Hunkertown – 4/13/21

Incivility to Oneself

(As Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn use to say: “Bad Idea!”

In 1991, HH Dalai Lama asked a group of Buddhist students what in Buddhism helped the low self-esteem He had heard expressed by so many Westerners.

For in the orient, Buddhism tended to address overly inflated egoic expression.

An example of a culture promoting a healthy strong ego presence is when I once asked Dr. Lobsang Rapgay about mantras and children.  He said that

“Eat my shit,” a back-off buster message…  was what young children were taught as Buddhists understand that we are born with Buddha nature, a child is not lesser than – just inexperienced.  I do not know if this approach was for girls as well, but I applied his logic for our two daughters and son.  I did not teach them to tell people to “piss off.”  But – that our authority as parents was not about us as parents being better or smarter – just more experienced.

But, why is it so different here?  Why do we see a culture, especially a youth culture with so much angst, so much fear, self-loathing, so much uncertainty?

Here some of my thoughts on Causal Factors…

1. In the march of history, where the Bible and other wise books tell us that the sins of the fathers are inherited by their sons, i.e. future generations, we see, over the course of human activity, actions and results of power, avarice, greed, privilege – and all the disparities these create that lead to sickness, poverty, and warfare. 

We think that those who perpetrate such and live in palaces and private islands have it made.  But we ignore the karmic consequences that play out in terrible relationships, drug abuse, mental illness, and the feelings mentioned above.

During the Occupy Movement and Robert Thurman mentioned how he was raised and lived around the one percent.  He said we really would not want their lives.

We feel these things.  We know when our moral compass is askew.  We may indulge in denial or seek absolution through religion or charitable acts.  But these are really bandaids for a bleeding soul.

2. Our religiosity or ethos around original sin, our fall from grace vs. the Buddhist notion of us being nascent Buddhas endowed with basic goodness/loving nature, needing to work on transforming the 3 Poisons of Ignorance, Attachment, and Aggression.

The “sinner” approach creates rigid/linear boundaries where we even get cut off from ourselves whereas a Oneness perspective which sees personal growth and inclusivity as the only sustainable way of moving forward… This does not mean, however, the regret and remorse are not useful attitudes to exhibit when unskillful and harmful acts have been done.

The digital world and incessant stimulation of information, undigested thought and emotion – occupying our world 24/7, without stop. The result is that it is really difficult to know what is important, what we can ignore, even let go of.

Let’s look at our external world…

In a time which the Buddha Sakyamuni spoke of, we see and are in the midst of

  • global pandemic
  • acceleration of high intensity ecological calamities of biblical proportion in terms of tornadoes and hurricanes – the winds – floods, draughts, and rising seas, unprecedented fires and the resulting
  • mass migrations – ecological and environmental refugees
  • rise in xenophobic reactions to protect or hold onto the world the way it has actually never been and thus  rise in
  • violence and the proliferation of political refugees

And so, in the immensity of what we as spiritual beings having a human experience must accept, confront, transcend, and prevail – it is seemingly far easier to just get down on ourselves, beat ourselves up,


Which leads to, inevitably

Self loathing and

Spiritual listlessness, apathy, even laziness

In this psychically numb torpor, we can do things our healthy normal sense would not allow…

In Tantra – self denigration is a path to spiritual suicide

So, how do we challenge the habitual tendency to go down this path of incivility?

The Buddha taught the 4 thoughts that Revolutionize the Mind…

Precious human birth


Karma – what we do makes a difference

Not squandering our God given potentials which we have, since beginningless time…

As dear Dharma friend, Stephen Levine use to say…

Show yourself some mercy

In that softer, more open heart space,

Be grateful

Learn to see your shortcomings as opportunities for growth

When you think of extending kindness to others, from a Oneness perspective, you are one of them!  And, there IS really no THEY!


Hunkertown – 3/21

Civility and the Cancel Culture

Wikipedia defines Cancel Culture as “a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be “cancelled”.[1] Merriam-Webster notes that to “cancel”, as used in this context, means “to stop giving support to that person”[2] while, in its pop-culture dictionary, defines cancel culture as “withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”[3] The expression “cancel culture” has mostly negative connotations and is commonly used in debates on free speech and censorship.”

First, let’s get back to some basics – the Three Poisons of Ignorance, Attachment, and Aggression, in which I have said that we can translate them as… We don’t understand things completely. We get attached to our version of things. And, we get defensive, maybe even aggressive when people don’t agree with us. This is the habitual Samsaric mind, which we each possess and exist within cultures where reified ideas pro and con regarding virtually every human transaction create individual and group preferences and dislikes, friends, enemies, in-crowds, heretics, and maligned.

I spoke in my last podcast about undigested thoughts in the virtual world. The speed of virtual communications and the way in which we revere our thoughts and feel entitled to express them in speech and writing is less an expression in our culture of having freedom of speech and more an expression of the loss critical thinking, listening, and the civility to communicate in an on-the-level altruistic intent and create as little harm as possible and benefit all.

