Mind is One

What does this mean? “Mind is One”?

We have our individual consciousnesses as beings. But on the spiritual path we are also aware that there is this ‘oneness’ aspect to all manifest things. We hesitate to say that there is ‘mind’ in inanimate objects; stones, bricks, cars. Yet we are aware that everything is energy, and everything is connected.

Some mystics say that even stones are conscious that they are stones.

I’m sure that one day our scientists will “crack the problem” of how self-awareness arises out of billions of neurons talking to each other. But even when they have, they will have missed a fundamental aspect of Mind, because the ground of everything manifest is also conscious.

We could stop there and say we have our separate minds, and the source is a consciousness. But that’s only part of the picture. The universe experiencing itself as me has both a me mind, and its own mind at the same time. My thoughts are my own, but they are also thoughts the universe is having as me.

Spiritually, I don’t think the human race has changed that much since Buddha sat under the Bo tree over 2,000 years ago. And some of our wisdom traditions haven’t changed that much either. Not that they need to. They are spiritual technology geared at enlightenment. They’re good at what they do, and have stood the test of time.

But I look forward to the day (perhaps it’s coming very soon) when our nascent human abilities become everyday normal. And it appears to me that key to this happening is that we understand that Mind is One.

All of the nascent abilities that Patanjali talks about in his Siddhis, or all of the nascent abilities Dōgen mentions off-the-cuff in Shōbōgenzō, or all the tricks Derren Brown performs perhaps – these are all just one trick.

The one trick is Mind is One. My thoughts and sensations are local to me. But they are also non-local. I am having them, but Mind is having them. Telepathy, knowing the mind of others is really just sharing Mind. But it gets stranger. Mind is One outside of space-time-movement. Seeing the immediate future is really just being a being in a moment whilst at the same time being any being in any moment. Energy healing in the dualistic reality is one being appearing to miraculously healing another being. But it’s really just the universe birthing stars. Understanding bird song.

I could go on. Telekinesis. Levitation. But I have never moved objects remotely to my knowledge. And I have never walked on water. So I stopped at understanding bird song.

The first time I experienced what we call telepathy I told a Zen Nun about it. She just said matter-of-factly something like, ‘yes. But you can’t own these things when they happen.’ For one thing ego is a dualistic sense impression getting in the way of that bigger reality. For another thing, it’s literally true. Super normal abilities are not located just in one individual. They are Mind is One.

It’s a good job these abilities are nascent for now. We have so many computer passwords and bank cards. One day we will have to come up with computers and banks that don’t need us to use letters and numbers to access them. But when that day comes all of our institutions will change. Science academy ashram mash-ups. Mental health energy healing centres. Sangha hospitals.

Sci fi films have explored the dangers of artificial intelligence reaching the ‘singularity’ point and then taking over the Internet. We already live in an inter web of Mind. We always have. It’s beautiful.


A Hidden Majority

Who knows how many people in the world would now connect with, or relate to, terms such as ‘enlightenment’, or ‘spiritual but not religious’?

Members of a religious community of some kind still to this day tend to have visible buildings to congregate and celebrate within. Masses, services, teachings, rituals are held. And the physical building structures add visibility to the given religion, movement, school, belief system.

But for many of us we have drifted away from “religion”. We might not be affiliated to any one particular tradition or organised structure or we might be infrequent ‘hangers on’ to a community with a physical building for want of ‘a better expression’ of our spirituality. We can often share experiences and insights which resonate with each other; for example how life has taken us to the harder edges, wilderness times, times of great questioning and ultimately to a place of a more mystical and less defined sense of reality seen and unseen. Other than that we are expressing ourselves in as many ways as there are people! Some meditate alone at home, join a traditional wisdom tradition (sometimes with a building, sometimes not), join a ‘group’ of some kind – often meeting in a public hire venue or someone else’s religious building.

We are no religion and any religion. We are young. We are old. We live in cities and hippie camps. We would all agree that ‘We Are One’ (or ‘It Is One’) and yet to anyone apparently uninterested in “religion” or to anyone strongly committed to a religious community we are invisible.

It doesn’t matter. But it’s there. In the background. Humanity is going through a shift. In simplistic flawed terms the wisdom of the East has flowed into the West and changed our colours. Our old hierarchical structures of organised faith cling on like so many fossils to a rock, but we all are changing.

Again simplistically the materialism of the West is exported East. But that belies the continued strength (in some places such as China) of the wisdom traditions in those places.

We may not have buildings of our own, or a name for ourselves which isn’t problematic. (Who likes “enlightened”?) But we are many and growing.

Change can’t always be seen.

Teaching and Learning

A woman walks in to a public library.

She complains to the head librarian.

‘Why aren’t my books more visible here? No wonder nobody reads them!’

Her complaint goes on for some time.

After she leaves, another librarian says to the head librarian, ‘do you know who that was?’

