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Lessons From The Dead


Just last week the Conference Minister for my church came to speak to us about his Immersion Seminar at Centro Romero.

I was extremely moved by the experience and by listening to his personal stories about the Mexican and US Border situation in California, New Mexico and Arizona.    These stories had a profound effect upon my thinking and they remained in the forefront of my mind as I traveled and returned from the celebration to honor my Aunt’s life, which was held in Canada.

I learned about how farmer’s were selling their productive farms to the folks who wanted to build factories and  were then hired as cheap labor, how recently  the factory owners have found cheaper labor elsewhere, those farmers are being sent away with nothing – no work, no money, and no farms for food. I learned about all the water pollution from the factories that is causing the shanty towns to have ever increasing birth defects.   I learned about stimulus money being spent on more and more WALLS and how the latest and best wall, was scaled by 2 young women in 18 seconds (I understand there is a You Tube Video available – but I could not find it)

I learned about dehydrations, kidnappings, prostitution, rapes, and shootings are a daily part of life for those seeking work and a better life and future.   I learned about all the advertizing of the USA as the land of milk, honey and opportunity and as a way to get away from the drug war and warlords.

We talked about how one could get people to stay home and be empowered to change their culture and society. We talked about fear and how it is just permeating our daily lives and how we live in a culture of fear, and how we feed and nurture the fear.  How we are a part of the destruction and how we can be a part of the rebuilding of hope and future.

The Reverend Denton talked about being in Arizona when the people were killed in Tuscan and how the people that he was staying with were totally convinced that this was the start of a war of the borders and they were going to be killed at any moment.   The fear radiated everywhere. There was an assumption of violence. Folks were presenting arms.  FEAR was in the air they were breathing.

Turning People into the OTHER.   Dehumanizing.  Degrading.

What could we do to counter balance this fear, this violence?  What could we do to raise up the human spirit and promote justice and peace?

Then Rev. Denton reminded us that we in Washington State and all the states along the Canadian Border are under the same laws as those people in Arizona.   That thousands of pounds of marijuana and other drugs come into these states on a daily basis and already WALLS are being constructed – Drones make night flights filming the borders and the perpetrators. The forces against this flow are contracted troops and not under military jurisdiction.  Violence and fear are already here…and the problems of the migrant workers and the people left behind.

I saw evidence of our new thinking about our Northern Neighbors (and my family) as I went across the border 2 times this weekend.  The man sitting behind me on the ferry spent a part of the trip explaining to his Asian friend how Canadians had too many people from Pakistan in their country and the whites were too passive to be worthwhile, but it was a good place to come to play and drink.

The Border Agents took a great deal of time sizing up each passenger as they entered each country.

I do not have any solutions to share other than my 15 years of work with Nonviolent Communications by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg, work on relocalization, and all my work in the area of social justice.

My best idea is to educate and work at stopping the expansion of fear and violence.  We must stop saturating ourselves with violence towards the other and bathing in the waters of fear.   We need to daily work on our kindness to others right in our own neighborhoods and call out injustice in our own cities and towns.  We must each become the Velveteen Rabbit with no fur remaining.

I opened my new book from Pema Chödrön, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from old Habits and Fears and found comfort in her words, I want to share them with you:

“We have a tendency to label one another as an irritating person, a bore, a threat to our happiness and security, as inferior or superior; and this goes way beyond our close circle of acquaintances at home or at work.

“This labeling can lead to prejudice, cruelty, and violence; and in any time or place when prejudice, cruelty and violence occur, whether it’s directed by one being toward another or by groups of beings towards other groups, there’s a theme that runs through:  “This person has a fixed identity, and they are NOT LIKE ME.  We can kill someone or we can be indifferent to the atrocities perpetrated on them because THEY ‘RE JUST HAJIS, or THEY’RE JUST WOMEN, or THEY’RE JUST GAY.   You can fill in the blank with any racial slur, any dehumanized label that’s ever been used for those we consider different.

