Archives for category: Spiritual Journey

In a recent post, we spoke of an Earth-Rooted Practice, and the need to nurture it in these times. Such nurturing can be explored and experienced each day, each arriving and departure of sunlight and darkness. Our Earth-Spiriting grows as we are more deeply and directly aware of our bodies, the energies within us, and their connection to the ground under us. Most primally, through our breath, our bones, and our feet!

All spiritual practice begins, ends, and is sustained with Breath. Attentiveness to breath; the flow of breath; the quality and depth of breath. As we breathe deeply and naturally, allowing the breath to fill our lungs and touch the diaphragm at the bottom of each lung, we also connect with the energy of Earth flowing into us. Breath is not simply Wind or Air; as we grow in our awareness of ourselves as Earth-lings, we taste our breath as the wind moving through trees and mountain passes; over rocks and oceans, sand and broad grass-filled plains. As the breath moves over the Earth, it courses into us, We Earthlings. Savoring our breath, we can grow more aware of where the Wind has been on its way to us, and what it brings to us from its journey over Our Earth. Breathing, Earth attentive, we become more rooted in the Earth, more sensitive to our path upon Her.

Continuing to breathe, always watching and noting the breath, we also become aware of our Bones. As our breath courses through our body, we can sense each set of bones, allowing our breath to caress the bones in our mind’s eye: feet, ankles, shins; knees, thighs, hips; ribs, arms, shoulders; neck, chin, head. Carefully noting our bones and their arrangement, we sense how our bones are a strong and solid foundation, the frame of our manifested being. Just as Earth is a strong and solid foundation, the spherical orb spinning through space on which we dwell. As live in our bodies, are alive from our in- and out-flowing breath, we also caress and celebrate our wondrous bones, their marvelous movements, occurring so regularly yet miraculously. Breath, bones: living on Earth, we breathe, and are blessed with greater attunement to our own Sacred Presence.

Our feet are special bones, special flesh. Nails on toes; heels and instep; shaped just so, to hold us when we stand, steady us when we sit, balance us when we lie down. We travel over the earth by the movement of our feet. Lines from songs and poems note this: “Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walkin’ out the door!;” “a journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.” “Every step you take, every move you make.” All of our travels, indoors and out, into and out of vehicles and buildings, workplaces and homes, kitchens and washing places and bedrooms; all of it is done by our feet. Our feet, our body’s roots, connect us to the Earth as we move over her. Our feet, our body’s roots, bless our body with balance in our actions and our stillnesses, our going forth and returning. Whenever we breathe, and are aware of our breath and our bones, we can be especially aware of our feet. Our two roots, bone and flesh: by which and upon which we make our Way over the Earth.

Our lives are lived upon Earth. We make our Way upon the Earth. Speaking or silent, active or quiet, we are always breathing, always kept strong by our bones, always traveling on our feet. May we continue to grow in awareness of our Deep Roots in the Earth, as we sense our breath, our bones, our feet.


The English language is a unique phenomenon. The same word, “refrain,” functions as both a verb and a noun. First, a reflection on my act of “refraining.”

It has been a long time since I reflected fully on the spiritual nature of external events. It has been a full year since the high tide of the Sanders Movement in the US, and its challenge to the corporate corruption of the allegedly progressive Democratic Party. It has been a full year since the conquest of the Party of Bush and Ryan by “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” It has been a very long season of shocks, disturbances, and circus performances in the public sphere, which continue unabated.

But the sheer idiocy and oddity of so many recent events has kept me from responding. Each odd, weird, violent, and vicious event from apparent centers of power, and in constructed media images of public insanity, has led me to refrain: to forebear, to desist, to hold back. Until now.

Over the past few days, in the US, the harvest of much of what has occurred over the past season (year, decade, generation) has come to fruition. Nazis, Klansmen, and bigots walk openly in the street, and one of their denizens commits murder with an automobile. But even this is only one fragment of a more comprehensive spiritual phenomenon: the fruitfulness of America’s deep, abiding, and long-rooted racism and white supremacy. What some might have called “only a sick ideology,” kept in the dark or the shadows of polite or public discourse, has now danced, celebrating itself in the daylight. And it has done so, because it has never been absent. Present at the nation’s creation, and before then in the practices of Europe’s ever-warring tribes, it now stands in the nation’s public square, proud, ugly, and unashamed.

