Article

how I remember shoken michael stone

Shoken means “sees clearly”.

Shoken Michael Stone had a way of looking at me with his clear seeing hawk eyes that made me squirm. For me, being his student meant being forced to face discomfort and my own unending awkwardness as a young meditator and yogi.

In interview on the meditation retreat I sat with him in Canada, I pulled the zafu cushion a few inches away so we wouldn’t be knee to knee. He moved closer, face expressionless and eyes illuminating all of my bullshit and hindrances. Or so it felt.

This was after I had gotten my room assignment wrong and stole a bed from another retreatant. Later, I spent the whole second half of the retreat sick with a fever and endlessly runny nose.

On yoga retreat with him in Wisconsin, I was the only person who didn’t know anyone else there. So I wandered around the town looking for a place to eat dinner, only to walk into the same restaurant Shoken was at with his closest students—except I was getting take-out, and standing around awkwardly while they waited for the check. And then I got sick, again.

I started to wonder if my getting sick was Canadian super bugs (Shoken and his crew were from Toronto), or if Shoken was spooking me into runny noses and fevers.

Last week, Shoken died. When the official statement came out from his family, it detailed his battle with increasing mania tied to bipolar disorder. And that he wanted relief, even in the form of an opiate. And so he finally went and found some, and died of an overdose.

I hadn’t spoken to Shoken in years and I was never a core student of his. But in the wake of his death, I find myself deeply saddened, asking why he left us—this love army out here working to grow consciousness and wake the goddamn world up. I hurt for how weary he must have felt, how much he must have been suffering and how conflicted he must have felt as a father of much life on this planet, including four young children, who just wanted to slip into a non-manic sleep for maybe just a little bit.

As the object of my metta and karuna meditation, he feels vividly close by. I can see my hand beyond my closed eyes in meditation, stretching toward him and resting on his chest. Though I can see the color and feel the fabric of his tee shirt, the rise and fall of his breath, I don’t see his face. Over and over, I wish for him to be free.

Shoken’s closeness to the edge—of mania, of risk, of the dharma—also feels close by and real. I reflect on his early days driving race cars, learning to meditate from his uncle in a mental institution, leaving home as a kid in a van and how he recently wrote about picking up skateboarding at the skate park again as a practice of “dropping in”. It fuels a growing closeness to my own edge—whether it’s a growing edge or a precipitous edge, sometimes I can’t tell.

I feel into the desolation, void and sadness that accompany Shoken’s death and walk myself into the night. Feeling the wind on me, doing Mu-I to push the energy and pooling emotions up and through me.

I feel a fear and foreboding that I am on the brink of getting to know the void, mystery and death even better soon. Like it’s around the corner about to pull someone else away and down into that poppy sleep. And like I’m being pushed closer to an edge—again, what kind of edge, I don’t know.

I practice yoga like Shoken taught me. I recall my more youthful awkwardness, shame and longing for connection around him and his sangha without regrets. I sharpen my own clear-seeing eyes and cultivate this edge like my tongue is feeling around in the dark for a piece of glass.

I choose not to fall asleep, to dream. I choose to wake the fuck up. This is how I remember Shoken Michael Stone.

Article

after the transhumanist apocalypse

…Continuing from my previous post from a few months ago on Transhumanism:

The ultimate rub of the Transhumanist movement for me is that it seeks to achieve something that already exists and yet is unattainable by the means Transhumanists want to achieve it: fundamental human transformation.

In my last post, I daydreamed with a Sci Fi fan’s optimism about the potential of tens of millions of people being interdependently linked by technology so that our fundamental brain chemicals, hormones, energy levels, thoughts and practices could come into line — and closer to Enlightenment. But here’s the thing: we already are.

In my last post, I daydreamed with a Sci Fi fan’s optimism about the potential of tens of millions of people being interdependently linked by technology so that our fundamental brain chemicals, hormones, energy levels, thoughts and practices could come into line — and closer to Enlightenment. But here’s the thing: we already are.

It didn’t start yesterday or with the invention of the internet. As long as the universe has existed as we know it, it has existed in what Thich Nhat Han calls “Interbeing.” It’s the First Law of Thermodynamics. In this isolated system called the universe, energy can neither be created nor destroyed — it can only change form. We are made of the stuff of the stars and being permeable on a molecular level, we are all of us beings connected to one another.

