hope

A New Year... A New World

sunrise at The Refuge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what I want for Christmas

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

i have so much.

probably more than i deserve.

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

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

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

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

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

Earth-May31

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

probably more than we can imagine.

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

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

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

grateful for gratitude… witnessing the re-birth of hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i am so grateful for being grateful.

what are you grateful for?

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

erin and cow

An Opportunity

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

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

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

10175066_827780840570161_6773105950655030111_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

so, what is to be done?

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

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

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

really.

What About My Heart?

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Beauty is like rain, falling from the skies.

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

The wounds of life, they bring healing my friend.

The heart that breaks is but opening again.

The heart that breaks is but opening again.

- "There is a light" by John Astin

Resources:

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

BEing LOVE... what is your wish?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your wish?

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

What is my wish?

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

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

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

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

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

Question of the Week… January 22, 2012

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

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

Question of the Week... January 1, 2012

What do you believe is the most critical issue we face in 2012? Why and what are you inspired to learn or do about it?

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

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

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

 

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

100 People... 4 years. go.

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

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

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

On The Road

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

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wendy at Seventy… August 21st, 2010

Today my mom, Wendy Lou Alford, would have been 70 years old, had she made it past 60. And she would have had a rip-roaring party, I tell ya… especially since it's on a Saturday!
However, nine years ago, her life was cut short from a disease which, although she was able to stave it off for years with good self care, Chinese herbs and a lot of support from her family and community, finally got the better of her formerly strong body - hepatitis C. But it's not her death, nor even her living about which I'm thinking this morning, as I sit here watching the sky lighten from dark to day. It's about her essence and her gifts; it's about what she brought – and still brings to me, and I would venture to say, and all those who knew and loved her. It is a testimony to her spirit that, for the last nine years, I still receive calls and emails on her birthday, and every time I've sent out an email or posted a note, I've received numerous responses saying that others were thinking of her on this occasion, too. It's that – her indomitable spirit, her undying gift for leaving a lasting impression - which is on my heart this morning.
Since she passed, my life has changed in more ways than I could have possibly imagined. Although I knew my kids would grow and leave to create wonderful lives of their own, I had no idea that they would both become world travelers, nor that they would come to be the unwavering pillars of love, strength and support they have been in the years since her death. I have stepped into living as a single woman in her 40's, feeling stronger and more confident than ever before, in many ways following in my mother's footsteps. I have moved away from the home I thought I would inhabit for the rest of my life, carving out a new path and creating a new community in a place I could never have imagined hanging my hat – Los Angeles. And, although I have relocated, it seems ironic yet so fitting that, of all the places I could have landed, I landed in Topanga Canyon – a place much like our home in the Sierras.
Nothing, really, has remained as it was when my mom was alive. And it is this about which I am thinking this morning… the way in which her living – and her dying – always inspired me and so many who knew her to stretch beyond our comfort zones and go for our best lives, even when – especially when – it meant going out on the "skinny branches" into unknown territory.
I've written many pieces about her and who she was, about her being larger-than-life, her unwavering courage during her battle with Hep C, her phenomenal ability to make friends in an instant with anyone she met, her deep love of the natural world, and her incredible ability and all of these things were who she was. The thing is, she still inspires me on an almost daily basis.
Honestly, I feel at a bit of a loss for words, but the essence of what I am trying to say is that, in her courageous living and dying and beyond, she has carried a torch of sorts for me. She has walked ahead on this path called life, pointed out the roots and rocks upon which I might stumble - or not and let me stumble and learn. She's held my hand in the particularly dark and scary parts where I might have been too afraid to venture without her by my side. She's stopped me short in my tracks – countless times – to stand in awe and amazement at the beauty of the scenery before me, the sounds of the wind in the trees, the scent of fresh rain, the wonder of being alive.
It seems so ironic that, for a woman who was so vocal about how beautiful and precious and wondrous the world is, I am more moved by her guidance to recognize it now than ever before. She walks with me in the mornings on the misty mountain trails, dances with me on the beach, smiles through me at each stranger on the street, and most importantly gets me up on many a morning when I'd rather stay cozy in bed to write, to correspond, to plan and execute this big life I've chosen to live.
It is she – and the vision of my children's hopeful yet uncertain future – who reminds me that if I want to be of service to humanity and the world, it takes me getting up and staying up, getting uncomfortable and pushing on to do it. No one is going to do it for me. Her favorite quote, from Anais Nin, sums up her life and legacy, "…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became greater than the risk it took to blossom." In everything she was and did during her brief visit here, in her determined month-long fight to live long enough to receive a liver transplant, and in her guidance from beyond, she shouts from the top of her lungs, "Be the one you are waiting for!"
In this moment, then, I ask you, on behalf of a woman whose large life, and even larger spirit continues to inspire her daughter, her grandchildren and countless others, what will it take for you to risk blossoming? In the words of Mary Oliver, "What will you do with this one wild and precious life?"
I ask you because the world needs you now and Wendy is out there, somewhere, cheering you on, holding you accountable and lifting you up to Be the Change you wish to see in the world.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Poetry...

