Sunday, October 2. On the road at 6:00 a.m, driving east on Highway 2, taking in the promise of a new day as the Cascade Range climbs higher into my field of vision. The further from Seattle I travel, the more I see oversized yard signs pledging to “Make America Great Again”, as if I am in a dystopian nightmare. This is no nightmare though, but the world I live in, the here and now.
Just after sunrise, I reach the trail head. There are no other cars. I shoulder my pack and start walking the 3.7 miles and 2200 vertical feet towards Beckler Peak, a 5000 foot knob of granite on the edge of the aptly named “Wild Sky Wilderness”.
Entering the old growth forest, instantly I feel reunited with my spiritual home, the vast temple of nature. I am no longer walking through nature, but part of nature moving within my greater self.
Laboring up the switchbacks, my mind gradually begins to release the stories it has been holding for weeks and months, the unresolved dramas and conflicts of humanity, and my personal relationship with all of it.
One of my patients asked me recently, “How do you make sense of this crazy presidential election? I dodged her question, telling her I would think about it and get back to her. Now, walking through the forest, the earth helps me find the words: I am an acupuncturist, and my job is to facilitate energy harmony – within individuals, and the web of life in general. I have no hatred for anyone. Regardless of your political affiliation, you are welcome in my clinic, providing you bring with you an attitude of complete respect for everyone who enters my clinic and share my commitment to holding a safe space for those seeking refuge from oppression.
I will not tell you who to vote for, or who not to vote for. If you ask for my opinion or advice, it is my duty to respond in a way that empowers you and respects the larger sphere of life. If the words I speak or write seem a bitter pill to your ego, you are free to reject them, or, to consider whether your ego may be standing in the way of truth, conscious evolution, and inner liberation.
I encourage you to vote, even while acknowledging the system is deeply flawed and distorted by money and corporate controlled media. America is supposed to be a representative democracy of the people, for the people, by the people, and yet we are told to choose between two individuals of the billionaire class who are not of the people or for the people in the opinion of many. (There are actually more than two choices for President on the ballot). But I will digress no further into muddy and dangerous social territory. Today, I will seek the wild sky and look down from outer space.
Vote your conscience. “What does your heart tell you?” (Aragorn to Gandalf, in Lord of the Rings). Analyze and question the themes and slants of media which tell you how to think, playing on emotions of fear and anger. If you wish to be free, you must learn to use your mind and to recognize when your emotions are clouding your innate wisdom.
Former President Jimmy Carter stated recently that we no longer live in a Democracy, but an oligarchy, ruled by a handful of wealthy individuals. Others present compelling arguments that we live in a corporatocracy, and that the two main parties are in essence two wings of the same party that represents first and foremost, the interests of big business. The Earth and the indigenous people in places like Standing Rock, North Dakota are speaking to us, telling us we can’t eat money, we can’t drink oil, we can’t breathe CO2 and methane, but sometimes it seems those in power think only of today’s money and not tomorrow’s survival.
Do not despair my friends. Yes, there are huge challenges ahead, but there is also a wealth of hope. Voting is only one part of social transformation. “The people lead and the leaders follow.” What are we doing, each one of us, right now, to create the world we want to live in. Do we value justice and peace, not just for our friends, not just for humans, but for all life? If we answer yes, then what are we willing to do to achieve that? What comforts and sensory pleasures are we willing to sacrifice?
As I approach the summit, I feel the energy of Mother Earth. I am nothing. I am all things. My life is service to others.
On my way home, I stop at the state penitentiary in Monroe to visit a prisoner who I have corresponded with for a few years. Monroe Corrections Center is “home” to 2500 prisoners. My hiking pants have one additional small zippered pocket on one leg, just below the knee. The corrections officer practically barks at me and says “cargo pants are forbidden here, I’ll give you a pass today, but next time, I’ll refuse entry if you wear those pants”. Somewhat incredulous, I smile and say “thank you”, deciding that the best policy is simply to meekly obey and not question anything openly, rather than risk losing the privilege of visiting and supporting my friend.
It is a different world behind twenty foot razor fences and locked doors with painfully loud buzzers. My friend wears an identification badge all day which says “Offender”. He works in the prison administration for pennies an hour. He has no vote. The system seems designed to beat him down and keep him down. It’s a correctional facility after all – imagine how disempowering it is to be referred to as “an offender”, and to be “corrected”, reinforcing a sense of inherent character flaw within, instead of reminding people of their innate potential for good. Being a skillful advocate for prison reform doesn’t whitewash the harmful actions in an individual’s past, but recognizes the important distinction to be made between evil actions and the innate goodness within all living beings.
Whether it is transforming an corrupted political system, or advocating for any of the many social justice issues crying out for public support…despair, apathy, and ignorance are the most stubborn obstacles to overcome. There is much work to be done and many opportunities that exist right now to further the cause of peace and justice in this world. The future is up to us. Choose your path wisely.