But this is only a symptom. The pervasiveness of the poison has led me to refrain, to desist, to hold back. Until now.

And as I no longer refrain from reflecting and responding, at the spiritual level, to a spiritual energy of great age and fresh toxicity, I offer a Refrain. Refrain as Noun, emerging from refraining as verb.

We have the Power Within us, to transform and share the world. In ourselves, and in One Another.

Two recent events show that Spirit-Power overcomes Bullet Power and Money Power and Oppression Power. More recently, the struggle at the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram as-Sharif, Bayt al-Maqdis) by the entire Palestinian population of Jerusalem showed that the power of PRAYER was stronger than Zionist guns, rules, technology, and restrictions. Israel shut down access to the mosque complex entirely on July 14, 2017, and then installed extensive “security equipment,” including gates, metal detectors, and surveillance cameras. Palestinian resistance began almost immediately, as Ramzy Baroud describes:

“The people of Jerusalem immediately understood the implication of the Israeli action. In the name of added security measures, the Israeli government was exploiting the situation to change the status of Al-Aqsa, as part of its efforts to further isolate Palestinians and Judaize the illegally occupied city.”

But the unified people of the Holy City, Christian and Muslim together, refused to submit to this calculated cruel maneuver. Instead, they refused to enter the compound when the oppressive measures were in place. The Occupier responded with force, many clashes ensued, and media distortions of the situation were proclaimed as “truth.” But by gathering, day after day, to pray at the gates of the mosque, in a popular uprising which did not need, and thoroughly embarrassed, the formal Palestinian political leadership class, the People showed the world, and themselves, that Spirit and Unity overcome every apparently triumphant power. The gates and metal detectors were removed. Baroud again describes this well:

“This grassroot movement was made of thousands of women, men and children. They included Zeina Amro, who cooked daily for those who held steadfast outside the compound, was shot by a rubber bullet in the head, yet returned to urge the men to stand their ground the following day. It also includes the child Yousef Sakafi, whose chores included splashing water over people as they sat endless hours under the unforgiving sun, refusing to move. It also includes many Palestinian Christians who came to pray with their Muslim brethren. Conveying the scene from Jerusalem, television news footage and newspaper photos showed massive crowds of people, standing, sitting, praying or running in disarray among bullets, sound bombs and gas canisters. But the crowds are made up of individuals, the likes of Zeina, Yousef and many more, all driven by their insistence to face injustice with their bare chests in an inspiring display of human tenacity.”

This is more than a political action. It is a spiritual achievement. A witness to the Collective Human Soul. And a sign to all who have eyes to see. In a situation where justice appears impossible, utterly beyond reach, always crushed, this movement of steadfast presence and prayer in the face of bayonets, bars, and bullets shows us the Real Truth. A Refrain.

We have the Power Within Us, to transform and share the world. In ourselves, and in One Another.

Here in the US, the long struggle at Standing Rock revealed the same sign. Begun by the youth of an apparently weak and powerless fragment of a Native American “tribe,” a movement grew into a network of global solidarity, in which indigenous people from across the Entire Earth gathered to pray, sing, build community, live together, resist the power of banks and bombs — all with the power of their bodies and their spirits. No weapons of force or fury were ever used — or needed. Instead, the Movement of the Spirit, drawing Native peoples, and those who chose to stand with them into a web of Power that is stronger than any Pipeline or Oil Extracting Technology. The powers of the State and their cohorts exhibited great fear, responding to this Gathering of Spirit, Peace, and People-Power with surveillance, disruption, and eventual forced removal. But the actions of wise and awakening people continues. And the Spirit-Power exhibited at Standing Rock, though wondrous in itself, is most important as a sign. A sign for how the Unseen Creative Energy which fills the Universe and makes all Creation sing, even the rocks, rivers, and trees, is at work. The Spirit is creating the New World, Coming, which we all desire, and which cannot be stopped. A Refrain.

We have the Power Within Us, to transform and share the world. In ourselves, and in One Another.

How shall we actualize these signs, from Palestine and the Dakotas, singing from the Whole Earth and all its peoples? In ourselves?

