clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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Late summer musings

Hello again dear Readers!  Facebook let me know that it has been 189 days since my last post, which is incorrect, but still, it feels like a good time for a post.

Joni Mitchell once wrote a popular song with the words, “everything comes and goes, like old lovers and styles of clothes.” I am feeling the truth of her words often these days, when it seems that so much of life flows along the stream of days and nights with barely a backward glance. Time has taken on a whole new dimension: certain moments feel large and profound, and many other times I can barely believe that ‘whatever it was’ happened only a short 24 hours ago. Although linear time is still a construct we collectively agree to, it feels like it is certainly going out of fashion quickly.

Summer is fading fast, as it always seems to do in late August. Some of us are sad to see it go, while others (myself included) are happy at the thought of sweater weather and cool mornings, temperate days, and the beauty of autumn. September brings new projects, school days, and a good supply of vegetable and fruit harvests to us. This summer has been the hottest ever recorded, according to global climate scientists. It has brought catastrophe and deathly heat to parts of our planet. I am extremely fortunate to live in a part of the United States that has been free from these scenarios, yet I feel deeply for those affected by floods, drought, fires and extreme temperatures.

I am in the middle of an extraordinary and important book for our times, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, by Charles Eisenstein. He wrote it in 2013. Eisenstein is not only a brilliant scholar, but a real humanitarian and important thinker for our present times. His words throughout this book resonate with deep chords in my soul, as he strives to explain the unique space we are collectively in at this point in history. He writes that we are essentially walking the land of the in-between: no longer is the old story of separation and power over our overriding philosophy on Earth (although there is still plenty of evidence of the old, crumbling story of civilization everywhere one looks), while the new Story of Interbeing is still being formed. He writes,

The more we share with each other this kind of knowledge, the stronger we are in it, the less alone. It needn’t depend on the denial of science, because science is undergoing parallel paradigm shifts. It needn’t endure the denial of livelihood, because from a trust in gift we find unexpected sources of sustenance. It needn’t withstand rejection by everyone around us, because more and more people are living from the new story, each in his or her own way, inducing a feeling of camaraderie. Nor is it a turning away from the world that is still mired in Separation, because from the New Story we access new and powerful ways to effect change.  (Eisenstein, 16.)

Reading Eisenstein’s book is an act of hope and of affirmation. He is wide awake to the world, where we have come from, and where we aspire to go. He is under no illusions about the difficulty of this journey. He is wonderfully honest. He acknowledges our cynicism, despair, and denial within the process. He also is a champion for vulnerability, naiveté, and courageousness. He advocates for both spirituality and activism as complementing each other. According to Eisenstein, “If everything has consciousness, then what we had believed possible, practical and realistic is far too limiting. We are on the cusp of an epochal breakthrough, coming into touch with the mind of nature. What can we achieve when we are in harmony with it?”

Dear Readers, this year has been transformative for many of us, myself included. We have worked very hard to let go of much of our old, third dimensional thinking and baggage. We have been clearing out what no longer serves us on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, soul and spirit. Many of us are coming into better alignment with the natural world, the unseen realms of nature spirits, beings from other worlds, the angelic and devic. We are growing and evolving exponentially right now, and feeling the various effects of that growth. I teeter between feeling fabulous one hour, to needing major sleep and contemplative time alone. No matter what your patterns or symptoms, the fact is that we Humans are changing, and it is not only necessary, but so very good, healthy and promising for the future.

It is easy to look at the world and become alarmed, frightened, angry, self-righteous, indignant, and generally anxious. We see before us a world that is crumbling, the dying paradigm of polarity and separation tearing apart as we watch. It is easy to get drawn into the fray, and give energy to that dying world. And yet. Even as all that is happening, there is, as Eisenstein so eloquently reminds us, a new world that is coming into being. It is not fully here yet, and yes there will surely be much more disintegration and crumbling of the old system before the new is firmly anchored. We are living through tumultuous times. These are times that call for all of the courage, grounding, sanity and resilience we can muster. If you haven’t already, make friends with your neighbors. Join a group and do some volunteering in your city or town. Grow a garden, or help in a community space. Give away everything you no longer use or need, and simplify your life. Most of all, consider the value of service. The next time someone pushes your buttons and you want to rip his or her head off, ask instead, How may I serve you?  Anger, frustration, judgement and bitterness are the old story. It is time to stop adding anymore of that old energy into the world, and instead to add your positive energy, enthusiasm, sanity and wisdom. How may you serve the new world that is wanting to grow?

Trees_in_early_Autumn-Pittman

I wish everyone who may read my blog a blessed and productive, happy and peaceful autumn. I see the light and the love within each of you, and I am honored by it.

(from Amazon.com review of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible: “God damn this is good! This version of the big story by Charles Eisenstein is one of the best I have ever heard. Charles, you are speaking for millions of us and we so know what you are saying to be true. We will absolutely tell the whole fucking world about it.”
—Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty)

 


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Beyond unbelievably bad news for Earth

It is nearly the middle of the year 2015. In fact, today’s number date, written in European style, is 15-05-15. An auspicious date. In a telling year, in the early years of the 21st century, planet Earth.

The news across the world is bad. There seems to be no other way to express it: the news is bad and getting worse by the day. For anyone who is even vaguely following the reports about the environment, things really seem to be going from one unbelievably bad idea to the next. Today I read this article, regarding plans for a giganticly huge coal mining operation to begin in Queensland, Australia in 2017. The article, which ran in the Guardian, states,

“Massive mining operations are looking to plunder a gigantic new coal frontier in the Galilee Basin. There are 247,000 sq km (95,400 sq miles) of coal: a land mass the size of Britain….if the complex is fully developed, greenhouse gas emissions from the burned coal would top 700m tonnes a year, bringing irreversible climate change ever closer.

Were the Galilee Basin a country, it would be the seventh largest contributor of carbon dioxide in the world, just behind Germany.

“”This level of mining would devastate this land beyond recognition. It would destroy any sense of connection to the land. We are afraid of being wiped out completely.” Adrian Burragubba (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/may/15/carbon-bomb-australia-the-new-coal-frontier)

And this story is just the latest in a huge series of connected stories from around the planet; connected in their common denominator of yet more, huger, uglier and more devastating environmental pillage. The Obama administration approved Shell Oil’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer, with utter disregard for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of human beings’ absolute opposition to this atrocity. Tonight I barely have words to describe the degree of incredulousness I feel regarding what is happening to our precious home, Earth. It is inconceivable that human beings living here could be so very eager and willing to destroy our planet. Completely. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, once these plans by the fossil fuel companies are in full swing, will simply destroy life on Earth, and probably sooner than later.

