waking up to my white privilege

dixondwhite

recently i saw a video which moved me to tears. it was posted by a man who called himself “Dixon D. White.” sitting in the cab of his F-150 truck somewhere in the southern U.S., he made a passionate call for white people to wake up to our unowned racism and undeniable privilege. it was so palpable in its sincerity and humility that, as i watched him speak to so many aspects of how racism plays out in millions of peoples’ lives, i was moved to tears multiple times. i was also deeply impressed by his eloquence on the subject, especially given that he alluded to the fact that he was not necessarily a well-educated man and had a difficult background. he spoke about being a racist himself, but had had an awakening and needed to speak out. he spoke from a place so deep and true and real… he spoke from his heart.

that afternoon, i posted his video on my Facebook page and quite shortly thereafter received a couple of comments which gave me pause, and ultimately inspired me to address the first one in this blog. the other one, i’ll address next time. before i go any further, i want to be very clear that this is simply my opinion, that i’m bringing as much compassion as possible as i can, and that i’m still learning about this (in other words, the more i learn, the more i realize i need to learn and the more i’m seeing my own internalized racism at every turn). i’m not saying i'm right; i'm just offering my perspective as a white person who is deeply sad about what’s going on.

what about reverse racism, anyway?

the comment:  ”I don't know if I agree with all the self hating white talk going on. It's one thing to recognize, reflect, correct and move on, but it's all that is talked about now`a day's. It gives excuses to victimize and use excuses to be violent and create reverse racism. Until everybody wakes up and stops using the race card on every level, we will always have racism, and reverse racism."

before i go on, i want to say, i hear you. i make up that it saddens you to bear witness to the violence you may be seeing wherever you are seeing it (on TV, social media, etc.) and that you are frustrated with the continuing of a conversation that seems to be getting nobody anywhere. i, too, am saddened by the continuing violence and the fact that we are still very much in the throes of this conversation. however, i want to point out a few things which i hope will give you some food for thought.

first, most of the violence in our society is, in large part, due to something called oppression and its offshoot, internalized oppression. it is a well-documented fact that, whenever a group (people of color, women, LGBT people, religious minorities, any marginalized group… the list goes on and on) is oppressed by another group (in our case, mostly white people) for any length of time in a regular, systematic and institutionalized way, the people in the oppressed group can easily begin to believe that they deserve no better. even worse, they can often play out that oppression on themselves, each other and society at large. thus, the violence (physical, mental or emotional) which has victimized millions continues to beget violence in many, many ways.

second, our black and brown brothers and sisters on this continent have been victimized since the day white Europeans came into contact with them. i'm not saying that every white person who ever came into contact with a black or brown person did bad things or never stood up for them. what i am saying is that, as a group of people, we white people have systematically and institutionally made other groups of human beings the targets of severe oppression with every possible form of injustice, violence and hatred known to humankind. remember, this country was built on the backs of the people shipped here like cargo from another continent and expanded through the forced removal and relocation of prior inhabitants. i’m not saying that the U.S. is all bad. it was founded on some wonderful ideals with an amazing document to try to uphold them (although i know it’s not a perfect document, i don’t recall the constitution saying all white men are equal). but, we cannot ignore the basic facts that, even though the European settlers came here to escape religious persecution (a form of oppression), we didn’t do a very good job of living up to those ideals. 

third, even if we want to educate ourselves about what really happened and what is really going on, mainstream education (being part of that institutionalized system) perpetuates the myth that, "oh, yeah, slavery happened... way back then, and we're sorry to hear how badly folks were treated but it's way more important to educate you about the battle of (fill in the blank)." mark my words, it is no mistake that we don't know the stories of people who were thrown overboard on slave ships in order to conserve food, who were driven to near extinction by disease and massacre, the thousands of families torn apart never to see each other again. it’s no mistake that the daily acts of violence perpetuated against our black brothers and sisters in the south before, during and after the civil rights movement barely get a mention in history textbooks. it's no mistake that most states still celebrate Columbus Day, even though Columbus and his compatriots were responsible for reducing the population of the Taíno people of the Caribbean from over 1,000,000 to less than 500 in just over 50 years. i could go on and on. are you getting my drift?

how many decades of violence have our brothers and sisters endured while we have had the unearned

benefit of being able to turn away? to whom have they been able to turn? how many frustrating conversations must they have with white people who make all sorts of assumptions about them without even thinking? where have they been able to go to find respite and space from a system which does its best to disempower them at every turn? what gives us the right to think that we can avoid having the crucial and, yes, probably very difficult conversations that our predecessors were too afraid or too unconscious to have?

i don't believe it's "self-hating white talk." this isn’t about making you, me or any other white person wrong for what’s happened. it’s about being accountable to the fact that the only best way to truly end racism is for white people to wake up to our part in continuing this cycle of oppression. it seems like "it's all that's talked about now`a day’s" because it's important.

martin-luther-king-jruntil we really address racism and the multitude of ways it plays out in every level and area of our culture, it will continue to be an important conversation. until we realize, as white people, that it is our job, our duty, to stand up for our black and brown brothers and sisters personally and systematically, we will continue to need videos like this to wake us up to the very real and sad fact that the color of our skin gives us the unearned privilege of “not knowing” more than we do about their suffering. that is a huge part of what perpetuates this conversation which i make up seems so uncomfortable to you.

look, i don’t mean to make you feel bad, but actually we need to feel bad. 

a huge part of the reason why racism continues to have such a grip on our country is exactly because we white people have been unwilling to feel the guilt, shame, sadness, grief, regret of what our ancestors and fellow citizens did and continue to do to other human beings. it is absolutely a shame that the things done in the name of progress or money or ignorance continue. it is time to look at it, to acknowledge our part (even if that part is “just" being able to ignore it), and to make real changes. and that, my friend, is an inside job for every single white person in this country, including me.

although i acknowledge that you may already be doing these things, i have a few questions for my white brothers and sisters: what are we so afraid of when we deny that we are part of a system - consciously or not - which engenders the continuing treatment of any human being as less than any other human being? what will you do the next time you see someone being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin? will you inform the person who is being rude, hurtful or even hateful to them that what they’re doing is wrong? or will you look the other way?

finally, although i acknowledge the pain and frustration you are obviously expressing about your own experiences, the concept of "reverse racism" holds no weight in my book, and, more importantly, in the experiences of millions of people in this country. the truth is, the race card will continue to be played until we, as members of the white group (whether we want to be labeled as part of that group or not), decide it is time to stop playing the race game. it is up to us to end it. not the other way around. in other words, there is no such thing as “reverse racism."

you are right about one thing, though… everybody must wake up. and, that “everybody” is mostly white.

what can i do?

i believe - strongly - that, as Mr. Moran said, it is up to us white Americans to stand up and speak out with ferocity and conviction for our oppressed brothers and sisters, many of whom have suffered all too long at the hands of a system designed to keep them in the place of providing a good labor force to produce the products and services which ultimately continue to serve us and uphold the great disparity between those who exercise the unearned “right to not know” (you and me) and those who have no choice but to live every day with the knowledge and experience that their lives are often used as collateral to maintain an unjust and rigged system.

it is up to us white Americans to speak out and call forth a continuing dialogue about how we can transform our story of underlying racism which permeates every sector of our society into a story of real equality and collaboration to try to prove, if only to ourselves, that we can actually live from love and respect for everyone. i’m not saying it’s easy. i’m not even saying it’s possible. it may be impossible. but i, for one, at least have to know i did my best.

it is up to us to support our non-white brothers and sisters when they speak up and not rely on them to educate us or do all the work for us. that is not their job!

lastly, i would be remiss if i didn't acknowledge that i am just scratching the surface here… that i’m an active participant in this system, whether i want to be or not… that i’m still learning about this and have not acknowledged so very many issues here… that i need to apologize for my unconscious actions and words and will continue to need to do so, likely, until the day i die. the thing is, i feel passionately that this is one of the most significant conversations of our time... it runs deep and wide through every sector of our society and has a profound impact on how we treat each other, how we treat ourselves and how we treat the planet.

so, if you are one of my white brothers or sisters, i encourage - no urge - you to watch Mr. Moran's video, read blogs by people like Tim Wise, Tiffanie Drayton and Jamie Utt, watch videos that make you uncomfortable… and take notes. i urge you to educate yourself - not with the mainstream media, but with alternatives providing the information our white-dominated system wishes would remain hidden. share what you learn with others about what really happened, what’s really going on and what you can do to help. then, i ask you to stand up and speak out at every possible opportunity. in other words, be an ally to your friends, neighbors, fellow citizens who have to live every day with circumstances you may likely never have to know.

remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr…. “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

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struggling with creativity

if you really knew me, i've been struggling a bit with creativity. i was saying to Jakob the other day, i have so many logistical things on my plate it often feels difficult to access the deeper, more creative or "spiritual" places in myself. i admit i haven't been all that disciplined with myself either. for some reason, after the switch to Daylight Savings, it took me weeks to get back on track with rising early. but, even though i've been doing so for the last week or so, i still haven't taken the time to write. just letting the words flow out however they will without some agenda (other than getting a blog posted!) attached to the process. one of the really great things that's "gotten in the way" is making preparations for our big presentation on April 18th at the Spirit/Mind/Body Expo in Sonora. if you are in the area, i really hope you can attend! we're launching our new organization, the Local Security Exchange (website will be up 4/18/15!), and have been working very hard with Cheyenne, computer Goddess extraordinaire, to get the website ready. we’re in the final stages of refining our talk to make it as compelling as possible for folks to get involved.

rainy dayso, it's not like i haven't been doing creative things; it's just that i've been feeling disconnected from the quiet space inside and around me which opens up when i give myself the gift of time to write. it feeds my soul so deeply, i forget how delicious it is until i finally sit down to do it. i think it's a great help today that it's storming outside... rain, wind, thunder. this kind of weather always gives rise to my desire to hunker down and write. but that's not typical around here, so i'd better find an inner storm soon (or at least tame the storm of lists in my head!).

as i sit here allowing myself even a few minutes to write before i begin my busy day, i feel so grateful for this precious time. if i wait, thinking i'll get to it later, it will be gone. too hard to recapture in the middle of the afternoon, after i've already had a thousand thoughts of logistics and events, or the evening when all i want to do is snuggle up with Jakob and read.

it's so easy to get caught up in the seemingly endless to do's of life- the dirty dishes, the meetings, the errands. even when i get up extra early, something else always seems to find its way into what used to be my sacred morning time. i distract myself in a million ways from the thing that brings me so much joy and satisfaction. and, even though everything i do is founded on the simple principle of getting that i matter, i find myself putting the thing which brings me a deep sense of inner fulfillment on the back burner. is it a question of worth? do i feel i don't deserve it? is it simply a question of habit? am i simply playing out a legacy of codependency deeply engraved in my earliest memories? or is it a strange brew of all the above? i’m wondering… do you relate to this?

so, if i were in a coaching session with myself (which, perhaps i should do more often!), i would dive more deeply into those questions. then i'd create some reminders for myself that i really, really love... like "remember how sweetly sane it feels to take a few minutes just for me" or "i love to write" or, as the pencil on my desk says, "don't forget to write!" i'd put alarms on my phone or stickies on my vitamin bottles. okay. i'm going to do that. right now! no, wait. i'll do it after i'm done writing.

right, this is it. so simple. yet i complicate it so much. i'm just going to do it. just say "no" to my habitual machinery of tidiness and ticking items off the list. just sit down. turn on the computer. and write. but will i keep it up this time?

ok. right. i'm coaching myself here, so i'm going to challenge myself to write every day. regardless of the important tasks in my path (dishes in the sink, breakfast to make, emails unanswered), i'm going to sit down for at least 30 minutes a day for 30 days. 30/30. no matter what. ok. oh shit. what have i done? i've declared it publicly! well, it's too late now! i've gone and done it. so this is when i’d ask, "who are you going to ask to support you in keeping your word with yourself? who will be your accountability buddy?" i can think of a few folks. "ok, so when will you ask them?" today. i'll ask them today. i'll ask a few different folks to check in with me or let me text them to tell them i wrote that day. jeez! i'm really doing this. i'm going to do this. right now! no wait... i still have 2 minutes left to write.

