From What a Dam Springs…And What a Dam Brings

 

Hydropower is, like an oil well, an extractive industry. Yes, the massive mechanical energy of a moving river is renewable as long as the waters run, yet the attending realities of the intrusive and often massive contrivances we call dams are undeniable. To produce the power, they have to leave a little less behind than was there before, whether its water quality, fish or sand; maybe it’s an endangered critter downstream or a lower agricultural yield, a bribe, a displaced community, an inflated cost estimate, an abrogated indigenous land grant.  Something.

To speak of a dam in the same breath as fossil fuels may seem a radical and willfully blind characterization given the many consequences of fossil fuel use more directly damaging to health and the environment. And truly, fossil fuels are driving us toward a dystopian world at a much faster pace than dams ever will.

However, throughout the entire life-cycle of a dam, there are many well known risks and vulnerabilities. Dams are accompanied by the same illusion of permanence, the deceptive and selective construction of national economies according to a singularly uniform vision of development as well as the environmental assaults, all while assuming a paradigm of modernity–that GDP growth and per capita energy consumption offered by hydropower must go hand in hand, that the trickle-down benefits from industrialization and rapid economic growth will inevitably bring national competitive advantage.  These exaggerated claims of productivity and efficiency are, in many cases, accompanied by large cost overruns, increased debt and as much secrecy and corruption as any other energy producing industry, often more.

In the case of dams, beyond air quality or climate stability, the sacrifice is something more subtle, deemed less valuable, less material and less commonly voiced: the generations of knowledge, the intimacy of return, immersion in an indivisible relationship with natural cycles of river, flora and fauna. These are, in many cases, replaced by dislocation, loss of livelihood, poverty, depression, the fracturing of culture and community and even suicide.

Along the way, the river itself becomes an object of exploitation furthering a vision of development, whether it’s through the appropriation of sand for use in some far away place, the fracturing of connectivity in a river basin, not unlike severing limbs from a living organism, blocking the circulation of restorative sediments and the water itself as if the ecologies of agriculture and the food sources provided by the river also become empty objects divorced from the lives of those who depend on them.

The indigenous inhabitants of river basins understand and live within change, but dams overwhelm and upset that ethos, deforming communities, cultures, politics, breeding a new and, to the global south at least, foreign ethic. In fact, that this definition of development is unsustainable has been clear for some time. Yet, in response to rising global demand for energy, the juggernaut of dam development rolls on.

Climate change is an accelerant, but it’s taken much longer to understand how this change affects the rivers than it has to build the dams. In that sense, we become an endangered species ourselves, slow to adapt to the cascade of change we initiated and to which we continue to cling. But the truth is well known. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. We cannot have the same river after a dam is installed, no matter how many times and how hard we may try.

Governments undertake modeling, the analysis of development, the results of which may bring them into conflict with the interests of investors. In that process, the analysis may soften, the logic and language may bend a little; the process is slowed, equivocation subtly permeates the conclusions. In such reports, written by consultants, versus pure academic studies, there is a welcome certainty appearing in open declarations that a specific component of a basin-wide plan is a threat to the health and longevity of an entire region or the river system that defines it.

The Chinese practice, far from being an isolated example, of secrecy, bundling hydro investments in larger appealing economic aid packages, combined with environmental impact assessments performed by Chinese consultants, leads to environmental, ethical and political malpractice, adding corruption and further exceptions to law and lack of enforcement to the whole ensuing package.

The opposition to mega-dam projects is a microcosm of the larger climate change “debate.” The success or failure of opposition depends, as in all climate debates, on how the issue is framed and what information is employed to “educate.” It has been shown many times that urgently pointing to scientific evidence is not always the most persuasive approach to climate denial, nor to the best-laid hydropower development plans.

Early dam development may have been undertaken without the benefit of advanced comprehensive modeling and projection of effects. It’s also possible that studies of the effects of dams state their conclusions with an abundance of caution in much the same way climate studies understate the effects of climate change, which so far has meant the negative consequences of dams will be greater and come earlier than predicted.