 

How can we, The People of Earth, allow this to happen? I ask myself this question frequently. And yet. Looking around me on any given day, anywhere that people are gathered, (say on the bus or at the botanic gardens or walking downtown, or sitting in a restaurant, or…) I get the distinct impression that the vast majority of humans in modern, urban society simply do not really even consider what is actually happening to their world, nor, sadly, do most of them care enough to do most anything to stop it. Many people more eloquent than me have written extensively on this subject, and the reasons why people seemingly do not care. This is from a short article from The Guardian, where the writer states,

“They seem to think there is some critical mass that, through the weight of belief alone, will get us where we want to go. As if when the numbers aren’t high enough, we can’t achieve anything. As if when the numbers are high enough, beautiful transformation will magically happen all by itself or people will vote for wonderful politicians who do the right thing. Too many of us seem far too fond of narratives of our powerlessness, maybe because powerlessness lets us off the hook. As we head into that most dismal of situations, another unbearably long electoral cycle, many who care about climate change will say that we need an elected official who will represent us or a great majority who agree with us. But we don’t need everyone on board; we don’t need one magic person in office; we need ourselves. To act.” –Rebecca Solnit, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/15/one-magical-politician-wont-stop-climate-change-its-up-us?CMP=share_btn_fb
Act-Now-Guardian-15may2015

I remember distinctly how I felt after I watched, with horror and fascination, Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth in the movie theatre years ago. The movie ended, and all of us in the audience filed out silently, in shock and awe at what we had just seen: Gore had essentially spelled out for all of us non-scientist citizens, what would be occuring during the years ahead if we stayed collectively asleep and did nothing to stop global warming. That was in 2007. Now it is eight years later, and it is coming to pass. Sadly, most of us are still doing very little or less to affect any positive change, i.e., raising our voices as often and loudly as possible to anyone and everyone who might hear.

Honestly, I just feel so incredibly SAD about the fact that the humans of the not-very-distant future (people like our children and their children) are going to have problems we cannot even fathom, to deal with on a daily basis. Right now we are shaking our heads at the crazy weather this spring, or feeling sorry for the people of Nepal….. then getting into our gasoline-burning cars and forgetting about it. People think they are just one little person, and their actions don’t matter so much to the whole…. but that is the whole point!!! Each little individual person, combined into a city, a region, a state, a country, adds up exponentially into a power, a HUGE power for good, positive change, or else for stagnation, decay, entropy and eventually destruction. The choice is ALWAYS ours, each one of us, every minute of every day. Not choosing to change or to speak up or to act is also a choice, it’s a choice to condemn the Earth to devastation.

Guilty-of-complicity

Dear Readers, I know you are each just one small human in a huge ocean of billiions of humans. But you matter, your voice matters, what you think about in a day MATTERS, and especially who you talk to and what you talk about, matters. We can choose to deliberately and consciously think about what is actually going on in our world, learn as much as possible so we are educated on the issues, and then speak about these things with people we know and people we don’t yet know, thereby educating them. Sometimes I fantasize about standing up in the middle of the commuter bus in the morning, and just yelling, “Hey, Denver!! Wake Up!! Do you know that Shell Oil is about to ruin the most pristine and fragile place on Earth this summer? And here’s why you should care.” I would probably get carted off to the city jail if I were to become so bold. But the way things are going, that may not be such a bad thing in the long run.

 


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Reject and Protect

Dear Readers, if you have perhaps been living on a desert island, and are not keeping up with the battle against the insidious and hideous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline proposal, please read the following letter from our heroes at 350.org.  They have, along with their fearless and tireless leader Bill McKibben, been fighting this plan for the past couple of years, and NOW is the final push to protest.

If you can make it, join the protest in Washington DC on April 27th. Please tell everyone you know about it;  the more exposure this gets, the better the chances of killing it, and in turn going a long way towards saving our planet.– Leigh

RejectProtect_LogoSeal

Last Friday, over 2 million comments against Keystone XL were delivered to the State Department, sending a very clear message that opposition to the pipeline remains strong. Now it’s time to prepare our closing argument.

Below is an invitation to an action in Washington DC from the Cowboy Indian Alliance of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities along the pipeline route. The event is called Reject and Protect, and the key day will be April 27th, when we will march with the Alliance from their camp to the White House. It will likely be one of our last chances to send a message to President Obama about Keystone XL.

I can’t imagine a better way to make our closing argument against Keystone XL than standing alongside the pipeline fighters who will be on the front lines should it move forward. Once you’ve read the letter, click here to RSVP to be there on April 27th for Reject and Protect: act.350.org/signup/rejectandprotect/?source=350

On April 22nd, our alliance of pipeline fighters — ranchers, farmers, tribal communities, and their friends — called the Cowboy Indian Alliance will ride into Washington DC for the next, and perhaps final, chapter in the fight against Keystone XL.

On that day, we will set up camp nearby the White House, lighting our fire and burning our sage, and for 5 days, we will bear proud witness to President Obama’s final decision on Keystone XL, reminding him of the threat this tar sands pipeline poses to our climate, land, water and tribal rights. Throughout those 5 days, we will show the power of our communities with events ranging from prayers at Sec. Kerry’s home and an opening ceremony of tribes and ranchers on horseback in front of the White House.

On April 27th, we invite our friends and allies against the pipeline to join us as we conclude our camp and march once more to the White House for our final, unmistakable message to President Obama. Our community of pipeline fighters just sent 2 million comments against the pipeline in just 30 days. We must follow this up with action in the streets on April 27th as we march with tribal leaders and individuals currently living with the risk tar sands to show all the beauty and power we represent. Everyone is needed and everyone is welcome.

With his decision closer than ever, President Obama must know what is truly at stake, and see once more the power of the alliances that have turned Keystone XL into a turning point for our movements, and for our future.

The Cowboy and Indian Alliance brings together tribal communities with ranchers and farmers living along the Keystone XL pipeline proposed route. Farmers and ranchers know the risk first-hand. They work the land every day. Tribes know the risk first-hand. They protect the sacred water, and defend sacred sites of their ancestors every day. They have united out of love and respect for the land and water on which we all depend.

This is not the first time Cowboys and Indians have come together to stop projects that risk our land and water. In the 80s, they came together to protect water and the Black Hills from uranium mining and risky munitions testing. In the American imagination, “cowboys and Indians” are still at odds. However, in reality, opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has brought communities together like few causes in our history. Tribes, farmers and ranchers are all people of the land, who consider it their duty as stewards to conserve the land and protect the water for future generations.

