Summer of Love Turns 50 With a Global Call to Action

Martin Luther King stated that “hatred can not drive out hatred, only love can do that”, but what does that love look like when it is put into action? The Summer of Love in 1967 gave us a template for a great awakening of consciousness, love, and social action. 50 years later we see a global movement that is not content to overindulge nostalgic sentimentality, yet we must remember the roots to this dream of peace, love, and understanding. Something new is blossoming from the seeds that were planted in those turbulent times. Today we address the challenges of this time with a renewed sense of purpose, and urgency using creativity, technology, and a fearless love for the immense blessing of life.
First Global Broadcast June 25, 1967 on the BBC’s Our World with the Beatles’ All You Need is Love

Media Can Bring Division or Unity, a Matter of Priorities

Bringing division has become a trend lately which can be seen by anyone sifting through their Facebook Feed, or turning on the television (Fox for the right, MSNBC for the left in America). However, things didn’t start out this way and the pendulum is starting to shift as we begin to recognize how futile the mud-slinging and division is for our well-being and for the planet. Bob Dylan’s wisdom was as true then as it is today, the times they are a changing!
The very first ever global broadcast happened on this day in 1967. It was a BBC program called Our World. The Beatles were commissioned to write and perform a piece of music that 400 million people would be simultaneously watching around the world. What was the song and the message? All You Need is Love…
Photo Credit: JOSHUA BROTT, OBSCURA DIGITAL Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Kicks off at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park with a light-show, June 21

The Evolution of a Movement

The generation following the Baby Boomers saw the rise of global networks and explosion of independent media via the internet. Using the same inspiration of the very first television broadcast and message of love, Unify was born. Organizing globally synchronized, meditations, ceremonies, actions, and events via their popular Facebook Page, the group now boasts a network of close to 10,000 local organizers across the planet, a weekly social media reach ranging from 5-15 million, an email list of almost a half million, and a Facebook following of 1.6 million. Unify specializes in collaborating with other popular Facebook Pages like Collective Evolution, UPLIFT, Phenomenalisms, the Mind Unleashed, Cooperatist Movement, and Sustainable Human along with many more organizations and nonprofits. This grass-roots participatory movement is infusing the planet with hope, solutions, practical actions, and a shared vision of one unified, healthy, thriving planet. This summer promises to be their most impactful season yet!
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream you share together is reality.” -John Lennon & Yoko Ono
UNIFY.org
The 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love kicked off on June 21 with synchronized events for World Yoga Day; an interactive map honoring sacred sites in conjunction with Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s vision for World Peace and Prayer Day; and a live-feed from the Points of Light Conference in Seattle. San Francisco. Conservatory of Flowers in collaboration with Obscura Digital, Illuminate, and Golden Gate Park commemorated the launch with a beautiful light show and installation that will run until October 21. The summer will be filled with coordinated events across the planet that culminate on the International Day of Peace as recognized by the United Nations on September 21. This Summer of Love isn’t only in San Francisco, it has gone global. How will your city or community get involved?
World Peace and Prayer Day map of sacred sites. Honoring sacred sites and restoring our sacred connection with the land and each other is central to creating peace and a healthy planet for future generations.

Boundless Solutions

Focusing on climate issues has become fear-inducing and can leave us wondering if there’s anything we can do to bring solutions. Few people recognize that many leading experts believe firmly that we can reverse this trend. Restoring balance to our climate is possible if citizens are prepared to take action together in a unified expression of love for our planet. Sustainability has become a buzzword that is often used to set a divide between left and right political ideologies but it will not get us where we need to go. We now need to look at regenerative solutions that create a healthy climate for our future. Why sustain unhealthy systems? We are not here to merely survive, we are here to thrive and together we will do just that when we decide to cast our fear to the wind and work towards solutions.
When government policies fail it is local leaders who step up and individuals who initiate to become the change we wish to see in the world. There are technologies in the works to take CO2 out of the atmosphere but more research-funding is needed. How do we accomplish this?
Since this has become a political hot-potato religious and spiritual leaders are stepping up along with concerned citizens to remind us that this is a moral obligation for future generations. Public support and awareness can help elevate the idea to get research endorsements for climate restoration efforts from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and possibly even a Congressional Resolution. Once research is funded and we have conclusions to present, the gates will open up for business leaders, investors, and academics to come together and create magic. The current atmosphere of political division is bankrupt and that’s why the Summer of Love will provide an inspired lead-up to the UN Climate Summit, COP23 in Bonn this coming November.
“Let us not talk falsely now the hour is getting late…” -Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

Simple Actions, Profound Results

Love is more than a feeling, it can be an action. Environmental issues are not the only hurdle we face, we are currently looking at wars and humanitarian crises across the planet. Since human beings are social creatures that need successful models to emulate. In partnership with the Great Silence and the Light House Foundation, and other exceptional partners including the United Religions Initiative, Unify is presenting the Rise for Syria Campaign.
By staying out of the political divisiveness surrounding the Syrian conflict, this campaign is focusing on real human beings caught in the cross-fire and simple ways that we can reduce suffering. Support for infants and mothers in refugee camps, building underground hospitals to assist the wounded, and live broadcasts from refugee camps each month will humanize what is happening on the ground while empowering people to make a positive change. If this model becomes successful, then it can be applied to humanitarian issues around the world.
“It’s not just the television, it’s not just the radio, it’s not just the billboards, it’s not just the multi-national corporations… It’s STILL the people’s story.” –A Box of Secrets, Welcome to the Age of Living Folklore

Then and Now

50 years later we are faced with a simple choice between choosing love, compassion and unity, or fear, division and war. Our media and technology has provided a perfect reflection and science has shown beyond a doubt why the Beatles were right. Simply stated, during times of stress and fear our brains do not function at their highest potential because the circuitry shuts off access to higher thinking centers in the neocortex condemning us to the lower animalistic responses of fight or flight.
We live in terrifying times but being terrified will not help us through it, love, compassion, and creativity will. Evolutionary biologist, Bruce Lipton speaks to this in a short web-film produced by UPLIFT while visiting the Maharishi Ashram in Rishikesh, India where the Beatles spent much time writing and sharing their spiritual message of love through music. Watch All You Need is Love here.

This is a Global Invitation for Universal Participation!

They say that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. We saw this during the Summer of Love in 1967, and we are prepared to make this true again in 2017 and beyond. We are calling forth all digital warriors, light-workers, artists, musicians, community leaders, entrepreneurs, youth, and elders to make this dream a reality.
Compassion Games is coordinating with Unify, International Day of Peace and the ongoing Summer of Love events
Upcoming events include Ringo Stars Birthday Party on July 7, that will be hosting a global moment to blast thoughts for peace and love over the world inviting people to chime in at 12 noon in their/your local timezone. This will create a wave of joy around the planet and you can look for local events (or create your own) at Ringo’s Page, or the Beatles Facebook Page. There will also be a synchronized moment on August 21 at 10:19 am for the eclipse which will coincide with a massive gathering in Oregon produced by Symbiosis during that weekend. September 9-24 are the Compassion Games which challenges individuals and communities to participate in coordinated acts of compassion.  There will be a globally synchronized meditation and prayer for peace on September 21 for the International Day of Peace, and you can add your local event to the event map here.
I will continue to blog about these and other related events throughout the summer on various platforms. The best way to stay connected is through my Facebook Author Page for blogs, and at Unify for social media campaigns, related articles, and memes. Also look for #summeroflove hashtag on Instagram, and Twitter to see what others are posting. This summer promises to deliver an antidote to the divisiveness and fear that has crippled our global community and you are empowered to become part of the solution . A better world is possible and together we will make it happen. Let LOVE lead!

