2008.05.29 07:00 - Closing a Circle

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    Pema was the Guardian and the comments are his.

    That morning, Maxine was already waiting in the tea house, when I arrived.

    Maxine Walden: hi, Pema
    Pema Pera: Morning, Maxine!
    Maxine Walden: evening, Pema!
    Pema Pera: It has been a busy few days!
    Maxine Walden: I gather so!
    Pema Pera: Storm has created the start of a mangrove plantation near the beach and a meeting place there out on a pier, with an absolutely stunning view on the open sea
    Maxine Walden: I visited it yesterday, both places, stunning
    Pema Pera: And we are currently taking the first steps toward establishing a non-profit organization, so that we can apply for grants to pay for what we are doing here, both for the considerable costs of the land that we are purchasing, and especially the real estate tax called “tier”, as well as for part-time salary for some of us who are willing to put in a significant amount of time in the organization.
    Maxine Walden: I did see that note from the Sunday meeting, and so it is going forward
    Pema Pera: We will discuss that further in the PaB weekly guardian meetings, but that’s the bottom line.
    Pema Pera: Hi Storm!
    Maxine Walden: hi, storm
    Storm Nordwind: Hi both. I thought I’d say hi but cannot stop as i really must eat! :)
    Storm Nordwind: I just sent that thing on the MARC group.

    Storm, who had just walked in, was refering to a notice about upcoming land auctions in Rieul

    Maxine Walden: yes, sounds as if there will be more important discussions at those weekly Sunday meetings
    Pema Pera: thanks, Storm!
    Storm Nordwind: Did I drop the notecard on you too Pema, or did I avoid yours?
    Pema Pera: Yes, a third point: a lot of land coming up for auction here in Rieul
    Pema Pera: You managed to avoid me, Storm :-)
    Storm Nordwind gave you Land for auction 2008-05-29.
    Pema Pera: but not for long :-)
    Storm Nordwind: OK - apologies for not staying long, but if I don’t eat something I’ll fall over!
    Pema Pera: well, that message is “a perfect storm” !!
    Storm Nordwind: haha - you can tell me later exactly what that means!
    Pema Pera: thank you so much — short and clear
    Pema Pera: devestatingly so :-)
    Storm Nordwind blushes
    Storm Nordwind: I guess I’ll take that as good
    Pema Pera: I tend to be more longwinded when I’m trying to be clear
    Pema Pera: and I always admire those who can say it in a more pithy way.
    Pema Pera: But as I wrote in my latest email, one of the great things of our group is how complementary we are
    Storm Nordwind: I guess it comes from my training background over the last 5 years
    Storm Nordwind: Yes I saw that
    Storm Nordwind: Anyway, bye for now both!
    Pema Pera: bye Storm!
    Maxine Walden: bye, Storm
    Storm Nordwind: Namaste

    I had commented on Storm’s notecard, which was very short and to the point, explaining to our neighbors in Rieul and Mieum about our plans for handling the upcoming auctions. Storm then left, and Maxine and I continued to talk.

    Maxine Walden: you and Storm have been doing so much
    Pema Pera: and enjoying it tremendously!
    Maxine Walden: that makes it really a wonderful endeavor in many ways
    Pema Pera: one thing I’d like to bring up briefly in this context
    Pema Pera: is the following question — and I hope you will be the devil’s advocate :-)
    Pema Pera: It is an important question, and you may be well placed to play the contrarian role for at least a little while right now :)
    Maxine Walden: ok, I will try to think about whatever you want to say in a balanced way
    Maxine Walden: thoughtful way

    Since we were just about to make another big step in PaB, acquiring non-profit status, applying for grants, I had been looking back at our very short two-months history. Have we been doing things right? Would it be better to go more slowly, and be more modest in our goals and approach, or are we on track? My own intuition tells me to move ahead vigorously, but I know that there is room for different opinions, and I am eager to hear counter arguments, so that I can gauge my own arguments better. Knowing that Maxine had expressed some hesitancy in the past, concerning rapid expansion, I asked her to give her counter arguments.

