Morning Meditation Under the Great Oak

It’s no use trying to save the world
When I myself am drowning
I sit now under the Great Oak
A tree so strong, so majestic
So silent, so serene
She is safe here far off the beaten path
Far away from the relentless greed of man

And I am safe here under her canopy
Here I can sit on a cool hard rock
And enter the sacred silence
Here I sit in the greatest cathedral of all
I look up at her awesome branches
Spreading in all directions
Upward and outward

I sit still so I can see Her
I sit still so I can feel Her
I sit still so I can hear Her
Her natural beauty is such a relief
That I cry tears of happiness

I study her trunk
So straight and strong
I see how the base of the trunk grows
Over a huge rock
I can hardly believe this was once a tiny acorn sprout
And now look at Her
See how Her graceful branches touch the ground
A perfect canopy

Now look — see how the huge trunk branches out into eight limbs
Like the eight limbs of Yoga
That we have all but forgotten
My soul cries out for Ahimsa
Non violence, mercy

The silence of the Oak can only go so deep
My mind won’t let me sleep
I cry out for the immense suffering and injustice
For the people and animals
At least people can speak

I cannot forget the pig in the steel crate
When I close my eyes I feel the holy stillness
But I still see the pig

Reign in your wandering mind
For this still moment
Leave the world behind
And focus on the Oak
Relax your clenched fist
Know you have a right to rage and be angry

For now
Feel the sweetness of the great Oak
Hear the coo of the quail
See how the light sparkles on the leaves
See how the sun rises each morning in spite of man’s insanity
See how the Great Oak grows silently

Like the Oak
I have no choice
But to express my true nature.
And revel in the miracle of being.

Spiritual Politics

Suza for Ojai (political activism for a sustainable Ojai)

Transforming politics – a new paradigm

Editorial by former Ojai Mayor Suza Francina
(written in 1999)

Politics is really the art of governance, a science that synthesizes opposing views into a higher level of understanding. Spiritual politics responds not just to competing interests and demands for rights, but, rather focuses on the next evolutionary step in growth for each individual and group.

—from the book, Spiritual Politics, Changing the World from the Inside Out by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson

Elected officials, myself included, have been known to use the disclaimer, “I’m not a politician,” as if being a politician is a greedy, corrupt and dishonorable occupation. What many of us mean when we say “politics” is “partisan power struggle” or “pursuit of power,” and this has given politics a bum rap.

But politics is really the art of governance, a science that synthesizes opposing views into a higher level of understanding. Politics is usually the last frontier in the process of cultural transformation. The concepts of “spiritual politics,” “transformational politics,” and “green politics” are gradually making their way into the mainstream.

These emerging paradigms promotes a more wholistic approach to the art of governance, which then promote a symbiosis between personal and social change.The new paradigms recognize the sacred interconnection of all life. New paradigms in politics, like the new paradigms in medicine, recognize the link between body, mind and spirit. In fact, many of the new ways of thinking about personal health apply to the health of society and the planet, as well. Transformational politics recognizes that changing the world comes from the inside out, and that personal health and planetary health are intimately connected. The process of healing the self and healing the planet is profoundly linked.

This new political paradigm is being developed by a wide range of people, including well-known political figures such as the Dalai Lama, Tom Hayden, Jerry Brown, and writers Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson, authors of the book “Spiritual Politics – Changing the World from the Inside Out.” A key principle of the new spiritual, transformational paradigm is that “the personal is political and the political is personal.” This involves a philosophy of moral accountability, where private lives must be lived in accordance with publicly stated principles. It begins with the simple, but difficult, recognition that if we want to transform the world into a kinder, more harmonious place, we must transform ourselves.

This perspective holds that everything we think, say and do has political implications-from making green, cruelty-free, less polluting consumer choices to our occupational and lifestyle choices. California State Senator Tom Hayden summed it up nicely when he said, “I stand with Henry David Thoreau, who said that if you are going to vote, you should vote not with a mere strip of paper, but with your whole life – in my own experience, one’s soul is no safer from oppression or corruption than one’s lungs are safe from pollution and exploitation.” The old political paradigms were based on the concept of economic growth, in which societies were thought to be doing well if they were at peace and growing economically. But the new political paradigm is a post-materialistic one, based on the image of healthy human growth.

A successful society is one that places the physical, social and spiritual health of the people above all else. This is reflected in the ancient philosophy of the Chinese, whose word for “governing” was actually the same as for “healing.” A good politician is a healer of collective ills. Those creating the concept of spiritual, transformational politics are exploring the deeper causes behind problems with the hope of finding solutions that are long-term and sustainable, not just “quick fixes” that may have a high price tomorrow.

Here are some of the key principles on which this new political paradigm is based:

· Respecting the interconnection of all life
· Creating a synthesis out of adversarial positions
· Transcending old definitions of “left” and “right”
· Matching rights with responsibilities
· Promoting government initiatives to develop self-reliance
· Searching for common ground for the good of the whole
· Thinking in whole systems
· Creating nonviolent, win/win solutions to problems
· Building cooperative relationships that respect the highest in each person
· Learning to truly listen to other points of view
· Examining the psychological roots of problems
· Enhancing self-esteem
· Using intuition and “attunement” in decision making
· Shifting from a mechanistic toward a spiritual, value-oriented perspective.

