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People have a power for good

There is good going on in the world. I witness it, feel it every day. Sitting on my desk right now is the World Ark catalog, a product of Heifer International. Heifer International is a global nonprofit working to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based holistic community development with local farmers in 21 countries.

Heifer International feels like an old friend. My late wife loved Heifer and we visited their Rutland, MA farm years ago before it closed. It was a farm divided up into countries around the world and each country had animals indigenous to it. I saw a yak from Tibet which I remember the most. And of course all the other goats and sheep, pigs, poultry, cattle, buffalo. It was a magnificent display of living gifts from each part of the world. The farm had young international volunteers, both men and women, learning how to raise the animals for future gifts to families in need.

Heifer became a talisman for me after her death in 2006. In lieu of flowers at her celebration of life, I asked for donations to Heifer. Flocks of chicks were donated to families in Guatemala. A calf was purchased for a family in Malawi. Notifications of donations came in for a goat going to a family in India and a sheep for a family in Ecuador. The list went on and on, and each donation lifted my heart.

When I think about the effort it takes to coordinate a worldwide organization designed to foster holistic community development aiding families around the globe, it is a staggering thought. Behind every page in the catalog is a story of someone’s drive and inspiration to keep going. People have a power for good. People can use energy and focus to make change in the world that can reach international proportions and make a difference.

In the words of Davidji who is a spiritual teacher, author, wellness expert and meditation teacher, attention and intention are two qualities that can be confused as the same thing but are completely different processes.

“Where attention goes energy flows.”
“What you place your intention on blossoms and blooms.”
“When you withdraw your attention, energy withers and dies.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, offers some post-election words. I share some excerpts:

“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.”

“You are right in your assessments. ... Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.”

“As we have learned often from Thich Nhat Hanh, a good practitioner is not someone who never feels despair, fear, anxiety, or overwhelm. A good practitioner is someone who knows how to take care of all of these feelings when they arise. And our practice has prepared us, is preparing us, in each breath, in each step, to meet the suffering and challenges of this moment in history.”

“When we are grounded in the basic practice, our mind still and calm in the present moment, we see the truth behind the story of separation. We see that no person is our enemy, no person need be eliminated. Only ignorance and hatred need to be transformed in our own hearts and minds, and in the collective consciousness.”

“As Joanna Macy relays from the Tibetan Shambhala prophecy, ' is not a battle between ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ because the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart.' We need to learn to see ourselves in those on the other side of the political or social spectrum. And we need to learn to see them in us.

“We were made for these times. We can rise to the challenge of seeing ourselves in the 'other' as we take action to prevent injustice and protect beings from harm. There is a line from a Plum Village chant: 'Once I have a path, I have nothing more to fear.' The path is clear. As the Buddha offers in the Dhammapada, 'Hatred never ceases through hatred. But by love alone does hatred cease.' We are called to love, to be kind, to see that no person is our enemy.”

Participants’ Reflections:

  • What came up for me is all politics is local. Even thinking about Heifer International, it’s a wonderful organization. It’s about real animals, bringing real yaks and goats to real people in a small village. How political that is. How local that is even while being an international organization. Thinking about would we put up with having a mayor elected by fewer people? Or a governor who had fewer votes? It doesn’t make sense.

  • The readings brought me to a space of yes, I agreed in this lifetime to be in this moment for a purpose. I know what it means in the bigger picture, but you brought it home for me: what does it mean for me today through Tuesday? What space and offer will I be? That reminder you gave us, that we are all really one regardless of the appearance in front of us. I’m resting in that space of what does it mean, my beingness in this incredible and intense energy that is around us. At this moment, I’m in the space of choosing what can this mean and the opportunity that is now in our hands for truly standing for love, compassion, and unity after whatever happens on Tuesday. Even in the midst of this breakdown of energy, we are in the middle of an opportunity to choose love. I’m trying to find my own reservoir inside myself to let that flow at this time.

  • I hope to do so much more work on myself in the years ahead. Something struck me about loving everyone no matter what. I don’t know if I’ll ever become that advanced. I think about animals. It’s hard for me to forgive or love someone who abuses animals. I admire that people can be loving and accepting, but I’m not sure I can ever get there in certain situations.

  • Over the past year or so, I’ve gone to a place where I remember things from my past that I did 30 or 40 years ago that I am ashamed of. I know that at the time I didn’t have ill-will in my heart, I didn’t intend to hurt anyone. But I did hurt people. I’m trying to find a balance. Something in me wants to do justice to that. I don’t want to wallow in it and beat myself up and think what a bad person I was. But I don’t want to shrug it off and say that was in the past and to just move forward. I want a balance. How do I do justice to whatever harm I may have caused?

  • I think the balance resides in the learning, because we learn from things. Then we take what happened and move forward. I think about it with my relationship with my late father who I abhorred. Later in life, I developed a relationship with him that was like a neighbor. I could see his presence, I didn’t give him my heart anymore. I was cordial and respectful. To me, that was the love I could afford for someone who was so wounded. He hurt everyone around him. So when talking about loving everyone, I am not able to love everybody with an open heart, because that is not what love is. To me, it’s honoring and respecting people for the humanness and not giving myself away to them. And doing justice for the injustices that I have control over. I used to always think that I had to love my enemy. And how do I love my enemy? Would it be like loving someone in my life who was my lover? No. It’s having respect. Like the ones in my life that I don’t respect, I treat them like a neighbor. How are you doing? Have a good day. That’s how I resolve it.

  • Thank you. I have hurt people I loved. I have resorted to violence. I’m not proud of it, I’m ashamed of it. I know that if I am pushed into a situation, I can forget about boundaries and peace and awareness. It all goes out the window. It’s a question of how to turn these away from being just words into really being a principle that I can really live by no matter what the circumstances. It’s very hard, and it’s hard to try to treat all people not as an enemy. I’m glad you said that, that there are different levels of love.

  • For me, it’s in places where I’ve had power. It’s in relationships, I’ve had a responsibility. It’s not that my boundaries were violated and I reacted. I could have been more responsible to those that I loved. Awareness.

  • I think it goes back to where you started, with attention and intention. If we focus on seeing the light in other people as much as we can, and also seeing the light in ourselves. That’s a way of focusing on the learning and the changing and the growing. And being positive. I’m so tired of the negative messages. One has to think of the positive and the best. I’m working on making it better.

  • Powerful meeting. I took from what you read about people having a power for the good and where we put our attention, blooms. What we draw into ourselves. And to see the truth behind the story of separation and keep bringing that back. My career was in local government and I had to be apolitical for 20 years. That’s one piece of being cut off. I’ve also shut down other parts of me and I’m becoming more aware of it. One of the pieces I got was I am struggling with how to relate to others’ suffering. I’m getting it with myself, I got that focus. Before the meeting, I looked up suffering and I looked at all the images. I wanted to know what is the world suffering? Not just my own concerns, because it’s so much bigger. And I’m thinking it’s another carrot dangling for me to look at, and it’s so much bigger. I keep trying to expand and comprehend that piece that I’m being invited to believe in that we are all connected. Trying to figure out what is my small part in trying to move us forward as a universal Earth. So I’m trying to take it all in. I’m trying to soften and have compassion.

  • Thank you for receiving my words and taking them where your heart takes them, for being willing to have awareness, and for being willing to sit in silence. Thank you all. I hope you have a gentle day.

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