My friend David Seth Michaels, a lawyer who among other things has devoted himself to fighting the death penalty, posted some profoundly hopeful and healing thoughts about the oil disaster today in his terrific blog, called Dream Antilles, http://www.dreamantilles.blogspot.com. May we all be inspired to send up prayers for the healing of Mother Earth.
Beyond the anger, frustration, sadness, depression and fear of the BP oil disaster there must be something else. The Gulf of Mexico is fast becoming a deadly petroleum gumbo garnished with oil coated pelicans, life in the sea is massing and trying to unsuccessfully to escape the pollution, and there may really be nothing on a practical level that can be done to staunch the hemorrhage of Pachamama's vital fluids. We watch in horror. And grief. Is our mother dying? I awoke in the middle of the night to write this haiku:
I watch you dying.
Pelican can't fly away.
Oceans fill my eyes.
Yesterday I had the thought that we are watching the death of the coral and multitudes of the finned and swimming creatures because they are offering themselves up, sacrificing themselves to give us a message we have willfully refused for decades to hear. I want us to hear and heed that message. And they are apparently ready to die to have us hear and understand it.
But there is more. If it is true that what we give our attention to grows, and I believe it is, it is time to shift some of our conscious attention from our pervasive thoughts of grief and anxiety to another thought. This thought: this too can heal. Even this unprecedented horrendous mess Pachamama can heal. Even this unmitigated disaster she can heal. How she can do this is not important. What is so very important is the thought, the belief that this too can heal. That thought needs to take hold. Without the thought that this too can be healed, there is only focused attention on the death of the Gulf, the death of all of its creatures, the eventual death of the oceans, and the death of the planet. And that focused attention will kill all of us.
The Dhammapada tells us this very same thing, that we are what we think:
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
Filled with anger, fear, sadness, grief, overcome with frustration, we are what we think. With only those intense thoughts there is no room for anything else. There is only death.
To mark the Solstice and to offer both our thanks and our deepest apologies to Mother Earth, Pachamama, Santa Madre Tierra, many friends gathered on Saturday. We made a despacho, an offering, the one pictured here.
A despacho is a prayer bundle in the Q'ero tradition from the high Andes of Peru. It is made up of many symbolic elements: sugar for sweetness, lima beans for nutrition, raisins to honor the ancestors, alphabet noodles to honor learning, red wine to honor the feminine, white white to honor the masculine, and on and on and on. There are so many ingredients. There is a clam shell to symbolize the mamakocha, the oceans and waters of our planet. There are cotton strands to symbolize the clouds. And stars. And the sun. And Pachamama. The despacho in many ways is a complete, mythic universe of offering. To it, each participant in the ceremony adds personal and community prayers. In this case, the prayers were especially for the healing of Pachamama from the Gulf disaster.
Many of the prayers were like this one by Masaru Emoto:
Now let's give energy of love and gratitude to the waters and all the living creatures in Mexico Gulf by praying like this:
To the water, whales, dolphins, pelicans, fishes, shellfishes, planktons, corals, algae and all creatures in our Gulf of Mexico:
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Or like this one I wrote:
Dear Pachamama, Mother Earth, Santa Madre Tierra, Gaia, Sweet Mother, I am so sorry for what we have done and are doing to you and your creatures, our brothers and sisters, the creatures who live in and near the sea. We don't know how to stop the oil, and we don't know how to save all of these beings. Please understand our remorse, our regret, our shame and accept out deepest apologies for destroying this part of this wondrous, blue pearl planet. Please forgive us.
After all of the many prayers are placed in the bundle, and the bundle is tied up, the despacho is burned in a ceremonial fire. This, the tradition says, releases the prayers to the heavens, but we all know that the prayers reach their destination as soon as they are thought. Whenever they are thought.
I know that I will not be able to keep my focus on the possible healing of the Gulf and our planet. I know that I will again become infuriated. At BP. At the government. At Obama. At the BP CEO. And Louisiana's politicians. At Missisisppi's governor. That's just human. My hope is that I will be able to turn away from strong negative feelings to hold gently in the palm of my hand the possibility of healing for the Gulf and our beautiful, blue planet. And for all of us.