The Alliance asks President Obama a simple question: Is an export pipeline for dirty tar sands worth risking our sacred land and water for the next seven generations?

On June 25, 2013, President Obama said, “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Anyone with common sense knows the Keystone XL pipeline would exacerbate the climate crisis: an 830,000 barrel per day pipeline filled with tar sands and chemicals like benzene will make it easier for tar sands companies to dig up and burn more of the world’s dirtiest oil than they could with any other feasible alternative.

Our actions next month will show President Obama that we are living up to his call to “be the change we wish to see,” and that we stand with him to say no to Big Oil. Together we will make a clear promise that if President Obama goes back on his word and approves the Keystone XL pipeline, he will be met with the fiercest resistance from our Alliance and our allies from all walks of life. Bryan Brewer, President of the Oglala Sioux, speaks for us when he says, “We are ready to fight the pipeline, and our horses are ready.”

Please join us this April to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and protect our land, water, and climate.

-The Cowboy Indian Alliance


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A sense of entitlement in an age of need

(Note: Dear Readers, as I looked for an image or quote for this post, I found out that the word ‘entitlement” is fraught with conservative political opinions that I admittedly do NOT share.  Therefore, this post has been a mini education in itself!  please feel free to share your opinions with me, and apologies if this word gave you a different impression than what I meant to say.–Leigh)

When I was young, in the 1960’s and 70’s, my family, and those of my friends and schoolmates, were solidly middle-class Americans. This meant that nobody in my little world ever experienced poverty, homelessness, or lack of necessities. Ever. As a child and adolescent, I was sheltered from knowledge of such things by my loving parents, who thought they were doing the right thing by protecting me from the sad truths of this world. They themselves, along with most of their generation, had grown up during the Depression and experienced Life Without. Being the good, kind and loving people they were, they (being my dad) worked hard every day of his life to provide plenty of the Good Life for his family, and he succeeded. We had Plenty of Everything.

It was therefore mysterious, and disturbing, to my family that as soon as I could possibly manage it, I left home and plunged myself into poverty. I won’t bore you with the long details of my life, dear Readers, but suffice to say, I have never been as well off as an adult as I was as a child. It was as though I somehow, unconsciously, understood that I had been entitled to good education and a clean, orderly and financially stable life without ever knowing why or having a clue as to how lucky I was.

After plunging myself willingly into poverty at the age of seventeen, I began to learn about the other side of life on planet earth. The hard way. Over the course of the next thirty years, I received a fairly comprehensive education about the school of hard knocks, and what life is like when one is not living under the illusion of entitlement.

Now it is 2014, and I find myself living again in Denver, Colorado, ironically enough. Fortunately I am not in the suburbs where I grew up, but in the heart of the city. I have written about what it is like to be here and the people whom I meet and see each day. Obviously, there are many classes of people living in this metropolis of nearly three million, from the richest to the very poorest. My current part-time work is as a reading tutor for some kids at an inner city school. Today I attended a meeting at this school, where the principal and his colleagues spoke about what it is like to teach there. 60% of the students are “English language learners,” meaning that English is their second language and more likely than not, not spoken much at home. This school contains mostly working class families, and many are at or below the poverty line. Through the meeting, I found out that the single biggest challenge the teachers face is concerning parental involvement in their children’s education. As the principal said, many of the parents themselves had a hard time in school, didn’t like it, didn’t do well, perhaps did not finish their education, and they pass those values (or lack thereof) onto their children.

What is a sense of entitlement, and where does it come from? Many of you might have quick, short answers to these questions, and to some degree, you would be correct. And yet. What are we humans really entitled to in this world? Is it having a basic human right to something, like clean air to breathe, clean water to drink? Or does it go deeper, into our constitutional rights to free speech, to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Or does it have more to do with fundamental rights to a good education, a clean and warm home, loving family and friends, healthy and plentiful food to eat, etc?

Or does entitlement have more to do with the idea of not having to work or struggle for what you receive in life, in having things handed to you simply because you are alive and born into a particular family or societal strata, and think that you deserve and have the right to all of it and way more? Perhaps in the way of landed families of old, that the younger generations inherited the wealth and land from their forefathers from antiquity, giving hardly a thought to the poor who had no inheritance, who simply had the privilege of being able to work on the lord’s land, and had nothing in the end to show or pass onto their own children.

Tonight I am simply pondering these questions, dear Readers. My idealistic self would like to change the structure of society towards a more equitable direction, so that it is not only the rich white kids in the suburbs (or the private and charter schools) who receive the best education, but somehow create a society that everyone can thrive in, become truly educated and contribute their gifts to the whole. Where the concept of entitlement becomes something for all people, involving health on all levels, both personally and socially. Dear intelligent friends and readers, your thoughts please!

Related articles
http://privilegeofparenting.com/2009/11/25/the-secret-pain-of-the-entitled-child/


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Change is coming fast

Dear Readers, Today I share with you an interview with several younger leaders of various activist groups in North America, by the good folk at Yes! magazine. Enjoy, and keep the faith in better days ahead for our planet. namaste, Leigh

“Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps—for example, facilitating the growth of the communities we want to live in or realizing that the most efficient tools against a system based on greed, fear, hurry, and violence, are generosity, courage, slowing-down, and loving-kindness.” – Pancho Ramos Stierle

Occupy-Oakland-protest-2011

(from Yes! Magazine june 2013 http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/for-young-leaders-it-s-personal

Change is coming fast. The brief window we have to turn around the climate crisis, the growing gap between rich and poor, the violence at home and abroad, debt and austerity politics—these are among the most pressing issues facing all of us, especially young people. We asked a group of leaders, all under 40, to talk to us about how they see their lives, their leadership, and their future.

Sarah van Gelder: How do the challenges facing your generation (people under 40) compare with those faced by leaders of the civil rights, women’s, and labor movements? What’s at stake now?

Adrienne Maree Brown: I would say the biggest difference is we’ve increased our exposure to all the suffering and struggle in the world without increasing our capacity to handle it.

The speed of knowledge has increased—now it’s a nearly instantaneous flow of crisis, tragedy, and need, sprinkled with glimpses of triumph, resilience, humanity. And we are supposed to have a coherent opinion on all of it and stay focused on those things we can impact. We need mindfulness practice to come with our smartphones!

Henia Belalia: We’re looking at the frequency and impact of climate-related “natural disasters,” and it’s daunting—how do we take our foot off the gas pedal when we have very few years before we hit a point of no return and it’s game over for the planet?

