Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: January 2011

Today is my birthday, one of the BIG ones. I have now outlived my mother by three years. We share this birthday and she would have been 102 today. My father lived six years past this one but died miserably. I hope that this decade I can live fully, happily, with my parents living on in me, in my life filled with love.

These last three days without electrical power, without being able to stay in our home, access our phone, wash clothes has shown how attached I am to my home, to my great life. Being without our usual routines and stuff for a few days, relying on the kindness of friends for basic shelter has been like a retreat, an opportunity full of insights.

My Buddhist teachings tell me that everything is impermanent, even the best things and people in our lives we will lose, because everything is in a state of constant change. I’m more at peace with that. Change allows babies to grow up and us old folks eventually to let go of this precious life, trusting that we continue on in the earth, the air, the trees that feed on our bodies, the memories of people we have loved. It’s not that comforting and I know that I don’t have complete trust that dying is ok. But our friend Jay (whose ashes are in Pat’s room) said on his death bed three months ago that there is “NOTHING TO FEAR.” I trust him, his connection with great spirits. I trust the teachings of the Buddha. I trust Thay. These teachings ring more true than the Catholic ones I grew up with – the eternal soul (although part of me still believes that too), God the Father, heaven, hell and purgatory. Whatever happens will be a continuation of this life. And this life is now so incredibly good, wonderful and happy that I want to spread all the goodness, happiness, joy and love possible to everyone I meet for the rest of my life. No time for fear, for self-centeredness, for anger, hatred, selfishness, pride or small-mindedness.

This is the time of my life for LOVE, deep, clear, expanding, powerful LOVE. I am so, so grateful to be alive, to have such riches of love and friendship in my life, such powerful spiritual teachers, work I love, family and friends and our sweet home to which we will return shortly.

I dedicate this decade of my life to LOVE.

Photo by Bobwitlox

We are approaching 48 hours without heat, power, or light in our home due to a heavy, wet snow blanketing our area and leaving almost half a million homes without electricity. Yet, we have found heat, power for our computers and phone and light to warm our eyes and hearts in the home of a friend. I was even able to work on my book here for my usual Friday morning writing session and am making progress on the chapters on our 1970 trial of the DC-9.

We never have to trudge through snow or any of life’s difficulties alone. Never again. Never since the realization, hard found, through much suffering, that we need other people. That somehow asking for help gives others opportunities to be of service, just the way we are able to be of service to others if they have the humility to ask for help. We “inter-are,” that glorious Buddhist concept of interbeing, of “non-self,” of interdependence. Thich Nhat Hanh gives the example of a flower not being able to manifest without the conditions of soil, air, sunshine, water and fertilizer that make it possible for a seed to become a flower. The flower both depends on the earth from which it springs and nourishes the same earth with its decaying petals.

So, we are managing to be not only safe and warm today but happy, even dancing and playing in the snow on the road of happy destiny.

Joe O’Rourke – High School Photo at his Memorial 9/08

Editing the chapters of my book on the DC-9 trial brings alive the words and feelings of people like Joe O’Rourke, the only one of the Nine who has passed away. What a brilliant and powerful speaker! Here is a sample from my summary of the trial transcript:

Joe O’Rourke was allowed to present the lengthiest statement the defense had been able to give at this point in the trial. Joe said that our only defense (against the five federal felony charges of burglary and malicious destruction of property) is “our lives.” He maintained that while we didn’t have the consent of Dow to enter their offices, “ we did have the consent of the poor people around the world; the 50% of the world’s population now dying of malnutrition, the mothers, the babies that die every day in the US. We feel we did have their consent to stop the Dow Chemical Company’s relationship with the United States.” (Transcript p. 582).

