Earth

earth day 2015... where is the accountability?

today is Earth Day.

i woke up at 3:45 again, unable to sleep... it happens every once in a while (i've written about it more than once). i wake, usually pretty suddenly, either in a total panic or with a more subtle sense of dread and low-level anxiety. this morning is one of those... the dull, unavoidable ache. lately, i've been able to go back to sleep, knowing how tired i'm going to feel later in the day. but this morning, it didn't work. i got up and fussed around for a bit, then tried to go back to sleep but it simply wasn't working. so i curled up next to Jakob, hoping not to disturb him, and prayed. the answer came swiftly - "go get in the water." so i quietly slipped outside to the back garden and into the hot tub which has become one of my favored places of rest and reconnection.

almost as soon as i got in, i began to weep. i knew it was there waiting under the surface, but it came on hard and suddenly... and i let it. i sat there in the dark, under the stars and the silhouette of our Grandfather Tree and wept from the deepest place inside of me.

at first, i thought it was from all the anxiety i feel about living up to the expectations i've set up for myself with what we're creating and doing. then i thought it was from the preparations for our wedding in July. but i soon realized that it was deeper than those things. it didn't have a name nor did it have a voice other than a silent, heart-wrenching cry from deep within.

i remembered - like so many times before - this feeling of unspeakable anguish, this cry emanating from 11174867_10206141196706905_8458638082752159094_nthe deepest part of my being... the cry of being alive, of being in human form. the cry of Mother Earth and all the beings who share life here... the birds, plants, dolphins, Tibetan refugees, lions, impoverished children, elephants, raped women and girls, slaves, parched riverbeds, burnt forests, hungry homeless, barren tar sands, isolated teenagers, plastic-strangled seagulls. the cry of Life itself calling out to and from my heart, reminding me that i am not separate.

it is so easy to forget. i do it all the time.

it is so easy (when i have so much to accomplish) to minimize the torment of women (some i know personally) who have suffered abuse at the hands of wounded fathers, husbands and strangers... leaving everyone disconnected, numb and filled with rage. it is so easy (when i can never truly understand) to dismiss the pain of so many men longing for connection whose choices have had devastating effects on themselves, others and our planet... excavating the hole in their souls even more deeply. it is so easy (when i live such a privileged life) to pity children who must walk miles every day for their water or hunt through garbage heaps for their dinner... knowing that, with the toss of a cosmic coin, it could just as easily have been me.

it is so easy to forget that who i really am and where i come from is... this beautiful planet, the stars, the infinite cosmos... Love itself.

as i kneeled in the warm water, weeping and praying for help, i heard my Mother's quiet voice reminding me that all i have to do is let her take care of me. i felt her gentle caress holding me as i allowed myself to release the worries i had thought were the cause of my discomfort. i held her profound grief in my bones as all the silenced voices of innocent victims, the pain of the persecuted, the anger of the unjustly imprisoned arose in my belly.

as i knelt there weeping, many questions (some new, mostly old) surfaced...

how is it possible that such a small group of humans could have such a profoundly negative impact on the Whole of Life?

how can the people, privileged with the "right not to know," once informed, live with the fact that they have caused so much pain, destruction, torment, anguish for so many?

how is it they can so easily forget that they are inextricably connected to everything, that every action they take has a profound effect on everything and everyone around them?

what keeps me working so incredibly hard all the time to bring more Love and Light into the world only to have it end up feeling as if the boulder i seem to be pushing up this impossibly steep hill could be flicked back down to the valley of hopelessness by the finger of some government official or corporate CEO who seemingly has only profit and power in mind with no regard for anything else?

where is the accountability? it's all just so f-xx-ing unfair!

i arose from the water, not with a sense of satisfaction at having found any answers nor with a sense of relief, but with a knowing that, right now, my best and only option is to let myself feel what i am feeling... deeply and thoroughly. (as i wrote those words, a small bird hovered right in front of my window in confirmation.)

and to continue to express and allow these feelings of despair, rage and hopelessness at what is happening to remind me that, at the end of my raging, wailing and despairing, is only Love. plain and simple.

Earth-May31today is Earth Day.

this is the only home we have.

and my question is... what will we choose to do when we remember who we really are?

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.

lessons from the lunar eclipse… being part of the tapestry

note: i was going to wait and post this on Monday, October 13th. but i decided not to wait, realizing that was part of my scarcity thinking... "what if i don't have anything to say next week?" then i thought, "post it now. it happened yesterday. carpe diem!" then i thought, "who the f-x-x-c cares if you don't post anything next week?!?!" so... here it is....

