Thursday, February 28, 2013

Contemplating the Fertile Ground of Politics

The doomsday clock clicks down, 3 days and counting. On Friday, March 1st the U.S. government will begin to cut federal spending, bluntly slicing programs affecting nearly every citizen in some way or another. The coming sequestration fills me with anxiety and angst from so many perspectives, and so provides fertile ground for practicing the dance of grasp and release, of desire and being.

            I work seasonally with the National Park Service, as do nearly 39% of its’ employees. The running joke we share when starting a day of work, invariably starring across some beautiful landscape, is “just another day at the office”. It hints at the reality of my work. I work in America’s playgrounds. Collectively these national treasures stand to loose $183 million in federal spending if our congress continues its hands off approach to doing their job. It’s been three years since they last passed a budget. But lest I digress and follow that tug…

            Our Parks are not merely playgrounds. They act as a respite and sanctuary for a city weary and nature-deficient America.  When the hordes descend on Memorial Day, some in the park service adopt an air of cynicism, but most of us see the deeper message. People yearn for a re-connect, to feel bare earth, to soak in cold streams, and for just a minute to close their eyes, move beyond themselves and experience truly awe inspiring creation. I love being a caretaker for the places that give us back our human perspective. Come Friday, thousands of jobs like mine will disappear.

            That is the grasp, and now the release.

Along with the nonsensical cuts to programs that feed our kids, house the needy, fund science and spur innovation, the vast majority of the federal spending cuts will be born by the Department of Defense. As a nation we are addicted to violence and these cuts were purposefully structured to scare a congress to compromise, to talk… and actually listen to each other. No congressman (or woman) wants to loose Defense dollars for their district. It’s un-American. And here I see a silver lining in the coming torrent. Could this be start, just a small unavoidable start to really beginning a conversation about America’s addiction to violence and war? Could these budget cuts mean that we actually have to rethink the ease with which we start a war, drop a bomb and hold ever so tightly to our guns, to the idea of control? Could this mean one less morally justifiable drone strike on collateral kids. If so, I’m in.

It seems a rather strange choice though.

            Which leaves me with desire and being. I wish for a world where these artificial choices don’t leave me struggling with a cognitive dissonance, struggling with a sane place to rest my mind and sit. I desire a world where we replace the uniform of aggression with one of stewardship. I desire a country that treasures its’ common spaces and natural wonders, within everyone of us, as well as those on the outside. The ones we call national parks and natural treasures.

            So Friday will come and this is where I have found myself to BE. I hope over the next year everyone gets out to enjoy our parks, to our forests, mountains, deserts and beaches. Go recharge and explore and take a minute to breathe, IT in. I really hope to see you there, SERIOUSLY! But if perchance I don’t, I hope, bow and sit for the silver lining.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Leaning Through My Wall

 I frequently find myself struggling with the chasm between how things are and how I want them to be. Right now it’s appearing in relationships, waiting for the perfect job, wanting more security in finances, and the little gnome on my shoulder incessantly whispering self-doubts. Sound familiar?  But this letter is about struggling with a relationship, and the insanity of continually banging my head.
A few nights ago this poem came in my dreams.  It’s a work in progress, but this is what crept in, at 5:14.

“This is a brick wall.
Though highly useful
in segmenting
what’s mine from yours,
it’s not a soft feather
nor a sandy beach.

Physics says
it’s mostly space.
And ever useful
as a slate
to write the future.
It’s effect is
I’ll save my head the pain”

I think it was a prologue to another early morning missive from two years ago.

“straight lines
rarely show
in a natural land.
Bend your mind”

This morning I was taken back to teachings from my childhood, the Bible’s book of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7, known as the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus asks that we love our enemies. That we judge not, that we remove the sliver from our own eye, and I think most importantly, that when struck, we turn the other cheek. Basically the sermon is the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have done unto you.
            It finally dawned, through personal test, that these truths are not for the benefit of others per se but as a way to experience first hand the transformative power of compassion in action.  Removing the brick walls as a form of Maitri. An unconditional love and friendship, starting from within, and from there opening to the world.
            As I resist the nature of a situation, I am a mason, laying row after row of brick on which to hang mirrors for projection. If ones’ intent is to “push against”, then walls are a must. But when I respond to that anxious space, that pain, by turning the other cheek, I remove myself altogether from the karmic dance. It’s a way to “lean in”, as Pema Chodron would say. With the wall gone, there is nothing left to push against, and space opens up for something new. A new space for myself.
            Today I know that trying to live the golden rule is like yoga for my heart, bending and stretching me beyond comfort, beyond myself. It takes my love to the edge, where we meet, and smile.

02/10/13 c