Vision 09… Occupy Together and The Divine



a Moment for Wisdom…


A Moment for…


 To reconcile conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. But how many of us are able to do that?”

 Thich Nhat Hanh


“All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul.”

                                                                      Mahatma Gandhi


“Man can no longer live his life for himself alone. We realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all this life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”

Albert Schweitzer









a  Moment with Sharif…




For this, what is planned to be my last “Moment for Wisdom” on the “Occupy Together” (OT) phenomenon, I’m going to use some words that are little-used in “activist” circles: I’m going to talk about Spirit and the Sacred.


But first (before folks start getting twitchy), let’s look at the Thich Nhat Hanh quote above.


Inclusivity Means Understanding the Real

In all of the Occupations, we see people righteously complaining about the greed and the misdeeds of the “1%”.  It is true and it is real: the excesses of those at the “top” are blatant – they do need to be reeled in.  In every other form of
addiction, the addictive substances are removed from the addicts.  “Money addiction” should be no different.


However, those excesses need to be put into perspective.  To the rest of the world, each and every American, INCLUDING the “Occupiers”, are the 1%.  Whether you are the “victim” or the “villain” simply depends on your perspective…  


I was traveling in Indonesia some years ago, navigating one of those choke-points in whatever city I was in, where beggars and T-shirt salesmen throng, trying to cajole a few dollars from the Westerners passing by.  One young American, obviously newly arrived and very frustrated, loudly exclaimed, “Why don’t they leave me alone! They all act like I’m rich!”


To which I remarked, “Well, you are.”  When he looked dumbfounded, I continued, “They all know that the plane ticket that got you here cost more money than they will see in 20 years or more.  To them, every single person that
gets off of an airplane is fantastically wealthy.  You should try looking at your life from their point of view.” From the look on his face, I could tell he was just going to find a more sympathetic Westerner to complain to…


“Solving” the problem of “America” solves nothing.  The majority of the world is not “American”.  Trying to fix things so that we can have all the “stuff” we want/desire will fix nothing.  The “American Dream” of “you can have it all!” is an untenable and unachievable fiction. It is the SOURCE of global unsustainability and instability. 


“Inclusivity” means recognizing that we are One.  I am One with the “bankster”, the corporate CEO, the do-nothing Congress.  This does NOT mean that I condone their behavior.  It does mean that I can be understanding and compassionate – as I work to change it.


Spirituality – Beyond “Religion”…

In previous offerings, I have talked about the necessity for vision and for inclusivity in OT.  These are sub-sets of the spiritual dimension.  When you read the three quotes above, you see three different fingers, all pointing to the Transcendent: the realm that resides outside our individual, Earthly human experiences.


When I talk about the Transcendent, people start getting twitchy… for good reason. People believe I’m going to start talking about “religion” — and almost everyone has negative stories of religious abuses and doctrinal evils – past, present and probably future. The American Founders were so sensitive to this issue that they took great pains to insure that religion had no place in the American government.


People get twitchy when the subject of the “Spirit” comes up, because, for thousands of years, “religion” has had a lock-grip on the concepts of Spirit/ The Divine/ God/ The Transcendent.  One basically meant the other.

No more.  It’s time for that to stop.



Decades ago, as a young activist AND a spiritual seeker, I was definitely steered away from considering both at the same time.  I was steered away from activism by the Episcopal Church, which saw the turmoil of the Sixties as wrong – encouraging us to “obey the law” and get our rewards in “Heaven”.  That church, and many others like it, were forces of the status quo, seeing their job as keeping a lid on change and dissent.  Many still see their jobs as upholding the status quo, even when the status quo hurts people and hurts the Earth. (Ironically, it was my local priest, Father Griesman, who fed my activism.  After encouraging me, he went on to become one of the “Camden 28”, breaking into the offices of the Draft Board and destroying the records as a protest to the Vietnam War.)


While the Church steered me away from activism, I was steered away from spirituality by the “Black Power” advocates of the day, who were heavily influenced by Marxist ideology.  Karl’s one line zinger, “Religion is the opiate of the masses” was actually reinforced by my experience with the Episcopal Church.  Each reinforced the other.