P1040255ok. so, for now, i'll sit here with the peaceful chimes on my writing program, the blank canvas before me and the delicious quiet in my head as the words fall out and swirl onto the screen.

i love to write.

 

the gift of creating magic and connection with 300 teenagers

as the clouds hang low and dark in the morning sky, i feel somewhat melancholy today and i wonder why. i think it has to do with the intensity of the last few weeks and not giving myself a whole lot of down time to digest the magic of it all until now. on February 20th i completed one of the biggest projects i’ve ever taken on - a Get That You Matter program for over 300 high school students which, from what i feel and hear, was very successful. it all started five months ago when i was asked to create a program for the senior project of two amazing young women who wanted to raise the bar of cohesion and unity at their campus. they wanted to give students an experience that they are more connected than they may realize, and it was amazing. it was a real chance for me to stretch myself as well as to demonstrate what i’ve learned in the last 15 years as a teacher, Challenge Day Program Leader, life coach, counselor and Cafe Gratitude workshop facilitator. in other words, it was an opportunity to pull all of my training and skills together into an experience we hoped would impact the lives of everyone involved in a positive way. i think it worked.

it was an incredible undertaking and, in the end, 40 student leaders trained to help facilitate the days, more than 30 adults volunteered to help hold the space, and over 300 students got to see how very much they matter to each other and to our world. together, we created two magical days which i hope they walked away from feeling more seen, heard and connected than before they walked in. since we all said goodbye on Friday the 20th, i’ve been thinking about this in the context of the upcoming Reclaiming the Sorcerer webinar for which i’m preparing to co-teach three classes with my friend Jordanna Eyre, and i’m realizing that what happened there was just that… a reclaiming of the magic we all have within us. we all had the opportunity to be sorcerers who live from love and integrity.

those amazing young people showed us all what it is to do that... to be someone who transforms their reality with grace, power, love and beauty. they inspired me and every other adult who was there, and i believe we all left with a greater sense of purpose, hope and possibility than when we began. in looking back on the experience, i feel as though i was given a great gift- to help create a space where the Get That You Matter mission “to inform, inspire and ignite individuals everywhere to illuminate our world” was wholly fulfilled, and our vision for "a world where everyone knows that they matter and contributes to a just, inspirited, thriving and resilient life for all beings” came a little closer to being realized.

honestly, i have to say, just thinking and writing about the experience now is lifting my melancholy. rather than putting my attention on my massive “to do” list for the next couple of months, taking a few minutes to celebrate what we created is already filling my spiritual tank for all of the other great things to come. it reminds me just how true it is that what we focus on is the experience we give ourselves.

Theres importance in taking time to take stock and celebrate my triumphs

so, as i sit here enjoying the warmth of hot tea and the beauty of the stormy skies, i feel deeply grateful for the many opportunities to serve and live my own personal mission that come my way. i remember the importance of taking time to take stock and celebrate my triumphs and re-evaluate the trajectory of plans for the future. in taking time for my practice of early morning writing, self care and alone time which feeds my soul so much, my anxiety has lifted. what i’m left with is a feeling of more connection to myself, others and life itself. and that is the greatest gift of all. i hope that everyone with whom i shared those days at Bret Harte High School had a similar experience.

Be... Long... Ing...

to belong...talkingcircle

1. to fit in a specified place or environment

2. to be a member of a particular group

3. to be rightly placed in a specified situation

i'm honored to be part of a wonderful group of women here in my community which sits in sacred circle together each month, the underlying theme of which is "belonging." i've been thinking about this idea a lot since our last gathering. what makes me feel like i belong? what defines belonging and the various derivatives of this word? where do i belong?

i think it's easy to overlook the potency of this word and what it means at first glance... "of course i belong! i'm here aren't i?" but, upon deeper examination, i realize  these questions bring awareness to my present circumstances... to where i am right now, in this moment. and they are more complex than i have considered until now. i know i belong in many places and i experience that feeling of belonging every day. when i wake up next to my husband. when i witness the sun rising over the hills. when i think about my wonderful family and friends and this circle of sisters with whom i am so honored to sit each month. these and a multitude of other experiences reflect my experience of belonging.

what about you? what makes you feel like you belong? how do you define belonging? where do you belong?

Lantern Ceremonybe... to exist, occur, or have a specified state of (identity, nature, quality, etc.)

longing... a yearning desire

as i pondered the experience of belonging in our circle last month, i realized there was a whole other way of looking at this word which begged an even deeper question... what do i "be longing" for? if longing is "a yearning desire," what do i yearn for? what do i desire? what is missing in my life that, if fulfilled, would have me experience a greater sense of belonging?

in sitting with these questions, i notice they connect us to our past... to what we've held inside for years, possibly even since the day we were born. the question of "be longing" invites us to re-member who we really are. personally, i am fulfilled. there is really nothing on a personal level i long for, but rather i carry a deep longing for humanity to awaken to our beauty, wisdom and power. i long for those moments when i witness someone - a friend, a client, a politician, a corporate executive - awakening to their place in the world. i long for the time when we, as a species, live from that place of knowing we are inextricably connected to each other and all life. i long for that time when we act from that knowing rather than from the experience (the illusion!)  we have given ourselves that we are separate and alone. i long for this more than anything.

what do you be longing for? what are your yearning desires? what is missing for you that would have you experience a greater sense of belonging?

be... to exist, occur, or have a specified state of (identity, nature, quality, etc.)bumble bee

long...

1. covering a great distance (space)

2. lasting or taking a great amount of time (time)

3. retaining things for a great amount of time (memory)

ing... denoting an action, instance or result of

then, yet another form of this question presented itself as i sat around the fire with my sisters... how am i "be long ing"? in other words, what is it that i am willing to be and do for the long term? what vision am i holding for the future... for myself, my community, our world? what am i committed to changing or creating in order to insure that my children's children and beyond have a more beautiful world to live in than i do now?

as i'm present to these questions of "be long ing," i see that they summon a deep inquiry for the future... and that they also weave a thread through our past and present. if we know where we belong and we understand what it is we long for, then we can identify what it is we are willing to stand for in the long run. this is a profoundly personal conversation for each of us, and it is utterly critical. for it holds the possibility of a different future than the one we seem to be creating. a future we cannot yet see but long to belong to. each of my days is built around these questions, for they are the foundation of my existence. there is not a day that goes by when i don't consider some aspect of my beingness in relation to the long view, the long arc of the Universe.

what are you willing to be and do for the long term? what vision are you holding for the future? what are you committed to changing or creating in order to insure a more beautiful world for all?

finally, given that this month we celebrate Valentines Day, how does all of this connect to Love? for me, there is no separation... if i am not doing my best to live from the space of these questions, i am not Being Love to the best of my ability. if i am not inquiring about my past, living fully in my present and committed to a more beautiful future, then i can say Love is not at the center of my life. and, for me, that is no way to live.

what about you? how do all of these questions connect to your version of Love? and what does Being Love look like to you?

i hope you are inspired to inquire more deeply about these questions for yourself. i invite you to take some time to consider your responses and notice what comes up as you discover new insights and possibly even more questions in the process. and, as always, i would love to hear what this was like for you in the comments below.

A New Year... A New World

sunrise at The Refuge

for a while now, i’ve been pondering what to write for the New Year. it’s been exciting considering the turning of this year for many reasons, but i haven't been able to find the words to convey what i've been feeling. what could i say about this juncture that would be different and unique? what would be profound enough, meaningful enough and motivating enough? and, honestly, i haven’t been able to come up with anything that feels right… until now. i’m sitting here, enjoying the early morning quiet, remembering that this turning is significant in great part because New Years Eve was the end of a very important four year cycle - a cycle of awakening.

in November 2010 i was introduced to the FourYears.Go (4YG) campaign when i attended my first Pachamama Alliance fundraiser. i was moved to tears by their incredibly compelling video and decided that day to join the campaign. i had no idea it would become one of the most important decisions of my life. in stepping into the world of 4YG, i was given more gifts than i can possibly imagine - opportunities to stretch and grow, beautiful connections with hundreds of people and organizations, and deep friendships which i am certain will last a lifetime. besides that, i am honored to have been part of a small group of passionate and committed change agents who were given the task of getting this four-year campaign out to the world in a more public and interactive way. although the active work on the campaign ended a couple of years ago and our group dissolved, i continue to be deeply grateful for our continued connections and all i learned about collaboration, group process, consensus, the power of an “ask” and much more. then, on 12/31/14, my friend Ingrid (one of the key members of the group and founder of Iomlan), sent an email reminding us all about an exercise we did in July 2011, and i was inspired to include it in this blog and share some of my thoughts.

"Forget everything you have ever known about what 4YG has ever been and locate yourself at a celebration on 12/31/2014. Human Beings all over the world have obviously transformed. We are now being in ways that there is more life, love, connection, joy, resonance, alignment, trust, intimacy, love, freedom, co-creation. Looking back from this place to today, who did we learn to be? Who have we become over these past four years?…. How did we become a just, sustainable and fulfilling world? What values do you hold? What do you believe is possible? How do you feel about the future from this place you are holding? How did we blossom?"

in looking back over this last four years, there has been a quickening of personal transformation, social unrest, and awareness about what we have done to our planet. and what i see as the over-arching theme - on a global and personal level - is that we have been waking up. we have been waking up to the fact that this is the only home we have and that those around us are here as our guides and teachers. we have been waking up to the fact that we need to balance our thoughtfulness and capacity to consider outcomes with our desire for change and our capacity to take swift, bold action to create a real and lasting course-correction. we have been waking up to the fact that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

something has truly shifted in this last four years on what may even be an invisible, possibly cellular level wherein we, as a species, can no longer tolerate injustices and outrageously bad behavior the way we used to. our ability to connect with anyone anywhere at any time, and for news and information to be shared across borders and boundaries is creating platforms for change never before possible. we have learned better how to think critically as individuals and to question authority, even as “the powers that be” seem to be wanting us to dumb down and shut up more and more. it’s almost as if the very core of our being, the primal “NO” is rising up and taking hold in a new and different way. and i believe it is because what is rising up alongside that “no” is the most powerful, ancient, passionate “YES” to life and love and all that we truly are.

we are, in new and multi-faceted ways, creating that just, sustainable and fulfilling world in more ways that we can possibly imagine. as my dear friend Paul Hawken shared in his inspiring must-read book, Blessed Unrest, there are millions of organizations working for the good of all and hundreds of millions of people, if not billions, who are running, working for and volunteering with those organizations. if we choose to open our eyes, we can see what is happening in and to our world, but we are starting to do more than simply stand by and watch… and that is the difference that has been made in this last four years. i believe we are waking up to the possibilities for, and beginning to feel inspired about, our future. as Paul said in his 2009 commencement speech to the graduates at the University of Portland, “The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful.” we are waking up to being truly, deeply hopeful and we need to do it now.

and now, at the end of this four years, we stand on the brink of a new beginning. we have an opportunity to do it differently than ever before.

i declare 2015 the year of action - thoughtful, powerful, bold, decisive, and, yes, sometimes even messy action. we have honed our ability to see what’s really going on. we are ripping the curtain away from the little man behind it, and we are calling spades spades. we are standing up and marching and dancing and using our voices - strong and clear and powerful - in numbers like never before, and we are shouting from the top of our passionate lungs, “we’re not taking it anymore! we are done with being silent!” we know we can no longer afford to stand idly by. we know that no one is coming to rescue us and that we must do this ourselves. so i say, take Paul’s advice - “Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.” the time is now… it’s been four years and i say let’s go!

how would you answer those questions above? i’d really like to know. share your comments and i promise i will reply to them.

in the meantime, check out Paul Hawken’s new website, Project Drawdown. it’s awesome! and… read about a hopeful turn of events on the climate change front… things are happening!

what I want for Christmas

kitchen windowi’m sitting here in the comfort of my beautiful country home looking out over the bucolic view from our kitchen window… and i’m feeling sad. even though i have tomatoes cooking on the stove waiting to be canned, a warm cup of tea sitting next to my computer, and a fire in the wood stove to keep me cozy, i am grief-stricken at the state of our world. and i am well aware that i am sitting in the position of having an amazing amount of privilege… even the privilege to feel this way, to even have the time and space to think and write about my privilege.

i have so much.

probably more than i deserve.

definitely more than i’ll ever have the opportunity to know and understand.

i am so grateful for every single thing in my life… every person, relationship, object, opportunity to serve, feeling and experience - every single one. yet, despite all of the goodness, i sometimes feel the deepest sadness, grief, anger and outrage at what we continue to do to ourselves and our world. i could go on and on about all these things, but i’ve written so many blogs about it, i’m honestly kind of tired of hearing myself talk about it.

so, in honor of the upcoming holidays in which many of us exchange gifts and some of us write lists to Santa Claus asking for what we want (a questionably commercialized practice for many reasons which i won’t go into now), i’m writing my own very idealistic, yet wholly heartfelt “Christmas list" - not to Santa, but to Life, to God and mostly to myself and my fellow humans:

i know this isn’t a very cheerful (or nearly extensive enough) list*. but it seems to me we keep making some pretty poor choices in the big picture, and not much has changed over the years (i.e. compare this article about the Copenhagen talks in 2009 to Lima 2014). regardless, i hope you found it interesting, informative or inspiring in some fashion, and that it ignites you to take some kind of action to illuminate your life and our world more brightly, even starting right in your own home.

there is actually a lot going on that is super positive (i’ll share that in my January feature blog), so there is a great deal to be hopeful about. and the truth is... we need your light to add to that list.