    Pema Pera: My main reason for setting up this whole PaB organization, with forest and sea shore land and retreat huts for guardians as well as organizational structure for guardians and a non-profit and ways to pay those of us most actively involved part-time for all their work is this:
    Pema Pera: Being is beyond words, totally beyond words
    Pema Pera: so we have two choices:
    Pema Pera: either we say nothing and smile or hold up a flower or the like
    Pema Pera: or we do something that is for a large part non-verbal, so that the verbal part we use, which is strictly speaking wrong in itself, is balanced by the nonverbal force that is carried by actions and group cohesion and sense of community.
    Pema Pera: Footnote:
    Pema Pera: I am beginning to understand more and more why in Buddhism there is talk about “Buddha, Dharma, Sangha” with the sangha, the community, an important part of the whole, as important as the other two
    Pema Pera: or why in Christianity the Church is considered in some sense to be on a par with the Farther and the Son
    Pema Pera: The alternative to letting PaB grow so big would be to keep it small and just keep meeting here, talking and having fun while talking, but not engaging in spending money on land or spending time and energy on writing a grant proposal and cultivating land and building stuff and organizing a growing guardian community of PaB.
    Pema Pera: But my feeling is, and it is a question, because I want to make it open, my feeling is that given the two options: cheap and simple and minimal versus expensive and vast in scope and complex, I think the latter is the prefered approach.
    Pema Pera: What do you think?

    I was aware that I had almost started to play the devil’s advocate myself, by my choice of words. Normally I prefer cheap and simple and minimal. And any mention of a Christian church is still likely to push my buttons, given that I grew up in a rather strict Protestand environment. But I did not want to use rethoric, and I wanted to invite a maximally critical response to my sense that organizational structure and complexity was now called for. If I would only have used the word “sangha” instead of “church” I would have used Buddhism as a flag and I really want PaB to be independent of any particular religion or philosophy.

    Maxine Walden: I am cautious about an either/or position, one or the other, but i think I am even more uncertain about the community aspect, as in my experience the Church, becoming an avenue which distracts the mind/heart aspect away from the more primary focus. Now this may be just my own position, but one of the things I came looking for was something which allowed me to get away from the distracting/absorbing ‘institutitional’ aspect of my profession
    Maxine Walden: appreciate others may feel it a very good idea to do as you are suggesting, with the financial and other support…it may just not quite be the essence of what I am searching for
    Pema Pera: Great point, Maxine, and this is were “Play” comes in! Instead of an institutionalized approach, I am thinking more about a community, like the early days of both Buddhism and Christianity, before politics and power trips took over.
    Pema Pera: But I also agree it is not either/or, not black and white
    Pema Pera: more something that requires constant adjustment
    Maxine Walden: Pema, you may have hit the nail on the head: in my experience power and politics insinuate themselves into these avenues…
    Maxine Walden: the avenues of our humanity unless we are very careful
    Pema Pera: so let us be very careful!
    Pema Pera: and one step is for me to bring this up here, since I know you are one of the most cautious concerning this point, in our group, and I very much appreciate that.
    Maxine Walden: very careful and mindful. Yes, guess I am cautious because of my perspective on what can capture and even seduce the mind/heart
    Maxine Walden: This is not meant as a dampener at all,
    Pema Pera: I appreciate that, Maxine, more a reality check — or a virtuality check!

    I was delighted to see Maxine carefully sketching her position.

