Sangha. Retreats. I went with this group to pick olives in Palestine

We are inclined to try to work out who is responsible for something problematic. That is a complex and potential endless process.
The answer to who is responsible to this is simpler, and broader: it’s all of us.
“No one is free until we are all free.” MLK

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The Peace of A Boundless Heart

We have just completed the Being Peace retreats for 2019, where we invite meditators to join us in the olive groves and homes of Palestine to support all who work for peace in this area. The participants are now out of retreat, but hopefully the practice of being peace continues to support them, and all whom they meet. For the need for enlivened peace is not unique to Palestine, although it would be such a blessing if this unnecessary occupation could end right now.

Meditation is Creation

The simple principle to train and embody ‘being peace’ in an area of conflict and ignorance opens us to the power of meditation to bring something different to life. There is sometimes an idea of meditation as ‘being with things as they are’, not a quote you find the Buddha saying thankfully. For meditation can be a creative response to crisis.

Doing a retreat in response to the situation in Israel and Palestine widens the range of what we humans can do with this mysterious life: We can contact darkness as well as light. The darkness of military occupation we may easily imagine, the light though is surprisingly bright. I strongly recommend a visit to Israel and Palestine in solidarity with everyone who suffers, yet also in solidarity with your own heart’s desire to grow. When many things in our local or global environment are pushing us to close down or flare up, we need to find a creative middle way to remain open, available, and inspired. This retreat is helping me learn how to do this.

We come on a Being Peace retreat to help, and that is significant because they need it. But after 13 years of this retreat I feel we also come to learn something precious about how to live a full and meaningful life.

Perhaps the world is always in a crisis, there never were any good old days. Just different crises. I am inclined to think it isn’t a question of who started all of this, but how to meet what we find so it doesn’t continue. We are inclined to work out who is responsible for something, that is complex and tiring. The answer to who is responsible to this is simpler, and broader: it’s all of us. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “No one is free until we are all free.”

Many times this year I found myself turning around in my mind’s eye a strange mantra: “tolerance of intolerance, and intolerance of tolerance”. Particularly this would resonate in the cavern of my heart as I looked on beside my Palestinian friends at their diminishing freedom. One simple image of this complexity: a farmer sings a joyous tune in an ancient olive tree tended by generation after generation of his family; a few meters away an agitated female settler stops a patrolling security van saying how unsafe she feels having these Palestinians so near her home. This is not the conflict we expected.

Peace On The Edge

Many people on the retreat come back from working along side the farmers amazed by stories of prejudice, theft, and brutality; just some of the worst ways we can treat each other. Yet the reason for their amazement is not what a horrific oppression they heard about, but to say that their host showed no signs of hatred: they just told the story like an objective observer.

I mostly have questions: How does a farmer, whose village’s seven agricultural roads have been closed in the peak harvest season respond to this with laughter? How does a farmer sit at the edge of an expanding settlement, beneath trees that will soon be engulfed within it, say “I have no problem with settlers”? How does a man access the persistent humane strength to be ardently non-violent in his resistance to violence from his wheelchair; his spine broken by a shot in the back?

Laying Down the Bow and Arrow

I feel like some of the Palestinians we met exist on another plane of existence. They seem to access something we’re not automatically attuned to feel. Using the Buddha’s metaphor they are able to not fire the second arrow” of dukkha; they meet pain, loss, and transitory happiness impressively well.

They have a depth to them that I do not believe we will fully fathom via meetings, nor be able to summarise in words. In Dharma teachings the sublime condition of an awakened heart-mind is called illimitable, boundless, without beginning or end, cannot be circumscribed; I feel like the special way some of the Palestinians we meet through this retreat live is an inspiring revelation of that.

But let us not imagine these Palestinians have lost their capacity for feeling, nor their thirst for resistance. I’m not trying to represent all Palestinians here, nor all of the situation, just to extend the range of what we might imagine living under occupation is like. The next best thing for each of us is to meet Palestinians directly. To allow them to express their joys and sorrows in their own words. To share their dreams and ambitions, some of which we may not fall in love with. And to show us the power of non-violent resistance.

