The Day that Changed the World

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Today, something a little bit different. I wanted to share with you a stream-of-consciousness poem I wrote while waiting for the US election results to come in last November. As emotions surged that I didn’t know what to do with, I turned to the page (to the computer, to be honest!) and poured everything inside of me onto the page (screen). This has not been polished or edited in any way, and it is not pretty and it was not made with an audience in mind. It was a piece of me in that moment, unfettered. That day brought a lot of fear to me; it was not by any means my first time experiencing fear, and it will not be the last, but it was a big day, and this is me, and it is my hope that sharing this messy poem can bring us together in all our our glorious ups-and-downs …

ELECTION DAY
In a grey world, we can only
See colour through a fog.
We don’t know about saturation
So much as remember it,
Hear the vague impressions
That were once shouts: Red! Blue!
Home and ground sunk below
Where gravity never took hold
So we fly down. But we can always
Go the way of flight.
It only takes a single moment,
As an object of fear concretizes
And a lifetime of peace
Sinks into apparent illusion,
As memories have always
Made of our lives.
The world is not ours to claim,
But our hearts are. Our domain.
What better time to remember now,
Or to try to understand?
What will I do next?
I’ll prepare a soup lunch
In a changed world that
Remains as abstract to me
As the former one always was.
I’d rather come together in joy,
As many times as I’ve forgotten how,
But I’ll be happy to come together
In our sadness and shock,
And create a new, blessed warmth
To fuel the world.
Madness reigns only so long
As we feed it and let it in,
As long as we see the actual
For the true.
Still, the heart pounds,
Face flushes swooshes
Through the head causing
Pain and the kind of terror
I had once when I lost
My father’s grip in the ocean
And the universe started
Sucking me in, away from
The only world I’d known.
This never felt like an invitation,
No, it was a violation of my child me.
I want to scream STOP now as then,
Knowing it cannot and that
I am not at the center of this
Chaotic revolution.
People have been screaming stop
My whole existence and
Back to the very beginning and
It never filtered in, not like this.
Here, the selfish can be transformed
Into compassion. This is
Our necessity, the new
Life’s work.
It doesn’t matter what my head knows,
It never did.
The body soldiers on, fingers shaking
Head afire, heart quivering.
The mind is back there, in the grey fog,
With the sinking homes and
Vanishing holdings-on.
We need to grow the heart
From the ground up
Through the muck and the
Night terrors to come,
And go to where it’s green
And where delusions shatter
Into the laughing sky
And our emergent laughing souls.
Where is Jack Kerouac’s America,
That invited him in through the cracks
So that he may keep all our dreams whole,
Where did I go, who fell into his
Journeys of the road, spoke to his hobos
And saluted the sacred in our ruptures?
Where will I go, as I scramble to
Piece together a version of myself
That was for so short of time?
Who will I be as I try to do more
Than just wander through new climes?
It is a sad, mad, frantic time,
Our neighbours are not our friends
We have all become the enemy
Of peace and sensibility.
This has all happened before,
Our woes leap across time
So we can turn them into a circle,
And hold hands around it,
And weep,
And carry on.
And then WHAT?
Because even though the body is not lying
The mind is not believing.
It can’t be happening (to us).
It would never happen.
History teaches us (the right) lessons.
Even more selfish:
I and we must be the exceptions,
Immune from political and natural
Cycles and diseases.
No, it’s time to stop and dive in.
Let’s look at what we’ve made
And where we find ourselves.
Let’s get dirty with the mess of it all
And wash each other clean
Until we are shining with
Brand new memories,
If that is what we continue
To look for.
And still the blue sky is blue
And the red blood is ours
And the trees and children everywhere
And the mothers and fathers
Sisters and brothers
wait for our attention.
And still the wind only sometimes
Changes where it goes.
Love never turned its back on us.
Love cannot do that
Any more than it would.
It is ours to claim.
Yes, it is ours to claim.

  • TS

Can We, Together?

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Will you hold me when I ache,
when the day that changed the world
nears its sweet dusky end?
I thought I could do it alone,
stand here in the face of
these bald transmutations,
chest thrust out
like the immutable warrior
I would like it to be,
and hold my gaze,
and reach with ease
to the song inside me
that echoes the great one harmony.
Mistaking myself for one of us, I feel
I would like to be a tree for birds,
water, sun and rain for trees,
I would like to be the mountain
that appears to need nothing at all
as though it arose from
its own history
we can neither approach nor grasp.
The parts that are broken inside
aim for the top of the mountain
(and I’ll never make it this way)
instead of circling around it,
maybe barefoot, maybe on my knees,
where there are those who are
always ready to take me
as one of their own.
Before I forget again, I ask,
Will you guide my hand into yours?
Can we ache and burn
and laugh and dance together?
 
