City of the Dead, Ceremonial Healing

Ancient Tribal Traditions Survive in Modern Festivities
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For eons we humans have called on our ancestors in times of trouble, and that need still exists today. Making peace with the past is essential for making peace in the present and the future. The expression of grief is often considered one of the highest forms of prayer, because the act of grieving acknowledges our deep love and gratitude for the blessing of life itself.

It is commonly believed that violence and anger are the result of unexpressed sorrow and grief. Celebrating life in a ceremonial way creates a safe place for the whole community to grieve together. Each one of us has been touched and shaped by others who are no longer here. October is a time for ghouls, ghosts, trick-or-treaters and candy, but there is something much spiritually deeper and ancient than what we see on the surface of these modern festivities.

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It is our responsibility to keep the memory and wisdom of our ancestors alive in our own lives, to forgive the past while embracing the present moment. In a society that focuses on accomplishments and being busy all of the time, the courage to embrace each other in the vulnerable realm of our emotions and feelings is priceless. We will pass from this life some day, and taking time to remember that can inspire us to live with love and compassion for all who share this life with us.

Imagine more than 50,000 people of all ages including children, parents and grandparents pulling floats honoring their ancestors wearing La Catrina whiteface alongside drummers, stilt walkers, and samba dancers parading through the city streets. It happens every year in Tucson, Arizona. This year marks The 28th Annual All Souls Procession and there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world.

A giant urn is wheeled through the crowd collecting the prayers, wishes, and dreams of each participant as it passes. At the end of the procession the urn is hoisted high above the crowd in preparation of a grand finale filled with fire and spectacle. It is ceremony in an ancient but contemporary form, a creative expression of community that is so important yet often missing in our modern world.

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The giant burning urn may conjure thoughts of the popular Burning Man Festival, but there is a profound difference. The All Souls Procession is a free, cross-generational, sober event that is integrated into an urban center with cultural roots that go back for millennia. Incorporating elements of contemporary Day of The Dead like sugar skulls, marigolds, and elaborate shrines lit by candles, the weekend is filled with meaningful events, performances, and an invitation for all to participate.

Precolonial Mesoamericans were deeply rooted in a cultural heritage dating over 3,000 years. One ritualistic observance was ancestor reverence which included both honoring and making offerings or sacrifices to one’s ancestors. It was believed that during this time, the dead visited their still-living relatives and that communication was possible between the living and deceased. According to Mesoamerican tradition, the realm of the dead was not frightening, but serene. The deceased rested peacefully until it was time to visit the living. Precolonial civilizations described death and life as continuous interwoven aspects of the human experience. Instead of feared, death and the dead were welcomed and celebrated. Upon arriving in present day central Mexico over 500 years ago, Catholic Spanish conquistadors desired not only territory and resources, but also spiritual control of the people they conquered. Spanish conquistadors labeled native rituals as sacrilegious and led violent attempts to indoctrinate early indigenous civilizations into Catholicism. -Wikipedia

Tucson is an ancient place surrounded by the majesty of the Sonoran Desert and many diverse communities. Arizona is filled with vibrant Native American culture from The Apache to Hopi, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham and many others. Tucson sits at the cross-roads between north and south with a rich history of Spanish Missions, outlaws, and cowboys. These natural and historical elements are blended together under the direction of Nadia Hagen, Paul Weir, through the non-profit organization, Many Mouths One Stomach and powered by an army of local volunteers who are all dedicated to making sure that each year is better than the previous.

All Souls workshops span the whole month of October and culminate on November 4, and 5. Saturday at Armory Park is The Procession of Little Angels, where kids paint their own angel wings and sugar skulls while watching performances from Stories That Soar and Tucson Circus Arts followed by a sunset Lantern Procession around the park.  Sunday is the All Souls Procession and Finale with floats, bands and big crews assembling at 4 p.m. for the procession. This year also brings the premiere of Many Bones One Heart, a documentary film about the procession by Leslie Ann Epperson.

The Grand Finale is hosted by Flam Chen, one of the nation’s oldest fire circus theatrical groups. Watch silk aerialists dangle from a crane above the urn which is lifted onto a scaffold while fire spinners, folklorico dancers, hauntingly beautiful music, and acrobatic stilt walkers fill the stage under the desert sky with city skyscrapers just a few blocks away. The urn, made of geometrical patterns, now filled with mementos collected during the procession is set ablaze. It lights up like a lantern warming the faces of onlookers setting their dreams and prayers free with a roar of cheers (and tears) from the crowd.