“There’s a whole other way to look at one another- and that is to try dropping our fixed ideas and get curious about the possibility that nothing and no one remains always the same.  This starts, of course, with getting curious and dropping the limiting stories we’ve created about ourselves.  Then we have to stay present with whatever is happening to us.  What I find helpful is to think of whatever I am experiencing – whether it’s sadness, anger, or worry; pleasure, joy or delight – as simply the dynamic , fluid energy of life as it is manifesting right now.  That shifts the resistance I have to my experience.  Because I’ve been practicing this approach for some years now, I’ve come to have confidence in the capacity for open receptivity, for wakefulness and nobility in all beings.  And I’ve seen that how we regard and treat one another can draw this nobility out”

“Anything we experience, no matter how challenging, can become an open pathway to awakening.”

My Aunt Margery was a woman who radiated a warm loving spirit and every person who experienced her felt special and honored.   I would add I truly felt loved whenever I was with her.

I experienced two major lessons in my life this week and both are on my mind.  I want to be a peacemaker and not feed the fear and violence against others and I want to be like my Aunt and honor others I meet along my journey.

How do you think we should eliminate this fear in ourselves and in our world?  How do you tear down walls?

I would add on a global scale of thinking how do you think we can end the USA’s addiction to drugs and resources and figure out a reality that is honest and true?

Looking forward to your comments:

Related reading you might also enjoy:
Hats off to two wonderful world changing men and the books about them
We have met the Enemy by Daniel Akst
Border Songs by Jim Lynch
Mug vs Heart

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28 Responses to “Lessons From The Dead”

  1. Dot Says:

    My opinion of the way to get Americans off drugs is to provide them with the things they’re lacking that drives them toward drugs, whether it be a lack of justice, lack of opportunity, lack of hope, lack of skills, lack of initiative, mental health care, etc. And by “provide” I mean the parents provide those things that belong to the duties of parents and the country provide those things that a truly democratic country should provide.

    patricia Reply:

    good points here and thank you for sharing – I think too if we all just stopped and took a big deep breath until we calmed down would help too.

  2. Galen Pearl Says:

    I love that passage from Pema Chodron about labels. A Course in Miracles teaches that when we separate ourselves from others in whatever way–labeling, judging, criticizing, fearing, etc–we separate ourselves from God. Something to think about!

    patricia Reply:

    I just feel so overwhelmed sometimes – so much work to do and things to learn – and then I come to Pema Chodron and she so empowers the one.

    I think having been married, divorced and a mother truly assists her in her work and efforts. She is dazzling without glitter and fluff

  3. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    “How do you think we should eliminate this fear in ourselves and in our world? How do you tear down walls?” By doing exactly what you’re doing. This blog post is a great start.
    vered | blogger for hire recently posted..Reason 954-832 We’re Getting FatMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Thank you Vered,
    It took me quite long ferry ride to piece together all the emotions and outcomes I ingested this past week…and then the ideas melded into some words in this blog post.

  4. Jenny Ann Fraser Says:

    Hello Patricia and thank you so much for this!
    This world is in serious trouble and I believe that the only hope is to face it and talk about it and start recognizing as you have that here is no “other”.
    I really do believe that we can inspire each other to change, but we have to work at it. This is my plan for the future…

    patricia Reply:

    Jenny Ann Fraser,
    We are all apart of the one…there is no Other! I think we must all work at letting go of fear and helping folks to transition. We need to create curiosity about people and reach out to make everyone life so much better.

    Just being aware of the feeling of fear popping up can make such a difference…a small step and a change that is possible for us all.

  5. Talon Says:

    It is truly tragic that fear has become a motivating force…and one that is so widely accepted.