– TS

What We Are

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and maybe I can
swirl between the lights
like snowflakes that dance
their small dances with the
winter wind on their way
down or out to their
vanishing point
 
and maybe I have
feeling like a bird
would, living out its destiny
among the clouds, wanting
for it to come down
to rest, in soft defiance
of the order of things
 
and maybe it is
you I follow down every
and all roads, not seeing
the burdens I have
rested upon you, who
knows what love is
and what love is not
 
and maybe, finally,
i will love the snowflake
for its imminent disappearance,
the bird for its freedoms,
and you, always, for
bringing me to the reckoning
of what I am
 
– TS

Why Don’t We Have Peace? Here’s Why.

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The gap between wanting and having is often huge, and warrants examination, right? Where does the problem lie? What is the nature of what I want? What is preventing me from having it, and what is the lesson I can learn as I strive to bring more harmony to my relationship with the world?

One thing most of us can say with certainty is: I want peace.

World peace.

Peace within.

Peace among friends.

Peace among neighbours.

Peace among us all.

After a time, though, and especially in light of current world events, it becomes tiring living with two seemingly irreconcilable facts: 1) we want peace; and 2) we can’t seem to achieve it.

It’s time that we inquire: what’s going on here? Why can’t we make our way to peace?

First, we find that it’s too easy to blame society, or the government, or other forces “out there”. It’s too easy to say that we are advocates of peace, but that we are powerless in the face of what the powers that be choose to do in this world.

Why do we think we are separate from the world, and the other people in it? I think the answer to this question holds the key to the true and lasting peace we are always dreaming about.

The reason why peace eludes us is that we seem to have a mistaken conception of peace. First we need to notice that we think about peace most when we feel we are under threat, say, the threat of war. In this way, then, we are putting peace and war on the same playing field; they are dancing together in our field of consciousness, so that the specter of war is never far from apparently innocuous desires for peace.

So we say it: why can’t we just have peace? But what kind of peace are we imagining? Are we really projecting ourselves into a whole new world in which peace is the very foundation? Our first thoughts, if we are honest with ourselves, are not about some kind of Eden, a place characterized by genuine harmony, where we are unencumbered by every form of conflict large and small, where we have full freedom to be who we are and are simultaneously full acceptance of everyone else, where the very idea of “non-peace” does not even arise in consciousness. Rather, “peace” becomes more of a reactive concept: we long to go back to “better times”, to how things were before the threat of war appeared.

Hindsight tends to look more golden. Our youth, or even the preceding few years, become soft around the edges, a safe space we have distilled for their better moments. Scared of the present, we re-imagine the past as Eden, without really trying to go back there to remember the very same fears that now plague our minds.

The way things were: there, we might find comfort, stasis, perpetual fear of the status quo being upset, along with thwarted dreams, anxiety, dissatisfaction, a situation in which we were dwelling even further back in the past, or worrying about what was to come. In other words, the same things we find in the here and now, regardless of exterior circumstances.

We need to see the violence in this. Our minds can be very violent places, not at all at peace, but torn, divided, running amok, complacent, isolationist, subconsciously fearing and also wanting the upheaval that surrounds us, because we don’t truly believe it can be any other way. We may have grown up with it. We may have inherited it. We may have absorbed in from any of various environments and situations. We live it, because we are humans, and humans are replete with embattled interior worlds, until we find our way to a path toward peace.

So upheaval comes: we have war, devastation, harrowing events we fear but have long, maybe secretly, suspected were inevitable.

We seem not to be able to accept either what we have created, or what IS, right now, in this moment, in the world or in the deepest parts of ourselves. If we explore within, we will find fear-based reactions to world events; we feel, for example, that we don’t deserve the natural disasters that ravage the world and its inhabitants, but upon further inquiry we have to see that deserving has nothing to do with it. Natural disasters don’t happen to us. They simply happen. This is one of the laws of nature, and we somehow think we are removed from the laws of nature. Even above them.

Do you see how this amounts to a form of violence? To feel separation from what we are so intricately bound to, to see isolation, me versus you; how can this not be construed as violence? Am I not more likely to react in negative and harmful ways to things I feel are separate from me? Would I be as likely to hurt something that is essentially myself?

