Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Zima Wo

I recently returned from a five-day retreat led by the African elder, shaman and teacher, Malidoma Some. We spent a lot of our time engaged in ritual work intended to draw us into deeper, spiritual connection to the elements of earth, water and fire.

As part of the earth ritual, we had to dig a hole in the ground, large enough to lie down in. We jokingly referred to these holes as our graves, but truthfully, mine felt more like a womb than a grave. Wow, maybe they are the same thing, womb and grave. Huh. Where was it that I was reading that when you are born here, you die somewhere else and vice versa?

Anyway, we were buried, naked in the womb/grave of mother earth for several hours that night. Actually, the nudity was optional, but you know me. When it was my turn to be buried I plopped my bare behind right on down in the hole. The earth was packed in tight making movement impossible. It was cold and damp, but strangely comforting. I felt embraced by an old friend, a friend that I was intimate with as a child. I looked up at the stars. I surrendered. I rested the deep rest of an empty mind. A few bugs were very curious about the presence of this new flesh. They tickled my armpits. I mentally, politely asked them not to go in certain places and they agreed. Some people had a harder time with the bugs. Some people screamed in the night.

We were told in preparation for the ritual that the earth would scan us like an MRI. It knew us, knew what we came here with, and would tell anything that did not belong to us by nature to GET OUT! I accepted all this. I have been talking to the earth for a long time.

As a child, closer to the ground, I loved the dirt. I was not squeamish about worms. I didn’t play house or play with dolls much. I just wanted to be outside climbing trees, exploring every little nook of nature. I could feel the aliveness, the Great Is-ness all around me and felt sorry for adults who seemed to have lost that ability. I promised myself I would not forget.

But I did. For awhile at least. Then, in my late twenties, I smoked pot for the first time, and suddenly, the earth in all its glory sprang back to life. I could feel it and it could feel me. I wept. I laughed. I rolled around. I placed my palms to her and spoke. I sang. I laid on top of her, with my legs straight out to the side and my chest on the floor and my face down (What? I’m flexible) wanting to enter her and be entered by her.

Since then, whenever I’m outside, I try to acknowledge her, even if I’m just running out to get the mail. It would be rude not to, rude to pretend she isn’t there, watching. I try to acknowledge the wind and trees and grass and flowers and stone and water and animals and anybody else that happens to be there, unseen. I don’t ever want to lose our friendship again.

Before the retreat, I started, once in a while, taking an extra bag out during my daily walks with Mr. Chulo, picking up bits of trash and recycling here and there. But since my return, it’s become an obsession.

There is a small area of land in particular, right outside my front door that I’ve taken special interest in. It has been desecrated with trash, but underneath all of that, I see the presence of great beings in the earth and trees and huge, ancient rocks. And since returning from the retreat, it’s like I feel their gaze on me all the time now. I feel pressure from them. It’s like they’re saying, well, now you know how bad it is. You feel it. What are you going to do?

It is overwhelming, the sorrow I feel, at how us humans are treating our planet. So every day, I clean. I know that even if I clean this small area, the trash will go somewhere else into the earth, hurting her there. It is not a real solution. However, most of what I pick up is glass that can be recycled. I spend hours pulling shards of it out of the earth, like shrapnel from the wounded in war. The extraction hurts at first. She gasps, but then, sighs, relaxes, and I know that every piece counts.

A neighbor drives by. Sees me at work. Thanks me and tells me that there’s a big neighborhood clean-up at the end of this month. I will surely go, but my intentions are not to make the neighborhood pretty. I’m not doing it for my neighbors. I’m doing it for her. I’m doing it for the earth.

Yesterday, on my rounds, two little boys that were playing nearby asked if they could help. One said, “We have to clean this up so we can help things grow.” Yes, yes we do. We excavated diapers, car parts, broken toys, clothes and beer bottles by the dozen. The other little boy said, “My family does this. They sit out here and drink at night and leave their bottles.” I could detect a note of shame in his voice that broke my heart.

Well, at least now he knows that he doesn’t have to do that when he gets older. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel righteous and judgemental of those people who live at the top of the hill, the family of this beautiful little boy who at eight, knows better than they. Maybe that’s not very spiritual of me, to judge them. To feel righteous anger. I don’t know. I don’t know.

As I was filling our bags, I sang an African prayer I’d learned on retreat. The words are A Zima Wo. They asked me what it meant. I told them it means Peace to the Earth.


Bones that Speak

“Hard to see, the dark side is.” –Master Yoda

My fiance’s parents were visiting last night. We all piled into the car and drove from Roxbury to the posh South End for dinner. On the way, I noticed a huge, unmarked building that I had never seen before. I asked my fiance what it was and he said it was a chemical weapons facility built by Boston University.