    It’s also amazing how fear can spread so rapidly and with so little justification leaving people feeling hopeless about the future – and maybe that leads to a lot of the drug use…wanting to escape what seems a bleak and hopeless future.
    Talon recently posted..Indigo LightsMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Watching the people crossing the border 2 times this weekend was truly an eye opener for me. My partner and I were treated with such dignity and respect in our suits and fine clothing and “right” coloring….but the Australian girl in front of us was heavily scrutinized on the USA side – our luggage was not check or screened but randomly the “different” people were.

    Jim Lynch’s book Border Songs alludes to this in a funny story. Why do we need all the drones and war like tactics here – and hired outside private companies to be between USA and Canada…?

    Lots to think about

    Jenny Ann Fraser Reply:

    Hi Patricia and Talon,
    I had to weigh in on this one.
    I too have a terrible time crossing from Canada to the US.
    I am Canadian born and have a Canadian passport. The only reason I can figure is that they can’t determine my ethnic background by looking at me. I’ve actually been asked where my parents were born. I guess I don’t help by saying simply “England” (this is true) but I’m not giving the info they’re looking for.
    Conversely, coming home, I watch all of the immigrant people get dragged through the same searches I go through when coming back home while I get left alone.
    All I can say here is “sigh”
    Jenny Ann Fraser recently posted..The Grand FinaleMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    It is fairly amazing isn’t it….my parents were from Scotland and England via Canada when I was born in the USA. One of my children is Asian Heritage…we were often assumed to be kidnappers…but now it is worse –

    I hear what you are saying Jenny Ann

  6. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia! I love Pema Chodron and all of her books. It seems to me that there is a great resistance to accepting that we are all one and it shows up daily in our fears. The ruling patriarchy (globally) seeks power and domination and control. With that as a motivation no wonder we are divided as hell about everything. A true Namaste – in thought word and deed would certainly be an ideal worth pursuing – circular rather than linear. Have you read The Chalice and The Blade?

    Patricia Reply:

    I have not read the Chalice and The Blade…it is on my list

    Empire building has been going on forever and now we have regressed. I choose to believe that there is a healthy underground movement sending loving vibrations all around the world and it will surface boldly..

    Thanks for you good comments Suzen

  7. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Like Vered said, you’re doing it; opening the topics up for discussion in a blog post. And like you said, we can all start in our own neighborhoods. I also think if we let others know they have a soft place to fall by showing love, a lot of problems could be minimized or eliminated.

    BTW:I love this quote you shared: “Anything we experience, no matter how challenging, can become an open pathway to awakening.”

    P.S. My sympathies are with you as you mourn the loss of your Aunt.
    Barbara Swafford recently posted..How Do You Do ItMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    This too is why I am so fond of Dr. Rosenberg’s model for conversation…as we change how we speak it changes our thinking and we can see how “one” we are in that moment.

    Thank you for your words of kindness – I was hoping you would drop by

  8. Tess The Bold Life Says:

    This is very powerful. Thanks for speaking your truth and finding the time to share it. Hubs and I are bright lights in Arizona sending everyone love.

    The very people that want to keep people out are the same ones who hire them and pretend they don’t.

    I pray. I state my opinion when asked. I don’t watch the news. I send love out to everyone I see and meet. That’s a start for me.

    Patricia Reply:

    It’s a big issue Tess, we can only do our very best…to have so many people treated so inhumanely disturbs me – I hope the love brigade can and will truly make a difference.

    I think too we often think it is so far away – where as the same things are happening here and making lots of negative energy right to the north – in our schools.

  9. Arts Web Show Says:

    I wonder how such injustices can be allowed to happen and how those to benefit can sleep at night then i realise the one thing we humans are all geniuses at ‘ignorance’
    Fixed thinking could also cover it. Justifying it to ourselves even though it clearly unjust, we still find a way
    Arts Web Show recently posted..German shepherd dog speed drawingMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    We are very skilled at turning people into the OTHER…dehumanizing – our history is full of this injustice.

    thank you for your comment – coming to see the speedy German Shepard!