‘Yes’, says the head librarian. ‘The author of several books about the need for love. They are one of the most difficult of our frequent visitors here. Always complaining.’

Later, the other librarian is left wondering.

How can the author of books on the need for love in our society be one of the most difficult customers!

It’s a true story I heard today.

I can’t be sure.

But I wonder if it’s not so difficult to understand.

The author writes the books, because the books contain the lessons the author has not taken to heart themselves. Rather than processing the lessons so that they are written on the heart, the lessons stay in the head – as something other people need to learn.

Never as things that the author need learn themselves.

When the need to teach arises within me, I cannot see how – at the time – it could have anything to do with something I need to learn for myself.

Later on, to my dismay, I discover that the need arose because of my ego. I wanted to correct someone else on something that I myself have grasped and they have not. Or so I think.

My most effective teaching arises when I appear to be wise in the mind of another. Usually when I am not trying to teach or be wise at all. Usually *because* I am not trying.

I wonder if a similar thing goes on, for me, with titles. When I was ordained into the Soto Zen Buddhist school my title became ‘bodhisattva Trevor Moku Shin Barton’.

So excited I was to be ordained and have a title I fantasized about what to do with it. Include it in email signatures? Sign off letters with it? And so on.

I am bodhisattva Moku Shin when I am not trying to be bodhisattva Moku Shin.

The living Buddha within lives when I die to any machinations, desires, designs, schemes.

The broken healer heals staying broken.

The living Buddha lives alive in death.

There is no death

There is no death.

Not really. Or, not in the way we might commonly think of death.

Time, for example, is much stranger than our everyday minds allow for. The only moment that is real, is this precise moment – ‘the now’. So, who I was in the previous moment – the one just gone – has already passed away. And the being I am to be in the future moment is not yet. The only being I am, the only place life is to be experienced really, and all reality, is just in the unfolding moment right now. Codependent origination; everything unfolding all at once, and disappearing as quickly as it has gone.

But what about memory? The sense of continuum? A personal journey? A story? Well, yes. This is part of experience. But memory itself is quite a weak force. We are prone to misremember, to elaborate on memories to suit something happening in the present. Or simply to get material facts wrong at our subconscious choosing. It is a part of experience.

When we fear dying, what we really fear could do with a little more study. Perhaps we fear pain. If I cut my finger, it can really hurt. And that’s just my finger! What about an experience which extinguishes all of me! That must really hurt! Yes, but some may pass away quietly in their sleep.

Perhaps we find not existing too strange to comprehend. Of course. But it is our ego thinking this. Everyday mind. The ego cannot imagine itself not being, because the ego exists to preseve the vital prerogative to persist. To continue. And so not existing is counter to the purpose of the ego. But when we practice meditation we come to understand that the ego is not everything that we are – it is just one necessary function of our being.

The rest of our self, our being, is shared with all being; is One. And we know from experience that One persists beyond time – before, during, after, without, within time-space-movement.

We know Oneness has no death. The Source. Buddha-nature. No death there. No birth. No not-death. No not-birth. And so on.

If it is our fear of pain, fear of losing memories, fear of losing free will (is there free will? whose will?), missing habits – all of this comes from the small self – the individuated self.

Death and time are very strange. But, it’s not really death itself or time itself we fear or dislike.

Life is beautiful when we are ready to die. When we have nothing to fear.

Will we carry our karma into space, too?

I’ve heard friends say it. I’ve heard a top business advisor in my area say it, and I’ve heard people I meditate with say it. ‘One day, we will have to go into space’.

The thinking is that one planet will not be enough. Aware that our lifestyles already require between 3 and 5 planets to be sustained at their current rate, or aware of overpopulation, or vaguely alluding to environmental crisis, or a combination of these things with a look to the future, people seem convinced that ‘space will be the only way to go’ if humanity is to have a future.

I have to take deep breaths when I hear it!

When I meditate, what I recognise with a non-dual mind is that everythingness and I are indivisible. Indivisible from the trees, the grass, the stones, the birds, the cats, the worms.

Knowing this changes my behaviour towards everything ‘else’, because it is indivisible from ‘me’.

It is human centric to think that if there are not enough resources for our preferences (actually, our insatiability) on one planet – we must get off this rock (in whole or in part) to pull in more.

Imagine we did find other planets to seed and inhabit. Imagine we did successfully exploit more of known space. Would we be happier?

Couples retire and sometimes buy property in warmer climates. Where I live, that’s usually in Spain. A few years ago there were stories of angry retirees selling up in Spain because of heat waves, recession, and in some cases simply divorce.

Wherever we go, our karma follows us like our shadow. It never fully leaves us. All we can do is gradually lessen the extent to which it governs and dictates who we are. Through practice. Mindfulness. Paying attention. Going to the still point of inner peace, and taking decisions from that place.

Karma will follow us to our new life in a hot country. And it will follow us to our new life on planet Mars.

