You arrived here just after a meeting that really was a profound meeting. The "who" is not so important in the kind of way we usually talk about who…their titles and all that. What’s more important is who was there symbolically and who each of the nine people present brought there symbolically, who they brought there in terms of their lineage, who they brought there and represented in terms of their ancestors. What is particularly important is how different we all were and how differently that conversation could have gone, given how different we all were, what different world views we walk through the world with: everything from raised-in-the-yacht-club to raised-in-the-Watts-club, if you would.
This is a meeting that I have had before, in fact many times. And when I say that, what I mean is that we had the kind of meeting in which people, often of color, come into a space in which people who often, not always, but often–in the imagination of our culture–have more power, more influence, more access, more more…and this usually contributes to getting more. And they’re often "doing" something, these people in power and in places of privilege and with lots of access. And too often, as we understand our history, their "doing" something is the other folks’ "undoing" in some way. In a way that has become just too familiar. So familiar, in fact, that we forget that it’s even happening on a daily basis.
So, we had this kind of situation where these folks–we’re not talking about evil oil barons–these are good-hearted people that do good things in the world and have really good intentions. They were doing something that we–people that don’t sit in that particular seat of privilege–could see as an undoing, even with their best intentions. And as often, actually too often, happens, eventually we were invited to participate in this doing.
These folks of less privilege, of less material privilege were invited to participate, meaning be interviewed, show up, have our brains picked, to be a part of this doing that was happening. And as not often enough happens, we refused to participate. We refused not from an angry place, not from a stance of resistance and opposition; we refused from a place seated deeply in love, and in compassion, and in a desire to not make choices that have impact, that do not reflect our true ways of walking in the world. So our response was to say, our words and our images cannot be taken out of context from our perspective. They can be, of course, but we won’t allow it.
Thus, it is important for us to understand and contribute to the context in which our words and images are offered to the world in whatever form this doing takes. And in an exceptionally rare case, these people sitting in seats of material privilege and access heard that response for what it was: an invitation. And they received that invitation by making their own invitation: to sit together, which happens even less often than any of the other things I’ve already spoken of.
I guess this talk is basically about things that happen too often and not often enough.
So of course, we all arrive with our good faces on, ’cause that’s what we do. Right? In these movements of change, we come in and we’ve got our best faces painted on to mask the fear and trepidation of the potential discord, to mask the tightness in the pit of our belly when we know that truth needs to be spoken and we’re not sure that a space is going to be there for it to be received well. We wear our good faces to mask our awareness of being on a side of things that is outrageously imbalanced, and to be able to sit in that place, face-to-face with the people that represent some of how that imbalance shows up, that represent peoples whose mere presence speaks volumes and years and decades and centuries to aggression and violence and theft and things that none of us should even be able to imagine.
And we all come together with the recognition that nobody won and that was what was most important. That there were no winners and losers in that picture. That there was an imbalance that expresses itself as a material imbalance, but that no one left that story–and this continued story–unwounded, unscathed. No one leaves on top. No one is better off because of this imbalance, because of these thefts of land, of people, of cultures–entire cultures–of rituals, of practice and sometimes even of souls. That the people that were stolen from are no more wounded than the people that stole was the foundation of the conversation that allowed it to have an outcome that’s even more rare than all of the other things.
Because in acknowledging that the wounds are widespread–no matter how insidiously our culture tries to get us to believe that some of us are more wounded, that some of us are greater victims–we can see through that lie, through that myth, while acknowledging the relativistic view of imbalance of power; of access; of privilege; the consequence of the construct of whiteness in this culture; the construct of privilege in this culture; the construct of what it means to have success in this culture. Because we were all willing to see through that with our hearts–the eyes are tricky, tricky, tricky–that we would see through this myth with our heart, enabled us to sit in a field of love. And when we sit in this field of love, we create containers that are grounded in the truth that only love can allow to be expressed. Does that make sense? Only love can allow truth to be expressed…and received.
When we cultivate these containers, we transcend–at least for this limited space and time–all of the boundaries, all of the imbalances, all of the dissonance, and we recognize, even if just for a moment, that we are confused about reality and thus speak it and create it in ways that are out of balance and relationship and alignment with our truest selves. And when we glimpse that: that it’s our confusion, not the reality, but our confusion that generates this perception, this misperception… we can see the possibility of bringing it back. And when we can see the possibility of bringing it back and can have our hearts and our will aligned in a way that accepts responsibility for that possibility, then we have probability.
And when we have probability that is grounded in love and truth, we are fortified with the deep awareness that we have everything we need to set this right again. We have everything we need to bring into perfect view what is called in the buddhist Heart Sutra, "our upside down topsy-turvy thinking."
We have everything we need.
And we look around the circle and there’s no more Watts clubs or yacht clubs. There’s no more whiteness and blackness. There’s no more connected to our lineage and disconnected from our lineage. We are the lineage. We are the lineage. We are the ancestors. We are the future. And we transcend all of our limited perceptions of space and time to connect deeply into that which we invariably stumble across and name Spirit. And we recognize that not a single one of us, not a single one of us has the right to refusal of the Call to be in that place of course-correction in whatever way we possibly can.
We don’t see it in the form of issues and politics and ‘what are we going to do about this or that’ first. We must first see it in the form of a revelation of our own divinity; we must first see it in the form of a realization that we have the right, each of us to, as my brother said in the circle: a clean heart and a clean mind. And it’s from that place that we’re endowed with the fierceness that let’s us stand in the fire of both truth and love, let’s us stand in the fire of truth and love, and not be afraid to be burned.
I mention this because it’s a practice. Just like the practice that each of you are engaging in here tonight. We take up the practice of being willing to stand in the fire. If we go and look for a cool spot, we’ve let ourselves down. And that’s not so bad, but look around you: you’ve let everyone in this room down; and look behind you: you’ve let all of your ancestors down; and look behind them: you’ve let all of their ancestors down; and if that’s not enough, look in front of you because you’ve let your grandchildren down.
It’s in this fire, truth and love…the truth that can only spring forth out of love. We think we get clever and we speak truth. There is no truth, if it does not come out of love. None. The only truth there is must necessarily come out of love. Not squishy appeasement, not fuzzy feel-goodness, not progressive-perkiness. Rooted, heartful, open, exposed, devastating, precise, unpredictable, messy, messy love.
And when you find yourself in your rich imagination of control, of "knowing something," of having ideas and concepts about how it all works that is not rooted in love, please remember that it is that mind-stuff that generated this misperception that we are all abiding in right now. That if you could make one incredible promise to yourself, it would be that you would stop and reflect on every word that you speak: Does this come from love? Does this action come from love? Does this actually come from love?
And if it doesn’t, take it back and burn it in the fire pit of your being and wait for that which shines forth as love. And in case it’s not clear: every single one of you came here knowing the difference.
This talk was given at the Center for Urban Peace on October 18, 2007 in Berkeley, CA the evening after a daylong meeting with three much-loved spirit brothers and the leadership of Pachamama Alliance. If any good at all comes of it, may that benefit be extended to ALL my relations.