clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


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The balance of paradox/ paradox of balance

 “To have come through it: to have joyfully survived even the happiness– quietly, completely. First the testings were mute, then verbal. Who could look back unamazed?

No one has been able, since life lasts because no one could. But the infiniteness of the attempts! The new greenness of birch trees is not so new as that which befalls us.

A wood dove coos. And again what you suffered seems, ah, as if yet unlived-through. The bird keeps calling. You are in the middle of the call. Awake and weakened.” –RM Rilke

In the middle of the call– awake and weakened. Rilke wrote those words nearly a century ago, during another age of huge upheaval and tumultuous changes. Here we are in the early 21st century, facing changes so extreme and unprecedented, it is very difficult to find balance or even remember to breathe at moments. Yet so absolutely necessary.

Nearing the vernal equinox here in the northern hemisphere, in the middle of a whirling, spinning soup of change we are. What to do, how to maintain balance in this storm? Virtually crocus_snoweveryone I speak with is experiencing some kind of change, whether minor or major, in their current life. These are tricky waters to negotiate, are they not, dear Readers? I read a phrase that is helping me recently, the idea of a “gyroscopic balance.” Many years ago I had a friend who was at university, studying physics. She showed me a gyroscope, and explained to me the basics of how it works. While it is in motion, it will spin continuously, thus never falling down or losing momentum. An apt metaphor for us humans these days: in constant motion, yet remaining in perfect balance. It doesn’t take much to throw one off balance, though. I am guessing that you are, like I am, getting plenty of practice in learning to recalibrate quickly so that you can become rebalanced again. This game is all about getting back into spinning balance as everything is in constant motion all around you. Every day is a new opportunity to practice.

The paradox of our times is to maintain calm and balance in the midst of every increasing upheaval and whirling change. Some days it seems as if the very ground under our feet is in motion, that literally nothing is stable or can be counted on to remain. Even the earth itself, with its billion-years old rocks and mountains that seem immoveable, is not as permanent as we’d like to believe. Unnerving at times, and downright frightening at others, all this massive impermanence is our current learning curve. After eons of living under the illusion of permanence and stability, humanity stands at a huge, Grand Canyonesque crossroads. What is next? What will we choose? Will we make it though this time intact? Or will our species crash and burn, taking many other species with us, leaving destruction, rubble and desolation behind? Will we miraculously choose to take the high road, the path of salvation for our human race and so many other precious, precarious living creatures? What will our world be like a hundred, five hundred years from now? A postapocalyptic world that no one wants to live in, or a world where humans finally got it together, came together and put an end to war, greed and destruction, to create a world where humans and nature live in harmony; the most amazing renaissance ever created in human history?

Who could look back at these times unamazed– only those who are truly asleep and refuse to be awakened to how our world is burning, crashing and slowly rising from the ashes of the old into something green and new and beautiful. Hope is a verb, after all. Hope is what we keep alive by our actions, words, and intentions. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant they might be: a smile goes a long way in this world, a handshake, an encouraging word. We are all in this mess together, dear Readers. You and I are not separate except in our thoughts. We are doing this, a little more each day. Keep up the good work, keep your chins up, keep looking up! The birds know the score; they fly all around, calling and singing, dancing up there in the sky, to remind us all that flight is possible, levity is imperative, and our eternal connection with our spirit selves is unbreakable. Rest when you need to, breathe deeply, go for walks in nature. Take heart, and courage! The lions of our souls are alive, as well as our angels.


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Relics, artifacts and books

A new phenomenon has arrived on street corners here and there in the United States and England. You may have seen small, sometimes cleverly decorated boxes, much like an old-fashioned postbox, with a sign offering “Free Books, take one or leave one.” When I first discovered these in England last summer, I was sincerely charmed. What a gracious, lovely idea, to freely share books among the populace. By now, however, I have realized a darker (more sinister?) side to this free book giveaway.

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Perhaps it is obvious to some of you already, dear Readers, that one probable reason for all these free book giveaways is, there are simply millions of books floating around in the hemisphere, and not enough people reading them. Books are starting to enter the classification of relics, artifacts from a time fast disappearing, when people loved and enjoyed them, carried them around, re-read them, passed them on to family and friends.

