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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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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.

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.

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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.

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

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"

Sending Love to Guatemala

  kelsey_PolochicAs I promised last month, this month's blog features the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, the organization for which my amazingly dedicated, passionate and incredibly knowledgeable cousin Kelsey Alford-Jones is the Director. Although not directly related to Mother's Day or Memorial Day (special days in the U.S. on which we commemorate mothers and military veterans), I believe the issues facing the Guatemalan people are deeply intertwined with the lives of those who experience challenge and loss in any form - partners, children and other loved ones, communities, ecosystems - the list goes on. And, although we all process our challenges and losses in our own ways, we more often than not stand strong and resolute in the face of living in these tumultuous and uncertain times.

 

In many places around the world, men, women and children are denied their basic human rights on a daily basis… working for slave wages in sweatshops, walking for miles to obtain dirty water for washing and drinking, suffering from diseases due to an imbalanced distribution of the healthy food and clean water that is available to all of us. Many are beaten, tortured or killed simply for being who they are or for speaking out against these situations… and their families may never find out what actually happened to them.

 

Guatemala is one of those places where countless thousands of men, women and children just like you and me have died at the hands of their own government. The Guatemalan people have faced indescribable horrors, and bravely continue to fight against multi-national corporations which plague communities like San Antonio Las Trojes 1 and San Rafael Las Flores with environmental degredation, increasing health concerns and escalated social injustices. The Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC), however, continues to support the people there in reclaiming their way of life.

 

Kelsey works out of their Washington D.C. office and makes numerous trips on behalf of the Guatemalan people each year. As she wrote in an email to our family last fall, "professionally, I am learning something new every day and have gotten to participate in some amazing activities. And personally, I am continually humbled and inspired by the people I have the honor of working with." She shared about how she and others at GHRC have been working tirelessly to ensure the rights of all citizens in Guatemala, which include the following:

 

  • Closely monitoring and reporting on the recent trial, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity of ex-dictator Efraín Rios Montt, the mastermind behind Guatemala's scorched earth policy, hundreds of massacres in indigenous communities, and the "disappearances" of over 45,000 native Guatemalans. Kelsey has been at the forefront of this campaign, and had the opportunity to comment on camera for a piece by Al Jazeera [about 2:41 minutes in]. As GHRC stated, "we hope [this unprecedented historical event] will send a strong message to the world about the victory of human rights over impunity." If you want to stay informed about the progress of this critical situation, you can find updates here.
  • Arguing her way into an active exhumation inside the Coban military base with a group of indigenous Guatemalans hoping to find any remains of "disappeared" family members. (Although she was unable to bring her phone or camera, a photojournalist later got in and took some powerful photos.)
  • Supporting Guatemalan human rights lawyer Edgar Perez, known for his work on most of the nation's emblematic human rights cases from the internal armed conflict such as the Dos Erres Massacre case, which was the topic of a recent This American Life episode.
  • Supporting land rights and community leaders who are threatened, attacked or assassinated due to their resistance to transnational development "megaprojects," such as Rubén Herrera, a human rights defender and member of the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango for the Defense of Natural Resources, unjustly imprisoned for alleged crimes committed in relation to community resistance to the Cambalam hydroelectric dam in Santa Cruz Barillas.
  • Accompanying two community leaders to meetings with the Director of the Inter-American Development Bank and representatives of the World Bank to continue to push for just reparations.
  • Meeting with women who had been gang raped by the private security of a Canadian nickel mining company, and accompanying community leader Maria Choc on a mid-west speaking tour. This short video gives a glimpse into the challenges faced by that community.
  • Meeting with anti-mining activist Yolanda Oqueli (who was shot in the back but survived), and securing pro-bono legal assistance  for her husband, detained by I.C.E. in Louisiana the same week, who has since applied for political asylum. GHRC continues to support his case, as well as push for investigation and justice in the shooting of Yolanda.
  • Working with a journalist from the AP to contribute to an article that raised some human rights concerns with the militarization of the war on drugs in response to the deployment of 200 US Marines in Guatemala to fight drug trafficking.

 

Kelsey concluded her letter by stating, "events and circumstances change quickly in Guatemala, but GHRC has been able to maintain much-needed support for our Guatemalan partners. We hear over and over again that international support is more important now than ever, and I feel really lucky to be in a position to provide concrete support. More often than not, that support feels like simply keeping things from getting worse. But every once in a while we are able to contribute to positive steps forward in the defense of human rights, historic memory, justice, and accountability…. Those moments are really exciting, and make all the stress, long hours, and emotional challenges of the job more than worthwhile."

