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The ratty blue notebook from Pema Osel Ling

“What a place! Tall trees, birds, the fog rolling off in the morning.”POL

That is the first line on the first page of the notebook I took with me to a “Spirituality and Social Change” gathering in California in 2002.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I had the opportunity to sit, eat, yoga, and learn with Sat Santokh, Ram Dass, Van Jones, Julia Butterfly, John Vasconcellos, Aya De Leon, Michael Lerner, and more.

I arrived relatively unaware of who those people were and really just following the nudge of my partner Hollie and mother-in-law Jackie who had really encouraged and supported me to attend. Looking back I see those days as pivotal and powerful in my own learning journey.

Here’s some of the gems so far:

From Sat Santokh’s opening meditation

  • Open yourself to the world – when you close is when you are numb.
  • Feel tears, pain, and fear
  • One hand on your heart, one on your belly and fire breath pulling and in and pushing out
  • “What’s learnin’ ya?” – a favorite question from Appalachia.
  • Hold space for White Europeans – the flattening of their experience into whiteness loses the flavor and spice of identity.
  • It is painful to stay awake. We tend to take our wounds out on each other. We shed on belief system for another.
  • Disappointment and hopelessness can be great teachers.
  • Find the differences between passion and workaholism.
  • Learn to listen with all your senses.
  • There is always more to say yes to than you can say yes to.

Notes from then State Senator of California John Vasconcellos 

  • “I’m proud that I haven’t become a cynic but more idealistic, richer than where I started.”
  • “The politics we do is who we are.”
  • Gandhi said, “Each one of us is a politician.”
  • Einstein, “You can’t solve problems from the same paradigm you created them.”
  • Call to mastermind the resurrection of the body politic.
  • We are all so separate – scared to trust and to share
  • Daniel Yangolovich – research naming four options for our future
    • Disintegrating into chaos
    • Fundamentalism at the political extremes
    • State sanctioned oppression
    • Trust
  • Carl Rogers writing on Peace, Psychology, and Politics
    • believed we are innately inclined to become responsible, trustworthy, and constructive
  • 7 major shifts
    • Gender – roles and power changes, attention to feeling and intuition
    • Race – morality and self-interest converge as whites become a minority in CA schools in 2010
    • Technology
    • End of Cold War
    • Global Economies
    • Internet creates a kind of creative chaos
    • How we look at and know ourselves (notes say I should look up “New Copernicum Revolution”)
  • Faithful or cynical? Faithful rooted in trust which means open and unarmed. Cynical rooted in being closed and armed. (my notes mark this as a teaching to ponder)
  • Cultural creators – time to find common causes b/w environment, equity, gender. Become true allies – not like allies of WWII
  • Lead lives of integrity developing a new human agenda. Hospice workers for old culture and midwives for new ones.
  • Be knowledgeable and patient
  • Nurture common languages to bring cultural groups together.
  • Trustworthiness vs. Worthwhileness
  • Three things to end violence in schools: 1) Safe physical environment, 2) Safe emotional environment, 3) Resiliency Skills

Next up was Van Jones, then Director of the Ella Baker Center and running the Books Not Bars Campaign

  • 1st give honor to the land and the rightful people to this place, to what has been pulled, the labor of the people who built this place
  • The prison system – working very hard to tell you  – you are subhuman
  • 12-step programs work in part because they provide an outlet to be seen as a person
  • “trying to survive with anger”
  • Conscious hip-hop (bourne out of oppression – injected with compassion)
  • Politics is part of culture – people get what they demand
  • Working on a bill in CA on how first assessments of people incarcerated are handled – a key entry point
  • Paying attention to Vote Smart project in Montana