My husband and I watched “Bowling for Columbine” on HBO this week. This Michael Moore documentary examines root causes of the Columbine High School tragedy on April 20, 1999. That day two students came to the school with guns and killed 12 students, one teacher, wounded many, and killed themselves. The school is located in Littleton, Colorado the home of Lockheed Martin, a leading missile arms manufacturer. Moore’s movie examined gun use in the USA, and the lack of adequate controls on gun sales. The movie also showed how media and politicians exaggerate and create a fear of violence even though actual acts of violence in this country have declined. One of the most heart wrenching parts of the film was a montage of interventions by the USA government in the overthrow of foreign governments which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people from Iran to El Salvador.
In my research I also found an article printed in Slate which presents a very interesting psychological analysis of the Columbine murderers which may be of interest to some readers. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.single.html#pagebreak_anchor_3
I was working on my introduction for this week’s post and seeing Moore’s movie brought me back to my roots. For many years I lost faith in the American dream. However, being a pacifist, I was not in support of any ill fated violent revolution. However, I did not vote and felt that U.S. politics was a sham and a lie I did not want to participate in. My husband, Brian Payne, a child of Iowa, changed my mind and I began to vote. I recognized the legitimacy of his argument, if we don’t vote, we have no basis in which to complain. So I vote.
In 2005, I participated in the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by presenting a storytelling performance. My research for that performance led me to appreciate what the ability to vote means, not only for black Americans, but for all Americans of different cultural and language backgrounds. The laws now being passed in states attempting to hinder individual’s rights to vote are a travesty and should be opposed by all who recognize that thousands, throughout this country’s history, sacrificed their lives to secure this right for all citizens.
Now, in this 21st Century, the USA is entering a new era. No longer is this a country in which white people can claim to be the majority. People of color are having more children and are becoming the majority in states in the Southwest. The USA is a multicultural nation, of diverse religions, colors, and national heritages. This is a fact. No amount of bigoted rhetoric can change this fact, no number of bigoted laws can stop the forward progress of citizens whose first language is not English.
So, I ask you to listen to my story, which is part a dream of a USA that I intend should manifest, even though some would call it a utopia. When we, this diverse population, recognize that we are the power. We must unite to overcome the force of monied interests and create a true democracy that practices equality and freedom of expression and opportunity to all regardless of race, cultural background, or religion.
Click link to hear the story of my dream of what a united multicultural USA can accomplish.
Before I began looking at my e-mails I was contemplating how I was going to write this Friday’s story because I wanted to write about the big day coming up, July 4th. Fortunately, I received an e-mail which gives an important message and have decided to share it in its entirety below. As we gather with family and friends for barbecues, beach trips, and to watch colorful fireworks, I think it is very important that this year we reflect on exactly what the celebration is about.
July 4th is the day in which the new Congress formed of 13 Colonies approved its Declaration of Independence from rule by Great Britain. The Congress actually approved its act of independence two days earlier, on July 2nd. But, that decision was made in a closed session. The approval of the Declaration was a public act and document. The opening words of its second paragraph are the most important words of the document: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It seems that many have forgotten those words in this politics of division and selfishness. When we as individuals, communities, and country remember that everyone is equal and everyone wants happiness then we can honestly celebrate July 4th. Ironically, this basic tenant that all are equal and all desire happiness is basic to Buddhism and most religions. So, despite all of the short fallings of this country’s history and changing governments, it actually wrote down in its founding document a basic spiritual truth.
While we celebrate this uniquely American holiday, we should contemplate how wonderful it would be if we lived on a planet in which everyone recognized the value of equality and everyone’s right to happiness. In my twenties I first encountered the concept of Planetary Citizens. Simply, it was the idea that we are all citizens of this one planet and should be able to travel freely to any country. Of course, with the current continuing geographic and political battles going on around the globe, we need a global epiphany before people are allowed to travel anywhere freely. However, we can recognize the concept of universal equality as explained in this article from The Bridge, written by Tony Burroughs, founder of The Intenders.
