Shootings…60 million driven from their homes…the Encyclical

Thank you to Hugh Byrne who through his facebook post, brought me up to speed on the shootings in South Carolina. There were 3 large events in the last 24 hours…the hate shooting in South Carolina killing 9 people while attending church…the release from the United Nations: a record 60 million people fleeing war and persecution, nearly half of them children…and the release of Pope Francis’s Encyclical, a call to take action on behalf of the Earth’s environment. The wars and persecution that have driven these refugees are a direct result of poor natural resources, lack of material resources, and inequality in education. And in the Encyclical, the Pope writes about the relationship between poverty and the environment. In effect, he is calling upon the world to pay attention to the interconnectedness between all things.

It is deeply saddening to me the continuation of racial injustice. I identify as a woman of color. I came to this because I was raised to see myself as white and even now still feel shame to declare being a “woman of color”. And yet time and time again, I was told I was not, by either being thrown against the wall as a young adult and being called a foreigner, or in more subtle acts of exclusion. I realize that as much as people see me as “white” and offered that to me as a compliment, it only created a schism within me that got larger and larger as I got into my 20’s, until I realized that I was not what I was told to see. I then had to work harder and harder, trying to achieve and live at the higher “strata” of society to “rise above” something that was always threatening at the door to say that I was “less than”. I am this person, Rita, a woman with brown skin, in a white society, where “every race is hyphenated unless it is white” (Toni Morrison via Tara Brach). I learned that people need to see themselves as separate, even when they are just trying to connect, and that fear is a larger pervasive cultural problem. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can learn to love. In that sense, I offer loving kindness to myself in the practice of metta, and to those I interact with, but I also teach to my son. To acknowledge our roots and the roots of this country, and the roots of my mother’s country, the Philippines. To forgive but to not forget, and to work toward equality and equanimity in its most subtle and overt ways to end the causes of hatred. I don’t know what the soulution is to the hate killings but I will do my best to end fear and hatred around me in the best way I know how, through study, the practice of mindfulness but mostly the dedication to love.

It has long troubled me, the plight of world refugees, but I have not known in myself how to address it. The closest I can come to it is by studying the connection between spiritual traditions. When I traveled in India in the early 90’s, I was struck by the exquisite joy that beamed from people living in the most squalid conditions. There was pain and suffering yet many took the time daily to worship or acknowledge something larger. It was here that I became interested in “the common values” that we all share as humans. And as a result, several years ago, I started the community Worldwide Meditation for Healing and Compassion, with the idea of speaking to the common values that speak to us all and to keep that conversation going. As someone who has studied and been immersed in different spiritual and healing traditions, this was one attempt to bring it “off the mat and into the world”. Yet there is something still calling, right in front of my face and so I must listen. It calls to me in the laughing of my son, and the people that call to me for help, and my own heart that has been calling out of deep sadness these last several months…this suffering, this pain, this joy we all have it. How can we as a world community make our personal, our relational, our communal and our world harmony sustainable? How do we connect and help each other, to uplift each other and make the world we want to see?

Those 60 million people are being driven out because of global inequality, in a sense, our needs in the U.S. for meat, for our cars, and for our large houses. I am not a vegetarian but to realize that 20% of the earth’s carbon poisoning is coming from this part of the world to feed cattle…that appalls me. It is why I am interested in the ideas of permaculture, a system of farming that utilizes the biodiversity and the cultivation of crops that leave the ground better than when planting started. And it is why I am interested in healing practices that are sustainable, practices such as mindfulness, Metta, and yoga, as a way of bridging the common mind and the ego to the larger source that feeds us all.

But very real solutions must happen now. We must take charge as what we are leaving for our children is apocalyptic.
To just engage in charity is not sustainable. We can give in an acute situation, but like western medicine which is great in in the acute phase, it does not get to the root of the cause nor is it sustainable for the health of this planet.

Pope Francis’s Encyclical is one call to action that illuminates with great clarity the mechanism behind our world’s suffering. Poverty is directly related to poor natural, material and educational resources. He speaks to the interconnectedness between all of us and is asking those of us in the Western world to take responsibility for our behavior.

I have included a link to his Encyclical letter, if anything, it is a deeply inspiring read. Something that makes me want to be a Catholic again, and I have not felt that in 35 years. What I recognize in that, is just the deep need to be connected to those that get that we are all connected, and that we must be the change the world needs right now.

For right now, this next action is unknown to me but in gestation. I have the practice of Metta and yoga that I do daily as a way to come toward hearing the wisdom I need to hear so that I can take the action that I need to take. I would encourage all of you to find your practice and tend to it daily, for slowing down and listening is what the world needs right now. We must know what our wisdom is saying because each one of us has a reason for being here. If you don’t know it, then it is time to stop.

May you in your day feel blessed. May you in your day recognize that everyone suffers, even though we may not understand why they act in the way they do, and to offer love to the benefit of all beings.