October 8th, 2014...

i’m sitting here outside in the dark at 4:16 in the morning, having gotten up about an hour ago to witness the lunar eclipse. and, i have to say, it is worth every bit of effort i made to awaken and whatever lack of sleep i’ll experience later today.

bood mooni’ve heard that it’s sometimes called the “Blood Moon” because of the reddish color it takes on… and now i know why. it’s simply the most gorgeous, essential color. but it’s so much more than that. tonight’s moon is primal, almost painful, in its stark and ethereal beauty as it moves through the branches of the trees above.

before i went to bed i read this great piece about tonight’s full moon - how it’s about letting go of that which is no longer serving us so we can be fully in our power serving humanity and our world. i felt something was important about getting up and bearing witness to this beautiful phenomenon, but i wasn’t sure what. i just knew i needed to be part of it.

but as i sit here outside in the chill night air, wrapped in a little wool blanket with a mug of hot cocoa in my hands, listening to my favorite sound in the whole world - the song of the soft wind dancing in the tall trees here in our little canyon - i realize that the very thing which keeps me moving forward every day and propels me to serve and stand in my power is also the very thing which keeps me utterly separate from everything. when i say, “it’s so beautiful” or “that’s so terrible” or any number of observations my head makes about anything at all, i’ve already assumed i’m separate from it.

there is something opening in my chest as i sit beneath these stars so impossibly far away and these trees so comfortingly close. in this deep darkness, they look equally close. the stars seem so close i could reach out and touch them - like that scene in Contact where she takes off her glove to touch the galaxy above her. there is something letting go in my head as i welcome this closeness, as i feel it not only “out there” but “in here.” these stars know me. i know them. this darkness is not frightening. just the opposite- it is comforting beyond explanation. it’s as comforting as the inside of my heart, as the sacred place i visit in here when i’m in need of reconnecting to myself.

sitting here, still and quiet - in the deep darkness, and soft “shhhhh” of the trees, under the blanket of stars glowing softly above, and the silhouettes of the pines and cedars, and the deep orange glow of the shadow of earth over the moon, i realize that this beauty - this incredible, quieting, deep-breath, muscle-releasing beauty is not separate from me. or, more accurately, i am not separate from it. as i sit here feeling so grateful and so awed by its beauty, i realize that it is me. that i am it. that we are inseparable.

this calming “shhhhh.” these stars, shining brightly and softly as if the sky were a black piece of paper with tiny, perfect holes poked in it by a cosmic pin. these trees, tall and majestic sentinels who have watched over me my entire life. this blood moon, soft and reassuring in her deep knowledge of time and all we’ve been and done. this is not something i stand and comment on like a masterpiece in the Louvre. no, i am in this masterpiece. albeit an integral and infinitesimally small part of it. like the huge tapestries hanging in the cathedrals i love so much in Europe, i am a tiny, momentary thread in the tapestry of life. and, what i am feeling right now - right now - is the deeply humbling and profoundly comforting knowledge that, in simply being - just being - i am expressing my own color in this infinite tapestry.

it brings to mind the saying, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." and i realize that, as humble of a statement that is, it perpetuates separation. it's more like, "there go i." with everyone and everything. there go i... the homeless person on the sidewalk. there go i... the newborn baby. there go i... the terrorist, rapist, murderer. there go i... the nobel prize winner, genius comic, noble saint. there go i... the stars, the trees, the moon.

like this dark orange moon, expressing her unique beauty and offering up the wisdom she has to impart to someone willing to awaken and stand beneath her tonight, i am utterly, intrinsically part of it all. special and beautiful and perfectly placed in the vastness of life. a tiny spark of life with nothing to do other than my part in it all.

so, i go back to bed now, more peaceful and grateful than when i retired a few hours ago. i am bringing this with me into my dreams for the next couple of hours, praying to the Creator of All Life that i may remember this moment as clearly as i feel it now, and bring with me into my coming days, months and years the certainty of how completely insignificant and intrinsic i am to this fabric of beauty we call life.

lunar eclipse

Please note: photos are courtesy of Tonja Peterson, a dear friend and amazing human. Thanks Tonja!

Honoring Mothers, Honoring the Earth, Honoring the Feminine

Photo credit to Petr David Josek/Associated Press I'm sure we can agree what happened in Boston and Watertown last month was a horrible tragedy. There is no doubt that all of our hearts, thoughts and prayers are likely continuing to go out to the victims, their families and these communities in shock from those events. And… what about the young men who took it into their hands to create these situations? What about their parents, friends, relatives and communities? They all need our love and prayers just as much - maybe even more.

I know that may ruffle some feathers or even anger some of you, but consider this:  when we live in a society in which people who shoot children in schools and theatres, and bomb marathons manage to slip through the cracks - whatever those cracks may be, we must all consider that it's our responsibility, as a whole, for what they did. I know that, if my son had been one of the Boston suspects or the young man who killed all those children in Sandy Hook, I would be up in the middle of the night asking, "Where did I go wrong? How did I not pay attention? What did I not see or hear? What could I have done more, differently, or better to make sure my son knew he was safe, loved, and celebrated as the beautiful, talented, amazing human being he is?"