In one of my Facebook posts on Cancel Culture I wrote… “you may think you have the right to say what you want and – within 1st Amendment protection – where you want, I have the right to be selective in what I want to hear or read, i.e. listener and reader rights. Example: I do not own Facebook, but I “rent” a space on that platform I call mine. If you come into my space to berate or belittle me or others, spread falsities and absurd unfounded conspiracies, I reserve the right to say to you for myself and those who would normally read my page, go away. I shall take down said offensive material and, if necessary, unfriend you. I am not infringing on your right to say or write what you want. But, not here. This is not about echo chambers. Based on my values, I hold that demonstrating civility is the best approach in resolving what even appears to be irreconcilable. You have the right to roam the rest of the virtual universe to plant your seeds in some other garden.” With respect to the notions of shaming and ostracism that is utilized, in the positive sense, I can see these within the context of what I would call civility rooted in wrathful compassion. See The Path of Civility…, page 28.

But, let’s open the lens on this concept of cancel culture, for although you may not like a newspaper or radio or TV station because they do not express your views, there are now media outlets for every persuasion. These indeed create echo chambers from which we need to emerge to make substantive change, but we also need to be fearless in confronting cancel culture systems like 1. Gerrymandering 2. Red lining 3. Culling voter lists 4. Providing fewer or inadequate polling places in elections 5. Making election days national holidays or times that don’t disadvantage those who fear taking off or may get hours docked to go and vote. In this regards, our last election was the fairest. 6. Practices in business, industry, and government which advantage some over others

These are the CANCEL issues we need to address to create the representative democracy we profess to have or aspire to achieve.

Towards these ends and in the best sense, we can see the notion of cancel culture within the context of discernment and being able to rally together with people of like mind without being overly distracted by those whose views only take on more real estate in our heads than is of value. Masons speak of circumscribing desires, where we learn to rein ourselves. In a laissez fare world, discipline is considered repressive. But the Tibetan word for discipline, Tsultrim, is also translated as joy. It is important to remember in this context the

Civility does not arise on its own. It takes discipline. And from this, greater joy and ease follow.


Hunkertown 2021, #1

Time for Civility

Think about your communication, your personal and business transactions in the Digital Age.

How conditioned have we become to instant gratification, immediate responses, and that nerve-racking wait as the three dots repeat and repeat until the answer comes.  And, what if the dots stop and there is no response?  What does it mean?  Is the question or comment not worthy of response?  Are we not worthy of response?  If the answers to these questions is “yes” then certainly the response  should be immediate – certainly not tomorrow.

Obviously, timely replies for those circumstances that need timely replies, deserve timely replies.  But short of these usually rare or special circumstances, how many of our communication really warrant instant replies?  And how is our communication and our skills in communicating effected, even truncated by time pressure?

In this context, civility is a casualty when time as a factor in healthy, open communication is not considered.

In fact, reflection and consideration of what someone is saying or writing are skills of what is called deep listening.  These 2 skills are best served by the inner cultivation of what are called in the Buddha’s Dharma, the Six Perfections.

 Generous spirit  – one that exhibits openness and a willingness to share freely.  This does not mean that one disregards history or goes into a situation with rose-colored glasses.  Rather, one enters into an interaction with a sense of – what Freemasons would call, “being on the level.”

Kindness – you act without guile or a twist to make things go to your advantage to the disadvantage of the other simply because you want to win or be on top.  You are straightforward in a way that allows for a transaction to feel two-way or serve the greatness number in the most beneficial way possible.

Patience –  an understanding of the time it takes for our mind and habits to transform.  How often do we see our own history repeating itself, where what we thought were habits or actions we had changed, once again emerge in a new or different circumstance? In patiently tending to our own awakening, we demonstrate a mercy towards ourselves, which will well serve us when we are trying to encourage a change of mind or action in others.

Discipline  – when we know what to do and how to do it well in any given circumstance, there is less stress and more ease in what happens.   Thus discipline in speech, knowing what to say, how to deliver it so that your message comes across most effectively, is a skill worth cultivating.

Stillness or Meditative Awareness invites an open and clear mind.  To not have your internal dialogue chatting away while you are trying to pay attention and listen reduces the likelihood of you interrupting or adding commentary that is more about you than about the transaction you are trying to be engaged in.  This requires training.

Wisdom – all the qualities mention above, practiced well over time, will yield this perfection.  Such wisdom commands respect implicitly and almost naturally. 

When all of these perfections are worked upon, civility becomes natural and implicit.  And, to work upon these to perfect your being takes TIME.

In which case, show yourself some mercy.  Be still and kind and patient with yourself.  For, the most important civil dialogue you need to master is the one within your own mind.


