Book Release: The Making of a Peace Corps Volunteer

In a world where we speak about Peace more than ever in our history, we must roger-parent-book-coverremember that in the past there have been countless efforts, attempts, movements, events, individuals, and even simple kind Moments of Life that have brought us to this point in time where the global conscience can hold such an Aspiration and Vision. 

Among these movements in history has been the work of the Peace Corps, started in the early 1960’s by President Kennedy.  My father was one of those first pioneering individuals who was sent forth into the world to be a Peace Corps Volunteer during its first year, and he has recently self-published an autobiographical book about his early life, entitled The Making of a Peace Corps Volunteer:  From Maine to Thailand.

Roger Parent with students in Udorn, Thailand, 1962

Roger Parent with students in Udorn, Thailand, 1962

This is his personal true story about living and growing up in rural Maine, where he explores his childhood and shares stories of his experiences as a youth as he grew into the young man who chose to take a leap and join the the new-born Peace Corps organization to serve others in Thailand, where he connected with the people of a new country and foreign culture.  It is a story which exemplifies the Spirit that is necessary to build the Peace in this world that we so eagerly seek:  the Spirit of Connection with our world’s diversity, the Spirit of acceptance and tolerance, the Spirit of learning and growing beyond one’s small personal world to widen one’s experience and perception of the world around oneself through volunteering and service to others. 

Please support this book and the story it has to share by visiting my father’s Dadyoungwebsite and consider purchasing this book, whether it be for yourself, a friend of family member, or donate a copy to your local school or library to allow others to share in its message.

Visit www.rogerparent.org to read reviews and samples of the book, see more pictures and order your paperbook or e-book copy today!  Thank you and Peace to All!

The Karma of Karma

Over the past few decades the word Karma has made its way into the western language and cultural expression, one of the many spiritual concepts inspired by the teachings of Yoga and the eastern spiritual traditions.  The popular and general understanding of Karma that pervades the world today is mostly limited to the idea that Karma is all about “consequences.”  How many times do we hear someone reacting to a “bad” or “good” situation in their life as being a “result of past karma”?  Most people seem to believe that karma is about receiving in life whatever one puts out into the world through one’s own actions and vibrations, that one’s actions determine the future result.  There is this perception that karma boils down to a sort of mystical “reward and punishment” distribution system, like a mechanical machine that simply doles out only the same as what one gives, sort of like “an eye for an eye”, where one is trapped in a vicious cycle of re-creating the same vibration and the same experiences throughout life.  It seems that many people think that the only possible way for there to be “justice” and growth comes from being subjected to the same ignorance or wrong actions that one has been living and expressing.  This way of perceiving Karma is simply a very narrow, partial, and negative understanding of a Life that is far more vast, far more diverse, and far more Magical and Powerful than this limited understanding of Karma presents.  I would like to suggest to all the yogis and yoga teachers that now grace our world in these times that we must go beyond this negative perception of Karma as being only a system of rewards and punishment, of consequences for past actions, and discover that there is a Higher Truth to Karma hidden behind this old way of thinking which we have not yet awakened within our collective consciousness.  Karma should be envisioned instead as being the Eternal and Infinite Opportunity to Grow, to Experience, to Live and Become more of the Divine Truth and Being that we ultimately Are.

Now, before all the traditionalists start screaming and crying that we are here in life to liberate our Souls from Karma – which certainly makes Karma sound like not such a good thing, or at least a neutral Law that is just doing it’s duty for the sake of our evolution and growth – I would like to make known that I am not attempting to deny that our actions  have consequences, for we are indeed the creators of our lives on all various levels of our being and existence, in every moment and with every breath.  What I wish to do is simply introduce that there is a more positive work behind the Spirit of Karma.   When we look more deeply into what the origins of the word Karma are, we find that the root word kr in Sanskrit actually means “to do, to make“.  The real meaning behind the word Karma is essentially “work” or “action“.  This gives us an entirely different vision of what Karma really is.  The understanding of Karma as being a cycle of consequences is only secondary to what its true meaning and purpose is – to be a Power of Work and Action in Life, a Power of Creation and Evolution.  In fact, I would like to take the word Karma even a little further and suggest that it really means “Opportunity”.  It is about having ever-new Opportunities to Create, to experience life, and to learn and grow and evolve from past mistakes while becoming more conscious and aware of oneself and our Existence, of our Divine Source.  It is not about a punishment for doing wrong, and it is not about a simplistic and limited goal of becoming “liberated” from the body and life and the cycles of rebirth and reincarnation.  These may be steps along the process of evolution, but they are not the Goal, nor the Essence of Karma.  Karma is about being more and more conscious of just how creative one truly is, of how Creative Life Is, which is all of Us. 