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that their mothers did anything wrong. I'm not calling their parenting into question. If anything, my heart is breaking for and with them - deeply. As a mother myself, I can only imagine what they are going through. It is truly unfathomable.

What I am saying is… how did we get here? How are we - as a society - not getting that we matter on the most fundamental level, such that young men like Adam Lanza or the Tsarnaev brothers would even consider doing something like this? How have we let ourselves come this far?

The answers are long, complex and multi-faceted, I know. And, what I am seeing more clearly every day, as life renews itself in this Spring season and I plant seeds in the cool, dark soil of the land I am so blessed to live with and on, is that we have become gravely numb to what's been happening in our world. Because there is a fundamental "out of balance" between the feminine and masculine, we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that we matter. This imbalance has been written about and spoken to for decades and it has come to a head whether we like it or not.

We have sacrificed the feminine at the altar of the masculine, and this is the fundamental reason why we are in the mess we are in now.

I know that that is a bold statement, but I'm prepared to stand by it. Look around you. Truly. Open your eyes to what's happening… it's crystal clear that climate change, global species loss, mass migrations of indigenous peoples due to the damming of rivers and extraction of oil, bombings in Boston (need I go on?) are symptoms of a radical dishonoring of the feminine. In ourselves  - in the drive to do more, have more, acquire more. In humanity - gang rapes on busses in India, the huge imbalance between the "haves" and "have nots," seemingly endless wars which only result in more grief for all concerned.  Of our planet - the mother without whom our lives would not even be possible who is suffering immeasurably from our unconscious actions.

It is as if 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. And we have done so largely because we have forgotten that who we are is both the masculine and the feminine. We have forgotten to honor the slower pace rather than the quick fix, the mystery of the unknown rather than the addiction to being right, the pondering questions rather than the short answers, the organic journey rather than the straight line.

Am I making you uncomfortable? Pissing you off, even? Good.

This is not a comfortable conversation, but it is a necessary conversation.

I'm very clear that this little blog isn't going to change everything, but I hope that, by stirring things up and posing some questions, you may be ignited to make a change in your own life. Even if no one else noticed, what is one thing you could do to honor the feminine (regardless of your gender, in yourself or in the world)? What will you do to shift - for the better - your inevitable and indelible impact on the world? Will you donate to a cause you believe in? Will you drive less and walk more? Eat locally-grown, organic vegetables? Drink tap water from a glass jar instead of bottled water? Spend some time listening to a veteran who feels the way this young man does, but doesn't know how to begin to talk about their experiences? Sign a petition in support of our brothers and sisters in Guatemala, Ecuador or elsewhere?

This month we celebrate Mothers Day. Did you know that this holiday began in 1858 as a peaceful protest against war and injustice? Inaugurated to honor mothers as the care-takers, care-givers, and life-bearers of the world, I believe its origins speak to the peaceful, loving compassionate tendencies in all human beings. What started as a heartfelt cry from mothers for their sons now reverberates out through towns, states and countries, through decades more poignantly than ever before. Maybe what we need to do is take a breath, be willing to admit that we got off track somewhere along the line, humble ourselves enough to start over and do the courageous work of restoring the balance we all long for.

 

In honor of the mothers of the victims in Boston, young women in India, displaced Maasai familes, trees - the lungs our our planet - cut down in their prime, soldiers everywhere, slaughtered baby elephants… the mothers of those misguided young men, of your own mother, I ask you… what will you commit to doing differently - today - to get that you matter, love more fiercely and restore the balance?

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.

What About My Heart?

 
I said: what about my eyes?
God said: Keep them on the road.
God said: Keep it burning.I said: what about my passion?
I said: what about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it.
I said: pain and sorrow.
He said: stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
-Rumi 

 

 

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, not with my semi-usual semi-anxiety, but with a sense of deep loss, as if someone near and dear to me had died. I didn't feel sad… just somewhat empty and curious. It wasn't "bad." I was simply aware that there was an experience arising in me that I hadn't felt for a long time. For a few minutes, I couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly. But then I realized I was touching - almost as if for the first time yet very ancient and familiar, and very tentatively - an underground lake of grief that has always lived inside of me. It was a grief for fallen trees, for innocent children dying every day, for enslaved women, for extinct and endangered species, for young black men arrested simply for being who they are, for the pillaged earth, for a species so lost we don't remember who we are. It felt familiar and yet so buried that I had forgotten it, like a letter to my future self from years ago, saying, "Remember me? I'm still here."~ Rumi

My question is - do you feel this same lake of grief inside of you, too?

When you hear about about another ancient tree that has fallen, another of our earthly companions who has stopped walking the planet forever, or another mountaintop that's been blown to bits, do you feel that deep, aching emptiness? When you read about millions of bees dying off and children born sick, do you see a connection? When teens, college students or little children are gunned down in their classrooms, do you wonder what we're waiting for? When a father in a small Sierra town kills his two teenage children, the family dog and then himself, do you ask yourself if he himself was deeply lost? When you hear about a young woman in India who dies from being gang raped or the Amazon rainforest being destroyed at a catastrophic rate, do you see the correlation in how we treat women and how we treat our earth, Pachamama?