The age of technology has its merits and its drawbacks. In an extraordinarily short span of human time, computers have entrenched themselves in our collective psyche like a virus infecting a body, deeply and somehow irreversibly. The powers-that-make-technology in our world are working hard to make sure that everyone alive is signed up on the plan. That means every man, woman and child, no matter how young or old, is to be inextricably hooked into the beast of technology forever more. They are pushing to make sure babies are weaned from the breast to the computer screen, that no hand goes without a computerized phone-internet-camera-toaster-oven-what-have-you device, and the list just goes on ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

The death of bound books is nearly inevitable in our lifetimes, I lament. Not only is it a sad commentary on the state of our society, but just a sad thought altogether. When all the written words are available only on virtual screens or in your eyeglasses or whatever, how will that affect us as a people; our thinking, our motor skills, our ideas about life? The implications are truly enormous if one ponders them. What will become of libraries, our esteemed repository of the worlds’ wisdom, literature and knowledge? What will become of us?

The digital age we find ourselves in today has vast implications for our world. One of the most maddening is the inevitable loss of sensory perception and basic motor skills. Young children who most need to develop these skills as their bodies are growing and changing the most are at risk of not learning them, and that affects their brain development and basically their whole physiognomy. Using a keyboard or touch screen does not do the same job for developing bodies and minds as making sure a child can pick up a pencil or scissors and use them effectively. I shudder to think of how tomorrow’s children will manage in the physical world of which they are still a part. What will humans do when they have lost the ability to use their hands, their fingers, their bodies?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

The world is changing so fast right now, society itself is spinning ever faster on its axis. I am watching it happen, even as I am turning into a relic of the past, along with bound books and dead philosophers. I admit that I do not wish to live in a world without books, sensory stimulus, physicality. I was born into physicality and I will remain within it for the rest of this lifetime. Probably I sound hideously old-fashioned, like those parents who frowned disapprovingly upon early rock and roll music and its proponents. And yet. This new technology age is profoundly disturbing. It seems we have been sold a bill of goods, yet what have we really purchased– if not the death of our souls?


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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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The thin rope between emotional states

Balancing between the old life and the new is big work, dear Readers. I don’t know how many of you are feeling somewhat the same, but if you are, I have total empathy for you. There are several things I could choose to write about this evening, as my life now is full of so many impressions and thoughts and ideas within the course of a day. But tonight I find myself wavering yet again, even as I am walking along that dangerously thin rope bridge which hangs so high above the vast, bottomless abyss of the unknown below me.

Denmark pulls at my heartstrings again tonight, calling me to remember moments there when I was happy, when Danish was in my ears, all around me, and even though it nearly constantly frustrated me with its difficult intonation and impossible pronunciation, I grew to love it in some strange sort of love-hate-love relationship. Three years and more of living in any foreign country has got to rub off on a person, after all, and those Danes got under my skin in a particularly fond way, I admit. I miss my friends there, and the kids that I taught at the little school. Of course you all know that I miss that man who remains there,even as I am now thousands of miles away on another continent. The other night I wrote that I was ‘way beyond self-help books by now,’ — well, I guess that was not entirely the truth.

What I meant by saying that is, that reading books and hearing phrases and even listening to others telling the ways to overcome one’s neuroses and issues and stuckness is all well and good, but until I take the words and make them my own reality and truth, they remain just nice words on the page.

walking_alone_by_pix_cel-d4pky45In other words, I can tell myself that Today is a New Day! Be in the present moment, don’t live in the past or the future. Be mindful. Remember to breathe. Let go of the past. Focus on what I want now for my life. Go beyond the little me, embrace the Divine Me! And so on and so forth, til the cows come home. But. What I am learning, every single day, in a hundred small ways, and a few big ones, is that I simply HAVE to honor where I am at NOW: in Each Moment of my life. Some moments I am really so fine, smiling, embracing the divine me, walking along, even singing a tune for no particular reason other than I feel glad. And then, at other moments, some trigger will get tripped, and the next thing I know, I am in pieces again. This is not the same as wallowing in self-pity for long periods of time, or anything like that. Perhaps I am finally comprehending the Buddhist exhortation to simply Be what you are Now. Whatever that is. If you feel angry, Be the anger. If you feel sad, Be the sadness. Don’t push away the emotions as they rise up, instead allow them to come, feel them completely, and then let them dissipate again. I am finding that this is the most useful method for dealing with all these emotional states I find myself in. Those old masters definitely knew their stuff.

