community

earth day 2015... where is the accountability?

today is Earth Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth-May31today is Earth Day.

this is the only home we have.

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

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!

grateful for gratitude… witnessing the re-birth of hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i am so grateful for being grateful.

what are you grateful for?

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

erin and cow

Community and Communication… Creating Common Ground

talkingcircleSince this month's Being Game is Community, I've been doing a lot of pondering about what it means, how it works (and doesn't work), and what's required to create workable community. And, in musing on the various permutations of this subject, I've come to the conclusion that the real strength in any given community lies in its ability to communicate. Both the words "community" (a group of people or society as a whole) and "communicate" (to make known or express oneself in such a way that one is readily and clearly understood) stem from the Latin "communis" which means "common," which includes such definitions as "shared by all alike," "pertaining to the community as a whole" and "prevalent or general." Thus, consider that our communication is the common ground of our community; it is the place in which we meet, exchange and grow.

Whether the community is a couple, a family, a classroom, an organization, business or nation; if our communication is healthy and clear, our community is thriving.

The reason this all came up is that I've witnessed some communications in my own extended family that have been, in my experience, challenging and, truth be told, even painful. And… I've held my tongue because I didn't want to make waves. I'm not saying that's the best strategy… it's been my safe (safe equaling sedative) strategy, so I don't have to deal with the various "cans of worms" (my interpretation) I see sitting on the table. However, the problem in that strategy is that it also leaves a great big pink elephant sitting on the table amidst those cans, very likely to be too heavy for the table to withstand the pressure and, thus, break under the weight of the unspoken.

I have wrestled with my conscience about how much to say about all of this, but have come to the conclusion that, as the "Communications Manager" for our family, it is my duty to step out of my "safety zone," speak my truth and open the floor for what I hope will be deeper dialogue.

With that, I offer an excerpt from a letter I recently sent to my family (names and specific detailes removed) in the hopes that it encourages some of you who wrestle with the communications in your family, since this is where it all begins, and to learn the tools that can help in beginning to open, and even repair, the relationships that are the most critical ones we have.

 

Dear family-

I notice how easy it for me (as a human being) to be attached to a position of "being right" about many issues, especially with all that is happening in the world, locally and globally. What I have come to experience and trust, however, is that when I am attached, I diminish my ability to consider other points of view with an open mind and heart. This isn't to say that it's not important to have convictions and values, or to set clear boundaries on what is acceptable or not. I also know that I don't often do as good a job as I intend (it's a work in progress), but I do believe it is vitally important to listen- really listen, with interest and curiosity- to what others have to say to the best of my ability in any given moment. 

I give myself the experience that I hear a lot of “being right” and attachment to positions in the exchanges between some of our family members. All I can say is, as challenging as it can be sometimes, I've experienced that, when I allow myself to loosen the grip of my attachment to my position, I am more open to hearing ideas and solutions that are actually more beneficial for the greater good, even if I thought I had the best interest of the greater good in mind all along. In other words, I consider that the best solutions usually arise from humble and open-hearted dialogue. 

What this boils down to is an invitation to all of us (myself included) – whether or not we've been in the middle of these conversations or sitting on the sidelines patiently watching – to...

… speak and act with as much compassion, humility and love as possible. 

… notice our internal reactions to what others say or write or do and "be with" them for a moment… or a day (there is nothing so urgently at risk here which can't benefit from a "cooling off" period if we're upset). 

… consider our words and where they're coming from before we speak or hit the "send" button. 

… remember that we are all, whether we like it or not, in this family with each other as long as we are on this planet and able to enjoy our connections and this beautiful land which [my grandparents] left us to steward.

In my estimation, we are a brilliant, passionate, loving bunch… often prone to reactivity, righteousness and stubbornness. That is what makes [us] so admirable most of the time and such a pain in the ass on occasion.

I also want to say that I know that what I'm saying here doesn't come close to addressing some of our deep-seated issues and histories... I believe that none of us is immune to some shadows or incompletions in our relationships with each other. What I am saying, though, is that, perhaps- just perhaps- if we have the courage to begin to open the closet with tenderness, care and an intention for healing and restoration of love, then we have a golden opportunity to raise the bar of who we are as a family even higher than it already is.