Hunkertown – January 6th – Epiphany!

An excerpt from my book, which I cannot stress enough, makes a profound difference in de-escalating discord and conflict…

The Five Steps to Wise Action

How do we learn to act with skill, with compassion to accomplish what we aspire for ourselves and in this world in the most civil way?

     Although Wisdom is one of the Perfections mentioned earlier, it in itself can be subdivided into mental processes we need to go through in order to go from wise perception to wise action.  These processes are all classified as wisdoms, which, when seen collectively, create sensible and progressive action steps to know how to employ or what level of compassion to use.  Note that the discussion of the Five Wisdoms in Buddhism usually includes more theoretical and theological discussion.  I shall avoid these and focus on the actionable aspects of each, which can be applied in both sacred and mundane situations.

All Pervasive Wisdom – This first wisdom action step may be the hardest as it asks us to step back from the immediacy of the situation or at least be able to keep our passions from leading us to a rush to judgment.  If we are able to step back, to see a bigger picture and place the situation into a larger perspective, we then create more of an opportunity to think out of or beyond the box we may otherwise be mentally and emotionally trapped in.  Succinctly, the action step is: Step back.

Discriminating Wisdom – By stepping back and getting a clearer picture, we encourage our ability to judge impartially, but with discernment   Based on a wider perspective, we are not looking at “the truth,” per se.  Relative reality and truth are at best, very slippery bedfellows.  There are always so many sides and interpretations to any situation.  And so, we discern as best we can and give an “honest” assessment .  Honesty means we are coming from a place of integrity within ourselves.  Honesty allows us to change our minds if more information comes to light.  We may not always know “the truth,” but we can always be honest.  Thus, the action step here is: Assess.    

Mirror-like Wisdom – This wisdom is reminiscent of our modern psychological understanding of projection, that what we see in the world is a mirror reflection of our state of mind.  (What is fascinating is that modern neuroscience has identified Mirror Neurons, which are said to reside behind our hearts and that the information from these neurons goes up to our brain.  Furthermore, there are more signals going from the heart to the brain than visa versa.  And so, Japanese Buddhism speaks of the “heart-mind.”  It is also fascinating to reflect that this wisdom known as “mirror-like” pre-dates our current knowledge of mirror neurons by centuries.)  What is called on here is for us to understand the direct impact on us personally of what we have honestly assessed.  If we start there, we stand a better chance of knowing how our words or actions that follow will affect others.  The action step is: Reflect.

Wisdom of Equanimity – This wisdom demands that we confront within ourselves any bigotry that sees any person or being to be ultimately superior or inferior to ourselves.  Freemasonry, as a tradition of philanthropy and secular enlightenment, speaks of “being on the level.”  Without understanding that we are all “equal in the eyes of God,” true, heartfelt empathic communication and civility–based action is not possible.  The Yiddish word here is to be a “mensch.”  Not seeing or acting as being higher or lower than those whom we engage, we overcome prejudice and invite a reciprocal response.  Whether the response we get is indeed reciprocal is another matter.  But, the point in demonstrating civility here is that we engage in such a spirit.   Engaging another “on the level,” another important dimension of this wisdom is that we do not engage in character assassination.  What we should be addressing are issues and actions.   Thus, the action step here is: Engage.

All Accomplishing Wisdom – Being able to step back, assess, reflect, and properly engage, we now have the sufficient knowledge that we need to Learning summon and martial our energy wisely and apply it where, when, and how it is most effective.  We step into action forthrightly. The action step here is: Enact.


     The first three of these wisdoms, all-pervasive, discriminating, and mirror-like are more internal or mental.  The last two, the wisdom of equanimity and all-accomplishing wisdom are the connection we make with others and our action or words in the manifest world.  The bridge between the internal and outer or external is at the level of mirror-like wisdom, associated in the East with what is called the heart chakra, the center of the heart-mind.  Reflection therefore acts as the gate between our inner machinations of our experience and how we are to prepare ourselves for engagement and action in the world.  It is then by the wisdom of equanimity that we make the main step of social engagement.  Thus, the wisdom of equanimity is the most social of all the wisdoms.

To summarize and succinctly state, in the Five Steps to Wise Action…we

1. step back – look at the big picture

2. assess – clearly discern what we are looking at

3. reflect on this knowledge, understand our part – making it personal, helping us to develop empathy

4. engage – initiate action based on mutual respect an intention of focusing on the good of all

5. enact – step into action forthrightly

Watch my “Pillow Talk” podcast, which puts this all into action.


Hunkertown – Winter Solstice

Breaking Bread – Building Bonds

Before March of 2020, the rough estimate was thatAmericans ate 6 out of every 10 meals out of our homes. If we did eat at home, we grazed, ate in our own rooms, or maybe in front of a TV. Gone were the days of preparing a meal together, sitting down around a table, saying prayers, engaging in family conversation, etc…

And then came the pandemic. And suddenly, what was lost or considered out of fashion, kitch, or pointless are now emerging as the necessary skills to make interactions such as mealtimes civil, if not celebratory.