The amount of corruption infecting this process cannot be calculated accurately. But a recent study includes a literature review on this topic, a collection of estimates compiled over nearly two decades bringing some credibility and validity to the topic.

Throughout the entire project cycle, from the analysis of options to full commissioning and operation, there are a multitude of moments at which the integrity of the process is tested. Ten years ago, the amount of money lost annually to corruption in the hydropower sector was estimated to be $5-6 billion. Another report from that same period estimates whole budget losses at 10%. Extrapolating these amounts to global annual infrastructure spending of greater then $1 trillion leads to staggering estimates of losses.

The complexity of dam building can generate a lack of accountability and opaque project management (Bosshard & Hildyard, 2008). For example, there may be separate contracts for equipment, civil works, materials, construction, management, as well as for external consultancies involving local, national and international actors, each with their own requirements. Resettlement activities[a notorious target of corruption]involving large sums of money can also create opportunities for graft (Scudder, 2008; Sohail & Cavill, 2007).

The historical record of numerous cases supports these concerns. In Lesotho, Indonesia, Thailand and Kenya, dam builders used ‘corrupt practices’ to acquire reservoir sites that were reserved for indigenous people or impinged on protected national wildlife refuges (Scudder, 2008). Government officials reportedly stole $50 million of resettlement funds appropriated for the Three Gorges Dam in China, leading to ‘the largest such corruption scandal on record’ (Haas, 2008, p. 98). Costs for the Yacyret, a dam between Argentina and Paraguay, ballooned by $2.7 billion, due in part to bribes and misappropriation of funds (Sohail & Cavill, 2007). In Malaysia, Sarawak Energy has been accused of granting $200 million worth of hydropower contracts to companies linked directly to the Chief Minister’s family (Bruno Manser Fund, 2013). Source

The industry narrative on the carbon footprint of dams leads us to assume dams do not emit greenhouse gases. However, the deforestation associated with construction of those dams does impact carbon sequestration as new greenery growing on the muddy banks of a depleted reservoir is submerged again to become a new source of methane release.  The accumulated data on this phenomenon has been enough to downgrade the designation of hydropower as a renewable energy.

In Brazil, the 8,370MW Tucuru Dam in the Amazon produces more greenhouse gases than Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo; and another dam upriver generates 11.2 million tons of carbon per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of 2.3 million cars (Fearnside, 2002). Other studies have confirmed these findings, namely that the carbon footprint or lifecycle impact of a dam can vary greatly depending on design, location and climate, maintenance and lifetime of operation (Raadal, Gagnon, Modahl, & Hanssen, 2011; Vate, 1997; World Commission on Dams, 2000).

In other words, the changes to a natural terrain to construct the storage dam convert a carbon sink to a source of methane emissions that did not previously exist along with a reduction in oxygen content of the river. As serious as these incidences may be for some locations, over its entire lifecycle, hydropower still has the lowest carbon emissions of any source of energy production.

More surprisingly, however, the question of whether hydropower projects actually decrease economic growth rates was studied among over 100 countries over three different timeframes and confirmed by Sovacool and Gotz (2018). Equally surprising results from this study indicate there is no clear and convincing data indicating hydropower reduces poverty, yet there is data indicating hydropower increases corruption.

What is often missing in the opposition literature commonly seen in the more agrarian global south is a simple and direct bottom line, a distillation of all the various known and documented minor and major consequences of damming into a clear and penetrating message. The big picture painted by touting electrification by conventional dams does include at least some of the intended benefits, but beyond the dislocation, the debt, the cost overruns, the corruption, it all comes with a verifiable trade-off too often overridden by the profit-driven inertia of anti-poverty scenarios: lowered food security.

 

Sacred Activism: Acting As One.

Maybe this is the moment I’ve been waiting for without realizing it–the approaching object in my rear view mirror that’s much closer than it looks.

I’ve spent time in the recent past at the edge of language, not merely in the occasional futility of finding words for experience, but feeling through the subtle and tenacious bonds by which consciousness functions as language, shaping and expressing default beliefs about the world. What I needed was not merely new words, but a path beyond limiting structures, a descent into the substrate, a journey into the interstices of the existential. Haha. That journey invites a new consciousness, new thinking….or…perhaps no thinking. Whatever it is, it’s part of a critical decolonization process underway as we reconnect with self, other and the earth.