What do you mourn? How do we live with all this grief? How do we cope with the massive amount of bad news that is out there on a daily basis? How do we keep hope alive?

I'm sure there are many more people who feel it than I am aware of, but I wonder how many of us divert our attention from it in the name of carrying on and getting through our days? We all have mechanisms for dealing with the grief and bad news… denial, avoidance, numbing out. There are a multitude of ways to keep it at bay. But that's the problem. We just keep it at bay. That lake of grief is always there. In the end, it is unavoidable… and the only way to deal with it is to be with it. In other words, we have to feel it to heal it.

Because, as we know, our personal and global attempts to avoid being with it have actually become the very causes of what continue to feed the grief… addiction, eating disorders, bullying, sexual harassment, fracking, a vortex of plastic as large as the state of Texas floating in the Pacific ocean, corporate greed, political power-mongering, a war that costs $720 million a day, racial profiling, the massive rift between the "haves" and "have nots," and ultimately, murder, suicide and extinction. Sadly, the list goes on and on.

The more I think about it, I am cognizant of how this ever-present grief affects me in every way. It influences my choices when I shop. It drives me to write articles like this. It guides me to continue to question my impact on the planet and how I can reduce it even more. It fires up my righteous anger and motivates me to speak, write and take action. But ultimately, it makes me remember how very much I love this world and everything and everyone on it.

I just listened to the "Animal Sacrifice" episode of This American Life2 about the story of the thousands of "Dogs for Defense" who served and died in World War Two. The story touched my heart so deeply because these loyal, innocent beings - mankind's oldest friend - had no idea what they were getting into. They went into service with the joy only dogs can bring to any situation. There was even an elite group of "Bunker Dogs," outfitted with saddlebags filled with explosives, who were trained to be suicide bombers. The narrator said, "Without knowing what the war was for, the dogs had done what they'd been asked to do... because that's the nature of the bond we have with dogs. We take care of them and ask them to trust us… and they do." That's when I broke down.

I was so stunned, I just kept asking myself, what have we done? What are we doing? What more are we are capable of? What choices are we making, all from this place of forgetting that who we are is Love?

I believe we must choose to allow ourselves to feel the grief at how deeply we do not understand what we have done and what we continue to do.  In response to the murder/suicide in our community earlier this month, Merita Callaway (one of our county supervisors and a neighbor of the family) said, “…We do not understand and hope that time brings some peace.”3 I, too, do not understand and trust that time will bring some peace. But I also know that it will take more than time to bring peace. It will take the intention to make different choices… to reach out when we would rather stay focused on ourselves, to use less when our habit is to consume without thinking, to write letters even if it means getting up earlier or staying up later, to do what is not comfortable because, ultimately, that is the only choice that will ensure peace. Our addiction to comfort has lulled us to sleep. But we can no longer afford not to wake up.

We have been making choices from a place of not seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak - out of the illusion that our comfort is more real and easier to achieve than the greater good of the whole. We all do it. However, if we truly love the only home we have and all of its inhabitants, if we truly love each other and ourselves, we will choose to get uncomfortable.

Megan Hollingsworth, founder of ExtinctionWitness, is someone who is a living example of a commitment to getting uncomfortable enough to live from love. She allows herself to feel her grief - all of it - deeply and fully, and she comes out the other side empowered and more committed to being of service in the world. I am deeply moved by her capacity for compassion and ability to be with this deep grief by truly allowing herself to experience the incalculable pain of the world. Megan is doing some of the most important work on the planet - reminding us that, in order to shift the vast amount of unconscious damage we have done to the planet and each other, we must allow ourselves to feel our grief about the violence, ignorance, greed and inhumanity or our thoughts, words and deeds. Again, we must feel it to heal it.

As my friend Alex wrote in a most touching and memorable post on facebook:  "I heard a story on the radio about a refugee camp near Kabul, Afghanistan…. A girl my son's age died in the night from the cold. Many others are suffering the same fate…. I got off work a little early today, and laid in the afternoon sun that spills into our home. I had a nice snack, and now will go pick up my son from day care. I'm warm and satisfied, surrounded by love and abundance…. I am blessed beyond what I deserve, and I don't understand suffering. If I could give up one blanket, one meal, one set of clothes, one tank of gas, any of these comforts I take for granted, so that another child like that can live, I would. I think any of us would. I wish it were that simple. Maybe it is."

I believe our grief at what is happening in the world - whether we're aware of it or not - is actually the evidence of how very much we love this world of ours. It's not our anger and fear that source this lake - it's love. We do what we've done simply because we've forgotten that what we really are is Love. That forgetting has consequences far beyond our understanding.

So, as Rumi so wisely wrote hundreds of years ago, "stay with it… the wound is the place where the Light enters you."

