Statement of Values & Philosophy
I have made it a prriority for many years no to ensure that the life I life externally reflects the spiritual and ethical life I experience internally. As Gandhi so famously put it, “Be the change you wish to see”—this has been my personal mantra, and a strong guiding principle in my life. What follows are some of the values, philosophies, and practices by which I live my life—embodying the change I hope to one day see manifest on the earth. They are organized within four categories; Foundational- the values that I consider the base of all other values. Practical- these are daily practices and means I have adopted of working with the nitty-gritty, mundane aspects of life. Spiritual- this represents some of my core spiritual values and beliefs. And finally, Philosophical, which represent some of my more epistemological approaches to engaging life. Of course, the categories are ultimately arbitrary, as each value and philosophy is part of a greater constellation of interpenetrating values—they are each deeply informed by each other.
- My greatest point of power in helping to create positive change in the world is through my own daily conduct, moral constitution, and spiritual clarity and fortitude. Ideals are hollow words if not integrated into the fullness of who we are, if not woven into every facet of how we show up in the world. In this way, I take Gandhi’s words in a very literal way—I strive to actually BE my ideals. Walk them. Talk them. Eat them. Breathe them. I believe that in this way, whether overtly or subtly, consciously or unconsciously, I impact the world and those around me. There is an undeniable presence, power, and allure to someone who embodies their truth. On some level, I think we all ache for this, this is why we’re so powerfully drawn to those who have synthesized life and soul—matter with spirit—we sense the correctness of that marriage. That is not to say that I feel that I have done this, but to say that I recognize the power of an integrated life and it is something I aspire to in my own.
- I’ve chosen a vegetarian diet for over 15 years now. When people ask me why, generally my response is simply, “…it’s a choice I’ve made that is in integrity with my respect for all life.” Another way I often describe it is as ahimsa—a commitment to doing no harm. To me, all life is precious, all life is sacred and worthy of my respect and reverence. Though my life is undeniably sustained by the suffering of other beings, whether by plants, microbes, or the animals that produce the eggs and dairy I eat, I do believe that there is much I can do minimize that suffering. A commitment to not eating meat is one way that I can do that.
- A natural extension of the recognition of life as sacred is to then witness humans as sacred as well. With this in mind, I try to give everyone I interact with, no matter how mundane or superficial, the respect of my full presence, attention, and open mind. I sometimes imagine that I am coming face-to-face with the Beloved.
- Of course, this also applies to me as well. Though it has taken me years, I have finally come to recognize my life and body as a truly wondrous gift. This experience of being alive is so indescribably rich, filled with awe and beauty, even the painful, difficult and truly horrendous aspects of it seem to express a certain quality of beauty. This view has led me treat this physical form with great respect and love. For this reason, I eat very healthfully, exercise often, rest plentifully, and try to honor the wisdom of my body.
- My life is sacred and it will surely end. If death is certain and time of death is uncertain… How then shall I live my life? I contemplate my own death on an almost nightly basis, not as some morbid infatuation or desire to end my life—very much the contrary. I remind myself of my own death to deepen my appreciation, enjoyment, and engagement with life. Throughout the course of my day, I try to remind myself to stop, take a moment to witness the world around and within me, see the beauty of it, remember to be grateful for it, and then continue on my way. For I know that all too soon the days slip into years, years into decades, and nothing is more lamentable than having lived an unlived life.
- Finally, I take each dollar I spend as a vote for something, so some of the questions I ask before making any purchase are, “is this an industry/product I want to support? Where did it come from? What was involved in its creation? Where will it go when I’m done with it? Is it harmful? Is it helpful?” For this reason, as well as a consideration of my own health and wellbeing, I choose to eat nearly entirely organic and local when possible.
- I find that rigidity and dogmatism are simply not helpful and tend to polarize people, discredit our own positions and shut the listening of others down. I believe in the power of a radically open mind. Having my views, beliefs, opinions, and assumptions challenged is a gift, and an opportunity to expand my understanding from my limited perspective to something larger and more encompassing. We’re all viewing the world through a unique lens, and I think we need each other to share what we observe from our vantage point if we’re ever going to get the slightest glimpse of the larger picture.