Clayton Thomas-Muller: I think of our aunties and uncles who were in the American Indian movement, the Black Panthers movement. Back in the day, there was a lot of responsibility on a very small group of leaders, and it was relatively easy for agents of oppression to target those individuals. Whereas today, through social media and digital technologies that can transfer popular education materials to vast audiences, we have a more level playing field.

Carlos Jimenez: Power is becoming more concentrated and more removed from our daily experience. I assume it never was cool to question capitalism or ask hard questions about systems of oppression. But these days, it feels like we have to stretch in ridiculous ways to question the structures of our society without being seen as radicals or crazy people.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle:
In fact, sister Sarah, we are not under 40, we are 13.7 billion years old, our cosmic age, and we are part of an unfolding story of love.

Our pioneer brothers, sisters, and kin of the civil rights movement during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s didn’t have that gorgeous picture of ourselves, the Earth, from space. And now, we’re able to detect planets outside the solar system that might support life, which is bringing a new sense of our humanity. All of a sudden, all of the nonsense divisions based on the colors of our skin or culture or spiritual practice or religion just vanish, and we’re one sacred living organism that is the wonderful Earth.

van Gelder: How do you see where we’re headed as a human community? How does that shape your own choices?

Belalia: One has to believe that another world is possible, but we need to be very real about what that looks like and not just put on Band-Aids.

We’re going to have to make some big changes in how we live. We’re going to have to consume a lot less and give up luxuries. Living in the Global North, in the United States especially, we have a responsibility to the rest of the world to reassess how we live.

Brown: In the stories I hear of past generations, we weren’t just moving toward a better world, there was a sense of responsibility to maintain and/or create a better world for the next generations. Right now I think we need to move toward being better and better ancestors.

Thomas-Muller: We need to be talking about a new economic paradigm, not patching up the existing one like some crazed engineer obsessed with patching up the Titanic. For example, green jobs are not created by producing photovoltaic panels under indentured servitude in massive industrial wastelands in China, then shipped to California where young African Americans are hired at minimum wage to install these panels onto rich people’s houses.  If instead we look at the establishment of local economies, the 100-kilometer diet, urban farming, and radicalizing the conversation around the distribution of wealth and land—that’s the conversation that I’m interested in.

Ramos-Stierle: Seeing with the eyes of an astrobiologist has given me an appreciation for technology. Everything can scale up very quickly. Small decisions can have big impacts in all directions—exponentially more so than a few generations ago. Scalable new design principles—local, decentralized, open, non-linear, emergent, biomimetic—all can spread like wildfire today. We not only have the chance now to name a new story, but our generation has the means to live a new story into being.

van Gelder: Can you tell a story from your own experience about how social change is happening today?

Thomas-Muller: We’ve seen the rise of Idle No More, which is being led by the most marginalized group in Canada: First Nations women. Canada is going through a painful process of reconciliation, not unlike what South Africa continues to go through post-apartheid. Idle No More and the tar sands movement and other indigenous struggles have ripped away the scabs of racism. We’re seeing television, print, and radio airing the voices of the most extreme racists against indigenous peoples. What’s kind of beautiful about it, though—as ugly and as painful as it is—it’s driving people to our side of the movement who are sick of the hatred, bigotry, and overall nastiness. So it’s actually expanding our political base of allies and our overall resistance.

Brown: Recently I was involved in facilitating a gathering on black reproductive justice. The folks came into the room with a lot of painful history, and they committed to healing, whatever that took. And it took sitting in that room with each other and listening to each other in new ways, hearing each other’s ancestral stories and current stories. This meeting felt so different. Instead of: “Who’s got the best strategy and the most resources?” it was: “Who’s really committed to transforming inside themselves, how they show up in this movement, and then how we can be together?”

Ramos-Stierle: One of the most revolutionary direct actions I’ve been involved in was building a 20-by-30-foot greenhouse on a third of an acre in San Francisco. We had 100 volunteers show up at the Free Farm to help, and since then, we’ve given away close to 9,000 pounds of local, organic produce.

That greenhouse became one of the main providers of Occupy the Farm a year ago on land administered by the University of California. We planted close to 15,000 seedlings in one day with 300 people, and it was such a celebration to be there disobeying with great love. Children and all the generations stood up for life and beauty.

So how can we create alternatives that are so beautiful that they just naturally are in conflict with a collapsing, broken system?

van Gelder: Sometimes people working for change get separated into silos. My impression is that those silos are getting less rigid—that people are more open to each other’s perspectives and issues. I’m wondering if you think we’re getting better at working together?

Jimenez: Yeah, I feel like there’s less time spent trying to tell each other what to do and more collaboration, both among members and leaders.

Belalia: For me it’s a systemic change. The corporate powers that are running the world today are all-pervasive, involved in everything from our food to our education to our elections. So for me the systemic is what feels the most authentic.

In our movement, we’re pushing for a paradigm shift that will require connecting migrant rights, economic justice, housing justice, and other social justice issues with the work on runaway climate change.

Ramos-Stierle: I’ve heard a lot of people say, “How can you bring peace if you’re not peaceful with yourself?” And then I think, “That’s over!” We need to have both. We need the inner revolution connected with the outer revolution. It’s time for activist people to become spiritual, and for spiritual people to become active.

We need to focus on our means. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing if you’re making a more violent and resentful world with your brothers and sisters and kin through your work. There’s no reason why we have to wait; we can be making the world more harmonious right now!

Belalia: Part of my own personal philosophy is learning to just be in this moment. What we envision in our minds is part of what we create in the world, so we need to take care of soul and heart, and create a much more tranquil and sane inside to be able to carry out our work on the outside.

Thomas-Muller: Yeah. I share that perspective. Coming from an indigenous perspective, that’s one area where we actually have a bit of privilege: We have only been separated from our relationship to the sacred for a few decades, whereas for other groups, it’s been millennia. The connection we have to the sacredness of Mother Earth has been damaged by the psychotic Western industrial experiment called capitalism. Through re-evaluating our relationship to the sacred and embracing our place in the sacred circle of life, we can fill the gap left by hyper­individualism and consumption.

Activism has to be grounded in something bigger than yourself. However you perceive God, whether that’s through the smile of your child, or by connecting with the sacredness of Mother Earth through hiking in the forest, or going to church, or practicing Buddhism, or being a sun dancer, it’s important to have those elements in your activism so as not to get overwhelmed and to fall. And even with those elements you still fall, because we are facing unimaginable foes in our struggle.

van Gelder: We chose this issue theme now because there’s such urgency around the climate crisis, extreme inequality, and the growing power of the 1 percent. A lot of our change strategies don’t seem to be working in terms of these critical questions. How do you think we can get the real change that we need?