Recently I read a highly enjoyable and wise novel, called The Humans, by Matt Haig. It is the story of a being from a faraway planet, which is based purely on mathematics and logic, who comes to Earth to fulfill a certain mission. This book is screamingly funny, and also poignant and very, well, human. Haig is a master at showing ourselves our human frailties and absurdities. One thing that has stuck with me from it, is that he (the otherworldly being) makes the observation that on Earth, everything is apparently a Test of one kind or another. The being cannot go anywhere or do anything or meet anyone, without being tested in some strange way. I really am in agreement with him about this. In some very real ways, Life on Earth truly is a whole series of tests and quizzes, designed to see if a person can jump through enough hoops and perform enough tricks well enough to ‘pass’ and so go on to the next level. Kind of like one of those computer games that are so popular, where the player must go through all sorts of dangers and enemies, in order to proceed to the next level. Trouble is, we really have no idea what actually exists on the next level, although it is a good bet there will be more of the same, only even trickier, once we get there.What a tiring game this thing called human existence is, all too often.

I watched a fascinating Youtube video the other night, by a man named Matt Kahn. Regardless of what you might think of him, he certainly made some salient points about human nature and the reason for being alive. At one point, he told the audience, so calmly and clearly, that our lives are really all about learning How To Live. That we actually do not really know how to live, and so we are here to learn how to do it. I have pondered this statement, and I agree with him. Our overall mission here is to learn How to Live as a human being. After so many lifetimes, you would think that we would have figured it out by now. But no. For I believe that if we had, life would not be nearly so difficult. Or confusing. Or painful. Or would it?

Related:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kSnt5n4ADw  (the Divine Plan by Matt Kahn, worth watching!)


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Turning despair into amazement

“But there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.” –Mumford and Sons

These days, the dinner hour is the cruelest time of day. On the fortunate days when I happen to be with others (read my sweet family members), then preparing, serving and eating dinner is alright, it is really fine. But on those other days when I find myself alone and faced with cooking and eating dinner with only me for company, that is when those lonesome blues sneak around, filling the cracks and crevices of my soul with an unshakable melancholy. After years of cooking dinner for two each evening, and then sitting down to feast after feast, served with candlelight and wine, my new habit of cooking and eating alone, sometimes with a book and othertimes just me and the plate, is the nightly reminder of my newly acquired single status. Quite frankly, I do not enjoy it.

Just in the past couple of days, I have begun to feel a little hopeful again. After plummeting to the very depths during the twelve holy nights of Christmas, this week brings me some glimmerings of possibilities, of a future that could be filled with meaning, where I am living for a larger purpose and making a positive difference in others’ lives. I can nearly see this future me, happily busy at the work of creating good here in the place I find myself now. Perhaps there is hope for me yet, a small voice quietly tells me, where I can serve others in positive ways, where my voice and my actions will actually improve lives and consequently the world. Where I matter. Where I help a suffering humanity in the ways that I can, that I invent and am inspired to create. A future where self-centeredness gives way to working for the Greater Good. Where I can finally realize my long-held dreams of doing something for the world.

Mary Oliver once wrote that when death comes, she wants to be able to say that all her life she was a bride married to amazement. I think she always knew that she had it in her to do amazing, incredible things with her life, and so she went ahead and did them, through poetry and teaching and observing life and nature. For me, she embodies a life well lived, a beautiful marriage of giving oneself to the world and at the same time, making sure she always had enough time for herself, for solitude and contemplation. She has had the great fortune of a grace-filled life. She can rest in the knowledge that through her efforts, she has touched and inspired millions of people across the world. In my own humble way, I would love to be able to say, at the end of my life, that I too have been a bride married to amazement. That I too did something artistic and wonderful and giving which made a difference to others’ lives. That people grew for having known me, that they found a creative part of themselves which they hadn’t quite been able to access before. That knowing me inspired them in some way, and made their lives richer than it would have otherwise been. I don’t think this is purely an ego-desire on my part, but rather a sincere desire to share my gifts, to fulfill the purpose I was born to fulfill. I have spent the vast majority of my life not having much of a clue of what I was put on this earth to do. Finally, at mid-life, past my prime, my physical self going to the other side of that hill we all must eventually descend, I am beginning to see, starting to know why I am here, and what it is that I wish to do with my remaining time.

