angel Kyodo williams

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

the courage to be human

In leadership, relationship, spirit on September 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm

akw palms

a path to transformation

New York City — September 11-12, 2001

The devastation of this day is staggering beyond measure.

We have all heard the radio, watched the television with our mouths gaping in disbelief, our hearts wrenching in despair. We have heard talk of resolve and determination. Plans for justice and retaliation. Unanswerable questions being asked and unimaginable events being lived.

The fact is that as a culture and as a people, we are not equipped emotionally, psychically and spiritually to manage the magnitude of this tragedy in our minds. We have, mercifully, lived for so long under the dark shroud of ignorance to the scope of our vulnerability.

I want to encourage you all, first and foremost, to be still. To listen to your heartbeat. To be silent. To breathe. If you listen deeply, it is the voice of sanity and compassion that you will find there. It is the voice that will remind you of your connection with all beings.

Yes, you are connected with the untold hundreds, possible thousands of unknowing people that lost their lives instantly in the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes.

You are connected with the undoubtedly horrified passengers and crew of the airplanes turned into weapons of mass destruction.

You are connected with the brave rescue workers, firemen, police officers that willingly ran into flaming buildings as others poured out, only to have two of the world’s largest structures of steel, glass and concrete fall in on them along with the countless victims trying desperately to escape.

You are connected to the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, nephews and cousins of all those people. To their teachers, their coworkers, their friends and their lovers that must carry an unthinkable burden forth.

And you are also connected with the men or women that, with frightening calculation, walked onto the planes of four major airlines, knowing that they would pilot their own deaths and take the lives of innocent people on their journey.

We cannot close our eyes or our hearts to not one of those people. We cannot close our minds to the unbearable truth of the consequences of our actions. Of creating, perpetuating and sitting on the sidelines of a culture that passes off violence as a reasonable tool to achieve peace. Of doling out so-called justice only to those who are not in our favor. Those who do not say the right things, have the right color, were not born into the right caste, worship the right gods and live the right lives. Our unbalanced sense of justice is increasingly available on behalf of only those who can afford it or offer enough benefit in exchange. Most of us sat idly by, comfortable that our distance made us safe.

Now how many additional lives do we need to see taken to make us feel truly secure? What punishment will feel like it is enough?

It is tempting to find oneself taking aim at a nameable group and pulling the trigger of anger. Which is why now, more than any other moment in our history, we must make the most courageous effort, take the hardest step towards living in an altogether different way.

If we are lulled into seeing the people that have committed this desperate act and the people that will surely pay with their lives in any act of retaliation as separate, different, Others that are not a reflection of the darkest parts of our own selves, we will lose this crucial opportunity. We will lose the window to a realization of ourselves as more compassionate, more thoughtful, more fully connected with the events of our world, and thus more responsible. This bears repeating: if we continue to refuse to take personal responsibility for the cause and conditions: for the oppression, the inequity, the sheer unnatural imbalance of our existence, we will never witness an end to this.

So I implore you to not allow your inexpressible confusion, sorrow, helplessness and fear to numb you into turning over your agency. Do not let your desire for a new illusion of personal safety, of “freedom” to give license to further violence.

Our military may be “powerful and prepared” but are we? Are we prepared to, with fierce determination, with the strength bestowed by personal realization, insist that we will no longer let violence be perpetuated in our names, in the name of justice, and most cruelly, in the name of peace?

We must band ourselves and our hearts together to put an end to the cycle of violence that we now know we are not immune from. We must put an end to the wars being waged against our humanity and become warriors for the common cause of peace.

We are desperate to have the answers to every question, to always know what to do and how to respond. It is obvious that there is so much that we don’t, but what we do know is that the way it has been done is not working. You have permission to turn off your TVs and radios and simply feel your pain.

You have permission to not know.

It is easy to see ourselves as good and well-wishing when the fabric of our very being is not called into question. But can we be open and honest about who we really are, about the evil acts we are capable of conceiving while staring in the face of our own remarkable frailty? And can we use that to change?

