Letter 7

Dear Friends and Citizens of the World:

September 11, 2001

“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.  If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another to know that they are safe.”
The Dalai Lama, September 2001

I was at Masvingo in Zimbabwe when I saw CNN and the photos of the plane-bombing of the Towers of the World Trade Center only one hour after the event.  Masvingo is the 13th century remains of a medieval city, the greatest sub-Saharan center of spiritual and regal authority on the African continent; we were acutely aware of the possibilities and dangers of power.   I was traveling with a small group of people, four of whom had joined us in Zimbabwe to undergo initiation, that is to enter into a deep personal relationship with the Spirits, that is to deepen their daily experience and practice of the spiritual life.  Of the four, one had a brother who worked at the Pentagon and one couple lost their future in-laws on the plane that flew into the tower.  We were so far away and yet we were immediately plunged into the center of grief.

At the end of our journey to Zimbabwe, after much debate and soul-searching, I decided to go onto Mt. Sinai in Egypt as planned, to pray for peace even though that might maroon me in an Arab country in the event of violent retaliation on the part of the United States.  I was and continue to be as deeply concerned about the implications and effects of retaliation as I was about the attack on the WTC and the Pentagon.  I was aware that retaliation might well trigger not only world war but the end of life on the planet.  I considered where I might be of greatest use, and where my presence might be inflammatory, if such events began.

On Rosh Hashanah, I, an American- Jewish woman, climbed Mt. Sinai in the company of my husband, Michael Ortiz Hill, whose background is Mexican Catholic, American Protestant and Buddhist and two renowned black indigenous African healers or ngangas, Augustine and Simakuhle Kandemwa, and a Muslim Bedouin boy from a family with whom I had become kin five years earlier.   Our common prayer was simple:  May we become peacemakers.  May peacemaker spirits enter each of us and find us hospitable. May these spirits inhabit us for the rest of our lives.

These are my first thoughts on my return for these very difficult times.

Please don’t indulge despair or hopelessness.  We have no time for it.  It is defeating.  Don’t indulge self-pity, outrage or fear.  Whatever you do, remember that the Spirits exist and that our prayerful and heartfelt activity can activate them in the world.

Many of you who are reading this letter have been preparing for such times for many years.  Your spiritual search, your engagement in spiritual practices, your environmental and political concerns and allegiances have prepared you to meet this crisis with forbearance and wisdom.

Now is the time to be conscious.  Notice, I didn’t say, ‘Now is the time to act.’  I mean that we cannot step away from the inner revelations of consciousness.  So many of us have been scrutinizing our lives in order to put them in ethical and spiritual order.   We cannot procrastinate about enacting the principles of behavior that we know will benefit the planet.  From scrutinizing securities and investments to reviewing relationships, there is time only to act according to the deepest teachings regarding peace that are residing within us.

We must each drastically cut our use of the world’s resources, from water to fuel oil, from timber to gems to _.  Give up our fetish about an expanding economy, which can only continue to destroy the planet, also by imposing the demand on all other peoples that they follow the disastrous trajectory of western economics and technology.   Let us throw in our lot with others less ‘fortunate’ than ourselves and those whose values and traditions are vastly different from our own.  Let us judge if we really need any or all of the things we think we need from water in plastic containers to paper towels, to all the technologies that seem to be required for successful businesses and to support our [questionable] way of life.   Let us ask ourselves if our [specious] comfort or ease is good enough reason to endanger the planet and undermine other cultures and wisdom traditions.  We must give up the nonsense about abundance being our right and that there is enough for everyone.  There isn’t.  The earth can’t support our demands.  We must ask less of Her.  We must take less from Her.  Instead we must serve Her.

Scrutinize the heart: where have we secretly known we have violated our own deepest beliefs, our heart, our spiritual practice?  Let us change our behavior.  Now.  After we have done this, let us gently and kindly urge our friends and associates to do likewise. Do not ask them to copy our behaviors, do not judge how they should act and what they should change, but let us stand alongside them as they begin to scrutinize their lives. Let us recognize how difficult it is to do this, commend those so engaged for their efforts without indulging self-pity or narcissism.  Notice the ways in which we have been irritated with others.  Notice our tendencies to make judgments, to look at others critically.  Make amends.

Let us not get caught in a false and inappropriate patriotism that sets us against them.  Fly an earth flag rather than an American flag.   Recognize that this event is a core and unsentimental opportunity to learn the true nature of compassion.  Face the ways in which our country has been bombing and terrorizing people on behalf of American economic, financial, commercial and military interests, on behalf of our comfort and ease.  How have we each individually benefited from this?  Search out all the subtle ways in which our way of life deprives others and other beings of their lives.  Notice all the ways in which we have used the words ‘rational’ or ‘sensible’ or ‘practical’ or ‘reasonable’ to justify essentially selfish and self-protective behavior.  The only real security is in true alliance with what we truly and most honestly understand as the sacred cosmic order, as Mat, dharma, Torah, Logos.

Let us step away from fear.  Step away from self-interest.  Begin to act on behalf of others before ourselves on a regular basis.  Let us understand why people turn to violence and so do whatever we can to provide security and safety and beauty for them so they have no reason to be so afraid, so angry.  Reach out whenever we can to our Arab and especially our Muslim neighbors.   Offer them alliance, protection, assistance, camaraderie, friendship, respect, honor.

Let us speak with our ancestors.  What wisdom do they have for us at this time?  Search out and honor the indigenous wisdom regarding peacemaking and right living from all the traditions that we have dispossessed, destroyed, despised.   Let us find the ancient wisdom [not ideology] in our different traditions and apply it to these times.

Speak to the spirits.  The same spirits serve all people though they may have different names and different faces.  What do they suggest we do that will benefit all people and beings?

Let us be certain that whatever we do is in everyone’s interest, including all the creatures of the natural world.  Do not believe that any of our lives is more important or more precious than another’s.

Let us change our hearts and minds.  Let us find and enact all the ways we can to love passionately.  Let us all walk as healing presences in the world.

Let us enter into deep prayer.  But let us not pray for our own self-interest.  Let us pray that peace will come.  Let us pray that it will come through each of us though it will appear differently in each of us.

To pray is to enter into the service of Spirit.  A prayer is not for one’s benefit; a prayer is that one may serve Spirit well and entirely.

Let us offer ourselves to Spirit wholeheartedly.   May we be gloves for God’s hands.  May we be healers and peacemakers every moment of the day and night.

Peace and Blessings.

There are those who want to set fire to the world
We are in danger.
There is time only to work slowly
There is no time not to love.

{Please circulate this letter if you wish.}