Earth-May31

we have so much to lose and so much to gain.

probably more than we can imagine.

definitely more than we’ll ever have the opportunity to know and understand.

Happy Holidays and may 2015 see more of our wishes come true.

*this list was written in no particular order including some links knowing that they are but a few of many examples i could have used. if you recommend others, please let me know; i promise i’ll check them out. thank you for understanding.

grateful for gratitude… witnessing the re-birth of hope

marianna gratitude this weekend i had the great privilege of participating in a gathering with some amazing folks. there were people of all ages, faiths and histories, and we were all there to support a wonderful woman in our community and deepen our own healing as well. it was powerful to say the least.

i personally had some powerful things arise for healing (about which i’ll write in my next blog), but there is something that happened which i will never forget. because what happened was so deeply moving - on every level - that something fundamentally changed in how i see children.

as you may know, i have been a champion of young people and children forever, having been a mother, substitute teacher and Challenge Day Program Leader among other things. in other words, i have been extremely aware of the prevalence of adult-ism in our culture and the incredible damage it does. so, it was truly awe-inspiring to witness the awareness and encouragement from every single adult there when a beautiful little 5-year-old boy stepped up of his own accord and asked to take on a leadership role in the gathering. this was no small thing he did… let me tell you.  no small thing.

it meant stepping up in a way that many adults i know would not be comfortable doing, and he did it with joy, grace and the deepest sense of knowing that emanated from the center of his being. it was so beautiful.

it was in that moment that i reconnected to my vast store of hope for the human race.  as you may know, i’ve written more than once about my struggles with hope and my capacity to carry on with a smile in the face of all we are facing in this critical time in history. i have often felt more despair than i care to admit. but in that moment, i felt hope. real hope. a deep trust, an abiding faith that we are going to be okay.

as i sat with tears streaming down my face, i watched this child’s incredible poise and presence as he listened to all he needed to do to fulfill the role for which he had volunteered. and my heart soared as though it had wings when i watched him carry it out with more grace than most adults. this little boy, with his tiny, young body and huge, eternal heart, restored my faith in humanity.

and the beautiful thing was, i had this momentary flash of, “I’m so glad young people like him are going to fix the mess we created” but it was instantly replaced by, “no. i’m so grateful he is joining us in the task of healing what needs to be healed so we can all awaken together. i’m so glad i get to stand side-by-side with this beautiful being as we build the bridge to the New World together.” all in one moment, i was informed, inspired, ignited and illuminated. in that one moment.

IMG_0213in these last couple of days since the gathering, i have felt so different. so much more possibility and joy. and this morning, i woke up feeling so grateful… for everything. for being able to get up well before sunrise to enjoy the quiet and dark to meditate, do yoga and share time with my husband. for the privilege of living where i live, for the way trees remind me how to be still, for eating food from my own garden every day, for the vast, deep and joyful love i feel for my husband and our children, for our amazing community and all the possibilities that stand before us as we walk forward. for children who have parents who stand beside them (rather than in front of or behind them) and say, “i believe in you.”

then what i realized is that i am so deeply grateful to be grateful. to know that i am grateful and to feel gratitude pretty much every hour for my life- even the struggles. especially the struggles. and to be grateful while i’m right in the middle of them, even if i don’t understand why they’re happening.

i have truly come to believe that gratitude is the key to everything… if i can truly be grateful for every one of my circumstances, regardless of how wonderful or terrifying they seem, i can be free to trust that everything is falling into place exactly as planned.

and what i have seen, time and time again, is that gratitude and generosity are the keys to healing all wounds. if we can be grateful, we can be present. if we can be present, we can be generous. if we can be generous, we can experience moments of connection which remind us how grateful we are. and the whole cycle repeats itself as we spiral upward toward remembering who we really are.

so, in this month of Giving Thanks (at least here in the states), i say, “thank you.” to everything and everyone. to my family, my friends, this beautiful little boy who brought hope back to my heart. to the people who make the most difficult choices they can possibly make, like the courageous and beautiful Brittany Maynard. to the heroes i meet every day like my friend Mark who is helping to heal deep wounds in a native tribal community and my friend Rosendo who, although faced with possibly impossible odds, is one of the brightest, most joyful people i have ever met. to every sentient being who lives on this beautiful planet we call Home. and to our Mother Earth, who gives unceasingly, without expectation, and supports us despite it all.

i am so grateful for being grateful.

what are you grateful for?

i wish you a beautiful November filled with joy and gratitude.

erin and cow

THE BEAUTY OF INSIGNIFICANCE

recently, i was worrying about the fact that i hadn't written a blog in a few weeks when it occurred to me that no one is waiting with baited breath for the next one. sure, i get a comment here or there, but it's rare. to be honest, it felt like a kind of spiritual slap in the face of my self-admittedly large ego.

then, in the next moment, i had this eye-opening realization that i am utterly insignificant. it wasn't a moment of self-pity (nor am i looking for someone to take pity on me now). it was just a very matter-of-fact understanding - more deeply and plainly than ever before - of my utterly complete insignificance. i shared with my husband that it's like seeing, with complete clarity, that i'm simply one tiny little grain of sand on a vast cosmic beach.

earthinmilkywayon one hand, i was kind of thrown for a loop because i know that, at the core of my being, i matter. a lot. we all do. a lot. i mean, that's what my book is all about! that's why i even write these blogs in the first place. sheesh! but, to be totally transparent, a big part of me knows i've spent the last eight years doing all of this to prove to myself how much i matter in order to avoid seeing how completely insignificant i am in the grand scheme of things.

so… here i go yet again, diving in at a deeper level, questioning my entire set of motivations for writing the book, creating the website and being the voice for this message. throwing my battered ego into total panic mode as it grapples with this truth while trying to find my footing on this long, slow climb up "Mt. Awakening." and i am going to finish the book. period.

as you can see, with this kind of realization, it could be easy for me to careen headlong into my bad neighborhood. you know, the part of the mind that loves to criticize, abuse and go to very dark places. and, i tell you, my bad neighborhood has a six-lane entrance, a lot of dark, dirty streets and a teeny tiny one-way alley exit.

but honestly, it was kind of a relief. to know the depth of my insignificance gave me room to breathe and let myself off the hook of over-achievement i've been hanging myself on as long as i can remember.

the truth is, no one else's life, no cause or institution, not even the planet itself is dependent on me contributing to the world because of what i do. actually nothing depends on my contribution in any way, really. the conclusion i'm coming to is that being happy and fulfilled in who i am - doing my best to live out what i’m here to live out, loving everyone as best i can, and creating what i'm creating in any given moment - with as much joy as possible is the best, and only, way for me to participate fully in this experience of being a human.

as i am coming to a deeper, humbling understanding of this realization of my own insignificance, i am finding genuine peace and joy standing in this space. it's quiet here. i have room to breathe and stretch, and grow and read and just hang out and enjoy the beauty of this moment. i have nothing to prove. nowhere to get to. no one to impress. just breathing and standing here.

and dancing… in and out of the peace and worry, the beauty and terror, the sheer humanness of being human. and, most of all, loving. that’s it. plain and simple. i guess in the end, there is only love to be offered and only love to be received. the rest is all window-dressing.

 

bright light and deep darkness… reflections on Robin Williams and more

robin williams

it's 9/11, a day most of us will never forget.

that morning our family was at the San Francisco airport getting ready to put our 15-year-old son onto a plane to Newark, NJ, on the first leg of his year abroad in Spain. needless to say, he didn't board the plane. instead, we sat at a bar near the gate and watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center, then walked like zombies to our car as the impact of what had just occurred started to hit us. thousands of souls left the earth that morning, leaving gaping holes in the world and initiating this country into that particular territory of fear and violence which so many others know all too well.

one month ago today is also a day many of us will never forget.

that's the day Robin Williams took his own life and left a hole in the world that will never be filled. and, even though it's been over four weeks since, i still find myself bursting into tears at the fact that he felt so alone in some deep, down part of himself despite the abundance of love that was all around him.

and, although there have been some who have criticized Mr. Williams and others who have committed suicide for being "selfish," i see this act as something to be met with the utmost compassion rather than unblinking derision. (thank you, Cheyenne, for posting this very good article about why suicide and depression are not selfish.)

my heart and prayers continue to be with Mr. Williams' children, wife and all of his dear family and friends as they muddle through this most difficult time. may you all know that he was one of the most selfless humans i ever witnessed (in my very limited way) and that his suicide had nothing to do with you. i am so sorry you have had to deal with some who have expressed their wounds in negative ways toward him; but know that they are just working it out in their own, uninformed way.

malcolm x

i guess if there is any gift in Mr. Williams' untimely death, it's the outpouring of press that's bringing his death and this important and serious issue to light with compassion and care and honesty.

i've watched videos like Jimmy Fallon's heartfelt tribute and read achingly beautiful blogs like Rachel Leibrock's in which she captured my sentiments exactly when she wrote, "And then I started crying. Crying because I genuinely loved Williams as an actor and a comedian -- I grew up watching Mork & Mindy. Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite films. Crying because in that moment, I also felt his pain immeasurably. I felt the absence of hope, the absence of faith that life will get better. The absence of any light."

i've read tributes like this one from Bimbo's 365 Club and quotes from the many celebrities who tweeted and posted, like Goldie Hawn "Oh Robin...Our hearts are broken. Rest in peace darling. We loved you." …and Jessica Chastain "Robin Williams changed my life. He was a great actor and a generous person. Through a scholarship, he made it possible for me to graduate college. His generous spirit will forever inspire me to support others as he supported me. He will forever be missed." …and Danny DeVito's heartbreaking, "Heartbroken."

i think it's easier than most of us would care to admit to let ourselves go to that dark place. it sometimes feels as if we're pushing up against something immovable - especially when we're present to this human race and all the messes we've made; what we've done to ourselves, each other and our only home; all the insanity we continue to play out. one thing i know is that suicide is not a selfish act. it is an act born of an illusion that we are separate and alone. it's an act that is often carried out by those of us who are extremely sensitive to what's happening in the world and we feel as if it's just too much for us.

truth be told, i know this territory all too well. i've been there myself. i understand the experience of feeling completely alone - even that the world would be better off without me - when i was in that place. i remember thinking those unshakeable, consuming thoughts and nearly driving off the road one day five years ago. and i remember, and thank God for, my loved ones and friends who gathered around and reminded me that i mattered. if you relate or if you have had or are having thoughts of suicide, i urge you to reach out and get help. that's what saved my life and i'm so glad i did.

when it comes down to it, i truly believe we are all here to shine our light - whether we shine as brightly and humbly and generously as Mr. Williams did all around the world or whether we shine simply and sweetly right in our own backyards. i think the only thing to do is to shine our light, even when we grieve the loss of those we love… maybe especially then. and, although he may have believed in that terrible, critical moment (or for longer than we can imagine) that he was utterly alone and his light was unfixably diminished, may he know, as his soul flies free, that he never was alone and that his light burned brightly until the very end and beyond.

finally, in his daughter Zelda's words, "To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you've had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too."

dear human

Notes from a Recovering Over-Achiever

I'd rather be whole than good

if you really knew me, i was raised as an enabler (check out this really great definition), trying to prove my worthiness by cloaking it in a pretty package of helpfulness, busyness and achievement. in other words, a classic codependent. the thing about this is, i came to identify myself as useful and good because of my helpfulness and achievements rather than being whole and good simply because i exist. and, in the process, i set up myself and everyone around me with this expectation, even at my own expense. can anyone relate to this? it's a habit, once established, that's very hard to break… especially after 52 years.

as i often share with my clients, i've come to see that we all go through cycles of healing and growth, and that, if we allow ourselves to really feel and be present to them, we can come out the other side with more clarity and completeness. well, if you really, really knew me, i've been in the midst of one of those cycles the last few months with no real clarity other than knowing that i've been in nearly constant physical and mental pain and that i need to continue to stay the course with this incredible discomfort. i liken it to being in the "imaginal soup" of a cocoon… you know, no longer a caterpillar (head popped off, body turning to mush) but not yet a butterfly? like, what the hell am i, anyway?

this deep, painful and undeniable letting go of my old self and yet another layer of ego has come up (uhgain!) and i'm just now feeling like i'm coming out the other side.in other words, i've been "in the trenches" this last few months, mucking about in the dark corners of this lifelong dynamic… and it's been humbling to say the least. sometimes more than i wanted.

