Because of the current tumultuous political events in this country and worldwide, we need to hold a clear positive vision in our hearts of a more peaceful, compassionate world so that we don’t lose hope. In this week’s blog, which is a video instead of a written article, I talk about the importance of maintaining faith, hope, and clarity in our day-to-day lives. (See other recent videos of mine at Videos on the menu above.)
In the 1970s, I was very active in the feminist movement in Boston, Massachusetts, where I participated in various women’s groups, including the editorial collective of Second Wave magazine. During that time, I wrote an article for Second Wave called “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection,” which subsequently was reprinted in booklet form in New York City, London, England, and Milan, Italy, among other places. It was also included in the anthology Reinventing Anarchy and has been read in Feminist Studies classes at the college and university level for many years. A student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania recently contacted me for an interview because she was writing her senior thesis on anarcha-feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. While I was speaking with her, it struck me how much interest there still is in these ideas. Then, after Trump was elected, a couple of friends of mine suggested that now might be a good time to reprint the article, with an update. So this is the update, and a link to a newly edited version of “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection” appears at the end of this post.
In the original article, I defined anarchism as encompassing three basic principles: elimination of authority and hierarchy, balance between individuality and collectivity, and balance between spontaneity and organization. I also tried to dispel two pervasive myths about anarchists: the bomb-throwing assassin and the impractical idealist. The anarchists I have known are committed to nonviolence (the means create the ends) and are very much involved in the day-to-day practicalities of developing alternatives to the top-heavy status quo. I further described the hidden history of anarchists in France and Spain who effectively lived and implemented the principles mentioned above in their countries (during the French student/worker strikes in 1968 and the Spanish Revolution in 1936–1939).
The connection I made between anarchism and feminism was that radical feminist theory names patriarchy as the key source of hierarchy in our current social and political structures, as well as in our thinking. From the beginning, feminists seemed to embody a kind of intuitive anarchism in their collective and circular group structures (non-hierarchical). The spontaneous arising of consciousness-raising groups, which became the backbone of the women’s movement, was a very anarchist creation, similar to the affinity groups that had developed historically in unions in Spain and France. My feeling at the time was that the coming together of anarchism and feminism and the conscious recognition of that connection would jump-start women into a truly transformative vision of revolutionary change. One in which there would no longer be leaders and followers, but just human beings coming together to live lives in cooperation and freedom.
Both anarchism and feminism are alive and well today, though their forms are somewhat different than they were when I first wrote “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection.” In recent years, strategies that appear in practice to be much like anarchism have informed many protest movements: for example, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Standing Rock. Direct actions and ongoing “occupations” have often been consciously leaderless and non-hierarchically organized. Probably the most powerful example of the coming together of anarchism and feminism in a new way was the global Women’s March this past January, the day after the Trump inauguration.
Initially organized in the United States as a reaction to Trump’s offensive “pussy” comments about women, the Women’s March on Washington took on a life of its own with over five million women and men spontaneously marching in cities all over the world. I myself marched in Boston with 175,000 others. Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” filled the air. It was exhilarating and inspiring—energetically very different from any other march I had participated in over the years. The difference was an overall expansive and inclusive feeling of both diversity and unity. People of all ages, races, nationalities, sexes, and sexual identities were represented. And I experienced nothing but cohesiveness and harmony all day. No divisiveness between different groups or between women and men. Both men and women carried signs that read: “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.” The collective focus and intent was clearly visible in signs like that—human rights.
In the early days of the feminist movement, the marches and events were often “women only,” either from lack of interest (or hostility) on the part of men or from a deliberate decision by women. The misunderstandings, anger, and disagreements of those years seem to have evolved now into something that more closely approximates openness, mutual appreciation, and solidarity of intent. The 2017 Women’s March was the closest I have come to experiencing unity consciousness and oneness outside a specifically spiritual gathering. Perhaps the fact that many of us, myself included, have explored various spiritual paths in the intervening years has leant itself to this energetic shift. So many people are holding a broader vision of our evolution as a human species now. We are transforming on so many levels. As peaceful, nonviolent human beings, we came together, with loving-kindness in our hearts, to speak out for the rights of women, targeted groups like Muslims, and all people.
Ultimately, it is in the heart where unity and oneness come into being, where love triumphs over fear. That was the feeling of the Women’s March. Heart-centered. Power together, not power over. Organized locally and emerging globally, overlapping circles of empowerment and mutual love united the planet. I cried when I came home and saw the photographs of millions of people throughout the world, including Antarctica, who had marched together to support human rights and freedom. It gave me hope, in spite of everything else that is occurring in Washington and elsewhere in the country these days. It takes a determined, vocal critical mass to stand up to authority (and the worst aspects of patriarchy that we are now seeing) and live the alternative to domination and hatred right now. We know the humane, inclusive, love-centered world we want to live in. We can choose it every single day in all that we say and do, just as those individuals did at the Women’s March (and continue to do in their actions going forward).
