No one should be diverted by self-oriented concerns—self-improvement, self-promotion, self-satisfaction, victimhood, or self-soothing when we are in the midst of a full-out war on human consciousness on a scale unimaginable in our time.

The assault on our collective and our individual wisdom, compassion, and clarity cannot be ignored. It is happening through the deliberate attacks on established sources of truthful information: reputable and reliable news media, scientists, academic experts, associations, agencies, and institutions that have proven their value in our culture beyond argument. Their occasional mistakes, oversights, and missteps cannot diminish their essential trustworthiness and importance in our social fabric. These reliable resources cannot be lumped together with the sources of propaganda, division, misinformation, misdirection, and all that contributes to greed, hatred, and particularly, ignorance, as if they are all to be dismissed or ridiculed. The information and analysis they provide cannot be treated as somehow equivalent, or incredibly, worse than the “alternative facts.”.

This is a grave danger to civil society, to our relationships with other cultures, and to the environmental well-being of this planet. By creating a smoke cloud of bizarre antics, distorted, inflated rhetoric filled with lies, and drastic destructive measures, there is a deliberate attempt to numb and demoralize any opposition to this war on consciousness. The sheer onslaught of damage to our  world on every front—the environment, education, national security, international relations, the economy, medical care, not to mention truth itself—is breathtaking and can leave us feeling hopeless and disabled. This must not happen.

This is a war whose front lines run right through every mind and every heart; there is no sitting this one out. There are no non-combatants or innocent bystanders. We are drafted, against our hopes and dreams for a safe, comfortable, and predictable future, into the radical uncertainty of this conflict. Further, it is a battle that can only be won person to person, heart to heart, mind to mind.

Despite its many affordances, technology has been turned against us, causing so much damage to the web of human connections based on mutual trust that we must begin again, on the ground, to restore our own humanity. We must begin rebuilding sanity, truthfulness, kindness, care, protection of the vulnerable—wisdom and compassion and clarity, in other words—that is foundational to a livable society, and an inhabitable planet. We can do this, but our window of opportunity is short. The enemies of awakened consciousness are moving extremely quickly to consolidate their position, and to demoralize and disarm their opposition. I myself am shocked at how quickly this is happening, and the grave danger we are facing.

The transformation and dedication of consciousness for the welfare of all beings must be wholeheartedly, fearlessly, and tirelessly engaged and defended. This is our vow. This transformation can only happen relationally, through our willingness to connect across all boundaries, and to meet, with fearless optimism, the most difficult conditions. Those conditions might be as local as your uncle Frank, the racist, or as vast as our global ecosystem. You decide. The opportunities are boundless, but please get moving. You have five great weapons: curiosity, mindfulness, connection, clarity, and care. They are cultivated through our Zen practice, and they will serve you well.

And please vigorously support those individuals and organizations who are working hard to bring us truthful information and analysis in the face of increasingly brutal opposition and repression. Make your presence felt in support of the vulnerable, and in resistance to oppression. Be awake. There is no time to hesitate or ask directions. Move!

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Comment by Kim Mosley on February 23, 2017 at 10:27pm

Beautiful, both the Rumi and the uselessness of external directions. Thanks! Re: Vaughn—It is funny how people who are doing more than their share are the ones who ask if they could be doing more.

Comment by Peg Syverson on February 23, 2017 at 10:13pm

Don’t Go Back to Sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

                             Don't go back to sleep.

       You must ask for what you really want.

                             Don't go back to sleep.


       People are going back and forth across the doorsill

                             where the two worlds touch.

       The door is round and open.

                             Don't go back to sleep.


Comment by Peg Syverson on February 23, 2017 at 10:12pm

Thanks for your questions and comments! Responding to your last point, Kim, a true student of the Way is fueled by the Bodhisattva vow, guided by the precepts, humbly aware of the burdens of karma, thankfully taking refuge in the Three Treasures and therefore proceeds with wisdom and compassion, even when mistaken in direction. For such a person, external directions are irrelevant. For those not on such a path, external directions are useless, even dangerous. However, spiritual friends are invaluable, and support us in discerning wise speech and wise action. Spiritual friends come together on this basis to learn how to bring the world we want to live in into being, a world beneficial for all living beings and for our planet. It’s not a perfect method, but it is a sound one!

Vaughn, you are already doing everything you can, it's not a matter of doing more than you are already doing. Help your students learn to distinguish propaganda and distortions from reality, and help them have the courage, stamina, and imagination to continue to work toward a peaceful, caring, healthy world. Help them learn to use technology with heart, for humane purposes, and to find and use their power wisely. You are in a critical profession for this work.

Comment by Kim Mosley on February 22, 2017 at 12:23pm

A few comments:

1) I think Mr. T is making America great again in an unintended way: he has engaged the country in a conversation. This hasn't happened since Vietnam. 

2) What is happening now has been festering for some time. It is more visible now. 

3) Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and a samurai all are warriors with love and compassion (maybe the samurai would just be calm). That's what I'd like to learn to emulate.

4) I liked hearing a week or so ago that “everyone loves in the best way they can.” That helps me realize that everyone is trying to do good (as Plato suggested). It is just that the good is not so clear sometimes.

5) Flint said yesterday in our practice discussion group that the world is too much for us to handle (I hope I'm quoting him pretty well). I'm reading your essay as suggesting that the artist should put down her brushes and march. We need ignorance attacked from all fronts.

6) There is no time to ask directions? I was just listening to a podcast from Fresh Air on blacklisting in Hollywood. McCarthy probably thought he was saving America with his zealousness. He would have done better asking directions, like: what really are our threats? 

Comment by Vaughn Grisham on February 22, 2017 at 11:48am

Thank you for this blog post, Peg.

I am sitting each day, and I am offering my home as a place for the Appamada sangha in Alpine to practice meditation. I am financially supporting helpful organizations and truthful media, actively participating in boycott campaigns to try to divert money from destructive media and products, communicating several times a week with my elected representatives, bearing witness and sharing what I'm seeing via social media, supporting local resistance groups, marching (though we’ve just had one in Alpine thus far), discussing the threats with my students, and trying to remain in open connection with friends, relatives, and neighbors who think differently than me. It hasn’t felt helpful to try to reason with folks on the “other” side, so I’m just trying to remain engaged and inquisitive with them.

One area that I find myself having to really stretch is with the precept, “I take up the way of speaking of others with openness and possibility.” A dear friend reminded me the other day though that these events are galvanizing people into action—people who I have never seen engage in activism—and I am hopeful that these events may wind up birthing another era of enlightenment. We’ve been in stasis for so long that the opportunity to move forward seems to require that things get worse before they get better. In that case, we’ll all need to take up, to paraphrase Lynne Twist, midwiving emerging systems while providing hospice care for dying systems. This is an area that, thanks to your help, I now feel somewhat accomplished and skillful. Life seems to have been preparing us all for this moment.

As we all put our shoulders to the wheel, I am so grateful for your (and Flint’s) wise guidance, and for the support of the larger Appamada sangha. Your wisdom, compassion, and energetic care are powerful sources of fearlessness and optimism.



Appamada is not just the occasional mindful thought or attentive state of mind, it’s actually a commitment to being attentive. It’s more than just a meditative state of mind, it’s more than just being mindful. It has to do with that primary ethical or moral orientation we have in life, with which we bring into being whatever activity we’re engaged in. Whether in formal meditation, in our interactions with other people, in our social concerns, or in our political choices, it’s the energetic cherishing of what we regard as good.

—Stephen Batchelor


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