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February 2017: Resist!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017 6:11 AM | Nomon Tim Burnett (Administrator)

   February at Red Cedar Zen Community

#resist #thisisnotnormal #staysane

Dear Sangha,

I've never started one of these essays with hashtag slogans before. But these are new and different times so perhaps new approaches are needed, even while we stay true to what we know helps us and others.

Yesterday on my way to lead a group of 12 doctors in a 6-hour meditation retreat, I switched on the radio and was soon hearing how the effects of President Trump's executive orders restricting immigration were playing out. 

People from the counties names in his arbitrary list of Muslim-majority counties had gotten on planes in good faith that they were allowed to fly to America. In some cases, yes, new immigrants - but immigrants already granted visas and already "vetted" in various ways; in other cases established residents with visas, green cards and other papers. There are people who have received promises from our Government that they would be let in. 

And then landing at JFK and other American airports many of these people found themselves suddenly detained - stripped of their rights and held in small rooms. And under threat of being sent back where they came from. Most were not being allowed access to lawyers. In some cases even being tricked into signing away their rights. By all accounts there are ordinary people: students, scientists, mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons. 

I was trying to put myself in their shoes. The stress of this! Families separated. Long held plans were interrupted or perhaps crushed. Just the loss of an expensive international plane ticket is significant. Real lives disrupted.

Sadness over this was to emerge regularly through the day as I was leading the doctors in sitting and walking and gentle yoga. I could feel the weight of that sadness as I also felt the joy of their various discoveries and the gradual process in the room of calming down and remembering something of our nature as human beings to be sane and grounded and real with each other. And to be compassionate and feeling with each other, too. It was a challenge to hold the joy of a day of meditation and the sadness of these events in my heart together.

I do know that I have a certain political stance - conditioned by my family, my class, my education, my race, and who knows what else. We all do. And I do know that there are other stances and concerns that I can learn about and understand even if I don't agree with their conclusions. I can understand that immigration policy is immensely complex. And maybe it's also simple. And simply impossible. For one thing it's an attempt to impose order and some measure of fairness on an unjust and and unfair socio-economic world. America is (still) a rich and stable country with more opportunities than many others. Many people from poorer countries, and from unstable and dangerous countries, want to come here. What to do? 

Surely there is no perfect solution and compromise and care is needed. Some would restrict immigration more than I would. Some seem to want to base the decisions more on gut feeling of who should be in "our" country. Others on socio-economic data suggesting, for instance, that actually recent immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natural-born citizens. And each camp thinks itself more right than the other not just in their conclusions but on the basis of how such decisions are made.

I can accept this and I know that my role as a meditation teacher and Zen priest is not to explore political policies with the sangha particularly. Not what you signed on for.

But this is not a disagreement over policy or ideology. 

These recent executive orders by our legally elected President appear not to be based on a policy we can discuss, but on slogans, on gut instinct without study or thought of consequences on real people. For one thing there was apparently no plan for implementation. No plan! If rules are being changed that have a huge effect on others the governing officials surely have a human rights obligation to make those changes with care. With a time table. With clear guidance to the immigration officials as our airports and borders. With time for feedback and consideration for how they might play out. It seems that none of this happened from what I could read. It was just an order. Made on a piece of paper with a pen on a desk in the most promiment room of the world. 

As Bodhisattva practicioners commited to service and compassion, I think we have an obligation now to resist immoral acts of governance. This appears to be one. And although we can't know what will happen or when (the election results certainly remind us of this!) it looks like we'll have to be ready to do what we can in response.

What will that look like for each of us? Here in our relatively peaceful corner of the country? That's the challenge - we don't know. I for one am committed to learning how to regularly call our Washington State senators with my views and concerns. Is that enough? I really don't know. I am grateful that many people in New York dropped whatever they were going to do last night and went to JFK airport to bring attention to this through peaceful (and vigorous) protest. And closer to home people went to SeaTac. At least one US Congressperson from New York was there too asking questions of the immigration and customs officials. And right before I went to bed a judge had already issues a stay on at least some of the order in response brought by an action brought quickly and efficiently by the ACLU. Janet and I sent the ACLU a donation soon after the election. Time to send another. 

And we do need to #staysane.  To maintain our practice. To take breaks. To support each other. To sit and walk and be together with others. To exercise and take good care of the only body we have. To continue studying Dharma (perhaps with the question what our Buddhist way can offer the world now?). To keep on. To keep on.

And take a bigger view. Not to let these troubles, as truly frightening and dramatic as they are, get all of our attention. 

I was deeply encouraged by this recent article by NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (who is constantly traveling in the third world to see what's really going on there) which continues other important statistics I've seen. The world on the whole is definitely getting better for most people. Of course the environmental news globally is not so rosy, but let's take heart that fewer people are in poverty - a lot fewer. There is less suffering. This is amazingly wonderful news.

#resist #thisisnotnormal #staysane

in solidarity and love,


p.s. you might also appreciate our Guiding Teacher, Zoketsu Norman Fischer's, article on Tricycle online: On Not Knowing What's Next

Sangha Events for January and into February

Saturday, Feburary 4th, 2017 9:30am: Annual Sangha Meeting with the Board - an important opportunity to find out how we're doing as a sangha, hear plans, give input, be a part of helping us move forward as a community.

Sunday, February 5th, 2017 9:00am - 5:00pm: Sunday Simple Sit with Chris Burkhart - Zazen in Uncertain Times: Sitting with the Fire - a wonderful opportunity for a day of practice. Two short talks with discussion on Zen meditation.

Monday, February 6th to Monday February 27, 2017 6:30pm-8:00pm: our four-week Introduction to Zen Meditation This class is designed for those who are curious about Zen meditation as well as those who are already meditating and want to learn more. Tell your friends interested in Zen meditation, or come yourselves to our Monday evening in-depth class, taught by Connie Martin and John Wiley.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 7:00pm to 9:00pm: Mid-Practice Period Check-in & Parinirvana Ceremony - come check in with sangha about how Practice Period is going and mark the Buddha's passage into parinirvana in a beautiful ceremony.

Thursday, March 2 to Sunday, March 5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

Sunday March 5th at 11:00am: Shuso's Dharma Inquiry Ceremony - don't miss the wonderful ceremony.

Events in the Community:

Our involvement with the interfaith group Let Love be Our Legacy continues with two events in December:

February 4, 11, and 18: A Course on Islam will be hosted at St Paul's on these three Saturday mornings from 10am until noon. The Rev. Josh Hosler of St. Paul’s Episcopal will moderate this three-part series on our Muslim neighbors. There will be a presentation by members of Bellingham Mosque on the 4th. On the 11th, Professor Paul Ingram, Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran University, will speak. Recently the leadership of the Bellingham Mosque reached out and voiced a readiness to build interfaith dialogue, so this is a valuable opportunity to learn about this tradition.

More information on these events will be place on the Let Love Be Our Legacy Facebook page and webpage.

Upcoming Retreats:

March 2-5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett

Board Meeting minutes:

January 4, 2017

An Offering From a Sangha Member:

Photograph by Collette Riopelle

About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Community sends out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newsletter. We welcome all kinds of offerings: event listings, resources, poetry and visual art.

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