compassion

Reflections and New Directions in Wakeful Society, Culture, and Politics

  Issue Contents Editor’s Introduction Gabriel Dayley Releasing the Bowstring Towards Wakeful Society, Culture, and Politics Gabriel Dayley Embracing Our Wholeness: The Importance of Embodiment, Lineage, Spirituality, and Social Justice Arisika Razak Mahāprajāpatī: An Arrow Ancestor James K. Rowe What Does it Mean to be Wakeful? LaDawn Haglund Data, Practice, Sandwiches, Possibilities Rachel DeMotts Space to Dream: Reflections on Teaching, Writing, and Living with The Arrow Naya Jones Original artwork for this issue by Chetna Mehta and Rae Minji Lee Reprinted artwork from previous issues in The Arrow by Alicia Brown, Chetna Mehta, Rae Minji Lee, and Star Barker

Nurturing a Relational Mindset

This essay first appeared in Insights: Journey into the Heart of Contemplative Science and is reproduced with permission from the Mind & Life Institute. When I was a junior in college, I signed up for a course on meditation and developmental psychology. On the first day of class, the professor asked each student to write on a notecard, “the voice in your head that you wish you didn’t have to listen to throughout the day.” I felt apprehensive. I didn’t know my classmates, and everyone appeared put together, attractive, confident, and more at ease than I felt. We privately wrote on our cards, turned them in, and a few moments later, the professor read aloud our statements: “You are not worthy to be loved.” “You will never amount to anything.” “It’s only going to get worse.” My perception of myself and my classmates instantly changed—from skepticism and distance to care and solidarity. In that moment, I saw myself and the other students in a new light. We were united by an invisible thread of internalized …

Engaged Buddhism: Honoring Thich Nhat Hanh’s Life and Teachings (1926-2022)

  Issue Contents Editor’s Introduction Ashley Wilson A Cloud Never Dies: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Community Reflects on the Zen Master’s Continuation in the World Stephen Pradarelli, Sister Chan Khong, Sister Chan Dieu Nghiem, Brother Phap Dung, Brother Phap Huu Thich Nhat Hanh’s Poetics of Care Jesse Curran In this short essay, I situate the immense value of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing to social justice ethics. Drawing on my own experience as a student, educator, yoga instructor, and meditation practitioner, I reflect upon how meaningful his language has been to my own growth as an academic and activist. Ultimately, I argue that Nhat Hanh’s literary style embodies a practice of virtuous support for the reader, what I refer to as his “poetics of care.” Keywords: ethics, poetics, virtue, care Walk with Me Jason Zevenbergen In the Symphony of the Storm: Four Phases of Engaged Buddhism in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Life Kaira Jewel Lingo Cultivating Fearlessness in the Midst of Suffering: A Conversation with Sister Dang Nghiem Here, Because You Are There: After Thich Nhat Hanh Dolores Walshe …

Healing Social and Ecological Rifts Part 2

  Issue Contents Introduction from the Journal Editors by Gabe Dayley and shah noor hussein In Conversation LaDawn Haglund and Adam Lobel Unfolding Universe | L’univers desplegant-se  Carles Ibáñez ‘If you give us the best place in the world, it is not so good for us as this:’ Some Reflections on Catastrophe, Consciousness, and the Right to Home Heather Williams  Dead Turtle Animist: Towards a Non-Natural Ecopolitical Spirituality Adam Lobel Recreating Our Communities to Respond to the Climate Emergency Keri E. Iyall Smith The climate is changing and causing calamities that we will need to respond to as communities in order to survive and thrive. Indigenous approaches to the natural world, equality, sustainability, economic exchange, prioritizing the collective, and participatory decision-making offer a path to recuperation of the natural environment and community-building to improve the welfare for us all together. Keywords: Environment, Climate Change, Participatory Decision-Making, Indigenous People, Capitalism, Community The Turtle and the Falling Sky: Yanomami Mimesis, F(r)iction, and Performance John C. Dawsey This essay compares the thought, practices, and performance of Yanomami peoples …