We need to find peace in our own hearts first.

Many people find their ways to spiritual paths, to personal paths of transformation when the ground they always knew to be there falls out from underneath them. The ground has fallen out beneath us America. Let us all find the wisdom to see this unspeakable tragedy as a doorway to meaningful change, as a precursor to collective transformation. If we do not accept this challenge, if we are not brave and unrelenting in our demand, but instead cower behind the “quiet, unyielding” and clearly insatiable, emotion of anger, the loss of thousands of lives will not be merely unspeakable, they will be in vain.

A meditation, prayer, affirmation for our humanity:

“May all beings be granted with the strength, determination and wisdom to extinguish anger and reject violence as a way.

May we seek, find and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within us and allow them to permeate our every action.

May we exercise the precious gift of choice and the capacity to change that makes us uniquely human and is the only true path to freedom. “

copyright MMI. angel Kyodo williams. all rights reserved.

Note: This essay first appeared September 2001 in connection with the events of September 11, 2001 and its expected and most unfortunately fulfilled aftermath. It was widely distributed online. The final prayer subsequently became the Warrior Spirit Prayer, the signature prayer of the New Dharma Community, a transformative practice community founded by williams, now based in Berkeley CA and with circles forming in cities throughout the US.

If any good at all comes of it, may that benefit be extended to ALL my relations. —aKw

angel Kyodo williams, the changeangel, is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

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beyond the boycott

In culture, money, politics on September 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm


telling whole foods you don’t buy it

a time for action: sometimes, no matter how many ways you try to describe a thing, you have to experience it to know what it really is. i’ve been talking about transformative change: what it is and isn’t. what it could look like and what it can make possible in the world. “beyond the boycott” is the birthplace of an experience of transformative change rooted in nonviolent action. rather than a campaign against Whole Foods, it’s a committment to real healthcare & wellness for all. it’s a campaign for a more “whole truth.” if you’re interested, join in the experience, and together, we’ll transform the world. -aKw

Two weeks ago, like now tens of thousands of others on Facebook, I ran across a post on Why You Should Boycott Whole Foods. If you’re like me, you may have experienced a deeply conflicted moment of some combination of shock, disgust, rage and, um…fear. Fear that you will now have to figure out where to get those admittedly pricey but picturesquely beautiful organic foods you’ve come to know and love and, for some of us, give your whole paycheck for.

I’m a stalwart soldier that can take a strong stand for what I believe in. The truth is though, I live in Berkeley, CA, the uber-progressive Republic rivaled only by my hometown of New York City for access to “whole foods” from places other than Whole Foods. As annoying as it might be, it won’t exactly be a hardship for me to go spend my dollars at Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe’s and the stunning array of year-round weekly farmer’s markets.

But how true is that for thousands of us? Especially when Whole Foods is the only game in town—exactly what has made it such a national success—and exactly what I believe John Mackey was counting on when he wrote his now-infamous op-ed The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare.

Here’s another truth, sheepish as it may be: I Like Whole Foods. After kavetching like many about the high pricetag on everything from Abalone to Zinneas, and derisively calling it by its’ Whole Paycheck moniker every chance I could get, I surrendered to its wide open aisles, carefully stacked vine-ripened tomatoes and apparently happy-to-be-working-there-employees’ smiles. I do spend my whole paycheck, though not being able to afford health insurance frees up a little cash.

And since we’re on a truth roll: I like most of the eight points Mackey made in his piece. I certainly think they’re worth looking into. So I don’t think he’s evil and I definitely don’t think he’s stupid. In fact, I think he smartly calculated the risk of framing his plan as he did. I think John Mackey, like any businessman capable of building a $8B business did some accounting. He accounted for the risk of pissing off a central base. He accounted for sparking a firestorm at a critical point in the healthcare discourse, and I even think he accounted for some boycotts here and there. But he calculated that he would win. Why? Because:

  • Most Americans (myself included) have dwindled down to the attention span of a 140-character tweet.
  • Boycotts take time, patience and commitment to work. Understandably, we’re sorely lacking on most of that these days, and most impactfully:
  • Whole Foods IS the only game in town in too many places for a sustained boycott over an indefinite period of time.