Foremost, our spiritual practice must be grounded and rooted in the Earth. In our meditations and daily rounds, let us maintain awareness of the Earth which makes up the substance of our bodies. When we breathe, in and out, let us notice always that our bones and flesh and all that we are is Earth. That we come from Her, and return to Her. As we sit and walk and stand on the Earth, and breathe, we grow in awareness of Her under us, and within us. As we allow ourselves, sitting and contemplating the reality within, we can also sense the energy, the frequency, the electromagnetic charge, of Our Mother who nurtures us. Allow the energy she exudes to flow into you. She will add to your Power, and the Blessings you receive! And as you nurture this Earth-Energy-Awareness each day, your connection to her, and to all who live and walk upon her, will expand. In all we do for the transformation of the Earth, away from current destructive ways into loving and nurturing ways of living, She will guide us, and be in us with greater Power, as we access and receive her power in our own practices.

In addition, each place we ARE on the Earth, the locations where we live, will also empower us. Ocean coastlines, deserts, river valleys, forests, mountains, plains: each of these has a distinct pulse and presence, an energy force, which it exudes forth constantly, flowing into those who dwell at each location. The ions of moving water, of rocks and sand and soil, of animals and plants and other humans of all tongues and hues: each offers a blessing of spiritual energy, which becomes part of us and our Journey as we live and work and rise and lie down where we ARE on the face of the Earth — where we ARE, on and with our Mother; Terra; Pancha Mama; Gaia; She of Many Names, the One Spherical Spinning Life-Presence on Whom We Dwell.

Finally, the Spirits of our Ancestors, and where they have lived, also pulses in us, and guides and empowers us, in these days. As we remember and savor the seeds from which we have come, from whatever continent (many of us have forebears from multiple Earth-places), their spirits live in us and through us. Meditation times can be spent contemplating and connecting with the spirits of those who went before, and are ever-present. We need only call on them, and they live in us, bringing their Earth-Place-Energy to assist us in our own walks and ways upon the soils we tread.

There is a Refrain:

We have the Power Within Us, to transform and share the world. In ourselves, and in One Another.

We have it! We call on Spirit-Power! Whatever apparent illness or limitation we face, our every breath, thousand of times each day, receives the Spirit-Power and returns it to the One who sends it. The Power of Creativity, of Unity, of Love, of Freedom, is the Power of the Spirit which moves, and gives us sweet rest. Savor it. Stand in it. Breathe it. And Celebrate it! We are in and with and of the Earth, Our Mother, of Many Names.

Before I begin this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.
I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S., and throughout the world.
And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence… for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation. Six months of silence… for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result
of a 12-year U.S. embargo against the country.
…And now, the drums of war beat again.
Before I begin this poem, two months of silence… for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, where “homeland security” made them aliens in their own country
Nine months of silence… for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin, and the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence… for the millions of dead in Viet Nam­—a people, not a war—for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
Two months of silence… for the decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.
Before I begin this poem,
Seven days of silence… for El Salvador
A day of silence… for Nicaragua
Five days of silence… for the Guatemaltecos
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence… for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas…
1,933 miles of silence… for every desperate body
That burns in the desert sun
Drowned in swollen rivers at the pearly gates to the Empire’s underbelly,
A gaping wound sutured shut by razor wire and corrugated steel.
25 years of silence… for the millions of Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
For those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees
In the south… the north… the east… the west…
There will be no dna testing or dental records to identify their remains.
100 years of silence… for the hundreds of millions of indigenous people
From this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness…
From somewhere within the pillars of power
You open your mouths to invoke a moment of our silence
And we are all left speechless,
Our tongues snatched from our mouths,
Our eyes stapled shut.
A moment of silence,
And the poets are laid to rest,
The drums disintegrate into dust.
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence…
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been.
…Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem…
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th 1973 poem for Chile.
This is a September 12th 1977 poem for Steven Biko in South Africa.
This is a September 13th 1971 poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York.
This is a September 14th 1992 poem for the people of Somalia.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground amidst the ashes of amnesia.
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told,
The 110 stories that history uprooted from its textbooks
The 110 stories that that cnn, bbc, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.
This is not a peace poem,
Not a poem for forgiveness.
This is a justice poem,
A poem for never forgetting.
This is a poem to remind us
That all that glitters
Might just be broken glass.
And still you want a moment of silence for the dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves,
The lost languages,
The uprooted trees and histories,
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children…
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
So if you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines, the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights
Delete the e-mails and instant messages
Derail the trains, ground the planes.
If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses
and the Playboys.
If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July,
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale,
The next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful brown people have gathered.
You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
Take it all.
But don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.
And we,
We will keep right on singing
For our dead.
-Emmanuel Ortiz