That phrase, “self, other and the earth,” is a core principle in a recent collaboration between Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker titled, “Savage Grace.” Their definition of decolonization tracks Derrick Jenson very closely, about which he writes:

Decolonization is the process of breaking your identity with and loyalty to this culture–industrial capitalism, and more broadly civilization–and remembering your identification with an loyalty to the real physical world…It means seeing the harm the dominant culture does to other cultures and to the planet….It means recognizing that the luxuries of the dominant culture do not come free, but rather are paid for by other humans, by non-humans….It means recognizing that we do not live in a democracy, but rather a corporate plutocracy, a government by, for and of corporations. It means remembering that the real world is more important than this social system. Without a real world we don’t have a social system.

Derrick Jenson

The colonizing power of language is also a manifest tool of conquest and domination. This has been most true of English in particular, but also French, Spanish and Portuguese. And that’s only in the past four hundred years. The dominant narrative of the human story has been so deeply buried in language it’s hardly noticed. Along the way, as has been broadly noted elsewhere, our relationship to the natural world and to death have been denied, pushed away and/or buried.

Along the way, a relentless barrage of linguistic bullets has mowed down nearly every alternative world view, redirecting (and destroying) every un-dammed river of shamanic consciousness standing in its way. The bill for this error, and all the hubris accompanying it, is coming due.

Just as surely as those once colonized still struggle against zombie neocolonialism (disaster capitalism), the rest of the world remains in the grip of neocolonial ideology couched in the narrative of mass culture, the interlocution of establishment media, organized religion, finance and the multi-national juggernaut of extractive capital perpetuating its myth of “progress,” and “growth.” In subtle and not so subtle ways, we are constantly told, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, “There is no alternative.” The great extinction unfolding before us is noted and shrugged off.

To be sure, slipping the inertia of the neural substrate is no simple task. This is also not a new idea and there is no shortage of places to start. Just take the term “sacred activism,” for example. It’s been an evolving topic for decades. The meaning of these two words has been under perpetual construction and deconstruction, constantly shifting depending on whom you ask. Books are written about it. It’s jargon for some, a source of inspiration for others. It’s a guideline, a goal, a handy slogan whose meaning is debated, abused, misunderstood and celebrated.

A long time ago (haha), back in the 70s, one could be involved in politics OR spirituality. The two could not coexist in the same person. There was no bridge. You could either be on the front lines of “resistance” or back in your hutch sitting silently, doing “nothing.” Or so we thought. The traditional activist pitted herself against the inertia of the Industrial Growth Society. The spiritualist dropped out. Since then, the journey into politics AND spirituality (like the converging journey of spirituality and physics) has been leading to the same quantum location, which means everywhere, but mostly into creative institutions marrying the two.

Spirituality and politics were two separate pursuits. We could not envision acting simultaneously in both realms. The term itself embodies a powerful dualistic view of reality, a linguistic field from which we nearing escape velocity. Nevertheless, the confrontational nature of traditional activism and the perpetuation of that dualism eventually felt like a dead end. Activism set apart from its sacred roots became part of the problem, not part of the solution. The realization that all politics is personal and that the personal is political worked its way deeper into awareness, sending us on long journeys of “personal growth,” which not only ignited deepening inquiries into spirituality, but more complex inquiries into the politics of interactive dynamics.

Gradually, we come to know that “politics” is rooted far more deeply than we ever imagined, far beneath the silted and nutrient-poor everyday channels of discursive thought, all the way into the primary beliefs we hold about reality such as the (un)conscious division between subject and object, I and It, Human and Nature. Along the way, those “beliefs” have been informed by, supported by and also undermined by science and philosophy. What are we to think?

Language is the carrier of our separation. Language will never overcome its self-perpetuating confusion and grasp the singularity of sacred activism without inventing new words for it. I now have difficulty saying these two words together. They have become baggage from the Old Story. The words no longer make sense together because, ultimately, (finally?) what they describe are mirror images of that singularity, as if I’m seeing confusion as the inextricable four bodies of Buddha. There is no longer any daylight between them. No distinction between the essential meaning of either.  And there’s no time left to even debate the issue.