When I’m walking on the pavement, I sometimes keep my eyes down, making sure to tread on as few beings by accident as possible. Last Autumn, because of climate change and a wetter weather pattern, there were tremendous amounts of snails. I tried to make sure I didn’t stand on them when walking past.

The snail on the pavement has as much right to its life as I have to mine, and Oneness teaches me this.

Oneness also teaches me that I really don’t need 5 planets to live happily. It is more important to extinguish my passion of insatiability. When I do, there is incalculable wealth in poverty waiting for me.

We must wake up quickly, I think, and understand that being at the top of the food chain does not mean we will always be there, deserve to be there, or have a right to be there. If we do not love our bees, or tend our trees, we will make the future very hard for ourselves.

Every being is important, and meditation teaches me this. If I do not take it to heart, then, I have not learnt a thing!

Enlightenment is not another god

We reach our late 30’s, perhaps our mid 40’s, and something happens to us, or a lot of us. We become more grounded in ourselves and somehow – through either crisis or some kind of inner shift – shake off the received faith of our parents or childhood elders.

For some of us, this means giving up on god completely. For others, perhaps a shift of religion, or a reinterpretation of the same religion.

The god of our childhoods turns out to have been a mental construct. It lets us down drastically and miserably, and we have a crisis of faith – entering a dark time for the soul.

Where once we hid from fear of the emptiness or falsity of that god in not ‘overthinking’ our faith, now there is only darkness and an empty void. No lack of thought and fear.

Out the other side, we (some of us) have a new understanding and language for the divine; one often based on experience and more esoteric knowledge that does not come from mental constructs, but from experience as it happens. From relationships. From living.

But speaking for myself I can now see a third shift. A shift which happens when that previous awakening also breaks down because I have turned ‘enlightenment’ back into a construct. Something to achieve. Something to pray to, in a way. A god to please again.

Enlightenment is not a panacea for our problems like so many of us seem to wish for – especially today (the day before 21.12.12).

As Lao Tsu said in the Tao, the book of the way, if we seek the way we do not find it. We only find it when we stop looking; when we empty of ourselves and surrender (terrible paraphrase, sorry).

What is my enlightenment right now? Is it something I hang belief on in order to feel secure again? Something I try to please? Something I try to master in order to feel alright again and no longer be scared? Something I try to work out so that I finally ‘get it’ and everything is OK?

When that’s true, then enlightenment has been made back into the image of the god I stopped believing in when I had my first crisis; a crisis that came because I had made god in my own mental image.

Neither that enlightenment, nor that god, are real.

In Soto Zen we chant the Maka Hannya, which says (from memory) ‘ku fu i shiki, shiki soku ze ku’ – form is emptiness and emptiness is form.

Only in emptiness, egolessness, does everythingness reveal itself as always already there in every moment, indivisible from me, and showing me to be in, and be, the whole cosmos. God’s child.

The beginning of the world is at hand, in my heart and yours.

Incoherency of Self, and the Amnesiacal Echoes of PTSD

The Buddhist notion of the Self is that it is not as coherent as we would like to think. We create a self image with a story, a drama, about itself. But we even forget this story and where we were taking it. It changes in such a way from day to day that a film director would sack his continuity error man if our lives were films in production. Our image of ourselves is not who we are. It doesn’t even get close.

There’s lots on the web about Buddhism and the Self. It’s quite a meaty subject, and I don’t want to go into it here.

I’ve recently been reflecting upon the way Buddha explains the Self, leading me out of attachment to my own whims and fancies of who I am. And whilst I’ve been doing that something else has been happening too. A sense of something going on mental health wise. On the surface this looked like a kind of amnesia – an echo of having had PTSD. But on closer examination I realised this feeling was a short-hand message from somewhere deep within for something coming from several sources. One was the amount of times I kept finding things that I did or wrote or documented whilst I DID have PTSD or was on anti-depressants, and noticing that I’d completely forgotten those things until seeing them again. And another was a sort of jumpiness which has come about from having, unfortunately, been surrounded by at least two people with anxiety issues of their own; this bringing back some PTSD-like behaviours for myself. In the jumping, there was no sense of time to dwell on specifics – and so some information (often unimportant) in the recent past would be lost.

So on the one hand I’ve been reflecting on letting go of self-made images and reflections of a self identity, and on another hand I’ve been troubled about incoherency from another angle.

This has not been a pleasant phase. But it has been useful and, in its own way, intriguing. Then, as if to bring closure to this moment, I read the following paragraphs in Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Icehenge’ novel:

“Memory is the weak link. This year I will be three hundred and ten years old, but most of my life is lost to me, buried in the years. I might as well be a creature of incarnations, moving from life to life, ignorant of my own past. Oh, I “know” that once I climbed Olympus Mons, that once I visited the Earth, and so on; I can check the record like anyone else; but to recall none of the detail, to feel nothing for this knowledge, is not to have done it.

