Change Agency from a Light Tower

“There is no loftier mission than to approach the Divinity nearer than other men and to disseminate the divine rays among mankind.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

What do we owe the world if we are healthy and happy? How do we feel in the presence of a joyful human being? What does a person who is not suffering need? I’ve been contemplating these questions in the time of the Coronavirus.

I remember living in Abu Dhabi during the Egyptian Revolution and the Arab Spring. At that time, I wrote a piece called, Losing the Middle East. It starts:

Forgive me, God- for I am writing this from the comfort of a five star hotel. While young men and women are battling each other for freedom on the streets of Cairo, I am taking a jog around a manicured Abu Dhabi, a safe haven while I toil with all that has become undone.

In the time of the Coronavirus, there are those who are sick and dying. Amen.

There are others who are fortunate and distancing. Some are outside protesting and dismantling unjust things. Others are waiting it out or stuck in survival-mode routines. And then, there are those who are healthy and happy and exercising agency from a light tower of their making. What does this mean?

It means that the world has changed and continues to change rapidly since the Arab Spring. Human beings are responding to change differently and each response is acceptable and worthy. More importantly, there is evidence to suggest that there is a growing number of people emerging, a new consciousness, if you will, moving toward a revolutionary activity I call Light Agency.

Lighthouse, Ríos, 2015

Light Agency is about letting go of fear and anything that makes us feel small, powerless, guilty and worried. It’s about choosing to live fully in the present moment and dedicating time to manifesting. It’s about revolutionizing the world by reviving the circuits within and then holding the live circuits open. It’s about sitting and basking in light, making a moment-by-moment commitment to focus on love, happiness and vitality. It’s about applying reiki to the world by paying attention to how you move your body through space-time for healing. It’s about infusing yourself with light because you know that nothing travels faster than the speed of light and you want to disseminate this feeling everywhere, to everybody, all the time.

Forgive me, Father—for I wanted to see the pyramids so badly! I had read about the energy, the power underneath! 
Forgive me, God— for today is Friday and from the comfort of my terrace, I see the white mosque over on the other side of the bay. It just floats out there as if it were being held magically over the water. And I am here with a fire in my heart.

Over the holiday, I sat with my sister holding her baby daughter who is a precious jewel. I observed the light bouncing off her eyes as they mirrored each other; it was the miracle of life and motherhood, infused with lightness of being, a sense of gratitude, peace and purpose. Delighted by this light, the curious teacher in me wondered: What can I say that will help my sister in this moment?

That’s when I fumbled and missed it.

I want to kneel down beside the barefoot men 
who are inside praying to you, our father.
But I choose to stay here and write.

Virus Fatigue

While traveling over Thanksgiving break, I nearly suffocated. It had been hours sitting on the plane and in spite of the short maskless eating reprieve, I arrived to JFK hyperventilating. I looked around to see if I was alone in my suffering but there was no sign of asphyxiation. Everyone looked like faceless robots. At baggage claim, I lowered my mask below my nose. I was vaccinated and tested negative so I gave myself permission to gulp down some air. Breathe, breathe, quickly I told myself. I turned to see if the security guard would come and reprimand me. He did not. By the time I folded myself into the back of a yellow cab, I was deflated. I think if COVID doesn’t kill me, wearing a mask and anxiety will do the trick. In spite of all of our advancements in science and technology, it feels like our world is contracting.

I think, I want to see your face. I want talk spit on my cheek. I want to touch your hand. I want to talk about something other than material reality. I want to love and trust humans again.

When I arrive at my destination, I strip off my clothes and bask in the joy of free space. I am alone but I am free to breathe. I let loose for a while and that feels good. When I get a little lonely, I consider going out but then I remember that I have to wear a mask and I don’t feel like it. So, I stay at home and communicate with the world through my many devices. This works like a charm for a while. Then, I feel empty. I miss the warmth of love and bodies. I miss the novelty of meeting someone new. I miss shared space. I miss communicating with someone without writing or talking. I miss the real world. I feel sad and disheartened and worried about the future.

Is this really it?

When I get like this, I light an incense and sit in meditation. I am hungry for love and confidence. And I need to calm the chatter down. In a few moments, I get that feeling. I’ve learned over years of practice to trust this, this moment of silence, this moment of dignity, this moment of concentration on the real world, the world where everything that really matters lives.

I am activating belief in the truth and essence of humanity.

I am activating healing.

I am activating faith.

I am activating well-ness and well-being when so many are in pain.

I am activating another way of being and thinking.

I am kindness for my fellow human beings when there is so much hate.

I am breathing strength into myself and pouring strength out into the world.

When I’m done, I get up and wash my hands and face. I put my clothes back on. I get my coat and mask and go out to travel again. I visit my family and friends. I show up with love and I am accompanied by the spirits who guide me. Love pours out of my skin and my consciousness touches their consciousness. I see them. We are old, fresh, wise, kind eyes. I notice a few things. I listen for suffering. I hold them in my presence, awake. I hug them with my arms and my inner being. I know for certain we are here in a flash of a moment and it’s good to keep company.  

The Air We Breathe

Today is a terribly stifling day. The air feels thick and slimy on my skin and in my nostrils. Everybody’s face is frowning; thin lipped and frozen in that typical endurance grip. If today’s air quality is any indication of the future, we should be worried. I’m standing at an intersection. I watch the row of bumper to bumper cars beeping and hustling a bus. The concrete is hot and although the river is not too far off, the air is heavy, staggering. Those standing closest to the river feel like they are in nature. Several bodies stretching and sitting on a 4X4 patch of grass feel like they are in nature. I think, let’s close our eyes and pretend that we are alone in our private grass, that the buildings and smog don’t exist, nor exhaust fumes.

On my walk home, I wonder about my practice and the importance of air. I breathe in and I breathe out. Besides meditation I’m wondering about how mindfulness relates to my views on the climate and my understanding of social ecology. My brain is trying to make connections. What is the action?

I return home and turn on the AC. I watch a movie about human beings living in space. The set is a detailed floating capsule with vents pumping clean air into the room. Actors are floating and look intelligent. I think about COVID-19 and how we’re all floating in our bubbles, scared and isolated, no trust to connect with others, no trusting the air we breathe.

I am alone, I sit, I breathe, I contemplate, I read and that’s all good. Still, I want to go out in spite of the suffocating air and the humidity because it’s my earth too and I am hungry for the outdoors and seeing people. I want to tear off my mask and I want to talk to people, see their mouth. I want to touch someone’s arm and do all those things that make us feel good and make us feel alive and connected. So, I think there’s a small war going on against our humanity. And I think air quality and the environment we choose to live in matter right now.

I look out the closed window sadly. Thoughts that follow are an interrogation of selfishness and selflessness and then I remember all the years working in the poorest of neighborhoods, in the inner city. I was doing some good in the world. The environment was toxic and depressing but I was fighting it, one child, one teacher, one classroom at a time. How much has changed since? I wonder about the quality of air in the classrooms, the life of all the workers and how if each one refused to work in a toxic environment, then schools and work places and whole cities would have to be designed differently. Just to get the people in. We want to come in, but we need a reason. We need a commitment to clean air and nature and spaces that we can care for one another again.

A million-dollar project just opened up between the river and the highway. It’s a strange looking park raised on top of concrete pillars. The swarms of people going over there. They want to climb the concrete and stand on a patch of grass and stand next to a tree. The whole thing is ugly. It’s an illusion. I think about all that money.