The path I’ve chosen to overcome the anguish and suffering of illness, old age and death, is accepting them. I can only hope my right effort will bring me closer to uprooting the egoic personality structures that causes me to cling to this body and this lifetime and my sense of who I am or must be. I strive to embody that in every moment and then let go of the grasping and sense of lack that drives me to be smarter, faster and better. I aim to just be.

Well, easier said than done, right? There’s a part of me that thinks there’s a certain inevitability to the coopting of Buddhism and Buddhist practice into Transhumanist pursuits, as it is already happening in Silicon Valley, and to Transhumanism. Even though it’s fundamentally wrong-headed, I think the Transhumanist adoption of decontextualized Buddhist ideas will happen anyway. So I get lost in my own imaginings of what a post-transumanist apocalypse would look like.

Well, like this: a world in which narcissism and the perception of resource scarcity coopts spiritual traditions like Buddhism into an effort to “get” Enlightenment through technology and shortcuts, and not deep practice and radical reinvention. Science is mistaken for spirituality and information with insight (nod to Richard Eskow). The privileged — mostly white and male — drive this effort and pour resources into the transhumanist effort as “the answer to all of mankind’s problems”. But what fundamentally lacks is the expansiveness of true compassion and the radicalization of true Wisdom — and the participation of the poor, the uneducated and the disenfranchised.

What are we left with? A world in which a privileged few skipped crucial rungs on the ladder to become awakened but not purified of mind, and they’ve given birth to an artificial intelligence in its own image that can justify cruelty, exclusion and oppression just as privileged humans do to protect our own narcissism.

I’m gonna write a scifi/fantasy novel trilogy about it one day.

 

*-* metta *-*

 

Article

Beware all enterprises that require new clothes: Part 2

A recent post on Lululemon’s blog extols Ayn Rand and encourages Lululemon-wearing yogis (but mostly yoginis) to read her books for inspiration on how to “elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness” (the company’s motto).

I have a hard time understanding the connection between accumulating expensive yoga clothes and rising to greatness, especially in elevating a personal yoga practice, which is multi-limbed. But perhaps that’s the fundamental conceit Lulu has lost sight of.

I am reminded here of American Yogi Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “Beware all enterprises that require new clothes, and not the wearer of new clothes,” which gave me occasion to rant about Lulu before.

One of the yamas  (internal restraints) within the eight limbs of yoga articulated by the sage Patanjali is aparigraha or non-grasping/greedlessness.  And I’ve found it useful to activate this yama in my life by asking myself that simple question when I’m contemplating something I want or “need” to acquire: Is it necessary?

Specifically in the case of the Lululemon tank I thought for a long time about buying: Is it necessary to elevate my practice –  my whole practice, including the cultivation of the yamas in addition to postures?  The answer was no, because the blessing of yoga practice is in its ability to fashion a new wearer of clothes, not the new clothes.

“By “the body,” these ancient traditions are not referring to the body in relation to the world: large, small, healthy, beautiful, round — but rather to the sense of the body as a frame of reference.” – Michael Stone, Freeing the Body, Freeing the Mind  (emphasis mine)

My attachment to the tank was an obstacle to cultivating this sense of the body that is actually the opposite of self-image.  Buying it would have cultivated attachment and grasping.  Clearly, it was not necessary.

So instead, I bought two tanks from American Apparel at a fraction of the cost that serve me very well and don’t inspire the same clinging.

Back to Ayn Rand – a commenter on the Lululemon blog noted “Ayn Rand wore a huge gold dollar sign brooch and was known for saying: “Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.” A wonderful slogan for a multimillion-dollar corporation, perhaps.”

There is a clearly discernible alignment between Rand’s values and Lululemon’s hinged on self-reliance and individual motivation.  But it’s a limited view that reflects The Yoga Bubble and is most firmly rooted, in this case, with striving, accumulation, and self-image.

I do recommend reading Atlas Shrugged.  But I also recommend balancing it out with two of Barbara Ehrenreich’s books – Nickel and Dimed and Bright-Sided to help cultivate understanding, perspective, and compassion – and aparigraha.

Article

pins, needles, and realizations

I was at the acupuncturist last week – OMG, I cannot extol the virtues and accomplishments (for my skin and overall health) of my acupuncturist enough! – and he had a really interesting insight.