It is not difficult to waste one’s life on trivialities and petty dramas. People do it all the time. We humans are masters of making mountains out of molehills, and conversely, denying and covering up our actual pain and suffering so that we don’t have to deal with them. We are all grappling with being in these human forms, and the difficulties of embodiment on earth at this time. We are all aware of the consequences of this life: addictions, violence, separation, depression, suicide, dissolution, despair, desperation. What can we do, how can we deal with our anxieties and fears?

life-quotes-inspirational-life-quotes-appreciate-life

Everybody has a story to tell here. The biggest favor we can do for each other is to listen to another tell their story. Not with judgment or condemnation, but simply for the fact that they will heal by telling it, eventually. Many of us love to read stories, whether fiction or factual matters not. We love certain characters in a novel, play or movie because he seems all too familiar, because we see ourselves in her. My story is a little bit yours too. Okay, now I don’t feel quite so alone out here on the high seas of life. Your story has given me a lifeline, something I can hold onto, a way to help me get back to shore. When I am feeling low and alone, and like no one else in the universe cares or remembers that I exist, when eating alone the tenth night in a row is making me feel completely miserable, or when the demons come in the middle of night and attack me with their punishing thoughts, what can I do? Give in, lay down in a puddle on the floor and want to end it all? No. I will not give into fear and thoughts of hopelessness. Somehow I must find strength within myself to climb out of the hole, to hold on until the morning, to find hope that I will again one day be cooking for two or twenty. Because I am not only doing this work for myself, but for every other lonely and afraid human out there also. My struggle, my battle with the darkness of my soul is everyone’s battle. The single most important work that any of us can do now, is to embrace the love and light within ourselves, while acknowledging the darkness and pain there too, and work to find all the ways, big and small, to shine it upon the world. Every single day.

By now, I am way beyond self-help books and pep talks (even though I sometimes still read and listen to them.) Life is about more than that, and is much, much more complex. Good advice is all well and good, but the times are calling for something far deeper and greater. Our world needs compassion like never before. It can be the smallest gesture, a smile or a friendly greeting to another human as we walk down the street. It can also be simply noticing others, from people to the birds in the tree above your head. Every gesture counts. Every thought also.

I am working on marrying amazement now. When I learn how to truly love what is in my own heart, it will automatically free me to love everyone and everything else which appears to be outside of me. The illusion is that there is any separation. I love you.


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The only difference between them and me

Happy New year! Wherever in the wide world you may be right now, I give you wishes of a peaceful, joyful new year.

To my faithful blogger friends who gave me encouraging comments on my last blog entry, I thank you all for your kind, healing words and thoughts. I truly appreciate you all, the fact that you continue to read my words, erratic as they appear these days, and that you all care about me and my welfare. I love you all, and feel much gratitude for your support. You help me to have a reason to continue writing here.

Starting over is not so easy, is it? Although I have started over so very many times during this life, each time seems an extraordinarily lot of work. Now is no exception, here in Denver. Walking around the streets of Capitol Hill and up to Colfax Avenue (Denver’s longest and most famous street), it is easy to blend into anonymity among the various folk walking or hanging around. Here are street people, ones down on their luck for the moment or for a long time, ones who are downtrodden, the users and abusers of various substances that offer slight relief from the relentlessness of their position in society. Here too are smart kids, young working class, guys promoting gay rights through the ACLU, panhandlers, day workers in front of the temporary work office. I see the whole spectrum of Denver society walking or driving past me as I walk, somewhat dreamily, in the afternoon sunshine.

seeking-human-kindnessEventually I enter a bright, friendly lunch shop, called SAME cafe. What makes this place unique is that it is not only a cafe that serves delicious, healthy food in a clean, nice atmosphere, but it is also a non-profit organization dedicated to the idea that All People May Eat, regardless of how much cash they might have in their wallet or not. The sign at the counter simply says, “Pay what you can or what you feel the meal was worth,” and if you don’t have any money, then you may work for an hour in exchange for the meal. Brilliant idea, I’d say! The owners, a sweet youngish couple, have decided to take the idea of a soup kitchen to a whole new and more community-oriented level. I order the soup, a delicious cream of cauliflower, with fresh green salad and am offered a shortbread cookie, fresh baked in the morning. I stuff my donation into the donation box, as there is no cash register. After lunch, I speak with a sweet-faced young woman named Sarah, who is glad to tell me more about how their cafe works and sign me up for my first volunteer shift next week. I leave feeling glad, and full of good food and friendship.

During the past 18 years since I last lived in this city, Denver has grown more graceful, more exuberant, more livable and way more green than it used to be. Technology based businesses have moved here, bringing new energy, money, and a kind of progressiveness with them which has vastly contributed to a more lively and interesting town than the one I remember when I was growing up here.