There may be times, of course, when one receives a “knock” in equal proportion to what one has done or given in life, and this may come from this life or from many past lives, but this is not Karma’s sole truth and function.  Karma is ultimately about the movement of Life and the Divine Source  bringing you ever more experiences and opportunities to see where one has been mistaken or flawed or imperfect, to awaken more deeply within to the Truth, and have the opportunity to grow and transform oneself towards this Greater Truth.  Again, this certainly involves becoming aware of the consequences of one’s actions and how one affects the world, including ourselves, but it is not in any way limited to this.  It is the Wheel of Opportunity for Growth and Awakening of Consciousness…and that can happen in as many diverse ways as one can imagine.  In some cases, the most perfect experience for someone to grow beyond their ignorant ways, their violence and anger and hatred, may very well involve being Loved in a particular way, in a way that is more powerful than the intensity of their violence and ignorance.  And yet in other cases it may be that the Soul needs a “knock” in some way, not necessarily the exact same way as they have knocked others, or even to the same degree, but in just the right way for that Soul to realize something new, or make some new effort towards growing.  It may seem to our small and narrow minds that the only way for spiritual justice and growth to happen to a murderer is for them to, in turn, be murdered also so that they can know how it feels and live that experience, but the Divine has many more ways to push and guide the growth of a Soul beyond its unconsciousness and ignorance.  There is no mechanical dispensation system at work here…but a Consciousness of Perfect Attentiveness and Detail for each and every Soul, according to the true Inner Need of each Soul, and even more, for the Whole Soul of Humanity and the Earth.  Life and the Divine Source are not a robotic force of energy but a living, breathing, Conscious Being that is not limited by any Law or any Idea that we humans may believe as truth.  As expressed below by Sri Aurobindo, who challenged all past Yoga traditions with a new Vision of humanity’s evolution, Karma must also be seen in a new and fresh way:

“Take the popular account of reincarnation and Karma—it is based on the mere

mental assumption that the workings of Nature ought to be

moral and proceed according to an exact morality of equal

justice—a scrupulous, even mathematical law of reward and

punishment or, at any rate, of results according to a human idea

of right correspondences. But Nature is non-moral—she uses

forces and processes moral, immoral and amoral pell-mell for

working out her business. Nature in her outward aspect seems

to care for nothing except to get things done—or else to make

conditions for an ingenious variety of the play of life. Nature

in her deeper aspect as a conscious spiritual Power is concerned

with the growth, by experience, the spiritual development of the

souls she has in her charge—and these souls themselves have

a say in the matter. All these good people lament and wonder

that unaccountably they and other good people are visited with

such meaningless sufferings and misfortunes. But are they really

visited with them by an outside Power or by a mechanical Law of

Karma? Is it not possible that the soul itself—not the outward

mind, but the spirit within—has accepted and chosen these

things as part of its development in order to get through the necessary

experience at a rapid rate, to hew through,……

even at the risk or the cost of much damage to the outward life

and the body? To the growing soul, to the spirit within us, may

not difficulties, obstacles, attacks be a means of growth, added

strength, enlarged experience, training for spiritual victory? The

arrangement of things may be that and not a mere question of

the pounds, shillings and pence of a distribution of rewards and

retributory misfortunes!”    Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga 1 p. 523

We must begin to see that our Karma is Action and Creation itself, including the world of work, physical or otherwise, that the world seems to loathe and try very hard to get away from.  Work is not a bad thing but a part of Yoga, the power and the way by which we become Conscious Creators in the world and Existence.  This Karmic Creation is not only about what we create as individuals, but as a Collective.  For we are not separate, but One, and our Karma is not separate, but One, a Collective Karma which we must embrace in order to build a greater Harmony amongst all and transcend the cycle of the world’s ignorant and unconscious ‘ego-separation-driven’ life of creation and destruction.  Our Work is our Path, and as we are better able to align our physical actions and creations with the Inner Soul and Divine Spirit in all the parts of our Being as individuals and as a Collective Humanity, then we shall take the next leap towards a Karma of Perfection, a Perfect Action of the Divine Identity as One Body of Consciousness in Harmony with all of Itself, and all of Us as Its Divinely Embodied Workers.

Karma1

Poem: Human Unity

playing in a vast field of Oneness

a false division strives towards the True

in conflict and tension seeking to Become,

yet lost in its own distorted vision:

a sight born of separation’s lie

casting shadows where only Light exists,

imagining abysses where only Connection dwells;

illusions mimicking as reality in mind’s divide.

 

embodied beings upon a missioned Way

struggling to realize a reconciled Image,

a universal diversity upon the breath of the Divine

moving together in a forgotten unison,

collectively blossoming a limitless Life

where Youth flows from the womb of death

as an unending Expression of humanity’s One Soul.