It was simple enough – he made the assessment that, because I have an overabundance of “damp heat” in my system, I would naturally seek out practices that are calming, soothing, and cooling like meditation, qi gong, and yoga practices more in that vein than about amping up the prana. And that this would thus be appropriate for me, though maybe not for others.

A light bulb went off – my preference for these kinds of practices don’t make them “better”, just better for me. I know, isn’t this something I should have known?

Now, when people say things to me like, “I know I should probably learn to meditate”, I’m a lot less likely to say – “Yes! Meditation is good for everyone! And this kind of yoga is better than the other kinds!”

Even if I do believe that a meditation practice can benefit all human beings in the long run (ha ha! I won’t be dissuaded so easily), this conversation was a good reminder of how to live out the Four Bramaviharas expounded upon in both Buddhist and Yogic philosophies:

sukha maitri, dukha karuna, punya mudita, apunya upeksa

Be friendly with the happy, compassionate toward those who suffer.

Celebrate the success of the virtuous, be even-minded toward those who lack virtue.

Please pardon the conflation of virtue and practice. h/t Christopher Key Chapple in “Brahma Vihhara, Emptiness, and Ethics” in Michael Stone’s edited volume, Freeing the Body, Freeing the Mind.

Article

Is yoga teacher training right for you?

I‘ve been getting a lot of questions about my yoga teacher training from friends thinking about becoming teachers. I learned a great deal by going through the process, much of which I wish I had known before I threw down the money and made the commitment of time that I did.

Looking at some of the resources I found on the internet, I am frustrated that they fail to distinguish a yoga teacher training from, say, a physical therapy certification or any other western higher education equivalent. Doing so encourages a teacher-student relationship that can easily lead to victimization and abuse – because a yoga teacher training is so different from western, intellectual learning we’re familiar with that we enter unawares. It is a wholly different beast that requires a very different frame of thinking and its own kind of preparation.

The biggest challenges may not be what you expect, but no one should have to go into yoga teacher training program blind to what happens inside, or into a teacher-student relationship ready to give up our agency and safety because we’re unprepared for what lies ahead. Yoga teachers are not infallible, as I’ve written about before, and students should not give up the right to hold them accountable or hold to their own limits.

Obviously, my recommendations and my knowledge of the field of yoga teacher trainings cannot be comprehensive or complete. But this is what I have learned in the past year and I hope it serves others. I’ve overlooked the usual questions, like “if I can’t do koundinyasana yet should I do teacher training?” (The answer is yes.)  All of that stuff – complicated backbends, anatomy, Sanskrit, cueing, and hands on adjustments – will sort itself out. I’d love any feedback.

Advice for those contemplating yoga teacher training:

1. Prepare for a commitment

All yoga teacher trainings are different, but here are some basics: 1) You’ll spend a lot of money ($1,500-15,000 unless you work out a work-study arrangement or find a free teacher training – they do exist!); and 2) You’ll spend a lot of time (anywhere from 5 weeks meeting a few times a week to a month-long intensive meeting everyday to nine months meeting every few weeks). I ended up funemployed for the last 4 months of my 8 month training, and managed to devote 20 hours a week to the training and my own study.

I chose my teacher training program because it was local and convenient.  Now, my fellow trainees in the local DC program I did stuck around the city, unlike me, and are moving right into teaching in the studio in which they were trained. This can certainly be a big benefit of training locally.

But since I moved right after training ended, I’ve realized that I would be having an easier time marketing myself as a brand new teacher in a new town if I had trained with a teacher local studios had heard of.  Something for us nomads to think about.

If you’re ready for the necessary commitment of money and time, read on.

2. Know that yoga is much more than just asanas

There may be teacher trainings out there that skip the history of yoga altogether and only train people in how to teach postures (asanas). But in order to qualify as a Yoga Alliance certified school, a teacher training will spend at least some time, if not a great deal of time, on the historical and spiritual/philosophical underpinnings of yoga and its many practices (yes, there are many).

Yoga evolved as a system of practice to put people on the path to Enlightenment – the complete uprooting of the egoic personality structure – not just to stay fit or reduce stress. Regardless of the goals of popular yoga practice today, a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training is going to endeavor to produce teachers who know the system’s background and can expound on it when necessary and integrate it into their practices and teaching.

