The Story of Change

Upaya 01

Dream within a Dream

As individuals, we cannot see how we are behaving until our American Dream explodes. We are not the good guys.

As a population of humans, we cannot see the fallacies within the corposystem dream until, and inevitably, it loses its war against the ecosystem and collapses. We are not more powerful than the nature of nature.

As dreamers, we cannot grow a better dream until we see that the old dreams are nothing more than the perennial tragedy of human behaviors, cycling and re-cycling.

Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop

Bare Bones Biology 107 through today, 116, are about communication. Different kinds of communication. And of course we didn’t scratch the surface. Communications has become an entire discipline. I know someone with a PhD in the subject. But there’s nothing new about the simple point of this series of blogs — that all communications are real, but they are useful to us in different ways, as we grow own personal future or, more importantly in the long view as we try to resolve the biological illness that faces our ecosystem.
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We know we cannot survive without the ecosystem. Therefore, picking out whatever we like to believe, or whatever communication stirs our emotions, or whatever we wish were true — and working very, very hard for it – or going with the flow because that’s normal human behavior – none of those approaches to communication will resolve our current biological dilemma. What we mostly need is good information and good discussion. Sometimes a good place to look for these is in a workshop setting.

I recently attended a workshop about the four elements with Wendy Johnson (author of “Gardening At the Dragon’s Gate,” Bantam Dell), at Upaya Zen Center (http:www.Upaya.org).

The workshop experience merged our awareness of our human values, emotions and needs with the mother-nurture of nature as we examined each of the four elements that are organized by Buddhism as: earth, water, fire and air (and space). We all know that these are the fruits of the ecosystem, that we cannot do without them, that our behaviors influence their availability, and that I have also been talking about these issues from my perspective of our physical survival needs. It was a joy to experience Wendy’s beautiful rendition of the same issues, blending the physical survival needs with our human emotional needs and a practical approach, learning through gardening, that goes beyond either perspective.

We really could resolve our biological dilemma, if we would only reach that one step beyond the science and beyond the emotions and use our inborn compassionate nature, and our recognition that the problem at its roots is biological, as an incentive to study the fact-based needs of the ecosystem – and find a way to give the mother life what it needs that is different from what we need – for it and for ourselves and our future. We have everything to do that — except the will. The facts are available and so are the technologies. The compassionate will, however, is being drowned in a sea of fear, hostility, short-sighted self-interest and false propaganda.

Here is Wendy’s better vision.

“I love to make the connection between the outer waters of the world and the inner waters that do compose us. Three-fifths of water of our bodies is carried inside our cells, and then another two/fifths outside as blood plasma, cerebro-spinal fluid and intestinal tract fluid. So we are walking bags of water. We can feel that. Especially in a dry place. Those of us from the Bay Area, from Portland, Oregon, where water animates the air. We have to search for the resonance that is our human inheritance.

“And every day, every day, three percent of the water in our bodies is replenished with new molecules. Water from the deep abyss of the ocean, I was thinking this morning we are replenished, not only with fresh water, but from water that is in the huge hydrologic cycle, coming up fresh, and that water includes water from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, water mixed with the ancient fire of oil, water from rain on the tall grass prairie, and from the ancient forests. Actually, we measure water, in the woods, we measure water by how much stored fog and vapor. In the ancient redwoods, now whittled down to 2.5 percent of their original size. How much water they give back, so stepping into the redwood forest, I remember years ago with Thich Nhat Hanh (www.plumvillage.org), he said: ‘We step into a Sangha of water and life.’ You can feel it, stepping onto that ground, water vapor breathing with the trees. So, three percent of our bodies are always refreshed by the upwelling and the sinking down, by the rhythm of water.

“And yet water shortage, water depletion, the so-called resource, I hate to even use that word in connection with water, the so-called resourcefulness of water is already one of the greatest challenges we are facing.”
For more of this and the remaining elements, check out Wendy’s podcasts part one and part two at Upaya http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/. Or for air, surely you remember Bare Bones Biology 093 was also pretty good, and the same general interdependence relationship is also true of energy (fire) and earth. I recommend you listen to Wendy’s podcasts of this workshop, parts one and two, and I also highly recommend her dharma talk of the previous week. http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/

During this workshop, we went down to the little Santa Fe River to put our feet in the water and wonder what it would feel like without water.

Bitsy and I went back again last week and splashed about while the children swung on the tire. But two days later there was no more water in the little Santa Fe river. Only a place in the bottom of the channel where some animal had tried to dig for it.
Bare Bones Biology 116 – Wendy Johnson Workshop
KEOS-FM, 89.1, Bryan, Texas
For a podcast of this radio spot, click here
Or go to http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
Upaya Zen Center, http://www.Upaya.org
Wendy Johnson, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate gardeningatthedragonsgate.com/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/the-four-elements-series-all-2-parts/
http://www.upaya.org/dharma/wendy-johnson-06-13-2012-the-four-elements-return-to-their-true-nature/
Bare Bones Biology 107-115 and 093
Thich Nhat Hanhwww.plumvillage.org http://www.plumvillage.org

Saving Oakland’s ‘favorite’ Buddha (Community Voices)
Dan Stevenson Fri, 22 Jun at 5:46am
The Buddha on 11th Avenue, by Dan Stevenson

The Buddha on 11th Avenue, by Dan Stevenson
http://oaklandlocal.com/posts/2012/06/saving-buddha-east-11th-street-oakland-community-voices

When I first put out information about the 11th Avenue Buddha that I have had time to check my records, I found that Lu and I installed the Buddha in 2009 as an experiment to see if we could change the energy of our corner divide and keep the garbage and mattresses from being dumped there constantly.

