Interview with Pancho Ramos-Stierle by Vlad Moskovski
I can’t remember where I first met Pancho, but he is the kind of person that makes an impression. You can never forget Pancho once you have met him, and in a strange way everyone he interacts with takes a little bit of Pancho with them when they part. He is one of the kindest and most giving people I have ever met. You can see it in his posture, his words, his shinning eyes and beautiful smile. I am honored to share with you this brief glimpse of the Pancho we all know and love. He is us and we are him.
Vlad: It seems that community is such a big part of the work that you do and your life. What does the word community mean to you?
I remember a few years back, writing an email that was called “The Beloved Community” and I capitalized the parts “Loved” and “Unity” –beLOVED commUNITY. So for me community is coming together in love. And how do we fall in love with each other? First with oneself, so that you can bring that presence and authenticity to the members of your so called community. And then realizing that those circles expand more to your family, to your neighborhood to your bioregion, more and more to have the ultimate realization that we live on a living being called the Earth. I like to keep it simple. Loved Unity.
[The origin of the word "community" comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other. Therefore I define my community as a group of people who welcome and honor my gifts, and from whom I can reasonably expect to receive gifts in return.]
Vlad: I know meditation is a really important part of your life, how does the practice of meditation connect with these ideas? Moment to moment?
There is a lot of chatter in our minds. We humans are the result of all this beauty happening on the Planet but the man-made world sometimes also has noise, like mud in a lake. In order to see clearly what is up or beneath the surface you need all the mud to settle down. In a very still surface you can see the reflection of the light of the Moon or the Sun or the stars. And you can look deep within the lake to see the bottom. So all those thoughts need to stop for a moment, and then maybe that moment becomes two moments, three moments, and so on. This is how we move beyond this state of mind and matter. It comes from stillness and it is very counter-intuitive to what we have been taught. We have to unlearn a lot of things and it is very hard.
There are some things that are not so positive for our development. We need to unlearn things that are deeply rooted in our spirit or our subconscious. What is very important to know is that we are only aware of 40 transactions per second in our mind and at the same time we are processing 40 million transactions per second in our subconscious mind. That is a difference of six orders of magnitude! When you practice something for about ten thousand hours or more then you really master that activity to the degree that you don’t even need to think about it, you do it automatically. What would it look like to be automatic on kindness, on generosity, on fearlessness, on courage, on inspiration? Just to be in that state we need to work on our subconscious minds. So to spend time to be in receptive silence is part of that work. It is already in us, we need to stop thinking too much and doing and to start being and embodying these qualities.
When I’m invited to share my perspective in a larger group of people, I love to ask them, “Please raise your hand if in the last week you washed your hands.” Everybody raises their hands. “Please raise your hands if in the last 24 hours you have gone to the bathroom.” Everybody raises their hands. No constipations, wonderful. And finally I ask, “Please raise your hand if in the last 24 hours you have washed your mind” There is usually a moment of, “Hhuhhh?” in the room. Maybe one or two people raise their hands. Can you imagine living a life where you don’t have hygiene in your mind? Can you imagine your hands and body if you don’t clean those parts even for a day or two or a week, let a lone a month!? It gets pretty gnarly. This is what happens with our minds, specially surrounded in a consumerist culture and a pollution violence economy/system. To go to its original state of oneness and interconnectedness, to have a mind cleansed by love and see reality as it is, we could practice silent prayer or contemplation of Nature, or meditation or what ever name we use to describe this state of being in receptive silence that remind us of our interdependence.
So when we enter into that level of consciousness –stillness, awareness and equanimity, a state where we know we are beings who are able to love and be loved– it is easier to recognize how we are interconnected. Because when we do not recognize those interconnections, we don’t know how we could be harming those connections.
Vlad: Every Monday, you do a day of silence with no speaking. Can you tell me where you got the idea and what it does for you?
I’ve been always inspired by the life of Mahatma Gandhi and he practiced silent Mondays. I thought that was a pretty odd practice when you need to be communicating with people, but I decided to give it a try. I started to realize that you can communicate in a very deep ways without words. There is body language, and the pheromones, the look, and smiles. But then I started noticing that people tried to read my mind. And they started to answer themselves. Things they thought I was thinking and I wasn’t but then I thought, maybe I should have. I started to pay attention more to listening. Not only to words but the whole language and then it just became a foundation of my spiritual practice.
I have been doing it over five years now.
Vlad: I believe that you don’t use money. Tell me about your experience with that. It seems so radical. What is it like?