I was just writing an email to someone and realized that I really want to post some of these poems that have been oozing out of me for the last couple weeks. So, here they are. One of them actually has something to do with today's earlier blog- it's called "Remember." The others are commentary on my personal process as I've let go, more and more, of my pride and protection around my current state of affairs. There is such beauty in surrender....

I hope you enjoy- my gift to you. Love and blessings, Erin

Remember

Dear Mr. President, I can only imagine How difficult It must be to be In your position

Pressure from the right

Pressure from the left

Constant Criticism Need Questioning Doubt Expectation

I can only imagine

And I want to say Only one word.

Remember. Remember. Remember.

More important

Something has shifted in realizing – no remembering – I am a poet. I have not turned on the computer or compulsively checked email for two days now.

I had forgotten somewhere along the way that

showing up is more important than self-promotion,

that desperation is so very unattractive.

Relishing the silence

Curled up in the cozy chair next to the fire, I listened.

Nothing but the dripping of melting snow, and the small whoosh and crack of the fire and wood.

The sun squeezed through the fog with long fingers, pushing its way through, cracking the door to a blue sky.

The mist, thick as soup moments before, made its last attempt at hanging between the trees, mingling with the smoke of my fire, hoping to go unnoticed and stay just a little longer.

And I, under my blanket, warm and content, sat relishing the silence I couldn't bear to break.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Some thoughts since Thanksgiving...

I've thought a lot about whether or not to post this blog the last couple of days. Is it too depressing? Will it come back to bite me in the butt somewhere down the road? Will it turn people off from wanting to work with me or buy my book? And what I keep coming to is a clear and steady, "No." What I actually hear is a clear and steady, "Share this. Share yourself with the world, clearly and with love, and you will be amazed."

As I wander through the world, everywhere from my home in the Sierras to Boston to various communities on the internet to my soon-to-be-new home in L.A., what strikes me is a longing for authenticity and realness. I feel and hear a yearning for connection that's about much more than making ourselves or others feel good in order to get something or add one more name to our email lists. In the last week or so, I've "unsubscribed" to a lot of things just to get back to the quiet inside and to be able to really hear the cries for connection under all the chatter....

So, I choose to share in this way, revealing my pain and struggles as well as the insights and beauty in this moment, in the hopes that someone may be moved, inspired or feel they're not as alone as they thought they were. I share this to remind you that you are loved, that you are important, that you matter and that you are needed... no matter how down, low or useless you feel right now, this is temporary. I know... and you are not alone.

Thanksgiving Day, 11/26/09
It's early morning on Thanksgiving Day, and I am sitting here with a myriad of emotions and thoughts. Honestly, it's been a tough year- for so many, myself included. It's hard to cultivate my gratitude sometimes when I'm constantly worried about how I'm going to get myself out of the financial hole I'm in.