Indigenous Led New Orleans Group Travels to Standing Rock

Press Release, New Orleans, LA, October 4, 2016

Cultural convergence protecting the sacred continues as New Orleans group travels to Standing Rock to oppose pipeline. Indigenous led group joins Shining Light Kitchen to bring food, medicine, tribal support and solidarity to North Dakota protest camp.

injuns

NOLA Supports Standing Rock and Shining Light Kitchen will caravan on October 9-16, 2016 to bring organic New Orleans cuisine, all natural herbal remedies, local tribal support and South Louisiana solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is leading the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Opposition to the controversial pipeline project has garnered international outcry with both President Obama, the United Nations and over 280 Indigenous nations, cities and organizations from around the globe joining the tribe’s call to stop the construction of the prophesied “Black Snake”. This pipeline threatens the tribe’s sole source of drinking water, construction has already destroyed sacred sites and burial grounds, while causing serious violations to peaceful protesters civil rights. Fears that a major spill upriver from New Orleans will potentially affect the water of some 20 million people downstream have spurred the groups intentions to mobilize in support of the protection of the water for future generations.

“New Orleans has many reasons to stand in solidarity with the Lakota and over 280 tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, ND. First, is the watershed above New Orleans that feeds into the Mississippi. Pipelines break all the time, in case you haven’t noticed, and oil companies have a horrible track record of taking responsibility for the destruction of peoples’ water. We are all downstream. Think Gulf Oil Spill. Think Kalamazoo River. Do we need any more of this? Not at all. Now with the recent news of the EPA allowing an unregulated amount of fracking wastewater and chemicals to be dumped in the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans and Louisiana are taking a direct hit,” says Heather Coleman, Pottawattamie Tribal Member, and member of NOLA Supports Standing Rock. “So solidarity with the Lakota is a must for the sake of our commonly shared water, and the moral imperative to protect what is sacred to us and all of life, water.”

South Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at the alarming rate of 25-35 square miles per year. This loss represents 80% of the coastal wetlands loss in the entire U.S. By 2050, coastal LA will lose more than 630,000 acres of coastal marshes, swamps and islands.

“As climate change takes a crash landing from the future to the now, the people of Louisiana are getting the brunt of climate change, with the oceans warming and becoming ever increasingly acidic, there will be more rain than we can handle. This year has marked the warmest months, July and August, on record. 31” of rain fell in 2 days in August 2016, resulting in mass flooding in the greater Baton Rouge area, that destroyed thousands of homes, and took lives,” continues Miss Coleman.

The Shining Light Kitchen just wrapped up 6 weeks of disaster relief efforts in Baton Rouge, providing an organic kitchen and meals to those displaced by the recent flooding. The Kitchen will provide a 40-foot tipi that houses the fully equipped kitchen, along with a water purification system.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-2-22-54-pm

Culturally, New Orleans celebrates indigenous culture through the esteemed Mardi Gras Indians (AKA Black Indians). Lakota Chief, Arvol Lookinghorse visited New Orleans in the wake of a vision by Tootie Montana, and David Carson in 1995 which coincided the birth of a White Buffalo in Janesville Wisconsin. The city welcomed him as a keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Prophecy in proclamations (see proclamations at  www.whitebuffaloday.com).

This coming together was significant in light of the long history of African Americans and Native Americans kinship during times of slavery. New Orleans has played a significant role in the preservation and evolution of these cultures mixing which has influenced carnival, our musical heritage and other creative innovations. Our shared values as diverse people implies that we stand together when facing a common threat. A threat to our water is not an existential threat, it is a major concern for the health of our families and children.

New Orleans is revered around the world as a cultural hub for the Arts, from its famous Jazz and Theater, astounding colonial French and Spanish architecture to most importantly its cuisine – born of French, African, Native American and Créole influences – that have graced this city for nearly three centuries. Despite this wonderful identity, what many people don’t know about New Orleans is that it has a very rich Native American history as well that is still prevalent today and is even memorialized in our street names and Mardi Gras krewes.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-10-04-07-pm

Above: school bus, kitchen and tipi being brought to Standing Rock

For example, the N.O. areas known as Tchoupitoulas Street and Chef Menteur Highway is named for the Hạcha-pit-itula people who lived there while the highway is named for the Choctaw chief who was banished with his family and cohorts to that region. Furthermore, the carnival Krewes of Tchefunte and Chahta are named for the Hachofakti (a much older tribe) and Choctaw peoples respectively who inhabited the surrounding areas of New Orleans, thriving through established trade routes along the Tchefuncte River through Lake Pontchartrain with their northern cousins, the Bayou Lacombe Choctaws in St. Tammany Parish to the Houmas in the south among other tribal bands.

Even after European arrival, the tribes co-existed with many of the French and Africans selling goods such as filé, baskets and herbs in the French Market and even intermarrying with them. The Mardi Gras Indians are proof of such unions as they are the descendants of escaped slaves and Native Americans who established Maroon communities on the outskirts of New Orleans (black and red makes maroon hence the name) and today continue to carry on their legacy by annually masking to honor their unique heritage of both black and Native ancestry.

“We say this to clarify that Native history has always been a part of New Orleans history and continues to be today, and that we are here standing with all those not only in this country, but around the globe who stand in solidarity with the brave souls on the front lines in Standing Rock, ND who fight for our “unalienable rights” for Life,” says Sierra Lyn, member of the Bayou Lacombe Band of Choctaw.

“With a record of broken treaties, another broken treaty is something that we cannot ignore. We owe it to our relatives at Standing Rock to stand with them as they protect their land and our shared water. We may not be able to erase the injustices of the past, but together we can say no to injustices today. This is how we build a better world for future generations, this is what our great city committed to when Chief Arvol Lookinghorse visited us. This is our legacy, our responsibility, this is how we create change and birth hope across cultural divides.” Statement from NOLA Supports Standing Rock.

Nola Supports Standing Rock is a group founded to gather local information and resources to Stand in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The caravan will bring food for hundreds of people and supplies to make fresh honey based cough syrup. Winter is setting in and it is going to be a long haul for everyone who is at camp. We are going to be making gumbo,and  Etouffee, to keep them warm while we are there.

If you would like to support this historic offering, please visit here.

*Featured Image of Bigchief Kyoung Chahta by Steve Archbold*

Gardening the Spirit: A tale of plants, people & saving the world.

imageToday I met a man who made me miss the island of Kauai even more than the growing well of ache I began to feel as soon as I lost sight of her.

Being in Bali, though a similar tropical volcanic paradise, has drawn from my innards a distinctive proclamation of from where I come. No longer do I reach for Chicago as my place. These Midwestern origins seem shrouded by years and years of geographical separation and layers of self, shed and transformed. Nowadays, I’ve grown to see the root of myself as living in Hawaii. Currently I am away from my home in Orange County, but thanks to Medicare Supplemental, traveling in Asia for two whole months gives me no worries.

It is a strange sensation to be homesick for a land that is still foreign, still in the adoption process, that may take years, even decades, to fully complete. When one has no bloodline or family history to source from as a regional transplant, and yet an intangible umbilical cord pumps sweet proprioceptive nourishment, a gentle reminder of home’s nest brings peace to a weary traveler.