Joe argued that we were not committing a crime but stopping “a criminal activity by a massive institution that is crushing, not just lives in Vietnam, not just in Guatemala, but our own lives, because most of us are still powerless to change Dow, to stop Dow from making a bomb, an incendiary which is against international law; whether, indeed, the history of Dow Chemical Company isn’t precisely the thing that should be on trial here today…isn’t Dow the criminal? Isn’t their relationship with the government a criminal act? Aren’t their foreign investments sapping land resources, money, labor from countries all over the world? Isn’t that a criminal act?

…Isn’t it Dow that really should be on trial before you today? Isn’t it because of their managing, manipulating, killing, in your name as well as mine, we have alleged to have tried to stop them and you must judge whether that was just, or not.” (Transcript, p. 583)

The six of us were leaning forward, sending Joe our energy and support as all the Jesuit training in logic and public speaking poured into this powerful delivery. He continued to argue that some property, such as slave ships “that brought some of your ancestors to the US, the gas ovens of Nazi Germany,” and Dow’s napalm have no right to exist. If Dow is the burglar, the thief that steals from the poor around the world, then Dow is the one with the malice, manipulating our lives, turning our economy and society into an ‘economy of death,’ a ‘society of death.’ (p. 584). “What we did was really an act for life, an act of hope that you can trust us, trust our truth.” ( p. 585).

Do you have friends you would like to bring alive in your writing? Are the political causes of the sixties meaningful to you today?

Today I had all morning and all afternoon to work on my book, focusing on Day Two and Day Three of our DC-9 trial. I’m bushed. It was a grueling experience in 1970 and practically wore me out again in the re-writing of it. Judge Pratt had taken a page from the lessons of the Conspiracy Eight trial in Chicago – shut them up, gag them if they try to interrupt with questions. Never let them cross-examine witnesses, even if they fire their lawyers.

I have been fighting a cold too for the last several days. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to use the hours available to me, a clear, phone-interruption free day! What a gift!

I also feel gratitude for the opportunity we had in 1970 to confront the court system, to speak out against war, injustice and corporate murder of innocent people. I can feel the feelings I felt then, over 40 years ago. I suppose that is why I keep writing, to bring alive the scenes, the defiance we exhibited, the fire in our hearts to struggle together for justice and peace.

Now I can rest, rest my cold, rest the work energy, rest the feelings and trust the great spirits of today’s young people to carry on the fight for justice, peace and real rest for all people.

Viva Tunisia!

Photo by Rob Warde

My heart is singing with the joy of two powerful spiritual paths converging in me, finding voice and words that are of use to others. We just finished a deep conversation with a good friend and teacher that clarified how important it is to me to continue the work of meditation retreats for women. In preparation for a meeting with my co-leader of the next retreat, I spent time this morning in my journal listing similarities in the two paths. The similarities include freedom for the individual, strong community, deep looking at one’s own suffering, listening, prayer, meditation, service, discipline and real ways of relieving the suffering of others. What gratitude I feel for having both of them in my life!

My journey has been a long one, from convent to atheism to despair to freedom. Along the way, I have suffered deeply, experienced great joy, felt separated from all human understanding and found connection beyond space and time. I feel so happy with the gifts in my life that I want to dance, to share it with you, to shout, to sit in silence, to smile.

That moment when all the suffering in one’s life has meaning and becomes transformed into a jewel that can be of use to someone else is a moment of great happiness. This moment. Thank you, my teachers, my parents, ancestors, fellow sufferers, community members.

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream, Obama’s dream is my dream. I couldn’t say it better.
Happy Birthday, Martin.

Yesterday a conflict with beloved friends brought out some of my glaring defects of anger, pride, fear and people-pleasing. I was still suffering from the experience when I went to bed and had difficulty sleeping. So, I used my meditation practice to at least rest, follow my breath and calm my body and emotions. it seemed a long time that I tried to keep meditating, failing to fall asleep in my usual easy fashion.