If you really knew me, you'd know that...
* although this year has been a year of great experiences and wonderful shifts, it's also been one of the hardest years of my life (like the year my mom died, the years of the divorces).
* although I'm so grateful for everything I do have (a home, food to eat, running water, electricity), I feel a nearly constant fear of not being able to take care of myself.
* I am so grateful for all the help I've received from my close family and several friends, and just under the surface I feel a constancy of guilt and shame about how far down I've gone and that I've become a burden to those around me.
* most of the time, I live with this low-grade panic or anxiety about life- like I'm just one step away from total self-destruction.
* sometimes, especially lately, I think, "My God, I've become the crazy mother I hear other people talking about- crying, mood swings- happy one minute, in a puddle of tears the next." Who have I become?
* I really wonder if I'm really depressed or manic… this does not feel normal. Is it just mid-life hormones?
* although I often talk and write about the importance of gratitude and feeling good about ourselves, it's really hard to feel good about myself when I work so hard to get things going and just the smallest trickle of response comes in.
* most of the time, the shame I feel about where I'm at in my life makes me want to be alone and hide from the world but the thing I long for the most is connection and to be held.
* whatever love is being offered feels far away, like I've created some kind of energetic quarantine sign that says, "Don't come close! What I've got is infectious and you wouldn't want to catch it."
* almost more than anything, I want to be held… to feel someone's arms around me, and hear them say, "It's all going to be all right."
* the tears feel like they'll never stop- this well of grief and shame and sadness feels bottomless.
* I feel so out-to-sea right now, rudderless... with a small, slow leak in my tiny little boat.
* I believe that, even though this is truly one of the few most painful and difficult times of my life, I know that I'm being led somewhere… if I can just hang in there a little longer....
* I'm tired of hanging in there….
* Thanksgiving is usually my favorite holiday, but this year I just want to crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head.

11/27/09
4:30am… Can't sleep. Woke up 30 minutes ago and tried to go back to sleep, but no good. So, I decided to get up, make a cup of tea, crawl onto the couch with the blanket and write and meditate. Thinking about all the bills and how I'm going to deal with them, the prospects of looking for a job in L.A., looking for a place to stay, and hoping I'm not setting myself up for even more failure by going down there. I don't trust myself right now. It seems like listening to myself has gotten me dug into this hole, but listening to others hasn't exactly dug me out either. Waking up with fear and anxiety every day has got to be taking a toll on my health. No wonder folks who inquire about my coaching don't hire me- if I saw my blogs and facebook posts, I don't think I'd hire me either. Seems like very little makes sense anymore, except that I keep hearing Spirit saying, "Finish the book. Focus on the book. Let go of everything else."

5:12am... Woke up about an hour ago in another panic. Can't seem to focus on what I can do- just overwhelmed by fear and shame. Feeling numb, hoping and praying that, somehow, in sharing this, I will find my way.

Listening to one of my favorite songs- "Wash Your Spirit Clean" over and over again. What will wash my spirit clean? What do I need to let go of?
* the high hopes that I would have at least 20 folks sign up for my teleclass.
* being able to pay my bills.
* dreams of the life I've created in my mind and visions- of traveling, of sharing my life with someone I love.
* hopes that my life will ever be different than it is right now. I mean, what if my life never changed from what it is right now? What if I continued to live with this amount of debt, scarcity, fear, doubt, anxiety and pressure?
* pride (BIG TIME) – about anything I'm too afraid to share, about looking good to everyone "out there" while I'm continuing to suffer "in here," about being an "expert" and wanting to hold up the façade of being someone who actually knows what she's doing when, in truth, I'm just stumbling around hoping I get this life right for the most part.
* shame (in deep, thick layers) by telling the truth of where I am right now....
* the deep pain and fear, anxiety and worry… if I let it all go, where would I be? Who would I be? What would I do?

I'm going to go to sleep for a bit and see if my dreams bring any relief or answers….

8:00am…
Just woke up again. Had some dreams, but can't remember them. But I just realized that this depression I'm in is an opportunity to get back to what's really true and simple- back to the things that are most important, the basics. Like taking care of my body, eating well, brushing and flossing, doing yoga, etc. Something is being asked to be sloughed off… there is wisdom - great wisdom - in letting go of as many externals as I can and in learning discernment. I must re-member who I am, discern what serves me when, and make conscious choices about how I want to present myself.