And humane: the Denver area is home to hundreds of non-profit and charity-based organizations. Yes there is still poverty and an underserved population here, particularly among Hispanics and Black community members. But. There are many more ways to help urban folk who need it than ever before.

homeless-studentIt struck me as I picked my way across icy patches of pavement on the way home, of what a fine line there is between me and the street folk now. Maybe it was always like that, I suppose in reality it was. I am in such a transition phase of life: no home to call my own, hardly any possessions, extraordinarily little monetary resources. Without the support of my own lovely children, I am in a frighteningly tenuous situation indeed. Indeed in today’s precarious society, nearly everyone except the very wealthy could soon find themselves in a similar boat as concerning material reality, and many have experienced great losses of home, nest egg and health options in these past years. There simply is no more place in western society for the old adage ‘us and them.’ Not that there ever really was, but it was a stubborn illusion for most of the past several eons of time. When I was a young person walking around Denver, I held to the illusion that I was somehow different than the people I would pass on the street, the ones who seemed unkempt and unsavory, unstable and unappealing. In my youthful egoistic vigour, I had little empathy for or understanding of ‘those type of people,’ and in fact I remember being distinctly afraid of them, hailing as I did from the middle class, mostly white suburbs outside of Denver. Now, many years and miles of road later, I no longer fear or loathe the less fortunate humans when I pass them on the street. Now I understand that the only difference between them and me, is that I am awake to the fact that we are all One Humanity with a zillion faces and aspects, while most of them are still asleep to this simple and profound fact. Remember the quote, ‘we are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars?’ I spend a lot of time looking at the stars, including our beautiful sun, these days.

It makes all the difference.

Heartbreak and loss are a powerful medicine for the soul. We all know this. Yet it isn’t until one is forced out of one’s comfortable life, and thrown back upon herself in a new way, that one is able to see life’s troubles in an ever-more compassionate way. Life has had its way with me, as I wrote previously. Just as it has with all the people on the streets. There is no judgment, no feeling of justice, of vindication, of receiving some kind of just desserts, none of that. I wish I could go around and sprinkle some kind of magic dust on people to help them see their own true worth and dignity, to help them clean the grime off so they could even want to look at themselves in the mirror, let alone to be able to like who they see reflected back. Self Love is the key to it all. Such simple words, yet so very difficult to reach for so many.

In this new year of 2014, I personally vow to continue to work on letting go, on ever more profound levels, of guilt and shame and self-loathing. Every time that someone close to me says something hurtful to me, accuses me of being less than a stellar human being, reminds me of some lousy thing I did or said or didn’t say in the past, my practice this year is to breathe it in, remembering who I AM, forgive them and myself for the past, and breathe it OUT again, transformed, raised to a higher level. Old, third dimensional, low vibrational ways of being are NOT the way of our new world, we all know this who are reading now. And yet. I see every single day just how easy it is to allow the collective density of these lower levels throw me off, to spiral me down into the mired depths again, at the speed of a few thoughtless words thrown my way. Mastery of the new energies of Light and Love and Joy is daily practice, moment by moment. Again and again, coming back to center. Breathing. Remembering. Trusting.

related articles
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/oct/06/tent-city-planned-in-fancy-portland-neighborhood/all/?print


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The True Warriors of Change

We are at the moment in time where we have to step up to bat and nail that ball out of here. No excuses, no more learning, no more observations of what others are doing or what is going on around us…it matters not. What are WE going to do to focus our intent to create a world that we want? When we focus our intent, with true belief that we can effect change, nothing can stop us. Nothing. Jesus knew this–he applied it–so have other ascended masters–folks, WE are here specifically because All of creation knew we would BE able to create and effect the changes necessary. WE are true warriors of change.”— Alex, from Aisha North message 366

This blog post has been a long time coming. The past six weeks since traveling out from Denmark and landing in the United States have been large on every level. There was simply not enough energy left in me to record the play-by-play of thoughts, feelings and observations of my life during this time. Finally, tonight, Dear Readers, I have a little extra inside me to share some of it with you.