At some point I visualized a particular statue of the Buddha I saw several years ago on the island of Penang in Malaysia. This golden Buddha was as long as the room, lying on his side, his head resting on his hand, a smile on his face. I imagined the Buddha as a living being, long and golden, crawled up into his arms and rested there. I felt safe, happy to be exactly the person I am, with the emotions I have. I allowed the Buddha to hold me, comfort my feelings and allow them to transform into peace, humility, faith and clarity. Whatever happened with the conflict would be fine. My friends and I would all be safe, open-minded and willing to act with compassion and even some wisdom from my ancient friend. Our intentions were to work for peace and unity within our community. We needed to take refuge in that deep source of peace and wisdom within each of us, look at our own mental formations, smile and rest in this precious moment.

Yesterday I had the privilege of listening deeply to a friend who was suffering from a powerful addictive disease. Her body and mind were in a state of turmoil and struggle that I understand from experience. Today she feels surrender, acceptance, the reality that she cannot fight her addiction alone. I hope that she is stepping into the sunlight of the spirit.

As we woke early today to a blanket of sparkling snow, I prayed for my friend and all suffering people, that from darkness they will find light, from despair, hope, from suffering, release.

“Threats of violence, no less than violence itself, are antithetical to democracy” says E. J. Dionne in an article on the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people in Tucson, six of whom died. Giffords had spoken out about the rhetoric used by Palin and others in the November elections – having her district “in the crosshairs of a gun sight” or “being on the targeted list.” Granted, this particular assassination was not carried out by the politicians voicing the threats. However, violence in mind, heart and speech is the bedrock of violence in action.

We live in a country that daily perpetrates war in Iraq and Afghanistan, sends drones to kill in Pakistan, allows widespread sale of guns and is one of the few democracies remaining to use the death penalty. It is as important today, as it was in 1969 when many of us were willing to go to jail for major portions of our lives in order to stop the war in Vietnam, to look deeply at the violence in our society and to do whatever we can to stop it.

Today, I begin my day with an examination of my mind and heart through journaling, Qi Gong and meditation. I know that I have the same seeds of violence, anger and fear in me that plagues others. I want to become more aware of those seeds, their origins and triggers. I try to water the opposite seeds of peace, joy and faith in my heart and in the hearts of all people I will encounter today.

Non-violence is not passive. Practicing non-violence toward ourselves, our families, our communities, our political rivals and other countries takes awareness, commitment and a community to support us. I am happy to see that some of her opponents in Congress have found enough peace in their hearts to pray for Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery today.

Where are the other three of the nine, including the two women?

My waking thoughts were about Charlie Meconis’s book With Clumsy Grace: The American Catholic Left 1961-1975. It must have been a doctoral dissertation with all the citations, charts and references to court documents. He interviewed 46 people for the book (including me and other friends), so there are quotes from Joe O’Rourke throughout, also Neil, Phil, Dan, Liz, etc. I read more at the Y yesterday afternoon, then kept it up in the late afternoon and evening at home. So, it was fresh in my mind. Also, I worked on the Chicago jail/court chapter yesterday morning, so most hours of the day were given to my book – either writing or reading the Meconis version of events surrounding the subject of my book.

The Catholic Left was an amazing movement, and much credit for the energy, vision and organization goes to Phil Berrigan. But Meconis also brings out conflicts within the movement over religious motivation vs the humanitarian/political, between the women and men, between increasingly “violent” tactics and the philosophy of non-violence, paranoia and precaution against FBI infiltration.

Memory is so fluid. It seems affected by the present moment, by who I am now. I have elements of my past operating in my present: my nun self that likes schedule, routine, silence and my “wild woman” self that loves my sweet young husband, all my crazy friends and my criminal past. I discovered when I was writing about one important character in the book that I was writing more about the person I know today (compassionate, secure as a leader and teacher, open to exploring his own suffering) than what I really remember about him in 1969. Amazing that we have somehow maintained and worked through the difficulties of a 42 year old relationship!

I know that my particular story, my vision, my memories will contribute to the mosaic that is the tale of the Catholic Left, the broader anti-war movement and the women’s movement of the late sixties, early seventies.