My question for the day…
What do I need to do today to move my Vision forward and live from my purpose?
Shed all you know. Shed all expectations you have of yourself and that you think others have of you. Surround yourself with comfort right now, find what you need to take care of yourself and make that happen. Find what you can to enjoy this time here with your kids. Things didn't work out the way you'd expected them to, but remember they don't usually. Stay focused on the book; it's hard to do that when you are so worried about money, but the more focus you put on the book, the more you're going to find flowing in. Listen to your heart… follow your dream and passion.

Stay connected with your guides; they will guide you beautifully. Feed your internal flame. Do things that feed your flame - do things that will bring more joy into your life. Take walks, play games, listen to music, dance.

You are not in this book game to make money, you're in it to bring your message to the world. You are not going to go the route of fast-paced, sales-y, go-go-go marketing. You are going to go the way of beauty, truth, transparency, art, love and openheartedness. Your path is very different from many of those around you. Follow your path, even though it seems scary, lonely and different. You are blazing a trail- you are a pioneer as Tanner said….

Give more, hope less, BE GRATEFUL always. Be gentle with yourself today… be gentle.

11/28/09
Got a email from my friend from Rob, kicking my butt, in response to a note I sent out. He quoted my statement, "it's my passion and the Mission of this book to inspire people (myself incuded) to remember who they are and get that they matter," and then wrote:
OK, so here's your assignment: tell me who you are... and why you matter!

I love it when my friends kick my butt. Thank you, Rob!

I decided to meditate on it, and this is what I got:
I am giving birth- squatting, screaming, my guides are holding my arms- holding me up and yelling, "Push! Push!" There's a bed of leaves covered with a blanket under me. The baby has arrived and I am crying and laughing. One of my guides comes around behind me and is holding me, cradling me in his arms, brushing my hair from my face. We are looking at this beautiful baby that one of my other guides has wrapped in a blaket and she's now in my arms. She is so beautiful. She is so beautiful. She has luminous eyes – dark but luminous. It is so peaceful here, so peaceful. Just sitting here, warm and complete in this family- in the beauty of this family knowing tht this child is being born into a family that loves her so much. "What is her name?" they ask; I respond, "Erin. She is the light of the world, she is the perfect reflection of everyone here, of all beings, she helps them remember who they are, she is truth and beauty and fragility and the deepest pillar of strength. She lives to serve. She lives to remind others of their perfection and beauty and fragility and strength. She is a writer, a songmistress, a singer of humanity's trials and journeys and triumphs, she is here to LOVE. She gets to be born into this family of love, to be supported in her every step, to be allowed to make mistakes and to fall, to learn how to get back up on her own again and to run and run with others. She is here simply to Love. She is our Reminder of Love. Her path is not necessarily easy, but her path is necessary and hers to walk."

She, the baby, is speaking now. "I am here to help you remember to trust that you are taken care of. I am here to remind you that all things that happen are not your fault- how could an innocent child ever be to blame for what happens to those around her? You are sensitive – that is both a blessing and a curse. You are not to blame for anything that happened to you as a child, you are not to blame for your mother's unhappiness nor for your children's challenges. You have contributed your part, sure, but you are not to blame wholly and entirely."

The guide who wrapped the baby in a blanket says:
You are birthing the child that's being born of your internal feminine and masculine. It must come from your pain, your pushing, your letting go and releasing that this child is born. Your internal masculine and you are the parents of this child, this woman to be, this new you, this Erin who is being asked to give life to her new self. Olnly thorugh your pain and suffering could she have been born at all… you could not be coming to this new place of beingness, this new plateau, without the pain of birth. You are not so much standing on the brink of a precipice as you are on the brink of a new life.

