oneness

lessons from the lunar eclipse… being part of the tapestry

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

October 8th, 2014...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lunar eclipse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sending Love to Guatemala

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

There was a time when we forgot who we were

 

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

 

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

 

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

Our Call for the Elephants

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

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

I guess not.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Resources:

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

Discovering Oneness at the Planetarium

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



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