At that time we were calling the city at least twice a week reporting illegal dumping. It usually took them a week or two to do a pick up and by that time another load had been left because the exiting pile was like a magnet for continued dumping. Besides the illegal dumping there was constant graffiti tagging which the city seldom did anything about. Another neighbor and I traded off cleaning it up. Add to that the drug activity and the urination problem and the traffic divide was a mess.

So I went to ACE hardware and found a concrete garden sculpture of the Buddha and brought it home. He sat in our basement for several weeks because I had to figure out how to install it so no one could steal him once installed. This is Oakland after all.

Once I came up with a plan we installed the Buddha. The Buddha sat there for several months and slowly we noticed slight changes in the garbage environment. The garbage and mattresses didn’t stop arriving but the dumping occurred on the other end of the street divide from where Buddha sat. Buddha just sat there and never said a word.

Within the first year the graffiti was reduced by 50% and the drug and urination problem was lessened as well. And all the Buddha did was sit there. It was well into the second year that someone painted the Buddha a beautiful soft white and a short time after that offerings started to appear.

At first, oranges and pears. Then flowers and candy. And then large flower arrangements and bowls of fruit and finally the incense.

For a long time I did not see anyone bringing the offerings. They just appeared. Along with all this new activity the area continued to change and the illegal dumping all but disappeared.

Many neighbors started to pick up and clean the area more. And due to people being present at different times of the day the drug and urination problem ended.

Buddha just sat there saying not a word. As time passed the immediate neighbors and extended neighborhood tended to stop and view the Buddha. Whether they were walking their dogs or taking an evening stroll they would stop and seem to ponder and many times get into conversations while viewing the Buddha. People talking to each other.

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The Buddha just continued to sit there and never saying a word. About two months ago a Vietnamese fellow and his wife came to our door and asked if I would mind if he put a little house around the Buddha and I informed him that I had no issue with that and that he didn’t have to seek our permission because the Buddha we installed was a civic Buddha and didn’t belong to us but to the community.

Since then people come and pay their respects to Buddha in large numbers throughout the day. They sweep and tend the area everyday and their presence creates a people presence which in many neighbors’ minds makes the neighborhood feel safer.

Lu and I are not Buddhists and we installed this Buddha because we felt that he was a neutral being that denotes compassion, brotherhood, and peace. The fact that our experiment has proven more successful than we had ever imagined is a wonderful thing for us and our neighborhood. And to think that this Buddha has just sat there all this time and never said one word.

Contemplate that! Recently because of the increased activity around the Buddha someone called the City Public Works Department to complain about its presence.

It was a Monday morning when a neighbor called me and informed me that a Public Works supervisor from the City was in the neighborhood looking for information about the Buddha so I came out to see what the problem happened to be.

The supervisor informed me that the Buddha was going to be removed because an anonymous (single) complaint had been made about the Buddha. The supervisor explained that if I could get hold of the people who had installed the Buddha and have them remove the little house and the Buddha beforehand, his crew wouldn’t have to come out and dismantle it and throw it away.

I explained to the supervisor the history of the Buddha related above but he said that the Buddha would have to be removed. He also informed me that if mattresses and garbage appeared again after the Buddha had been removed that I had his assurance that the City would come out and pick them up.

The Buddha just sat there across the street from our conversation and said not a word. It wasn’t more than five minutes from the time the Public Works supervisor pulled away in his new clean pick-up truck until I was on my computer asking for help from the neighbors and the community as a whole to help save the Buddha.

There has been a remarkable outpouring of letters of heartfelt support asking for the Buddha to remain in his place undisturbed.

The Public Works Department with the input of City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, halted the dismantling of Buddha in order to “study the situation”.

This is a step in the correct direction. With all that Oakland needs to do to improve community just maybe not attempting to dismantle what is working may be a good starting point.

For the time being the Buddha is just sitting there and he hasn’t said a word.

I recommend you turn off he video and just listen to the audio on this one

Bare Bones Biology 115 – More Story Telling

You may be surprised to hear, given that I have made about $58.62 gross over the past year from pursuing the altruistic goals described in my blog, radiocasts and books (not counting the mouse genetics book), that I signed up for an internet course that is basically about self-promotion. I’m pretty much surprised myself, especially as it cost quite a lot more than $58.62. On the good side, a lot of other people signed up, too, and so we got to electronically meet each other, which is very interesting.

