Path to a 94 mile Spirit Quest

Yesterday I described the series of events that led to joining the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March that just concluded. I tried to explain how choices and actions leading up to this March were spiritually guided.

I am grateful to have been raised as a Quaker. To have grown up among a people who base their lives on faith, which is expressed in concern for and care of all people, since God is present in every single being. I was born into a Quaker community that had just experienced the imprisonment of many of its members for refusing to participate in war. Of course this commitment to obey the spirit rather than man-made rules is not limited to Quakers.

My own spiritual life has recently been radicalized by my involvement with two new, for me, communities. One is the Kheprw Institute (KI) in Indianapolis, “a community organization that works to create a more just, equitable, human-centered world by nurturing youth and young adults to be leaders, critical thinkers and doers who see the people in any community as the most valuable assets and are committed to working with marginalized communities to bring about change that leads to empowered self-sustainable communities.”

Kheprw Institute

The other is my experience in many different ways with Indigenous peoples, that began with local involvement in Indianapolis to support the water protectors at Standing Rock in the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have been profoundly affected by their deep, spirit led lives, and stunning example of nonviolence in the face of extreme state sponsored violence against them. As Nahko says, nonviolent direct action is the way to a successful revolution.

#NoDAPL Indianapolis

My first experience with nonviolent resistance was a long, difficult struggle as a teenager that resulted in my decision to become a draft resister during the Vietnam War. Next was my lifelong commitment to refuse to participate in the war on our environment by refusing to own a personal automobile. Then, in 2013, I joined the Keystone Pledge of Resistance, and was trained to organize and carry out acts of nonviolent direct action, including training others in the art of nonviolent civil disobedience.

My interest in learning more about Indigenous people stems from beginning to learn they not only live in the spirit in their relations with one another, but also in relation to Mother Earth–the land, air, water, plants and animals. I have been learning they recognize the spirit even in inanimate objects. This has expanded my own spiritual experience tremendously. The opportunity to learn more from Native Americans was one of the primary reasons I wanted to participate in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. What I was blessed to experience far exceeded my expectations. We spent our time together learning about each other, to share our stories. And we were always together–walking hours a day together, at meals, and sometimes sleeping in the same space together. We became friends, and were saddened at the end of the march. But looking forward to continue to be connected with one another, and working together again in the future.

In 2016 I began to be heavily engaged with activities to support the water protectors at Standing Rock, including the campaign to defund the pipeline with actions against the banks that are financing it.

Me in front of CHASE bank

All of this has led me to construct the following advices and queries. This is a method Quakers have traditionally used to reflect on various aspects of their lives. The advice is used to introduce the topic, then the queries are questions used to stimulate responses to that. Although individuals can explore these questions, it is a more powerful technique when used in a group,  working on the responses together.

I increasingly feel we need to rapidly and radically respond to two fundamental crises: environmental destruction and the racial economy. Our unfolding environmental disaster will actually accelerate the demise of the racial economy.

Advice:
The environmental damage to the earth is significantly greater than most people understand, and numerous conditions mean dramatic increases in air and water temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, changing precipitation patterns with floods, droughts and massive fires, scarce clean water supplies, migration of disease vectors, strong winds, and significantly decreased food production for many reasons will result in massive death by starvation, dehydration and disease. Mass migrations of people will occur. This will totally breakdown our economic, political and social systems. All of this is occurring now and will get worse at a rapidly accelerating rate.
Queries:
• Are we willing to commit ourselves to addressing our environmental crisis immediately?
• How can we work for the necessary immediate cessation of the use of fossil fuels, and rapid development of locally owned and operated renewable energy systems?
• How do we build local, just, self-sufficient, resilient, Beloved communities?
• How do we recruit, train, and deploy a nonviolent army of spiritual warriors?

Advice:
The economic and political system of the United States is built on racial capitalism. White people, especially males, enjoy privileges based upon land stolen from Indigenous peoples, who experienced genocide and are experiencing ongoing state supported violence and oppression. Racial capitalism is built on a history of slavery and ongoing state supported violence, death, and mass incarceration. Racial capitalism is built on the labor of migrant workers. Racial capitalism disrespects women.
Massive unemployment in this system that requires currency for trade and services is immoral and often intentional.
The rich have exploited all of this to an unconscionable degree with massive inequality in the distribution of wealth. The rich have developed extensive militarized systems to extract resources and protect their wealth, both domestically and abroad. The rich have developed intrusive systems of surveillance, and increasingly suppress civil rights and criminalize dissent.
Queries:
• How can we reject and dismantle racial capitalism?
• How can we personally redistribute our wealth with our immediate neighbors?
• How can we practice, recruit and teach others about radical faith based living?

First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity Marchers

I believe those who participated on the First Nation-Famer Climate Unity March are examples of Spiritual Warriors.

One night last year I was blessed to hear Arkan Lushwala speak about “Indigenous Ways of Restoring the World” during a call sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance. “Arkan Lushwala is a rare indigenous bridge of the global north and south, carrying spiritual traditions from the Andes in his native Peru as well as being adopted and initiated by the Lakota people of North America.”

He said

“Everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do”

This is why we need Spiritual Warriors. Because we ask ourselves the first question, “what can we be?” Knowing that,our actions are precise, our actions are in harmony with the movement, the sacred movement, of that force that wants to renew life here on Earth and make it better for the following generations.”

The beautiful thing we experienced during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was learning more about what we can be.

The answer to “what can I do?”

Speaking about what is happening on Earth right now,
many of the conditions of life that we used to take for granted,
now are really out of balance.
Hopefully we still have time to get back into balance
so life may continue.
I travel around the world and meet people and talk to people
from all different cultures.
And everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do,
and we cannot afford wasting time;
we have little time.
We need to be precise now.
When someone sincerely asks, “what can I do?”
my humble answer,
the only answer that I find in my heart to be sincere is,
“First find out what you can be.”
Action is extremely necessary at this time.
This is not a time just to talk about it.
The most spiritual thing now is action.
To do something about what’s happening.
To go help where help is needed.
To stand up when we need to stand up,
and protect what is being damaged.
And still, this action needs to be born
from a place in ourselves that has real talent,
real intelligence, real power,
real connection to the heart of the Earth,
to universal wisdom,
so our actions are not a waste of time.
So our actions are precise,
our actions are in harmony with the movement,
the sacred movement,
of that force that wants to renew life here on Earth
and make it better for the following generations.

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