Yet this is what we are doing, because the war is within ourselves, and we don’t want to confront the more self-destructive aspects of our nature. Instead, we throw nature and people to the other side of a line or boundary, maybe out of self-preservation, maybe because we were taught about separation more than unity, about countries more than world; maybe because we have come to rely wholly on our senses and not our intuition, and our senses bring what is out there into our interior world. The reason doesn’t matter: here we are, wondering about everything in relation to our one self and how it benefits us, and unity is lost. There can be no peace when we can only conceive of our humanity in pieces. Pieces can also come apart just as easily as they can connect for short whiles. And this is how we are living: in constant fear of things coming apart.

But what if we are the ones keeping them apart? Our belief in apartness allows for all kinds of horrible things to find their way into the cracks. And we cannot fortify ourselves from the calamities that occur as long as our hearts are wired to expect calamities, and as long as we continue to forge separate pathways for the people of the world. We cannot stop violence until we understand that we are perpetuating the violence, we are housing the violence, we are feeling the violence with our deep-seated fears but also beliefs in it, until we come to see that we are the violence.

Look at all the ways in which we are at war with ourselves. Look at how we are self-deprecating; how we hate looking in the mirror; how we doubt our abilities to achieve success; how we hold ourselves back; how we don’t believe in ourselves enough to invest the time and energy into our wellness. Look at how quick we are to believe other people’s beliefs in the very worst of us, at the expense of our own belief in ourselves – a belief that should be the most natural thing in the world? It goes on and on like this. There is so much negativity living in the circuitry of our bodies and psyches. Where is the place for peace in this?

Yet, there is a place for peace, a huge, golden space inside of us, that coexists with all this violence. We are full of love, hope and good intentions, and we know this, and we have felt this many times. This is a brilliant truth. We just need to believe in this part of ourselves, and work to cultivate it that much more.

So how we begin to turn things around?

First, we must realize that peace starts at home. We must become aware of our hidden, limiting and destructive beliefs that serve nothing but the powers of violence. We must stop right here, where we are and accept the mess that we have inherited and that we continue to make by doing nothing to stop it. We must feel the effects of this violence on the core of our beings right now, in this very moment.

We must ask: do we really want peace, or do we want the luxury of returning to our comfort zones, where we keep the world at bay and hope that all the terrible things we are scared of don’t make their way to us, though they are already right here with us, in the deep crevices of our minds? We must ask: are we ready to do the hard work of finding the peace in us that is also the real, true, lasting peace of the world?

We can only do this in stillness. We must rest in stillness and use the landscape of our bodies to feel what fear looks like, and to arrive at a place of a true, real desire to end the violence within. We must look so deep within that the borders between us and the world fade and we start to realize how destructive the lens of separation is on all our relationships, with people and the world.

We must commit to the responsibility of looking deep within and removing the obstacles to peace, removing the violence we find inside, for peace is the absence of violence, and will naturally arise when we actively want and seek our own salvation.

Peace isn’t something you wish for while going about life and not doing much to effect real change in your relationship with it. Rather, peace is something you uncover, and discover in yourself. You figure out that it has been there all along, and once exposed, it will grow and expand and guide you. And this is the building block to a peaceful world.

What Kind of Day Will You Have?

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Where will you go today?
Are you excited
thinking about it?
Sometimes I, too,
wake up to
such a sun and sky
that I’m sure the feelings
can no longer be contained
in this one body
on this one day.
May your day be
precious and exciting
and give you great joy.
May it fulfill a lifelong dream,
and be full of surprises.
May you be open to
surprises just like these.
And if, in the event
that such a place is
more than a little scary –
sometimes I, too,
wake up to such fear
that the world contracts
and barrels toward me
and I can’t find my
way back into it –
May you be open
to exploring your fear,
and may you have
the love and support
that can carry you through
this journey with ease.
May we all live, breathe,
dream and create peace,
and the magical world
we want to live it. – TS

The Art of Meditation

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breathe in –
breathing becomes laboured
snagging and catching before the end
 
breathe out –
the breath becomes a cry
caught on a gasp of surprise
 
sit tall –
the spine aches from holding
stories thousands of years old
 
be soft –
i feel not softness but threadbare fragility in
bone and skin that threaten collapse
 
i am falling –
but in the falling, an acute awareness
of what i’ve neglected so long
 
i am restless –
i have within me infinite little pieces
that have been struggling to be heard
 
i am suffering –
i have awakened to brilliant depths
of what it means to be alive and trying
 
i am human –
i will ache and burn as i sit with each one of us
feeling a unity in all our pain but also our triumphs
 
i am learning –
every moment, every breath in, breath out
is a change, a movement, a new leaf born. – TS