Nostalgia for Utopia

Palestine isn’t a perfect society, no where is, yet many Palestinians are impressive and inspiring. Because of their profound limitations in freedom of movement meeting up means coming to them. “You are welcome in Palestine”, as they will say. They wish to meet you, we’d love to have you with us next time. All are welcome to come as you are, to be moved deeply, and to leave closer to how you wish to be. (I can’t resist opening a window in our minds: If you feel like you can’t come because you have made a commitment to not fly in an aeroplane, it may move you to consider that one participant this year walked to Palestine from France.)

A final few words to redress the imbalance of only talking about Palestinians in this reflection of the Being Peace retreat. There are many Israelis working for peace, and their contributions to wellbeing is so valuable. They allow themselves to be vulnerable to (and receive) abuse and violence in the name of dignity, morality, and peace; a deep bow to all who stand up to oppression anywhere it occurs. Your courage and dedication to peace is an inspiration.

The situation in the world is calling us to move beyond being triggered into unhelpful patterns. We need all our energies for change: wherever there is injustice let us stand up and be counted. May all walls fall, all occupations end, all injustices be healed: May all beings be safe and free.

Nathan

 

Exploring Emptiness Teachings


Some of Rob Burbea's teacher trainees (including Nathan from SanghaSeva) are offering a fortnightly 'Emptiness' drop in group starting this Thursday (7 Nov at 6pm).
The purpose of the group is to provide support, guidance and connection for those practicing with the book Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising or Rob Burbea’s related talks and teachings.
The sessions will follow a question and answer format: discussing what’s coming up for people in their practice with this material, as well as exploring topics from Rob’s book and related teachings.
If this feels like it would be of interest for your practice just drop in.
More details at: DependentOrigination.org/group
 

Spring Up Foundation Calendar

You can brighten up your wall while making a real contribution to Palestinian student's lives with the beautiful Spring Up Calendar.

Twelve months means twelve delicious easy to make recipes to bring the kitchen alive and tantalise the taste buds! These fantastic recipes and the stunning images that accompany them were collected in Palestine by Spring Up Foundation's team and supporters.

The calendar is a great way to support our work, and a perfect way to invite the warmth, beauty, and creativity of Palestinian flavours into your life.

Learn more and buy a copy at SpringUpFoundation.org

 

A small selection of SanghaSeva's

Upcoming Events and Retreats to Join

 

Being Peace Weekend Retreat 
24 - 25 April, 2020

The aim of this retreat is to bring an openness of heart and mind to a place of pain, suffering and confusion. We will be spending time in Palestine meeting Palestinians and Israelis whose lives are directly affected by the conflict and/or dedicated to a nonviolent transformation of their lives. Our wish is to bring support and understanding to all those living this conflict and its effects.
 

 

Earth Care Day, London, UK
2 May, 2020


A collaboration with London Insight, we will be working at and with the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, participating in wildlife and habitat conservation work.

This is an opportunity to spend a day outdoors together, working gently with the earth as an expression of our hearts. 
The day will be framed by periods of meditation and contemplation cultivating greater awareness in a daily life setting.
Bringing positive action and spiritual practice together gives us an opportunity to express our care and love for our planet, while also offering an opportunity to meet and connect with like minded people.

Read more at SanghaSeva.org

 

Humanity in Action: Supporting a Safe Haven; Calais, France
21 - 24 & 24 - 27 May, 2020
(Dates to be confirmed)


“Refugees are going to continue to come, and the only question is what we are going to do to help them.”
- Davan Yahya Khalil

An opportunity to embody our humane response to crisis, and take the chance to care for others.
To embrace our shared humanity and see the person beyond the label 'refugee'.
To open to this painful reality and make a difference by helping create a safe haven for those who have seen the worst of humanity.

We will be supporting NGO's created to provide services to refugees fleeing their war torn homes. This is essential work that continues despite adversity; really going against the stream. Our time of volunteering is an act of solidarity which will make a real difference to those who truly need our help.

Read more at SanghaSeva.org

 
Images in this issue:
  1. https://www.pexels.com/photo/feeling-golden-sunset-inner-peace-love-827159/
  2. https://www.maxpixel.net/Compassion-Meditation-Love-Engagement-Service-1820485
  3. FB
  4. https://www.flickr.com/photos/quoteseverlasting/9203126928
  5. By Raja Ravi Varma - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2164758
  6. https://www.flickr.com/photos/140824459@N07/38338600981>
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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

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