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Updates on Gulf Coast and Arizona

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Two stories that I’ve been following with particular interest over the past couple of months have been the Gulf Coast Oil Spill and the passage of SB1070 in Arizona. Perhaps it’s because both strike me as situations in which our interconnectedness is front and center.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t escape from the fact that along with BP, all of us are in some way responsible for the oil spill that is decimating countless miles of ocean, habitat for water creatures, and livelihood for residents of that area.

And Arizona — immigration is a complex issue. But by labeling some humans as “illegal” and creating laws that cannot but help discriminate against certain groups of people, we are looking right in the face of what the Buddha points to as a prime source of suffering: the delusion that we are separate from one another.

So I’ve been covering responses from Buddhists to both of these events… “bodhisattvas in the trenches.” Here’s the latest update:

The Gulf Oil Spill

Penny Alsop, a student in the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program, is currently in Grand Isle, Louisiana, on a reconnaissance trip to see what is needed. She plans to return to that area August 19 – 27 and bring a group of volunteer Buddhist chaplains from the U.S. and Canada. She writes:

Coastal communities have been holding their breath for months now:  waiting for oil to land, fearful of both short- and long-term impacts, and waiting for help.  We know good will come from sending chaplains to land on the same shores in suffering communities.  Their gifts of presence and witness will be of service during their visits to the Gulf, and they will bring back real stories of the region to their home communities.

…More volunteers are welcome, as are business partners and individual sponsors.  Our collective outreach can be powerful. If you would like more information about how to join this project, contact Penny directly at

You can read more about Penny’s efforts here.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post where I offered the idea of a Buddhist Love Delegation (riffing off the theme of “Standing on the Side of Love” that the Unitarian Universalists have created) to Arizona to take part in a July 29th “Day of Non-Compliance.” I also sent the idea out via email, Twitter, and Facebook. Only a few people wrote back to me, so it seems like the energy may not be there for this right now.

But if you are interested in going, take a look at this website and see what the UU’s are organizing. They are doing great work to speak out about this situation, as is the organization Alto Arizona.

And if a Buddhist Love Delegation does indeed form to head to Phoenix on July 29, you will be the first to know!

About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

One response »

  1. Maia, you may enjoy work from my performance artist friend Robin Lasser, Ms Homeland Security Dress Tent featured on homepage of her website, here: and in many exhibits throughout the US – Robin has done a lot of work around cross border issues.

    Thank you for all the work you do!



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