  10. Alien Ghost Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Coming from a South American country, it seems to me that the problem in the US is wealth. The same element that makes for a better living, also makes for fear and excess. If we have, we can become afraid of loosing what we have, while if we don’t have, we know how it feels and our hearts pushes us to share with those in need.

    One of the biggest elements of publicity from “above” is that immigrants are coming to “take” your job and “take” your place in society. It is not seen as “they bring” different opinions or visions, so we can grow together.

    Educated people tend to see further and wider, while ignorance tend to be distrustful; and after several decades in which society didn’t require an education to make a good living, it seems to me what’s left is a complicated economy that creates distrust in some, enhancing discrimination and violence.

    The good part I see with the economy problems now is that is pushing young people to take education more seriously, which should bring a better mutual understanding in the future as an added consequence.

    It seems to me the immediate future could be rough, but after a couple of decades, a better society will emerge.

    Alien Ghost recently posted..BitsMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I think you have caught the major gist of what is going on right now in USA…Though I think I would not use the word wealth, I would say we have passed over into GREED mentality.

    My parents came to this country because they saw opportunity to create the best educational system known in the world. They came with a huge Global Education and wisdom…..After 16 years of intense work and guidance this state was emerging as one of the world’s leaders in public education and my Father was fired for being too radical. It took him 10 years to find more permanent work and he experienced lots of name calling for being a foreigner. It was painful.

    But he kept studying and learning and analyzing what was going on and where we were headed and he developed living systems for mentally challenged individuals to work and live independently.

    He always felt a better society would emerge…I guess we just have to fall hard and suffer before we awaken?
    Thank you for your astute comment

  11. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. as Vered says by speaking out – if only we could all live in peace. We need to start at home .. and be fairer, kinder and less selfish to all around us .. because we need to set examples for all peoples to follow. Sadly people are cruel ..

    I’m pleased to hear you had a safe passage for your aunt’s last journey .. she sounds lovely .. with thoughts – Hilary
    Hilary recently posted..How a play came to be written Samuel Pepys- Robert Hooke My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    Hi Hilary,
    Thank you for your kind words and yes people can be cruel…

    We need to set examples and we need to educate ourselves – history has an uncanny way of repeating itself.

    With a 37% drop out rate in our schools since No Child Left Behind, one would think some parents would have been more agitated sooner rather than just running to private schools…but no we seem to be still under the influence of separate but equal?

    Also the USA has created so many of these problems by thinking they are superior and abusing resources – it is bound to catch up with us sometime…and it will be a huge and mean fall
    Patricia recently posted..Lessons From The DeadMy Profile

  12. Jannie Funster Says:

    I think eliminating fear is a choice. Like happiness is a choice. Dwelling on any kind of fear makes it bigger. Fear is an illusion we create. Nothing to fear but fear itself! It all comes down to our own personal thoughts and comportment.

    Non-violence is a gift indeed!

    Jannie Funster recently posted..Funny Typos — 20My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I think Jannie you are right about fear being a choice, it is also one of our most basic survival skills.

    What do you think about all the folks who believe that fear is the main component of religious experience? or the folks who only watch Entertainment News based on fear and arousal tactics?

    The news show in the USA with the highest viewers right now – is based on fear…promotes fear and makes no excuses for their prejudices and instigation.

    If only Gandhi, Martin Luther, and Rosenberg’s practices of Nonviolence received as much funding as Rupert Murdock is willing to spend – what a great focus we would have to expand.

  13. Davina Haisell Says:

    I think the answer can be simple and folk make it hard, you know? Keeping the lines of communication open will help to tear down the walls… if people would listen and not condemn each other for differing opinions. We can listen without having to be right. Seems to me that builds walls, and not recognizing that, really… we all are connected.
    Davina Haisell recently posted..The Possessive Apostrophe Made EasyMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    we are all connected.
    Now I just learn that teachers lost their bargaining rights in Wisconsin – they are unprotected…that would have been listening to each other…they just went ahead and were dictators… fear and greed