Belalia: Building networks of resistance and resilience is a really powerful way to look at change. From Occupy grew a kind of sustained resistance—the idea that “We’re going to be in a space, and we’re not going to leave until we get something done.”

But Occupy also has done a lot to build sustained resilience. I just spent time in New York with friends who are part of the Occupy Sandy networks, which set up distribution centers after Hurricane Sandy and are still working with those communities. One group I met with is creating workers’ cooperatives.

Jimenez: I’m becoming a big fan of assemblies. Occupy was a space for assembly, but I’m also talking about people’s assemblies like those the social forums tried doing. I can’t emphasize enough how powerful it is when people come together from different walks of life, different traditions, and see that we can work together. I’m thinking a lot about how we can extend invitations and bring in more people so that it’s a bigger assembly every time.

Ramos-Stierle: As brother Carlos was speaking, I was having this vision. Wendell Berry said that if you eat, you are involved in agriculture. I say, if you eat, you’re involved in the movement, like Occupy the Farm, which some of us call Occupy 2.0. Our elder Wendell Berry says, “An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.”

Brown: I’m writing and collaborating around speculative and science fiction, which involves strengthening our capacity for vision and for imagining ourselves in a future where we’re experiencing abundance. I’ve been reading a lot of Octavia Butler and trying to get more people to read her work and to write their own work.

And I’m a facilitation evangelist! Facilitation means to make things easy—facil—to make sure that the time we spend in each other’s presence is authentic, invigorating, and healing, and that it leads to real impact.

van Gelder: My last question: When you think about what you’re doing now and when you look to the future, what do you find most daunting, and what is most hopeful?

Brown: The most daunting thing to me is the scale of change that’s needed.
What makes me the most hopeful is that so many people are asking “How do I live my life? How do I spend my money? How do I care for my babies and care for the loved ones in my life?”
People are realizing the front line is within us, and we have to practice. And that makes me hopeful because I can feel that change in myself and see it in the people I love.

Jimenez: It’s the little things that give me hope, like that I’m starting to see people leading meetings and conferences who look like the people I grew up with—who look like my family.
In terms of fears, the scale, as Adrienne said, is really freakin’ scary. The world could literally collapse. It’s daunting that people don’t even realize how grave the crises are.

Thomas-Muller: What overwhelms me the most is patriarchy. Speaking as a Cree man, I fight internally all the time with patriarchy as it plays out in my life. We come from a matrilineal society. In our traditional way, it was the women who made decisions, and the men were told what to say. We were the spokespersons for some really tough old Cree ladies!

The most daunting question for me is, “How are we going to take out this system of predominantly white male patriarchy that’s driving the destruction across Mother Earth?”
And what is most empowering is seeing the rise of strong First Nations women all across Mother Earth who are rising up and leading the movement, teaching all of us what the sacred feminine creative principle is about and what it means to think seven generations ahead.

Belalia: One of the things that’s the most daunting is how closely politicians are working with corporations, and how blind a lot of people are to their own power.

I was recently invited to work on the next U.S. Social Forum, and it’s really inspiring to me that low-income folk, people of color, women, and LGBTQ are at the core of the process.

Jimenez:
Thank you for providing a space for us to creatively weave this thread. Even though we’re coming from diverse backgrounds, it’s amazing that we’re saying similar things, and I’m grateful for the space and definitely think that was cool.

Ramos-Stierle: We’re kind of orphans in this generation. We better pay attention to the elders and listen to the re-generativity of cultures that have been living here for millennia and be a little less arrogant. We need to listen to many examples of selfless service and to everyday Gandhis and everyday Emma Goldmans and everyday Dolores Huertas, everyday Martin Luther King Jrs., and everyday Cesar Chavezes. One little star at a time forms a galaxy, and one little drop creates an ocean. And we see these shifts happening everywhere—like the shifts from scarcity to abundance, from consumption to contribution, from transaction to trust, from isolation to community, from perfection to wholeness.

We are overwhelmed by the ways that we put in danger the magnificent biodiversity of our planet. At the same time, we are recognizing that there are small things that we could be doing on a daily basis.

Like, after this call, I just feel that I love you. That’s what I think is happening. I don’t know you physically, and I feel that you are my sisters for real and my brothers, and we’re connecting with this technology that wasn’t there before. And so if this is the last time that we talk, I’d like you to know that I am going to keep this for the rest of my days in my heart to continue this great journey.

Brown: I love you back!

Jimenez: Much love!

[Sarah van Gelder facilitated this panel for Love and the Apocalypse, the Summer 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is executive editor of YES!]

Henia Belalia is director of Peaceful Uprising, the organization co-founded by Tim DeChristopher, who just completed his prison term for disrupting an auction of oil and gas leases of Utah’s pristine canyon lands.

Adrienne Maree Brown was national co-coordinator of the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit and head of the Ruckus Society, but today focuses on her practice as a doula and facilitator.

Carlos Jimenez is Midwest regional organizer for Jobs with Justice and before that, with the United States Student Association and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle is a full-time ServiceSpace volunteer who lives now in Casa de Paz at the Canticle Farm in East Oakland. His nonviolent activism centers today on meditating—including in public spaces like Occupy Oakland—as well as disobeying with great love through guerrilla farming.

Clayton Thomas-Muller heads up several First Nations’ campaigns to stop the tar sands.

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Breakthrough News for Real Food in Europe

Dear Readers, this is fantastic news!!  Monsanto has backed down from lobbying for GMO food in Europe. What a victory for The People!!  Now, Americans and all their friends around the world have to keep the pressure going strong……  Take the food supply back!!!

from http://www.care2.com/causes/monsanto-surrenders-ends-all-gmo-lobbying-in-europe.html#ixzz2VMYW5OfK

It’s almost surreal, but it’s true. Monsanto has officially give up its fight to spread genetically modified seeds and plants throughout Europe.

In a time when the power and political influence of Monsanto Co. seems nearly insurmountable, this is a huge victory for opponents of genetic engineering. For those in the U.S. and other countries where Monsanto’s stranglehold is palpable, it serves as a rally cry to keep up the good fight.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that this has no broad acceptance at the moment,” Monsanto Germany spokeswoman, Ursula Lüttmer-Ouazane, told Taz, a Geman newspaper. According to Reuters, European officials for Monsanto also told Taz “that they were no longer doing any lobby work for cultivation in Europe and not seeking any new approvals for genetically modified plants.”