It isn’t as simple as that, I admit. Certain events, moments scattered here and there in my life, exist in my memory like artifacts in the layers of an excatavion: fragments of meaning on the debris of time, left in a pattern of deposition that I fail to understand. On occasion I will stumble on one of these artifacts – a trolley bell in the sreet, and i see an Alexandrian’s smile – a whiff of ammonia, and suddenly I am reacquainted with my first daughter’s birth – but the process of deposition, the process of recovery, both are mysteries to me. And each little epiphany reminds me that there are things I have forgotten forever – things that might explain me to myself, which explanation I sorely need – and I clutch at the fragment knowing I might never stumble across it again.

So I have decided to collect these artifacts, with the idea that I had better try to understand them now, while they are still within my reach – working as the archaeologists of old did so often, against rising waters in haste, while the chance yet exists: hurrying to invent a new archaeology of the self.

What we feel most, we remember best.”

How clever, really?

There sometimes seems to be too much analysis placed over the top of some things in the recent history of our species. Perhaps this is because the historical details are indeed complex.

But this results in not seeing some really basic things.

For example, war.

One way of seeing war is that we had the Great War because the technology had arrived, and so we could. One century we did not have very good pistols, or any aircraft. The next century, we did. So the race was on to see who used the technology for dominance first; much like male gorrilas fight for group domination.

Then one decade we did not have very good aircraft, or any fitted with guns, and the next decade we did. So we had another war to continue the previous one, only this time with better weapons; maybe the challenge for dominance was left open. Again, just like gorrilas.

Then, unlike gorrilas, the capacities changed mid-war. We entered World War 2 without any missiles, and ended them with some. So came the cold war. Thankfully, for us, this particular dominance challenge still remains open – a question we hope will never be answered.

Not satisfied with this, the male members of our species tried missiles in space. Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ project was the culmination of the cold war. The arms race was really the same race for domination through strength all along.

Clumsy apes doing what apes have always done. How clever are we, really?

What’s really exciting, however, is that if looked at this way there is lots of potential opening up. The Arab spring of 2011 testifies to a new kind of phenomenon. People are still clambering over each other to use new technology to change the game, but this time it is social media being used by mass movements in order to remove certain alpha males.

Again, we are suddenly able to do something we have not done before, and so a kind of race happens and we do it. The technology is leading us.

What would be really clever would be generation of technology mapped to holistic interpretations of outcomes. But we clearly ain’t evolved enough for that yet, and in the meantime we’re busy wiping ourselves out with every move!

“Charitable Acts” and “Compassionate Acts”

When a homeless person is given soup, they eat soup, and then they can stay on the street a bit longer. The person who is the soup giver can feel good that they have given the soup, but the person who is homeless simply eats the soup because it is there and goes away again until next time. The soup keeps him on the street for another day.

When a homeless person is asked what one thing they want above all else; what one thing they need most of all to help life get better, and then that one thing is given to them, they can start to feel better and things can start to mend.

In the first illustration, soup is subjecting one human being to another human being’s need to feel good.

In the second illustration, one gift is empowering one human being to start to see life differently through one gift freely given only once. But if the gift giver goes out intending to empower the gift receiver, then we are back to square one; there is the one who can give the gift, and the one who has nothing to give; immediately it is an act of disempowerment. And if the act is done compassionately the first time (so that the receiver does not feel like a person with no gift to give) but egotistically the second time – it is disempowering again. The giver feels good, but the receiver feels the opposite of what the giver originally intended to achieve in the life of the receiver.

It is not quite so much the action as the energy behind the action. If the energy is right then the action will be right, and the energy can only be right with compassion. One mind proceeding clearly.

When we give money to charities to feed people who are starving in other countries, our giving has the potential to be brutal. It is very easy for us to want people around the world just to live like we do, as if not living like us is wrong.

People have been stripped of their Jungle village habitats so that we can have palm oil or soya milk. Once they are starving in slums Westerners take photographs and build a campaign around the photographs so that we give them money so that they will not starve. How does it give them back their Jungle village in which they sustained a living for a thousand years?


If you have slept on a street, even for one night, you will know that you wake up feeling fuzzy. Homeless people are often fuzzy not because of drug taking but because they are homeless and have to sleep on the street. Have you tried to do it? It is very hard to achieve good sleep. So it is difficult to think clearly for yourself if you have slept on the street. It will affect your thinking and your behaviour. You may not come over as being polite and nice enough to fit the bill as a sweet poor person who just wants some soup. Who cares? You are hungry and tired!


John Daido Loori says that compassion is something that just happens. There is no doer who is doing the good, and no receiver who is receiving the good. It is like breathing.


I can not ever let myself feel like a rich person who has riches to give to someone who is poor ever again. It simply does not compute. The guilt does not compute. The appeal to a high morality of philanthropy does not compute. The energy behind the appeal does not compute. It is always almost, but not quite, right. The energy behind it does not quite feel persuasive and leaves me doubting. And then doubting my doubt. And then feeling guilty. And then giving in and paying money.