The Bridge ~ Reminder 28 ~ Equality – We are all different but equal
A common thread that runs through all of the Intenders writings has to do with our illusions and how we can extricate ourselves from them. As we have said many times, there is nothing wrong with harboring an illusion; it’s just that when we become aware of its true nature, we make a conscious decision whether to continue to play with it or set it aside. ”Somewhere along the line, you decided to have some fun and incarnate into a body – and before you knew it, certain rules and resistances became apparent. Life on Earth, though abundant with rich feelings and experiences, had its risks. A wide variety of illusions and games presented themselves and you said to yourself, “This looks interesting! I think I’ll play this game for awhile. Why not? Everybody else is playing it. When the time comes for me to set aside this silly amusement and return to the way I felt as a child, it won’t be any problem” So you jumped in with both feet, started giving names to everything around you (including yourself), agreed that a great many artificial boundaries were real, created false identities and relationships, arbitrarily gave power to other people which allowed them to control you, began making judgments, and so forth. Life went on and as the years passed, you became more and more enmeshed in your illusions. When the time arrived for you to set aside all your games and dramas, it turned out that it wasn’t so easy. You’d been heavily programmed and had developed habits that didn’t want to go away. Such is the challenge that faces most people today. They’re playing games; some taking life less seriously, while others are passionately putting everything they have on the line. In both instances, however, most people have long forgotten the moment when they chose to start playing. Most are lost in the dramas.” From The Highest Light Teachings Perhaps the most insidious dramas we take part in have to do with our identification and allegiance to a particular nation. We identify with this country or that, and in doing so, we isolate ourselves, to one degree or another, from everyone else in the world. We agree upon arbitrary, make-believe boundaries and tell ourselves that we are the good guys, while anyone else who lives outside of our country’s boundary lines is not as good as us, or isn’t as deserving of all good things as we are. God forbid that someday, someone wanders across one of our boundary lines in need of help – but instead of sharing and opening our arms to our fellow traveler, we rally our other misguided countrymen together and run the needy invader out on a rail. Of all our illusions, nationalism seems to bring out the worst in us. Our allegiance to it somehow gives us an instant excuse to wreck harm or havoc on our fellowman and women. We stumble blindly forward, rarely looking deep enough to see that our allegiance to our nation has its inherent costs to us – costs which are perhaps higher than we know. In its wake, nationalism leaves us living in constant fear, not only for our homes and possessions, but for our very lives and the lives of our precious families. It asks us to set aside all of our noble human traits and align ourselves with those who would kill at the drop of a hat. It makes everyone who believes in it a barbarian, indistinguishable from the pillaging hoards of centuries past. Indeed, none who kill in the name of country can call themselves sane. Fortunately, the truth is always there to free us from our insanity. The truth brings all illusions to light where they can be seen and acted upon from a higher, more loving perspective. In the case of nationalism, we need look no further than the fact that the Earth is home to all of us. We all live here and have as much right to enjoy our lives as the next person. We may be different in our appearances, our languages, values, and beliefs, but we are all equal – equal in the eyes of God, equal at the core of our Beings. As we begin to see through the illusion that we are better than someone else, it loosens its grip on us, and we take the first step toward living in a world of comfort and peace. We take the first step back to our sanity.
My intention for today is: I Intend that I am seeing everyone, everywhere as equal, regardless of our differences.
This message was sent to you from a friend, you can go to http://www.intenders.org to sign up free for The Intenders Bridge.
In my lifetime the idea and image of father has changed. I’m of that generation in which Daddy was the feared disciplinarian, a mysterious but strong and dependable source of stability and safety. He wasn’t my confidant or comfort. So, the memories of my dads that I treasure the most are those as an adult which happened just months before their deaths.
First, I am one of those special people who was an only child but had two dads – a situation more common now than when I was a child. I am the only child of the union of Ann Elizabeth Glenn and Tommie Walker. Even though Tommie had proposed to Ann and gave her an engagement ring, he was not yet divorced. Despite his separation, he visited his wife, after Mama was pregnant with me, and as a result of that visit I have a half sister just six months younger than me. My mother could not handle that betrayal and ended up marrying her high school sweetheart, Willie Alexander. I grew up calling him Daddy and was raised with my three sisters, the daughters of Mama and Daddy.
When I was in third grade, my mother asked me if I wanted to change my last name from Walker to Alexander. Not only did that name change move me from sitting in the back of the classroom to the front of the class, it also meant that my sisters did not know my father was different from theirs . They did not find out until we were all grown and had left home. When I was 24 years old my other sister and three brothers, Tommie Walker’s other children, met me for the first time.
My two fathers had two things in common, both loved Ann Glenn and both were attractive light skinned black men. Growing up, my mother always thought it was funny when people said I looked like Willie, solely because I was light skinned compared to his daughters. But, I look like my father and even though not raised with him, inherited a lot of his characteristics.Tommie Walker was a creative, athletic, and reserved man. He was a lifelong photographer, worked at TV stations, and was a mechanical engineer. His last career was as a teacher. He was athletic, playing tennis into his early eighties with a wall full of trophies. Willie Alexander was very different. He was a partier, drinker, storyteller, womanizer, career Air Force sergeant, and retired from a job in juvenile detention.