Metamorphosis - Dongale Studio

it all came to a head one morning a few weeks ago when i woke up in tears and spent pretty much the whole day crying. i was totally unclear about why until i shared with my husband that i was feeling deeply out of place and totally overwhelmed returning home to California after our beautiful trip to Switzerland. as i talked it out, though, i realized a few things:

1.  in Switzerland i had an experience of being wholly accepted by his family for who i was without my having had to do anything to earn that acceptance. they didn't know anything about my work or accomplishments, my efforts and failures, my compulsive over-achieving or my tendency towards almost constantly comparing myself to others who i view as more successful than me. all they knew and experienced was that i love their brother with all my heart, and that i love to laugh and sing, try new things (foods, languages, experiences) and spend time having meaningful conversations.

2. that this inveterate expectation of myself to be everything for everyone began when my mother, whom i loved very much and with whom i had a very codependent relationship, carried me in her womb.

3. that i must diligently work to give up this pattern of expectation if i want to be happy.

having said that, i imagine that you may be thinking, "Well, duh!"… especially since these are things i've been writing about for years. with all honesty, however, i can say that i have been fully, utterly, humbled by this last round of "learning what i teach." i'm so grateful to Jakob for pointing out to me with such compassion that i am creating my own reality, and that maybe - just maybe - i have some attachments i can give up, and for tenderly holding space and time for me to cry and be "in it." in that space, i got to raise my head above it enough to see that it's time to give up possibly the biggest chunk of the identity to which i've clung for nearly 52 years that is clearly not serving me anymore… the need to "make a difference" in the world, the need to be seen.

in other words, it's time to choose being whole rather than good.

i think what's been brewing as i've been swimming in this soupy space between caterpillar and butterfly is that i'm being re-wired to be moved by what's right in front of me rather than my ego-driven visions and plans for the future. to find my authentic rhythm with life and trust that my muse will return if i just give her some space. it's like the Universe has been forcing me to re-evaluate how i'm being in the world, guiding me to look really deeply at myself and urging me to slough off anything that doesn't feel like an absolute "yes." as i've been listening, mostly i've heard, "just be. it's not time yet." so, i've continued watering and weeding the garden, watching my internal responses to the process (comparison, self-doubt, worry and anxiety about not doing enough), breathing and letting go (allowing myself to enjoy this simple life with the love of my life and our family).

and, as much as my ego wants to press forward with all the plans i'd made for myself, i'm giving myself as much time as i need. i'm learning to… unwind the tightly wound springs of a lifetime of doing, unravel and release the threads of voices other the one that says i'm enough just because i am and for no other reason, unbend the shape i'd twisted myself into believing i had to prove myself and achieve anything in order to justify my existence.

it's not an easy journey for a recovering over-achiever, but it is a necessary one.

as my friend Jordanna shared recently, "The more driven we are to do big things in this world, the less we may allow ourselves to slow down and take full advantage of the lessons that are popping up in front of us to learn. Not only do we risk missing out on the sweetness of life and the many glories that can come from it,... we also risk not receiving the full transformation that comes when we slow down long enough to not only get the lesson, but to be our own teachers and take each lesson a few chapters deeper in the book of life."

life has forced my hand. it's slowed me down without question and i'm finally listening.

what i know for sure is… i matter enough to take this time and dive deeply into what is coming forth now as my deeper layer of authentic expression. it is truly a blessing to have this opportunity to do so and i'm excited for what will come of it, even if it's just spending more time planting seeds and harvesting zucchini.

Figures drawing "Metamorphosis" by Don Gale

An Opportunity

as we have been working in our garden, my sweetheart Jakob and i have been talking a lot lately about the fact that, as a species, we have an opportunity to evolve to our next possible stage of awakening. this opportunity is urgent, clear and massive. we've already lost so much in making the choices we've made until now. we have lost ancient and deeply wise ways of living, numerous ecosystems, and countless species. we've also been talking about the fact that, if we don't seize this opportunity, we are in danger of losing our connection to what's most important - the very earth which supports the life of every being on it. if we don't seize this opportunity immediately, we may miss it forever. if we don't seize it right now, it may cost us absolutely everything.

what i am talking about is the opportunity to take on, in the most personal and global ways possible, responsibility for our current state of affairs on every level - economic, political, social, spiritual and environmental - by waking up to what we have done, feeling our deepest, scariest feelings about that, choosing to take a different path and creating the new world we all know is possible.

when i'm present to the possibility of this lost opportunity, i feel deeply sad, hopeless and angry all at once. my old fantasy of breaking a box full of dishes against a concrete wall while screaming at the top of my lungs comes back to mind in full force.

10175066_827780840570161_6773105950655030111_n

when i hold the possibility of the opportunity seized, i feel hopeful, excited, deeply grounded, infinitely grateful and calm all at once. kind of like how i feel when i walk outside at dawn and take a slow, deep breath as i listen to the songs of the birds, feel the warmth of the spring breeze and absorb the color of the sky changing before my eyes.

although i am likely preaching to the choir, i will continue to say this at risk of being a broken record:  continuing on the trajectory we have laid for ourselves and our world will bring us to the brink - if not over it - sooner than we think. i believe that we all know, even if we don't want to admit it, that we are at the 11th hour and 59th second of pushing our planet beyond its capacity to hold our species much longer. the stakes are higher than they have ever been. and we are lounging at the table betting on who will win the game.

and, although i don't want to perpetuate the "us and them" story, the players in this game represent a clear dichotomy between the course the world-at-large seems to be setting and the direction in which individuals and local communities are doing their best to point us. it couldn't be more clear, more obvious.

We have now the opportunity to take on in the most personal

governments and corporations (institutions we created or allowed to be created which are now basically indistinguishable) continue to engage in wars and regional conflicts despite global protest, consistently choose fossil fuels over renewable energy at great cost to all in every way, and choose profit over people and planet at every turn. on the other hand, i meet people every day - organic farmers, holistic healers and outspoken poets - here in my rural community and online in communities around the world, who have decided that they are the heroes they have been waiting for. they know that it is up to us to turn things around in the most fundamental ways… like growing our own food from non-GMO seeds, dedicating ourselves to plastic-free lives, and choosing to buy locally over purchasing fake food and mass-produced products from corporate conglomerates that pay their employees just enough to stay trapped in the humiliating and devastating cycle of poverty.

the thing is… this game, if we miss this opportunity, has no winners. let me repeat that. this game has no winners. everyone loses.

so, what is to be done?

as Neo says in the last scene of The Matrix, "…I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you."

i don't have your answers. all i have is what's in front of me, what's here for me to be and do. so, i choose do do my darndest to be a positive contribution for the new world millions of us want to birth. i choose to love our Mother. i choose life.

what do YOU choose in this month of the height of spring, of celebrating mothers? i'd really like to know.

really.

Dear President Obama

Oil Pipeline through forestDear President Obama- Although I was a huge supporter of yours in 2008 and have written several blogs regarding supporting you in the past, I regret to say I am deeply disappointed in your actions, and my faith in your sincerity as our country's leader has seriously diminished.

As we all know the Keystone XL Pipeline is a huge issue. Some think it could be the defining environmental moment in our country's history given its very real potentially dangerous consequencesOthers think it will be a failsafe answer to our economic crisis. I'm sure it is clear on which side of this issue I stand. To quote an email I recently read in regards to the start of the operation of the southern leg of this pipeline, "This is a simply a sad day. The president who launched his campaign with a call to 'end the tyranny of oil' has now allowed - and even publicly encouraged - TransCanada to run the dirtiest tar sands crude straight through American farmlands, waterways and even front yards."

I will be the first to admit that I have been, at best, a pretty ineffective armchair activist. I have not yet chained myself to machinery nor strapped myself to the fence around the White House, the way i have often wished to. I have not written countless letters nor have I marched on Washington. Yet.

Mr. President, I ask you - what will it take for all of us to learn that more oil (translate as "more money lining the pockets of a very, very few already excessively wealthy") is not the answer to any of our crises - economic or otherwise? When will we wake up to the fact that completing the southern leg was actually a cunning (albeit totally blatant) way to ensure completion of the northern section (i.e. "well, we can't not finish what we started!")? Will we have to continue to poison our water sourcesdecimate sacred landswipe out precious wetlands and performeconomic hari-kari to finally learn that we made one of our biggest mistakes as a nation by allowing this fiasco to even be considered, much less acted out?

According to NASA scientist James Hansen, who likens the building of the pipeline to the enabling of an addict, "If he [you, President Obama] chooses the dirty needle [the pipeline], it is game over because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction. Canada is going to sell its dope, if it can find a buyer."

The Keystone Pipeline is a NO WIN situation for all, and the fact that it is being considered at all is clear evidence of how far we have to go. The choice is clear: stop the pipeline and leave a lasting legacy of a workable, healthy future for us, our children and generations to come or allow this monstrosity to go through and provide a very short-term economic gain to a very few short-sighted individuals now, with their descendants suffering the consequences along with everyone else. We must all take a bold stand for ourselves and our country by rejecting this pipeline, shifting to 100% renewable energy, and making personal commitments to changing our habits now.

There is no issue more important, more vital, more critical than our climate.

There is no issue more important more vital

Clearly, business as usual is not the answer. That is exactly what has created "the Mess" my friend Sharif Abdullah says we face.  If we don't care for our environment, everything else is a moot point. Nothing less than a radical, urgently swift and complete change and  is required. No change, no business. No change, no economy. No change, no rights. No change, no future.