In order to step fully into it, you must shed your old life. You must release all ways of being that you've come to expect of yourself and that you've trained others to expect of you. You are shedding shame, fear and any expectations that you are any way- in your behavior or being. You are shedding expectations of being bubbly and joyful, of being morose and serious, you are shedding all expectations that you or others have of you and stepping into the "nowness" of being.

What are you releasing? You are releasing...
* Old stories.
* The deep shame and guilt you have lived with from before you were born.
* Your behaviours around your children, the ways in which you interact with them- you must release all expectations of your daughter, all fears for her and release her to the winds of life, even if you are scared for her. You no longer need to protect her from the winds that blow; she needs to do that for herself. You can be her refuge when she asks for it, but you no longer need to offer it.
* You are releasing going to your children for affection, relying on them for physical love and connection. You must find that in other places; when they reach out to you, you can equally share in the connection, but you must not rely on them to supply you with the love you ache for.
* You must step into this discipline- the discernment and discipline- it is absolutely necessary for you to move into this in order to move into the greatness that is being asked of you.
* You are releasing the so-called freedom of having a lot of time for yourself. You are calling in the discipline of short amounts of time for yourself in order to work at jobs that feed your pocketbook and soul.
* You are stepping away form massive amounts of time alone, building a community in a new place, and finding the moments of time for yourself in the early mornings and late nights to write, to work and to move forward.
* You are surrendering to a much greater vision of yourself, and you must let die the old self in order to do so. If you do not let the old you die, you will continue to live with this ache and longing for "something more." Let it all go.

When I say to my guide, "I feel like I'm moving through emotions, states and thoughts at lightning speed, as if I'm moving through years of work in a day sometimes- flip-flopping from one emotion to the next," she responds, "This is because you are healing and shifting at a very fast pace, moving into the next phase of your life. Let it take you at its pace and you will be amazed at how quickly things shift. Do not resist this; if you do, it will be long, slow and even more painful. Let it all go... and step into the brilliance and beauty of your new life...."

Hey, Rob- here's my homework.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Free the Hikers… Taking Personal Responsibility and Disturbing Our Lives for Others

I've been working on this blog for almost a month; it took me this long to synthesize what I was trying to say. Ah, the writing process… the fine balance between discipline and surrender.

********
On September 30th I attended the two-month anniversary vigil at the UC Berkeley campus for Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the three hikers who have been detained in Iran for almost twelve weeks. I wasn't quite sure exactly what to expect, but I went hopeful of raising awareness and willing to do whatever was needed - to "disturb my life" on their behalf for a few hours. I ended up handing out fliers about the hikers to as many passers by as I could; unexpectedly, it turned out to be an interesting social and emotional experience.

Initially, as I walked away from the supporters holding the large, cloth banners, clutching my supply of fliers, I felt some trepidation - almost a dread - at having to approach strangers, which is really funny for someone who regularly gives out Free Hugs at BART stations. As I scoped out the situation, I noticed many people walking in a multitude of directions - alone, engaged in conversation with others, many wearing headphones or talking on cell phones. Although I was somewhat apprehensive, mostly what I felt was determination - to hand out as many fliers as possible in the two hours ahead of me.

After about ten minutes, I noticed that most folks were more or less open to slowing down to hear about the hikers. I would approach them saying, "Have you heard about the hikers in Iran?" or "Help us free the hikers!" pointing to the banner on the steps of Sproul Hall, and they'd stop, often engaging in conversation or asking for a flier. Some, however, wouldn't make eye contact, would wave me off or say, "No, thanks" as if I was trying to sell them something.

It was my internal reactions to the folks who said, "No thanks," waved me off or made little or no eye contact that really sparked an inner conversation. At first I felt somewhat offended, angry and hurt, as if they didn't care about this very important issue. I mean, here I was willing to take a few hours out of my life and they were just blowing me off! I found myself judging them for being self-absorbed or indifferent. In other words, I took it very personally.