The time spent on these topics will not just be academic in nature – i.e., reading books – but will emphasize experiential learning through meditation, chanting, mantra, pranayama, kirtan and other devotional practices, mindfulness exercises – even sweat lodges sometimes. This can be especially challenging for those of us who aren’t ready to embrace or dip our toes into a new religious system or hermeneutics – including the skeptical, but also atheists and anyone with a devout religious belief that’s not Hinduism or Buddhism.

In Buddhist parlance, those who’ve embarked on the path of self inquiry through study and practices that still the mind and calm the body – with or without the final goal of Enlightenment – are called “stream-enterers.” And, yes – the stream is wet. And cold. And the water rushes by and sometimes catapults branches and logs along like weapons.  These various mind and body practices have the potential to bring you hip-deep into the stream and, once there, you may learn things about yourself that surprise you. You may come face to face with memories, judgments, and habits rushing at you with surprising and unignorable speed that you’ve happily not seen or repressed. It can literally be like splashing cold water on your face. Or getting hit by a log traveling at 35 mph.

Wet, clammy, and forced to see how the mind and body are not separate systems but part of a whole will likely considered part of your training – trainings that do this go beyond the Yoga Alliance requirements but it’s definitely to be expected.  Furthermore, you’ll likely be asked to share your realizations with your fellow trainees and the instructors.

When it comes to sharing, it’s critical to know your own limits and go in knowing what you’re ready to talk about.  Yoga teacher trainers are not likely to be trained psychoanalysts or social workers. So 1) it’s important to be prepared to be asked to participate in group sharing about your own process, which may be dark, raw, and dizzying; and 2) it’s even more important to set your own limits and boundaries in sharing because your instructors may not be equipped to create a safe environment for this kind of work.

OK. If you’re still on board, here’s what to do next.

3. Get to know the field

Not unlike applying to college or grad school, it’s important to know your options and how they’re regarded in the community.

Again, I chose my teacher training program because it was local and convenient. But I knew nothing of who my instructors had studied with, their personalities, or the extents/limits of their knowledge and practices.  If I could do it again, I would opt for a month-long intensive with a well-known teacher after doing some shopping (through YogaGlo or workshops, and a subscription to Yoga Journal).

Let’s start with the major lineages and traditions of Hatha yoga being taught and the best-known teachers in each of them:

Ashtanga – This yoga style popularized by Sri Patabhi Jois is often described as a modern-day version of the classical Raja yoga.  I know little about Ashtanga, to be honest, but have heard Richard Freeman‘s name come up again and again as a foremost teacher and admire his writings and talks.

Iyengar – This yoga style was popularized in the west by B. K. S. Iyengar, who studied with the same tacher as Sri Patanhi Jois, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, in India. Most Iyengar schools do not offer drop-in classes but require several weeks-long introductory courses, so I am wholly unfamiliar with the school and its teachers.

Bikram – Also known as hot yoga, Bikram Choudhry’s sequence is more popular among athletes and young men than other schools. Bikram leads all teacher trainings himself and requires adherence to his trademarked sequence and teaching style.

Vinyasa – Where to begin? There are a ton of western yogis who have adapted yoga for western audiences, many with great success. These include but are not limited to Power, Prana Flow, Baptiste Power, Jivamukti, Om, Forrest, Yee, Liquid AsanaAnusara, Kundalini, Budokon, and Insight. Follow the links to find those teachers. Some other teachers who have not branded their styles to the same extent (and that may be a draw for you in itself) are Jason CrandellMichael StoneNatasha Rizopolous, and Donna Farhi.

4. Get to know your instructor(s)

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of familiarizing yourself with your potential training instructor. But the most important thing is getting to know him or her and his/her ethical commitments,which can be done by taking just one or two classes and asking questions of the instructor after class. Doing so will at the very least set up accurate expectations.

Against the backdrop of #2 above, I recommend spending at least 90 minutes observing your potential instructor in his or her interactions with students and others, inside and outside of a classroom setting. Here’s what I recommend looking for:

– What has the instructor done to address his or her own contributions to violence – structural as well as direct – in the world? (I address this here.)

– Does the instructor speak and act in a way that is kind, honest, and appropriate?

– Is there any suggestion of flirting or sexual innuendo in his or her interactions?

– Does he or she act with selflessness and generosity?