Finally… I am also glad to see more of us in my generation taking a greater interest in the maintenance of this land, honoring and wanting to learn from the wisdom and know-how [our predecessors] have been carrying since grandpa and grandma died. In my humble opinion, we have an opportunity here to learn what must be learned about lakes and dams, meadows and barns, trails and orchards and much more... and we must seize it with care, commitment to service, and innovation. This land is our greatest legacy and the glue which holds this family together. It is an honor to begin to learn how to care for it, and I humbly admit that, although I have not done as good a job as I should have thus far, I am committed to learning and executing the tasks which need to be implemented to the best of my ability.

All in all, my request is that we bring to our family table the following... action with care, urgency with thoughtfulness, the good of all held in as much esteem as our personal preferences, and love over positions.

I love you all and am committed to listening, speaking and participating with as much deliberateness, love and care as possible. You can always count on me to "step away" if I need to ruminate or calm down for a moment and to "dive in" when necessary. Despite, and because of, our differences and similarities, I love this family - and this land - more than I can say.

With love and blessings to each and every one of you,

Erin

 

I wish you a most beautiful rest of this glorious month of June in whatever communities you participate, and look forward to reading your comments!

Being Community

Community
This month our GTYM team is focusing on "being community".  Wikipedia says "in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment". We are excited to play the game of living in this shared organism of life, recognizing that each being and experience is a part of and to some degree a reflection of who we are individually. For us this means recognizing every moment as an opportunity to contribute and be contributed to within the construct (the people, environment, situation, and internal experiences).   We are looking at how we can be of service to ourselves and our various communities simultaneously while communing with each other in each present moment and choosing to see it as a sacred opportunity to create the highest and most effective experience and results for all of life.  Specifically for our team, this can look like:
  1. Listening deeply to others and ourselves in each moment,
  2. Seeing the vitalness of every aspect of life being completely vital to the whole
  3. Holding the seat of love even when it is really uncomfortable and being willing to be called out on by others when we are not holding this seat well.
...What does being in community look like for you?  We'd love to hear from you!

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"

Olympians are Awesome and so are You

pole vaultingMy friend Stacy McMillan sent this email to a few friends and I was so inspired, I asked her if I could share it on our blog… and she said "Yes!" Stacy is one of those people who inspires others just by being around… her positive energy is infectious and her capacity to hold space and love others is truly admirable. She is definitely a champion in my book. I really hope you enjoy Stacy's blog and remember just what a champion you are!  

I just wanted to share that I had an amazing Friday night and Saturday in corn country. The Iowa weather finally pushed past 34 degrees for the first time since November, reaching the 60’s all day this weekend. Just in time for an awesome outdoor event.

I haven't had enough leisure in my life lately, so I made some plans to have big fun! I attended the Drake Relays, a famous four-day track and field competition in Des Moines, with a sold-out crowd of 14,500 people.. There were several Olympians from multiple countries competing, thus several languages were spoken. The atmosphere in the stands was super-supportive and uplifting. I had an assigned seat but never sat in it; rather, I tootled around and sat in several places to see the action from many angles. Event staff encouraged this, saying, “Young lady, why don't you just find a seat where's there's an open space. If somebody shows up, just find another open seat."

I sat among competitors and coaches alike, and watched and listened to families and coaches give feedback to competitors from the stands. It is really amazing to sit among champions. Their bodies are insane. They are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and smile a lot. They love to inspire the crowd with their enthusiasm.

I saw a few injuries; people colliding into each other while trying to get ahead or falling over hurdles, running smack into the mat during the high jump, or twisting a knee during the triple jump. Nevertheless, these sorts of accidents are not as severe as those you’ll see in contact sports. Track and field is a gentler sport, and more interactive.

Normally, when I sit in the stands, the competitors ignore the crowd the whole time. It was a new experience for this spectator to be encouraged to cheer and clap by various teammates in the competition; the pole vaulters and long jumpers even waited until the crowd was in a clapping rhythm before running toward their targets.

It was super cool to be in an environment where sportsman/woman-like conduct carried the day, where passion was palpable, where victory was won or lost by just a second or an inch. And, go figure, boo-ing was not practiced.

The field event competitors were so disciplined and focused. They were able to repeat their event several times in order to achieve a personal best, and each time had a totally different outcome: small gain, small loss, big improvement, or sometimes attempts were disqualified because a rule was broken. Sometimes the outcome was desired, sometimes not.