 

 

There is a light- a light that guides you through the storms.

There is a place- a place of healing and calm.

There is a peace- a peace that lives beneath the waves.

Beneath the sorrow and the joy, there is a stillness and grace.

Beauty is like rain, falling from the skies.

It is God's love that's pouring from your eyes.

The wounds of life, they bring healing my friend.

The heart that breaks is but opening again.

The heart that breaks is but opening again.

- "There is a light" by John Astin

Resources:

  1. Rumi poem
  2. Union Democrat, "Three Dead in Murder-Suicide," February 4, 2013
  3. This American Life, episode #
  4. John Astin, "There is a Light," Remembrance

Lighting up the world with points of light

Recently I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada leading a Sacred Commerce workshop with my wonderful GTYM teammate and Vice President, Yebuny Johnson. We had just completed our two-day workshop and were out at a wonderful restaurant called Noorish to celebrate with some of the folks who had attended as well as other community members. This very special restaurant, founded by our wonderful friends Sheniz and Ayaaz Kasaam only a little over a year ago, has become a community hub filled with a joy and vibrancy I've rarely seen, except for Cafe Gratitude and a few other "conscious eateries." Not only does Noorish provide organic, locally-produced healthy vegan food in a gorgeous, joyful atmosphere, but there is also a beautiful yoga studio downstairs where they offer daily classes as well as regular events such as lectures and music.

The snowy night we were there happened to be the same night that our friend, Sparrow Grace, was performing kirtan downstairs. Everyone in our group decided to go down to enjoy the music while we waited for our food to arrive. We walked quietly downstairs, took off our shoes, and stepped into one of the sweetest spaces I've ever been in. There must have been about forty people, mostly sitting, some standing in the back of the room, swaying or dancing, all in a joyful state of prayer. I found myself standing next to a young man I hadn't seen since our last visit to Edmonton and we just stood arm-in-arm letting the music wash over us, smiling and swaying.

Then, as Sparrow Grace sang one of her own songs, I  began to experience something I can only explain as "Divine Reassurance."

I saw and felt that this little spot on the map - this restaurant/yoga studio - was a sanctuary, a "point of light," if you will, which was a hub for the seeding and growth of our global conscious awakening. I "zoomed out" and it felt as if I had seen light emanating from the building as if it were a beacon bursting with an invitation to come join in the festivities. Besides that, every person in the place was "beaming" light and the earth upon which the building sat was glowing. I saw the glow from the earth as a strong "thread" of light originating in the very core of the planet that was supporting and co-creating the light with the intentions of the place and people who were there.

I was completely overwhelmed with tears of joy as I had an experience of deep understanding that this was just one moment, one place among many - among millions - that is bearing witness to the shift taking place in us and on the earth. It is one part of a global movement towards a social, environmental and spiritual awakening for all of us, whether we are aware of it or not... and this is just the beginning.

 

As I stood there opening myself to this understanding, I zoomed out again and saw the earth as if from space with all of these millions of points of light shining all around the globe. There were hundreds lighting up every minute. Then they began to intersect and connect in what I saw was a weaving of the most beautiful web of light I had ever seen, a web of consciousness all around and connected to the earth as each light connected with those nearby on the surface of the earth as well as on the most microscopic level at the very core of the earth.

In that moment I knew - without a shred of doubt - that all is well. I knew that Hope is alive and thriving, and that everything I have worked for and given up to support has been a part of this awakening. I knew, too, that there would not be some apocalyptic end to life as we know it, but rather that there would be a transition, an almost imperceptible shift that is born from the movement of millions of us who are waking up and building something. That something is a bridge of light - from the old, unworkable world to a new, mysterious world that works for all - and we are building it as we walk, run and dance across it.

This movement has been growing for decades with increasing velocity and urgency, and it is rippling throughout the world, inviting all of us to join in and co-create it. As Paul Hawken writes in his sobering yet inspiring book, Blessed Unrest, the movement "is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent…. One of its distinctive features is that it is tentatively emerging as a global humanitarian movement arising from the bottom up…. This is the largest social movement in all of human history… coherent, organic, self-organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change."1

I used to feel disappointed and frustrated that we haven't made enough progress or that we haven't come together in a unified global movement, but what I realize is that we've just been priming the pump for this more powerful time of a deep, true, organic and lasting shift. We are up against the wall of our own miscreations, and now is the time for us to prove we are much more than the consequences of our actions as we act locally and intend globally.

The beautiful thing is, everything we have done has led us to exactly where we are today - on a personal and global level.

It is no wonder we are, at this time of transformation, waking up in every way. When we remember that we are part of "Life's longing for itself"2 - the creative force that governs everything, it is simply too great to deny. When we wake up to the fact that we are part of life, not separate from it or claiming dominion over it, we realize that we are here for much more than ourselves. We are stepping into something vastly greater than anything we could wish for personally and the rewards are far greater than anything we can imagine.