I suggest that when a campaign is not quite persuasive it is because the energy behind it is not quite right. And when this happens to me, rather than feeling guilt, it is a wake up bell prompting me to ask myself what the outcomes are likely to be if I give this money or sign this petition, as opposed to not giving this money or signing this petition. At first perhaps bad. Later on perhaps better. Not much difference. Perhaps worse to do something that is not sustainable. Is there something else that I can do?

Peace, Beloved Community, Elders, and Digital Economic Nationalism

I’m on a snowboarding holiday in Austria with my partner, and a dear friend who I work with at a charity which works for peace (The Fellowship of Reconciliation).

We’ve been discussing what we have learnt about the nature of peace – what makes for it, how it emerges, how it is so much more than demilitarisation and has to do with the nature of the human spirit, and so on.


For me, which I’m sure I’ve blogged about before, the words of Thich Nhat Hanh ring in my mind like a meditation bell: if we put all the weapons and all the bombs on the moon, we would still make more weapons and bombs. So peace has to be about some other kind of transformation; not necessarily disarmament – at least not first (by which I mean, armament is an effect, not a cause).


On the other hand, for those who have discovered spiritual enlightenment according to their given or favoured tradition, inner peace becomes a reality of daily life. Om mane pemme hum. Discovering this for yourself, it is tempting to think that if all of humanity could make this discovery, the shift in culture, in society, in art, would be beyond measure. But the Way cannot be owned and cannot be forced to emerge in others. It goes where it goes.


Conflict of any kind is clearly a disease of the human mind; borne of our adversarial ego position, with which we are born. We are acculturated to allow the ego too much room in our minds. It possesses us, and the vital prerogative to keep alive – to persist – to thrive – for which the ego evolved to protect – becomes all consuming.


Hence conflict in the world, in communities, and the need for inner transformation in order for world peace to be attained.

But knowing inner peace for one’s self does not promulgate greater world peace on its own. The inner transformation has to also become outwardly transformative, and this is the point currently being made by evolutionary enlightenment thinkers.

In Zen Buddhism, a bodhisattva vows that ‘how ever innumerable are all beings, I vow to save them all’. This does not translate as ‘save’ in the same sense as a born again Christian might be instructed or commissioned to “save” others from an after life of hell. It simply means something like, ‘I have a duty of compassion and respect to all other living beings, and realizing one mind between us, I vow to save them from my own pain and suffering’.

If I can take my own illusion, anger, and greed out of the equation through death of the ego, then the world is more peaceful. Transformations occur simply because I am walking in the Way rather than pushing myself against the forces of the cosmos. Rather like a carpenter working with the grain of the wood. And such transformations in relationships, in work, in others around me, become immeasurable, tangible, unexpected, and beyond my own control. They are simply realized without effort.


Sure. If we all attained this, there would be little to no conflict. We would deal with our conflicts more intelligently and compassionately when they arose. We would look upon the waging of war as the infantile, egotistical, stupid, and futile illusion that it is. An illusion because it can never be a path to happiness, or a path to success, or a path to peace. It never has been and never will be.

Perhaps there will be a tipping point. Enough of humanity will awaken, and enough people will awaken out of such illusion and suffering, that even those for whom awakening has not yet occurred, the illusion of ‘final solutions’ will fall by the wayside and into human history much like cannibalism has already done. And this is what the 2012 brigade are hoping for; galactic alignment will simply occur, causing a new great transformation in human history.


But there may be ways for peace to emerge which don’t rely on such a faith in galactic alignment (which, for some, is hocus pocus), or a belief in the power of the individual aligned with Spirit. Inner transformation work, when combined with a beloved community, can create communities of peace. And many peace NGO’s (including FoR), Christian emerging churches, Buddhist sanghas like Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village, and others, are exploring and making this a reality in the world. In turn, these peace communities have a greater force of good karma than an individual standing alone. And they don’t have to be reatreatant in nature.


What my colleague and I were specifically grappling with in our discussion was the demise of imperial nationalism, and the emergence within living memory of capitalist nationalism; all nations still defend their own interests, but this is along economic and not imperial or religious lines. And because this form of nationalism is economic in nature, it is much more fluid than previous forms of nationalism – almost to the point where ‘nationalism’ is nolonger the right word, unless you think of it in terms of ‘imagined communities‘ rather than in terms of geopolitical areas. Moreover, transactions are made across the globe digitally, and allegiances often cross national and cultural borders. The project of the European Union is essentially a post-imperial form of digital economic nationalism. The EU is a monetary bloc, a cooperative where the merging of culture and humanist ideals succeeds, and does not precede, economic collaboration – at least at the level of governance between member nations.