Try, fail, try, fail, try, victory, try fail, repeat! And they failed to reach the desired outcome way more times than they succeeded. But whatever the result, at the end of the event, they stood up, raised their hands and clapped, and thanked the crowd for their support. And the crowd thanked them back.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this sporting event features kids as young as fifth grade and up to around 30 years old. One young, budding athlete from a nearby Iowa high school turned to me Friday night and asked, "Did you compete today?" I was speechless for a moment, and then said, "Um, No." What I thought in jest was, "No, sweetheart, I am pushing 40 and recovering from a spine injury, but aren't you adorable for suggesting I'm as youthful-looking and capable as these youngens."

He then said, "Did you used to compete? I run relays" He continued, "Wow, the crowd is so great here... hope you enjoy it!" We parted ways when the fireworks started. Like so many Iowans, this young man was ridiculously fit, fresh-faced, and polite. The Midwest is full of this sort of thing.

So in closing, hanging out with Olympians made me think of my friends and family who are up to great things. You are people reaching new heights in business/work, academia, family, or community service: trying, failing, trying, succeeding, trying again. You may not have a stadium-sized crowd to cheer you on or validate your success (or maybe you do and, if so, send me pictures), but you are still champions in my book. So, Happy Sunday, folks! I wish I could offer you a fireworks display in honor of your courage and conviction, but I can offer an invitation to come see the Drake Relays here with me in Des Moines next April!

May's BEing Game: Being Abundance

"Abundance can be had simply by consciously receiving what has already been given." -Sufi Saying There is a Sufi saying that goes, "Abundance can be had simply by consciously receiving what has already been given." This month we are putting our attention on choosing, as Terces Engelhart says, "the knowingness of being always and completely provided for" and practicing the view that abundance is actually an expression of the Spirit/Divine/The Oneness of which we all contribute to and are all a real part of. For instance, we knew the sun would rise this morning and we don't question that it will rise tomorrow. What if we had this same trust and confidence in the fact that we are always being taken care of in every aspect of our lives? Rather than putting our attention on what is not working and what we don't have, what if we chose instead to see, acknowledge, and give ourselves the experience of gratitude for what was working and what we do have with the same confidence and trust we experience as with the sun. Consider that there is a whole body and network of people, plants, animals, and systems working all the time to bring us things that we often take for granted: clean running water, electricity,our friendships, family, grocery stores, the post office, the internet, etc.

Being abundance also takes letting go of our attachments to how things "should look" or any impulses we have to "fix" life, systems or each other. In this view,it is simply a moment to moment practice of being aware and expressing gratitude for every act of service, product, and intention that sustains our lives. So many of us frequently have thoughts of going hungry, for example. We even exaggerate them on a regular basis: "I'm starving", for example. But how many meals have each of us skipped in our lives that wasn't by choice? I can't think of 1 day in my life where I skipped a meal because I couldn't afford groceries or didn't have a friend or family member to lean on? What if instead of buying into this view of individual scarcity (how we aren't provided for in the realms of food, transportation, bills, love, time, etc.) we took a moment to ask ourselves how we are being provided for and focus on the thousands of meals we have received in our one life time to date?

While writing this blog I am sitting in the Heart Rock Cafe drinking a cup of Thanksgiving Coffee. As I drink my coffee I am aware of all the labor, shipping, commerce, and intentions it took to get this coffee into my hands from the coffee bean growers, to the pickers, to the buyers who care about providing right livelihood for the growers, to the truck drivers and shipyards who got the beans to this cafe location. I am present to the coffee plants themselves that have been flowering, growing and taking in sunshine and water for months to produce the beautiful cup in front of me and the cow that gave its milk to the farmer who harvested it to the shop owner and the smiling barista who served it up. I am so provided for and fulfilled in this now moment just by putting my attention upon all the contributions it took world-wide to get this cup of coffee to me so that I can do the good work I am here to do. This is abundance!

We invite you to play with us this month. How are you being provided for? What services, products, people have you possibly been taking for granted? What do you have an abundance of: shoes, friends, food, money, skills, opportunities? We'd love to hear from and celebrate your abundance!

 

 

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

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!)