New paradigms require a profound change in consciousness, involving a shift of our deepest assumptions of what it means to be a human being. Spiritual, transformational politics requires a similar shift in our consciousness.

Former Ojai Mayor Suza Francina is a writer and national spokesperson on health and environmental issues. © 1999 The Ojai Valley News

Ten Reasons Why Bicycles Are Good!

Listing the benefits of bicycling makes it sound like one of those old patent medicines: “guaranteed to cure all your ills.” But the simple truth is that bicycling is good for the air, the water, the earth, the quality of life in our community, helps to conserve energy, increases property value, increases business, and makes our streets and highways more efficient and, at the same time is good for our health, makes us more fit, and its fun!

Here is a quick look at the ten top reasons why bicycles are good!

1. Bicycling is good for family-friendly communities. A recent survey of potential home buyers found that 93 percent said “quiet, low traffic areas were very or extremely important” in selecting the type of community they want to live in. More than 70 percent of the home buyers cited bicycling facilities as important to their decision. Parents recognize that children are more independent in bicycle friendly communities. Women between the age of 30 and 50 tend to make far more vehicle trips than men–largely due to the “chauffeur” role they play in delivering children to various after-school destinations. Safe bicycle routes liberate both parents and children.

2. Bicycling increases property values. Studies have shown that property values climb in neighborhoods near newly built bicycle-pedestrian trails. “Community designs that deliver low traffic and quiet streets. ” “Lots of natural, open space” and “Walking and biking paths” were the top three priorities among 39 features identified by home buyers as crucial factors in their home-purchasing decision.

3. Bicycling contributes to community safety. Streets full of cyclists have a calming effect on motorists. Communities with high rates of cycling tend to have reduced rates of traffic deaths and injuries among bicyclists and pedestrians. It is estimated that for every dollar invested in bicycle and pedestrian improvements, we save double this amount in medical costs from averted traffic accidents. Many successful community policing programs around the nation is the bicycle -mounted police squad. Placing cops on bikes (as we do here in Ojai) has proved effective in fostering goodwill among residents of crime-plagued neighborhoods, while the crime-fighting virtues of the bicycle — stealth, speed, all-terrain mobility — are well-established.

4. Bicycling improves air quality and the health of the community. Place any living creature in a closed system and turn on even a brand new combustion engine and death is the result. Our Earthly atmosphere is a closed system about 10 miles high. The burning of fossil fuels, primarily from cars, busses and trucks is contaminating the single most important ingredient for human health–clean air. An average four-mile round-trip bike trip prevents nearly 15 pounds of air pollutants from contaminating the air.

5. Bicycling conserves energy and resources. Bicycle trips are most likely to displace short car trips, which are less fuel efficient than longer trips. Bicycle transportation saves an estimated 700 million gallons of fuel annually. By making our communities safe and practical for bicycling, bicyclists could save the U.S. as much as three billion gallons of fuel each year.

6. Bicycling helps relieve traffic congestion. Bicycle improvements can encourage motorists to shift some of their short automotive trips to bicycling. Approximately 40% of all car trips are less than two miles in length.

7. Bicycling is economical. Bicycling is the most-cost effective mode of transportation. The cost of operating a car has climbed 300 percent in the last 20 years. Growing numbers of families find that the replacement of a commuter car with a commuter bike can restore thousands of dollars annually to the household budget. Critics point out that we make a grave error by measuring time gained by speed as miles per hour while sitting in our car. We forget the time spent in earning money to pay for the vehicle, insure it, and maintain it, which in an overall view of our lives is the real measure of our time. From a broader perspective (calculating the hidden costs of driving), it is estimated that cars actually deliver us at speeds of about five miles per hour. One quarter of our waking lives are spent in performing the involuntary activities associated with the automobile-transportation system.

8. Bicycling is good for the economy. Besides increasing property values, we cannot afford to overlook that Ojai has a tourist based economy. Tourists love to visit places where they can conveniently park once and forget the stress of driving. “Car-Free Vacations”, “Carless Vacations”, destinations known as a “Bicycle-Pedestrian Paradise” or “Walkable Cities”, are recognized as both desirable for visitors and local residents who find noise and congestion from traffic to be the single most annoying side effect from tourists. Retailers are recognizing that healthy revenues do not depend on heavy car traffic and lots of parking. Cars don’t shop–people do! Studies show that bicycle-pedestrian friendly street designs creates a shopper friendly atmosphere which increases retail business. Plus bicycles free up valuable car parking spaces for those people who must drive.

9. Bicycling promotes health and fitness for people of all ages, including our older population. Bicycling is a lifelong, low impact aerobic activity available to almost anyone. Modern gearing allows every user to find his or her own level of effort. Three wheelers with large baskets can be used by older adults riding for the first time. The role of the bicycle in keeping older people healthy and independent is just beginning to be explored. One study suggests that if one quarter of the nations sedentary adults — 20 million people-would exercise moderately on a regular basis, savings to the healthcare system would exceed $5 billion.

10. Bicycling is fun! Actually, bicycling is more than fun. It is a spiritually uplifting, consciousness raising, mind expanding experience. Riding your bike connects you to the earth and everything you see all around you.

Resources: Website for the publisher of Auto Free Times and Alliance for a Paving Moratorium