callahan, 43, an Apple administrator in Cork City who made a donation, said on Tuesday. “It always struck me for its kindness and generosity and I see that too in the Irish people. It seemed the right time to try and pay it back in kind.”

“Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us,” one said on the GoFundMe page.

Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said in a statement on Tuesday that the tribe was “gratified — and perhaps not at all surprised — to learn of the assistance our special friends, the Irish, are giving to the Navajo and Hopi Nations.”

“We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine,” he said. “We hope the Irish, Navajo and Hopi peoples develop lasting friendships, as we have.”

Cassandra Begay, communications director for the fund-raiser, said in an interview on Tuesday that Irish people appeared to have found the charity effort through posts on Twitter, including one on May 2 from a reporter at The Irish Times, Naomi O’Leary. Ms. Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation, said over the past 48 hours, more than $500,000 had been donated, with most of the money coming from Ireland.

“The Choctaw ancestors planted that seed a long time ago, based off the same fundamental belief of helping someone else,” Ms. Begay said. “It is a dark time for us. The support from Ireland, another country, is phenomenal.”

A high prevalence of diseases like diabetes, scarcity of running water and homes with several generations living under the same roof have enabled the virus to spread with exceptional speed in places like the Navajo Nation, according to epidemiologists. The Hopi reservation is surrounded by the Navajo Nation.

It is not surprising that the ordeals of Native American tribes resonate in Ireland. It is estimated that one million Irish people, mainly poor tenant subsistence farmers, died of hunger or disease from 1845 to 1849, and another million emigrated in that period or shortly afterward.

The famine was among the first humanitarian crises to be reported in the early days of global media, which helped spur donations to Ireland from around the world. In addition to the donation from the Choctaw, money was raised from prisoners in Sing Sing, former slaves in the Caribbean and convicts on a prison ship in London.

The Choctaws were the first tribe to be relocated during the Trail of Tears, starting in 1831, with thousands dying and many starving.

Years later, the Choctaws learned of the Irish potato famine and “a great empathy was felt when they heard such a similar tale coming from across the ocean,” according to the Choctaw Nation’s description of its bond with the Irish.

Choctaw people then gathered together $170 to send to Irish people in 1847, the equivalent of more than $5,000 today.

“When our ancestors heard of the famine and the hardship of the Irish people, they knew it was time to help,” Mr. Batton wrote in 2017.

The sculpture commemorating the Choctaws’ generosity was dedicated in 2017 in Midleton, Ireland.

Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter, a historian at University College Dublin and co-author, with the writer Colm Toibin, of the book “The Irish Famine,” said that awareness of the Choctaw donation to Irish famine relief had increased sharply since the commemoration of the 150th anniversary in 1995.

The president of Ireland at the time, Mary Robinson, had visited the Choctaws in Oklahoma to thank them. Two years ago, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also paid them a visit.

“It showed how far the famine resonated that it reached people 4,000 miles away who had themselves recently suffered terrible deprivation and clearance from their land,” Professor Ferriter said. “There is a belief that the famine has never been forgotten here, and it has made Irish people more likely to make common cause with other marginalized people.”

The money donated by the Choctaws was distributed in Ireland by members of the Quaker community, who are still remembered for their leading role in famine relief. More recently, Choctaw representatives have taken part in the annual Famine Walk in County Mayo, which commemorates a forced march in terrible weather by hundreds of starving people hoping for government