There is a whole section of Washington’s “Rules of Civility” devoted to dining. Why? With little artificial lighting, no mass or instant forms of transportation, and the absence of the many dining or entertainment experiences available, mealtime was a central feature in daily living.

Some of what I share here may seem antiquated, But, surprisingly, trying to incorporate many of these rules may just make your holiday meal celebrations that much more special. You may even consider adopting these for your daily gustatory events!

90. “Set at meat, Scratch not, neither Spit, Cough, or blow your Nose, except there’s a Necessity for it.”

Commentary: Common decency when dining with others.

91. “Make no Show of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on then Table, neither find fault with what you Eat.”

Commentary: In these modern times when many people eat out, snack, or graze more frequently than actually sit down with others to “break bread” in any formal or familial way, the social graces of healthy, respectable, and gracious dining are all but lost.  And yet, business luncheons and lunches are not infrequent as apart of commerce, conversing over deals, etc.…Thus the manners and mindfulness of eating bear paying attention to as one more avenue in which one demonstrates a civil approach to an important human function and venue of social discourse.

92. “Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.”

Commentary: More than likely this Rule has less to do with hygiene than it does about using implements that are definitely yours by their use and applying them to what is commonly shared.  It may be considered not unlike an animal “tagging” something for themselves.

93. “Entertaining any one at the Table, it is decent to present them with meat; undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.”

Commentary:  In this case the “Master” may be a father or whoever is deemed head of the table.  In the perspective of such a hierarchy, Hawkins advises one not to invite someone to the table if you know that he or she are not acceptable to the head of the table.  And, if they are, be sure that they are served like anyone and everyone else who is at the table.

94. “If you Soak bread in the Sauce, let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time; and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till (it) Cools of itself.”

Commentary: If you soak more than one mouthful, you will be holding a drippy piece of bread.  Regarding hot soup or broths, those of manners learn that if you scoop along the edge where the liquid meets the bowl on the surface, you will find the mouthful cooled down enough.

95. “Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand, neither Spit forth the stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish, nor Cast anything under the table.”

Commentary: It would be interesting to learn when the idea of cutting one’s meat or other food, putting down the knife, then using the fork to eat the portion began.  It is now a more common American cutlery habit compared to the European style where both fork and knife are employed.  And, if stones from a pie with stoned fruit cannot be put on a plate and you can’t toss it under the table, is it to be placed in a napkin?

96. “It’s unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat.  Keep your Fingers clean and when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.”

Commentary: A healthy, upright posture shows breeding, improves digestion, and reduces the likelihood of mess or spills.

97. “Put not another bit into your mouth ‘till the former be swallowed.  Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.”

Commentary:  The art of proper chewing, both in size and number of chews per bite, is not only good etiquette, but makes digestive sense from the standpoint of ensuring that food swallowed does not lead to hiccups, unnecessary belching, flatulence and other manifestations of digestive distress.

98. “Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.”

Commentary: Presumably, both aspects of this rule are to ensure that you look composed while eating, but also do not inadvertently spray or spill on others

99. “Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily.  Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.”

Commentary: Composure creates a context in which others are engaged in a state of greater ease and receptivity for civil discourse.

100. “Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.”

Commentary: Mind your own manners as such and make no comment to others, lest to make a spectacle of their improprieties, which will cause embarrassment and/or annoyance.

101. “Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.”

Commentary: Such a behavior is best done in private or in a bathroom.

102. “It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.”

Commentary: Although to do these acts is a custom of courtesy, know your situation, the time, and the timing.  To act reflexively or habitually in such matters will usually create awkward moments, which may be perceived as token or insincere.

103. “In the company of your betters, be not longer in eating than they are; lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.”

Commentary:  To linger longer when eating puts you in the situation of setting the timing and pace of the dining situation, which could be considered lazy or disrespectful to those who one should defer to.  Also, to place one’s arm on the table may be seen as sign of laziness, a casual attitude, or impropriety.

104. “It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he ought then to begin in time and to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.”

Commentary: A sign of a truly quality leader, patron, or “chiefest” person is that they have a natural and/or due consideration for everyone at the table so that no person feels lesser or embarrassed unduly, regardless of their standing.

105. “Be not angry at the table, whatever happens; and if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.”

Commentary: (We’ve talked about this before. But, as a reminder…) Nothing ruins a meal faster than anger and other negative emotions people are feeling and/or displaying while trying to eat.  Try to clear the air, let it go.  Breathing deeply and calmly, like in meditation. And if you cannot contain yourself, it is better to excuse yourself than to infect the dining experience of others.

106. “Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.”

