Make the Journey Count

As I near the end of my trip “back home” to Canada, I’m left with mixed feelings. I’m proud to be Canadian, but also cannot ignore the terrible things that have happened, not only in my lifetime, but for many previous generations in this land, “The True North Strong and Free”.

Canada recently celebrated its 150th birthday. This is the anniversary of the signing of the confederacy of the four colonial provinces, to be added to later, with the most recent province, Nunavut, having been “created” in 1999. (It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the boundaries had been contemplatively drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada’s political map since the incorporation of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949.)

Though there are a great many stories from those pioneers who colonised this land, there are also many sad and devastating stories from the First Nations Peoples who suffered under their rule. Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot tribe (1830 – 1890) on his deathbed asked that his children be taken care of, that they should not starve under colonial rule (only four of the twelve didn’t starve, and all of those four later died of tuberculosis). His most memorable words speak of being utterly in the moment, and taking care and notice of the important things in life.

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset
.”

He was outlived by his mother, who lived to be over 100 years old.

More recently, there are still tragic stories to be heard in the history of this nation. I remember the Oka Crisis of 1990, a year before I graduated from high school. The Mohawk from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal stood their ground, literally, over a dispute where a landowner wanted to build a golf course on sacred ground, including burial ground. For nine holes in the ground, people died on both sides. Waneek Horn Miller, a First Nations woman was stabbed by a Canadian soldier’s bayonnet behind the lines. Though she survived and became co-captain of Canada’s Olympic women’s water polo team among many other accomplishments, the fact still stands that this should never have happened in the first place.

Canada has always heralded its mission as a cultural mosaic, rather than a melting pot. But this mosaic needs to be agreed and respected first and foremost, and not imposed. So far, the track record has not been all that great, and hopefully we are making strides towards a future that is better for all. Roseanne Supernault, a First Nations woman from the Metis Settlement in North Alberta speaks of this cultural mosaic, and also of the cognitive dissonance that results from trying to answer a call to consciousness.

As an Indigenous person who partakes in the nation-to-nation relations that happen in Canada, I demand of myself that I strengthen my tolerance – that I allow my brain to hurt from confusion that’s a by-product of education (not necessarily in an institution) or for my body to feel discomfort from hearing things that differ from whatever understanding I think I’ve had prior to new knowledge being received. At the end of the day, tolerance is learning to accept that you can be wrong; the ego cannot possibly know everything in this world.” – Our Canada, Issue Feb/March 2017

I think that Roseanne’s words should be deeply considered, meditated upon, and acted upon all across Canada. For our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message has always been one of tolerance, of acceptance; that it is our differences and diversity that makes us a strong nation. But the uncomfortable aspects that are involved in this diversity need to be felt, and not ignored. We need to meet these head on, sit with them, talk them through, and find a strong and true reconciliation that isn’t just pretty words and hopeful thoughts.

I’m still proud to be Canadian, but I am also uncomfortable. And in that discomfort I find the heart of acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We still have a very long way to go in being what we say we are or wish to be, but let’s make the journey count, for all it’s worth.

The Zen of Jeremy Corbyn

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18:  Jeremy Corbyn answers questions from the media outside King's Cross Station on August 18, 2015 in London, England. Jeremy Corbyn was launching his rail nationalisation plans today as action for Rail held protests at stations in England and Scotland against fare rises which has risen almost three times faster than wages over the past five years according to a new report.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 18: Jeremy Corbyn answers questions from the media outside King’s Cross Station on August 18, 2015 in London, England. Jeremy Corbyn was launching his rail nationalisation plans today as action for Rail held protests at stations in England and Scotland against fare rises which has risen almost three times faster than wages over the past five years according to a new report. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in the UK, might not be the first thing someone would imagine when they think of Zen. However, this Islington resident shows us the way in focusing on important work, without letting the ego and the self get in the way, doing what is necessary without resorting to the usual slander and back-stabbing that is so prevalent in politics today.

The 66 year old has been an MP for Islington North since 1983. He has worked on the issues that matter to him with real dedication to the values that he holds dear, such as social equality, world peace and the end of nuclear weapons, just to name a few. He was able to get on with his work fairly inconspicuously, until he baffled his opponents in the leadership race and became the head of the Labour Party through his dedication to change politics, largely thanks to a grass-roots movement that supported him not unlike Justin Trudeau, the new Prime Minister of Canada who came out of “nowhere” (his party was third in the race and not predicted to win) recently to take the election by storm through voters who wanted change.

While Corbyn might not have the swooning good looks and charisma of Trudeau, they hold many things in common, including the dedication of their followers and supporters. This writer does indeed have a nerd crush on Corbyn, totally in love with his morals and ethics, his way of working. He is a Zen master, and here’s why.

In the face of public denigration by the Conservative party, who try to put Corbyn down any way they can through personal attacks, not once has Corbyn retaliated. Corbyn cares about the issues, not about his ego. He does the work and considers it important, without considering himself important. He works with the “I”, without letting the “Me” get in the way.

Even in the face out outright lies about his character, such as at the Cenotaph memorial story presented by the Conservative-backed “newspaper” The Sun, Corbyn has just gotten on with his work. In the Prime Minister’s Questions, when he is regularly personally attacked by the Prime Minister he simply reminds Cameron of the original questions, despite the boos, jeers and laughter from Cameron’s cronies. Corbyn presents the questions from the people, taking a personal step back to allow other voices to be “heard” (among the laughter and jeers from opposition in so called “civilised debate”). It’s not all about Corbyn, but about the people that he represents.

trudeau 2

Justin Trudeau

This is a real-life example of how we can live in the face of adversity with honour and integrity. Not once has Corbyn resorted to mud-slinging in retaliation to anything thrown at him. He responds with pushing forward the issues that need attention, and doing his job to the best of his ability. We can be inspired by his behaviour in order to make the world a better place. When someone is trying to take us down, we can take a step back from our egos and focus on what really matters, instead of throwing insults back and forth across some imaginary playground. When all the playground bullies can do is insult the person, not the agenda, then it becomes clear who is in the right and who is in the wrong. We’ve seen time and again how Conservative media is trying to portray Corbyn in a bad light, and we can see the desperation behind that because they’ve got nothing on him (similar to Trudeau and the Conservatives’ campaign against him: “nice hair though“). We don’t spend all our energy defending our fragile ego, but instead doing the work without letting it get in the way.

When we’re suffering the slings and arrows of those who are trying to undermine and attack us, we can let it go and focus on what’s important. What is important is the work that we are doing and the way that we live our lives. When we are able to let go of a self-centred point of view, with the “me” being all-consuming, then we broaden our perspective to encompass everyone and everything. This is compassion in its truest form.

Let the haters hate. Do the work, be true to yourself and see with the eyes of compassion. This is what makes Jeremy Corbyn Zen.