We all get handed these stories, right? Every one of us—we’re born into a family, a time, a region, a culture. We get handed a story about what we look like. As we express our capacities we get stories about whether we are more or less capable. Not only do we get individual stories, but we also get collective stories. We miss a great deal when we only pay attention to the story that’s been handed to us and we’re not intimately connected to the deeper story of who we really are—as Buddhists say before our mother was born. We come encoded with a deep memory of who we’ve always been but when we arrive on the scene our focus is turned toward the external. We forget we have that operating information about who we always are.
Arising out of the cultural needs and priorities of seventh-century China, the Zen school places significant emphasis on mind-to-mind transmission. The transmission ceremony affirms one as a successor in a lineage reputed to be unbroken from the historic Buddha to Mahakashyapa in India, through to Bodhidharma and Huineng in China, to Dogen in Japan, and in my case, Taizan Maezumi Roshi and Bernie Glassman Roshi in America. One of the essential rites of this passage is to hand copy and receive back a stamped bloodline document that traces this lineage in a chart of swirling lines ending with your own name, effectively “sealing” one’s authentic place of belonging in this eighty-plus-generation family.
You can feel things that are unknowable—and should stay that way—to our minds. That’s the third lesson that I learned, which I knew and which was affirmed by this profoundly messy, wild, disorienting space that Occupies Wall Street is. In the progressive community, we like to take pride in our willingness to extend ourselves into difference and bring difference forth. As profoundly important as that is, we have to find spaces of shared practice.
…it's the sun that dragons and butterflies need to fly…but they need the dark to grow their magic wings. So do we. It is only once we emerge from the darkness that we will dare cast off our hardened shells to truly take flight. In its new form, the dragonfly can dive breathtakingly into a precipitous vertical drop, become a mere blur as it darts about at breakneck speeds, only to come to an apparent dead stop, hovering magically in mid-air. For the most part, it's the sun that dragons and butterflies need to fly…but they need the dark to grow their magic wings. So do we. It is only once we emerge from the darkness that we will dare cast off our hardened shells to truly take flight.
Start the movement toward dismantling punitive justice and discovering the justice that comes from love: What is it that we have to see? What do we have to deconstruct? What are we holding onto that it’s time to dismantle in our own hearts so that we can create more space for real justice? This is justice that arises, not out of a sense of punishment, but out of a sense of love, justice that serves and embodies love. Not justice that is confused and mistaken for punishment.
For justice to be embodied rather than contrived, we have to walk our talk…radical refers to the root. In choosing Radical Relationship as the perspective that leads every action we take internal and external, real change arises from, gets at, and returns us to our roots: the fundamental Truth of our interconnectedness and unassailable Love that sources us all.
The fact that the task is already pre-determined to be impossible, and one commits to it anyway, assures that it isn’t about you—-your sense of gain, accomplishment, or even your fear of failure—-AND you put your full effort in. And the most important thing is — it must be something you cannot possibly do.” What is that task for you?’ Zen Buddhists the world-over chant what is called the Four Vows.
Where we find ourselves now is a unique moment in time in which the ability to dig deep into this internal arsenal to express our full collective selves as the mighty and powerful agents of justice, freedom, and love that we are is available to us en masse. We can wait for a messiah, preacher, guru, or President to part the raging sea of conservatism or we can disarm the resistance with our capacity for charismatic conversion. Who needs to win when you can win over?
Transitions are the doorways to change. Choosing to engage in transition and enter each doorway as consciously as possible but with a willingness to not know what’s on the other end is makes that change intentional. To have continued on with folks that I had a felt sense belonged somewhere else would have been to opt for convenience over integrity, thus dishonoring this work—as Khalil Gibran named: my love made visible in the world—at its core.