Healing the Disembodied Sacred: Beyond Spiritual Bypassing and Shadow Activism

This essay appears in the issue “Healing Social and Ecological Rifts Part 1″ (Volume 8, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue.  Subscribe to The Arrow Journal to read the complete issue, plus unlimited access to the only journal dedicated to investigating the meeting of contemplative wisdom and the systemic challenges facing our world. Already subscribed? Read the issue: Healing Social and Ecological Rifts Part 1 | Vol. 8, No. 1 | Summer 2021

An Ecodharma Prayer of Earth

This essay appears in the issue “Healing Social and Ecological Rifts Part 1″ (Volume 8, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue.  From the realm of boundless emptiness, The spacious horizon of sky, sun and moon, We call upon primordial perfection, The unborn womb of suchness called Buddha, Please grant us the unconditional openness To rest in timeless wisdom with all life, decay, and death, To see the patient perfection without beginning or end. From the realm of compassionate sadness, The vulnerable living skin of leaf, shell, and feather, We call upon immeasurable compassion, The inconceivable, endless vow of all Bodhisattvas, Please grant us the brave heart of awakening, To grieve for all that we are losing, To lovingly protect all that calls to be protected. From the realm of interdependent relationship, The elements, greenery, crawling, swimming, soaring ones, We call upon the interwoven web of causality, The selfless insight called Dharma, Please grant us the humility beyond human-centricity, To mindfully stay with the suffering of this very place, To take one …

Healing Social and Ecological Rifts Part 1

  Issue Contents Introduction from the Journal Editors by Gabe Dayley and shah noor hussein Introduction from the Guest Editor by LaDawn Haglund An Ecodharma Prayer of Earth Adam Lobel This poem was composed spontaneously near a red cardinal in western Pennsylvania on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, amidst a global pandemic, rising temperatures, melting ice, and mass extinction, April 2020.  Death Denial, Human Supremacy, and Ecological Crisis: Indigenous and Euro-American Perspectives James Rowe & Darcy Mathews We live in a period of heightened environmental crises and scholars have long pointed to narratives of human supremacy as central drivers of ecological destruction. We explore an overlooked but powerful explanation for stubborn attachment to the idea of human supremacy in the Euro-Americas: the political force of death denial. Human feelings of fear and belittlement in the face of finitude easily become fuel for compensatory attachments to narratives of supremacy. In making this connection between death denial and narratives of human supremacy, we draw on the work of anthropologist Ernest Becker and Indigenous …

"Fed Up," protests at City Hall, San Francisco, CA, 2020. Photo by author.

In Solitude and Solidarity

Who Are You? If we are what we do then who are you? Are you who you say you are? Are you the same when you are sleeping? When the world is sleeping? When the lights are off? In the dark? Are you alive when you are dreaming? When awake? In the light? Who are you when no one watches? Who are you when no one knows? Are you the same? Are you living who you’re meant to be? Or are you living who they say you are? Self and other?  One and another? All or none? All  in  one? Whole Essential Soul Credentials Who Are  You? Pandemic Symptoms and Systems “… for there are times when disobedience heals a very ailing part of the self. It relieves the human spirit’s distress at being forced into narrow boundaries. For the nearly powerless, defying authority is often the only power available.” ―Malidoma Patrice Somé1 “Slow down. Inhale peace. Exhale worry,” I’ve had to remind myself. The more chaotic everything gets, the more peace I try to …

From “The Afro Tarot” deck by Jessi Jumanji

Queering the Archetypes of Tarot

We find ourselves walking down a path that our ancestors laid ____A spiral ________Up or down depending on which way you bend your neck ____________We’re in lockstep ________________Passing the same points of interest again and again ____________________The same but different ________________________Slavery ____________________We loop round ________________Sharecropping ____________We loop again ________The prison industrial complex ____Back again and again until we’re numb, I get dizzy and reach for a way out My hands find my well-worn deck of tarot cards and I pull at them hoping for answers I pull The Emperor  The oppressive chokehold, the knee on our necks, the invisible puppeteer that we fight against Oh how this world would love us if he were gone, or if he were like a redwood instead of a ram The Star The first glance of light after a lifetime of darkness Hope A way out of this dizzying madness 10 of Pentacles A question What will I leave behind and for whom? I walk the path that my Ancestors laid and suddenly I see it fork I see …