Mr. President, I urge you to stand with the voice of reason, those whose lands are being seized and your children's futures rather than the corporate machine which, sadly, seems to have your vote more than mine on this issue. Although I have lost faith in the promises you made six years ago, I hope with all my heart you take bold, decisive action in the right direction. If you don't, I promise you this… we will fight this travesty with everything we have.

with hope,

erin ross

When would NOW be a good time to wake UP?

on Thursday February 6th i changed my profile picture on facebook from this erin fb profile pic

to this

fb nsa profile pic

after being inspired by the fact that my sweetheart had done so.

in all honesty, i thought long and hard before doing so. because, even though i fully stand behind this movement to keep our current system, this "corporatocracy," from making our lives look very much like scenes from George Orwell's infamous novel, 1984, i was a bit scared to be Bold about it in such a public way. then i realized that's exactly what they want me to do. they want me to pause and let that little trickle of fear grow into a river coursing through my veins causing me to stay numb, speechless and paralyzed. in that moment, i knew i had to do it, regardless. in choosing to change my profile photo and make a bold statement about how i feel about what is happening in our country, i was choosing to say "enough is enough."

i'm not saying that changing my profile photo is all that big of a deal or some super-courageous act. nor is it likely to land me on some list in a thousand-page document in a box in some government vault somewhere. (i'm probably already on one somewhere for something, anyway, like any good, vocal, participatory and upstanding citizen of what is slowly becoming the antithesis of a democracy is likely to be). but what i am saying is that there is, honestly, a growing shout inside of me saying, "screw it!" this is more important than my personal comfort, bigger than my fear and sure as hell something that deserves to be written about in as many places as possible.

the thing is, most of us are behaving like the proverbial frogs in the pot of water - the temperature being turned up just slowly enough that we won't notice until it's too late and we're all floating at the top of a big pot of frog soup. so many of us are going through our daily lives ignorant of or avoiding the truth of what is happening all around us - and we can no longer afford to remain in blissful ignorance. as i've quoted my friend Shanan many times, "it's time to wake up, sheeple!"

when i clicked the link for the Day We Fight Back website to learn how change my profile photo, this very compelling video grabbed my attention. if you really knew me, i usually tend to watch videos with half an eye and ear as i switch back and forth from what i'm writing to my email, but something about this one caught me, particularly every time i heard Aaron Swartz speak. i'd never heard of him until i watched this video, but he was incredibly articulate, passionate and intelligent… and i noticed that everyone else in the video spoke about him with a great deal of love and respect but also as if he were no longer here. so, i looked him up, and sure enough, i learned he had died. at the age of 26, this amazingly brilliant, boldly courageous and tirelessly dedicated man had hung himself after being indicted in 2011 "on federal data-theft charges for breaking into the MIT computer system and allegedly downloading 4.8 million documents from the subscription-based academic research database JSTOR"1  to which he had pleaded not guilty and was facing 35 years in prison and a $1million fine. As DemandProgress Executive Director David Segal said, “This makes no sense; it’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library…. It’s even more strange because JSTOR has settled any claims against Aaron, explained they’ve suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute."2

being honest john lennonas i sat in tears reading about this man's life, i realized that he was born just a few months after my son, who is also a brilliant, articulate and passionate man who happens to live in the same city as Aaron Swartz did. this was crazy. and, although this young man died at his own hand, i have no doubt that the very system he was trying to change carries much of the blame for his death. as his family wrote, "Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."3

and he is not the only one who has suffered - as we all know, there are many courageous men and women who have been willing to question "authority" at great risk to their own lives. i believe whistleblowers and others who are willing to "say it like it is" are some of our greatest heroes - people like Daniel Ellsberg, persecuted for his bravery in exposing the vagaries of the Vietnam War, and Edward Snowden, currently living under a year-long asylum in Russia for courageously leaking numerous NSA documents about global surveillance. people like Bill Moyers, Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald. these are the people standing on the edge of the pot screaming at the rest of us, "jump out before it's too late!"

now, dear reader, you may be thinking that this issue has nothing to do with you. but i say it has everything to do with you, me and every other citizen- of every country around the world. if you don't think it does, i invite you to click these links and let me know how you feel after watching them:

• "The Program":  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/opinion/the-national-security-agencys-domestic-spying-program.html?_r=4&

or, maybe you think it's not a big enough issue. but i say, this is huge. it is connected to every other issue about which i and everyone i know is concerned - from climate change to human rights to gun control to environmental racism and on and on and on. in other words, it has become woven into the very fabric of our culture and, in my opinion, we cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

or, perhaps, you may be wondering what this bold, personal, political statement has to do with Get That You Matter. i say, it has everything to do with what we're about- getting that everything we think, say and do matters, and that standing up for our basic human rights is part of that. As Chris Hedges writes in his Truthdig article, The Last Gasp of American Democracy, "The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives…. The most radical evil, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, is the political system that effectively crushes its marginalized and harassed opponents and, through fear and the obliteration of privacy, incapacitates everyone else…. The object of efficient totalitarian states, as George Orwell understood, is to create a climate in which people do not think of rebelling… [it] achieves this control… by systematically crushing human spontaneity, and by extension human freedom. It ceaselessly peddles fear to keep a population traumatized and immobilized."4

i invite you to consider that we are at the most critical point in human history - right now, right here, today. if we are to truly get that we matter, my questions to you are these…

  • what has reading this blog sparked in you?
  • what are you willing to change? to choose? to commit to?
  • and, finally, as i've said before, "when would NOW be a good time to wake UP?!"

as David Sirota said so well in the New York Times Op-Doc Why Care About the NSA?, "if you don't speak up for everybody's rights, you'd better be prepared for your own rights to be trampled when you least expect it."if we are to play our part in the great re-evolution of humanity from where we've been to where we want to be going - if we are to build this bridge from "business (or life) as usual" to a whole new paradigm as we are walking, running and dancing across it - we must each be willing to commit to what we believe in and live it with every fiber of our being. if i am not up for that, then i should pull the plug on what i've been working on for the last 7 plus years, plug my ears and sing, "la la la la" while the world as we know it crumbles around me.

truth

QUOTES:

  1. http://business.time.com/2013/01/13/tech-prodigy-and-internet-activist-aaron-swartz-commits-suicide/
  2. http://techland.time.com/2011/07/19/reddit-co-founder-aaron-swartz-indicted-for-data-theft-could-face-35-years-in-prison/
  3. http://www.rememberaaronsw.com/memories/
  4. http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/the_last_gasp_of_american_democracy_20140105
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/opinion/why-care-about-the-nsa.html

We're all Connected… Waking up to what's wrong with the current picture

How Does the System in which I livelast month in the U.S., we celebrated Thanksgiving- a holiday in which many of us gather with family and friends to share our gratitude for life. regardless of what we believe about its murky origins (and they are murky), the idea - the ideal - of Thanksgiving is to come together - to connect - and remember the power and beauty of being grateful. however, it has also sadly become a day which marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season with the fabrication of "Black Friday," a day on which millions upon millions worship at the altar of the corporatocracy at the expense of our humanity, our dignity and the very survival of our planet. to me, Black Friday represents all that is wrong with our culture. i recently saw this post on Facebook. and i ask you, what is wrong with this picture titled "Define necessity?" here's my answer in this moment:  what's wrong is the lack of conscious thoughtfulness we put into our choices and our inability or unwillingness to see that everything is connected.

if, indeed, everything we think, say and do has an impact; if everything we do matters, my question is… how does the system in which i live (represented by the photo of the people with all that stuff ) have a direct effect on those we may never know are suffering due to our participation in it (like the children in the other photo)? and, who is starving? is it the young children who are dying - literally - for a morsel of food to fill their bellies or those of us who attempt to feed the bottomless "hungry ghost" inside with things which will never fill it - shopping, tv, alcohol, drugs, sex? or is it both? i agree with my friend Keith, who commented when i shared this post, that he sees 2 photos that have a lot in common.

then, a couple of days ago, i saw this post on Upworthy (one of my favorite websites) about the distribution of wealth in the U.S., and, truthfully, it sickened me. i can say it no more plainly than this… what is happening in our world is simply wrong - in so many ways. and it is time - actually, it's long past time - to wake up people!

if, indeed, we are all connected; if, as i believe, everything is one, my question is… why wouldn't we want the best for everyone? when i watched that video about wealth distribution, it moved me to tears of deep pain. not because i feel like i can't do anything about it (even though i often do feel that way), but because what i believe is that, when we are not paying attention to the whole, ultimately we are not paying attention to ourselves - on the deepest level. when we're not ensuring that everyone has enough, when we're not ensuring that our planet is not being raped - and she is literally being raped, somewhere, every minute of every day - so that some can have more, most can have nothing, and others struggle in lines buying into this mentality that's been created by a few, what are we saying? we're saying that we don't care enough to stand up and say, "No. Not any more." All of this is to generate what? money - and all it seems to buy - for a very, very few.

if we are not paying attention to or concerned by this massive global inequity, what that is is an absolute lack of love for ourselves. if we don't see the connection, what we're not seeing is that we are actually killing ourselves in the process. "it's as if," as i wrote in a blog last year, "we have become like the virus Agent Smith speaks of in The Matrix - the only other species on earth which consumes its host without considering that doing so will result in its own demise." we are behaving like that virus, acting as if it is more beneficial for us to kill our mother without fully understanding that, in doing so, we put our own lives and the lives of all beings, all future generations, in peril.

taking it a step further, if we assume that we're all connected (that we're one with everyone and everything) and if the only thing that's real is Love (that, as i truly believe, God is Love and that nothing other than Love exists), then everything we're doing is a monstrous egoic pursuit to prove that we're different from, that we're other than, God… other than Love. only a truly obtuse mind would do that. when we forget that we are one mind, one heart, one soul- that we were literally born from the same stuff as the galaxies, bees and all existence, that illusion of separation is what engenders in us the distorted presumption that we can exhibit the kind of behavior we've all bought into without suffering grave consequences. that illusion is what enables us to do what we are doing. and it is not okay.

i ask you, in honoring all that we have been given to care for and love, how can we possibly- any one of us- believe that our perceived need for things and acquiring and power and territory is more important than the good of all beings on and of this precious planet? how can we possibly continue to make choices which lead us all toward inevitable destruction without seeing the connections?

i don't have any easy answers to these questions, but i and many others do have a lot of questions that i think are worth taking the time to ask ourselves so we can find the answers that are workable for everyone.

finally, i'm very present today, with December being the month that many people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, to celebrating the birth of someone who gave his life so that we could all wake up. that, to put it simply, is huge. and, with the passing of Nelson Mandela last week at the venerable age of 95, we celebrate a man who did not give his life by dying, but rather gave his life by living… in chains, imprisoned, and then surviving probably countless threats of death and attempts of murder to become, as Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote, "the world's most admired and revered public figure."  in living their lives from that deep knowing in their inextricable connection to all beings, these two historic figures have given us more than we will probably ever know.

i ask you, in honoring these two men this month, how can we possibly fly in the face of that kind of dedication to Love?

some might say that, in the end, it doesn't really matter what we do here - that this place is just a playground or schoolroom for our souls, for all the parts of the oneness that thinks they're separate to just hang out, buy stuff, behave badly and die. perhaps that's true. but i disagree. i think that is a monumental cop-out. what i see is a massive opportunity… to remember that who we really are is Love and act from that opportunty, from that remembering. this unprecedented time in human history is a massive opportunity to wake up and get that, with every thought, every word, every action, each of us has an impact on the entire planet far greater than we will ever know.

it's like Russell Brand spoke to so brilliantly in this fabulous video, "I believe profoundly in the power of humanity. I believe that we're connected. I believe that there's an inevitability to a successful revolution. I think this is a change in consciousness that we're experiencing…. I think there's going to be radical changes. I think that we need to look at the world as one inclusive entity…. The ultimate truth is Oneness. We believe so much in our identity and our individualism…. On a deeper level, I recognize that all these things are transient. What's more important, what's defining things is the things we all share- love, unity, togetherness…. There's going to be a revolution. It's totally going to happen. I ain't got no flicker of doubt. This is the end. This is time to wake up."

so i ask you, in this final month of this remarkable year, do you see how you are connected to everyone and everything around you? do you get it? and, what will you choose with your thoughts, words and actions? is there any better place than here? is there any better time than now? how will you change this picture? are you ready to wake up?

What are you grateful for?