 

GHRC wrote in their 2013 Earth Day newsletter, "We would like to honor this important holiday by reiterating our support for the communities in resistance to mining and other projects that exploit Guatemala’s natural resources. The companies that are responsible for these projects have shown a pattern of disrespect for the Earth and the rights of the Guatemalan people. Through referendums, consultations and peaceful protests, communities throughout the country have shown their commitment to protecting their land and natural resources." And, as they stated recently in regards to the Rios Montt case, "As the trial draws to a close, international attention and solidarity are as important as ever. The danger of violence if the accused are found guilty is very real, as is the need for ongoing psycho-social support for the survivors. This case is also just one of several against Guatemalan military officials for crimes committed during the internal armed conflict. Please continue to keep Guatemala in your thoughts and prayers, and keep spreading the word about this historic process and its importance for the Guatemalan people."

 

The Guatemalan people are not the only ones who face situations like this on a daily basis. There are numerous countries and countless communities where multitudes of people and our planet, our very home, are sacrificed for the profit of a few. And we all know that there are actions to be taken - petitions to sign, phone calls to make and letters to write, choices to make - in our every day lives. When we take these actions which have an effect on the policies and decisions made by a few, we can make a difference. But we must choose to take them. We must choose to change.

There was a time when we forgot who we were

 

As Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance stated, “These are the people, this is the generation of humankind, that made the changes that went through a transformation that made the future of life possible. These are the people who had the courage to make profound changes in the way they were thinking--as well as in the way that they were behaving--that gave the future to life itself."

 

Let's pray that the mothers in Guatemala do not have to Dance Alone (like the mothers in Chile written about so poignantly in this song by Sting) any longer, that they know they are loved, supported and held by mothers and everyone around the globe, and that this Mothers Day and Memorial Day bring us ever close to a day when we can say, "There was a time when we humans forgot who we were, but that time is long since gone."

 

You can learn more about what's happening in Guatemala by watching this video, subscribing to the GHRC listserve, and reading El Quetzal. If you feel moved to support their work, please join me in "liking" their facebook page, following them on twitter, or or making a tax-deductible donation to their worthy cause here.

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.

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 29, 2012

How have you had a positive impact on the people in your life?

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

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!)

What?!?! Keeping Students from the Polls?

Just had to post this before I knock off for the night. I saw this article on my friend Daniel's facebook page and got all fired up about this whole push to keep out-of-state college students from voting in the upcoming election. This is simply outrageous. In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna , "What are you tryin' to do, make me sick?!"

If I read the article correctly, there is a move afoot in a number of states to make it, let's say, "challenging" for out-of-state students to vote in person on Election Day. The article states, "Political leaders should be encouraging young adults to participate in civic life, but many Republican state lawmakers are doing everything they can instead to prevent students from voting in the 2012 presidential election. Some have openly acknowledged doing so because students tend to be liberal." I have two adult children who both live outside of California, one of whom is still in college, and I am absolutely going to make sure my daughter has the opportunity to utilize her birthright to vote for the first time in her life.

However, instead of continuing to be angry and frustrated (and sick) or giving up and staying quiet about this, I offer these invitations to take a stand against this injustice.

First... If you are an out-of-state student, make sure you REGISTER to vote! If you're an in-state student, register to vote! For goodness' sake, everyone - register to vote.

Second... Do your homework. Find out your state regulations regarding early voting, government-issued photo-id and other possibly very recently passed legislation that could affect your right to vote.

Third... I want to suggest that, rather than fight a likely uphill battle against this movement to silence millions of voters, college students could consider one of the following options:

1. Apply to get an absentee ballot mailed to you well in advance (like, 5 months!) of the election and be sure to return it to your home state before the deadline. Every state has different requirements, so search for "[your state] absentee ballot 2012" and you should find information on how to apply (if you can), like this page on the California state website.

OR

2. Create a MASSIVE grassroots movement of out-of-state college students returning home to vote in person. This could actually be a wonderfully creative way to generate a great voter turnout and save money on travel expenses by traveling during a non-holiday week. Hey, you could get two great meals out of it! You could have an early Thanksgiving celebration with your families and one with your college friends on the actual holiday.

Regardless of your political persuasion or of how broken you think our political system may or may not be, it is not only our right but also our privilege to vote. And having to miss your first (or maybe second) opportunity to participate in the democratic process because of such heinous legislative sleight-of-hand is absolutely tragic.

As the NY Times Editorial stated, "Imposing these restrictions to win an election will embitter a generation of students in its first encounter with the machinery of democracy." As far as I can see, many students are already embittered. Why add more fuel to a fire that's already burning?

I'm just sayin'... "There's more than one way to skin a cat," as my grandfather Elsworth used to say.