Grief in the Time of COVID: Sharing in Compassion and Resilience

When my father went into the hospital on May 6th, there were 76,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19. By the time he passed away eleven days later, there were 90,000. It’s strange when something as deeply and personally felt as the death of a loved one becomes part of a national statistic. Yet it also points to the collective nature of grief related to the pandemic and the systemic injustices that it has revealed and intensified. We are in a time of collective grief. Some of us have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Others have lost jobs or been furloughed due to the lockdown of cities and towns across the country. On top of all that, since the killing of George Floyd on May 25, the streets have been filled with renewed anguish and calls for racial justice and the end of police brutality. The enormity of the crisis affects us all, directly or indirectly. How can we handle the emotional intensity and grief while supporting each other in the process and working for …

Survival Will Always Be Insufficient, but It’s a Good Place to Start

Rereading Emily St. John Mandel’s speculative fiction novel Station Eleven at the start of the pandemic was strangely reassuring. The book toggles between the onset of a future global flu pandemic and the lives of people living twenty years later. I often find post-apocalyptic fiction helpful for affirming the possibility of going on past disaster. Station Eleven is explicitly organized around the proposition that “survival is insufficient.” This phrase—tattooed on a character’s arm and written on the side of the traveling theatre and musical troupe’s vehicle in the twenty-years-from-pandemic plotline—comes from a Star Trek episode. In the book, the phrase, “survival is insufficient,” asserts that people deserve art, and music, and other seemingly useless things that are apparently secondary to basic biological survival. To reprise the 1912 labor slogan, we need not only bread but also roses: Beauty is integral to surviving and thriving. What does it mean for us to fight for roses—for more than survival—when so many people are not even surviving? Ruth Wilson Gilmore defines racism as “the state-sanctioned and/or extra-legal production …

Interdependent During a Pandemic

Last summer, my partner and I worked on a research project about wildlife trafficking in southern Africa. While trafficking in elephant ivory and rhino horn tends to dominate the headlines, we also examined smaller species such as the pangolin—which is both the most trafficked mammal on earth and one possible source of the novel coronavirus. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one lesson from our research stands out as particularly crucial: Wildlife trafficking is not a problem of protecting a single species in a single place. Rather, it is a global problem, composed of unaddressed poverty in rural communities, middlemen profiting from illegal trade, and indulgent demand for exotic food and art. It is a problem from roots to leaves, which unfurl thousands of miles away. The same is true of the virus now ravaging human society. It knows no boundary. It reaches my aging parents in a small mountain town, my anxious students scattered across the United States, and my friends in rural Botswana with limited access to healthcare. In a recent letter …

The Stowaway Seeds

The Stowaway Seeds I am afraid to touch the shopping cart, the bright cool hide of the fragrant orange, the wet sand on the beach. This pandemic virus spreads RNA where people pass too close to one another and gather to buy food, or crowd the ocean’s edge. “It cannot be killed because it isn’t alive,” my scientist brother says. But something unknown has always contained our death, which is why we are respectful and delicate as we lift teacups and snow salt crystals on grilled asparagus and touch one another and spoons and books and the surfaces of the earth we will one day be pressed gently between, like book pages on the fat stems of large leaves. Such abundant offerings – these tiny crowns and multiplying stars, the resplendent small burrs I found in the rough striped blanket we took to the woods before everything shut down. They came home with me, to seed a new world, in which we aren’t the most important thing. Mushim Patricia Ikeda is a socially engaged Buddhist …

Illustration by K.T. Tierney

Facing Pandemic, Finding Ground

I’m writing this in the still-early days of the pandemic. Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal governments are requiring self-distancing and closing non-essential services. Increases in coronavirus deaths are in store, though the curve may have been flattened. Much of the predicted economic carnage lies ahead. It feels like the calm before the storm. How do we work with our minds in this situation? What meaning can we make of what’s happening? Ayahuasca My core spiritual practice these days is ayahuasca ceremony. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive plant mixture and traditional medicine long used in Indigenous ceremonies in the Amazon basin. Within a well-crafted ritual container and led by someone deeply trained in ayahuasca chants and healing, twelve or so of us drink ayahuasca and experience a night of insight and sometimes visions.1 I’ve drunk sixteen times and almost every time experienced a connection with the sacred; from the point of view of the profound interconnectedness of all phenomena, I’ve worked with my patterns, my root traumas, and how I show up in the world. The experience …