I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Hawken when he said in his talk at Bioneers October, 2012 event, "These are not goals we can achieve in an lifetime. These are goals that create a lifetime. This is who you are…. We do this for those who will pay the price if we fail, and we do it for those who will carry this incalculable hardship if we waiver, and for those who are watching and wondering if we will choose more stuff or more life…."3

We have no guarantees. We are building the bridge as we go. But we have no other choice. Again, in Paul Hawken's words, "We do what cannot be done because it's the only way to learn how to do what cannot be done."4

So, I ask you… are you waking up? Are you ready? Are you up for this?

If so, who are you waking up for? Whose future rests in your decisions - from the grand (starting a movement with no evidence for success) to the mundane (switching from packaged foods to whole foods)?

Who is counting on you? And what will your part be in building this bridge?

 

 

1. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

2. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

3. Paul Hawken, Bioneers October, 2012

BEing LOVE... what is your wish?

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about Being Love... especially since we just celebrated Valentine's Day, and I must say, I am truly astounded sometimes at how much Unconditional Love there is in my life and all around me. Then I remember that Love is truly the one and only most renewable resource there is. The more we give, the more flows in... the more we share, the more we attract. Sometimes, though, it can feel like a real stretch to allow ourselves to Love and be Loved unconditionally... Do you feel stretched, as if you're being fitted into a new skin that you're not quite familiar with yet?  

Last year brought so much to be grateful for… blessings to count and lessons to reap, opportunities to release the old and embrace the new. And already, in this wonderful New Year - this time of global transformation, deep and powerful awakenings are blossoming and birthing. It seems so many of us are in the midst of a personal re-evaluation or crisis… in some ways, it seems as if this is "The End of the World As We Know It!"

Do you feel as if you are being tested, "pushed" to release anything that is no longer authentically "you" or in alignment with your purpose?  

I truly believe we are being called to cultivate what we need to live the work we're here to do. And, if we want to be up to big things, we are likely feeling a deep need - even an irresistible urge - to love ourselves like never before, to shed the pieces of our identity which no longer serve us, and live in a more authentic way from the Love that we all are… to be Wayseers.

Do you have a wish for yourself or humanity that is becoming undeniable?  

What keeps you up at night? Wakes you up at four in the morning? What gives you the chills, makes you cry or takes away your breath? What is that deep interior dream that you keep close for fear it may be too fragile for the world? And, what if you took it out, watered it and grew it into a sturdy oak of a dream? What might be possible for you, your family, your community and the world if you did that? What if we Loved enough to create a true and lasting shift for humanity?

What is your wish?

In the words of my insanely courageous friend, Elisabeth Wilder, "I think the most important thing that I have realized...is the fact that life is to short to spend it doing what you think you are "supposed" to be doing. Do what you WANT to do, do what you are PASSIONATE about doing, do what you are DRIVEN to do, do what makes you SMILE, do what you LOVE, do what makes you want to DANCE, SING, LAUGH, LOVE, and FLY! Here's to living every day. Because what's the point of only living your life part of the time?"

What is my wish?

My wish is that we shed our fixation with competition, consumption and conflict, and instead openly honor and embrace collaboration, creativity and compassion – in relationship with the planet, other people and ourselves.

My wish is that everyone can experience Unconditional Love. Can you imagine what this could do to elevate our experience of life around the world? It could make “sustainability” a reality and open the door to “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward All." We could write a new, unique and completely transformational chapter in human history.

My wish is that we step up to our greatest potential in a way we never have before… with passion, conviction and Love, to unite and find our greatest potential for good… and that we do it now.

My wish for you is that your life is "about finding the intersection of the world's greatest need and your greatest passion," as Jim Carrey shares so eloquently.

My wish for you is that you get how very much you matter and that you Love living your life ALL of the time!

Question of the Week… January 22, 2012

How could you contribute to your community or the world this year?

(Please share your thoughts in the comments area below. We look forward to hearing from you and having a great conversation!)

4Years.Go... a Valentine's Day Invitation

Happy Valentine's Day.
Wherever you are, whoever you are with, whatever you are doing, I invite you to take a moment and remember what you are grateful for.
Remember what you love about the people in your life,
what you love about where you get to live,
what you love about how many opportunities you have all around you.
Now that you are present to that, I invite you to remember that we are at a crucial time in human history - there is more at stake than ever before. Our children are the first generation of human beings who are being handed a world in worse shape than any previous generation...
and we have a great opportunity to change that.
This is good news.
We have the ability to turn things around.
In other words, we have the capacity to live from Love even more and to bring more potential for good to the world than we could ever dream was possible.
One of the most powerful ways I know of doing that is to make a commitment to the possibility of leaving our children and grandchildren and generations to come with a
Thriving, Just and Sustainable Way of Life for All.
If you believe that this is not only a possibility, but also our responsibility,
I invite you now to make your voice heard by visiting FourYears.Go.