As I journey forth and simultaneously remember my direction home, my heartstrings are fully plucked. Orchestrating soul music, reigniting a lost tune, an ancient melody I had once known re-emerges… gracing my ears to be heard anew. This is a song of land, culture, earth reverence and prayer. Underscored by people caring, less driven by profit and greed, more motivated to participate in the creation of a greater good; to appease the ancestors and regenerate a garden paradise for the generations to come. This is the song of Kauai I hum to myself when I yearn for the familiar.

The man who made me miss home has a name I’d never heard before.  In addition to his black leather widebrim, he wears an eclectic variety of hats: fanatic gardener, passionate village guardian, shrewd entrepreneur, social commentator and, of course, incognito wizard. His name, Hubertus Hendro is as foreign to me as Bali which is deceptively similar to my home on Kauai.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.43.26 PM

Hubertus, like me, is a stranger in a strange land he has come to passionately love. While he knows he will never fully be accepted into the Balinese culture as a simple result of his ancestry, his heart pumps in sole dedication to honoring this sacred island along with her abundance of nature, spirit, and beauty. A Javanese born Christian, he came to Bali 30 years ago to work in the booming tourism industry.

While dedicating himself to a mainstream career on the island, he systematically began collecting rare and useful plants. In his spare time, Hubertus began attending workshops, creating small, diverse gardens for his community and plotting an island-wide permaculture revolution. Unlike most of his cohorts who now bow equally to God and the holy Rupiah, his most valued currency became seeds and cuttings.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.45.17 PM

Soon his knowledge and reputation grew beyond the local village and he began driving his motorbike all over the island since he had a cheap motorbike insurance 125cc, and consulting interested Balinese on how to turn the family plot into a garden pumping with food for eating and for selling at local markets. His island tours were an act of service. He was completely self-funded by a somewhat crazed passion to fulfill his personal life mission, to steward this island in a good way. In a way that protects what is most sacred, the mother of all, our bountiful Earth.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.41.10 PMRather than just applying the principles he so eloquently and simply lived himself, he took the last bit of his savings and started a nursery to invest his passion into something regenerative. This nursery established just three years ago, has already cultivated over a million trees, a figure that illustrates only a fraction of this one man’s dedication to earth stewardship and critical thinking.

Herbertus moved full time into his current life’s work when, after waiting through a year of negotiations with the local village, they permitted him to build the impressively magical Bali Spirit Garden. This permaculture landscape houses hundreds of species of medicinal and ceremonial plants. There are 260 types of plants used in Balinese temple ceremonies. Bali Spirit Garden is home to representative individuals of these sacred herbs, along with all manner of fruit, spice, root, flower and leaf. His place is magnificently worked throughout the temple complex and remains open for visitors, villagers as well as anyone wanting to bask in the glory of the plant kingdom.

Perhaps even more inspiring than his project is Herbertus himself who single-handedly created most of the garden and its infrastructure. Layer upon layer of rare and exotic species co exist in harmony, showcasing hundreds of important species, protected in a habitat that both educates and nourishes all who enter the gardens gates. Through beauty, wit and medicine, Herbertus’s gardening is contagious. He makes you want one of your own. In true savant form, he somehow makes it look like it’s going to be easy.

His unique understanding of the cultural predicament Bali (and, in truth, the whole world) is in right now, ignites a contagious passion for action and clarity of intention when it comes to the issue of saving the world. He poses three questions, point blank, to anyone who claims to care about the planet and our inevitably apocalyptic and dire situation:

“Number one. Do you know what’s really going on? Number two. Do you know what to do about it? And number three. What are you doing?”

Deceptively simple fodder for reflection in an age where overwhelm and overdrive seem to be within closest reach in responding to the uncomfortable status of the quo. Derek Jensen, author of “A Language Older Than Words” and one of my ecological heroes, writes about our very human plight, amidst the widespread issues of global demise. He suggests that although humans appear cold and unfeeling in the face of planetary destruction, the immensity of our pain is actually too much for most humans to process and truly acknowledge feeling. Thus we shut down and imbibe in a cultural numbness, inevitably becoming powerless in the gravity of our world’s suffering. Because, as we have witnessed in the parallel suppression of feminine energies in the modern industrial complex, unbridled feeling is pure power. This climate of numbness perpetuates apathy and, in turn, a mass cultural malaise that stands by, watching from empty eyes.

In Bali, as a result of the impact of millions of tourists upon the tiny island every year, the water table is predicted by some to be dry in just six years from now, with salt water intrusion already occurring. Luxury hotels and the presence of an exponentially growing tourist and local population consume precious water at an irreplaceable rate. What are we as global citizens doing about this?

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.46.51 PMJust as important is, “how are we feeling?” Mass deforestation and orangutan slaughter throughout areas of their natural habitat in Indonesia is a byproduct of the palm oil industry and mining for rare earth minerals. To fuel our hunger for technology and fast, cheap food we permit the extinction of a population of gentle souls, and sacred forest. I recall seeing snippets of information about the corruption of the palm oil industry.

Again, Hubertus prompts us, what are we doing about this? Food security is another essential piece to the fragmented puzzle of crisis our world is currently experiencing. In Indonesia, as well as globally and in my home Island of Kauai, we are threatened by the growing presence of Genetically Modified Organisms and their consumers, aka supporters, aka you. As consumers we have a responsibility to avoid GMO products that destroy our soil, bees, and water.

We stand by, hoping to be entertained and distracted from the suffering our distinctly human hearts feel. And yet, as Jensen proposes, the suffering is too great to comprehend with our delicate, finely attuned nervous systems. To truly integrate the grave facts of today’s earth would be to consent to a massive wailing, a perpetual grieving ceremony, an infinite vigil, mourning the loss of nature, culture and exquisite beauty.

I wonder if any of us are up for that responsibility as we ride the tail end of this exponential wave of consumerism and all-encompassing instant gratification. Yet, as we dwindle our finite resources, the vast, infinite resource that is “feeling” remains yet untapped, inextricably linked to the pure primal power that is innate within our humanity to love, to take action, to transmute, to make whole yet again.

Hubertus, the gardener, is one of those rare humans who knows he is here to feel it, heal it, and let it go. He’s here to help others remember this gift of humanity and the responsibility of power. To release these complicated burdens to the will of God and the greater human story. The one we are waking up from unconsciously writing now as the time draws near.

Sitting in Hubertus’ garden listening to his coffee fueled sermon, I remember; You can will all you want, grind your hope for a better future into an ill prepared ground and force your creations to root and become naturalized. Eventually, there must be a surrender to the vast ocean of feeling, for this plight is bigger than any one garden, any one heart, any one “save the world” type cause. Wake up and remember your very own unique, self directed mission to heal the world.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.49.01 PM

Hold clear vision of where you have come from and the seriousness of where we, as a collective, are headed. With a stable mind and a profound will, garden your way through the woes of the world. However that garden may look. Cultivate medicine, art, love, freedom, food, culture and be sure your creations will be watered when you go. If you can do something, anything, to regenerate the beauty of our mother, our home, do it now. Make something real and protect the innocence that still lives and breathes, maintain hope and seek to find truth as it lives, undisturbed within us all.

I can remember all this. I can feel the importance of this time for humanity and the immensity of what we face. I can see the words written on the page and I can read other people’s words with thoughtfulness and critique. I can listen to Hubertus and become inspired by his garden. I can talk about these issues with friends over tea. But what am I doing about it?