 

from moment to moment life’s endless labor reveals,

awareness expanding upon Surrender’s poise,

minds joining with vastness of Mind,

hearts merging in a single Ocean Heart,

bodies melting within a Supreme Body;

a secret Closeness hidden in the kiss of space

as an animated Existence envisioning Itself

with married eyes gazing from the inner Expanse.

 

stationed in Truth’s indivisible Being,

an Eternal Love with an Infinite Embrace,

a Supreme Harmony dances between Souls,

intimate and free, a caress of God’s Identity

in the born substance of a Human Unity.

matrimandirbonfire

A Kiss of Innocence

In a time of my life when I found my Soul, it was the kiss of a small child that gave the experience a human Touch……but let me share with you some context first.

Many years ago I was involved in a year-long volunteer program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I worked with a refugee resettlement agency while living in community with a small group of good-hearted and idealistic young volunteers.  My work with the refugee agency involved many things, but mostly helping the newly arrived refugees move into their new homes – finding furniture, clothes, donations of all kinds to fill a house for people who had nothing upon arriving to a strange new land.  These refugees had fled their war-torn countries, as they were in danger of being persecuted or killed.  These were families, couples, and individuals, some formerly rich, some poor since birth, and others just normal people with their loves and talents, and their issues.  They came from many places – Vietnam, Cuba, Bosnia, Somalia, and other countries – and all had their own needs and expectations of their new life.  Some expected more than we could provide, some were grateful for every little thing….most were grateful.  I felt it an honor to be these refugees’ first friend in their new home, and happy to do my best to help them understand our way of life here. It was an experience that built an awareness of our true unity as humans – for we are not so different as it may seem.

At this time, in the midst of all of this, I was exploring my own deeper spirituality and awakening, and found myself Sunriseall of a sudden with The Awakening – that Supreme Moment when the Soul bursts open wide – saturating, permeating, vibrating, caressing, enveloping my mind, heart, body, cells, spirit, and entire Being in the sense of Oneness With All, with Absolute Bliss, Love, an overwhelming Peace and Silence that overtook everything else and left me with nothing but tears of Joy, tears of Gratitude, tears of Transformation.  Yes, even the cells of my body were vibrating to their core with this Experience (and they still are – even more so).  Like a molten flood of fluid Bliss-Light flowing through all one’s limbs and radiating out of one’s pores, I felt this permeating Glow-Force within and everywhere else around me at the same time.  All was One Body, One Being, One Infinite Life.  After this, everything changed in how I experienced every detailed sense and moment of the world around me – for all was a part of me, all was the Divine, all Connected with All.  There is a wonderful saying by Sri Aurobindo Ghose, who said “The Divine is in All, and All is in the Divine.”  I began (yes, only began) living these words on this day.  One can no longer live the same way after a Moment like this….and that Moment continued, and grew, and grew……and still grows now……but I digress!

In the wake of this experience, one day I was coming out of the refugee resettlement office, feeling quite alive and joyful already, and then noticed one Somali woman and her three-year-old son walking my way.  I had helped them recently to move into their new home – a family of 7 or 8 children (if I recall!) who needed a whole lot of help.  As we came together, I smiled and said hello to the mother and then looked down at the small little boy who immediately stuck out his hand to me.  His mother and I smiled at this, me thinking he wanted to shake my hand, and so I put out my hand to the little boy and he quickly grabbed my hand with both of his, pulled my hand towards him and gave the top of my hand a sweet little kiss!  Then he let go quickly threw his hands up into the air and gave me the biggest smile ever!  My friends, I melted….. We barely knew each other and yet this little boy showed his pure and absolute Love in that one little moment.  My Heart burst wide even more than before, tears in my eyes, Bliss and Love vibrating within me, my Soul intimately connected with this young boy as One.  This kiss of innocence was part of this expanding Soul awakening in my life…..it brought an intimate human side to the experience, which can often become, for many, too ‘etheric’ and ‘high’, too ‘ungrounded’ and above the Earth.  No, this experience for me was meant to bridge the great Depths and Heights with the Earth and Humanity, with the smallest of the small in life, humans and nature, our cells and bodies, and especially the child-Souls that are everywhere around us – whether they are actually children or adults.  This experience needed to be grounded in the ‘real’ and in the ‘personal,’ for it means nothing if we sit upon our spiritual heights and look down upon the world, which changes nothing for the Earth and humanity.  To be touched on all levels, transformed on all levels, wherever one may be, in whatever work on is doing, is the Spiritual Truth of today’s age.  Even a simple, tender kiss of innocence from a little Somalian boy can vibrate the Love and Beauty that will eventually change our world. 

May I wish you all a Kiss of Innocence…….