Tommie was active, vibrant, and healthy until he got shingles. After that he had one medical problem after another and suffered from a traffic accident. The last time I saw him, he still was not speaking, but he was up, alert, and aware of my presence. Before he went to bed he looked directly into my eyes and I felt a lifetime of love.
I visited Willie after he had recovered from a bad illness. He was up and about, driving, talking, the man I had known all of my life but with a softer edge. We visited my mother’s grave. There, I asked him about the wedding and engagement ring I wore. They were in the box of photos and papers Mama had left for me. I did not receive the box until after she died. Daddy told me Tommie had given the rings to Mama. After that visit I talked to Daddy more often on the phone and we grew closer. He died, unexpectedly, about six months later.
Now, I hold equal fondness in my heart’s memory for both of my dads, Tommie Walker and Willie Alexander.
Every Friday I will post either an audio or written story. This year my audio stories are podcasts from my Website Series, The Ultimate Wonder. This week’s story offers answers to three questions that have baffled many minds. Just click onto the link below. Listen, ponder, and Enjoy.
I’ve entered the above photo in a yoga pose photo contest in the magazine Yoga Journal. Just click on the following link and you can “like” the pose as many times a day you are able. Your “like” is a vote for my photo.
Yoga inspires me to consistently engage in spiritual practice. Almost two decades have passed since I was initiated into Babaji’s Kriya Yoga. This complete yoga encompasses kriya hatha yoga, kundalina pranayama (breathing practices), kriya dhyana yoga (meditation), kriya mantra yoga (chants), and kriya bhakti yoga (devotion and service).
Babaji’s Kriya Hatha Yoga provides a full body massage externally and internally. These poses quiet my mind and relax my spirit to experience my work and relationships with equanimity and patience.
Although I am not an athletic hatha yoga practitioner, I can attest to the enduring benefits of continuous and consistent hatha yoga practice. Babaji’s kriya hatha yoga has given me a healthy body, purified my heart, and stabilized my mind for meditation.
Hatha yoga poses unite me with earth’s grounding energy that flows through my chakras like an invisible pulse connecting me to the eternal emptiness that binds us all.
Click on Poster to enlarge.
Exactly three years ago, February 27, 2009, a young Tibetan monk named Tapey left Kirti Monastery and walked to the crossroads of the market in the town of Amdo. He had showered his body in oil, lit a match, and set himself aflame as he waved the Tibetan flag with a photo of the Dalai Lama on it. His was the first Tibetan sacrifice – an expression of spiritual courage, a cry against decades of unendurable oppression, a plea for recognition and assistance from the world. The Chinese call these brave souls terrorists.
Buddhism emphasizes the preciousness of human life and the karmic weight the destruction of life carries in future rebirths. However, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is also acknowledged as an act of compassion. I recently watched the movie “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman, and immediately thought of these Tibetan martyrs. Below is the poem that came from these juxtapositions in my mind.
For continuous information on the continual struggle of the people of Tibet and to contribute to easing their suffering, join the International Campaign for Tibet – http://savetibet.org
Offerings of Light
Flames flood flesh
She cried out “Jesus”
they shout “Dalai Lama.”
Centuries separate martyrs.
She burned on a pyre.
They burn in squares, at crossroads.
An executioner lashed her to a cross
set the wood aflame.
They anoint their bodies in oil
light the matches themselves.
Their bodies tantric offerings.
Towers of fire
blaze with defiance
suffering of spirt
cannot be endured.
St. Joan, French young woman
responded to voices she alone heard.
Fought oppressors of her people
refused to deny her spiritual guides.
Tapey, Tibetan young man
waved his country’s flag
with the Dalai Lama’s photo
first to set himself aflame.
Near 20 human candles
lit in three years.
January 2012 Sobha Tulku,
“I give my body
an offering of light
to chase away darkness
to free all beings
Light offerings of death
to terminate tortured humiliation
to stop sacred sites’ desecration
to end environmental decimation.
Will worlds remain silent
while sons and daughters of the land
take the ultimate stand?
Remember their names
Tapey, Tengyi Phuntsog, Lobsang Kalsong
Dawa Tsering, Kayang
Tsewang Norbu, Sobhu Tulku
Lobsang Kachok, Kelsang Wangchuk
Choepel, Norbu Damdrul
Tenzin Wangmo, Palden Choetso
Tenzin Phuntson, Tsultrim.
Joan’s body became a beacon of hope
for the French against English dominion.
Now Tibetan monks and nuns
light a path through the
darkness of China’s nefarious night.
With bodhicitta motivation
to relieve pain
of sentient beings
their flames are alchemy
into freedom’s equanimity