Well, to be a bit more accurate, I am choosing not to work for conventional currency. My work is too valuable to be sold. You can’t put a price on it.
For me, love is the real currency that we need to be using. I chose to start volunteering everywhere I go and trusting that my needs could be met. If the community appreciates the work that you are doing, they will support you. And if they don’t, either you have to change what you are doing, or you have to move to another community. I have been lucky, here in the Bay Area, there is so much richness. There is a systemic context for a kindness revolution; gift economy, preventive medicine, restorative justice, independent media, and permaculture are part of the wider ecosystem and a well established culture.
Here is an example. This tangerine. We were just walking on our block, just before you showed up, and we talked with our neighbor who has these incredible 30 year-old tree packed with tangerines. He said: “I grew up wit this tree, and we’d love to give the fruit away.” So we picked some delicious tangerines. You can go to the farmers market and get two pounds, and I don’t know how much it would cost, or you can go to your neighbor and get organic local tangerines. It is just a way to shift the perspective, change the lens, from scarcity to abundance. Every time I see conventional currency flowing into a community, it is an opportunity to see where is the relationship broken.
My best example is grandma power. You go to your grandma’s and have this delicious dinner, tea, and dessert. And at the end of your meal you ask, “Oh grandma this was delicious, how much is it?” Ridiculous. This is unconditional love. What would it look like to start living in community and society where we treat each other as sisters and brothers as family? I know that we are far away –specially on the so called West– and that we need some stepping stones. But I say I am going to go all the way and trust that I am going to be supported.
Real wealth –as opposed to Wall Street’s phantom wealth– is measured in the happiness of our communities and the health of our children and how we respect the natural world and its the magnificent biodiversity, that is producing this energy and nourishment. Real wealth is shinning eyes and smiling faces.
Vlad: There was this amazing incident that happened lat year, you and Adelaja were arrested during a raid on the Occupy Movement. Were you intentionally there to be arrested, knowing that you may get deported? How did they whole experience effect you?
We saw all this violence, physical, and structural around ourselves, we knew we need to respond. Not to react, but to respond. We call it integral nonviolence. Thoughts, words, clothes, everything. It is a whole approach. Nonviolence isn’t just a philosophy of resistance. It is a way of life. Nonviolence is the thoughts we have, the words that we use, the clothes that we wear, the things that we say. It is not just an absence of violence, not even just the absence of wanting to cause harm. Nonviolence is a state when your heart is so full of love, compassion, kindness, generosity and forgiveness that you simply don’t have any room for anger, frustration or violence. So, we felt called to escalate our nonviolence and our love for the community when we heard all these hundreds of police in riot gear were going to raid the occupy movement in Oakland.
Lately I have been loving the phrase, “Jai Jagat!” “Glory to the Planet!” Again is not a motto but a way of life. We are the Earth herself. So how do we embody that love ourselves? What is your heart saying that the Earth calls for you to do? And at that moment, she told us to go there, to sit still, and be love. It was silent Monday. On Mondays we carry a piece of paper that reads, ” On Mondays we practice silence, but we like you to hear that we love you” And it always brings a smile. To bring a smile to the brothers and sisters in riot gear, that was fun. What interested me, is that we need to come out of the shadows. We need to stress that the Earth is but one country and all living beings visible and invisible are her citizens. So why is it that people with conventional currency and financial resources can go anywhere on the Planet, but the people that do not have money can not? That does not make sense. How are we going to erase the imaginary lines that humans have drawn in the dirt? Well, if I am working here, through stilling my mind, and being peace, and transform violence, and doing something constructive, helping build harmonious communities and that is a crime, well, then we need to disobey with Great Love, be informed and do it beautifully. So we thought that it was a beautiful way to stand up, and send a message to our brothers and sisters who have no papers that we can not be stopped. We are undocumented and unafraid like a monarch butterfly.
It was a way to practice fearlessness. If the people in the government of this part of the Planet ask me to leave this part of the Earth, well, I might do it but it is impossible to deport a citizen of the world. Unless, you know, they send me to the Moon or somewhere else in the Solar System. It is almost impossible.
And it was beautiful that it was not planned. We knew some of the consequences. We needed to stand up and break the law of man to follow the Law of Love. You don’t know what is going to happen but you know that something is going to flow to raise our collective consciousness.
Find out more about Pancho, watch his talk at Wisdom Seed given on March 18, 2012. For more interviews visit Meditation Secrets Revealed.