Gratitude is the place to begin from not the place to get to - Erin Rossalthough this month's Being Game is "gratitude," something continues to haunt me in the midst of this dramatic year. sometimes i feel it more than others, but it's always there under the surface - a vague, persistent sense of guilt and overwhelm about what is happening in the world today. especially the nuclear situation in Fukushima, Japan. i recently saw a video about dolphins and got to thinking about all the thousands of species that will be affected, and more than likely already have been affected, by the radioactive water that continues to pour out of that reactor. not only does the radiation give cause for me and many others i know not to eat fish anymore because of the extreme risks to our health, but there is sure to be a profoundly devastating ripple effect in the already challenged species anywhere in the path of that poisoned water. i awoke this morning deeply saddened by the negative impact this situation is having and will continue to have for countless decades in ways we will probably never know. i awoke with a heaviness that has not been with me for quite some time, knowing that there is probably so much more i can do than to be a good "armchair activist" by posting, tweeting and blogging about all of this. i awoke asking myself, "what have i not done enough of? where have i gotten lazy? where am i out of integrity with my mission?" and, surprisingly, the answer that came was, "be grateful… be grateful for all you have, for all the love in your life, for all the choices you've made, for all the beauty around you, and remember to continue to be love no matter what." and, in that instant, i felt a wave of gratitude so powerful wash over me, i began to cry at all the miracles in my life… the fact that there are multitudes of ways to share love with others; that dolphins, whales and manatees are our sisters and brothers; that i am being given an opportunity to be and receive love like i never had before; that the world is ready to receive the love i have to give; that this year is a year of choices- big and small, life and death, sleeping and waking; that this is the moment in which i get to choose to see life as perfect while taking bold, decisive action to raise the bar for the awakening and transformation of humanity.

at the Work That Reconnects workshop i attended this last weekend with the incomparable and deeply inspiring Joanna Macy, she said that gratitude is the place to begin from, not the place to get to because of what we have. when we're grateful for being right where we are and being on the way to wherever we're going, it provides the curiosity and interest to deliver us into presence.

i know that our voices - whether standing alone or in a crowd of thousands - have the power to inspire, inform, ignite and contribute to others… but if we don't speak, then that will never happen. i know that gratitude is the key to turning all problems into possibilities… for when we let gratitude be our guide, miracles occur. i know that it's not always easy to be or even feel grateful when there is so much going on around us that seems bleak and insurmountable… but if we don't connect to and express our gratitude, then we cannot move beyond numbness and paralysis.

it's not too late to change - to shift from entitlement to gratitude, when we remember, as Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface Carpets and one of my greatest heroes, said, "We are each and every one of us part of the web of life itself… and we have a choice to make. During our brief- so brief- visit to this living blue-green planet - to help it or to hurt it. It's your choice." because, as Paul Hawken stated so eloquently, "At this crucial stage in human history, there is no inconsequential action- only consequential inaction."

so my question to you is, what are you grateful for? do you choose to let yourself get overwhelmed by what's going on today? or do you choose to look around you at your life, at all you have to be grateful for - even if it's simple things like running water, a place to lay your head at night or public transportation - and let your gratitude grow inside of you, like a fire, igniting your capacity to take loving, heartful action? and, finally, which action will have the most powerful, positive impact on the people and world around you?

i invite you to begin a daily practice of writing down at least 10 things for which you are grateful. or at least sharing them with someone you love. you can do it at night before bed or the next morning. but whatever you choose, i invite you to try it on for at least a month. join us this month in being and expressing gratitude… and watch what happens.

Burning Man, part 2: the courage to trust… the courage to act

"Immersed in what some call 'consensus reality,' one's very sanity comes into question for believing the principles of interbeing. We are permitted to entertain them as a kind of spiritual philosophy, but when we start making choices from them, when we start living them even ten percent, people begin to question our sanity. We may even question our own. Alongside the self-doubt comes a profound feeling of alienation…. Isn't it insane to think that I am right and everyone else is wrong? In a way, it is insane - insofar as sanity is a socially constructed category that serves the maintenance of dominant narratives and power structures. If so, it is time to be insane together! It is time to violate consensus reality."

- Charles Eisenstein

Burning Man transitalthough i wasn't expecting it at all, the "Man Burn" was deeply powerful for me. that night, my friends Ethan and Veronica and i were running late, so we walked rather briskly toward the Man down 8:00 - headlamps, goggles, masks and headscarves all strategically in place or near at hand in preparation for the night ahead.

before i go any further - for those of you who have never been, the entire space known as the "Playa" is a huge circle about 3 miles across. the streets of the "city" at Burning Man take up about two-thirds of the space and operate on a circular grid like a clock with the numbered radial streets arranged by time - the Man being the center of the clock, and the city running from 2 to 10; the lettered streets which create concentric circles from the innermost avenue called the "Esplanade" and go all the way from "A" to "N." the remaining third of the Playa is empty of human habitation other than incredibly beautiful art installations placed in a strategic array from the center (the Man) all the way out to "Deep Playa" as the far reaches of the uninhabited area is known). it is truly a most ingenious, organic and workable way to arrange a community, no doubt created with considerable deliberation on the part of many visionary and practical hearts and minds.

so, we were walking down 8:00 from our camp (which was at 7:45 and G) about an hour after sunset (a wonderful daily citywide ritual experience in itself) through an almost entirely empty city. think about that- nearly 70,000 people and the whole city was practically empty of life except for the few stragglers who were walking, running or bicycling toward the center of the known universe. it was dark and relatively quiet when we started out, except for the explosions of the largest fireworks display i have ever seen and our "ah's" and "ooh's" in response. and as we got closer, the thump-thump of hundreds of massive sound systems began to pound in my chest.

as my eyes adjusted to the fiery neon light ahead, i expanded my visual focus to take in the wider, peripheral scene before me, trusting my feet to carry me forward as i let the entire experience wash into me through my eyes. more and more people came into view in all manner of dress and undress, in a wide array of consciousness or lack thereof, dancing, running, singing, shouting, silent, walking… it was as if i were on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. walking hand-in-hand with Ethan and Veronica, tears began streaming down my face as i felt an upwelling of emotion which, to be honest, i can't quite pinpoint as anything other than awe.

we began weaving through the growing crowd gathered to witness this monumental structure - a 100-foot-high Man standing atop a huge UFO - designed and built to burn spectacularly on this very night every year… how spectacularly, i had no idea - until moments later, in a huge flash, the Man burst into a spectacle of flames before our eyes. it was overwhelming and i cried out, "Oh my God!" as more tears burst forth and my breath quickened. i kept saying, "I had no idea" to myself as we continued to make our way through the sweaty, costumed, naked, glittery, masked, energized mass of humanity. as we broke through the outer ring and made our way closer to the Burning Man, the entire UFO went up in an explosion i can only equate with what i've seen in the movies. i have never seen anything like it in real life, except when we watched houses explode during the Oakland Hills fire in 1991. it literally took my breath away and i nearly dropped to my knees. i was not expecting this… not at all.

as the UFO went up in flames well over 150 feet high, beautiful tornadoes were spiralling off to the left from the huge wind generated by the inferno. embers were flying up into the night sky and everyone was cheering or simply standing in awe. the heat was so intense i had to turn away several times to protect my tear-stained face. yet the ever-present darkness, wind and dust circled around us as a reminder that this was a human creation, a yearly anomaly in this normally silent white expanse of desert. as i stood taking it all in, the rhythms from all of the various mutant vehicles and camps along the Esplanade blended into one polyrhythmic heart-pounding wave, almost as if it were an echo of the heartbeat of the earth, coming from deep inside each of us gathered there… in synch with each other, the intention of the moment and the power of our planet. more tears fell onto my skirt and the soft, white playa dust at my feet.

the gathered crowd in all its beautiful compiling of gas masks, leather, sequins, flowing fabric, angel wings, headlamps and goggles is a reflection of the innate creativity and courage of the human species to deal with the mess we've gifted ourselves over the last 150 years or more. this is what it may well look like when we no longer have access to convenience and throw-away anything… this is the creativity of working with what we have. the mutant vehicles, with all their neon lights, sculpted metal, wood and paper in shapes of animals, buildings, ships, iceboxes, small or massive, loud or quiet… made me think, "This is what it may well look like in cities and towns in the future." we will build whatever we need to build to not only get where we need to go, but we will do so in creative, expressive ways because we must.

 The burning of this effigy is not a raised fist

the overwhelming experience of that night was the pinnacle of my Burning Man experience as the apocalyptic vision of a future that was both frightening and hopeful all at once washed through me. i really felt as if i was given a gift - something about seeing the deeper purpose of this event. i used to think that this event was created to burn "the man" in an angry reaction to the system, a kind of "Fuck you!" to the corporatocracy we've allowed to take over. but i realized on a much deeper level that it is an homage to all that we've created, all that we have allowed - wittingly or not - to supplant our deeper connection to the earth, to each other and to life itself. the burning of this effigy is not a raised fist, but rather a brilliantly courageous celebration of all that has been and all that needs to die in order for our civilization to evolve to our next stage of awakening.

i felt hopeless, yes… but much more profoundly, on a much deeper level, i felt more hopeful than i ever have before. Burning Man was real. it was not a pretty, fake denial of what is going on- it was a brutally honest look at what we have done and what we are capable of. it was a gathering of warriors - courageous, out-of-the-box thinkers and livers who know that there is something other than what we've created and come to accept as "normal" in our lives in the "default world," as some call it. as Charles Eisenstein wrote recently, "Our culture has it kind of backwards when it comes to the Warrior. In a more beautiful world, we understand the warrior as 'someone who is willing to die for what he/she loves.' But we've gotten it backwards and turned it into someone who is willing to kill. To me, the essence of being a warrior is a sense of mission one is willing to totally commit everything to." it was courage incarnate.

Trust and Death

Trust has more to do with giving up the illusioni've been thinking about death a lot lately. i'm not sure why, really. maybe it's because my mom's 73rd birthday would have been August 21st and that always brings up memories of her death as well as her life. i did, however, recently listen to a very moving episode of Radiolab (a radio show i highly recommend) called "The Bitter End" which was all about how we want to die - the quality of our death - and, ultimately, how many of us are deeply uncomfortable with even talking about it. and the truth is, everything dies. It will happen… to all of us, to everything around us. even seemingly eternal objects like mountains and skyscrapers, our planet, the sun… will eventually die. (i highly recommend reading The World Without Us if you want to learn more about this fascinating topic.) you may think i'm being morbid by bringing this up, but it's absolutely timely for this month's theme of Trust. i mean, isn't the ultimate moment of Trust when we take our last breath on this earth, stepping into the new frontier which lies beyond this life?

it's generally accepted in our culture that we're being morbid when we talk about death, but morbidity actually has nothing to do with death. the dictionary defines morbid as "psychologically unhealthy; susceptible to or characterized by preoccupation with unwholesome matters." so, really, death has nothing to do with being morbid or unwholesome; in fact, being with it and trusting the eventual end of life as we know it - however it comes - is perhaps the most wholesome thing we can do. what i think is that we're just really, really uncomfortable with it.

as i've been sitting with this whole conversation, i've come to realize that most of us walk around with a massive amount of discomfort almost all of the time, whether we're aware of it or not. during a recent meditation, i had an experience in which i got to see the immense amount of discomfort i create for myself on a daily, hourly, even minute-to-minute basis. i saw in minute detail all the ways in which i keep myself separate from others and out of the present moment by planning and worrying ("praying for disaster," as our friend Batul Trueheart calls it), regretting, wondering about different outcomes, over and over in a seemingly endless cycle. as i was witnessing this in myself, i realized that all of my discomfort stems from believing the illusion that i am separate from everyone and in doing all the things i do to prove that to myself. and that is utterly exhausting. no wonder i spent most of my life until recently chanting, "i'm tired." i was!

in noticing that i created all of these machinations in service to the ego and its attachment to fear, separation and judgment, i began to notice that doing anything other than being fully present in this moment right here, and this moment, and this one, was just my story. there truly is nothing to do, nowhere to get to and nothing to fix. it's kind of like being with death, which is always with us whether we like it or not. being with death, with someone who is dying, is the most powerful experience i've ever had in being fully present to the Now Moment. there was nowhere to go, nothing to do other than be with the one who was dying and trust the process.

you may also be asking, what does death have to do with getting that you matter? i say, it has everything to do with it. getting that you matter is about living your life to its fullest while you're here… remembering how amazing you are, that you have an impact on the world around you, bringing your dreams to light and making the greatest contributions to the world you possibly can - regardless of what they are. but consider that most of us believe we're far more "comfortable" not doing that. it can be really scary to look - really look - at our impact and all the ways it manifests… in our relationships to ourselves and others, in how we treat the planet with our everyday choices and actions, in our willingness to set aside our own wants for the good of the whole. it feels uncomfortable to grow! but consider that in trusting that we're going to grow, stretch and die whether we want to or not lies our freedom.

if, indeed, the only thing that is real is Love, then anything else is an illusion we create to keep ourselves from being responsible for the fact that we are the creators of our lives as they are in every moment. wrapping our minds around that fact can be very uncomfortable, especially if we've given ourselves experiences which we judge as unhappy, separate or unfulfilling. so the question is, can we just be with the discomfort of all the stories we tell ourselves of anything other than Love, bear witness to them, and then let them go? can we trust Life that much?