Students, young people... you do not have to buy into the fear mongering you see and hear in the media, nor do you have to "go gentle into that good night." If you can't "rage against the dying of the light" of your birthright, at least you can get around it. You can join forces with other young people around the globe - there are thousands of ways to stand up and be heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5joE6AjPl30

Be creative, be bold, stand for your right to vote and be counted. Because, now more than ever, every act matters. Now, more than ever, every one of us matters.

 

Okay, that's my 2 cents worth in the first minutes of the third day of this RE-EVOLUTIONARY New Year!

love to all....

Happy 2012... Choosing Kindness

I have been thinking about kindness a lot lately. The conclusion I've arrived at is that kindness is one of the single most important qualities we can embody with each other. This is not to say that other qualities aren't important; it's just that I've come to believe that kindness is the most essential quality to call forth when it comes to any relationship. Kindness is the cornerstone of love, the harbinger of awakening, and our most powerful touchstone when we're tempted to stay stuck in our smallness.

Our kindness engenders gratitude in others and the kindness of others magnifies our own experience of gratitude; not only that, the more kindness I express for and to those around me, the more grateful I feel. Gratitude bursts forth when we share or receive kindness… and living a grateful life engenders more kindness in turn.

Whether we're chatting with the clerk at the grocery store, greeting our partner after a long day of work, visiting with family members, getting on the bus, or looking in the mirror… every interaction is an opportunity to bring kindness to whatever relationship we're in at that moment.

I am tremendously present to the fact that I have an opportunity to choose kindness in every moment.

And, let me be perfectly honest, there have been many moments in the past when I didn't. I feel like I've gotten so much better in the last few years, but time and stepping into a committed partnership after years of being single will, I'm sure, give me many more opportunities to practice making that choice.

Consider that we've all acted on that hankering to say something unkind or to make a snide remark. Consider that we've all left kind acts undone – the ones that might require a little more effort on our part, like smiling when we don't "feel like it" or asking how someone's day is going. Sometimes it feels like going just the slightest bit out of our way to make someone's day better is more than we're up for. I've done it more time than I can possibly count… we're human and we forget who we really are – often. But what if we chose to practice being kind to the best of our ability every day?

Often, the person with whom we have to practice kindness with more than anyone is ourselves.

This morning as I was sitting in meditation I realized, on a deeper level than ever before, that all the energy I spend feeling like I haven't done enough, made the kind of progress I want to make (whatever that means) or contributed enough to the betterment of the world has been an act of incredible unkindness to myself. In that moment, a wave of kindness for myself washed over me and I felt as if a huge weight had been removed from my shoulders. What if simply being a loving presence is enough? What if sharing this beautiful life with the people I love, trusting that doing my best is always enough, is all that's required? What kind of kindnesses could I offer the world living from that place?

The level of freedom I experienced as I sat there was phenomenal. I feel like I was given one of the greatest gifts I have received in a very long time.

And, now, here we are… stepping into another New Year – an infamous one at that – 2012. It holds infinite possibilities for each of us to contribute to the people in our lives and the world around us. It holds endless opportunities to remember who we are and choose kindness as our customary behavior for every interaction. Regardless of what you choose, here are some questions to consider as you release 2011 and step forward into the coming year….

What if, in choosing to live from kindness and appreciation…

…it became the norm to express appreciation and kind words and deeds rather than put-downs?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc8ZbVcdHpg

 

…we felt the pain of others and reached out when we were able?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfeXxkbgCVE

 

...we laughed together with shared, spontaneous enjoyment of life rather than at each other's expense?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoYsQnENTUM

 

What if all it took was a shift in our consciousness… to BE Love rather than get love (as coined by my friends Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Cafe Gratitude)? What would we choose?

The truth is we always have the opportunity to choose kindness, to choose differently if we don't like the choices we've made before. Instead of being in reaction, we can choose to be "response-able" with our words, thoughts, deeds and attitudes towards others and ourselves. Instead of choosing out of habit or default, we can choose with a conscious awareness of the outcome of our choices.

In this new year, I commit to choosing kindness as often as I possibly remember. And I invite you, if you see me being unkind in any way - or holding back and playing small - to call me out and remind me of who I really am. We need each other to be reminded of who we really are, so I invite you to ask the people in your life to lovingly, kindly remind you when you forget.

At this momentous time, we are all - every one of us, as a species and as a civilization - being asked to step up our game. We are being asked to expand, stretch and grow into the larger expression of ourselves. It's time to get that we matter, to be the ones we've been waiting for, and to do it with kindness. What will you choose?

May 2012 be your best year ever!