Commentary:  It is not your place to chose the head of the table as yours unless it is so.  However, when the master or company offer you that spot, you should accept their generosity.  In Buddhist thinking, it is always beneficial to the one offering generosity for one to accept it from them.

107. “If others talk at the table, be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.”

Commentary:  Do not let your haste to respond make a display of the content of your mouth.  By allowing chewing to set the pace, your words will be far better considered, presented, and more than likely received.

Bon Apetit!


Hunkertown, Holiday Version

Have Yourself a Merry Civil Holiday Season!

In the Christmas Truce of WWI, Allied and German soldiers put down their guns, came out of their respective foxholes and exchanged Christmas greetings, shared photos of their respective families, and played some soccer.  And, at the end of the day, they returned to their foxholes to resume the battle.

What was the point? 

Despite the arguing about land and resources, rooted in the Three Poisons –

  1. Ignorance of the fact that there really is enough to go around
  2. That we are attached to a worldview fearful of scarcity and us not getting our fair share and
  3. That the only way to get what we want or need is to do battle with those who we think stand in the way

That there was a wish – very common human wish rooted in our Basic Goodness or Loving Nature – to live with civility in harmony

In The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the Buddhist teacher, Shantideva, explains that ALL of our own worst tendencies – pride, greed, excessive desire, reflexive reaction, avarice, and anger are distortions of our true nature, founded upon our Loving Nature.

But, with a lack of understanding and fixating on what or how a desired outcome will be possible, we become insistent, dogmatic, fanatical, tyrannical.  We do harmful things to ourselves and each other. 

And we know it.  We do know better.  Even those who seem smug or defiant in what has caused harm know better. 

And our bodies and minds tell us so in

  1. headaches
  2. sleeplessness
  3. deranged ideations
  4. digestive complaints
  5. heightened irritability
  6. need for drink or medication
  7. desire to do even more harm to numb the feelings of guilt and inner conflict – a cause of some the torture we inflict upon others – all rooted in self-loathing

I recently read an article by HH17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje that said that all this is actually good news.  WHY?  Because our bodies and minds are teaching us that none of what we do against ourselves, our neighbors, who we think are our enemies, or nature is Natural.  It is habitual.  And habits, even long standing ones can be changed.

Understand that some habits we have are more ingrained than other.  Some can change overnight, some over lifetime, perhaps some over several lifetimes, but, they are changeable, whereas our loving nature in a universe of love is unending.

So, here we are for the holidays – where we are with either in person or virtually those with whom we have acted on, learned, or developed habit patterns, some useful, some not. 

All wounds are re-opened, patterns you thought you grown beyond are reactivated.  And you, the independent, strong minded successful person that you  are now just the son, the daughter, the baby sister or brother, – just part of the brood, stirring once again in your familiar brood stew.

Mindfulness and all the wisdom and compassion you can muster is what you need to summon.  If there was ever a time that taught you these skills are useful, if not necessary, this is it.

At the same time, many of the Rules of Civility that George Washington lived by may come in handy.

So here are just a few you may want to consider as you sit around the festive table or share the Zoom room.

#13 “Kill no Vermin as fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the Sight of Others.  If you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it.  If it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths, return Thanks to him who puts it off.”

Commentary: There are appearances on oneself or companions or in the immediate environment that you are in that can be uplifting or degrading.  And thus while it is true that beauty is relative and purity or beauty of thought, speech, and conduct is far more important, to keep beauty in mind in all ways can accentuate their affects.  To have it in mind not to offend, to go out of your way to tend to another or to the circumstance so that they do not offend, and if another attends to you similarly – if done in a spirit of cordiality – can be quite sublime.

22. (I have shared this one before, but think of this in the context of loved ones and some of the gossip that often comes up in the holidays…)

“Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.”

Commentary: If we truly believe that we are all basically good and that we are all doing the best based on what we know, we must understand that as misguided as we may think others are in what they say and do, they think the same as us.  This is the predicament of conditioned existence.  And in whatever conflict we face, whether it is a personal conflict or an all-out conflagration consuming continent, to rejoice in the pain and suffering of others shows a shallow understanding of humanity and life in general.

In the tradition of honorable warfare, the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa said that on the battlefield, after striking down a foe, a noble soldier would sit with his defeated adversary and pray with him, as he would drift into death.

Thus civility holds no quarter for those who seek revenge or take pleasure in the demise of others.  Such an attitude can only diminish us as individuals and in the end, leave us prey to the same.  As the Welsh saying goes, “:If you plan revenge, dig two graves.”


Hunkertown #16

Calls to Kindness…

In this time of political wrangling, manipulation, and hyperbole, we have gotten use to attitudes and a demeanor that detract from allowing civility to facilitate the kind of change and resulting harmony that at the end of the day, we would prefer to live in.

Here are some of The Rules of Civility George Washington saw as important, even in highly charged situations.

  • “Show Nothing to your Friend that might affright him.”