Finding Ground, Making Sense, and Getting Simple

Relax, everything is out of control. —Ajahn Brahm Finding Ground March 13, 2020 In a world of tension and breakdown it is necessary for there to be those who seek to integrate their inner lives not by avoiding anguish and running away from problems, but by facing them in their naked reality and in their ordinariness. —Thomas Merton I thought I was handling it all quite well. With the increasing cases of coronavirus, the disappointment of recent election results, the cancellations of the many social gatherings I’ve come to rely on, I was being practical. I hadn’t been glued to the news, I was washing my hands and making time to check in with friends. My pandemic supplies were more-or-less stocked. There in the grocery store, though, another reality became clear. While my head was managing, my body was freaking out. I know this saran wrap feeling in my chest well. It’s fear. It’s anxiety. It’s uncertainty. Doom is a breath away. Though my mind had it “under control,” my body reminded me of the …

Illustration by K.T. Tierney

Practice, Resilience, and Compassion in the Time of COVID-19

In this collection on the COVID-19 pandemic, authors share reflections on the personal and political in this time of global uncertainty and suffering. We invited authors to consider the following questions in their writing: How are you showing up for the pandemic? What are you doing to practice calm and clarity? How are you staying grounded in the midst of groundlessness and sudden shifts in routine? How can we negotiate safety and mutual aid? How can we practice compassion and helping others at this time? How do we make sense of this monumental crisis? How are you relating to ways the pandemic’s effects are mapping onto the injustices and inequities of our society? Their responses, which we will publish successively in the coming days, speak to personal experience and social calamity, to profound injustice and the possibility of something else. Check back here or follow The Arrow on social media as we publish new pieces. Contents Finding Ground, Making Sense, and Getting Simple by Kelsey Blackwell Facing Pandemic, Finding Ground by David Kahane Toilet Paper as …

‘May I Also Be the Source of Life’: Embodied Resistance, Existence, and Liberation in Bodymind as It Is

This essay also appears in the issue “The Necessity of Including Embodiment and Lineage in Racial Justice Work” (Volume 6, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue.  And until they pass away from pain May I also be the source of life For all the realms of varied beings That reach unto the ends of space. – Shantideva1 In Mahāyāna Buddhism, I have been taught that body and mind are not two separate entities. They are one: bodymind. There are seeming limitations of the specific and located human bodymind I call “myself,” this named entity that comes into being at a certain point; lives a certain span of years, days, and minutes; then goes through the death process of dissolution of form and cessation of bodymind activities. To be embodied in the ordinary, day-to-day sense means that I am subject to sickness, to aging, and to death, which are all forms of anicca/anitya, impermanence. True enough. How is it, then, in accordance with the Bodhisattva vows I took in 1983, that …

Photograph by Alicia Brown

Sending and Taking: Teaching a Practice for Nature

This essay also appears in the issue “Teaching Contemplative Environments” (Volume 4, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue.  The Buddhist practice of sending and taking, or tonglen, is a foundational way to engage the suffering of others. It offers a sense of connection when distance may be present; a possibility of reprieve when struggle overwhelms; and an opportunity for generosity when difficulty may limit our ability to offer. Perhaps most of all, it can reinvent our notion of agency when we feel powerless; tonglen can transcend miles to enable us to offer a bit of peace in a faraway conflict zone, or it can be practiced while sitting at the bedside of a loved one. The simplest instruction for tonglen is to send wishes for freedom from suffering and happiness to someone we hold dear. Bringing that individual to mind, we send warmth, light or peace; we imagine that person healthy and radiant, offering whatever we can to help along the way. In so doing, we generate bodhicitta, the feeling …