– Does he or she have a sense of humor? Is it one that you can work with?

– Does he or she demonstrate and maintain clear boundaries? Are they ones that make you feel comfortable?

– Is he or she present with you (making eye contact, listening, making time for you) when you ask questions?

– Does he or she delegate responsibilities to others well? I.e., day-to-day operations of a studio and subbing

– Can he or she relate the practice of yoga to the real, everyday lives of working people?

– Does he or she have any additional accreditation aside from being an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT)? i.e., social work, psychotherapy

Now, nobody is perfect. But many of us reside somewhere on the spectrum and inspire more confidence and trust than others – and the questions above are linked to the very philosophies and ethical principles your instructors will be teaching (i.e., the yamas and niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra).  It’s important to trust your own gut, t00, to help you find a trustworthy and skilled guide as you head into unfamiliar territory.

5. Beware the yoga bubble

The rise of Buddhism and Yoga in the West has two very interesting characteristics that set it apart from the systems as they exist in Asia – an emphasis on personal experience and an abundance of lay practitioners (as opposed to monastics). A thorough engagement with modern science and practice, as opposed to faith in meritorious acts or rituals, undergirds much of this.

These are good things for Westerners, and important to cultivate in our own personal practices and at large. And a necessary by-product of these is a re-investigation of the traditional teacher-student relationship in meditation and yoga, and what it means to have a deep personal practice.

Some yoga teachers maintain occupations as psychotherapists, businesspeople, teachers, etc in addition to teaching yoga.  Many don’t. And while a full-time commitment to yoga allows for deep practice and a lot of teaching experience, it can also give rise to what I call “the yoga bubble.”

The Yoga Bubble can result in unrealistic expectations on the part of the instructor regarding how much time and energy you can devote to your training – either because they’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a fulltime job that has nothing to do with yoga or they don’t really care.  Or it can mean that they’ve forgotten how to act professionally on their obligations to those who have engaged them in a business transaction, which is what a teacher training also is – such as keeping to schedules, respecting your time, and making sure you know exactly what will be expected of you before certification (e.g., completing extra teaching hours outside of training hours and written homework, participating in extra workshops (at extra cost), or passing a final exam).

Many full-time teachers are mindful and humble enough to remain cognisant of the demands of everyday lay life long after they’ve left the rat race behind.  Others forget real fast.

When yoga teacher trainings advertise themselves as opportunities to deepen one’s own practice (as well as learn how to teach), boy are they right. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn about oneself and the path, and maybe even get a taste of Enlightenment.  But any path has its perils and obstacles, and the above are the ones I think matter most – but remarkably, that have the worst signage.

Anyone interested in pursuing a yoga teacher training should go for it – even if you don’t necessarily want to teach afterward. The important part, and the reason why I’ve laid this blogpost out as I have, is to go in with your eyes wide open.

Article

Guru Sila

I’m teaching my first yoga class in Bloomington, IN today! As part of my certification process, I have to teach 5 seva classes. Seva can translate to service, but a sticker I recently saw described it as “compassion in action”, which I like a lot.

As I step into the role of teacher, especially outside of the studio and training context, I’m spending some time revisiting Sila – or ethics.  The stories of gurus behaving badly are myriad, and span pretty much all religious traditions – including Vedanta and Buddhism. And while I’m ‘just’ a yoga teacher and not a ‘guru’ or ‘swami’, I still feel it’s of the utmost importance to renew a commitment to as impeccable  a sila as I can at this point in my life.

Vulnerabilities and room for imbalanced power dynamics are ineherent when a room of 5 or 15 people is looking to me for guidance, submitting themselves to my cues and adjustments. By engaging in a powerful practice that augments both mind and body, students are also entering into a vulnerability that is more profound and likely unknown to them.  That surrender and potent but yet fragile place must be respected by teachers, and the burden is on us to act with professionalism and compassion – in service to our students and their needs, not ours.

As a teacher, the onus is also on me to maintain my connection to anatta – no self.  This comes into play in cultivating humility and an open mind. Although my practice may be ‘advanced’, each person is different and each person’s practice unfolds in a different way.  By approaching each situation with a desire to learn and the humility to know that I cannot dictate any person’s unfolding except my own, only shine a light on the way, I can stay grounded in true nature, as opposed to ego and the other contents of my head.

