Archive for the ‘Spiritual Teachings for our Age’ Category

Despair and Empowerment, Talk by Paula Green

Posted on: December 22nd, 2016 by PennyGill 1 Comment

Paula Green, distinguished teacher and practitioner of conflict transformation around the world, recently gave this talk. It is a deeply insightful analysis of where we are, as a country, and how to move forward. Very highly recommended!

Despair and empowerment 2 12-7-16

Reframing: We Begin the Long Haul

Posted on: November 30th, 2016 by PennyGill 3 Comments

I have often been startled at how a radical reframing of a very stuck or painful place can release so much energy and focus and even confidence. Surely that is what we need now, in order to leave behind these swamps of overwhelming discouragement, astonishment at what we have learned about our country, and the profound confusion of what, if anything, we should be thinking and doing now. So, let’s try.

First, remember that most of the predictions are rooted in deep fear, imagined by a small part of ourselves that is completely uninformed about the future. Admit that you just don’t know what will happen! When you see yourself drowning in predictions, interrupt those narratives, admitting to yourself they are simply the products of your imagination.

When you can do that – not only will you find some relief and probably sleep better and be kinder to those around you – you will also be able to shift to a stance of curiosity: These will surely be interesting times! For example, I was sure all summer I was watching the collapse of the Republican Party. Now I see, I am watching the collapse of TWO parties! Amazing. And that the possibilities for reconstruction and healing are legion.

Third: Find some way to support and protect the weak, the vulnerable, the marginal, all those most at risk from the horrendous language of the campaign. Do something concrete and local.

And last: We have learned an enormous amount about the deep fissures and toxicity in the depths of American culture, none of it new, really: it is an inheritance from decades and centuries of denial and self congratulation by powerful Americans. It is all visible now, so we can get to work. Come out of your safe hiding place now and join hands with others, to begin building the society we want to live in and the communities we want to leave to the next generations.

Please post your good ideas, your questions, your suggestions, and your hopes here, if you wish. I’d be so glad for more conversations, for we are many!

Manjushri on Post-Election

Posted on: November 13th, 2016 by PennyGill 6 Comments

Conversation with Manjushri, post election
November 11, 2016

Oh, Manjushri, these have been very tough days since the presidential election. Many have asked me if I have received a teaching from you about all of this. And though my grief is deep, and I have wept a great deal, I must say, the results – though shocking to me – did not give me new information about the deep values of a significant part of the American electorate. We are an immature society, a society that countenances violence while it tells itself a story about its own exceptional qualities and its right to impose itself on other nations. It often seems to me to be arrogant, self-congratulatory, and focused on the pursuit of wealth over many other possible values. We praise freedom from and ignore the possibilities of freedom for. Perhaps in some way, we deserve what we have done to our republic, for surely, we have done it. And surely there is a very great deal about how we govern ourselves and manage our affairs which could well be changed, often radically changed.

I come to you this evening with a very heavy heart, full of worry for our poor earth and the cascade of environmental destructions and for those Americans with the least access to power – people of color, the poor, Moslems, the ill, immigrants, the unemployed, and surprisingly, so many women and children. Once again, I am deeply concerned about the American role in the global world, our foreign policy, and our global economic institutions and policies. We are a challenging presence in the lives of many other nations.

And once again, I am impossibly stretched between these matters and the call of the Teachers to greater consciousness, to opening our hearts, to recognizing our interdependence with all beings, and to lives shaped by both wisdom and compassion. I wish I were brave enough to ask you to direct your shining sword against our ignorance, but I am not.

Perhaps you could grace us with some strong and clear advice about how to understand our grief, even when it seems self-righteous, and how to gather ourselves up to get back to our essential tasks in these precious lives of ours? Or is there another way to address our deep confusion? Anything you might be willing to say would be a very great gift to all of us.

Ah, yes, student whose energy I have come to know well, yes. Some words for you and your friends. First, and most important, do not be afraid! You have received many teachings about fear; they always remind you that fear is an enormous obstacle to clear thinking, deep understanding, and creating solutions to problems. Of course, you are afraid, all of you. So, take up the arduous practices of the fear-work: name the fear, most importantly, and say it to another. This slight moment of self-acknowledgement shifts the energy of fear significantly. Then, conversation may follow, or sending oneself compassion for the suffering that comes from fear, or inquiring into the roots of the fear; all are helpful.