A poem has emerged in the past few days, in the wake of meditation and inward gazing and listening. Here it is!:

Deep pool, rich, surface trembling, yet undisturbed.
Within a cavern. Slight light, from distant moon and stars above the surface.
Deepest Dark Center, with a cord, a root,
Extending far below, deeper within than can be consciously known or seen.

Beautiful Darkness, rich gentle comforting waters,
Waters, extending far down in the space between the moist rock walls.
Waters, much arises from the depths.
Dredging up, calling, listening, receiving

Journeys over the Earth. From dwelling to dwelling.
Wanting to settle, desiring and sensing MORE.

The Cord-Root deep within, reaching the riches far below,
Connecting to the Path Ahead.
Energizing and Light for the Way.
Darkness and Light as One.

Today, unexpectedly, yet in an oddly familiar way, I have felt called, quite deeply, to solitude, to quiet, to stillness, to purposely NOT “staying busy.” And this is in keeping with today being a Saturday — yet a very distinctive, special one.

In the calendar of the Christian Year, this is “Holy Saturday.” The day between Good Friday, when a momentous death occurs, and Easter Sunday, when a momentous New Life begins. I’ve always been attracted to this Day, without really knowing or being able to explain why. Something about contemplating the space and time between death and life, perhaps. Or, a strange gap, a bizarre waiting, a necessary but unnerving delay. Something happens — but nothing like what happens the day before or the day after. Just waiting, a “between time.”

All Saturdays are like this, in a way, at least in the culture I have inhabited all of this lifetime. Monday – Friday is the work or school week. Saturday and Sunday are “the weekend.” But Friday is a special day in the “regular week”: it’s the last day of work, and the first day of relaxing, releasing, changing one’s orientation — and in earlier seasons of my life, a Great Party Day! Sunday, too, is a special day in “the weekend”: it is already an anticipation of the “week to come.” And officially, it begins the New Week. So Saturday is always a “between time,” a special day.

This Saturday, though, feels quite different. Something especially tender about it. Certain “regular Saturday things” have already happened: tasks, errands, a different time to awaken from bed than on other days, etc. But Today seems sacred, tender, a comforting open space. I don’t have the same relation to this day as a “Christian Day” that I used to. In fact, it feels more sacred for being “less official,” less purposely important.

Even though there is “plenty to do,” all of it can wait. All that needs to be done, will be done. This Special Saturday, there is something remarkably resonant in the passing hours: the in-between, the waiting, the stillness, the silence. As is often the case in a sacred journey, NOT doing, NOT going anywhere (in particular), staying quiet and still, is the best way to proceed. Finding beauty in “simply being.” And allowing the beauty which is present to be more prominent to awareness and attention (sunlight shifting as the sun heads towards its setting; bird songs of various tunes proclaimed from nearby trees throughout the day; the occasional hiss of tires passing on the often-quiet street; sensing one’s breath, sweetly and silently; the pleasant sensation of smiling, and knowing happiness which is rich and ultimately indescribable . . .).

This is a Special Saturday. May we savor each Saturday that brings us such sweet stillness, and enjoy the gap, the beautiful in-between day. A Sacred and Special Time.

Some engage in spiritual work for greater personal growth. Some seek “inner peace” through spiritual practice, hoping to experience a calmer and more relaxed pace in life. Others search for clarity, balance, self-knowledge, or enhanced skills. Still others walk the paths of the Spirit because they have already attempted to travel other roads, and found them wanting.

However, whatever our motivation for setting out on the terrain of the Spirit, we always find great blessings from this endeavor. If there were no results from this practice of watching the breath, being attentive to our bodies, examining and polishing our minds, exploring inner realities, the deep and true aspects of ourselves – our souls – we simply would not bother. But all who enter the spiritual realms know: we experience wondrous things and taste of sweet fruits, beyond what words can describe or express.