America, the bedraggled, frayed, unravelling, dishevelled, frustrated, hopeful, enduring, endearing, hard-bitten, rough-edged, calloused, loud, neurotic, troubled, wobbly, beautiful, magnificent, open-road, wide-skied, wide-eyed, sometimes peaceful, painfully self-conscious, warm-hearted land that she is. In spite of all her wrongs, all the pain she has caused (and continues to) throughout the world with her self-serving ways (yes, I am well aware of how America is looked upon by many more sophisticated countries on the planet), in spite of all of that, she is still a precious and treasured place for many millions of humans, and for good reasons. For all of her children’s childishness and unsophistication, downright crudeness and vulgarity, there is something undeniably genuine and charming about Americans. It remains to this day the Great Melting Pot of the world’s people, grown through time into an amazing array of flavors, colors, textures, and complexities that encompasses all of us, big and small, mighty and seemingly insignificant, from every walk of life, a veritable banquet of humanity in all of its variations. And no end in sight…

Since touching down in Seattle six weeks ago, I have been from one coast to the other, with a visit to Denver in the middle. As a traveler, I moved with relative anonymity through crowds in airports, buses, city centers, and leafy neighborhoods. Mostly I knew no one. And yet. The words to the old Woody Guthrie song still ring true…. this land is your land, this land is my land. It’s certainly a plus that just about everyone on this continent speaks English, in one form or another, but there is more to it than that. It is more about the fact that I am a member of this huge clan called the United States of America, whether I live here or not, like the politics or not, am disgusted with things or not. No matter in which state I may travel or even live, I am not a foreigner here. And there is something so heartwrenchingly beautiful in that simple fact.

What will YOU do to create the world you want to be part of?

What will YOU do to create the world you want to be part of?

We are on the forefront of enormous changes in our world, as I am sure many of you know. Unless you are living in a cave without access to even a speck of the outside world, it is extremely obvious that the world as we have known and put up with it all this time is crumbling to dust before our feet. It can be unnerving at moments, yes. This is the moment in our collective lives that the stuff of legend is made from– the moment that future historians will remember as pivotal, when we shifted out of fear, lack and greed consciousness, winner-takes-all mentality, and shifted into a New Age, a new era, a time marked by a conscious awakening to mercy for all beings, Love as action, Peace as mission. Not just for churchie folk, or new ager hippies, or fringe weirdos, but for EVERYONE alive on the planet. Not in a day, and not everyone all at once, but it is here, the Great Shift from Fear to Love as a planetary collective. I say, not a minute too soon.

Perhaps you, or someone you hold very dear, will scoff at these words, write them off as meaningless fluff or crap or use even more colorful adjectives. Those of us with egos to spare are not so easily convinced, of that I have first-hand knowledge. It can be disappointing, to say the least, to walk alongside those you love who do not share your views concerning peace and love as top priorities. The most important thing we can do (those of us who do hold those values most dear) is to love them anyway, and practice letting go of the desire or need to convince anyone of ‘the truth.’ As time goes by, even the most hardcore among them will eventually come to see that this new world is clearly here to stay. At which point, they will have to give up their fear scenarios, and join in the real work.

peaceCreating a new world for ourselves is at once daunting and exhilarating. This blog isn’t the place to go into my ideas of how to do this just now. But I will again remind you, dear Readers, of those famous words written many years ago, by one of our great heroes of the age: Imagine there’s no countries, no hell below us, above us only sky. Nothing to kill or die for, a brotherhood of (hu)man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world. It’s time.

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Moving through this transitory life

‘What does the world mean to you if you can’t trust it to go on shining when you’re not there?’ –Mary Oliver

It is nearly the autumnal equinox again. Every September the same feeling comes over me, of completion, balance, endings… which invariably lead to new beginnings. I have always embraced this season as the true ending of the yearly cycle, for the signs are everywhere and unmistakable: changing and dying leaves, the last of summer’s flowers, the harvest of the whole growing season. Another year at is end, and before too long the cold will set in, first at night, and then the days will become cooler until finally winter will again settle upon the earth and we humans will enter a new cycle of time.

autumn-leaves-waterWhat is Time, actually? More and more I ponder this question, dear Readers. Is not Time simply a human construct, designed to mark out our lives into manageable bites for easier digestibility? Yes, we all know the sun rises each morning and sets each evening, that winter turns to spring, turns to summer, turns to autumn, and again to winter. We observe each other and ourselves changing through the seasons of our lives, children grow up, we grow old, decay and death arrive eventually. And yet. On another, more profound level, this life we find ourselves in is such an illusion. It may sound like a tired cliché, but mean it very seriously. Here’s an example:

You meet up with an old friend whom you have not seen for some years. At first glance, he appears older, a bit different in appearance than the last time you saw him. Once you get over the initial shock, however, and settle into conversation, the joy and delight of being in this friend’s company touches you deeply. At some point you realize that it is as if no time at all has passed since you were last together in such a way, and he is just as you remembered him.