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 8.48.44 PMI leave this story in an uncomfortable place because, in truth I am uncomfortable on the planet right now. Incomplete, in progress, in decay, in reconciliation, in explosive flux. We have not concluded or decided or become clear and unified in the most appropriate course of actions for these times. We shop at the farmers market and proclaim our diets to be reflective of environmentalism, yet jump in the car on a whim because we need to take a drive to clear our heads. We watch documentaries about child slavery over popcorn in our air conditioned apartments, shop at the thrift store, and wield our Costco cards. We wipe our bottoms with the carcasses of trees and eat enough quinoa that the staple grain is now economically unavailable to her native consumers.

Let’s be honest: we are addicted to sugar, to entertainment, put our faith in politics and pray to God somehow the world’s going to change if we share a post on Facebook. We meditate, do yoga, donate to the Red Cross and have secret porn addictions. We shop at Walmart completely informed. We drink out of plastic bottles and know too about the islands of trash drifting in the ocean. We eat meat while dolphins die. We know full well of the murders inspired by diamonds, and that blood graces our hands too. And we stifle our tears because it’s too heavy to open this box we’ve stuffed it all in.

The emotional drought has dried our inner reserves of purposeful action, leaving a standstill and a tornado of questions to become centered within. As these questions multiply in velocity, I find solace in an inner vow to honor their magnitude. To listen to their wisdom. To invite myself to enter their labyrinth time and time again and become enraptured with the feelings they provoke. I think a garden is a damn near perfect place to do all this. Watering the fertile ground with tears, acknowledgement of the incredible paradox we live in. With dedication to peace, to plants, to feeling and healing our Mother Earth and most urgently, ourselves I invite you to join me on this journey.

Mother Earth as Divine Lover

We usually think of her as mother, indeed she has granted us life and is well-deserving of the term. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s explore other metaphors for our relationship with nature through the multi-faceted lens of the feminine. Thinking of her as a lover, a romantic partner, a friend, your sister, or even a child each cause us to relate to her in different ways. It is fun, refreshing, and valuable to reconsider the way we relate to our home planet.

I have mused about this idea for years and written about it from different perspective. In Collaborating with Gaia I explore the concept of co-evolution with our biosphere. From this perspective we find ourselves right in the middle of an improvisational jam-session between all life forms. Isn’t that a bit more exhilarating than considering that everything is inanimate and soulless? In Ending the Conquest of Nature we delve into the historical roots of belief systems that have pitted us against nature. Nature is often seen as our oppressor who will punish us or a slave to exploit and conquer.

If we see her as a passionate lover who wants to co-create with us, it will certainly change the way we interact with each other and our environment. I know… nobody wants to see their “mom” (Mother Earth) in a sexually erotic embrace naked before the night-time sky with her lover. However, there is no harm in us changing the way we look at her. She is an all-powerful goddess and definitely able to shape-shift with a little help from our imagination!

lisette
Artist, Lisete Alcalde takes a selfie next to her painting “Mother Earth and Space”

Like all relationships, our relationship with the planet is complex and can be multi-dimensional and fluid, changing over time. We all love to think of our planet as “Mother” but that may contribute to some of our problems. Humans often act like immature little children not cleaning up our messes, fighting over toys, acting disrespectful of our mother while hoping to not be reprimanded. Perhaps we can grow up a little and get past the rebellious teenager phase of our evolution?

New ways to look at old stories.

What if we saw the earth as someone we had a crush on and needed to catch her eye or win her respect in courtship? How about a romantic companion that we grow and journey through life with as equal partners in discovery? I also like to wonder what if we treated her like she was our child, one that we needed to protect from predators and those who would harm her? By changing the way we look at her, we change the way we relate to her. It also changes our role in this world and redefines who we are.

Though humans have struggled through history to survive, there is something about love and passion that makes friction less oppressive. She could be a hot-tempered and erotic partner like the Goddess Pele who fell in love with Kamapua’a. Pele is named after a volcano, she is full of fire with red hair of molten lava. Kamapua’a has the power to bring rains that cool Pele’s lava and turn it into soil which grows the crops. This turbulent love affair created the abundant lushness called Hawaii.

henson
Above: The Artwork of Mark Henson

Visual art has the ability to shift our consciousness and change the way we perceive the world. Mark Henson is another artist who allows his audience to see the elements of nature as lovers intermingling. These images help us to undo the divisive and false stories like Social Darwinism (survival of the fittest) that still wreak havoc in our lives today. Indeed cooperation of species has played a much larger role in our evolution than competition, yet we are fed the competition narrative because it is central to the capitalist ideology.

Cooperation of species may well be the missing story to resolving much of our planets problems, and art might be the most powerful way to convey this idea. Humanity’s capacity for destruction and discord is equally matched by it’s ability to create beautiful inspiration. Sex, or better yet, making love is not limited to naked bodies but includes the concept of procreation with a paintbrush, a musical instrument, a dance, or the exchange of mutual respect within the larger community of life. Sex & Nature, the Evocative Artwork of Mark Henson

Poets and musicians sing praises to nature which is so necessary, yet no lover wants to be put on a pedestal. In addition with love and adoration, reciprocity and mutual respect are essential for any healthy relationship. We all know that feeling when the breeze gives us a gentle kiss on our skin. We have looked at the night sky and seen the darkness cuddle our planet with love. We have had the morning sunlight brush our forehead sweetly from across the universe and invite us to wake up in the morning. The ways that the earth loves us are indeed endless, yet we are only at the very beginning of learning how to love her back. Let’s ravish her with passion and beauty!

As we evolve the way that we look at our world, we change the way we look at ourselves and each other. This sets a stage for beautiful collaborations. Let’s reconsider our relationship with the planet and the feminine in all of it’s forms.

Call her a creative partner, and she might just invite you to join her in the creative process. In some ways she will always be our mother, but she is so much more than that. Grandmother, daughter, sister, mother, friend, lover, partner, nurturer, we have much to be grateful for on International Women’s Day!

FEATURED IMAGE, PAINTING BY PENNIE AUSTIN

Faith Spotted Eagle, Native Elder Reflects on Keystone XL

There has been much celebration in the wake of Obamas decision to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline, but there are a few things that should not be overlooked going forward. The roots to this movement are well beneath the surface of what most people recognize and they stretch back for centuries. They are spiritual, even mystical, and they belong to the families whose ancestors have lived here since long before this land was called North America. Long before there was a need for environmental movements, indigenous people lived with a deep reverence and respect for the natural systems that sustain all of life. These people are still with us today.

Faith Spotted Eagle is a 65 year old grandmother who lives on Ihanktonwan Dakota Territory (Yankton Sioux) in Southeastern South Dakota. She is a fluent speaker of the Dakota Language and a member of the Ihanktonwan, although she descends from the Sicangu, Hunpati, Hunkpapa and Mdewakantonwan and has French/Irish blood through her grandmother Julia Deloria and John McBride. She has two children. Kip Spotted Eagle is a Dakota Language Instructor and Brook Spotted Eagle is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Washington in Cultural Anthropology. Her new grandson is Tokana Ikpanajin Spotted Eagle.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 7.52.57 PMAbove: Faith Spotted Eagle    Photo: Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/MCT

I have had the pleasure to work with Faith and many others to inform people about the Treaty to Protect the Sacred and the Keystone XL battle. This morning I received a message from her saying that she has some important reflections from her community about the recent Keystone XL decision by President Obama. She speaks with the nurturing strength and wisdom that only a grandmother can possess and  It is an honor that she wanted to share them here with us.