Commentary: Fright or shock of this nature has its place in the spectrum of communication.  “Shock value” can have its place in marketing or stopping a transaction, or moving it in a new direction.  But, it has no place in civility, especially with those who you are either friends or want to cultivate as such.  Whereas civility is a process of smoothing a continuum of communication, shock or fright is disruptive and will, in fact, create greater uncertainty in the transactions that may follow.

  • “Shake not the head, or Legs, Roll not the Eyes, Lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, Wry not the mouth, and Bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near when you Speak.”

Commentary:  With the exception to spitting on someone (unless it is intended!), all the other mannerisms described usually show or convey a judgment on what is being conveyed in a transaction and these judgments are usually negative or come with a conflicting emotion.  Yet, these responses are usually habitual and/or reflexive.  One does not go out of one’s way to display such.  Thus, one could say that young George was taking a lesson from British aristocracy in being trained and/or disciplined to keep a “stiff upper lip” and all of the repressive mannerisms of British high society.  Displaying a “poker face” or one that does not display any of the mannerisms above is useful in many social and political environs.  However in the extreme and as an expected norm, they can also be detrimental to sound mental health, both for the person inhibiting and those before them who remain more in the dark as to what one may be thinking. 

In modern times, with the increased use of Botox to eliminate wrinkles, it has been noted that many reflexive facial responses are being overly inhibited via this toxin.    The result is that people looking at the botoxed face are flummoxed by what they can and cannot see.  And, as a result the person with the botoxed face cannot read the other person’s response either.  Thus, the ability to judge what is going on in the mind and emotions of another is said to be impaired by about fifty present; an actual decrease in emotional intelligence.

 As regards unintended spittle, especially in most civil discourse, respecting another individual’s personal space will usually ensure that such “bedewing” is less likely.

  • “Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.”

Commentary: If we truly believe that we are all basically good and that we are all doing the best based on what we know, we must understand that as misguided as we may think others are in what they say and do, they think the same as us.  This is the predicament of conditioned existence.  And in whatever conflict we face, whether it is a personal conflict or an all-out conflagration consuming continent, to rejoice in the pain and suffering of others shows a shallow understanding of humanity and life in general.

In the tradition of honorable warfare, the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa said that on the battlefield, after striking down a foe, a noble soldier would sit with his defeated adversary and pray with him, as he would drift into death.

Thus civility holds no quarter for those who seek revenge or take pleasure in the demise of others.  Such an attitude can only diminish us as individuals and in the end, leave us prey to the same.  As the Welsh saying goes, “:If you plan revenge, dig two graves.”

  • “When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased, but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.”

Commentary: Following on from Rule 22, by “inwardly pleased,” it would seem in the spirit of what is said that this does not mean to be happy.  When justice is served, when a punishment fits the crime, we acknowledge that that which was done will hopefully serve two criteria.  First, that such was done for a greater good and second, that the punishment is instructive, informative, and met out with a recognition of our shared human birthright.  And if it be that the punishment is punitive in nature even to the point of death, that such acts are performed with a forgiving heart and sense of remorse for the need to act thus.

To hear more perspectives based on these Rules, watch this podcast…


Hunkertown #15

Where it seems we are going…

“Stand back and stand by…”

Recent words heard during a Presidential debate.

In a time where civil dialogue and respecting both the letter and spirit of the law would have been given due and proper consideration, what actually came across as a threat to invoke a known domestic terrorist group may have set off alarm bells to consider that a threat was being made against the American people.

But, when there is an onslaught of similar attacks, threats, and toxic opinions used daily to steal yet another news cycle, the weight of this phrase barely grabs the attention, derision, and concern it rightly deserves.

In The Path of Civility, I emphasize that an on-the-level perspective and respect yields the greatest possibility of ensuring that civil dialogue yields productive results. Furthermore, that there needs to be an acknowledgement if not application of moral law and ethics to make civility more weighty as a force in transactions.

But, what happens when that is not there and is either disregarded or ignored altogether? What tone do you take when you see that even the lowest and most Neanderthal language to elicit shame yields nothing or worst still, mockery?

This is where Civil Disobedience properly and strategically employed may be the only way to gain attention, both from the parties being addressed and those who look on.

Civil disobedience will never be seen as civil by those whom the actions are being directed. In this situation the Five Steps of Wise Action need to be deployed and actions and words used with an altruistic intention or, as Geoffrey Bullington puts it, “For the goodness of all concerned.”

Here is my podcast spelling out more clearly what I have presented in this and the previous blog.


Hunkertown #14

Still Here and A Lot More to Do

I hope many of you enjoyed my booksigning on September 6th. For those who missed it, it will be on YouTube very shortly. And, if you want a signed copy of my book, it can be purchased anytime at

In the meantime, I had said that the next blogpost would focus on civil disobedience. This is the piece from my book that follows my discussion on wrathful compassion and how civility expresses itself when an adversarial environment exists.