Each person who journeys inward, and is thereby able to discern and act wisely in the outer world, receives their own special gifts. Each can testify to their own unique learnings and insights, growth and expansion. And each soul, as it travels the Spiritual Road, unfolds its own qualities and character, its own beauty and truth. The early Christian writer Paul sets out what he thinks the Spirit provides: “love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). However, though many of us have received these things, we each receive something unique and different.

In our time, however, I have found that, whatever else we receive from the Spirit when we seek it, explore it, and grow from it, we receive POWER. And this is the Spirit’s most valuable gift!

As the outer world’s forms shift, break, and disappear; as what we see and experience is transformed, re-formed, and constantly altered, many of us may feel confused, disoriented, uprooted – and even disempowered. Some may seek money, fame, or physical strength as forms of power; to express power, to maintain power. And though each of these is a kind of power, none is the deepest or truest power. All are fleeting. All are impermanent. All will fade.

The power of money DOES assist us – and in the current economic and cultural structures, it remains necessary. But money itself is only a sign, a marker, a humanly created instrument of exchanging items and measuring value. It is only as real as we believe it to be so, and only powerful when we operate according to its rules. Money has no power on its own, apart from what we give to it. Pieces of paper printed with green ink; circles of silver or copper-colored metal; sets of numbers in apparent accounts in supposed locations – these are cultural constructions, which can easily pass away – and they WILL pass away.

Fame: notoriety, “being seen,” being celebrated – all of us wish to be noticed, valued, and loved. But those who become “public figures,” and seem to influence others through their actions or speech: this, too, is an unspoken “cultural agreement” that people make with “the famous.” All human stars, whether stars of music, film, or some other aspect of mass media manufacture, are always fading stars. They rise into the firmament of fame – and begin their dissolution even before they are fully formed. Fame is an ephemeral power – it cannot stave off change, or loss, or shifts in circumstance. It is truly weak; a false pseudo-power, dying even before its birth.

Physical power — especially violent physical power — whether it comes from blows of the fists of one person to the body of another, or from weapons like swords, knifes, rifles, missiles, or bullets – or the threats to use them – this too is limited, though apparently effective. Physical strength can do great harm to bodies. And when it kills someone, its destructiveness causes great grief to those who love and cherish the one who dies. Physical strength can also do great good, when utilized to build, to defend, to create. But like fame and money, this form of power arises, and then falls away. As the Tao Te Ching teaches: “Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life. The hard and strong will fall. The soft and weak will overcome.”

All three forms of power – money, fame, and physical strength – are useful, when understood and exercised wisely. But they become weaknesses when they are the primary object of those who use them. They are mere things – they rise and fall, are born and die. They are derivative types of power. They are passing forms of the greatest power.

The greatest power is the Power that Creates, Upholds, and is ever Re-making the universe: All Life, All Physical Reality, All Things, All Unseen Energies. Love may be one of its manifestations, but in its essence, its truest existence, the Real Power is deeper by far than any one attribute or characteristic. It is deeper and stronger, more vast and intimate, even than Love.

It is ours. It is yours — and mine – and everyone’s. It belongs to each, and to all, and to none. It is always available. It costs no coin. It never fades. It has greater strength than bombs or bullets, fists or weapons. It is always available.

But how are we to reach it, to access it, to receive it, to shape it, to use it?

It is actually quite simple. As our previous posts have set out, especially “On Beginning” and “On Entering the Realms Within,” all we need is to breathe, become fully attentive to our bodies and surroundings, and then turn our gaze and our attention inward. Look to the place within which is aware of the rising and falling, the coming and going, of perceptions and thoughts. Allow images to arise from our imagination. And go to the source of the risings: the dark place within, the doorway to the Inward Universe. “Darkness within darkness, the gate to all mystery.” It is with us always, awake or asleep, conscious or distracted. It is the Primal Darkness, our own participation in the Unseen Presence. As the poet Rilke puts it:

“Darkness, my darkness, I stand here with you,
And everything passes outside.”

This Darkness, this Source, is the inner ocean from which all things come. Whenever we need power, let us turn to it, stand in it, rest in it, become and remain conscious of it. It is the source of dreams, the place of deep rest, of creativity and command. This is the Power that gives us all other powers.