    Maxine Walden: but the struggle/search we all are on does offer sometimes exciting avenues which seem to offer so much promise, but in my experience can lead us away from the quiet, sometimes non-exciting task of the search
    Pema Pera: Yes, I agree, that is a constant danger.
    Maxine Walden: so maybe there is room for several of these perspectives to co-exist, but I do feel a bit apprehensive that the excitement and those caught up in it may feel unappreciated by these more cautious thoughts…and that could create a painful divide
    Maxine Walden: as if ‘you are not appreciating all the hard work we are doing…’
    Maxine Walden: what I am hoping might occur would be that there be enough room for our perhaps different perspectives to abide and inform and nourish each other in an atmosphere of respect to protect against the often human tendency to collapse into divisions which are more alienating
    Pema Pera: yes, a painful divide can easily form if we are not aware of the possibility of such a divide forming — which is the reason that I brought up the question :-). Better talk about it right now, explicitly.

    I couldn’t have formulated the dangers of moving ahead too fast better than Maxine had just done.

    Pema Pera: Let me give my experience.
    Maxine Walden: please
    Pema Pera: For the last few decades I have tried to form groups
    Pema Pera: by email, by telephone, by meetings in real life — both weekend meetings and week-long meetings
    Pema Pera: as an aside, the first group I started was when I was 9 years old — I even designed a flag and my mother kindly made one on her sowing machine, bless her heart (^_^)
    Pema Pera: end of aside
    Maxine Walden: wow
    Pema Pera: and until a year ago, my conclusion was:
    Pema Pera: none of them worked
    Pema Pera: in all and every case that I have ever tried
    Maxine Walden: but worked in what way?
    Pema Pera: no matter how I tried to form a group to talk about radical engagement with Being
    Pema Pera: the group degenarated in talking
    Pema Pera: words
    Pema Pera: intelligent intellectual words
    Pema Pera: often very well intentioned
    Pema Pera: but without much power
    Pema Pera: and after months or at best a year
    Pema Pera: each initiative collapsed
    Pema Pera: I can give you as much detail as you like, but this is the executive summary :-)

    It was not easy to summarize half a century in a few sentences, but at the same time the challenge helped me to find clarity.

    Maxine Walden: I have a sense you were hoping for something very specific…and I would appreciate more detail about that…
    Pema Pera: I think I have come to appreciate why so many organized religions use so much fixed structure, like rituals and rules and list of things to believe in — like a skeleton in biological creatures
    Maxine Walden: of some mutual evolution to occur which did not…the collapse of a dream or potential dream
    Pema Pera: but for me, rules and rituals are not what I am interested in, and I am also not interested in becoming a teacher, don’t like that role.
    Pema Pera: Religions are like coconuts
    Pema Pera: very very hard shell to protect the juicy part inside
    Pema Pera: I want the juicy part without the hard shell
    Maxine Walden: so are psychoanalytic schools…but they think that have all the juice …just a moment
    Maxine Walden: what comprises the hard shell?
    Pema Pera: and for half a century almost I have tried to do that through words, mainly, hoping that words could convince, could take the role of rituals and other structures
    Pema Pera: But now I feel that the immersive power of a virtual world like Second Life
    Pema Pera: together with the ability to connect the participants across geographical boundaries
    Pema Pera: may be the key to what was missing in a verbal-only approach.

    I backtracked to answer Maxine’s last question.

    Pema Pera: The hard shell, sorry, are the power structures and rituals and all that
    Maxine Walden: the immersive power may be a breakthrough potential, have a potential for breakthrough, but I am aware of the possibility of that immersion can sweep one away from some of the very meaningful aspects of mind/heart/experience/quest that comprise his/her uniqueness…
    Maxine Walden: we may be coming from very different perspectives here, me from a conservative one which values aspects of self (there is more to say here but can’t find the words), and that you may have been trying to find transformation of self maybe nearly entirely or significantly, since you have been seeking such since the age of 9.
    Maxine Walden: and the mundane aspects of human capacities/incapacities has not fulfilled what you have been working toward so long
    Pema Pera: May I summarize what both of us have said, tentatively?
    Maxine Walden: please
    Pema Pera: Let me see whether I can say this really briefly, and then we can expand

    I tried sketch our positions in one sentence.