“In the tempestuous climate of personal attack politics, xenophobia, and the global resurgence of tribalism under the moniker of “nationalism,” civility has been maligned in books and articles, social media, and so forth.  Seen only within the context of the first level of compassion, “pacifying or peaceful,” to those who overtly protest or act in indignant response to the forces which seem oblivious or non-responsive to sickness, poverty, and warfare, civility is seen as a form of social control; a way of keeping the masses in line, compliant. 

That civility can be expanded to include the expressions I have thus described is, therefore, unthinkable, revolutionary – not really in keeping with the way in which the conventional mind wishes to keep civility in the “ play nice” box.  In a recent Facebook tet-a-tet, I was called to defend my expanded view of civility and its place in social and cultural change and transformation.  For civility to be only defined as an affect, a benign response clearly does not do the term justice or reveal the power it has when applying the Five Steps of Wise Action and a more appropriate, dynamic form of compassionate speech or action.  This brings us to the topic of civil disobedience.

Civil Disobedience falls under the last category of compassion – wrathful.  To explain this more fully, let us break this phrase down, first.

Obedience involves the following of rules, laws, someone, or something because they are expected to be followed, by those creating the rules, the laws, the pecking order or such, sometimes by those who think they should or feel compelled to do so, or both. 

In this respect, there are three levels of obedience.  First and the form where there is the greatest power disparity is that of submission; where following the rule, the law, the ideology, the lord of the manner is not only expected, but there are proscribed consequences for not doing so.  Then there is an obedience where the rational or justification for following such or being under the banner of an ideology, or leader is that one sees merit or something of value in obedience to such.  In this there is a subtle line between and sometimes a combination of submission with a willful abdication of personal responsibility.  Although this may create social harmony and a general sense of pacifying-type civility, whenever there is a power differential or a deference based on social or cultural norms, things do change.  Furthermore, rarely do those whose power or mandates, which have been legitimated by fitting the times, give up their advantage when change is needed for the general good.  Thus abdication of personal responsibility can slide into unwilling submission.  Finally, there is obedience that comes from a mutual, “on the level” understanding.  Thus, like the paramita or perfection of discipline, there is actual joy and benefit that comes from adherence to such.

 If the time and circumstance we find ourselves in is no longer one of mutual benefit, where obedience becomes coerced or demanding of submission, then the civil approach that which speaks to our basic goodness, must lead us to distance ourselves from such adherence.  As stated previously in different ways, civility is dependent upon being on the level, where there is mutuality – or at least respect  – even when there is a social, cultural, or spiritual disparity to which people subscribe.

What is the consequence when your position is “I regret to inform you that…” when you do not comply with the norms or legitimated laws, edicts, or rulers of which or to whom you have been – up to this point – obedient?  Consider Nelson Mandala; imprisoned. An Sang Suchi – imprisoned.  Martin Luther King -assassinated.  Mohandas Gandhi – assassinated.  In the disparity of power, denial or disregard of the civil rights or benefits that create for a more just society, it becomes inevitable that those challenging to these structures or rules become vilified, become seen as dissidents, malcontents, even terrorists, regardless of whether their actions and words are peaceful or confrontational.  Then again, when coercion and force are used to suppress these malcontents, at what point can we say that reciprocal force is not unwarranted?  In this, I am reminded of the words of the late Tibetan Buddhist Master, the Thirteenth Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, who spoke of the necessity to sometimes wage what he called a “white war.” (Footnote 2)

Does this mean, therefore, that if the underdog or the righteous side of a “white war” proves victorious over the short or long term, that there will not be consequences? After all, we see that in the working of relative reality situations, there is always a variation of hell to pay.  The champions we have highlighted above were eloquent, charismatic, and demonstrative of propriety in a straightforward way.  Their actions and words did catalyze or at least contributed to significant cultural and societal change.  But other than their own trials and tribulations, there were many in their ranks that likewise suffered similar fates.  And the results sought remain works in progress.  Consider “Black lives matter,” the “Me Too” movement, the time it takes to root out greed, corruption, and power mongering.  That is why, for the changes sought to become more real and lasting, there needs to be an awareness of those qualities or traits that can undermine, slow down, even subvert the course of basic goodness envisioned in the world; greed, self-righteousness, revenge, and so forth.

In the case of America, we know that George Washington was an ardent believer in and aspiring practitioner of civility.  And, yet, he was also a soldier, a general, and eventually the President of a country he supported in disobedience to what he and other defined as a tyrannical regime. As we reference President George Washington, with all the flaws, omissions, and unintended consequences of the American Revolution, and acknowledging that the very formation of this country had its own bloody history of conquest and slavery, many contend as do I that there was a genuine attempt to envision a different future.  The men and women, the Founding Mothers and Fathers of America, were striving for a “more perfect union.”  Otherwise, the provisions of the First and Second Amendments of the American Constitution would not have been the first and second principles upon which to form the United States; a nation that to this day is still aspiring to be a true democracy.