Careful, consistent, and courageous spiritual practice brings us to the gates, and then the dwelling place, of this greatest of powers. In our inner journeying, we can converse with this power; listen to it; rest in its silent strength; receive its exquisite embrace. Returning to it, we will always discover something new from its depths and riches.

This Great Power will guide us in all our required tasks. Let us allow it to bring to form what we seek, what we need. Let us work with what surfaces from it. Let us claim its beauty. This is the power of the Creator, the Creative, the Creating – our Power, the Spirit’s greatest gift.

Basking in it, we are the Creators. We are the New World Coming. In us, the realm of blessing and beauty and bounty is awake, and alive, and active. “Be really whole, and all things will come to you.”

All of us can sense it.  We can sniff it in the breeze.  We can feel it in the altered ever-changing rhythms of existence; the stresses and overwhelming sweetness of daily living; in the bizarre weather of droughts and floods; in the toxic anxiety of unfulfillable expectations; in a corrupt culture and politics; in endemic violence against the vulnerable.  In an economic system driven by greed and apparently unaccountable executive criminality; in the lack of beauty in public spaces and places; in the transformation of things, people, and the Earth itself into allegedly quantifiable “money value” or “sales price;” all also know that something is deeply amiss.  This unjust decadent unsustainable system, this arrangement of seeming reality, cannot stand.  It is falling apart.  The sound of its crashing echoes in our ears, whether we are awake, sleeping, or dreaming.

Capitalism is ending.  This is not just an economic diagnosis.  It is a cultural and spiritual one.  The “way the world works” which emerged from European feudalism 500 years ago, conquered the world politically and culturally, and now claims to march everywhere triumphant, punishing attempts at democracy and solidarity, killing people of color in the US, Europe, and over the globe with systematic glee.  . . it is over.

Let us sing praises to the Spirits!  The Beast is mortally wounded!  It will not survive.  It is already doomed.  It knows its days are few.  Its violence and cruelty, in Charleston, Gaza, Greece, the Texas detention camps for “undocumented” families, the deaths of refugees from war on the waters of the Mediterranean; in the vast oceans of silent daily suffering; all these are certain signs of the weakness of this Destructive Way.  It is over.

Although the sense that we are in the midst of “the End of the Age” has been expressed in various ways for some time (including street preachers threatening with “Hell” all who refuse to join them in a narrow and fearful worldview), a few recent reflections on war, imperialism, and economics show clearly that all previous forms are unworkable; that the Empire is declining and decayed; that ideologies, whether religious or political, will not birth a New Way; that capitalism and violence are passing.

In “The Superpower Conundrum,” Tom Engelhardt reflects on the decline of the US as a great power.  Though it once held an invincible position as the capitalist victor after World War II, it is now in a faltering and uncertain position in what is often called a “multipolar world.”  With the advent of nuclear weapons, “total war” (as practiced in the 20th Century’s “world wars” by the capitalist powers) gave way to “limited war,” with the most powerful weapons becoming useless, since they would incinerate the world which the rulers wished to control.  Even the use of “surgical strikes” in the “War on Terror,” exemplified most of all by President Obama’s favorite weapon, the “Drone,” has not defeated the current demonized enemy, “the Terrorist,” but can only destroy, leaving more corpses of “collateral damage,” constantly producing more Terrorists.  Attempting to strike fear into those who would oppose being dominated has merely created more brutal forms of response (e.g. Nigeria’s Boko Haram or the infamous “ISIS” movement).  Weapons themselves are becoming useless; even as they become more sophisticated and destructive, they cannot accomplish their stated goal. They only express revenge.  Engelhardt concludes that “military power no longer seems to act as it once did on Planet Earth.  Under distinctly apocalyptic pressures, something seems to be breaking down, something seems to be fragmenting, and with that the familiar stories, familiar frameworks, for thinking about how our world works are losing their efficacy.  Decline may be in the American future, but on a planet pushed to extremes, don’t count on it taking place within the usual tale of the rise and fall of great powers or even superpowers. Something else is happening on Planet Earth. Be prepared.”

What does it mean, to be prepared to live as human beings, in a world where all that is familiar is passing away?