 

Watch the 3-minute video there -
let it Move you,
let it Inspire you,
let it Remind you that you have the Power to make a difference.
After you watch the video, Declare Your Commitment to this possibility and know that you have joined me and thousands of others who are ready to Be the Change.
Help surpass the goal of 6,000 commitments TODAY! Watch the video, get Inspired, Commit...
I thank you from the bottom of my heart and wish you a most Breathtakingly Happy Valentine's Day.

100 People... 4 years. go.

A couple months ago I woke up to this blog and video on Superforest (my favorite way to greet the world when I turn on my computer!): Miniature Earth

It really made me think... even more deeply... that, if there were only 100 people in the world, I would of course want to make sure that EVERY ONE OF US had enough food, clean water, shelter, health care. I wouldn't be able to live in a world of 100 where any of the members of my little community was suffering while I was eating enough and sleeping out of the rain. So... if I wouldn't let that happen if the world only had 100 human inhabitants, why do we let that happen in a world of billions and plenty?

TO READ MORE... visit the full post on the Cafe Gratitude blogsite. Check it out and you'll see what's happening in that amazing community! Feel free to post comments here or at the Cafe Gratitude site. Thank you and blessings....

Discovering Oneness at the Planetarium

Read my story on the Cafe Gratitude blogsite about the show, Life: A Cosmic Story. It's an amazing example of the world of science proving what mystics have been saying for thousands of years... that we are all One.



TO READ MORE... visit the Cafe Gratitude website where you will also see what's happening in that amazing community! Feel free to post comments here or at the Cafe Gratitude site. Coming soon... Get That You Matter updates and news on the book, the movement, membership and more!

Cleaning up the Coast… Cleaning up the Past

On September 25th (the day before my 48th birthday), I really wanted to chill out and give myself a "day for me" since I was leading a workshop on my birhtday. Instead, I decided to participate in the Coastal Cleanup Campaign – where citizens gather together and pick up trash and debris on the beaches of this beautiful state. It's something I've always wanted to participate in and something I'd never done until this year. Since, however, I live only a ten minute drive from the beach, I felt like I had no excuse not to participate. I'm so glad I did.

TO READ MORE... visit the full post on the Cafe Gratitude blogsite. Check it out and you'll see what's happening in that amazing community! Feel free to post comments here or at the Cafe Gratitude site. Coming soon... Get That You Matter updates and news on the book, the movement, membership and more!

To read more great blogs and get connected to some really amazing stuff going on, check out these links:
http://www.fouryearsgo.org/
http://superforest.org/
http://www.dailyacts.org/
http://storyofstuff.org/
http://challengeday.org/
http://www.debbieford.com/

On The Road

I've driven up Love Creek Road countless times, ever since I was a small girl, and hardly a time goes by when I don't feel overjoyed when I turn off the highway and make my way up that winding, uneven ribbon that connects me to my soul affectionately known as "The Road." I always feel such incredible gratitude for my grandparents for having had the foresight to purchase this land - our family's legacy - all those years ago on which I have spent countless hours playing, dreaming, living, loving and growing.

There have been moments in every season when I have marveled, in tears, at the beauty of this road. In summer, the warmth of mid-morning seems to ooze out of every leaf, giving off that particular dusty smell that is only recognizable June through mid-September.
Autumn brings the parade of rusts and oranges of oak, roses and pinks of dogwood, bright yellows of maple, and apples, apples, apples. The rains come again, with that wonderful scent of earth rising, singing to my interior to prepare, to hunker down, to can and put away, to hibernate.
For winter is just around the bend, with its all-encompassing cold bearing the beauty of lacy black branches painted with ice crystals and pine boughs that look like white boxing gloves. The road is an ice palace, a carriage ride through Varykino in Dr. Zhivago. It is absolutely breathtaking.
Then, spring comes with hesitant daffodils, gentle buds of dogwood, the small curls of oak leaves, green shoots in the meadow under a varnish of frost and whisps of woodstove smoke floating through the canyon. It is the new day, the coming 'round of the year to its next birth.
The Road is my beacon in many ways. When I am feeling lost, afraid, faraway or confused, I bring my mind's eye to its grey patches and cracks, reminding me that life's journey is far from pristine. I mentally drive along its twists and turns, feeling calmer by the second as I recall particular turns in the creek dancing alongside, mom's mailbox, the "Forever" sign hanging above her bench in the gently sloping meadow, the barns, my hugging tree, the apple orchard. The colors and smells, the sounds of God whispering through the trees… all of it brings me back home to my heart and soul.
It is a rare gift to have such a place to actually visit when I feel overwhelmed by the world or simply need to recharge my internal batteries. To know that I can go any time I wish holds a sense of freedom and security I can hardy describe. It warms my heart to no end to know, too, that my children feel the same way about this place, this road. That they have had the opportunity to grow up on The Road and learn to love and revere its beauty and depth is the greatest gift I could ever have given them.
I wish for everyone a place like this, whether in reality or imagination. I believe that well all have a place inside where we reconnect with our deepest selves, each other and Spirit. My wish is that these places are as magical, restorative and empowering as The Road.