Just as in the United States, millions of European citizens have spoken out against Monsanto’s unchecked control of agriculture through the use of patented, genetically-modified seeds and plants.

A recent poll in Europe found that 60% of respondents considered “Frankencrops” a threat to public health. In 2007, the United States launched a planned retaliation against European countries for refusing to take GMOs into their food chains. In 2009 Monsanto sued Germany because it banned these products, reported FarmtoConsumer.org in late 2012.

Unlike U.S. leaders, those in Germany and elsewhere were not impressed by Monsanto’s well-known intimidation tactics. By January 2013, eight European nations had publicly banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Earlier this month, these and other European countries joined the massive March Against Monsanto, a global event that saw millions take to the streets in protest.

For Monsanto, this latest action was apparently the last straw.

“We’re going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system,” corporate spokesman Thomas Helscher told Reuters. “As far as we’re convinced this only applies to a few countries in Europe today, primarily Spain and Portugal.”

Despite Europe’s strong stand against Monsanto’s GE crops, there are plenty of countries still under its financial and political control, namely, the United States. Here’s hoping that Europe’s victory will be only the first chink in Monsanto’s armor — one that can be exploited by the relentless voices of the millions of Americans who don’t enjoy a corporation deciding what they can and cannot eat.


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Revolution in the streets continues

Today I have three news stories to share with you, dear Readers. The People continue to protest around the world, telling their governments to halt continued efforts to put greed and profits before humanity in Turkey, Europe, and Japan. The drum rattle of change continues unabated…..

‘Not About Trees Anymore’ as Turkey Protests Intensify: What started as a bid to save public land has escalated as youth face riot police with calls of revolution

Jon Queally, staff writer http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/01-0

 

What began as a protest to protect a public park in Istanbul from commercial development has escalated dramatically in a week’s time with violent clashes between demonstrators and police on Friday leading to an even larger escalation on Saturday as more than ten thousand Turkish citizens faced down security forces in a call for deeper social change. 

turkey-demonstration

On Saturday, what started in Gezi Park—where developers backed by the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) hoped to build a shopping mall—has now spread to other parts of Instanbul.

And the Hürriyet Daily News reports:

The Turkish police’s crackdown targeting the demonstrators protesting the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park continued on June 1, as clashes broke out in Istanbul’s symbolic Istiklal Avenue and the Beşiktaş district on the European side of the city.

Security forces used tear gas and water cannons this morning to quell protesters who had gathered on İstiklal Avenue, as well as its sidestreets. When the police fired the water and gas, protesters tried to escape from the narrow streets leading to the Cihangir neighborhood.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters gathered again after the police’s first intervention. However police fired once again, entering the pedestrian street with a water cannon riot vehicle. Some protesters made barricades with trees and bins about 100 meters from Saint Anthony’s Church, near Galatasaray Square. Around an hour later the police destroyed the barricade and protesters escaped into sidestreets.

Despite the repeated police interventions, the numbers gathered at the protests only increased. Protesters chanted slogans against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, calling on the government to resign.

“The protesters are saying that this is not about trees anymore,” said Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Istanbul.

As this video shows, the streets have become intense as protesters clash with police
<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/67432788?api=1&player_id=vimeoPlayer&#8221; width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen>

On Friday, in fact, an administrative court in Istanbul handed the #OccupyGezi protesters at least a temporary victory by putting a “stay” on the construction permit of the new development.

Despite that and following the aggressive use of force on Friday, including the detention of nearly 60 demonstrators on Friday, the protest movement seemed only to spread overnight.

As part of their campaign, the Gezi protest organizers released this poster calling for others to join them: occupy_gerzi_ad

German Official Warns of Immediate ‘Revolution’ if EU Adopts US Model: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble urges adherence to Europe’s welfare model

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/29-6

Europe must not drop its welfare model in favor of US standards or it will spark a revolution “not tomorrow but the same day,” Germany’s Finance Minister warned on Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference in Paris, Wolfgang Schäuble was joined by other German, French and Italian ministers in issuing warning calls over the soaring unemployment plaguing nearly six million European youths, and that threatens an “entire generation of people” and risks losing “the battle for Europe’s unity.”

Warning of “catastrophe,” Schäuble said, “We need to be more successful in our fight against youth unemployment; otherwise, we will lose the battle for Europe’s unity.”

Reuters reports:  While Germany insists on the importance of budget consolidation, Schaeuble spoke of the need to preserve Europe’s welfare model.  If U.S. welfare standards were introduced in Europe, “we would have revolution, not tomorrow, but on the very same day,” Schaeuble told a conference in Paris.

protestors-Madrid

Protesters in Madrid in April denouncing austerity policies that have created “economic migrants” in the young generation. (Photo: Popicinio/cc/flickr)

“We have to rescue an entire generation of young people who are scared. We have the best-educated generation and we are putting them on hold. This is not acceptable,” added Italian Labor Minister Enrico Giovannini.

French president François Hollande, also at the conference, said “We need to act quickly” on youth unemployment.

“Remember the postwar generation, my generation. Europe showed us and gave us the support we needed, the hope we cherished. The hopes that we could get a job after finishing school, and succeed in life,” said Hollande. “Can we be responsible for depriving today’s young generation of this kind of hope?”

“Imagine all of the hatred, the anger, it’s not anger that we’re talking about in fact, it goes more than that. We’re talking about a complete breakdown of identifying with Europe.

“What’s really at stake here is not just ‘let’s punish those in power,’ no. Citizens are turning their backs on Europe and the construction of the European project,” said Hollande.

The New York Times adds:  Werner Heyer, head of the European Investment Bank, said the deepening youth unemployment crisis, alongside obstacles to cross-border lending within the euro zone, represented the region’s two “megaproblems.” But he cautioned that politicians would be mistaken if they believed that the European bank’s resources alone would be enough to solve the unemployment problem.  “Such expectations of the bank are beyond the horizon,” Mr. Heyer said. “There is no quick fix; there is no grand plan.”
Only ‘Unevolved Apes Want Nukes!’: Japanese Demand End to Nuclear Era: Thousands rally in Tokyo as nuclear restarts loom http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/02-0

Thousands of people, including victims from the Fukushima disaster in 2011, took to a central park in Tokyo on Sunday to protest the Japanese government’s intent to restart the nation’s nuclear reactors.