In this context, ‘defense’ and ‘governance’ are closely tied to the economic prosperity of the privileged. This is not so much a military/industrial complex, as was witnessed in Hitler’s Third Reich (which heavily drew on the imperialism of the Christianised Holy Roman Empire – ordained by God to conquer), as a military/economic complex. This is important because economic growth now grows out from a centre of power much more organically than forced empire building. Sure, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait not so long ago, and this was the older form of empire building. But the nations who became concerned about this were not sort of jealous that they didn’t think of this first; nobody toppled him off that throne in order to take it for themselves in a 19th century fashion. An independent Kuwait was much more important a prize for the economic stability or availability of the oil resource, and reasserting such stability in that area required cooperative thinking between economic centres rather than competitive thinking; there was more to gain financially that way through trade.


Despite this level of cooperation in the interests of good trading, the possibility of colonial/ imperial/ military-industrial forms of evil reasserting themselves, or if not that then the fear of an as-yet-unseen “evil”, is enough to cause nations to build and maintain a defense system much in the way that it is sensible to have anti-virus software installed on your computer before being able to safely surf the Internet. The “war on terror” can be read in this context as a purge of a system bug – the bug being an organised group of dispersed, trained individuals acting like worms, trojans and phishers, and democracy in this context can be read as the global digital economic system working within ‘normal system parameters’.

THE MILITARY ECONOMIC COMPLEX PROTECTS GLOBAL SYSTEM NORMAL, RATHER THAN IDEAS OF A PERFECT SOCIETY (ideologies are dead – including left/right forms of politics as demonstrated by China’s capitalist-communism, or Blair’s free trade socialism), OR TRIBES (ideas of racial or creedal boundaries are all but gone in much of the world).


Global system normal sounds quite good. With economic stability comes other forms of stability – fewer abuses of power, fewer breeches of human rights and so on. But the problem is, and many people are talking about this, that organising human behaviour around purely economic grounds is beyond lame. Economics has no care for the real value of world resources, for sustainability, or even for its own perpetuation. Within this global system normal, the operating system itself is fatally flawed. It is only a matter of time, if left to its own devices, before the system will break itself down because we live on a planet with finite resources. Cynically speaking, the end of apartheid, of homophobia, of sexism, of ageism (which we are starting to see if not seeing) could all be attributed to global system normal rather than to brilliant advancement in human behaviour. These old distinctions simply don’t matter in the way they once did; all human units are potential consumers. It’s tempting to look at positive social changes from the 20th century and think that this means the democracy experienced in late capitalism is a good system of governance. But it isn’t. Not only is it fundamentally flawed, but it is also not the right way to look at it. We aren’t choosing democracy. Democracy is choosing us because we now organise ourselves within a global total digital economic system which requires certain ‘software’ to operate. This sucks.


Some peacemakers seem to prefer Anarchy. Especially the protester types who often forget that active nonviolence means not being violent. And we came back to the theme of beloved community.

My colleague’s question is – how do you have accountability, how do you fill the power void, in any community? To leave it empty would be anarchy, to fill it totally would be totalitarianism, so what else is there other than where we are now? The Quakers, for whom peacemaking has been a major theme throughout their history as a faith group, favour total democracy; all voices are heard and given equal balance. The trouble is that even this form of super democracy does not have within it the force to undo a fundamentally flawed global system normal.


There may be another option, and it’s an option which is already being experimented with by the Sanghas, churches, and groups mentioned above. It’s already prevalent in our religious heritages. It’s a system of eldership, and some of the oldest human civilisations thrived using this system.

What do we do with our elderly? We hide them away in shame. For some reason, our elderly stopped being our elders at some point. Perhaps this was because of the industrial revolution, and the disconnection this caused between human society and living natural systems. The very moment that rural communities were depopulated and urban centres grew, drew us away from these roots.

Or perhaps it is because of two world wars. Our elderly are not our elders quite simply because they fought in wars, whether they wanted to or not. Or if we are talking about our baby boomer parents as our elderly (which they have become), then it might be possible to talk of in terms of the self-centred hedonism which stereotypes a baby boomer. Rebelling against their parents whose worldview became darkened by wars, baby boomer culture was bright, colourful, indulgent, and insatiable. The world was not enough, and they can’t get no satisfaction.

I haven’t fathomed out what sort of system would be preferable for determining what makes an elder, but we all have built within us the capacity to know spiritual wisdom when we hear it, and there are many existing good examples of communities with elders where the elders themselves are accountable too.

I recently saw an advertisement calling for the Grandmothers of the world to unite as a voice for peace and wisdom, to admonish their sons about how they express their anger and fear in the world, to give their grandsons an aspirational sense of awe, and to remind their daughters and grand daughters the important gifts which women can give the world. This is a call to eldership.

I don’t expect to figure out a path to world peace after one year of working for a peace charity, one year of exposure to the peace movement, or two years of sitting in the Soto Zen tradition (even with Bodhisattva ordination). But this is a statement of where I’m up to on chewing that fat, as it were.