The only way one can fully understand what they mean is to realize, spoken together, they are redundant. They have become the Tao or the Two Truths (which are really One). The very fact that we must still refer to something called “sacred activism” is testament to how far we have yet to go in eliminating the artificial boundary between the realities they embody together.

How can true activism, the pursuit of justice, not be rooted in a sacred unity of self, other and earth? How can sacred practices, seeking and restoring that Unity, not become the pursuit of justice? How can spiritual practice not also become the soul of activism? This is an evolution. Living your activism becomes the materialization of your practice. There is no longer any way to leave the cushion, the ritual, the river of shamanic consciousness behind. Nor is there any way to say that unleashing the colonized and controlled rivers of my consciousness and continuously informing and purifying my intentions is not the pursuit of justice. There is no other way. We can no longer even speak of activism without understanding that now the only true activism arises from the sacred heart of the earth, the soul of nature, the consciousness of the planet as Self, acting within the ethos of trans-corporeality, the only matrix in which we have ever lived.

The cognitive discontinuity introduced during the Neolithic was the beginning of straightening the channels of our perception and… placing the dams of hierarchical thought along these new, linear constrictions. The monoliths of politics, economics, organized religion and warfare were imbedded in these straightened channels to control the flow even further. Perceptual stagnation set in – not only unnoticed for what it was, but pursued as a charismatic ideal of perfection – becoming the sine qua non of the human species….Awareness had been civilized…The rivers [of perception] had been channeled, the flow multiply dammed.

The celebration of pluralities, the seeing of one/ness in all/ness and all/ness in one/ness, and the renewal of ex-stasis intrinsic to the previous two hundred thousand years of human cognition was deemed unnecessary. What was necessary was to straighten ever more cognitive channels, build more cognitive dams. Those populations of humans who persisted in the primal, unregulated cycle of cognition and ecstasy were driven out, marginalized or killed.

John Salskov-Iverson

The evolution parallel to a personal experience of overflowing the artificial channeling of cognition is in transforming the collective dynamics of this journey into wholeness. The agency we have imagined as humans, manifest in a broken relationship with the natural world, is a false version of our true condition.

In increasing numbers and in diverse places, this awakening is propagating itself, manifesting personal versions of an incipient mass spiritual breakthrough. We are igniting nothing less than global shamanic network–prophesied by Tibetan Bonpo shamans–by manifesting the true meaning of sacred activism, exhibiting conscious attention in ways that dissolve the collective mind control we call the liberal order of the Western world.

We are bringing the dervish mentality, the Shambhala warrior mentality–the energy of transformation, making peace with the demons inside while curing instead of killing outside, taking the cushion with them into every “being” while turning every moment on the cushion into “doing” justice. The tools of the true sacred justice warrior are, as Andrew Harvey would say, none other than those of the divine Shakti goddesses of Hinduism: Kali, the Dancer of destruction; Parvati, the messenger of love and devotion; Durga the Invincible; and Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity who restores us to the true  source of all bounty, the earth itself.

To channel energies such as these is to learn to stand in the eye of the storm, surrounded by profound spiritual and moral corruption, economic and ecological injustice with unwavering courage and integrity, attending in every moment to what is dying, performing mass healing ceremony, restoring eco-guardianship with unyielding dignity, fueled by illuminated compassion.

The place where life and death meet. The sky is always becoming the ocean. The ocean is always becoming the sky. We are always losing what we wish to hold onto. Yet we are always gaining the rewards of losing, too. And in that way, we are always discovering the secret of life and death, which is that love is always and forever the place where life and death meet.

Umar Haque

Wages for Facebook?

This page, Wages for Facebook, appeared in my feed the other day. Strange. Besides being entirely anonymous, no links, no credits, nothing to indicate its source, in blaring all-caps, it gives the reader less freedom from information than Facebook itself, scrolling away beyond my control, feeding me the prescribed dose of rhetoric embedded hip deep in rigid ideology. Is it art? Or what?

