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Zazen stool by Kannon McAfee I have found the last several years to have been more of a challenge to maintaining balance than maybe any time in my life. It has been good. I moved 2200 miles from Texas to Portland, OR. I found Heather and married her. We got an apartment in St. Johns, a community I really enjoy. More is happening in my outer life, so there is more to juggle.

Sometimes to create a far better life, we have to be willing to feel off-kilter for a while as we shift off the old comfortable fulcrum to find a new one in that new life.

Then a revolution started. People my age and even younger started to protest the imbalance of power in our economic and political systems. It was something to behold. This movement atomized into many communities all over the U.S.. Occupy Wall Street showed up in my neighborhood in late 2011 — almost immediately — as Occupy St. Johns. There was so much news, so much to follow, so strong a sense something was happening and we could contribute.

Yet, I have also discovered, during this period of astrological transit of Pluto conjunct my natal Moon, that surges of exciting mass empowerment can cause individuals to get caught up, even lose a familiar sense of balance. I consider this both a cleansing and a growth period. Some of it has been very personal emotions being uncovered and cleansed. Some of it has been a growth in identification with the plight of others broadly across society and the world with a sense of urgency to the empowerment of ordinary folks.

I am having to find a new balance in a life containing far more external life ingredients than my previous introversion ever had. I have more friends, acquaintances, and community connections. I have learned more, seen more, listened more to the people of my country and others all over the world. Social media has been good for this.

But I will not lose my course in life, or my core power for external aims. I will do my part for the re-integration, healing, and empowerment of people, but will have to get back to doing it more one-on-one, more behind the scenes. I am a citizen, but not an activist. I’m a healer, not an advocate.

It is also good for us to question why disturbing things in the world at large affect us and give ourselves a check on whether our own actions are contributing to healing or conflict. I find this more challenging than ever.

All this brought me finally to the decision, contemplated for a year or more, to return to formal Zen practice, which I did last night at The Zen Center of Portland. I was welcomed kindly and felt at home. Some familiar sensations returned, but in a new setting with new people around. I have gotten very rusty in meditation we call “sitting.” At home recently I’ve had to restart my meditation practice with walking meditation, since sitting has proven such a challenge. But last night I sat all the way through, because I challenged myself to grit through the physical discomforts that I knew were only short-lived.

We cannot solve all problems and meet all challenges in society through only deliberation with each other. Reliance on language and symbols runs long and deep in human consciousness, and everyone is entitled to the ones that they were born into or which are most useful to them. Yet my experience has shown that peace is best built from the inside first through disciplined silence. Then we are better equipped to shine a light of peace in the outer world.

I no longer feel frustrated that I ‘got off course’ from my spiritual practice after moving to Portland 7 years ago. I have a great life. I have no regrets. But it is impressive how recent changes here at home are creating the space for my spiritual practice and work as a healer to begin anew.

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