Generations before us—some among them anarchists, some feminists—have left us beginning blueprints of how to live our lives in a continual movement toward freedom, equality, and global transformation (see link below). We know in our cells how to do this. It is no longer cognitive; it is vibrational. When we change ourselves and our own lives, everything around us changes. The dominant paradigm shifts, and everything begins to rebalance itself. That is what has been happening, and that is why we are stepping into such a vortex of accelerated energy now. The greater shift from the mind to the heart, from selfishness to compassion, from fear to love, is steadily expanding. In this present moment, all possibilities live within us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let us continue to engage in courageous and compassionate actions as one people, united in consciousness and spirit. Our open hearts will open the heart of the world.
I have discovered that the more I want a situation or person to either change or stay the same, the more I suffer. Yet I have also found that there is a peaceful core within me that understands impermanence and nonattachment. These two Buddhist principles have helped me accept the transitory nature of life. When I am deep in meditation, experiencing profound inner peace, I see clearly the truth of impermanence (nothing, good or bad, ever stays the same) and how letting go of attachment to a particular outcome frees me from the mental/emotional habits of the personality self. At the soul level, all is well, unfolding perfectly for my own expansion and evolution.
Embracing impermanence and nonattachment has been a gradual process for me, over many years. They used to be just concepts that I thought sounded good but I couldn’t really connect to experientially. Lately, however, as my spiritual awareness has deepened, those two insights have risen to the forefront of my consciousness. I often repeat them to myself like mantras to access the peace within me, which they are an integral part of. This is the soul’s peace, which does not judge or have opinions; it just witnesses. And from the witness’s point of view, it does not matter if something or someone changes or not. It’s all part of a greater picture that I, as a human being, have a limited ability to see in its entirety. I just have to trust in my soul’s perception (and in God) and surrender to the power of a divine purpose in everything.
Surrender and trust have also been key to letting go within my own life. They, too, accompany the experience of inner peace that I am connecting to more and more. There is a reason why these principles have been around for thousands of years and have been at the core of the teachings of great spiritual masters. They bring us to a place of flow in our lives, accepting “what is” and aligning with the continuous fluctuations of human existence. This is a time on Earth when the voices and energetic imprints of the greatest teachers are becoming more available to everyone. Their wisdom and beingness within the collective consciousness are here to help us as we move into our own wisdom and life mastery.
Events in the world, and particularly within this country, are now making it essential for us to live in connection with our souls, accessing the deeper truths about life and living. In an environment in which people are being persecuted because of bigotry and prejudice, where is justice? How do we live with this? How do we love all of humanity when some are acting in destructive, hateful ways? This is the challenge of our times: to live in such a way that our own souls’ wisdom and light affect the collective consciousness in a positive way. If we believe that love is stronger than hate, and peace more powerful than fear, then we need to live that in every moment. For ourselves and for everyone who crosses our path. When we shift our own energy out of judgment and outrage, then everything begins to shift around us. The peaceful soul brings peace to the world.
As I see it, this is how we are evolving as a people and as a planet within a huge constantly changing universe. As the saying goes, “there is no way to peace; peace is the way.” May we all help each other find our way again and again to that deep inner peace.
When Donald Trump was elected President, I vowed never to look at a video or photo of him for the next four years. I couldn’t stand to see the visual that went with the arrogant bulldozing bully. I kept to that intention until the inauguration, when I actually did see a photograph of him and Melania and the Obamas together, in which he looked like a terribly unhappy and disturbed man (she looked “absent” entirely). The Obamas, on the other hand, looked joyful, alive. I felt real sadness looking at that picture—that some people could live such miserable lives, and make others miserable in the process. Still, the fear and depression I experienced as he began to implement his destructive campaign promises grew ever stronger. I knew I had to come to terms with my reaction to him. I had no idea the form it would take, however.
Background: In some Buddhist traditions, the monks take part in a practice that would appear odd and repulsive to many: meditation on a corpse. The reasons behind what may seem like macabre behavior are two-fold: 1) to overcome one’s aversion to death and the loss of the physical body; and 2) to realize that the external aspects of the physical form are not who we truly are. It apparently has a powerful affect on the monks who practice it.