It surprised me that I was taking their responses (or lack thereof) so personally; normally, I'm a pretty tolerant person. But, as I looked more deeply into my own thought process, I remembered a beautiful ritual called "disturbing your life" I participated in several years ago when I was a counselor at a church camp. We did this ceremony on the top of a mountain where we sat in a huge circle with all of the campers and counselors, each turning to the person next to us, taking their hands in ours, looking right in their eyes and saying, "I will disturb my life for you." It was an extraordinarily powerful experience of love, commitment, and community. This expression of willingness to rearrange our lives for another, to do whatever it takes to make sure others are loved and cared for, has stayed with me ever since.

So, as I stood out there on the plaza, hoping to spark some interest in the fate of these three UC Berkeley graduates, meeting averted eyes and strange looks with a cheerful "Thank you!" I began to despair, to wonder why people weren't interested or why they just didn't seem to care. Why weren't they willing to disturb their lives, even for one minute?

Was it because they had more important things to do? It's true, many said, "I’m late for class!" Was it because they thought it was ridiculous to help three people who had obviously gotten themselves into this mess? One gentleman was very quick to point about that. Or was it just because they were so focused on their own lives, on what was right in front of them, that they simply didn't feel they could take a moment to consider the possibility that their actions could make any kind of difference for three hikers half a world away?

I was rolling all of these questions around in my mind, wondering why so many people weren't willing to "disturb their lives" for even one minute to take a flier, when I realized I was being exactly what I was judging them for- ignorant and self-absorbed. Oh, the beauty of being human… the beauty of having a mind.

Taking a mental step back, I remembered another beautiful practice I recently learned called "Ho'Oponopono." It's a radical practice of taking responsibility for everything in your life and everything around you… everything. The way I interpret it is that, on a very deep level, we are each of us responsible for everything that happens in the world because everything is interdependent. In other words, the only separation we experience is the illusion of it in our own minds. So, anything we experience that we don't like "out there" is ours to love and heal internally with this simple phrase, " I love you, please forgive me, I'm sorry, thank you."

If I bring both of these profound practices under one umbrella, they fit perfectly together. If I want to see a change in the world, "out there," I must be willing to disturb my life and take responsibility for it "in here." I must be willing, at any moment, to drop what I think I'm supposed to be doing and listen to the greater call, the Universal urge that tells me to give, without judgment, an extra dollar when I only have two; to stop and tell the clerk at the grocery store how grateful I am for them being committed to impeccable service. This doesn't mean I stop my life permanently, but it means that I stay open to the myriad possibilities of connecting with my fellow human beings.

This is no small feat; we all have busy lives, places to go, people to see. But I wonder, how would our world be different if we all lived from that place? How would it be to take radical responsibility for everything and be willing to disturb our own lives, even for a moment, on a daily basis for the greater good? What would be possible for our planet and all the beings who share it if we got that we mattered that much?

I'm also very clear that I have a long way to go myself. There are countless time when I could have taken an extra minute to make a positive difference in some one's life, could have kept my word, could have held my judgment at bay and "walked a mile in their moccasins." As I stood out on that plaza, hoping to reach into peoples' hearts and souls, hoping for a connection, a spark of recognition and compassion, I could have reminded myself of the thousands of times I'd said, "No thanks" or waved someone off instead of leaping right to the conclusion that they didn't care.

Perhaps they just didn't know. I mean, if it were their brother or daughter suffering the same fate as Sarah, Josh and Shane, I'm certain they would be out there doing the same thing. Yes, it's time to wake up but we have to wake ourselves, and each other, up with love and compassion, not with harsh judgment. There's a time for fierceness, but always it must be with love.

As I have had several weeks to ponder these questions, I am simply left with more, for myself and for anyone who takes time to read this far in this week's blog…. What would I need to do to shift from judgment and taking things so personally to responsibility and willingness? What would it take for me to let go and surrender to the nudges of the Universe? How could I give a little more, and in that giving, remember that I have received so much?

Disturbing my life? Taking 100% responsibility? Seems like a small price to pay for the gifts I've received on this journey called life.

********
Postscript:

There is so much hope to feel, and I'm very clear that it has to start with me. That whole taking responsibility and "disturbing my life" for another being practice starts right here… and it starts with taking responsibility for the content of my thoughts. Let me explain.