After the KXL “not in the national interest” words finally were actually said, I had a couple of days to pause and then I came to several realizations. While numerous groups were counting coup on stopping KXL and telling their understandings of how the victory was achieved, my thoughts were immediately directed to other things that now could receive attention.

Yes, there are at least 100 other things that are threatening our existence as Indigenous people and it’s back to defending the front line, like we have been doing for 500 years against ongoing threats. That is the story of the life of a Native. Every single day of our life is devoted to fighting fights like KXL. So it is familiar territory.

I am not needing to say that I was the one who stopped KXL but I am feeling the need to give thanks to the SPIRITUAL MOVEMENT that was launched in treaty territory, original territory and the Oceti Sakowin and the First Nations up north. The Spirit was moving strong due to the thousands of prayers that were heard by the universe and beyond for Mother Earth, entwined with the healing prayers of other populations.

The difference in this fight echoed in my mind with the words of my dear father Henry, who long ago said: “you know my girl, in the years to come there will be more “Ska Oyate” defending our lands with us when they have more knowledge and will rebuild memory of the spirit of this land”.

He said it would take a couple hundred of years as they heal from their historical trauma also. I am thankful for the allies that we have gained from the “Ska Oyate” the White Nation and other immigrant populations, as we continue to challenge marginalization and privilege. When they heal, we heal. Together.

As we reflect on President Obama’s decision, we must tell our own narratives of how we view this intersect in time. Too much of our history contains narratives of us by other people, as I already see articles stating that someone else organized us natives for the KXL battle. I don’t think so…

Although the prayers laid by the IDLE NO MORE movement greatly inspired us. The battle was for a larger purpose, as our elders have prophesied the war on water for decades and the coming “shaking of Mother Earth” which is happening now.

Our movement was led by “spiritual activism” as we offered tobacco and prayers for every step forward and backward. Ceremonies were held constantly in almost every Native community across Turtle Island to be mindful of the “spirit moving” activated by the common purpose of protection of sacred water, land, and the generations to come.

Another very old camp circle principle that surfaced was “activism by consent.” In the Native world we don’t just appoint ourselves to lead a movement. We are given consent based on our respect, our actions towards our relatives and our people. Whether that was elected leadership based on colonial tenets or grassroots organizing, old conflicts and divisions were laid aside to commonly defend against a major threat to sacred water.

The message had to be (and is) unified. There were checks and balances that we don’t need to write about in an article, but it is comforting that they are still there. There is actually no word for activism in our tribal languages, it is just our responsibility of being a “good relative” to the earth and those dwelling on it.

Nation to Nation dialogues and joining occurred in sovereign ways. This includes the signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred at Ihanktonwan Territory by the Ihanktonwan Treaty Committee and the Tsu La Letuth Nation as well as the Mother Earth Accord. Ten Native Nations have signed the International Treaty and many others with the Mother Earth Accord.

The Lummi Nation brought their Sacred Totem Poles to pray with our “bundles.” The First Nations of Grandmother’s Land up north exchanged strategies, guidance, laughter, ceremony and presence with those of us in the southern direction. The heads of the Pawnee Nation and the Nez Perce showed up to stand strong with us when we walked out of an attempted Department of State consultation that was out of order.

When the DOS reported on it they called it a “demonstration”. It was an assertion of our right to be respected as Nation to Nation parties and that we would not allow ourself to be manipulated. The Great Plains Tribal Chairman mobilized locally, regionally and nationally to work in unification with the grassroots, the Treaty Councils, the Women’s and Men’s Societies.

The Oceti Sakowin, Seven Council Fires of the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota, individual tribes and other tribal nations provided support for gatherings, events, ceremonies and direct actions. Three Spiritual Camps were created at Rosebud, Lower Brule and Cheyenne River, preparing to defend on the ground. Grassroots entities such as Brave Heart Society, Oglala Tokalas, Owe Aku Moccasins on the Ground, Pte Oyate Ospaye, Wiconi Un Tipi and many others hosted direct actions in cooperation with Honor the Earth, Ruckus, Chorus Foundation, Brave Heart Society and many others. There is much thanks to also give to Ojibwe and Dine’ Waterwalkers, A.I.M. Members, and all who marched, prayed, cooked, and supported in every possible way.

The first Spiritual Camp was held on the Ponca Trial of Tears at the Art Tanderup farm. These spiritual camps were a door for youth to become involved and speak of their concerns. These camps were attended by other Turtle Island defenders such as the Black Mesa Coalition, the southern defenders against Tar Sands, the activists fighting the Bakken Oil presence and of course, the Indigenous Environmental Network was invited in by the Oceti Sakowin.

At all of these gatherings, children were always present… watching, learning, speaking, praying and helping… for the future. Spiritual leaders, both men and women were always present to maintain the balance, including the Keeper of our Sacred Bundle, Arvol Looking Horse.

Elders like Marie Randall who is in her 90’s, from Wanblee, SD stopped KXL trucks to communicate that this is serious business. Urban Natives joined with their reservation counterparts in hosting demonstrations, banner drops and forums against KXL. Tribes of the Oceti Sakowin joined with Dakota Rural Action to form NOKXL Dakota to combat Transcanada in direct actions, horse rides, summits and to battle Transcanada in the SD Public Utility Commission hearings. There are so many more and I apologize for leaving anyone out. In summary it was a Sovereign Nation movement all across Turtle Island and it was successful!

From the beginning, the goal was to utilize the new weapon of social media, widespread public outcry and strong defense of treaty and unceded lands (original territories). The opposition was always about jobs, jobs, jobs which is second nature to systemic capitalism. Our approach was “traditional technology” (prayer, ceremony, direct action, which are the original bio-instructions from the earth).

As Deksi Vine Deloria said, “to be Indigenous is to be of place.” Our culture actively draws on the power of our sacred sites and their power physically and spiritually. It is Native metaphysics which is why we do ceremony. The solution to climate change is how we live in relation to all living things and redefine our technological niche in nature with respect.

Many in the movement against KXL rejected “philanthropic capitalism” and fought back sometimes without funding, depending on grassroots methods of survival. Philanthropic capitalism is being funded to do someone else’s philosophy, which often conflicts with grassroots earth philosophy. Some funders are now learning this and we appreciated their support.

As this is being written, a SD Public Utility Commission hearing is being held on another threat, the Dakota Access Pipeline which once again is trespassing in Treaty and Aboriginal lands in northern and eastern SD and North Dakota. A dream team of tribal attorneys representing Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Yankton are battling in the PUC process against the two pipelines, KXL and Dakota Access. Even though the Presidential Permit has been denied for Transcanada’s KXL, the SD PUC is insisting on having the hearings continue on whether Transcanada should receive a permit through SD for KXL.

Lastly, in any blessing received by Indigenous people, it is essential to have what we call a “wopida or wopila”, which is a giving of thanks to restore the balance for gifts received. This is why of course, that tobacco is always offered to the spirit world. The Allies and Pipeline fighters did this of course, at the invite of the Sicangu Oyate (the Burnt Thigh people) of Rosebud at Wicokahiyiya (middle of the day) this past Saturday, November 14, 2015 at Mission, SD.