    Pema Pera: You are pointing out that actions can distract from words/thoughts, while I am pointing out that words/thoughts can prevent us from waking up.
    Pema Pera: I think both are good points — but is that a good summary?
    Maxine Walden: (also will say something which has become clear about my wondering about an RL retreat the other day: in my experience the transcendent aspects of minds coming together has been enhanced by meetings in RL) But that may be a different topic…
    Maxine Walden: as to your summary, let me think for a moment
    Maxine Walden: words/thoughts can prevent us from waking up, I fully agree and have worked to get beyond that for decades as well
    Maxine Walden: but my caution here is the distraction of the excitement…for me excitement can sweep away one’s foundation because of the promise, an alluring promise…and that is the ‘danger’
    Maxine Walden: maintaining meaningful connections with minds/hearts feels priceless
    Maxine Walden: and that has been what I have been hoping for…
    Maxine Walden: you may be thinking that i am not into Being, that Being transcends what I have been saying…and maybe so, I have a lot to learn about that…I just don’t want a ‘new Church’ to become established with all the ’stuff’ which distracts from this delicate search
    Maxine Walden: or rather I am not sure I could join such a Church;

    I felt that I was beginning to get a better understanding of Maxine’s concerns.

    Pema Pera: It really seems that our concerns are similar and complementary. We are both concerned about the `danger’ of losing priceless meaningfull connections — you point out that too much excitement can overshoot and distract, and I point out that too little excitement can let things grow stale and wordy and uninspired
    Maxine Walden: maybe I have underestimated your concern about the settling in of lethargy, the collapse of initiative as you mentioned earlier…my notion
    Maxine Walden: would be here to speak to the lethargy (which I have known in myself) to speak to it directly
    Maxine Walden: and among earnest searchers that focus in itself can be enlivening
    Maxine Walden: One of the things I value highly in our discussions, such as this one, is that we speak directly about things…no lethargy here…and you often help me with whatever creeps in from the sidelines.
    Pema Pera: You are very unusual, in having a professional training of years of study, first, and decades of practice, after that, in using words to probe — most of us, both in our group as well as in the world at large, find a focus on words as the main vehicle — dialogues and conversations without much else — uninspring to say the least . . . . and we could wish that it would be otherwise, or we could try to accommodate and learn from each other, by making a combination of verbal and nonverbal approaches work in the give and take of a living community.
    Maxine Walden: But maybe that is one of the ongoing efforts, to be diligent about the lethargy…the pull back from the ongoing search…it surely is something I face now in my times of non-9 sec practice…but it is a worthy effort
    Pema Pera: this is not to criticize your position, on the contrary, in many ways it is a very pure approach — but an approach that I can’t see all of us taking, nor do I think it would be good to do so: diversity is important.
    Maxine Walden: oh, maybe I have an unusual perspective? I had not considered that such may be the case…guess I do try to use words only as a vehicle…maybe I have not been appreciating your concerns wholly
    Maxine Walden: but this may be where some of our differences do occur…and is there room for them…(appreciating it is also getting late for you and do not want to keep you beyond useful time)
    Pema Pera: We all view the world through the glasses of our own perspectives and of those we hang out with . . . and yes, I do think you have an unusual perspective, and one we can all learn a lot from — but not one we can or should try to take over.
    Maxine Walden: I have a bit more time this morning, but do not want to exhaust you …

    In speaking to Maxine, I felt I was equally speaking to myself, to my younger self who had tried for decades to use words and arguments to sift through ideas about the nature of reality.