Protesters hold banners during a protest rally against nuclear power plants, following the March 2011 Fukushima meltdown-disasters, in Tokyo on June 2, 2013. (AFP Photo / Rie Ishii)

Protesters hold banners during a protest rally against nuclear power plants, following the March 2011 Fukushima meltdown-disasters, in Tokyo on June 2, 2013. (AFP Photo / Rie Ishii)

Agence France-Presse reports:

Protesters later marched through the capital, holding anti-nuclear banners including one which read: “No Nukes! Unevolved Apes Want Nukes!”

They also demonstrated outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which was crippled by meltdowns after the March 2011 tsunami.

[Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe], whose Liberal Democratic Party has close ties with the nation’s powerful business circles, has repeatedly said he would allow reactor restarts if their safety could be ensured.

Japan turned off its 50 reactors for safety checks in the wake of the disaster but has restarted two of them, citing possible summertime power shortages.

And RT adds:

Shortly after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the Japanese government pledged to fully abandon atomic energy by the 2030s. However, in about a year authorities realized their promise was a hasty one, as the archipelago nation had hardly any other means to ensure sufficient electric energy supply but to return to nuclear power generation.

Earlier this year two nuclear reactors were put back into operation in Japan and plans were announced to restart six more by the end of 2013.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly promised the reactors would only be restarted if their safety is ensured by a special supervising body – Nuclear Regulation Authority. But his words could never quell the anti-nuclear moods in the country, where the tsunami disaster took 19,000 lives and lead to some 150,000 residents of the Fukushima area being displaced.

It’s estimated the post-disaster clean-up would take about 30 to 40 years and cost around US$15 billion.

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The Revolution is Love

“Give yourself to love, Love is what you’re after.” – Kate Wolf

What is it about May? Perhaps it is because of all the loveliness surrounding us here in the northern hemisphere, with so many kinds of flowers blooming and all the songbirds calling from the treetops… whatever the reasons, it simply feels like there is a lot of love hanging around in the atmosphere right now. Even die-hard Danes have given up (mostly) their standard costumes of black-on-black, and are clad in spring greens and orange and blue. It is the season of color, which means Life and Love.

This past weekend I spent a lovely time in the city of Århus, located on Denmark’s mainland. It is a lovely city, with a nice balance of old architecture, new and progressive thinking and attitudes. The old, young, and everyone in the middle seem to live together in relative harmony there, and the fact that it is the home of Denmark’s second largest university gives it the fresh and free-thinking atmosphere in which good things can grow. Århus is a harbor town, situated on a large bay, and close by is a very beautiful nature area with mature beech forest and a very nice stretch of sandy beach. Here I spent some precious hours in contemplation last Saturday, taking in the colors, sounds and scents of the beautiful shoreline, for which I was extremely grateful.

One evening was spent with in-laws and a new friend, a woman a few years younger than myself. We had a nice, quiet dinner and afterwards we sat around in her airy, light living room and chatted. After a while, the conversation turned to me and my current life. She asked me several pointed questions about my work, my relationship, etc., and once she got a small sketch from me, she began to lecture. She told me many things concerning my root chakra and how important it is for me to have a grounding with some kind of basic, steady work, no matter how boring it may be. She gave me her own situation as an example, stating that though she herself has this and that education, she does very boring data entry work a few days a week, which gives her a steady paycheck and allows her the structure of a regular schedule as well as time for her more personal inner work. She talked at length about this subject, and the need for me to do something similar, regardless of my creative urges and desires. The underlying, strong message was: set aside your dreams and wishes for a while and get really practical, Leigh. No matter how dull or uninteresting the work may be, you are obligated to get some, so that you have a real grounding for your soul and can get money enough to feel independent of your man. Strong words, and I heard them loud and clear.

I-came-here-to-change-the-world-cauldrons&cupcakes=blogNow a few days have gone by. I have had increasing pain in my right foot, to the point where today it was quite painful to walk on it. Out of necessity, I bore the pain and went through my tasks anyway, all the while noticing this pain and asking it what it wants to tell me. I asked myself, are you truly ill? Possibly dying? No, was the answer. The pain is about something else.

What I know for sure is, physical pain and emotional suffering are the two quickest routes to becoming old that humans have available. The catch-phrase these days is the ‘pain body’ and it is an apt description. When the pain body kicks in, all other activities come to a quick halt. It is the number one attention-getter. On a day like today, the thought of having to work at a mindless, boring job (or any job, for that matter) becomes nearly unbearable. Today my new friend’s lecture has been replaying in my mind. Obviously there is practical wisdom in her words, that is undeniable. On the other hand, another, stronger part of my psyche seems to be crying out in protest: ‘haven’t you already been through all of that, for many years? Why would you go backwards now, when you have come so far?’

Remember the saying, “do what you love, and the money will follow?” Well I think it is high time to change that one to this instead: “Do what you love, and Love will follow.” It seems to me that the future we are beginning to create together is about Love as the new currency, not money. I am no longer interested in basic survival. That was the old me, for too many years. This new version wants to do whatever it does for the love of it, for the exchange of love given and received. Perhaps it sounds completely naïve, and yet. It seems that I am not the only one who is thinking along these lines.

Occupy-your-heartCase in point: Occupy Love. Apparently some of the people who were gathering at the Occupy Wall street protests have also been thinking along these lines. They have even made a movie, called Occupy Love. This film is about the Occupy movement as a true revolution of Love here on Earth. Yes of course it is a call for action, to stop the greedy tyrants who have been ruling our collective lives which have led us to the brink of utter catastrophe and collapse of our planet. But it is more, it is truly a time when the real call to action is a call for Love to rule. Every day, more humans are awakening from the nightmare of the illusion we have been living in for so long. Only last weekend, millions of people in over fifty countries around the globe gathered in protest of Monsanto’s atrocities with genetic food modification. People are simply tired of being slaves to an outworn, ugly and exceedingly unhealthy system of economics and energy production. They are standing up and saying Stop by the thousands and millions. Soon it will be by the billions, and eventually the tyrants will simply have to stop.

In a world ruled by Love, instead of fear, mind-numbing, work-simply-to-survive mentalities, along with the jobs that keep them in place will be non-existent. It will no longer be a society based on people ‘going to work’ as they love to say all the time in Denmark. People will think differently, and do work that they want to do, that they are glad to get up for, that isn’t simply to ‘put food on the table.’ It cannot be this mentality any longer, if society is based upon love. Then, people will be asked, ‘what is it you would like to do, what do you enjoy doing, what brings you joy?’ It isn’t that work itself is a four-letter word, it is the intention behind it. Something I read on a blog the other day suggested, Find out what seems to feel the most right to you, what fills your heart with joy, what makes you eager to begin?