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The Promised Land, Part One… Walking toward a new future together

I've been thinking about how much flack President Obama has been getting for either not doing enough or too much, for being too radical or not radical enough, in his first ten months of office, and I just want to say, "Give the guy a break!" I don't know about you, but, honestly, I sort of expected him to take us to the Promised Land - like some kind of Moses - when he was sworn in as the 44th President. I think some part of me was hoping that he would be able to magically fix everything that's been broken in this country, and on the planet, as soon as he was inaugurated.

Yes, he made bold campaign speeches, both serious and hopeful – the first mainstream candidate besides Dennis Kucinich to really address the critical situation in which we find ourselves as a country and a species. He spoke the truth when he said it would take all of us making sacrifices to create real, lasting change. He made the phrase, "Yes we can!" internationally recognizable. Honestly, he was the first candidate I've ever had the honor of voting for because I believed in supporting him. And… he's only one man. No matter how sincere, visionary, well spoken or down-to-earth he is, he is human… just like the rest of us.

I was simply so relieved and thrilled at having such an incredibly down-to-earth, well-spoken, visionary leader in the White House, I forgot that it was all of us (well, the majority of us) who put him there. I was so ready for a change, I forgot I had a responsibility to be part of it.

Because the truth is, no matter how much some may want to blame him and his administration for the various messes we're in right now – our national health care travesty, the real, horrible and deepening chasms in our own country between the "haves" and the "have nots," and the greatest challenge of our time, the global climate crisis - we can't blame anyone but ourselves. We are collectively responsible. All of these things started a very long time ago and we chose to ignore the signs and keep living as if everything was just fine.

Responsibility is sometimes a scary word because it means we don't have the luxury of pretending any more. When we take responsibility for our circumstances, personal and global, we have to wake up. We have to remember that everything we do has an impact. It also means that we are going to have to give up some of the things that we thought we wanted if we're going to make it to that Promised Land. When we begin the process of waking up, of becoming who we were meant to be, we must slough off the old, tight skin that kept us small and comfortable in order to grow into the bigger person we know we are. Letting go is both terrifying and exhilarating; it means, as Charles DuBois said, "giving up who we've known ourselves to be for the person we are becoming."

Yes, it will require some sacrifice; each one of us is going to have to take a long, hard look at how we live our lives, from the big stuff to the seemingly mundane. From how we buy our groceries and what we choose to do to our bodies, to how we use energy in our homes and how we travel. We no longer have the luxury of believing that any choice we make is "insignificant."

We must ask ourselves questions like, can I walk or ride my bike instead of driving today? Do I really need that toy, appliance, clothing or beauty item? Could I buy a different item that would use fewer resources and create less waste? Where does my food come from? Where were those clothes, toys, foods made? Who made them? Did they get paid fairly for their work? In other words, how could I make choices that have less impact on the planet while feeling more fulfilled, happy and connected to the world around me?

We are each part of a larger whole, we are not at the top of the pyramid. There is no pyramid. We are part of the web of life, a strand in the tapestry woven from the one thread that connects us all, no matter how different we may seem from each other, the trees, dirt, buildings, stars and animals. We must wake up to the fact that the world was not made solely for our benefit; it is not a department store in which we "shop 'til we drop" without thought for the consequences. We must wake up to the fact that we share this world with many other people and species for whom this world is also a precious, living source.

Because we are the one species who has caused the most damage to this precious planet, we must be the ones to take responsibility for it. Personally. We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that every decision we make has a great affect on everything around us. And because the U.S. is the most privileged nation on the planet (and the one with the greatest environmental impact), we have the greatest responsibility to do our part. With privilege comes great responsibility.

No one, not even the President, is going to rescue us from these things that cause pain or suffering, No one has a magic wand to wave over our lives or the planet to "make it all better." There are no band-aids big enough for the wounds we've created. The only solution is serious, concerted effort to do our part. As my friend Yvonne St. John-Dutra says, "We are the heroes we've been waiting for."

What if, like Mahatma Gandhi, we all realized that "we must be the change we want to see in the world?" Just like it took all of us walking to the polls in the election process last year, it's going to take all of us stepping out of our comfort zones and walking there to make it to this Promised Land. And we must walk together!

It's not necessarily going to be an easy road to walk. There are potholes, steep hills, sharp curves and blind corners. We may sometimes feel like we can't go any further, like it's just too hard. But we must remember, just like President Obama, we're not alone. There are people right next to us who can help us when we need it. There are people we can help when they need it. If we all work together to get there, remembering that everyone matters, that each of us is here for a reason, and that we have a responsibility to each other and our world, we'll make it to the Promised Land with a lot more grace and joy.

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