Trust has more to do with giving up the illusion

perhaps Trust has more to do with giving up the illusion that we're separate and stepping fully into taking responsibility for the fact that we are part of the whole. if it's all inseparable, how can we love and care for ourselves and love and care for the Whole at the same time, remembering that caring for the whole is caring for ourselves and visa versa? perhaps trusting that there is no separation gives us a great opportunity to remember that every thought, word and deed has an indelible impact on everything around us. perhaps humanity's finest hour lies in our trusting that we get to remember who we really are, give up our illusions of separation, and love and be loved regardless of what we've done. if we can do that, perhaps we can even trust that Oneness is all there is.

The Power of Commitment

What would be possible if you committed to something biglast week i had the opportunity to make a commitment to a friend in a really meaningful way - to drop or reschedule a lot of other things in order to be there for him. and, honestly, although it meant that i fell behind in a few things (like this blog), i wouldn't have done it any differently. then i had the great pleasure of having my dad and stepmom, stepsister and her family, and my kids all together at my house for the very first time. it was an historical moment for our family, and i chose to reschedule some things in order to commit to being fully present with them since most of them had made the commitment to travel from great distances to be here for just a few days. i managed to keep my commitment to my meditation and yoga practices for the most part, but i have to admit i fell quite behind in my writing. "so what's up with all the 'commitment' lingo?" you might ask. well, because this month our Being Game is about BEing Committed. every time we commit to making something or someone a priority in our lives means that other relationships, events and circumstances will take their place "behind" that commitment.  in other words, every "yes" in one place is a "no" elsewhere. we either make those choices consciously or not. for me, it was a conscious choice. i knew i could choose to commit to being present with the people in my life or keep my commitment to my blog and book, but i couldn't do both. so i chose the relationships first. i could have chosen to beat myself up about getting a bit behind with my writing, but i am very confident that i chose well, and, in the process, i even got to live my personal mission of loving everyone and helping them remember who they really are. in the process of realizing that there was no way i was going to be able to keep all of my commitments without having something fall through the cracks, i got to let go of my previous ones with joy and clarity. the great thing is, everyone with whom i had to reschedule was completely understanding, i know i'll catch up on my book in no time at all, and i got a great blog topic out of it.

recently, my cousin Heidi shared an issue of the wonderful Happy Animals of Oregon magazine that she and her sister, Elissa, have created, and for which she is the managing editor. i asked her if i could reprint her article, Our Bit of Earth, for our Get That You Matter blog because she wrote about her commitment to caring for our planet with such heart and clarity. Here it is for you to enjoy (sorry, there's no website yet… they're working on it, though, and we'll let you know when it's up and running).

Heidi-BW 2OUR BIT OF EARTH

by Heidi Alford

At the recent annual meeting of Friends of the Columbia Gorge— one of my favorite places in Oregon—I heard about a proposal by coal companies to transport tens of millions of tons of coal through the Columbia River Gorge for export to China. Some coal is transported now, but there would be 20—50 trains a day traveling through the gorge in the future. Just one train can lose 10,000 lbs of coal as it moves, coal which blows off into the river and on to nearby land and animals. Coal contamination is linked to an increase in asthma and lung cancer. There’s also the risk of train derailments. 

The Columbia Gorge is a spectacular place, with over 77 waterfalls just on the Oregon side. There are more than 800 species of wildflowers and over 100 possible hikes with amazing vistas of Mt. St. Helens, Mt Hood, and the rest of the Cascade Mountains. To imagine that a place this magnificent might suffer the damaging effects of dirty energy was horrifying. A few days after the meeting I sat in my backyard astonished by the beauty of the lilacs, with Earth Day around the corner, and thought, What could be more important now than to live in a sustainable way? 

When I was young, life was simpler in at least one way. Most people didn’t reflect much about where the objects they bought and enjoyed came from, or how they were discarded. Most didn’t think about how the energy that heated their home was produced, or about the chemicals they used in their house and yard. Now there’s more information, but it comes with a seemingly endless list of choices:  organic versus local, old growth versus new, hybrid or cheaper used car, stick with oil or buy solar panels, use an herbicide or a trowel. Do we eat meat, dairy, eggs, or nothing from animals at all?

Trying to live sustainably starts with realizing that everything we buy and do for our comfort and pleasure affects the planet’s health, from how we create our objects and return them to the earth when they’re old to how we travel and set our thermostat. All of it. Michael Pollan, in his new book Cooked says it well: “What is the environmental crisis if not a crisis in the way we live? The Big Problem is the sum total of countless everyday choices most of them made by us… and the rest of them made by others in the name of our needs and desires.”

As I go through a day I make many small choices that affect the environment. Yesterday, my first choice was around showering. I respect the strong character of those who can take a short shower, as I find it just about impossible. Then I had to decide if I should turn up the thermostat or not. I put on a small fleece, and then a second, larger one. I still felt cold, and so, as I draw the line at wearing two fleeces, the heat went up. I needed to do an errand unexpectedly, and as we’ve chosen not to have a car, I hopped on my bike. It started to rain and I felt very grumpy for the whole ride there, wishing for a car. The way home was more pleasant, and I made peace once again with my mostly carless life. For lunch I decided to make myself a cheese sandwich— I’m not ready to go vegan. At home later, I discover we were low on toilet paper, so off to the grocery store I went, and had to make another small decision. One brand was softer; the other paper 100% recycled. My solution that day was to buy both. At home, although I like the idea of giving things a second life, I felt too lazy to wash the greasy plastic containers of hummus. Asking the god of green to look the other way, I threw them in the garbage. That afternoon, sorting through the mail, I found the energy report from PG&E with a graph that compares our energy use to similar homes in the neighborhood. Our electricity was low, but the line on the graph for our gas use was higher than my greenest neighbors. What?! Was it my refusal to put on the third fleece?

It’s sometimes hard to make good choices because you have incomplete information. This is what my statistician husband would call missing data. For instance, in many grocery stores there is no information on meat products that informs you about whether the animal was raised or killed in a humane way. Nor is there anything to alert you to the pollution caused by factory farms. Even when there is a label, like “cage free” on an egg carton, it can be completely misleading.

The environmental problems on earth now can feel overwhelming; the plight of the polar bears alone will break your heart. I try to make good choices and hope it makes a small difference. It’s wonderful, though, to know I am not alone. There’s a large and growing community of bee and hen keepers, solar energy startups, computer recyclers, green cleaners and landscapers, bikers and Prius owners. Scientists also continue to do their best to educate us about global warming. All of this contributes to a rethinking of how we live on our lovely planet. And that sustains me, and helps me fight for beautiful places like the Columbia Gorge.1

Heidi is a wonderful example of someone who is committed to thinking critically and making choices to care for our planet. ultimately, these are the kinds of commitments we must all make or suffer the consequences. so, i have a few questions for you:  what do you choose when you commit to something? what do you let go of? do you choose consciously or by default? how do you prioritize what you commit to? what commitments have you made to ensure a just, sustainable and thriving planet for all beings? and what could you commit to today - right now, even? are you willing to make some potentially uncomfortable choices in support of the greater good? would you be willing to consider…

  • closing your bank account at one of the megabanks like Bank of America (if you have one there) and transferring your funds to a local Credit Union, community or sustainable bank such as New Resource Bank?
  • buying holiday and other gifts locally at independent, family-owned enterprises, thrift stores, fairtrade cooperatives such as Global Exchange, or making them, or simply spending time together instead of buying them at malls or chain stores?
  • taking some time to support someone in your community by taking them where they need to go, buying supplies for them, or just spending time with them?

maybe you have a dream that's been gathering dust for weeks, months or years because you've been afraid to commit to making it a reality, whatever that means to you. it's not always easy to keep our commitments to ourselves and our dreams. it takes courage to say "yes" or "no." it takes willingness to wake up to what's happening around us. and it takes trust in the process of that journey. it's not just something that happens by chance - we must develop our capacity to make and keep our commitments, especially when we know, deep in our hearts, that they are true for us. did you know that John Perkins was turned down by 29 publishers before he got a "yes" for his international best-seller, Confessions of an Economic Hitman? talk about commitment… i bet those other publishers are kicking themselves now. as John said in an interview for the Monthly Review, "This is perhaps the most important revolution in human history. We are at a time that is comparable to or more important than the agricultural revolution or industrial revolution or technological revolution. This is a revolution in global consciousness, not merely a change that is necessary for the economic system. People everywhere, as well as nature, are facing the same crisis. We are beginning to see how we relate to everything else and what an important role we humans play in protecting this planet. So it is about waking up. We are all waking up to the incredible potential that human beings have."2

and, as our wonderful media director and founder of Deconstruction Crafts, Cheyenne Barr, wrote to me a few weeks ago when i expressed a concern that i may be getting too "political" with my blog:

I think we need to get political. We have our beliefs, our passions, and they're not all going to agree with everyone…. I think that it pays for us to really go deep… not to try to polish it so much that we're not saying what we really want to, or using GTYM as a platform for social, and planetary change. I never want GTYM to be white-washed…. Making ourselves taller than the pack, and standing out with these sorts of important issues is in our best interest. For our mission, it's necessary for us to stand up and know that WE matter, that our passions matter, that what we live for, that fills our lungs matters. Also, us taking a stance on political issues I believe is perfect, because we can have our beliefs and perspectives, and also see nothing wrong, nothing broken, no one with other beliefs being wrong, broken, or asleep. We aren't saying that anyone is wrong. That's the revolution. How do we CHANGE the world while keeping in how GREAT it already is?  This is my mission, to walk this line, and be totally standing in my own power and trust in myself as I do.

i ask you, what would be possible if you committed to something bold, something bigger than you, something meant to contribute to the world in a positive way, like Occupy Love? and what could you do today to begin to make that commitment? questions like these can be important in helping us stay committed to our life's mission and making choices from the place of getting that we matter. so i urge you to take on BEing Committed with us this month and watch what happens.

 

 

Notes:

1. Heidi Alford, "Our Bit of Earth," Happy Animals of Oregon, issue #11.

2. Interview with John Perkins, Monthly Review, March, 2013; http://monthlyreview.org/2013/03/01/rise-of-the-global-corporatocracy-an-interview-with-john-perkins

Connection and Community… We Are the Universe

Jonah M. Kessel / China DailyIf you really knew me, you would know that I've started spending more time pondering my blogs than writing them… musing, staying open, gathering bits and pieces of stories or information that are so readily available on the internet, and mapping them all out in what would look like the inside of a baseball to most folks (you know, a mass of rubber bands all wrapped around each other…). This process actually takes up most of my "blog time" (that, and worrying about not getting them done in time because I haven't started writing yet). But lately, I keep trusting the process, continuing to gather and muse and map… and - lo and behold! - something catalyzes and everything clicks into place. This month, my catalyst was re-reading one of the pieces I had saved to use for this blog - a commencement speech given by Paul Hawken at the University of Portland in May, 2009. As I sat here reading it, I felt such awe at how succinctly, poetically and brilliantly he expresses the core of what I am feeling. So, I'm "borrowing" quite a few of his words. However, I really urge you to read his entire speech for yourself. It's profoundly beautiful and utterly inspiring.

My ego has been putting up a pretty darned good fight lately as I've been struggling with what I've been pondering for this month's feature blog. It feels so big, so unwieldy - how to explain what I feel, what I am coming to know on the deepest level and so urgently want to share with everyone… that we are all connected. That there isn't anything we're not connected to… nothing. If you think of anything - anything at all - from a baseball to a butterfly, a nuclear power plant to the Nubian Desert, we are all utterly, wholly, inextricably connected to it.

In other words, we are this creation we call the universe, and our only job is to wake up to that fact and do our part in helping others to do the same.