The Great Story

There is a story to be discovered in everything.  Each moment of life is intimately connected to everything in one way or another.  Even a grain of sand has its story to tell, a particle vision of the Earth’s history and existence, its march of life emerging from apparent nothingness.  Were we to gaze deeply into the intimate presence of a stone or a tree or a drop of water, the flight of a bird or the motions of a dancer, the smile of a child or the terrors of war, we would find vibrating within each of these a story which is its own and yet which connects with all other stories.  Each of us, each of our Souls, is echoing, breathing, awakening an epic story in itself, which is limited not to our present life but to the history of the Earth and the vastness of a Soul experience which transcends time and space, history and humanity.  We are many stories within One Story which is unfolding, becoming something that we are still uncertain about, and perhaps even afraid of because it is so unknown and mysterious.  We often feel alone in our stories, in our traveled lives, but we are more and more as a human collective growing closer together in our story, relating our stories and realizing that all is this One Story that dwells in each of us, which we define in many ways – many different and seemingly divergent ways – but which ultimately are united by something that breathes and lives through everything and everyone: the Great Storymaker who is not just Beyond but dwells in the heart of all things, who tells the story by living it fully in His/Her/Its own Infinite and Eternal Body, a supreme story of Matter and Spirit manifesting the Divine. 

            Even as I write these words here there is a story unfolding within me.  The very act of sharing these words, putting them into a more material existence, involves releasing the story within me, which is, in itself, also a part of the story, a part of the creative manifestation of the life within this Soul.  My story is very simple and very human, but it is also very divine and very difficult.  For ultimately while the story of my life is of course a personal story,  I cannot really call it my own story, for as I have said we are all united in our stories, in our lives, by every living moment that we experience.  Each moment echoes itself throughout existence and builds a growing harmony of an intimately woven tapestry of Souls, fusing towards an unknown future which is simply more of who we are, more of the Divine.  My story is an insignificantly small part of this unfolding Moment that we are living within.  Yet it is a thread of the Whole which may reveal some unique part of the Great Story, and this Great Storymaker within us all, which others may have not yet noticed.  Your story too is emerging from within this Great Story, and is a part of what will ultimately lift up humanity as we learn to see ourselves in each other, and the Divine Storyteller in All.  This world is indeed becoming more and more Our Story, where your story is now becoming a part of mine, and mine a part of yours.

***

            The one question which has dominated my life has been, “Who am I?”  It has been like a consuming fire in my heart, even in my body.  What are we?  What is this life?  What is the Truth?  Everyone seems to have at least a trace of this wondering within them, yet few seem to want it enough to let go of what their lives have become in order to truly find the answers.  For me, there has always seemed to be nothing else but this; this fire to know the Truth, to breathe it, to reach for it, to become it if possible.  If we closely observe a child’s nature, curiosity is at the very core of their experience.  Extreme curiosity.  Pure and uninhibited curiosity.  They desperately want to Experience, they sincerely, innocently, want to know who they truly are and are seeking it intimately through every breath and every step and every glance and every attempt of living what they make.  Their every act is a seeking to the questions of Who Am I? Who Are We? What Is Life?  If we look at ourselves closely also, this is what our own lives are about, though as humans grow this question recedes into the background, behind the veil of all the things that we have come to know (or think we know) and the hardened habits of our mental and physical lives.  We build habits out of our experiences and the knowledge which has come from those experiences.  On the one hand this is a necessary and positive thing for our growth as individuals, and yet on the other hand it is the very obstacle that must be overcome if we are to truly dive into the depths of our nature, take a step beyond our small constructed world and open ourselves to a Truth which is far more all-encompassing and vast then we could ever imagine.  We must unlearn what we have learned, as uttered by the iconic figure Yoda in the Star Wars films.  We must let go of who we think we are, what we think we know, what we have experienced, what we have.  Everything, everything, EVERYTHING must be released in all the parts of our being to allow something new to enter into our reality and shape us into the new figures of the future which lies beyond us, but also within us.  We must become once again like a child, like a newborn baby who looks upon the world, and even more importantly ourselves and our inner natures, with a certain element of Wonder and Curiosity.  This curiosity is in essence Energy, it is Attention, it is our concentrated awareness which directs our Being towards whatever it is we are curious about.  Where we place our attention is where our Consciousness goes; it is where the Life Energy that animates existence and our inner awareness becomes focused, becoming a creative force in our lives for shaping who we are and how we grow. 

            We must truly burn with this question, “Who Am I?”, to the point where it consumes everything within us, guiding us with its power to pierce through the layers of our ignorance and knowledge until something bursts forth from behind our veils.  It is in answering this question, or rather in exploring and becoming the Fire that lies at the heart of this question, which will awaken a Greater Story for humanity than it has ever yet to Be or to Live.