Eth-noh-tec (www.Ethnohtec.org) is one of these nonprofit organizations, based in San Francisco. Eth-noh-tec’s mission also happens to fit perfectly in my current Bare Bones Biology series that is about human communication. Or, just in case you didn’t notice the trend, here is a rundown:

Bare Bones Biology 107 – Right, Left or Wrong (about the brain)
Bare Bones Biology 108 – Scientific Communication – across disciplines
Bare Bones Biology 109 – Communication
Bare Bones Biology 110 – Rituals
Bare Bones Biology 111 – Rituals again
Bare Bones Biology 112 – Thinking
Bare Bones Biology 113 – Thinking Compassion (and poetry)
Bare Bones Biology 114 – Great Aridness (about books)
Bare Bones Biology 115 – Story Telling (performance art)

Eth-noh-tec does not need introduction; because of what they do, they introduce themselves. Next week another sort of communication, the workshop, will be represented, and then we will pay attention to some people who attempt to report the true facts in a world that is now awash with commercial and political propaganda. As David Barsamian says: “It is the job of a good citizen to inform him/herself well enough to understand the difference between propaganda and reality.” That is also the aim of FactFictionFancy.

For today, this is a nice little bit of performance art created just for BareBonesBiology, and so it’s important to hear it. It’s not meant to be a dry list of facts, but an experience that will help us to appreciate the realities expressed. So wait a couple of ticks after this is posted and then click on the link, or go to Bare Bones Biology and listen to the presentation.

Just in case you can’t hear it for some reason, here is the transcript of Eth-noh-tec:

“Welcome. My name is Nancy Wang.
“My name is Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo. Together we’re known as
“Eth-noh-tec
“An Asian-American, kinetic storytelling nonprofit arts organization.
“We are in the business of telling stories. We dedicate ourselves to building cultural bridges that celebrate diversity and create compassionate communities, through stories that reveal our universal truths.
“Storytelling is an excellent mode of communication, and one in which we accomplish our mission. As we all know, communication is not always easy. We all have a lens through which we see, hear and feel the world around us. So any one of us might say one thing that is clear to ourselves, but the person we’re talking to, it’s not clear, and that’s because we all have a lens through which we exist in this world.
“Then there is storytelling. Stories and folk tales, myths and legends, you know a story can cut right through some of that jumble by offering us understanding through metaphor, and a good plot, or a fascinating character.

“Storytelling creates empathic listening. If it’s a good story, it will impart information on a level that our brains can get, despite our minds’ lens and our minds’ biases to reach and open our hearts.
“And so recently I wrote and performed the story of my Chinese ancestors, who, looking for a better life, traveled from China on a jumk boat, a Chinese sailboat, in 1850, to reach the shores of California. Well, they crashed into Carmel bay. Now compassion started immediately when they were rescued by a group of Rumsen Indians. And then later, when the Chinese looked around this pristine Monterey peninsula, they saw that there were no fishing boats in the Pacific Ocean, or in the bays. And so, they started the fishing industry in Monterey, which soon grew, and carved out California.
“However, if you were to visit Monterey today, you wouldn’t even know that this history existed, because there’s no evidence at all that 800 plus Chinese fishermen and their four fishing villages were ever there.

“Yet, the fishing industry continued to thrive there. There’s just no Chinese doing it or profiting from it, because from the 1850s through the early 1940s, there was blatant anti-Chinese legislation and illegal acts of violence against the Chinese, by European settlers, most of whom arrived there after the Chinese. Villages were burned, purges took place, whole Chinese communities were marched out. Beatings and hangings took place.

“In short, ethnic cleansing. But, there were also those who helped the Chinese, though very few, but it made a huge difference in allowing for some peaceful, compassionate exchanges between the European and Chinese settlers.

“And without those exchanges, I might not be here today. The Chinese must have taken to heart those who saw them as people, not things, and who were kind, even friends, and this allowed them to live their lives. They were able to contribute their skills and ingenuity to America. So my story is an important story, and it provides a missing piece of the American historical landscape. And it also shows how not knowing one’s story leaves too much room for stereotyping and prejudice, leading to misunderstandings and to violence.

“People of color have been an integral part of building this nation.
“People of color have been a part of and have built this nation just as much as the white population.
“Imagine this. A world without compassion; a world without empathy. Without this, the rise of racism, bigotry, genocide, and war could spell the total annihilation of humankind.
Hope for a compassionate world lies in waking up the heart. Waking up compassion and showing examples of compassion. Living a life of compassion. We do this through our art. The art of storytelling.
“Remember, one cannot hate another whose story we know.
“A story is the shortest distance between the brain and the heart.
“Without compassion, we’re left with prejudices, intolerance, and distrust. So today, learn about someone you know nothing about.

“And tell a moving story to someone.

“Practice stepping into another situation.

“And if you want to know more about us, we’re at http://www.Ethnohtec.org.

Bless you.”

Bare Bones Biology 115 – More Story Telling
KEOS FM, 89.1, Bryan TX
A podcast of this post may be downloaded here
Or at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com

Recommended References and Trackbacks:
http://www.Ethnohtec.org