So what to do? Something John Mackey hasn’t accounted for—take the Whole Foods Boycott to another level—tell Whole Foods “I Don’t Buy It.”

If given an invitation, they don’t respond meaningfully to the concerns of their offended core base and those impacted by his statements, we should all get together and go beyond the boycott. Sending peopleTO Whole Foods to SHOP, but DON’T BUY is an action that will get their attention. It’s time to increase the pressure and urgency on Whole Foods, leaving no doubt that we will not only withhold our dollars from them, but will take positive action to drain them of resources. But it’s also time for those of us pushing for change to do so in a way that actually seeks resolution, transforming the issue into an opportunity for real change: change that matters. Thus, any action taken should be thoughtful, respectful, measured and leveraged only if it is needed: if understanding where this is headed, Whole Foods won’t come to the table. Ignoring it away is not an option.

Just like it sounds, in a SHOP. DON’T BUY action, people would:

SHOP for groceries, then “pay” with a symbolic 60-Person bill and tell the cashier that their CEO, in effect, said this is acceptable:

  • that it’s OK that 60 people die every day without access to healthcare
  • that it’s OK that uninsured adults are 25% more likely to die prematurely
  • that it’s OK the lack of health insurance is the third leading cause of death for the near-elderly

Naturally they won’t accept the 60P so shoppers get to tell Whole Foods “I DON’T BUY It.”

  • DON’T BUY their food.
  • DON’T BUY their excuse for John Mackey’s irresponsible statements.
  • DON’T BUY any position that allows corporations to avoids responsibility for their leadership when offering a personal view under the banner of their brand.

Leave the store without the groceries.

This simple but powerful action can give us voice to acknowledge that, contrary to what Mackey suggests, healthcare IS a right. It is buying from Whole Foods that is a privilege.

Going beyond the boycott—which is hard to measure the impact of, potentially loses steam and often devolves into angry protest because people want to DO something—each of us can say “Whole Foods, I’m commited to take action because…

I don’t buy it that Mackey benignly used scare tactic phrases “socialism” and “government takeover.”

I don’t buy it that healthcare is something that every American shouldn’t have access to because “a careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right…”

I don’t buy it “that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health” even though a flawed system has sold access to healthcare from under the feet of 47 million people.

I don’t buy it “voluntary, tax-deductible donation” is sufficient to address that lack of access, and

I don’t buy it that even if “many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted” for the many reasons–systemic, market-driven, lack of information–that may be true, 60 people should die everyday.

And I don’t buy it for Whole Foods to explain this away as “personal opinions” because Mackey used his access and status as CEO to make his surprisingly irresponsible and self-serving statements, branding it “The Whole Foods Alternative…”

We can leverage our commitment to action for a more satisfying resolution to the betrayal of our trust in shared values. Now that their CEO has publicly stood against so many, what will Whole Foods stand for? In the absence of a meaningful response to their leader’s maybe personal, likely uninformed, but still irresponsible statements, love Whole Foods as we may—-in fact because we love them—-we need to hold them accountable. An organized, nonviolent Shop, Don’t Buy action can do that.

Finally, Mr. Mackey, I acknowledge that your “eight reforms” might work. But this is no longer only about lowering costs, it’s about life and our inalienable Rights—as a careful reading of the Declaration of Independence does reveal—to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those are possible without our health. You’ve got good ideas but you didn’t have to slap us with them. Relationship repair starts with conversations. Can we talk?

Some powers that be, naysayers, talking heads and even John Mackey may believe Whole Foods can just wait out a boycott and continue business as usual without significant impact on their bottom line.

I don’t buy it. And you shouldn’t either.

Get details on Shop. Don’t Buy:

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

Note: The above essay was modified from the original written 8/25/09 —aKw