    Pema Pera: May I be very frank, Maxine — and it may be dangerous to be so frank — the stakes are high, and I am gambling now . . . .
    Maxine Walden: go ahead, we are friends
    Pema Pera: Okay, here goes.
    Pema Pera: Frankly, I think that about half of our PaB participants often have difficulty following what you are trying to say, simply because they are not used to the very delicate and detailed way that you have learned over decades to map your experiences onto words — that is the kind way of saying it — the not so kind way would be to say that for a number of our participants it sounds like what you are saying is gobbledygook :-)
    Pema Pera: which is an opportunity for all of us
    Pema Pera: for you to appreciate the other perspectives and to find ways to communicate with a larger spectrum of people
    Maxine Walden: please more detail about the gobbledygook, as if a kind of psychobabble?
    Pema Pera: and for all of us to in turn learn to appreciate more what you have to say in ways we may not have been prepared for so far
    Maxine Walden: or not being in the world of everyday experience?
    Pema Pera: well, I’m a bit hesitant to analyze . . . . . . .
    Pema Pera: . . . . it is interesting that your first reaction to my “goblledygook” is to want to start analyzing: is it this, or that, or perhaps something else. ……
    Maxine Walden: no what I am trying to understand is how I am perceived by others…what they see/hear when I try to say things…perhaps Cal’s early experience
    Pema Pera: for example yes, and then she began to appreciate you more and more, and you her more and more
    Maxine Walden: of me…really trying to step into their shoes…so I can see how I come across…what I might intend is not what is heard…that sort of thing
    Pema Pera: EXACTLY!

    I dearly hoped that I had not been too blunt. Wanting to be maximally clear can easily lead to oversimplifications and cause misunderstandings, even among friends. But it seemed we were connecting nonetheless. Of course, I can only give this commentary from my own position. Perhaps Maxine will give her perspective on her own blog.

    Pema Pera: and you can learn to speak more on our level
    Pema Pera: and we can learn to listen better to you
    Pema Pera: see, the problem is:
    Pema Pera: as an astronomer I would never assume that I could talk to all of you using equations of general relativity, say
    Pema Pera: but as an analyst, it is much more difficult, I think, for you to see what does and does not come across easily
    Pema Pera: since it is all plain English or so it seems
    Maxine Walden: ah, I may be speaking unknowingly from my ‘analytic equations’
    Pema Pera: yes
    Pema Pera: and by doing so you are enriching us, Maxine!
    Pema Pera: as long as we can catch up
    Pema Pera: and you can help us catch up
    Pema Pera: and we can help you slow down
    Maxine Walden: that may be so…not it is probably I should ‘catch up’ with what is more understandable
    Pema Pera: we all catch up with each other
    Pema Pera: learning to play catch ball
    Pema Pera: together
    Maxine Walden: catch and throw
    Pema Pera: yes
    Maxine Walden: and to bear the mis-understandings which can be painful sidelong catches
    Maxine Walden: but very important if the game is to continue creatively
    Pema Pera: yes!

    I felt deeply grateful for the way our game was playing out.

    Maxine Walden: I guess I feel a bit muted re my earlier cautions…and maybe I am in the minority about them, but they do come from significant experience
    Pema Pera: I dearly hope that I have not spoken to bluntly, Maxine, but I was asking you for your honest criticism of my position and I felt I owed it to you to do the same :-).
    Pema Pera: It is my way of saying “THANK YOU” for your criticism.
    Pema Pera: Which I highly value
    Maxine Walden: oh, yes, I really appreciate it; it is received as a thank you…
    Pema Pera: So we can pool our experience.
    Pema Pera: Soon we’ll have a century of experience between the two of us, if not already :)
    Maxine Walden: yes, I need to ask a simple but maybe difficult queston…yes 100 yrs
    Pema Pera: and five centuries of experience in the guardians group — not bad!
    Pema Pera: please do ask!
    Maxine Walden: simple question: do I then come across sometimes as if speaking from a superior position?
    Maxine Walden: as if looking down on others?
    Maxine Walden: I ask because I think I do try to bring a lot of experience to my comments but it may seem that I am being uppity
    Maxine Walden: not down to earth, speaking from the hip as it were
    Pema Pera: No, I don’t think that is the case, Maxine, not a matter of levels or positions. To the extent that there might be a problem it is a problem in communication, culture if you like.
    Pema Pera: Bewilderment sometimes :-) Not judgement or animosity — that is one of the wonderful things about our group, as I see it.
    Pema Pera: We are all trying to understand each other
    Pema Pera: And I am TRULY amazed that it seems to work
    Pema Pera: that in just a few weeks, some of us, like you and Cal for example, starting out from such different angles, and without ever having met yet in RL have found ways to appreciate in each other what two months ago was still largely alien . . . .
    Maxine Walden: yes, that is amazing…several different cultures gaining access to each other

    Indeed, openness and access are key to our sense of community.