In reality, we are constantly shifting between past, present and future as we journey through our lives. When we are quiet and still, it is easy to find oneself back in time to a pleasant day, maybe, or even a difficult one. With not too much effort, our imagination fills in all the details; the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and even touch of another moment in time. Conversely, it is not too hard to imagine a future time we will experience, and fill in all the details of the event.

“Look, I want to love this world as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get to be alive and know it.” –Mary Oliver

More and more, I feel I am watching myself walking through my life as an observer, a watcher. So who is this Watcher who is watching me living? It is a big question, one of the mysteries of being a human being on Earth. We all realize how fleeting, how transitory this life is, how quickly it flies away. This knowledge can help make us more tuned into the present moment, even as we know it is like water through our fingers. The river of life flows, it cannot do anything else.

My personal journey during this last year has been quite poignant, dear Readers. I have been blessed with some very wonderful days, and have also suffered a lot through some very dark ones. Now as the season comes to the balance point, I will shift again. This time my travels will take me back to my family and friends in the United States. I have just finished my teaching at the little school where I have been for the past year. Another bittersweet ending, as I realize how fond I became of those children and adults with whom I worked. Some asked me if I was returning to them, to which I honestly replied, ‘I believe so, but one never knows in life.’ This life is a constant turning, transitioning, growing, dying back, and growing anew process. How can any of us know what is to come in future days? We cannot. Not one of us knows for certain what will happen next. We can expect certain things, and hope for more, or fear for others, but to really Know What Is to Come– that is simply impossible.

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Some of you might remember this old American spiritual song. I offer it to you today, in the spirit of exploration and the times we are living in. May these times prove to be filled with blessings and miracles, as we each continue on our journey toward a more peace-filled and beautiful world. Namaste, Leigh


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Inspiration at the crossroads

Happy September, Dear Readers! There is just something about the thought of September, a combination of longing and desire, that deserves recognition. The summer is past, the winter still a distance away, but September signifies change…. wind…. colors…… beautiful light…. a turning point.

Where do you find inspiration, dear Readers? Perhaps you are one of the lucky humans who can find it the moment you step outside the door– or even within your own home. Or even within your own soul. But, if you are like me, it might take something a bit unusual, new or strange, to transport you to a place of feeling inspired. This summer was inspiring for me. I traveled in southern England for over five weeks, working on organic farms, experiencing the English people, countryside, history and natural beauty of that oddly familiar land for the first time in this life. The English charmed me through and through with their lovely voices, wonderful English expressions and mastery of my native language. To the English, things are ‘luvely’ ‘brilliant’ and they say ‘cheers’ a lot. They smile and love to laugh often, at themselves, each other and life in general. They aren’t afraid to wear bright, colorful clothing and smile at strangers. England may not be perfect, but it was perfectly wonderful to me as a first time visitor. I learned about the different English accents depending on what part of the country one comes from, and loved them all. The weather cooperated amazingly and unusually well, gracing me with hot days and warm evenings, so I really embraced the heat for the first time in a few years.

There are some incredibly ancient and wonderful trees in southern England.

There are some incredibly ancient and wonderful trees in southern England.

England was a blessing and very inspiring to me on many levels. Now I feel at a crossroads, both personally and collectively. It feels there are some big choices to be made directly ahead of us, even during this month of September. Depending on the direction we take, we will determine our future for years, and even centuries, to come. What kind of world do we wish to create, dear Readers? Words are easy enough to say, and to come up with catch phrases: Love, peace and happiness, and all of that. But. What do those words actually mean to each one of us?

How can my image of peace and happiness join with yours? Does it even need to? We throw words around unthinkingly every day. The reality of trying to make the people of the world get along with each other in a non-harmful way is something utterly HUGE in magnitude. How can we meet in the middle, at the core of our humanity? These are big questions which deserve our attention and deep consideration. Can we heal what is broken in our world if we are not healed ourselves from our own brokenness? Or can the broken parts of us act as a mechanism to break us OPEN to the heart of the world?

I was reading something recently where the author talked about finding one’s ‘edges’ in relation to healing. He explained that the edge is the place where the action is, where healing can take place, where change occurs. Looking at the news these days, it is undeniable that humanity stands at the edges of itself, at the limits of what we can stand for and what is life-giving or life-destroying. Yes we have been here before, but right now feels different in important ways. Look at England, for example. Cameron, the prime minister, was ready to say yes to going along with the United States and France’s wishes to begin an air bombing campaign in Syria. But. He changed his mind suddenly, and the reason he gave was ‘public opinion and outcry.’ In other words, The People spoke out loudly enough and said No More War, concerning this latest proposed atrocity, and the amazing part is, he listened. To me, that signifies a big change in the western world, away from Business As Usual and towards something else, something new, something having to do with Life and freedom. If Britain can make a momentous decision like this, after all the years, no, centuries, of propagating war and imperialism around the globe, then there is Hope for the rest of us: (read: the United States of America.) There IS another way to live in this world, and we who are reading these blogs and writing them and thinking about these things know it. We all KNOW things are changing. It is simply a question of time.

