Rob Parsons

Spiritual Ecology

The week that was

By Rob Parsons
Published in Maui Time Weekly
April 26, 2007

I believe that to meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources and, through concern for future generations, the proper care of the environment.
-His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama's visit to Maui got me thinking about the special significance of the auspicious occasion. Was there any particular message in the life and words of this revered religious and political leader that I may impart to inspire myself, and others, to nudge us towards greater awareness and right action? While I contemplated the question, I looked back on the week that had just passed?

Monday morning

Put the finishing touches on my latest article. Deep breath, get up and stretch. Walk outside into the sunshine and drink in the fragrance of the gardenias.

Monday evening

Carpool to South Maui for a neighborhood meeting. At dusk, 40 people fill chairs on a spacious deck overlooking the open space kiawe and grass pasture of what could become Wailea 670. Clear, passionate presentations lead to lively questions and conversations about the possibility of responsible, community-based planning. A spirit of hopefulness is in the air. I wonder how to explain it all to the vast numbers of people who didn't attend.

Tuesday morning

A friend sends a web video that has me in tears. It's David Suzuki's young daughter addressing the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Even in kindergarten you tell us not to settle our differences by fighting, she says. "So why do you do what you tell us not to do?" (see: powerofourway.blogs.com:80/)

Tuesday afternoon

Maui Tomorrow board meeting. So many issues.

Tuesday evening

Friends ask us to join them for dinner before they return to Colorado. They want to support local efforts with funding from their charitable foundation. She asks, how do we bring about a shift in consciousness, so people will "get it?" Will the Dalai Lama's visit help some people wake up and realize the value of human life and learn compassion for all beings?

I say I believe in sharing enough information so people may arrive at a place of making educated choices. I told of efforts last year, with support from Mayor Alan Arakawa, to establish an Environmental Resource Center so that residents and visitors could learn about our native ecosystems, environmental organizations and efforts. The idea became a bit of a political football. Some were so caught up in the muddled past of the County property and house built near Baldwin Beach that they couldn't see the golden opportunity. As spiritual activist and author Marianne Williamson once bluntly told a questioner at a packed Castle Theater, "You're so caught up in the crucifixion that you can't see the possibility of redemption." Apparently seeing problems rather than possibilities, the new administration recently boarded up the beach house.

Wednesday morning

Working at home. Someone sent underwater photos of sea turtles. Sweet.

Wednesday evening

Free showing of Kundun at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Paia's Lama Geltsin intones a Buddhist blessing before the screening. I had remembered little of seeing the film 10 years ago. The photography and music greatly enhance and enliven the story of the Dalai Lama's early life, up to his escape from Tibet at age 19. I'm blown away. Why hasn't the world community risen up in the past 50 years to insist that China's atrocities to the Tibet nation, people, religion and culture be reconciled?

Thursday morning

Reading the newspaper. The Honolulu Advertiser prints my letter stating proposals by Maui Electric, BlueEarth Biodisel and Imperium Renewables will lead us down a dead-end road. The Maui News reports on the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Next to it is a local story of three men who rescued a stranded dog stuck on a ledge in the steep cliffs of `Iao Valley.

A letter writer postulates that the Dalai Lama may be a peace messenger sent by Jesus, who is tired of us "ignoring and distorting his message." Isn't it true that we each see things through our own set of glasses, rather than with an open mind? Seventy percent of the people in the world are non-Christian, yet there is such a great tendency towards exclusivity and trying to convert the beliefs of others. I reflect on the wisdom from a favorite book, Change We Must, by Nana

Veary. A native Hawaiian and mother of acclaimed songstress Emma Veary, Nana's message of aloha describes her life as a spiritual journey, rather than a destination.

It reminds me of the time I overheard a tourist in Hana say, "This is it? This is all there is?" and I thought to myself, you just missed it.

Thursday evening

Gathering at Palauea Beach to commemorate the anniversary of an elder's passing, and her daughter's embarking on a trip to the artistic and spiritual community at Damanhur, Italy. I'm reminded of the lost opportunity to preserve the public beach at Palauea, which is now framed by mansions-ostentatious displays of wealth that compromise the historic and cultural sense of place and feeling of serenity.

Friday morning

Carpool to County Council meeting. A buzz is in the air. Former Council member Wayne Nishiki greets people in the parking lot, wearing a white "Save Honolua Coalition" t-shirt, like dozens of others. In the chambers, it's standing room only, with signs and placards hoisted high. School kids from Sacred Hearts and Lahainaluna speak eloquently in support of a resolution to preserve Lipoa Point, rather than build a golf course and luxury homes. There's a tsunami wave of change, and the people of the West Maui community are riding it like a monster tube rolling into their beloved bay.

This grassroots effort has successfully changed the course of the landowner's proposed development. Maui Land and Pineapple's representative announces that they are tabling current plans, and are willing to talk about alternatives. I'm greatly inspired and encouraged.

Friday afternoon

On a high from the council meeting, I work with colleagues on planning to engage the South Maui community in taking the reins to plan their future.


Earth Day. For the 37th year, people gather in celebration worldwide to discuss the changes we need to embrace if we are to save Mother Earth from ourselves. Maui Nui Botannical Gardens is more crowded than in past years. Hawaiian music, culture, crafts, food and plants are the focus. Environmental organizations bring out their best displays, sharing their humble, yet heroic efforts. The sun is shining, the tradewinds are blowing and there are smiles on many faces.

Sunday morning

It's Earth Day again! This time at Baldwin Beach Park. Hundreds come to listen to a variety of music, mingle, dance and celebrate. Many people sign petitions. The Sierra Club's display includes a banner hung on the eave of A&B's pavilion, alongside colorful prayer flags. It reads, "The Environment is the Economy." Well, at least THIS crowd gets the message. When will everyone else get it?

Sunday evening

The Studio Maui in Haiku is packed for devotional kirtan chanter, Krishna Das. He's a contemporary and friend of Maui resident Ram Das, and both spent years in India with their guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Krishna Das shares that kirtan chanting is a form of spiritual practice, a devotional yoga. The energy is electrified, and the audience becomes a choir, singing the names of the Divine. According to his website, "These Names are the sound of the surf of that Ocean of Love. Everyone has their own path to this beach, to the Ocean, but we all wind up in the same place." Waves of joy fill the hall.

Monday morning

Put the finishing touches on my latest article and send it to my editor. Deep breath, get up and stretch. Walk outside into the sunshine and drink in the fragrance of the gardenias.