In Memory of John Trudell (1946 – 2015)

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Indigenous activist, poet and writer John Trudell passed away last week on December 8, 2015. His voice will be missed around the world. I previously wrote about his courageous activism, encouraging us to act in non-cooperation with a capitalist system that is slowly killing the planet — and our humanity.

Once again, in my daily life practices I’m reminded of the truth that “we are energy” and where we put our energy really matters. If we want a better world, we have to put our energy behind that belief, whatever form it may take.

We may not want to believe it, but modern society as it stands today wants to disempower us as human beings, resplendent as it is with technological bread and circuses, and other forms of subtle and not-so-subtle social conditioning, expressed through our unsustainable, sprawling cities and the echo-chamber of our media. Our apparent disempowerment is reflected in the global epidemic of addiction — to drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, technology — anything to fill the void left by the disintegration of self-knowledge, community and meaning.

But there is hope, I think. We must look closely — not just around us, but within ourselves. There are everyday miracles, and sometimes they are closer than we think. We must never forget that power lies not in the system, but in us, ourselves. We built this structure, these modern myths and falsehoods, and we can take it apart. “We are power.”

The Globalization of Addiction

Addiction is a hotly debated issue; is it a brain disease as some contend, or is it a collection of compulsive behaviours that arises from a psychological process, a forging of maladaptations to deal with emotional or psychological trauma. Others, like Canadian psychology professor Bruce K. Alexander, posit that the rise in addictions of all kinds (to drugs, alcohol, shopping, overeating, television, internet, gaming) are a response to the gradual erosion of belonging, of communal identity, brought out by modern society’s insistence on consumption, competition and individualism:

Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits. This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life.

People adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness, and addiction provides this substitute for more and more of us.

History shows that addiction can be rare in a society for many centuries, but can become nearly universal when circumstances change – for example, when a cohesive tribal culture is crushed or an advanced civilization collapses. Of course, this historical perspective does not deny that differences in vulnerability are built into each individual’s genes, individual experience, and personal character, but it removes individual differences from the foreground of attention, because societal determinants are so much more powerful. Addiction is much more a social problem than an individual disorder.

This perspective reminds me of Oberlin professor David Orr’s assertion that the current age’s rampant environmental degradation and disconnection from nature stems from our “dis-placement” — the loss of our ties to a particular place, or genus loci. Violence, destruction, the self-destruction of addictive behaviour, fill this emptiness and dislocative disconnection. Our collective dislocations allow for atrocities to occur: addictions to substances, harmful behaviours, addictions to oil and greed for money, a bottomless greed for more and more. It will never be enough, even as we annihilate ourselves. As eco-psychologists hypothesize, the way we treat our external environment is analogous to how we treat our inner landscapes, a reflection of our individual and collective psyches. Is there some kind of profound emptiness we are afraid to confront?

The “globalization of addiction” a fascinating hypothesis, speaking to the possible larger picture of what addiction — as an existential problem, a spiritual emptiness — could truly represent. More over at The Globalization of Addiction, and The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

“I Am Not a Leader”: Russell Means

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Plenty of food for thought, written by American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and controversial figure Russell Means in a 1980 cover story for Mother Jones:

Distilled to its basic terms, European faith—including the new faith in science—equals a belief that man is God. Europe has always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians know this to be totally absurd. Humans are the weakest of all creatures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give sip their flesh that we may live. Humans are able to survive only through the exercise of rationality since they lack the abilities of other creatures to gain food through the use of fang and claw. But rationality is a curse since it can cause humans to forget the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order. American Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our thanks to the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh to eat; Europeans simply take the flesh for granted and consider the deer inferior. After all, Europeans consider themselves godlike in their rationalism and science. God is the Supreme Being; all else must be inferior.

All European tradition. Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Continue reading

Happy 2014!

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A belated Happy New Year’s post! Starting it off with much well-wishing for anyone who reads this, and for their loved ones, and on and on. Interdependencies; as they say in yoga practice, “may all beings everywhere be happy and free” (Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu):

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Let’s look more closely at the meaning of each word of this invocational mantra:
lokah: location, realm, all universes existing now
samastah: all beings sharing that same location
sukhino: centered in happiness and joy, free from suffering
bhav: the divine mood or state of unified existence
antu: may it be so, it must be so (antu used as an ending here transforms this mantra into a powerful pledge)

From: Jivamukti Yoga

And of course, a video of hoopdance artist Spiral, performing what I think is a humble, yet divine, expression of transcendental  “flow” — she is a real dervish! She explains excellently the practice of hoopdance:

Hooping is, for many, moving meditation. More than that though, it is a symbolic echoing of energy on many different levels- of planets orbiting in our solar system, of the dance of protons and electrons around a nucleus, of the rhythmic beating of our hearts, of the cycles of day and night, a reminder and re-creation of the macro in the micro, reconnecting us to the greater play of life and death, of being here now. Fun is a given, transcend-dance is a possibility.

The relationship between dance and spirituality is ancient. From the beginning of recorded time there are instances spiritual dance in the form of celebratory worship, ritualistic dance, and healing shamanic trance dance. Repetitive rhythmic dance, connecting the dancer to a musical pattern and to other dancers is powerful medicine. Dance is probably one of the most ancient methods of generating altered states of consciousness. In the Gnostic gospel Acts of John , even Jesus danced and said to his disciples, “To the Universe belongs the dancer. He who does not dance does not know what happens.”

We need more wonder and beauty in this world. Happy 2014!

“The universe is the body of God, and God is still learning”

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The sixth man on the moon, Edgar Dean Mitchell, talks to Ascent magazine’s Sarah E. Truman about looking at spiritual experiences from the point of view of quantum science.

SET  What aspects of quantum science?

EM  The quantum attributes that we are concerned with are entanglement, coherence, resonance and non-locality. The important part is that information is understood as a non-local, coherent structure.

SET  What is non-locality?

EM  When subatomic matter is engaged, entangled in a process and then separated – the various parts remain quantum correlated or entangled.

SET  They remain tangled with each other?

EM  They’re all entangled. Let’s just talk about two particles – but it happens to all particles. If something happens to one, the other one instantly responds even though they are across the universe: that is non-locality. Continue reading