Karl Marx’ statement about religion being the opiate of the masses is largely CORRECT. That’s how the churches (and mosques, temples, kovils and sanctuaries) of his day behaved. That’s how many of them STILL behave.  By keeping people focused solely on the Hereafter, they become powerful agents for the status quo.


But… that has nothing to do with SPIRIT.  If religion is the only possible/ valid lens through which to view the Spirit, then “God” comes out looking confused, contradictory, capricious, petty, silly, malevolent, and deeply concerned about all the wrong things. (Very concerned about whether boys are having sex with boys, but not giving a damn about the destruction of an entire planet.) Does that sound like the Sacred – or does it sound like US?  


I am not advocating that we turn to any “religion”.  I am suggesting that we get in touch with the core essence of ourselves, of our deep relationship with all other beings… including and especially those we deem “The Other”.


Coming Full Circle…

For me, inclusivity means spirituality, and vice versa.  I am not alone in this assessment: here’s what the Dalai Lama has to say about the coming “spiritual revolution”:


“Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit — such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony — which bring happiness to both self and others.

 “Thus spiritual practice… involves, on the one hand, acting out of concern for others’ well-being. On the other, it entails transforming ourselves so that we become more readily disposed to do so. To speak of spiritual practice in any terms other than these is meaningless.

 “My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow otherworldly…. Rather, it is a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self.”  [emphasis mine]

Our spirituality is not to take us away from this planet, its troubles and our responsibility. I am calling on “Occupy Together” to shift its orientation – away from our “habitual preoccupation” with the problems of Americans.  Let us practice love and compassion for all humans, regardless of borders.  Let us be concerned with the plight of all humans, with all LIFE.


I think that it is time for us to… OCCUPY THIS PLANET.









This is my last “Moments” about Occupy Together – unless events on the ground dictate a special response on my part.


I will continue writing “Moments” about once a week or so (which is about the speed most people are actually reading them!).  I will spend time explaining what a “Socio-Spiritual Healing Center” is, how you can participate, and the role it can play in shifting our systems, structures and Spirit from toxicity to “a world for all”.


And: for those in the Portland area, SAVE THE DATE!  On 22 November, I will be conducting my first “dress rehearsal” for THE COMMONWAY LABORATORY!  The transformation of our society and the transformation of our relationship to the Sacred… rolled into one!


More information and how to sign up will be coming, hopefully this weekend…  Stay tuned.






All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.

Sharif Abdullah photo by Peg Owen

Dalai Lama photo from Dalai Lama website.




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6 Responses to Vision 09… Occupy Together and The Divine

  1. Samuel Ready says:

    Sharif, I just wanted to say thank you for your “Moments”, Samuel

  2. Lois says:

    I appreciate you thoughtful commemts on the events that are going on. I can find compassion for the bankers, congress and the occupiers. We are all one.

  3. David Kantz says:

    I’ve been finding yours to be among the very most VALUABLE voices with regards to OT. Although I’m not presently understanding how you believe this will be the last of your OT-focused-“Moments,” I’m hopeful that “events on the (OT) ground (will continue to) dictate special response(s) from (you).”

    I’m very grateful for your assistance to understand that to which we are and have together been witness, and you’ve been nurturing my prepared-ness for what is to come.

    Occupy This Divine Planet!

    Once again, thank you.

  4. Katherine says:

    I have appreciated your posts, Sharif, and look forward to learning more about the Commonway Laboratory. Thank you for your words of wisdom, and your continuing efforts toward a world that works for all.

  5. Greg says:

    Thank you for sharing your awakening understanding of the Occupy Movement with us. I am hopeful that this movement will provide the necessary impetus to create a world that works for all.

    I’m looking forward to the Commonway Laboratory.


  6. Mary Cummings says:

    This is just beautiful! Brilliant! Well done! You have done a masterful job of articulating the melding of spiritual wisdom (the inherent center of all life) and the social justice passion we share. One can’t truly exist without honoring the other… for it is NOT ‘the other’! These are intrinsically linked within us as a manifestation of our values as humans occupying this planet. We can only be successful in raising all humans up where they deserve to be when more of us embrace the spiritual core nature of us and use it to guide our lives together. I dream of and work for the day when we have all agreed we NEED each other and can live together with our basic needs met, with recognition of our Self in each other, with dignity and without harm. Thank You, again, Sharif, for your work, with us and for us.

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