Now we return to the list of the 100 things to defend against, including the recent bill introduced in Congress to assume plenary power of tribal recognition led by congressional people (one from Utah) who have no inkling of who we are. As former Chairman Brewer said, our horses are always ready and we must defend on this one. Tunkan Inajin win , he miye ksto!!!
-By Faith Spotted Eagle, Tunkan Inajin

The battle against Keystone XL was an unprecedented collaboration to protect the land from extractive industries that threaten our water, air, and delicately balanced climate. Yet there is still much work to be done. If adopted, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), will allow corporations to sue governments for enacting environmental protections. If TPP were law right now, corporations could overturn the Presidents decision to reject Keystone XL. Now we celebrate, tomorrow we actively face these challenges together with strength, grace, and compassion to do what’s right for future generations.

Ending the Conquest of Nature

I think every child knows what it’s like to build a dam of pebbles in a creek, or try to build a wall around a sand castle to protect it from incoming waves. It’s a fun challenge but nature always wins. Strange as it sounds, this desire to pursue the conquest of nature has historical roots and global consequences. From Mao’s Cultural Revolution to the rise of Christianity and birth of Newtonian Science after the Dark Ages, humanity has been fumbling with this core dilemma of how we relate to our environment. Luckily we have some new fields of study and words to deepen our sense of this important relationship.

Eco-psychology

Eco-psychology is based on the principle that our environment shapes our psychology. There is some interesting research about Bonobo Chimpanzee in the Congo. They are often considered one of our closest-related primates. The Bonobo who live north of the Congo River live in a lush environment with plenty of food, are matriarchal, cooperative, and have very little violence. Whereas the same species south of the Congo River, where food is less abundant and the land is more like desert, are patriarchal, genocidal, infanticidal, and live in a constant state of war. There is still much research to be done before there are any final conclusions, but observations point to environmental factors having dramatic influence on social behavior.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 10.28.50 AM

There is a book, Saharasia, which even postulates that climate change and desertification over millennia created epigenetic and neurological changes, turning human cultures more patriarchal and warlike. Some say that the plagues and dark ages that Europeans went through prior to the Renaissance played a role in shaping a cultural relationship with nature. Since so many people were dying from the Black Death, a belief system that humans were being punished by God or being punished by nature began to take hold. This entrenched two divergent world views: the sinner/redemption story of Christianity (religion) and the Newtonian Cartesian Paradigm (mechanistic science).

Mechanism stresses an unbridgeable gulf between human beings and the physical world. Human consciousness has no role or place in Newton’s vast world machine. This sense of an alien physical realm was extended, in association with Christian influence, to the wider world of nature. Nature is perceived as wholly ‘other’ than ourselves, a force to be conquered and used. –Spiritual Intelligence: The Ultimate Intelligence, by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall

Clearly there is a historical divide between the world of spirit and the physical, so it is no wonder that some people see themselves as separate from nature. Since Europeans went on to colonize a great portion of the world, they also forced this world-view on many of the indigenous cultures they invaded. Today we see this belief playing out with ill consequences.

If it was the fate of our existence in hostile environments of the past that shaped our ways of thinking, perhaps we can hack our own biology with concepts that allow us to experience a sense of harmony and connection with our environment?

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 10.34.32 AM

Biomimicry

Biomimicry is another term that helps us bridge the gap and conceptualize our place within the surrounding environment. The Biomimicry Institute says it best:

Humans are clever, but without intending to, we have created massive sustainability problems for future generations. Fortunately, solutions to these global challenges are all around us.

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.

The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

We are not without our problems today, but if you have a moment to sit in front of a computer and read this blog, perhaps you have a moment to reconsider your relationship with the world around you. Do you feel like you struggle with your environment or do you feel supported by it? Is there a way that you might change your perspective to allow harmony with the flow of events in your life?

Acceptance, gratitude, compassion are spiritual attributes that make real changes in the way we live in the physical world. There are many modalities that have been used for centuries like meditation, prayer, yoga to achieve a heightened state of awareness and connection with the great life force that surrounds us. This is an internal shift, nobody can force it on you, it must be chosen.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 10.29.27 AM

We are at a cross-roads, we can destroy our environment, or use our wisdom to enhance and heal with it. What is certain is that our attempted conquest of nature is ultimately futile, like trying to hold back the tides. Are you ready to let go of the struggle to conquer your environment and open up to unlimited possibilities?

If so, you are not alone. Find your tribe, surround yourself by others who are making the internal shift towards a lifestyle that allows for harmony within and around you. Then we can truly start working with the rhythms of nature rather than against them. When science and spirituality compliment each other rather than clash we shall see some very profound changes in the way we interact with our environment.

The World Needs Aloha

Beautiful beaches, rainbows, tropical fruits and epic hiking make Hawaii one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations. Simultaneously this small island chain represents a microcosm of global issues and a cultural tradition rich with solutions that can benefit communities around the planet. The word aloha is commonly understood to represent “I love you”, “hello”, and “goodbye” but it is much more than that. Aloha is a way of living that embraces the larger interconnected web of relationships surrounding us in nature along with our responsibility to be respectful custodians within this web of life. Currently this way of life is being threatened on the islands and all over the world so Hawaiians have embraced creative ways to re-awaken us all to the beauty that is possible.

Using Hawaiian language grammatical rules, we will translate this (aloha) literally as “The joyful sharing of life energy in the present” or simply “Joyfully sharing life”. The Deeper meaning of Aloha

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 9.38.07 AM

The finite ecosystem of an island can teach us a whole lot as we begin to recognize the finite resources on our whole planet. Ancient Hawaiians were masters at regenerative agriculture, working with nature to increase abundance of food, fresh water, and fertile soil. The year-round growing season has made Hawaii a great place for experiments in permaculture. It has also attracted biotech industries like Monsanto and Syngenta.

A recent film Aina, That Which Feeds Us takes a deeper look at the ways that the biotech industry runs contrary to the cultural heritage of the islands. AINA means “that which feeds us” in the Hawaiian language. This 23 minute film highlights a way to address some of the most pressing environmental and health crises facing the island of Kauaʻi, and of island Earth. You can watch the full film for free on their website as well as get involved locally to promote more sustainable and regenerative farming practices through the films inspiring educational message.

Permaculture is the practice of producing food, energy, etc, using ways that do not deplete the earth’s natural resources. It is a system of perennial agriculture emphasizing the use of renewable natural resources and the enrichment of local ecosystems.

AINA trailer

Hawaii was also recently in the news as negotiators around the world converged in Maui to finalize talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This corporate trade deal will effect many pacific rim nations and also runs counter to the basic aloha principle of sharing resources while respecting the land and the people. Since TPP paves the way for corporate exploitation, local protestors used a traditional way to bring attention to this secret deal. The event drew international exposure as hundreds of people surrounded the building where negotiations were being held and blew conch shells.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 9.35.02 AM

Because the islands sit in the vast ocean with mountainous peaks, it is one of the best places for star-gazing. The Polynesian People have a great history of navigating the oceans by observing the night sky. Recently, a thirty meter telescope (TMT) was proposed to be placed at the top of the watershed on Mauna Kea. Despite a love for astronomy and science, this telescope threatened the finite water source on the island. The issue also put an international spotlight on the colonial roots of science, and put Hawaiian culture center-stage in a global discussion. Is it okay to reach for the stars if we can’t take care of our own eco-system? This concept was explored in a recent blog, De-Colonialize Astronomy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 9.36.07 AM

Hawaii is a gem on our beautiful planet. It is a great place to visit and explore, but it’s greatest gift may be in the culture itself. The land has informed this rich culture for centuries and today we have an opportunity to embrace this universal wisdom and consider it in the context of contemporary global issues. How do we protest unsustainable and unjust policies while bringing positive change using respectful and creative practices? Hawaii has the answer… The world needs more Aloha!