Amendment ONE: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and

to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

This Amendment embodies a civil way of engaging in promoting truth and seeking to express grievances to elicit dialogue and change.  And, our first three forms of compassion, Peaceful, Enrichment, and Magnetizing are the methodologies that can help in the processes of maintaining civility in the change process.  It is important to note that Enriching Compassion, dependent on education was a major feature of what the formers of America felt to be needed for “true” democracy to prevail and be sustainable.  Thus we see Washington being a champion for primary school education and a general agreement that there needs to be an availability of classical education in order to build an informed, civil electorate.

     Amendment TWO: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This Amendment is more in line with the final form of compassion – wrathful.

Thomas Jefferson once commented that any country that wished to promote freedom and democracy needed to have a periodic revolution in order to avoid the resurgence and the inevitable slide back into tyranny.  For civil society to be maintained, there need to be watchdogs, the soldiers of wrathful compassion, to ensure that the principles and practices “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” be safeguarded.  Hence, a separation between church and state and the independent functioning of branches of government are fundamental.  But, just in case those of legitimated authority or in ruling positions in representative government get too full of themselves, there are always the people – and their guns. 

This aforementioned option is a last and regrettable resort.  For civil disobedience in both normal or extraordinary forms (i.e. revolutions) to be carried out in the most civil way possible, due diligence should be made to temper the heat of rising passions by employing the Five Steps of Wise Action, the civility as exemplified in the first three forms of compassion, and then step forward into this wrathful expression with a clarity of mind and heart that especially guards itself against self-righteousness.  For this latter expression, self-righteousness is the poison that makes one anesthetized to vengeful actions, which, inevitably, spawn the most heinous reactions.  In the chapter on “Mind Training” there will be a further explication on this point.

*  *  *      There are many aspects of wisdom and levels of compassion, so civility demonstrates itself effectively in different guises, all rooted in the same basic goodness, all intended from the same altruistic outlook.  A “one size fits all” civility cannot meet the challenges of all the different ways in which people act as individuals or groups when the Three Poisons fuel reactivity and division.  The goal of this chapter has been to point to action steps and approaches that will make civility dynamic and effective.  Civility thus demonstrates itself as an essential rather than merely affective tool for change.”


Hunkertown #13

Charismatic and Wrathful Civility

Two blogs ago, I spoke of pacifying or peaceful compassion and how they influence civility. Here, I want to address those situations where people are not on the same page, even adversarial.

Magnetizing Compassion – Here, one meets with resistance, indifference, views more rooted in the Three Poisons.  To influence this situation, the power of persuasion, the use of charisma, a more emotional/feeling-based approach becomes necessary to rally support for the desired direction/action/outcome.  How can we attract those we need for successful action away from the “dark side?” The focus of the conversation should be contrasting the consequences of unskillful action versus the rewards of skillful actions.  To do this, while the presentation is more at an emotional or feeling level, the tone needs to be one of rationality; that one has carefully assessed the situation and wants to be informative for everyone’s benefit. The tone of civility here is that of the Statesman or Evocateur.  TheREACTIVE PATTERN to safeguard against Manipulation (especially through inappropriate flattery, etc.)  A useful phrase: “What are the pros and cons…?”

Wrathful Compassion – Here, you are dealing with intractable people or a very difficult circumstance. Thus, confrontation or action to prevent action/decisions that are deemed harmful is considered necessary.  This is always truly difficult to know if this is, in fact, the case.  Hence, the three internal wisdoms need to be fully practiced.  The Wisdom of Equanimity may be hard to practice in engagement as there is obvious conflict.  Thus, one needs to be sure that no advantage is being taken or power employed just simply because you can do so.  While the words or actions used may need to be stronger than you would normally use, perhaps even harsh, the use of this form of compassion must be rooted in love and humility.   That this is the basis of the action taken will be seen in feelings of remorse or regret that actions of this nature needed to be enacted. If possible, to express this remorse or regret can be a necessary salve of civility in order for the party on the receiving end not to feel that you are merely acting in the REACTIVE PATTERN of Vengeance or Revenge.  The tone of civility here is that of the Protector.  Because this form of compassion and its civility has the potential of bearing the most heat of passion, staying focused on the issues rather than going after the personality or character of the person or persons can be more challenging.  If one were to be rating civil discourse, probably any discourse that involves the degradation of another’s character would be the lowest and most regrettable.  But, then again sometimes in social and political arenas, humiliation may be a necessary component in confrontation and/or stopping harmful action.  But, I would argue, that it would at some point, yield backlash that has to be addressed with a deeper sense of remorse.  A useful phrase: “I regret to inform you…”

For more, watch “Civility Speaks, Podcast #8”