This is the good news and the bad news… good news for our hearts, bad news for our egos which have the tendency toward separation, isolation and wanting to be right (about pretty much everything…). Ultimately, though, the heart wins out and remembers that it is the voice to be heeded, even if we feel like we may be labeled as "crazy." As the Mary Oliver poem says:

One day you finally knew what you had to do,

and began,

though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice…

there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do-

determined to save

the only life you could save.1

The thing is… whether you  know it or not, you are striding on a path of awakening, "moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world."2 It's not necessarily easy, but there is absolutely no turning away from this path. Yes, there are plenty of detours - working at jobs we hate and complaining about them rather than letting go, numbing out with any number of addictions (alcohol, tv, shopping, drugs, self-abuse, abusing others), buying products we know are made in factories that pollute and exploit, putting food in our bodies that really doesn't qualify to be called "food," - and they can seem pretty satisfying in the moment. But they're not. They offer empty promises that will only leave you wondering who you are and why you're here. No matter how long it takes (in this lifetime or in many, if you believe in that sort of thing), even if only a millisecond - even if it's with your last breath, you will see that everything points you toward remembering this very simple truth that you are awakening and you are connected to everything.

And, as you stride deeper and deeper into the world, you find that your connection to everything means you are part of at least a couple handfuls of communities… visible and invisible. You are part of the community of your family (whether you have regular contact with them or not, that's where you started). You are part of the community of your friends, co-workers, neighborhood, the people at the grocery story, and your town or city. You are part of the community of the plants, animals, insects and fungi above and below the earth around you. You are the community of cells and micro-organisms which cause your body to function without you having to do anything but care for it. You are part of the community of the billions of stars which make up the galaxy in which we are spinning through space.

And consider that everything you think, say and do has an indelible impact on those communities and your level of connectedness to them. Consider that every product you buy has a ripple effect environmentally and socially in how it was made and how it is disposed of… like choosing to buy local, organic produce in cloth bags which supports the reclamation of the soil, local jobs and reduction of plastic waste over buying non-organic (even GMO), agribusiness produce which perpetuates the degradation of the soil, social inequity, and plastic gyres in our oceans. Consider that every choice you make is like your vote for awakening or not… like choosing to walk, ride a bike or carpool to work which reduces greenhouse gases (we just hit over 400ppm last month), exercises your body or strengthens your community over driving to and from work alone which increases greenhouse gases, stress and isolation. The list goes on and on.

In choosing acts of kindness, restoration, peace, reconciliation, justice, love and more, we have infinite opportunities to "join a multitude of caring people…. [in] the largest movement the world has ever seen… [which] rather than control, seeks connection… [and] provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world."3

In April, I was taking a walk with Sarah Haywood, founder of 3 Pieces A Day (3PAD), and she said, "It seems to me that, by the look of the trash I pick up, the people who are trashing the planet are also the ones who are trashing their bodies." There it is again… the connection. Consider that what we put in and on our bodies, where we live and work, what we buy, the thoughts we think, beliefs we hold, what we say and do, and the attitudes we have towards ourselves, each other and the planet are all undeniably connected as Sarah so astutely pointed out.

Consider that every thought, belief, and action we take impacts the world. Get that you matter.

There is not one of these choices that does not affect the others. Every choice, starting with the seeds of our thoughts, matters. And it matters not only on the personal level, it matters on the community, national and global levels as well. As Paul said, "The living world is not 'out there' somewhere, but in your heart…. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it…. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich."4

Do you hear the voices of the women dancing in the streets of the world in protest against violence and genocide inextricably intertwined with the voices of trees crying out for their brothers and sisters being slaughtered for cheap lumber when we have "tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes?"5 Do you see the connection between the oil pouring out of tar sands in Alberta, Canada turning everything in sight to a black ooze and the damming of  rivers which continues to displace indigenous peoples in Africa? There are no winners in this game; there are only losers. And, there is nothing that isn't touched by something else… that's actually the good news.

The good news is in farms that raise truly free chickens, in Clare Dankin's Tree Sisters project, in the creativity and commitment of 400 people who gathered for the Awaken Leadership Retreat and the passion of Vandana Shiva and millions of others Marching Against Monsanto in May. It's in lemonade stands, Arcosanti and Philadelphia with Lily Yeh. It's in our capacity to empathize with others and, from there, allow ourselves to make deeper connections. It's in the people gathering to protest the Keystone Pipeline this summer, in the letters written to President Obama to hold him to the promises he made in his State of the Union address, Amazon Watch and in the glass jars my friend Cheyenne creates so I don't have to use disposal cups when I buy my tea at the airport. It's all around us….

As Paul opened his speech to the graduates at the University of Portland:

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.6

And in his final words to them:

We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable…. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing and stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.7

Because it does….

What will you choose?

Let the trees be consulted

before you take any action

every time you breathe in

thank a tree

let treeroots crack parking lots

at the world bank headquarters

let loggers be druids

specially trained and rewarded

to sacrifice trees at auspicious times

let carpenters be master artisans

let lumber be treasured like gold

let chainsaws be played like saxophones

let soldiers on maneuvers plant trees

give police and criminals

a shovel and a thousand seedlings

let businessmen carry pocketfuls of acorns

let newlyweds honeymoon in the woods

walk don't drive

stop reading newspapers

stop writing poetry

squat under a tree

and tell stories

-John Wright8

 jumping into lake

 

 

 

*******

Notes:

1. Mary Oliver, "The Journey"

2-7: Paul Hawken, http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/columns/you-are-brilliant-and-the-earth-is-hiring

8. John Wright, "Let the trees be consulted"

Our Call for the Elephants

Once again, I am inspired by my family. They never cease to amaze me with their capacity for compassion, love and standing up for what's right. I know this propensity definitely came through my grandparents, but there must be a long lineage because I see it echoed through every member of my family in many unique ways and I admire it greatly. Thus, I've decided to create a series of blogs about the issues about which some of my family members are passionate. For this first piece in the series, I'm focusing on the plight of African elephants that was brought to my attention by my uncle's partner Barbara Hall, who, although not born into the above-mentioned bloodline, is truly one of the gentlest, most compassionate souls I have ever met. She is such a gift of humbleness and equanimity to our sometimes loud, often opinionated and always wonderfully vibrant family.

When Barbara first shared this information with me, I found myself in absolute disbelief. I thought things were going relatively well for elephants lately – that the horrors of the '80's genocide (I use this word deliberately) of more than half of the elephant population in Africa which took place was behind us.

I guess not.

She pointed me to two New York Times articles (1, 2) describing the slaughter of elephants in Africa to support the illegal ivory trade, which brought me to tears of outrage and deep grief. This cannot be possible. If the killing continues, I understand there may no longer be elephants on the African continent within one generation. I find it unimaginable and horrifying to consider a world without elephants. I can't think of a single child I know who doesn't love these gentle giants. They are an intrinsic and essential part of the fabric of life on this precious and fragile planet, and we need to make sure they remain that way.

 

In 1989, my first husband and I took our son (then two and a half years old) on a trip around the world for ten months, landing first in Thailand. I will never forget the day we visited an elephant camp near Chiang Rai to spend a day with these amazing beings. I was eating a banana while we were chatting with some of the folks who worked at the camp when, out of nowhere, I felt a nudging on my shoulder and next saw a rubbery grey shape reach over and very deftly pilfer that banana right out of my hand. I looked up behind me and there was the sweetest, biggest thief I'd ever laid eyes on. He was looking at me as if to say, "Well, what did you expect? You made it so easy!" I patted his trunk and cheek as we all laughed and joked about what a sucker I was for letting him get away with it. Honestly, it was a pleasure.

That same year, while we were making our way around the British Isles, we had the great fortune of attending the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a week with my mother. One of my most memorable events was a reading by Heathcote Williams from his epic poem, Sacred Elephant (3). My mom had a copy of his previous effort, Whale Nation (4), and was thrilled that we actually had the opportunity to hear him read in person. This was not to be missed.

Mr. Williams' books are unique in that they are written as epic poems – pages and pages of history of and tribute to these regal creatures. And, not only is there a multitude of photographs and illustrations of whales and elephants to complement his words, but there is an entire section with massive amounts of research on their behavior and biology as well as thorough chronicles of their often unfortunate interactions with mankind. I have been captivated by these volumes for years and could be found reading them often when visiting my mom's house, so it was truly a rare gift to be able to hear him read the poem in person.

So you see, I have a very soft place in my heart for elephants.

I won't go into detail here about how they are being slaughtered – you can read that for yourself in the NY Times articles and elsewhere. But I will, however, say this – elephants matter. If you have ever looked into the eyes of an elephant, you will see the soul of one of the wisest, kindest beings you have ever met. They know stuff. They're brilliant. Remember the old saying, "An elephant never forgets?"

Recently, my friend Shoshana emailed an article (5) about the passing of a gentleman in South Africa, Lawrence Anthony, who was known as "the elephant whisperer." This courageous man not only helped to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife around the world, he also rescued animals in the Baghdad Zoo during the US invasion if Iraq in 2003. According to the article:

For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives…. For two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye to the man they loved.,,, “A good man died suddenly,” says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., “and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”

In the U.S., our tax dollars support regimes like Uganda and South Sudan whose militaries have been, directly or indirectly (depending on how you choose to see it), linked to the systematic slaughter of entire herds (including babies) of elephants from helicopters so that the global thirst (mostly Chinese) for Ivory can be quenched. Last year, over 38.8 tons (that is 77,600 pounds) of ivory left more than 4,000 elephants dead. It is absolutely untenable that this rampage continues. How can anyone enjoy using ivory chopsticks knowing that they contributed to the extinction of a species? How can we as U.S. citizens stand by and simply let this happen? Like Soraida Salwala in Thailand, what can we do to help our elephant companions?

If you are, even in some small way, as moved as I am to make sure we save our elephant companions, I urge you to consider one or more of the following actions:

  1. Write letters to President Obama and your congress members to protest the subsidizing of this genocide with our tax dollars.
  2. Thank Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for speaking out against the illegal trafficking of wildlife.
  3. Write letters to the governments and/or representatives of South Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and China. You can find information about any country at this link.
  4. Boycott any jeweler who carries ivory products, illegal or legal; consider that even they may not know which is which.
  5. Consider boycotting all products made in countries, such as China and the Philippines, which support the illegal demand for ivory.
  6. Share information and petitions on your social media pages like facebook and twitter. Here are some sites to sign petitions and learn more (warning: there are graphic images on some):
  7. If you have children, share this information with them and enlist their help and the help of their friends and teachers. I fully believe we must tell them the truth about what's happening in the world. This is the only way of empowering them to share their profound fears and deep wisdom about the world we are leaving to them.
  8. Send love to these wonderful beings with whom we share this fragile planet in whatever way you feel moved to do.

 

We do not have to stand by and let this happen. Remember, every action you take or don't take has a profound impact on the future of our world. Your choices to speak up and take action – or not – help shape the decisions of policy-makers and have the potential to inspire the people you know by being an example of what it means to make a difference. If we could understand what the elephants might be saying, I'm sure they would agree.

As Andrew Dobson, a Princeton ecologist, asked, "The question is: Do you want your children to grow up in a world without elephants?"

 

Together, let's make sure future generations get to live in a world where elephants roam the African landscape, free from the terror of organized slaughter, as the gentle, wise and beautiful companions they are. It breaks my heart to consider the alternative. Can we learn to revere and care for them as much as they deserve? Because, if we truly are all connected, all one, what are we doing to ourselves when we allow this slaughter to continue?

 

In an upcoming blog, I look forward to sharing about the work of the Guatemala HumanRights Commission (GHRC), for which my cousin Kelsey Alford-Jones is the director.

 

Resources:

  1. Gettleman, Jeffrey. "Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits." NY Times. Ed. Margaret Sullivan. 3 September, 2012. The New York Times. 8 October, 2012.
  2. Editorial. "Elephant Slaughter." NY Times. Ed. Margaret Sullivan. 8 September, 2012. The New York Times. 8 October, 2012.
  3. Williams, Heathcote. Sacred Elephant, London, Jonathan Cape; New York, Harmony Books, 1989.
  4. Williams, Heathcote. Whale Nation, London, Jonathan Cape; New York, Harmony Books, 1988.
  5. Kerby, Rob. "Wild elephants gather inexplicably, mourn death of 'Elephant Whisperer'." Beliefnet. Ed. Rob Kerby. 8 October, 2012.
  6. Please visit Gregory Colbert's website, www.ashesandsnow.org, to see more of these stunning photographs.