(VIDEO) Finding Peace in Nature; Real Life Mermaids

adset

It is easy to get overwhelmed from the stresses of daily life, not to mention the larger environmental, political and social problems of our world today. It is no wonder that people experience anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness. I can’t help but wonder why so many people think that finding personal peace is not enough to change the rest of the world. Many spiritual leaders and humanitarians alike have concluded that the only way to achieve world peace is through finding personal peace first. There are many suggestions out there on how to reduce stress and find personal peace, but the truth is you have to find what works for you. For me, I go outside. There is a solace and a sense of wonder to be found in nature and it automatically calms me. I started facilitating transformational photo shoots for women in nature and realized I could help other people reconnect to this beautiful world around us. In doing so, I have found a whole new level of peace within myself.

_MG_6228

My name is Emily Jones and I am the founder of the traveling portrait company, Sonoran Muses out of Tucson, AZ. Unlike many professional photographers out there today, I am also the makeup artist, body painter, hair stylist and costume designer for each client that I work with. What makes my work truly unique is that I create elaborate headdresses from locally harvested plants and flowers from the region I am working in (throughout the US and Mexico) and adorn women from all walks of life. (Read about the Start of Sonoran Muses here.) I am constantly inspired by every new location that I work in and the various growth cycles of each season. While harvesting flowers (or other items) for each headdress that I create, I deepen my sacred connection to the natural world. Nature is always my main design inspiration and my “Las Sirenas” Photoshoot Retreat is no exception. Through my creative vision I am able to help women who come on the retreat to feel beautiful, empowered, and reconnected to their sacred femininity.

4I2B2440

Here is a behind the scenes video that recaps this photoshoot experience!

When I first visited San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico on vacation I was blown away by the Sonoran Desert meeting the ocean and fell in love with the colorful shells I found on the beaches. I immediately had a desire to honor this beautiful place. With my love of reading about female archetypes, goddesses and ethereal creatures in folklore, legends and myths, choosing the “mermaid” theme for a photo shoot came quite naturally. These creatures have always intrigued me. I love the obvious dichotomy present in the very definition of a mermaid’s character. Some stories depicted mermaids as malevolent creatures associated with floods, storms, shipwrecks, and drowning. In other folklore (or sometimes within the same folk tradition) they can be benevolent, bestowing blessings and in some cases, even falling in love with humans. I enjoy this polarity and the idea of attempting to create my own real-life mermaids sounded like an interesting challenge.

4I2B1869

So, in the spring of 2013, I created the “Las Sirenas Photo Shoot Retreat” in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. True to the Sonoran Muses styling, I wanted to recreate my version of a realistic looking mermaid by designing crowns adorned with shells, bones, stones and sea glass collected from the beaches of that region. Although these crowns are created in my studio, once on location in Mexico I always take a few people from our group to go out and harvest additional living plants. The various flowers, leaves, seed pods or branches found are then woven into each model’s hair to complete the headdress styling. Doing the fishy makeup is one of my favorite parts of the whole styling process and in my opinion, the one that truly transforms each woman. I like to play with different textures and makeup color combinations to create the scale patterns. I am always looking ahead to see how I can incorporate new makeup techniques and costume effects for the future and hope to one day have use of full silicone mermaid tails!

sancarlossaguaros

Untitled-2

For this most recent retreat, instead of creating the shell crowns myself like I usually do, I decided to do an artistic collaboration with Organic Armor, a husband and wife costume design company out of North Carolina. They custom-designed four sea-inspired headdresses and two armbands just for this retreat. I was in awe of how each headdress was created and how light the foam-covered latex headdresses were, despite the fact that they look like heavy metal. There is something so fulfilling about being able to join forces with another artist and come up with a completely different take on what I normally do. I love doing collaborations with all varieties of artists ranging from hair stylists to costume designers and I look forward to featuring more artists in the future! In addition to these collaborations, I also like for each client that I work with to be a part of the styling and design process too!

organicarmor4I2B2155

A week before every retreat I host a mermaid costume-making party in Tucson where each woman creates their own shell bra! This is such a great time for the group to get to know each other before the retreat and gives each woman time out from her busy schedule to get creative! Of course, I am always around if someone is not especially crafty and needs my help! Every party is a fun night filled with jokes, delicious home cooked food and a table entirely covered with shells, ribbon, glitter, coins, netting, fabric, beads, bras and beers. There is something I love about the chaos of the creative process and this is always the champion of messes.

20140411_212827

The house that I found to rent for this retreat was a dream. It was appropriately named the “shell castle” and was one of the most interesting houses I have ever stayed in. Not only was the entire building constructed from rocks harvested from a nearby canyon, but also thousands upon thousands of shells had been glued in intricate patterns all over the bathroom walls, mirrors and support columns in the house. There was a large fountain in the center of the living room and a spiral staircase that led up to the rooftop cabana. Showing the house to the women on the retreat for the first time is always so exciting and the house lends itself to having great shared experiences.

ksdjhfg

I want each person who works with me to take away something meaningful from this retreat. Getting your portrait captured can be a very vulnerable experience, so I facilitate activities that help women voice what is on their mind to help them feel more comfortable during their photo shoot. The very first night of the retreat, I gift each model a Chinese flying lantern.  I then suggest that each person writes what they would like to let go of, or what they would like to change about themselves onto the thin white paper of each lantern. I ask them to think about what they would like this photo shoot experience to do for them. Once everyone is done writing, we take the lanterns up to the rooftop cabana and light them. Once the lanterns fill up with warm air, we carefully release them into the night sky in a sort of cathartic celebration, sometimes accompanied by fire spinning.

Untitled-1

These retreats are always such a fun, communal experience. Not only do we all caravan down to San Carlos together, but we shop for food together and take turns cooking amazing meals. We eat like kings shopping from the fresh fish markets! There are always plenty of opportunities to branch off from the group to have some one-on-one time with someone else too! There are a ton of activities to do in and around San Carlos including hiking, fishing, snorkeling and rock hounding or beach combing. Each time I go down there I am amazed at the new places I discover! I always strive to show people something they have never seen before and perhaps provide them with an opportunity to do something they have never done before. It is exciting and refreshing for me to see the relaxation and joy on people’s faces when jumping into the ocean for the first time when we arrive. However, these photo shoots are not all fun and games.

lassirenas

sirenas_samantha

Modeling outdoors like this is a lot of work and it can often be uncomfortable. There are also critters in the ocean like sting rays, jelly fish and sea urchins that need to be avoided. But with a bit of precaution and awareness these guys can be easily detected and are actually pretty fun to observe. When people look at my photographs they are often convinced that I hire professional models. They are usually surprised to learn that these images feature everyday women who have hired me. Although it’s nice to work with professional models, it doesn’t feed my soul the same way. Many people have also asked why I don’t photograph in the city. The truth is, I have a distaste for man-made objects. You will never see a building, a road, or even a trail in any of my image backgrounds for Sonoran Muses. I want to transport people to a time and place that seem foreign to human development… just unbridled landscapes with no trace of man, other than the beautiful women featured as the subject. I have always felt it was strange that we refer to nature as something outside of us, something separate and foreign. However, it is my understanding that WE ARE NATURE and it is my desire and goal to portray this in my images.