Huh? Why? Why would they do that?

I looked it up this morning on the web. It’s a research facility, not a chemical weapons factory as my fiance said, but isn’t it? Boston University said that the facility was built to save lives. Whose lives are they talking about saving? When did ebola become rampant in Boston? Come on! They are not researching the deadliest viruses known to mankind to help save us from them. Oh, give me a break. BU’s own professors denounced the building of this death lab.

But built it got. Its facade looks normal enough, but upon further inspection appears faceless. A faceless building. How appropriate. I can’t help but wonder how they entice people to work in such a den of wickedness. It is nothing less than the allure of the dark side of the Force. We have seen it played out in Hollywood, men in dark cloaks happening upon innocents, catching them off guard, playing on their fears. Everyone in the audience recognizes the bad guys, but the innocents take the bait.

Right and wrong seem so obvious in the movies, but in the real world, it goes a little something like this: students come out of college where many have their inner-wisdom squashed. They weigh heavily with student loans. They are afraid of the burden of their debt. They’ve heard horrible stories. They are afraid of being poor, which in our culture is equated to being a failure. Someone recruits them at a bio-chemical lab for a good salary. The student is told that they will be doing something positive. They walk past the protestors with their heads low. With this job, they can bring their family to America. They can give their sick brother health insurance. They can really get somewhere in their career. They can finally move out of the cramped apartment they share with five other room-mates and a family of mice. They are told only what they need to know. The same is true at every level of corporate and government hierarchy: knowledge is given on a need to know basis. And who knows what’s really going on? Only a select few, and we will never know their names. They are the faceless ones.

These are dangerous times, indeed, because we seem to have forgotten that there are worse things in life than being poor.  What’s the worst that can happen if we don’t take that job? That job that we think will save us, save our families, save our futures. Well, I guess the worse that can happen is that we can die. Our family will die. But maybe it’s better to die this way than to live with the knowledge that we are the creators of death.

As humans, it is a dangerous thing to not know what we are willing to die for (Malidoma Some). It is a dangerous thing to have millions of people who are not willing to die for anything. That’s how these companies get so out of control with greed. Of course, in this Yin era that we are in, choosing between right and wrong is not always easy. Unlike in the Yang era out of which we transitioned several years ago, there are no clearly marked boundaries. It means that corruption is everywhere, but so too is goodness (Makarta). So, while universities do good things, they have also become corrupt corporations.

LUKE: How am I to know the good side from the bad?

YODA: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive.

I would not be surprised to find out that the pharmaceutical companies are in cahoots with the death lab, who are in cahoots with the universities, who are in cahoots with politicians. This is what I predict, either in Boston or elsewhere, and goddesses, please let me be wrong: many thousands of deaths will occur, both here and abroad. In a few years, voila, a drug or series of drugs will appear that allow you to live a relatively normal life with ebola, or whatever, with a few so-called side-effects that may include dry mouth, increase risk of suicide and/or a sudden, forceful ballooning of the buttocks. Billboards of happily married ebola-infected couples with pretty children will dot the freeways. Commercials and advertisements everywhere will boast “Proud to be an Ebola Survivor.” We’ll give it a ribbon. We’ll give it a cause. We’ll give it a hot-line. We’ll give it group therapy. But here’s the catch: you will have to take the ebola drugs for the rest of your life. Gotcha! If you’ve managed to avoid debt because of student loans, try getting out of the debt from your ebola medication!

The pattern is so obvious. It’s just that now the governments and corporations are getting really bold. They’re doing it in our own backyard. It will be Guernica right here in Boston.They have even created a term to trivialize any claims against their misdeeds. The conspiracy theorists of today are the witches of old.

This debate between the community and the bio-lab Dungeon of Horrors, has been going on since 2003. I just heard about it yesterday. I drove past the building. It looked like any other modern building, but I grocked a wrongness about it. Call me a witch if you wanna, but I FELT it. I felt it as a disturbance in the Force, no shit.

Now, I will admit, that this old news being new news to me is my own fault. I tend to live under a rock. I hate watching the news because it hurts so much. It hurts it hurts it hurts, but now it seems that I can’t avoid knowing even if I want to because I can feel it in my bones and the bones will speak.

And they will continue to speak. And speak and speak. Even if ebola gets me. The wisdom of the bones cannot be silenced. My bones, your bones and all the bones of beings that seek to nurture life instead of destroying it. ‘Cause dig this all yee Obi Wans: those that seek the dark way of suppressing life have forgotten one very important thing: that some of us will be more powerful in death.

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