TOKENS - ENDURANCE. BOUNDARIES. REDWOOD.

Q. 1  I'm alight, inspired, the lyrics & melodies & the people are just lining up for me right now. We can bring music, joy to victims & their families. But a tiny part of me feels a little sick over leveraging the state of the world for my voice.

 

Q.2  Does it even matter? The last 6 months have been so crazy, I can’t fly to all the openings if I want to. One piece sold for $9k. And today. It [art] just feels so trite in light of it all.

 

Q. 3  I'm paralyzed. The world is bringing up all my own marled past & broken disappointments.

 

"love and justice are not two. without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters."

~Rev. angel Kyodo williams sensei

maverick zen priest, author, business owner, founder of urban zen & center for transformative change

 

Yes. It matters. Your sound, your color, & your willingness to keep moving are all physical, visual, oral, tangible narratives needed to realize the new story. Each gesture: a small & significant change for our larger, collective liberation. 

 

I believe we are in many incomplete revolutions, both within ourselves & as a Whole. It can be exhausting to bring our awareness to the same table we use for providing food & belonging. As a Zen priest, multi-business owner & social change visionary, my longtime friend angel invites us to sit, to meditate, to stay present to our bodies, & to grow our movements & businesses inside a practice of Transformative Social Change. 

 

Yes, the arc of justice is long. Yes, the learning curve towards mass impact is steep, bumpy, tenacious. Yes, the moments of contribution, attention, genius & co-creation are like candy in our hands. And yes, creative self-expression & money just taste good. How do we ride the tides of this time, & stay committed to our vision? 

We sit. We settle in. We listen.

 

 

It's 40' & 6:30 am. The grove is lit with a black & luminous silver, as the needles capture fog, bringing water to each tree. They each pull clouds down to the understory, liquid for the months, the years of our drought. I'm running, & when I find the right tree, I stop.  And sit, leaning my shoulders & head against the bark. We want to know about standing, staying in the game of {b}right livelihood, believing in the sky, in life, and meaning. We want to know how we can continue to hold ourselves up. My head falls. I'm listening (& crying). I have dear friends in Paris. And dear friends, devout & gentle Muslims, in Egypt. I am a mother, devastated for the 30,000 Syrian babies who will never live into their brightness. And their parents. Oh, God.

 

I reach back, with both hands, to hold the trunk behind my head. I look up, dizzy from her height. And the bark is spongy. Thick, & nubby. It's holding my hands, back.

 

This tough, fibrous texture repels the insects, the little, nagging, biting bits of life. There is no insect that can take a redwood down.

 

BUILD YOUR CHARACTER. TAKE NOTE OF YOUR STRENGTHS. LET YOUR DEVOTION, & THE RHYTHMS BE STRENGTH THAT DETERS THE SMALL THINGS. SIT - IT CULTIVATES YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR!

 

Her bark is filled with tiny air pockets, to insulate the inner, verdant core of the tree from  extreme heat from fires.

I'm reminded of how dangerous it can be to overcrowd one's life with people, circumstances, things & events.

 

MAINTAIN SPACIOUSNESS. SHED. RELEASE. MAKE SPACE. MAKE ROOM. EACH LAUGH EXPELS PAIN & STAGNANT EVERGY, EACH GASP THAT FOLLOWS IS A FRESH SWEEP OF THE LUNGS. YAWN, TO CLEAR PHYSICAL PAIN FROM THE MUSCLE TISSUE. BRING OXYGEN TO YOUR CELLS. AGAIN. AND AGAIN.

 

Redwood burns poorly, without resins or volatile oils in her bark. She's not flammable. Oh, goodness. As a Leo (fire), Chinese Fire Snake, with a major Liberator Archetype...that's just not me. I almost feel her roots shift beneath my seat, in a grandmotherly way, almost like Redwood’s reaching for her reading glasses above me.  There's the energy of patting, a squeeze on my shoulder. 

 

MAKE PEACE. YOU CAN MAKE PEACE THRU THE BURN. AND, WELL. I KNOW YOU CAN MAKE PEACE. 

There's a shared chuckle between us. It's true. I mean, isn't that the practice?

 

Once I accept that, she offers the image of redwood in the fire, burning quickly & crackling, so good for kindling, & too light for a long smolder. The wood isn't upset. It's joyous.

 

MAKE PEACE WITH THE SURFACE STUFF. BURN FROM THE INSIDE, BUT ONLY LONG ENOUGH TO LIGHT THINGS UP. THEN FIND ANOTHER WAY TOWARDS THE LIGHT. FIRE ISN'T SUSTAINABLE. ANGER, RAGE, BLAME, FURY, & HELPLESSNESS AREN'T SUSTAINABLE. 

 

I am bucking. This is a time where anger is important. It's appropriate. We need to trust our anger & we need to hear the anger of others in order to know what's needed in this world. I realize she isn't denying the need to rage. She's celebrating the need to build & make an impact. Sustainably. Over time.

 

At a foot thick, this bark may swallow me, or at least my shock, as it does to any tree that might fall it's way. I think of the existence, the padding that comes with growing over time. 

 

BUILD YOUR WORK, BY HONORING YOUR ART-MAKING. LET SOCIETY BE YOUR CANVAS. DEFINE YOURSELF BY RESPECTING YOURSELF. PRACTICE. GATHER JOY IN THE HEART. FROM HERE, YOU HAVE SPACE FOR THE ANGER & RAGE OF YOURSELF & OTHERS. FROM HERE, YOU CAN ABSORB WHAT'S NOT YOURS, OR NOT NEEDED, LONG ENOUGH TO LET IT FIND IT'S WAY BACK TO EARTH, WHERE IT WILL BE TRANSFORMED. NOT IMMEDIATELY. BUT ALWAYS.

 

And what is the practice, anyways? In times like these, I must take in & block out so much external suffering, I can't remember my practice. I can't remember what the hell I'm up to. I'm overwhelmed by people. And stupid shit they say after senseless things have been done. D’s clearing me & I’m doing The Work. And, oh, all the beauty I want to consume! I want to fight or flight it, right to Anthropologie. Or to a giant bowl of stew with a whole baguette on the side. With brie. {check it, I also have an Addict archetype}

 

Oh, yes. The practice.

 

GENTLE + FIERCE REALIZATION. Devotion {to life}. Showing up. Creating many returns on many levels. Building in such a way that the most important product is the wellbeing of the community landscape. And doing it in community.

 

The root system of Redwood is surprisingly shallow, given her heights up to 350 feet. With no tap root, & roots only an inch thick, how does she grow, how does she realize her full potential, a heft of 500 tons & 2000 years? She goes wide, spreading her roots 50-80 feet, growing close to others, intermingling root systems.

 

CROWD TOGETHER. SHARE RESOURCES. HOLD EACH OTHER, GROUNDING, AS YOU EVOLVE, SKYWARD.

 

So that's it. 

We practice. We stand. We place roots. We grow ourselves & those around us. We gather resources, hold them, share them in times when there isn't enough. And yes, we armor ourselves, with spaciousness,  humor, character & devotion. We show up, for life. Together.

The gesture just happens to be jaw-dropping. Epic. Beautiful.

 

In it with you,

Maya

 

ps - For more thoughts on story keeping & story making, read Angel’s interview with Omega Institute, on How to Lead Like a Spiritual Warrior.