Inner peace has to be an essential component of sustainable peace in the world, but it is not the only component, and the dharma is nothing without the marketplace. The marketplace has to be community – the place where inner wisdom passes into fully manifested and realized action in the world. And communities require an organisational structure. In Soto Zen we are taught that our peers are more important than our blood ties, because one day a peer might be our Master. And our Masters, monks and nuns, are our Elders whom we go to when we seek wisdom.

All well and good for making world peace a reality within that closed community system; but what about peace and justice for all? And in that sense, I guess that communities which are outward-facing (in the same way that the Network of Engaged Buddhists Sangha is) are more likely to align with the nature of the peace which passes all understanding. That source of peace which has a life all of its own, which moves and flows not knowing boundaries of race, creed, colour, wealth, sexuality, gender, religion, type of being, or system of governance.

Peace is not mine to take. Compassion is ours to share from the heart of our own beloved community.

Life is there to enjoy…

Here are some lines I heard down the pub last night:

“I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to live until I’m old. Quality over quantity.”

“Life is there to enjoy.”

These are strange ideas to me. There is something half true in them, and half not true.

To not be afraid of death sounds noble, but there is no death to be afraid of. Quality over quantity also sounds noble, but when people say this in my local pub they do not mean to live with great compassion – they mean to cram in as much perceived pleasures as they can even if it means an earlier death.

Hence the second phrase. Life is there to enjoy. Well, yes it is. But my enjoyment of it should not come in the way of your enjoyment of it, otherwise it is only there to enjoy for me! And what if you are Ethiopian. Should I get in the way of you enjoying it then? No. So, I am a rich Westerner. What does this mean about my enjoyment of life? Do what I want? I don’t think so.

People are really just talking about themselves, and wanting to have fun. Sounds OK, but the thing about seeking fun is once you have had fun today, you need to find fun again tomorrow. It is much better to find inner joy! It doesn’t run out!

People saying these things down my local pub – they really mean that they are insatiable. They have to keep getting more and more fun. Strangely, this is keeping them from really experiencing the beauty of life. What a subtle thing. So many people are still not getting that.

Life is joy. Who is the one who needs the enjoying?

Why the drama?

If someone is sending you a thousand text messages, and giving you a thousand phone calls because they are in a desperate life situation, you are likely to feel harassed and depressed at some point. You are also likely to feel that you are trapped; how can you ignore their text messages and phone calls? They are in a desperate situation, and you are not heartless.

But you are not trapped. They are trapped.
How much of their messaging and phoning is about the hard facts of their desperate life situation? How much of it is about practical things you can do as a friend to help? And how much of it is about how they feel, about their drama?
They are trapped in their own drama, and responding to every text message and every phone call is simply feeding their drama – allowing them to have more drama about the situation. This is why they are trapped. You keep them trapped every time you indulge them in their wants.
The best way to help in that situation is to deny them their wants. This feels wrong and heartless. But it is compassionate in this situation. Deny them their wants and they will have to face them for themselves.
Make it clear that if they request something practical that you can do to help then you will be there. But otherwise you cannot help them. This will save you from being abused, and wake them out of their own drama / dukkha.

After the grave

When all that is left is past pain. When all the real healing and recovery has been achieved, and is a thing of the past and not today. That is when a fresh challenge comes.

The previous challenges; how to cope with today, how to unlearn thought-patterns emergent of a damaged mind, how to let go of negative thoughts, how to choose rational thoughts over irrational ones, are gone. What is left more than anything is then simply choice.

Choice to stay content with things as they are, or choice to use what has been learnt through the expensive and difficult process of dying and finding life, of breaking down, through, and back up.

But to use what has been learnt requires a willingness to go into previously uncharted territory in one’s inner life and in the experience of life in general. To choose to allow new thought patterns to develop. To let go of favourite negative thoughts and allow new modes of behaviour and analysis.

For me, this is met with a great reluctance on a subconscious level. Perhaps because past pain is known, and being known provides a certain level of preceived comfort. Which is, of course, silly. Pain can never comfort.

So the choice is there. Finally, the opportunity arises to let go of all that I have been through, and apply the learning – pioneering a new way of being in the world.

There is only really one answer. Yes. I will let go of the past. I will let go of negative ‘comfort places’. I will brave a new world in my soul. And the cosmos is there to greet me already.

When rising from the grave is completed, there is simply new living to do.

I wonder whether activism plays a part in making peace?

The normal mind is the adversarial mind. This is what Michel Meiho Bovay says in his commentary on Master Taisen Deshimaru’s Rules of the Dojo.

Global peace may not be possible with normal adversarial mind activity. Conflict potential is perhaps truly transformed by natural state peace mind only.

War is built on anger fear ignorance illusion. Consciousness raising activity shows the current manifestations of the illusions we share, and how active such illusions are. But sick minds essentially need compassion hospital. Is activism compassionate? Does it show compassion?

Anger and fear cannot defeat ignorance and illusion. ‘Those who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes’.

Transmuting disrespect

When someone else tries to put me down, or provide negative criticism, I have learned that they are almost certainly simply trying to make themselves feel better.