Always-know-you-are-loved

When I think in these terms, I cannot imagine finding some truly boring or menial down-on-my-knees kind of work, ever again. I cannot agree with the one who lectured me that it would be good for me and grounding. Yes to steady income, at least until we are a bit further down the new evolutionary road. Yes to working with my hands and heart and mind in good, healthy, creative ways. And above all, yes to having love be the basis of all of it, every day.

related links:
http://occupylove.org/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifa33dLp6OA

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/05/25/global-protests-monsanto/2361007/

http://www.activistpost.com/2013/05/hey-monsanto-did-you-hear-that.html

http://news.yahoo.com/millions-march-against-monsanto-over-400-cities-222259976.html

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More Women Rising in Sudan

For those of you who are interested in ending violence to women in this world, a beautiful and poignant film about the Rising movement in Sudan, a land where women have very few rights and humiliation towards girls and women is still lawful, including the threat of being stoned– in 2013.  Please take the time to watch this film, and then send as many prayers and healing to the women and men  and children of this very troubled area of our world.  namaste, Leigh

from  One Billion Rising blog: ( http://onebillionrising.org/blog/entry/khartoum-rising)

Last February 14th, more than a thousand young women and men rose together to demand an end to violence against women and girls in Khartoum, Sudan. Organized by Salmmah Women Resource Centre and Open Mike, together with the support of civil society women’s organizations and youth groups – Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum became the site of an extraordinary rising in a country where participation in public spaces by women is not easy – and where laws that continue to humiliate Sudanese women and girls, and remove their dignity, and where discriminative legal systems are still in place. The university rang with cheers as the women and men danced to “Break The Chain” – opening a five- hour program that included Sudanese dance and music by performance groups Nuba Mountains dance, Makaan, Sudan Roots and Solo Band.  On One Billion Rising Khartoum, Fahima Hashim, Director of Salmmah Women Resource Centre said “the way it has been taken, the way the energy transferred and travelled – and the involvement, even of the people….they just took the idea and made it their way”. Sudan is Rising to end violence against women and girls! Watch their Rising in this incredible new film.


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Forgiveness is a process

“It is very important for every human being to forgive him or herself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. If we all hold onto the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror, we can’t see what we’re capable of being. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that, we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”– Maya Angelou ( http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/i_don-t_know_if_i_continue-even_today-always/9187.html)

What hasn’t already been said on the topic of forgiveness? It is intricately connected to our deepest heart, our most painful wounds, our most intimate places. We are human, we make mistakes. It is impossible for us not to err while we are in these limited human bodies, using our human minds to muddle through our lives. We know the old adage, ‘to err is human, to forgive divine.’ Actually, though, to truly forgive is precisely what all of us need to learn more about while in human form, as the practice of this art is one of the greatest assignments of the times we are living through.

Nearly every day, it seems, headlines appear of yet another covert scheme which has been uncovered, another wrongdoing exposed, another human being admitting their deception and lies, another scandal unfolding. Whether the mistake or misjudgment was huge, affecting many thousands, or small is simply a matter of scale. The issue remains the same, that of recognizing human frailty and human error, with the same opportunity: to forgive.

This is a tricky business in many ways. A typical human reaction to pain is to want to strike back, usually with anger. Another is to run from it as quickly as possible. We come up with all sorts of ways to continue the fight, with many justifications for our response. No one wants to feel they were wronged or mistreated, so we invent all sorts of reasons why we are right to be angry, to pass harsh judgement on another, perhaps to hurt the other in kind. It truly takes a larger perspective to turn away from wanting some kind of vindication or revenge from our tormentor.

be-kind-quote-tumblrHumans have created a world filled with heartbreak. One small example comes from the local Danish newspaper, which ran a story about a family of refugees from Kosovo, who came to Denmark in 1999, when Serbians began a horribly violent campaign against their neighbors. About 2800 Kosovo-Albanian refugees came to Denmark to escape the violence. Of those, over 500 gained asylum. This particular family stayed in Denmark for a year, and then in 2000, it seemed that things had improved in their homeland, and they were offered a package by the Danish government to return to Kosovo, in the form of some funds and a promise that they could return if things went bad again. So they returned, finding their home destroyed and their city in a shambles. Then they discovered, to their dismay, that it was impossible to get back to the larger city in order to obtain visas and return to Denmark. The mother of the family, Florie, told the reporter that nothing functioned, everything was in chaos, and the officials would not give them permission nor passports so that they could get their Danish visas. They were stuck in Kosovo with nothing and no possibility for more help from Denmark, or the EU.

Now it is twelve years later. The family somehow manages with very little money, and still misses Denmark, longing to return. Even though there is formally peace there again, the Kosovo-Albanians and the Serbians do not live in harmony. There was too much bloodshed and violence. Florie told the reporter that in 12 years, the Serbians have never apologized for harming their children and raping 20,000 of their women, whom will never completely heal and be human again. She said, “We are trapped. Kosovo is a little closed land, that the EU has abandoned.”

How do people forgive each other for such extreme trespasses against them? For raping, harming, hurting one’s family, one’s children? Conversely, how does a person live with himself, ‘look himself in the mirror,’ and forgive oneself for the pain he has wrought upon another? To my mind, there is only one way, that of compassion. Only through coming to a heart awareness and sense of the other’s pain, can a person find the place of forgiveness within. The story of the Kosovo-Albanians and the Serbians is an extreme, though sadly not uncommon, example of how humanity abuses itself through unawareness. It seems an unfortunate fact that humans learn best through experiencing pain. The act of forgiveness is a radical one because, if done completely, it will give total freedom to one’s soul. Yet, complete forgiveness is difficult to achieve for most of us, and it takes practice and patience. Wounds go so deep that one can live for many years without being fully aware that they remain, until one day something happens to reopen the wound. Though painful, this is actually very healing– what was festering for so long can finally be soothed and cared for, much like a physical sore which has been left for too long, enabling it to heal.

mistakes-forgiveness-peaceA powerful process for healing is to practice looking at yourself in the mirror, without judgment of any kind, just gazing…. and softening as you do, breathing deeply, until you can see yourself for who you truly are: a flawed human being who is nevertheless beautiful and holy. If you practice this, in time you will be able to have much more self-compassion, which in turn will enable you to have more compassion for all others. As Maya Angelou says, ‘If we can’t see our own glory in the mirror, we can’t see what we’re capable of being.’

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