Turns out this scrolling iPad page was part of an art exhibit at UC-San Diego, an installation called How Are We Feeling Today  mounted in part by Lauren Ptak, a curator and faculty member at Parsons. She had been incubating it for a year, discussing it with students. After all that effort, how did she manage to be so off target?

OK. So the concept is interesting. What Facebook is extracting from us is unpaid labor. And we should be compensated. Marxism 101. It’s unclear whether she expects actual payment, merely a change in consciousness or some in-kind contribution.

What this polemic gets wrong is 1) the presumption that we have no choice and 2) that being surveilled is equivalent to unpaid labor. Perhaps, yes, we were duped to believe that signing on (clocking in?) meant we would get something of value in return, something more than friends and likes and community, the chance to create a personal “brand” or gain a following.

Well, yes, we do get something in return, but it’s not necessarily so obvious what that is, especially if all we do is hang out in a limited circle of intermittent activity and believe it’s all about “social presence.” In time, however, it has become increasingly clear what we are getting in return. What we are getting is distorted, bizarre, violent, myth-busting and soul-gutting. Ptak suggests we come to our senses and demand something more real in return, like….what, money?

What we are getting is hollowed out. Facebook has become an open-pit mine, an offshore oil-rig, a clear-cut forest. Our interiors, our sacred internal wilderness, is being harvested and sold off just as surely as Utah’s Grand Escalante is being cut up for oil leases. And the worst part of it is that we are doing this willingly. If what we give Facebook is labor, then we are all unpaid sub-contractors….the new gig economy, with no benefits.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE THAT WHEN WE SPEAK OF FACEBOOK WE ARE NOT SPEAKING OF A JOB AS OTHER JOBS, BUT WE ARE SPEAKING OF THE MOST PERVASIVE MANIPULATION, THE MOST SUBTLE AND MYSTIFIED VIOLENCE THAT CAPITALISM HAS RECENTLY PERPETRATED AGAINST US.

In a normal world and in micro circumstances, it might have been true and acceptable that Facebook is selling a chance to be seen and possibly create community. Maybe it even started with that lofty intention and looked that way for some years. But then something happened. It’s still a space in which advocacy can flourish (if not immediately smothered by trolls and bots), but since it went public, it became the toy of venture capitalists and the revenue mechanisms (algorithms to harvest your personal information) became ever more precise and surgically invasive, bulldozing everything in their way.

Now is not normal. Facebook has become both one of the reasons now is not normal and the perfect reflection of that abnormality. Facebook is no more normal than the culture in which it is immersed and reflects/exhibits all the aberrations we now see everywhere we look, including and especially the cracking of the social order. Thanks to Trump, the corporate state and an irresponsible media, the socio-political space is fast becoming a playground for the rich with no rules and no ethical boundaries. Who benefits from that?

OK, there is a certain “aha” about this polemic. But it’s stuck in the perception that we are workers and that our participation and value is “labor.” Something crucial is being missed here. To Facebook we are not labor. What is being extracted from us has no value until it is repackaged and sold back to us. And if this factor/perspective is fully considered, it forces a redefinition of what Ptak means when she says “wages.”

That missing view is extractive capitalism, which, as we see everywhere, always externalizes as much of the real costs of extraction as possible. The “cost” to me and to the culture (that Facebook is not paying) of my participation in Facebook and Facebook’s continued success in convincing me that it’s something I need, is incalculable, particularly now as “news” is weaponized, as “truth,” the 4th Amendment and democracy circle the drain. Ptak makes no reference to this view. The only figure associated with the art installation at UC-San Diego who mentions extraction is the curator herself, Michelle Hyun.

If I, a sentient being, were to attempt a calculation of the cost to me and to the larger culture perpetrated by the extraction of my personal preferences for anything, the cost that is being externalized, massaged, traded and sold back to me, even if it could be calculated and returned as compensation, will never right the socio-political ecosystem because those wages do not address or promote any recovery from what Facebook takes.