    Pema Pera: so “looking down on” couldn’t be further from the truth — so that at least is something not to worry about!
    Pema Pera: “looking up at” is more likely .. . . . and a good thing: when we are all looking up at each other, we get a wonderful Escher painting!
    Maxine Walden: OK, but seeing that perhaps I have been a kind of absent-minded professor without being aware of it…interesting new view on myself
    Maxine Walden: yes, we do, don’t we?
    Maxine Walden: the hand that draws the hand…
    Pema Pera: individuals with good intentions are by definition not aware of what they may have done which was not perfect
    Pema Pera: (perfect logic)
    Pema Pera: if you are of good intention and if you are not perfect => you don’t see what you miscommunicate and you need others as mirrors
    Maxine Walden: the good intentions carry so much, transcend a lot
    Pema Pera: I do think we are all of good intention, and I don’t think any of us are perfect (^_^)
    Maxine Walden: oh, I see your point, good intentions are not really self observing
    Pema Pera: yes
    Pema Pera: may I again, more bluntly?
    Maxine Walden: yes, appreciate that…much to think about…please
    Pema Pera: The road to hell is paved with good intentions
    Maxine Walden: I have heard that…yes…
    Pema Pera: very blunt, sorry, but true
    Maxine Walden: so….
    Pema Pera: so let us break up the pavement
    Pema Pera: and my point is: words may not be enough to do so
    Pema Pera: but they will help!
    Maxine Walden: (feeling concrete[pun may be intended] how do you break up the pavement?
    Maxine Walden: )
    Pema Pera: by mixing nonverbal energy with verbal energy
    Pema Pera: getting enough excitement to break through
    Pema Pera: but then also keeping enough verbal awarness to not destroy too much
    Pema Pera: keeping a balance
    Pema Pera: between your natural tendency and my natural tendency, for example
    Pema Pera: the way we started this discussion today
    Maxine Walden: we may be circling around to the initial topics…yes a balance…
    Maxine Walden: yes
    Pema Pera: yes

    It did feel, indeed concretely, that a circle was being closed.

    Pema Pera: I feel deeply grateful for us being able to talk so openly, Maxine
    Pema Pera: Thank you!
    Maxine Walden: wow, covered a lot of ground in this ‘circle’ …and I as well, Pema, it is precious to be able to be so open
    Pema Pera: So you see, there is room for words :-)
    Maxine Walden: and verve
    Pema Pera: even in talking about limitations of words!
    Maxine Walden: yes, the openness contains, conveys a great deal of energy
    Pema Pera: yes, I feel that
    Pema Pera: very concretely
    Maxine Walden: for it involves trust, courage…a bit of daring
    Maxine Walden: all those things are non-verbal for me, speak about the adventure or exploration with a trusted other
    Pema Pera: yes, very much so!
    Maxine Walden: I had better go soon, some RL things tugging at my sleeve
    Pema Pera: Morpheus is tugging at my sleeve here
    Maxine Walden: but this has been a wonderful discussion, not unusual…yes Morpheus…know him well
    Pema Pera: much as the Muses are tugging at the other sleeve
    Pema Pera: yes, I agree, feel the same.
    Maxine Walden: twin tugs…maybe to bring some dreams amidst your sleep…not quite
    Maxine Walden: Midsummer’s Night dream…but toward that maybe
    Pema Pera: haha close yes
    Maxine Walden: well, thanks for the discussion, bye
    Pema Pera: Thank you too, Maxine!
    Maxine Walden: cu later

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