Ripple_effect_on_waterSince coming back to Denmark a few weeks ago, I have been unsure of how to continue with this blog. When I started it in January of 2012, my intention was to practice writing, and give voice to my thoughts, frustrations and inspirations of the world I found myself (in Denmark as a foreigner) and try to make sense of the craziness known as Life. Over the months, I have written about various subjects, and also shared articles I found interesting and that I thought you might also enjoy reading. Some of you have been following my blog quite devotedly for some time, and I am very happy and grateful to those of you who have done so. Still, this blog and my words are reaching a very small and limited group of humans, and considering the vast amount of bloggers alone currently writing and sharing their ideas and inspirations, my contribution feels like the tiniest pebble in a vast ocean.

Therefore, dear Readers, I will be taking time during the coming weeks to focus on just what it is that I wish to do with this blog, with my creative life, and also with the big changes I feel are just around the bend. I do not know if I will be posting much, if anything, for the next little while as I try to sort things out. As always, I encourage you all to hold to what is Good, True and Beautiful in your lives, in the world, and in each other, while all the time working to be courageous, to speak out from your hearts, to open up to people, to move beyond fear and aversion and anger, into the Light. It is here and available to us in every moment. All we ever need do is to reconnect.

With many blessings for your upcoming changing season, Leigh


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The courage to act on behalf of the truth

“I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made.” –Edward Snowden

It has been a few weeks now since Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s spying program hit the internet and news media. For many people, this information has been shocking; for others, simply a sad confirmation of what they had long suspected: The United States has indeed become the world’s largest corrupt government in the world. The main principles upon which it was founded, namely that of democracy, liberty, and freedom for the People, largely no longer apply. There is no more compelling evidence to this fact than the tremendous gift that Edward Snowden has given to the world; the truth.

As of this writing, Snowden remains in Moscow, waiting to hear from all the countries he has applied to for political asylum. So far, no country has come forward to help him, which I find extremely disappointing. It makes one wonder if there isn’t ONE free country left in our world who refuses to be intimidated by the United States’ bullying tactics. The EU, upon finding out that their closed door meetings have also (not surprisingly) been subjected to the NSA’s spying protocol, has declared that they are shocked and are demanding an explanation. Explanation? Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?

Big Brother’s watching All. Who can stop them? Snowden comments, “The greatest fear that I have, regarding the outcome, for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. People will see in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to, to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and to fight to change things, to force their representatives to take a stand in their interests.”

Here then, is some of the transcript from his interview with Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. I hope you will take 12 minutes out of your life to watch it, if you haven’t already. In my view, Snowden is a person of great courage and moral character. He chose the high moral ground in his actions, instead of simply leaking information anonymously, he deliberately decided to be open about who he is and what he has done. He is a rare and extraordinarily brave soul, and I have nothing but great admiration for him.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because they are such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time. But, at the same time, you have to make a determination about what it is that is important to you. And if it is living unfreely, but comfortably, something you’re willing to accept, (and I think many of us are, it’s the human nature,) you can get up every day, you can go to work, you can collect your large paycheck, for relatively little work, against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching shows, but if you realize that that’s the world that you helped create, and it’s going to get worse with the next generation, and the next, who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied.”

“It’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody– even by a wrong call– and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to derive suspicion from an innocent life, and paint anyone in the context of a wrong-doer.”

“You have to think, you are living a privileged life, as you are living in paradise, in Hawaii, and making a ton of money, What would it take to make you leave everything behind? The greatest fear that I have, regarding the outcome, for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change. People will see in the media, all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to, to grant themselves powers, unilaterally, to create greater control over American society, and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and to fight to change things, to force their representatives to take a stand in their interests. In the months and years ahead, it’s only going to get worse, until eventually there will be a time, where policies will change. Because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. Even our agreements with other sovereign governments, we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather than a stipulation of law. And because of that, a new leader will be elected, they’ll flip the switch, say, because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them.”

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

For Edward Snowden, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said. “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

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