To suggest that the true cost to me of the extraction and trading of my personal preferences can be equalized in the form of some imaginary direct payment, as wagesforfacebook suggests, would indeed be a hit to Facebook’s bottom line. A truer representation of a “repayment” for trading in my personal information would be some as yet undefined reparation–such as agency, for example–that could RESTORE what has been lost, rebuild what is broken, which is not material and cannot be converted into money. The agency of a clearcut forest cannot be restored by showering it with money, any more than the social contract or ethical standards or responsible governance can be restored the same way. Democracy cannot be rebuilt from the ground up by handing out money or merely by declining to be someone else’s strip mine.

If FB were to survive in an enlightened world, it would have to replow its profits into the promotion of restorative cultural activity that would be completely free of, and an antidote to, the primary extractive nature of its business model: a new economy– which is a reference to the original meaning of the word economy, oikos, care of the home. In other words, Facebook would have to be directly undermining its own business model with one hand while harvesting your personal data with the other. How likely is that?

But in this sense, Facebook is no different from CNN in that it has abdicated a crucial responsibility of journalism and offloaded the task (and cost) of differentiating between truth and falsehood to the viewer. It is no different from Exxon-Mobil in the sense that it has many corporate faces and stories, ones that play to the masses, others that play to investors and still others that play to legislators. As long as the externalized costs continue, a corporate system that knows no national boundaries, has no allegiance to anything but profit and remains rigidly opaque is not taking care of the planet or the culture.

They are extracting an immeasurably valuable resource, exploiting it, trading in it, and dumping the consequences on someone else. This will continue until there is nothing left to take, unless we do something about it. Like, for starters, ending online anonymity, restoring and preserving actual privacy controls, permitting a complete opt-out of personal data sharing, fostering true competition in social media and bringing transparency and regulation to the data traders.

 

So…So You Think You Can Tell

Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell?

 Everything changes….and there is no end. Everything seems to have a beginning, a middle and an end. But the end? An illusion. Sure, we are created, grow, mature, decline and die. No exceptions. The cycle is repeated in every life form, every material creation, everywhere in the physical world. Ideas, social movements, artistic expression are all born, develop and morph into maturity and decline, ever to be overtaken by something new. Nothing endures. Only the form and the venue change. What exists now could not be possible without all that came before.

It is, no doubt, these realities of life that spur our view of heaven, the nature of human existence, of ultimate fruition or any other supra-mundane vision. Human frailty is another matter. From the narrowest view of our individual (and separate) lives, we have all suffered (or will suffer) in some way, more or less. There is no such thing as perfection. No one is severed from the network of relationship, from the infinite ongoing web of events. Within that matrix, we are forever exploring and seeking a novel expression of human potential.

At the collective level, our magnificence and flaws are all amplified. We are violent, messy, conflicted, paradoxical, and interminably so–which stimulates curiosity and inquiry and reasoning, psychological and social theory and experimentation and testing and innumerable forms of remedy for imperfection and suffering.

Conventional wisdom, including prevailing spiritual wisdom, refers to healing as if it might represent resolution, completion. We even speak of enlightenment, like all other aspects of life, as a developmental process that has a beginning, a middle and an end. What is that end?–presumably eternal unchanging omniscient bliss. We talk about personal and collective spiritual evolution as an ongoing linear process happening for each individual and for the collective as a whole, leading to “higher” consciousness, which, in the language of integral dynamics, transcends and includes all previous levels of attainment.

This process is not described as one that is never completed. Rather, with the proper intention and discipline, the right effort, the right teachers, the right view and given enough time, something is achieved in a distant future; namely, the cessation of the cycle of beginning, middle and end. To suggest that this bias may be false or doesn’t serve us would be to threaten the entire superstructure of personal-even collective-spiritual achievement.

To a large degree, the ideology of healing depends on the existence of a separate self and assumes that a full cleansing and reintegration of every shred of separation from the core self can occur, that the unconscious can be plumbed, interpreted and redirected, that all “parts” are either fully discharged of their accumulated energy of dissociation or  whatever drives self-defeating behavior, whatever perpetuates suffering can be exhausted to the point at which the root of suffering itself, wanting things to stay the same, dissolves. That, after all, is the point of needing to choose between heaven and hell, between blue skies and pain, when actually, if we were really “here,” there would be no distinction between samsara and nirvana. They would be regarded as ultimately the same…and also as nothing whatsoever.