Since early August I've been praying for Sarah, Josh and Shane, picturing them sitting in prison somewhere in Iran. I've been sending them love and support, but always with that picture in my mind. However, when I read about the 1:33 meditation mentioned below, I realized that I needed to take another step and move away from envisioning them as stuck in this situation. So I decided to change what I was picturing from seeing them in Iran to seeing them being released, getting on an airplane in Tehran, walking off the plane in New York, and into the open arms of their overjoyed families in blissful, relieved and tear-filled reunion. I have set a daily alarm on my cell phone for 1:33pm so I can take some small step to at least remember to send this new vision out into the collective consciousness to be made real.

Things to know:

If they aren't released this week, Halloween will mark the 92nd day of captivity for Sarah, Shane and Josh… over three months. That's an agonizingly long time for their families, and I hope you will consider joining one or more of the events below.

On November 8th, there will be "Vigils of Hope" held around the globe to send love and hope to Sarah, Josh and Shane and their families. Please visit http://freethehikers.org/ to learn more, if you want to light a candle, share a poem, play music, and basically send positive energy to Sarah, Shane and Josh in Tehran.

In addition a daily "Peace 1:33" meditation has started making its way around the world to support them. As it says on the website, http://freethehikers.org/, "it is easy to get caught up in daily responsibilities and let family and friends fall from the forefront of our mind. Shane, Sarah, and Josh were taken on July 31st, 2009 at 1:33 pm and are still being held in Iran. Keeping them on the forefront of our minds is one of the most important actions we can take. Action is created by thought. It is this universal truth that has inspired Peace 1:33. The purpose is to hold the vibration of peace and positive energy for Shane, Sarah, and Josh by focusing on and feeling peace for 1 minute or more each day at 1:33 PM. Set a daily alarm on your cell phone for 1:33 PM. Spend one minute thinking/meditation on peace in honor of Shane, Sarah, and Josh and continue with the daily commitment. If you have access to a bell, ring it three times in honor of each hiker."

Lastly, please spread the word. Send e-mails to your friends, join Free the Hikers on Facebook, and invite friends to do the same. Visit the website. Ask your church or school to participate by ringing their bell three times each day at 1:33 PM. The simplest act on our part can make a world of difference for them.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Do Your Part Two: Hope and Reconciliation in a New EraDo Your Part Two: Hope and Reconciliation in a New Era

This morning, as I was walking past our small barn admiring the beauty of the autumn colors and the unusual warmth of the November breeze, I noticed a runner approaching and wondered who it was. We don't get too many folks out here on our road, since we're about four miles from the nearest town (consisting of a post office, a bar and a trailer park). Turns out it was the pastor of our most popular local church out for his early morning exercise.

In the moments after we exchanged friendly greetings, I had a wave of compassion flood through me for this man who, I have to admit, I have judged in the past. Let me explain….

I was born and raised, and now again (after several long-term sojourns out into the "big world") live in a rural, conservative, Christian-centered county in the Sierra Foothills of California. There are pro's and con's to living here. The pace is slower, it is quieter, the Sheriff's Log reports such incidents as "suspicious person seen near gas station," folks don't have to lock their doors and most folks know each other. There are also a lot of big trucks and rifles, a clear lack of diversity and tolerance, and numerous bumper stickers stating "Flatlanders Suck." Needless to say, it can be a bit "vanilla" around here. When I was in high school, the only two darker skinned students were bi-racial brothers, and that was a big deal.

Things are changing, however, albeit slowly; with an influx of transplants from places like the San Francisco bay area, there is a little less of a "Leave It to Beaver" feel here, but sometimes I still feel like we're about 20 years behind the times. To illuminate, I remember, at my 10-year high school reunion, one of the guys asked me where I was living at the time, and when I answered, "Berkeley," he remarked, "Oooohhh," as if I had some sort of contagious disease, and slowly backed away.

The thing is, I was raised here in this sleepy little county in what was, at the time, very likely the most left-wing family in the county. I am a "flaming liberal," as one of my daughter's more conservative friends likes to say with great gusto - a card-carrying member of an extended family that is progressive to say the least.