Vijay Prashad’s July 4 consideration of the current state of the “Global War on Terror” comes to a similar conclusion.  Though states can be destroyed (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Mali are current examples), “Global War” cannot build anything to replace what has been bombed and dismantled.  Even “great powers” like the US or Europe are unwilling to engage in unwinnable wars with soldiers and ships.  In situations of purposely constructed chaos, the most effective actors are NOT armies or navies of “legitimate governments,” but non-state militias like the Taliban and ISIS.  But even these provide no answer; they only offer the violence of revenge against the violence of bombs and missiles.  Neither imperialism nor religious sectarianism is workable.  A dead end has been reached.

So much for Violence, whether by States or “independent forces.” Though Violence can kill, brutalize, harm, and destroy, it cannot create.  Its power is limited, and ultimately ineffective.  War as an economic and political strategy, and the use of the barrel of a gun to express power, is fading.  The Beast is brutal, but its swords are the claws of a dying animal.

On the economic plane, some still see capitalism as the most dynamic, powerful, and adaptive system that has ever existed – and that it will continue to shift and create new forms of power and domination, even as old ones disappear or are themselves consumed by the all-consuming “Market.”  However, other writers, without discounting the current system’s power to produce immense pain and suffering, and without relying on blind or wishful hopes, are describing the current time as one of transformation and transition to “post-capitalist” human existence.  Arundhati Roy, novelist and chronicler of our current terrifying and empowering time, has carved a beautiful description of what we face and what is arising.  “The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.  Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Paul Mason, writing in The Guardian recently, notes that leftists and progressives once thought a frontal assault by an “armed working class” would overthrow capitalism and usher in a new age of freedom.  But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the betrayal of revolution’s promise in violence and state terror, and the apparent splintering of the human race into commodities by ever-expanding individualism and isolation, these older modes of understanding have proven untrustworthy or false. However, Mason sees capitalism being transformed from within, by its own developments and tendencies, rather than by being conquered by some direct attack.  Mason sees “post-capitalism” arising from three things, all related to the appearance of information technology.

(1) The line between work and free time is blurred, as automation and machines make production costs fall, the need for regularized schedules and in factories and offices fades, and the necessity of physical labor for survival decreases. (2) The amount of information increases as the Market seeks to set prices based on scarcity.  This contradiction means that the way “supply and demand” has produced “cost” and “value” in the past is no longer workable.  (3) Forms of “collaborative production” are arising spontaneously.  One example Mason cites is Wikipedia, which is run by volunteers for free and has effectively eliminated the “encyclopedia business” reduced advertisers revenue by billions of dollars per year.  Although Facebook and Amazon are monopolistic corporate forms of Internet-based business organization, cooperatives, time banks, and other forms of shared production and distribution (like Farmer’s Markets in CA!) are proliferating, successful, community-creating, and largely outside the dictates and power-processes of “the Market.”

The Market and its servants in Seats of Power still seem to hold sway, though, in the short term.  The recent suffocation of democracy in Greece and the ongoing murdering of black people in the US show that “the System” remains strong, oppressive, and murderous.  And despite widespread awareness that more militarism, more policing, and more austerity is a dead end, which cannot be maintained as a long-term mode of life, there seems to be, in the words of Reagan and Thatcher from a former time of shifts in power dynamics, “no alternative.”

Yet, we all know that the current arrangement of low wages and high debts for the many, coupled with increasing advantages for the powerful and well-connected, will not survive.  Ever-expanding profit and greater uncertainty leads to more burst bubbles, less stability, more disturbance.  And beneath it all, the Earth Herself is responding, calling all who tread on her soils, drink of her waters, and eat of her fruits to come to balance.  Or perish in the wake of floods, droughts, earthquakes, or other expressions of her anger.

Given this situation, when many must seek to survive by earning money at low-wage jobs and taking on debts, which only replicates ancient and false constructions of apparent power, we need to seek New Ways ahead.  But the road into the New World Coming has not been built, much less paved or made smooth or clear before us.  How are we to act, when we know the present is flawed in its cruelty and dissatisfaction, but the future is completely unknown and unknowable, and the path is not apparent?