The path “to” enlightenment is different from one tradition to another and also within different Buddhist traditions. Some paths are all about the individual, as if everyone is on a solitary path. Others are about each individual realizing an intrinsic and unbreakable relationship with all beings such that their personal accomplishments are a contribution to the enlightenment of the whole and also derive from the actions and contributions of uncounted others.

Even in We-Space dialogue, the intention may be to access a moment of collective consciousness, whether through alignment or dissonance, and thereby advance the development of the whole. But we rarely imagine that the wounds of the individual cannot be “healed” until all wounds are healed.

And now it’s time to declare-via the Resonance Path Institute-that such wounds are themselves the fuel of connection itself. The healer is perpetually wounded, lives in and with the wound and never loses the perspective that the wound is the connection to all things, not a personal black hole, a soul-anchor drawing energy and light, the atomic dimension of being, one’s “freedom” into its deep invisible mass. It is a portal.

I cannot truly heal “myself” because, as we are coming to know more fully every day,  everything is a transpersonal phenomenon. What and who is being healed, however that may look to us on any given day, is greater than we know or imagine. We “know” this, but most of us still think and act as if it’s not so. What can be healed may feel like it has something to do with me-and it does-but it is also about relationship. What is made whole is not merely me, but also my relationship with the whole. What we call “healing” might be a new realization of continuity, an expanding complexity of relationship between the individual and the whole. And not solely to the intra-species whole, but to the full trans-species matrix of existence.

Healing is necessary for the evolution of consciousness and especially for an eventual resolution of all grasping, all unhealthy desire and aversion, all duality dissolving into the perfect unchanging non-dual bliss of absolute presence. But no one gets there alone. “My” problems will never be healed until all problems are healed. And for that matter, no collective problem can be isolated either. “You” are a flickering of my imagination. And in a trans-corporeal world of viscous porosities, the same could be said of “me.” We are all fully connected to the matrix. All wounds, the currency of our individuality, are portals to the network of collective consciousness…directly, without mediation.

Our hurts, our conditioning, the flawed beliefs that drive us, the sources of our dissonance, our reactivity, alienation and loss of agency are not what separate us from each other so much as the belief that they are ours alone to be suffered in silence or only to be shared with shame, regret or judgment. They are the essence of relationship. This idea pierces through the conditioning and the increasingly antiquated cultural ideology that says we are each alone in our dungeons of secret pain.

Whoever embodies this truth, who manages to be sufficiently present with whatever arises, as the Dzogchen teachers say, is then “spontaneously liberated.” There is no loss of feeling, and no lingering emotion remains to reinforce attachment to any remaining shred of embedded trauma, which means, again, awakening is not an isolated event, but instead is an expanding realization of connection with everything.

How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here. 

—–Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”             

 

 

 

 

 

The Abuser in Chief

Gallery

There have been recent developments in the case of a well known Tibetan Buddhist teacher accused of abusing his students over a long period of time. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse posted a substantial statement about this issue, going into detail about the … Continue reading

We Will Dance With Mountains III

Gallery

This gallery contains 1 photo.

After partaking of the first two in 2015 and 2016, I am about to enter the third iteration of a “writing” course with my Nigerian brother, Bayo Akomolafe.  He calls writing a “tool of emergence,” but for those of us fortunate … Continue reading

Be Here Now: The Future Depends On It

Gallery

What is the “present moment?” I assume most people have experienced something they would call a “present moment.” I know when I am there, or at least close, but planning on it is…well, a contradiction. We’ve all had experiences that … Continue reading

Night of the Racketeers

Gallery

I don’t know about you, but much of the time these days I am wading through the hip-deep mud that emanates from the White House. Leaping from the delirious unraveling going on, composting social and political structures and identities into … Continue reading

Living Myth, Scott Pruitt & Collective Action

Gallery

Amidst the continuing devolution of American political discourse into a hyperpartisan Tower of Babble, Michael Meade, in a podcast series called Living Myth, cuts through the rhetoric and superficial events to the heart of the matter. He reminds us that … Continue reading