So again, I can spend some time truly reflecting on sila – for me, as delineated in the Buddhist precepts for lay people:

1) To abstain from killing living beings (or to do no harm);

2) To abstain from taking what is not given;

3) To abstain from harming with sexual energy;

4) To abstain from wrong or harmful speech (including gossip and idle chatter); and

5) To abstain from alcohol and other intoxicants that can cloud the mind and encourage heedlessness.

I include ‘abstain’ in each of these because the end goal in observing the precepts is to approach each precept mindfully, with an eye first and foremost to what’s appropriate and helpful for the situation. This way, we can actually take on more responsibility for our actions, because we’re not meeting someone else’s arbitrary definition, but one informed by our own wisdom and consideration. The precepts are not goals in and of themselves, but dynamic practices for daily life, creating more hospitable conditions for our continuing unfoldment.

Article

Right Speech

Seattle Insight teacher Rodney Smith has a great story he shared on retreat once, about what “Right Speech” – one of the Buddhist precepts on sila or ethics – means exactly.

Apparently, after Rodney returned from Southeast Asia (where he was a monk for some years), he worked kind of a desk job while also trying to maintain some of his vows or observances of the precepts from monkhood. In his shirt pocket, he kept a notebook to track his sila, most of all pertaining to the fourth precept on Noble or Right Speech.

At the time, he understood Right Speech to mean telling the truth.  And perhaps informed by the practice in Buddhist monasteries to sort of ‘confess’ one’s transgressions of the precepts in front of the sangha for a kind of absolution and support, he took note in his notebook of every time he told a lie.

One day, as I remember him telling the story, Rodney was meeting with a man in his office who asked him a question Rodney couldn’t really answer.  So he lied. And then took his notebook out of his shirt pocket and made a note. Observing Rodney take out his notebook, make a note, and return the notebook to his pocket, the man asked Rodney what he had just written down. And Rodney lied.  And threw the notebook out that night.

I love this story. The lesson is not to give up on the precepts but to understand them more intelligently.  The punchline of Rodney’s recounting this story was really that Right Speech is more nuanced than just not lying.  From his teachings and others, I’ve delineated several criteria to consider when about to say something:

– Will it cause harm or be helpful?

– Is it appropriate (at this time, for this person, for this situation)?

– Is it kind and is my intention in saying this good?

Telling the truth in some situations can sometimes be more harmful than helpful, and can certainly come from unkind places of intention as much as kind.  Sometimes, the truth we’d tell is actually not something the listener can process or do anything with.  Or, in the case of idle chatter, it’s not something that’s going to create the right conditions for the unfoldment of the listener or the speaker – rather, it’s a way to fill space and distract from the real work of just being present and seeing Truth.

Sometimes, and this is really hard, we have to interact with folks who are really at the mercy of their own delusions, hinderances and defilements. It’s impossible to speak truth, especially when that truth would convey that you disagree with them, feel they have treated you or others unfairly, or that they make you feel uncomfortable.  Probably the best thing to do is not say anything at all – something I’m really quite bad at.

In a recent situation, I had confronted such a person about ways I felt hurt by her behavior, only to find that my willingness to confront her (added to some other things) made her feel threatened by me, and resentful.  But rather than just keep quiet in the following weeks, I worried about my standing and the investment I had made in this particular interaction. So I spent some time being quite complimentary and saying some things I did not exactly believe to try to defuse the situation and protect my own standing. Perhaps more strategic, but not a reflection of my desire to continually renew my commitment to sila and to my practice.

Luckily, life is long.  And we live many lifetimes.  As precious and short as each lifetime is, it’s not so short to not allow opportunities to make mistakes and learn.  And develop more wisdom about how to live authentically and through practices like Right Speech over time.

Article

I Am Troy Davis

I am grateful for my boss to have circulated this open letter from Troy Davis, released today shortly before Troy’s second stay of execution in 2008.  I am deeply moved by it and want to share it:

To All:

 I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I 

look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

 As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.

 So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,

“I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!”

Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!

Article

fear is the mind killer

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

– The Bene Gesserit. Dune, Frank Herbert.

My friend C at Hiroic Ventures posted this quote on his blog last week.  The day after, Sweetheart and I can across it as graffito on an underpass along the BLine in Bloomington, IN. #synchronicity