4I2B1985

I have had the honor of meeting so many amazing women during each mermaid retreat and I feel blessed to be able to do these portraits for a living. Every time I hear a new story about why a client has chosen to work with me and what it does for them I am blown away. Through facilitating this retreat, I realized that I not only offer women a chance to see themselves in a new light, but I am also gifting them time to relax and recharge from their busy lives. We all need this. We all need to decompress. Setting time aside for ourselves where we can go on an adventure, honor nature and hopefully discover what it means to develop a sense of self-love, is a lovely start to finding inner peace. To be able to share this experience with others gives me boundless amounts of joy and peace in my life, because I have found a sense of purpose in helping others regain their self confidence. Each one of us has our own unique way to create peace and share inspiration, what is yours? How do you find inner peace with yourself and what are some things you do frequently in your daily routine to help keep you grounded in this chaotic world?

mermaids

For more information please visit Sonoran Muses on facebook and Instagram, along with Emily’s website, eajonesphoto.com for her complete portfolio of work.

-Written by Emily Jones

Seeding Ideas in the Digital Era

How can digital media and social networks mimic natural systems for positive change?

Obviously this is a conversation and an exploration that stretches way beyond a short blog, but just as a flower casts a thousand seeds, ideas have a magical ability to self-replicate in unimaginable ways. People who are talking about sustainable solutions, or pushing for social justice, or organizing yoga and meditation flash-mobs have more in common than they might recognize… They are all experimenting and cross pollinating ideas for creating a better world. A primary canvas for this dialogue is online social media where innovation, networking, and collaboration is blending together like colors on the painters palette. These blossoming movements of thought transcend traditional definitions.

Social

If you have spent any time on Facebook then you have probably seen inspiring posts by pages like Sustainable Human, Unify, The Mind Unleashed, Spirit Science, AJ+, Alternative World News, and UPLIFT. As someone who blogs and works in social media, I have loved watching the ways that pages like this influence each other, follow similar trends, and ultimately enhance a shared ideology of creating a new narrative that is more inclusive, less destructive, more community-sourced, and less corporate. Biomimicry shows us that cooperative relationships are actually the predominant patterns within nature.

“It often appears that humans have a dysfunctional relationship with their environment, but healing this relationship begins simply by being present and aware of it.” -Ending the Conquest of Nature

Having been lucky enough to work with, co-direct, cross-pollinate, and ultimately make lasting friendships with many of the people behind these popular platforms has been an infinite source of inspiration in my life. Blogging, design, and social networking are becoming a collaborative art form that has hints of the magic that was present in the birth of jazz music. Diversely talented people making a new kind of music that is changing the narrative from the bottom-up like roots that anchor a tree that is about to bear fruit.

sustainable_human_question

Founder of the Webby Awards, Tiffany Shlain has been the focus of blogs like Internet Mirrors Human Brain and Global Heart, Global Brain. Her organization, Let it Ripple makes mobile films for  global change. They offered to customize their film, Neurons to Networks with the logo/branding of any organization that wanted to share it with their networks. This kind of win/win allowed a very powerful idea to spread across many networks. UPLIFT modeled this idea in support of the World Water Day Campaign initiated by Unify. By focusing on the idea, clean water, instead of brand ownership the campaign allowed for universal buy-in by some huge networks that share the same values. Perhaps we don’t own the ideas, they own us.

“Opening up to the emergent is a process that is important for creative projects and collaboration. It means that you have to allow for the unknown, that you aren’t working from a set script, and are allowing yourself to be open to whatever emerges.” Why Imagination Matters.

Sustainable Human successfully took a great TED Talk, mixed it with compelling stock footage and music to make the viral sensation, How Wolves Change Rivers, which has been viewed over 18 million times. I riffed on the evolving idea with What Whales Can Teach us About Climate Science, another Sustainable Human initiative. These ideas are self-replicating because the stories that convey them want to be told, they are being shared because they fill people with awe, making us all feel connected within a larger web of life.

Jonah Sachs, Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios brought us The Story of Stuff, and can adequately boast going from a movie to a movement. There are many more successes like this and there are a few things they share in common that make them thrive. Being entertaining, informative and well-produced is part of the equation that is completed when people become engaged with story. The best-produced video is useless if it doesn’t strike a chord that inspires people to talk about it, “like” it, or share it in their networks. In a field of flowers competing to look and smell the prettiest the bee celebrates dancing on all of them to make the sweetest honey.

The social web is where ideas get seeded and shared, creating a new narrative is tilling the soil to grow an abundant garden of solutions. However, the ideas are useless if people don’t act on them in the real world. I have been elated to blog recently about some powerful tools like Reinhabiting the Village, and Nu Mundo that are emerging to help people manifest these ideas into reality within their own community. We have the capacity to dream bigger, hard work really makes a difference and imagination matters.

It is clear that social networks are already mimicking natural systems to create positive change in the world. Let’s take the conversation deeper. How can we use this understanding to increase the cooperation and collaboration to bring about even greater change and influence? I can’t wait to see what this growing community comes up with next!

Inspired Contemporary Art by Women

Laura Borealisis

Historically, too few Women Artists were able to attain any level of mastery because lack of access to learn, cultural disapproval during their time period, or the challenge of balancing obligations as mothers and various other gender roles. While some of this still echoes from the past, it is indeed the past! With the internet and social media, our opportunities for connection & sharing are expanded exponentially and we are able to cultivate and change these old patterns that once prevailed.

The soul force and nourishment of the feminine expression is needed in our world so I have compiled a preliminary list of Women Artists for Culture Collective. By no means is this list complete… in fact, we think it will always be a work in progress. This collection does not include some of the often-overlooked old masters, such as Artemisia Gentileschi, nor even more staple names such as Georgia O’keefe or Frida Kahlo. While I actually really love the idea of such a collection, this gallery consists primarily of artists living and creating, Now.

The women are not divided up by professional status here, although in future features there may be more focus on those areas. All that was required was a consistent body of work, easy accessibility to the work, and proper photographs (no weird light, not blurry, and cropped properly when necessary).

With such volume, it was a bit wonky to curate all the imagery, and I’m sure it is ripe for scrutiny. However, it has been cultivated in a spirit of Sisterhood, where women in all different phases of their artistic journey, as well as different styles, have been included. It was crafted in a manner of finding what makes us relate. So, you may see that work is grouped or coupled with similar works in similar styles, mediums, or color schemes.

My hope is that these Artists will find connection with each other, community, mutual growth, and also expansion beyond where we are each currently at in our processes. May the opportunity to see more art from women help the youth find new inspiration and role models for crafting their own creative voice, as well as find the courage to share their unique creative identity alongside their male comrades. And of course, may any artist find beauty and inspiration here, regardless of gender.

My other hope is that this collection will inspire a deeper interest and desire to cultivate knowledge in the culture around Art; to expand our awareness of Art, Artists, and the various ideas, impulses, and belief-systems being put forth through Art. May we know more artists and their works, and may gender no longer be an inhibitor for engagement with Art. I implore you to develop a broader, yet more acute taste and vocabulary with which to engage art and creativity; to see deeper, to feel deeper, to find ourselves more fully resonant  & articulate with that which is known as Art.

Please enjoy this gallery. Contact the artists via social media or personal websites – Most of them provided their art via facebook, so I suggest that specific network for contacting them should you desire to do so. I could not link everyone’s info here, so another wonderfully convenient option is to consult the mighty Oracle of Google ~ And, of course, take some time to see, feel, think about, and enjoy these works from the feminine side of the spectrum.

Many Blessings,

Ashely

Featured Image (top)  Laura Borealisis – “Frida”

[foogallery id=”2496″]