The first step on the untrod path is to claim the Powers that we do have.  Our own bodies, minds, hearts, thoughts, and energy belong to US!  Though we must sell our skills and experiences as commodities in the “Labor Market” to produce the monetary resources for survival under current capitalist economic arrangements, our real value and worth is NOT based on aspects of ourselves that we can sell.  Rather, our True Worth is Infinite.  Our physical health is not beholden to a profit-seeking “health care insurance system.”  Rather, we are healthy when we make wise choices about food, physical activity, releasing stress, life-giving relationships, and solitude which renews.  The rhythm of our lives becomes the strong and steady music of inner and outer Power.  Whatever our current situation, we can build our own Power  with constancy and care, every rising and setting sun, every moon cycle, every season.  Our own lives belong to US, not anyone else, not any other power or person or institution.

As outer structures swiftly change and many dissipate or disappear, we can become Shape-Shifters in a world of incessant shifting.  Being flexible rather than fixed is essential.  Being unattached to particular forms, and watching what rises and falls, takes shape and passes away, we learn to discern ourselves, others, and arising opportunities for new forms of work and life.  We must be ready to adapt, rather than settle for or accept what IS.  And even if we wished a part of external life would last, it will not!  Change is constant, and its pace is always increasing.

As the stream of life flows by, we must be true to ourselves, our deepest desires and hopes, our thoughts and visions.  This is best cultivated, enriched, and manifested by engaging in creative outer life and a deeply engaged and exploratory inner life.  The Source for all things is Within Us.  Crafting a rhythm to our lives that uniquely balances quiet and sound, stillness and motion, exertion and rest, while being certain to turn our gaze inward to the terrain of Spirit and Soul, we find the best Way to continue our journeys fruitfully.  We can plumb the depths of our Inner World, bringing up riches to guide and empower us, while learning to WATCH the outer world, and respond to it wisely and well.  Some features of a wise person are perfectly described in the ancient-yet-timely lines of the Tao Te Ching:

Watchful, like people crossing a winter stream.  Alert, like those aware of danger.  Courteous, like visiting guests.  Yielding, like ice about to melt.  Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.  Hollow, like caves.  Opaque, like muddy pools.

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?  Who can remain still until the moment of action?

As the outer world, shifts, changes, disintegrates, and takes new forms, we must watch, be still, and move, all at the right time – which we will always sense rightly if we learn to discern, grow in patience, and respond from within.

Creativity, too, is absolutely necessary.  What we love to do, most of all, is create: to express ourselves truly, in whatever form or style best comes forth from us.  As capitalist systems of politics and culture destroy, we create – and are creating the post-capitalist world as we do so.  The less we participate in oppressive economic, political, and personal forms of domination, the less energy we give to the fading and dying ways which are unsustainable.  Giving time and energy to creative activities whenever possible, in ways most expressive of our ever-unfolding inner truths, in images and forms that arise from within us and our relationships, rather than being imposed by the outer worlds of marketing and advertising – this gives us joy, and is our contribution to the New World Coming.  It breathes as we breathe.  It takes form as we give it form.  Creating a culture of care and beauty, emerging from our Inner Power and not the fading powers of Money, Markets, and Weapons – this is our task in these days.

We must also collaborate with other Creators.  Those with whom we are meant to Co-Create will  appear for us.  Whether we create music, dance, healing, writing, acting, teaching, learning, or enterprises of shared work — all these forms and shapes of human expression are meant to be shared, not sold as commodities.  As we create, and continue to seek Inner Realms and find rest in Inner Quiet, the Spirits will provide Co-Workers with us and for us.

Finally, we must dare to imagine a different world.  And then proceed from vision to actualization!  Our imaginations arise from our dreams and visions, whether sleeping or waking.   As we act based on imagining the future rather than fearing it, our work and play, our loves and learnings, will bring the New World Coming into Being.  The path is not easy or obvious.  And yet, it rises up to meet us, becoming clearer as we take each step onward in time and space, inwardly and outwardly.  We need not fear the fading powers of the Old Ways.  The New Ways are already stronger.  They simply need nurturing.

Rhythms of Spirit-Practice, providing Power to Adapt, Shape-Shift, and Sustain.  Dreams becoming Visions Made Real.  Inner Exploration guiding Outer Discernment.  Learning and Teaching.  Sharing and Building.  Above all, Creating and Imagining.  Let us proceed!