At the end of January, I flew cross-country for a spiritual gathering in California. On the six-hour flight, for some reason I suddenly remembered that Buddhist practice and thought that perhaps my strong aversion to Donald Trump would make a good focus for a similar meditation (picturing him alive, not dead!). I closed my eyes and began. I didn’t feel much of anything for a while, but then slowly a softening began to occur within me as I pictured his face—a movement to a greater non-reactiveness. A remembrance that beneath every physical form there is a soul. These weren’t conscious insights—more like an opening of a closed door within.
At some point, I was moved to open my eyes and look out the plane window. I gasped audibly when I saw the entire snow-covered expanse of the Rocky Mountains spread out below in majestic splendor. What more stunningly vivid reminder of the “greater picture” could I have possibly been given? I began to cry at the extraordinary beauty of the morning sunlight on the sparkling snow and earth formations. The patterns were magnificent and ever-changing: ripples and folds, flowers and sea stars. I was gazing at infinity stretching out into the mountain ridges in the distance. From my vantage point at 30,000 feet, there was only interconnectedness, a seamless planetary landscape that was part of an infinite cosmic landscape, of which we all are microscopic but integral parts. No separation.
Meditating on Trump, “face to face,” brought me back to that precious experience of oneness with everything—the soul’s perspective. I realized that if you don’t face what or who is right in front of you with courage, honesty, and inclusiveness, life eludes you, and on a larger scale, change and possibility elude us all. The light that shone on Earth as far as my eyes could see in the Rockies is the same light that will bring us to clarity of vision and connection in the days ahead. We don’t need to constantly be caught in fear and anger as we move forward toward a more balanced and compassionate world. In fact, it may block us from seeing that what connects us (love) is more powerful than what divides us (fear). In spite of the illusion of separation that locks us into aversion to those we see as “other,” we can step away from that perception and choose kindness and compassion for all beings instead. That one small act can help to shift the collective consciousness. Deep within our hearts and souls, oneness always prevails.
We are living through adversarial times in this country. People want to blame others for whatever they believe is wrong with their own lives. Immigrants, gay people, outspoken women—choose one or all of the above, and you have an instant “enemy.” It’s a behavioral pattern that can be traced back through centuries of human relationships on this planet.
Political groups—whether liberal or conservative; left, right, or center—have historically often based their identity on a perceived common threat or enemy—usually another group of people who epitomizes everything they think is bad or wrong in the world. Within small social groups, sometimes even families, people tend to single out one individual as problematic or unlikable. Religions founded in love often don’t extend it universally. Even heaven has been imagined as a place for some and not others (“sinners” are condemned to hell). Why do we do this? Why do we include some and not others, even in the afterlife? On the face of it, it seems ridiculous, an exercise in absurdity, as if humans could somehow control their own ultimate destiny—and who shares space with us on the journey.
We don’t begin our lives that way. As young children, we model our thoughts, feelings, and behavior after the adults who are close to us. The lyrics about racism in the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” express this well: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late—before you are six, or seven, or eight—to hate all the people your relatives hate.” Each of us receives that conditioning to one degree or another, wherever we are in the world. For some of us, mistrust and hatred become a way of life, and it dominates everything we say or do. Surely there must be a way out of this vicious cycle of hostility and aversion, based in fear of the “other,” that we are seeing so much of now.
What if we flip the paradigm and make a conscious effort to create a radical shift in this old conditioned behavior pattern that shows up everywhere, within us as well as outside of us? Awareness and intention can interrupt the toxic cycle of otherness, of “us” versus “them.” Let’s “unmake” enemies in this world by unmaking them in our own minds, our own families, our own social networks, and our own communities. Muslims are currently being targeted, along with a whole long list of others accumulated over the years. It’s time to intervene and make friends with those who the haters tell us to hate. Time to choose love instead of fear. Compassion instead of blame (for the haters as well, whose hatred often stems from their own self-hatred).
Just for a moment, imagine what the world would be like without enemies, without anyone to point a finger at and blame for the world’s ills. What if we were all friends, all family? Actually, anyone visiting from another planet would assume these tall two-legged creatures were all related—we look remarkably alike to an outsider. We’re the ones who make up things to distinguish ourselves from one another: skin color, eye shape, religion, politics. That’s how countries started. Separation, boundaries. Then petty grievances gradually turned to wars, and we forgot who we really are, that we who were born on Earth all came from the same vast energy source or consciousness (God, if you will), and we will return there. When we’re on our deathbeds, it all falls away. Nothing matters but the love we’ve shared.
Can’t we just do that now? Pretend we’re dying (because we are) and just love one another. Just love one another. Until the word enemy falls out of use completely, and universal friendship and cooperation is the only accepted behavior. Let’s agree to live love instead of hate, in every moment, every thought, every action. What else could possibly matter as much? Especially now.