However, even with all of my progressive ideals about equality and social justice, I have been known sling mud along with the best of them. Even though I was raised to find the best in people, to not make assumptions, to ask questions if I had them and to always give someone the benefit of the doubt, I have still bought into the cultural soup of media-saturated behaviors that permeated every area of my life. It seems inescapable and I don't even watch television!

We grow up learning to judge, dismiss, ignore, belittle and sometimes even abuse others. It's part of our culture and our psychological structure to make ourselves feel better at others' expense. But at what cost?

As I was walking home after this friendly exchange (and they have always been friendly with Dave), I began to think about all of the ways in which I had judged, said negative things about their church, and even avoided contact with folks I knew from that congregation, all because of a couple of experiences I had had with some of his members over 10 years ago. In feeling judged by some of the members of his congregation, I in turn judged the entirety of that group for being exclusionary, judgmental and fundamentalist.

I have no idea what makes this man tick, or what he is passionate about. Actually, in every interaction I have had with him, I have always walked away with the feeling that he is a good man. I have no idea what their church does for its members, for our community or for organizations it may support around the world. I do know, however, that I have judged them simply on the basis of a couple experiences and the hearsay that runs around the more liberal camps in our small community.

If that is what I've been carrying around, knowing my friend's response at my 10 year reunion (and subsequent rolled eyes during conversations with some not-so-like-minded folks over the years), what are "they" thinking, saying and avoiding about me? I'm not saying this because I care on a personal level (I used to… a whole lot) but because, if I am thinking, saying and doing these things and "they" are thinking, saying and doing these things, how in the world can we expect to heal the larger rifts in our communities, states, nations and world when this happens on such a microcosmic level?

I mean, even at the beginning of this article, I was guilty of judging the people in my community as "bad" or "less-than" for carrying rifles and driving big trucks, implying that their behavior and choices equal ignorance and intolerance. We make judgments all the time; it's part of being human.

So, what if we all admit that we have judgments, but instead of letting them run us, we acknowledge them and move toward those we judge in order to find our common ground? Isn't that what our President Elect is asking us to do? Can you imagine a world where we know we judge, but we don't let that get in between us as people, as members of groups, organizations, communities, even nations? What kind of healing could occur then?

I believe that we are all working toward the same goals, we all want the same things – a decent living, good schools for our children, to be healthy, to live lives that have meaning, to be of service in some way, to make the world a better place. How we do that may look very different. But is the how what we should be focusing on or should we be focusing on the fact that we could begin to work together, despite our differences, and actually support each other in reaching these common goals?

I believe it is time that we all come together, not only in word but in deed, recognize our differences and celebrate them. Just because we may have different paths to God/Christ/Heaven or enlightenment doesn't mean that we have to belittle each other for our chosen paths.

As the Zen story says, it's not the finger pointing at the moon that is what we need to focus on- how different it is from ours, how bony or fat, whether or not it is well-groomed- but rather the fact that it's pointing to something outside ourselves, outside of our ego structures, outside of our stories of how our path is better than someone else's path.

I am certain that this congregation, with its committed, passionate pastor, wants everyone to feel welcome, wants everyone to know the blessings of the joys they experience in knowing God in the way they do. It is not up to me to judge them for being on the path they are on, nor is it up to them to convince me that the path I am on is wrong. It is up to all of us to love and celebrate each other and carry and transform the burden of these trying times together, creating whole, healed and loving communities.

It is time that we chalk up our bad behavior to immaturity and lack of knowledge, get over our little egoic selves and come together. If we don't do it here, in my tiny little town with its liberal and conservative camps, tent stakes firmly planted in this common ground, then we have no hope for doing it anywhere else. And we have no right to judge what happens in Israel and Lebanon, Ireland and North Ireland or anywhere else. We must begin here. We must be wiling to step across that line we have drawn so arbitrarily in the sand and grasp each other's hands in a gesture of humility and hope.

I think I owe that pastor an apology.

copyright 2008