- I avoid the trap of absolutes. If there is anything that I have learned over the years it’s that the only thing not subject to change is change itself. This naturally includes my worldviews, my beliefs, all the places within that I consider to be the firm ground the rest of me stands upon—none of it is absolute. By thinking I have the answers I close myself to the possibility of discovering more. I find that my life has been very much a process of opening further and further to receive more of the world and more of who I am.
- I believe it’s never just black and white. Thinking in duplicitous terms is a limited and narrow way of witnessing the world. For any issue, I try to challenge myself to not fall into such limited thinking as right/wrong, good/bad, victim/perpetrator, oppressed/oppressor etc. and consider a grander, larger, more holistic picture. To do this, I have to look beyond the immediate issue at hand, to see the deeper context from which it has grown. The issues sometimes mushroom, for example, what seems at first to be an isolated social concern of inequality reveals itself to be but a single facet within a greater constellation of issues. Social issues are intimately tied to ecological issues; ecological issues are married to economic issues.
- I do not fear paradoxes. Sometimes the best answer is not having an answer. More and more, I view the world less in terms of either/or and more in terms of AND. Religion as an institution, for example, is not summarily negative, nor is it absolutely good—rather, it is both and neither. Another example exists in questioning how I can be an individual and yet be part of an incomprehensible unity. Perhaps I am neither, but both a singular self and not a singular self simultaneously.
“Re-examine all that you have been told… Dismiss what insults your soul.”
- Over the years, I have come to develop a profound sense of trust in something I can only call, for want of a better term, Higher Self. It is the Me that exists beyond me. Listening then, to the whispering of my soul, is what ultimately guides my life. It is the reaction I get when I absorb a powerful passage in a book and everything in me lights up. It’s the feeling I get when I think about how I can be of service to the world. It is the inspiration I feel in the quietude of the natural world. It is what drew me to Naropa and for me it is the litmus test for truth and the moral compass by which I navigate the path of life.
- Every human has been endowed with a gift to offer to humanity, whether or not that gift is given is dependent upon two things; the gift being nurtured, cultivated, and encouraged and whether or not that person can learn to love themselves enough to discover it in the first place. By its very nature, it will not and cannot look like anyone else’s gift. In a word, that gift is the fingerprint of our soul. It is our own, and yet it belongs to everyone and its manifestation is dependent on us embracing the totality of who we are. I feel that much of humanity’s salvation exists in more of us realizing our gifts, radically embracing who we are and offering that completely and unapologetically to the world. I am presently in the pursuit of uncovering and expressing mine.
- Nothing is separate. Quantum physicists can prove this. Systems theorists point to it. Mystics have been speaking about it for centuries. This realization has radical, numerous and far-reaching implications… Here are but a few of them. There is no “us,” there is no “them.” Because of this, I include myself in the circle of every human expression throughout all time. Positive and negative. This means, every atrocity, every injustice, every cry for freedom, every crime against the earth, I am there—I am that. There is no enemy to fight against, no people to liberate, as I am the oppressor and the oppressed. This does not mean that things cannot, or should not change, but it does dramatically shift the framing of how I approach critical issues. If I do not view any human as my enemy, I can still love, and as Virgil said…
- “Love conquers all.” Love is the most powerful, transformational force. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the choice that exists at the very heart of the human experience, both individually and collectively, is the choice of love or not love (fear). Fear maintains its hold on us as long as we believe we are separate—for who is there to fear if we are actually one? Love affirms our unity with each other. Thus, I believe the whole of the ailments and perils we as a species now face are but symptoms of a deeper malady—that of separation, and forgetting love.
- As above, so below. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Fractal geometry is an astounding representation of this, everything contained in the larger shape is contained and mirrored in its parts and those parts have parts of their own which equally contain the whole. I am humanity, humanity is me. I am but a part of it, but it is contained and mirrored in me as I am contained and mirrored in humanity.