Anger and hatred or disgust are obvious emotions, but on realising this, pity is more likely. Pity can become compassion for them with practice. When they have finished, they will not feel better for very long. Especially if compassion is returned.

When negative responses stir, the energy can be transmuted into compassion.

Life is just a party

‘Life is just a party, and if you don’t see this then you must be blind’

The line from a yet-to-be-released song in the UK.

Well, yeah. But also… all parties are hosted.

For your life to be a party, you have to help my party along too.

The world is already perfect. Life is already perfect. All that is in the way is all the forgetting of this fact. If we all live right now without illusion, without forgetting, then the perfect world will come. It will not come overnight. It will take time for everyone to remember. Forgetting is almost as contagious as remembering. Almost. And all of nature has been held up in our forgetting too, so nature needs some time to recover.

Everyone’s butting Buddhism

This is a rant.

I’ve noticed several speakers – all of them seem to know of each other – Ken Wilbur, Richard Rohr, Andrew Cohen, Eckhart Tolle…. adding a ‘but’ to Buddhism. Butting it.

It does not go far enough. It does not engage with present life. It does not have a God Incarnate like Christianity does. It teaches these things, but not quite as well as modern psychology or my religion or spiral dynamics or whatever.

I sit my but.

There is not no peace making

AJ Muste once said, ‘there is no way to peace. Peace is the way.’

I have been contemplating the many meanings of this for a few months.

It seems that there are many who are still looking for a route to global peace through carving a way towards it much like a snow plough fending off an avalanche of its own making.

Instead, peace is ‘the way things are’, ‘the way to be’, ‘the best way’, ‘the natural way’, ‘how things are generally ordered’.

Thich Nhat Hanh says (somewhere) that if you want to campaign for peace you need to write love letters. My own interpretation of his words is that getting angry about violence and militarism only serves to add fuel to the fire of insanity burning in the minds of military people. It props up the illusion they have made for themselves; an illusion about the wisdom of military conflict, an illusion about separateness from the ‘enemy’, an illusion of ego and vital prerogative. Instead, love letters are a bell bringing a deluded mind back into the present moment and inviting that mind to wake up.

Love letters, or any form of nonviolent action that is alive to the present and to spirit.

I guess that’s the difference between being a peacemaker living in the way of peace and using that state of being to mediate a ‘middle path’ between that state of being and the dukkha encountered, and being a peacemaker like a snow plough fending off an avalanche up a mountain.

I can see how easy it is to slip between middle path and snow plough. Both require an intention for peace for onesself and one’s world. Perhaps, sometimes, middle path is snow plough – confusing things even further. Greater mindfulness is needed in separating the two.

There is no peace ‘making’. There is not no peace ‘making’.

The morning chorus

Birdsong is so playful. Rising in volume with the sun’s light.

Have you noticed how one bird will sing, and wait for another bird’s reply before singing again? They are in conversation together.

Scientists have now established that birds have certain sounds for certain basic things like ‘good food’, ‘bad food’.

I think it will be a while before scientists catch up with what St Francis must have known, and realize that the language of birds is just as sophisticated as ours.

‘Remember the precepts! Take care of the little ones. Watch out for bigger birds and the things that humans move around in….’

Soul, non-duality, and InterBeing

For me, non-duality means that during peak experiences – those moments of oneness with everything that has being, with the one life force – there is no separation between my self and that everything; the everything that has being.

During those experiences, those moments, it is simply not possible to distinguish between the essence of myself, and the essence of Being itself; the essence of everything manifest. This is awareness of how the idea that my own self-separation from all other beings, from the cosmos, as a distinct entity, is an illusion. There is none.

So I simply don’t know whether I have a soul or not. Whether we have souls. On the one hand, over three years of meditation (almost every day, always for more than 20 minutes) has led me to accept that it is possible to embrace the wonderful tranquillity of my always-pure essential nature; that this is a distinct thing – distinct from other notions of inner self, an original thing, a deep thing. In some way, that feels like having a soul.

But for non-duality!  The very moment I start to preceive of my own slice of the one life force being ‘me’ and not life force, things stop making sense. If that inner essence were just ‘me’, then how come during some peak experiences, I have felt what it is to know that I am encountering all Wisdom? Every single bit of wisdom in the cosmos. Life itself. The source. The ground of being. That cannot be ‘me’! I am far from being all Wisdom!

This leads to other questions. Why does the divine life energy manifest as anything other than itself anyway? If my ‘soul’ is not a soul, but simply the component of my self that is divine, then is that component me or God?

And then those questions melt away again in non-duality. They’re irrelevant. The one life force permeates everything manifested, and is itself pure and the same for all beings. Any being knowing itself as much as is possible to know self, eventually finds the one life force lurking in its core, and realizes that self is simply part of One. A church of all souls. A community of InterBeing (cf. Titch Nhat Hanh).