Second, inquire into a simple question: what in my community or my country is an obstacle to recognizing your deep connections with each other and with all other species? This is the simple question about your awareness of interdependence, simple and extremely powerful, if you allow it to lead you deep into the many institutions and practices common in your society. Again, this may be done singly, but it is much more powerful to do this in conversation with others.

Third, ask yourself/yourselves, which relatively focused piece of this great puzzle will you commit to changing? Be clear about how it relates to the larger picture, but do not overwhelm yourselves with a grandiose goal. The possible projects are unlimited, but what matters most, at the outset, is that you join with a few others, promising to stay focused on some important dimension of change in your community and to support each other in the process. In all likelihood, the most important outcome will be to create seeds of resilient, open-hearted community, which in turn will begin to undermine the real sickness of American society, its embrace of competitive individualism.

Young people may need some assistance with this; elders may need support to trust their relevance, but all people, winners and losers in this election cycle and all the rest, can recognize there is much work to be done in their world. Becoming active, moving through the passivity and discouragement, is essential, before anything else can even be contemplated.

So: that is a brief outline of what you might do. I must once again re-frame the moment for you. You experience defeat, rejection, and powerlessness. You are appalled at those who would reverse much progressive social change from the last decades. Let go of all of that. It is not helpful. Instead, recognize that this very upset – a perfect word – suggests opportunity. Structures that seemed impossible to change now seem weak, even tottering. Normal practices and behaviors that seemed of little interest now carry much greater weight, in your view. Grand questions are on every page and in almost every beleaguered mind. All this is very helpful! Everyone is awake, on edge, at the same moment. It is a superb opportunity to re-evaluate, re-imagine, re-shape, and then, re-build.

And none of this is possible, unless you uncover and release your fear. Begin with that work, share it, and move to focused, achievable tasks, on behalf of yourselves and your community. It is a very pregnant moment. Do not waste it, please.

Thank you very much.

Begin to Heal the Country

Posted on: November 7th, 2016 by PennyGill No Comments

We all are deeply concerned about the aftermath of this very difficult and toxic electoral campaign. I invite you to join me in a daily practice of sending kindness and blessings and healing to those you have most disagreed with and who have disagreed with you. Begin with inviting healing and ease for yourself, and then, send it out into the country. Here is a lovely version of the ancient Metta practice, from the Himalayan Buddhist tradition, which I have adapted to express my own deepest concerns and desires. Please do the same, as you wish. Blessings to all….Penny

First, for yourself. And then, for your opponents, as you visualize them:

May I (May those who so disagree with me) be happy, healthy and whole.
May they have love, warmth, and affection.
May they be safe, economically secure, and free from fear.
May they know themselves to be respected, secure, and people of value and dignity.
May they celebrate the many layers of their identity, of who they are.
May all people find ease, peace, and well being.

Checking In

Posted on: April 5th, 2016 by PennyGill 1 Comment

I am so happy to report that What in the World Is Going On? has engaged readers in the Tibetan community in India, Bhutan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany, Norway, Great Britain, and of course, the US. I will be jogging behind it, as it goes out into the world, with ever more astonishment and joy.

As a Lenten practice this spring, I began to copy treasures from various file folders into a lovely, big black book. Here is one I thought you might find worth pondering; I have. It is by Paul Ferrini. And I think it speaks beautifully of Manjushri’s main point: Heal your fear and open your heart center!

The Rewards of Partnership

As long as there is growth and honesty in your relationship, it is worthy of your commitment. This doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. Even in the best relationships, doubts and fears continue to arise for both people. However, mature people learn to hold those doubts and fears with compassion. They learn to be patient with and accepting of each other.

In time, the hard shell around your hearts begins to crack open. Where fear used to hold you back, you learn to take baby steps forward. You learn to walk through your fears and stretch your hand out to your partner. You learn to heal together and to trust each other.

And then you experience a gentleness born of the struggle, a sweetness born of the pain. Then there is a twinkle in your eyes when you look at your partner. It isn’t the same twinkle that was there when you first met. It is a different one. It tells of your journey through fear and projection into the heart of acceptance and love.

From Darkness to Light: Solstice 2015

Posted on: December 23rd, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments


Shower of Spirit: Summer Rain or Fierce Thunderstorm?

Posted on: November 19th, 2015 by PennyGill 1 Comment

Manjushri speaks of the Shower of Spirit now drenching us, bringing us a new energy, an energy of a higher frequency. It has been difficult for me to really understand what that means, and I have looked for concrete evidence and images. Last summer, for example, there was a period of more frequent and intense solar flares, and I wondered if that was somehow related to this Shower.

Probably not. But it is a good example of how I automatically try to ground a Teaching about Spirit in my three-dimensional, visible world. But Shower of Spirit surely refers to a different aspect of energy, not material, not visible to the human eye, and maybe quite unrecognizable to a normal person like myself.

I’ve been pondering this all summer and fall, at my island cabin. I think I did learn one very helpful aspect of this Shower of Spirit: I used to envision it as something comforting and welcome, like a soft rain in early summer. But not so.

For me, the Shower of Spirit has come to mean a time of intense inner and outer transition, painful losses, and some inescapable interior pressure to speak ever more truthfully from my deepest self. No more self-censorship or circumlocutions. I realized that the Shower of Spirit is actually a goad, a relentless wake-up call, and an invitation to much more transparency and deeper integrity.

There is nothing easy about this process, but perhaps it is a necessary step to recognize my embeddedness in the great web of interdependence and compassion. No soft summer shower, but thunder and lightening, as well!

KwanYin on the Earthquake in Nepal

Posted on: May 1st, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments

I asked my Teacher,  Kwan Yin, to help us understand the terrible catastrophe and suffering in Nepal.  This is what she said:

At one level of understanding, the earthquake is simply an event in the ancient cycle of the massive tectonic plates scraping against each other and releasing enormous amounts of energy.  As you know, this is the geological source of the entire Himalayan range.  One must not ignore this level of understanding; it is foolish to grab some apocalyptic or punishment frame of analysis or interpretation.  It is absolutely not a judgment or a punishment.

All people suffer, regardless of their personal wealth or the level of development of their country.  It is deeply challenging to live in a human body.  Yet it seems such an event can be a stunningly powerful “tool” for awakening countless human beings to the deepest possibilities of compassion, inter-relatedness, and generosity.  It reveals instantly the ridiculousness of the claims of ego.  Perhaps counter-intuitively, it also reminds many of the stunning preciousness of human life.

Nepal has long been the seed-bed of profound spiritual understandings and practices, from the first generations of Hindu practitioners to the highly erudite Buddhist monasteries and wandering devotees.  The Himalayas have been extraordinarily fruitful.  And all this has emerged within the relative cycles of geologic compression and release.

May this great earthquake also serve to bring profound awakening both to the people of Nepal, as they struggle to rebuild their lives and figure out their relationship to modernity and self-governance, and to her friends and fellow citizens around the world.

Light candles and say prayers.  Send money, keep in touch, and encircle the country with your heart.  Encourage yourself and others to grow as deeply as possible, in response to the suffering of the region.

Thank you.  May I post this on my web site?

Yes, of course.  Now, keep your mind calm and open, and do what needs to be done.

Thank you very much.


The Bhutan Foundation and Tibet House USA both suggest local organizations with long presence in Nepal, as highly effective recipients of our donations.

Kwan Yin on Current Middle East: Supporting Reform

Posted on: November 25th, 2013 by PennyGill 2 Comments

Recently, I asked beloved Teacher, Kwan Yin, about the Middle East.  Are there solutions within reach?  How can the incredible stresses Islam is under in all these different situations lead to deep awareness of all that is at stake? What could allow a return to Islam’s fundamental core teachings about living good lives in harmonious communities, and thus begin the slow turn in search of non-violent ways to resolve conflicts and pursue more equity and justice?

The great tradition, the great river of Islam, has raced now to its ultimate barrier and opponent: itself.  Along with its powerful teachings about self-control, submission to the divine, and generosity to one’s neighbors were planted seeds of impatience, the use of force to achieve unity, and a certain hard-heartedness.  Shutting out women and girls from the whole religious and spiritual enterprise has made it ever more difficult to leaven the ferocity of the pursuit of virtue, which might allow gradual transitions from within the tradition.

Now Islam has come up against itself, and it is in profound shock.  As is common in such situations, people retreat into the known and  secure practices of earlier times.  But they are not sufficient in a world of drones, chemical weapons, cell phones, and instant communication.  People meant to be followers now can inform themselves and judge for themselves what is to be preserved and what, of all that has led to this inhuman catastrophe, must be transformed or discarded.

There are two things for you and like minded colleagues to do: wrap the Muslim world in your kind energy, to create a safe container for this profound self examination which must be underway. And do all you can to keep the other powers, especially the US, Russia, and Europe, out of the region.  This can and must be resolved by the people who live there.