Local artist and photographer Stu Jenks has compiled some of the best photos of previous All Souls Processions into an Ibook called, It’s a Mystery, and all proceeds from the purchase of this visual odyssey go directly to supporting this free community event. Two other Ibooks were also created recently to help families bring depth and meaning to this season. The first book, Procession of Little Angels, is a scrap-book with photos and illustrations for children, the second is The All Souls Loteria, both by Nadia Hagen. Visit their donation page here and look for their Facebook page to see photos posted shortly after the event.

Wherever you may be in the days following Halloween this year, please take a moment to remember all those who have come before you and reflect on what it means to be alive.

ARTICLE PHOTOS BY EMILY ANN JONES

FEATURED IMAGE BY ADDIE MANNAN

 

Standing Rock One Year Later, Victory for the People

“It is easy to be grateful when things are going our way, but to be thankful in the hardest of times is a true sign of strength, nobility, and grace.” -Chief Phil Lane

Background: Few recognize just how successful the youth-led indigenous movement to protect sacred water continues to be despite some painful defeats. Last fall was a powerful time for all of us with a heated election season along with the clash between Water Protectors and law enforcement at Standing Rock. The new year came with a dramatic low for people everywhere who care about our waters, our planet, and the climate, that´s the brand new Air Source Heat Pumps are being used now to help the environment. It grabs the water that´s in the air and turns it into drinking water. As we come into the one year anniversary of Standing Rock Youth running 2,000 miles to bring their message of Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) to Washington DC, we have some good news and a special opportunity for you to participate in keeping the prayer alive.

In March of 2016, Inspired by Waniya Locke along with the Keystone XL Fighters, and spiritually guided by Wakpala Elders Vernon and Theo Iron Cloud, Bobbi Jean Three Legs and other youth in Wakpala organized a run for the water and people. After first running through communities in Standing Rock they ran 11 miles from Wakpala to Mobridge to bring awareness of the dangers of DAPL to their neighbors outside of Standing Rock. The run included children as young as 5 years old, teenagers, elders, and youth in their early 20’s. One runner, Elder Kevin Locke, was in his 60’s. Parents drove behind them while backing them up with prayers and water. The first run from Wakpala inspired the Oceti Sakowin Runners from across the Sioux Nation to bring the No DAPL message to the Corp of Engineers Headquarters in Omaha. From there they brought their message, Mni Wiconi, which means “Water is Life”, to Washington, DC. and the world!

Led by Bobbi Jean, these youth ran 2,000 miles arriving in Washington DC one year ago this week (wow, time flies). They brought with them a petition signed by 157,000 people which was started by Bobbi Jean, and Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer in hopes to stop construction on an oil pipeline that threatened the water supply in her community along the Missouri River. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Shailene Woodley (see her tweet below from 2016), Jane Fonda, Mark Ruffalo, and Jason Momoa got behind the campaign and what followed is one of the most historic and timely movements in modern history.

The policy of an incoming president to turn his back on the youth, the water that sustains life, and our future underscores decades of failures in the US and abroad to address important environmental issues. The youth were heartbroken but remained undeterred in this battle for our collective future. The embers of this fire continued to glow. The roots of this global movement run deep and we are just now seeing the resilience of this community that continues forward, together with hope, determination, and love in our hearts. Still it was a long, hard winter for all of us, especially the people of Standing Rock and Wakpala.

“All the communities of Standing Rock stood strong against DAPL. We gave our time, volunteer work and whatever financial support we could. Millions of dollars were raised and spent in the name of Standing Rock, but when it was all over our children and young people of Wakpala were left with nothing, not even a decent basketball court or a playground where our many children and young people can play. Because of the loss of resources from our Casino due to blocked highways and other stuff, our elders and children have less than before, This is very tough on our families and children, especially when 86 % of our Standing Rock community members have no jobs and most are forced to live on welfare.” -Wakpala Elder Who Wished to Remain Unnamed

Collective Strength: What keeps us strong in hard times is a spiritual resilience that is shared across generations, it is ancestral, it is universal in every culture, and it is contained in the people’s stories. After the agonizing defeats in late 2016, with the direction of Chief Phil Lane, Unify compiled a free e-book called Pray with Standing Rock, Birth of a Global Movement which you can download here. Unify is an international community that supported Standing Rock on the ground, as well as through their vast social media network online by curating and producing live broadcasts, videos, and curating content from others to share through their large network. You can learn more about Unify’s role in supporting Standing Rock by reading their Executive Summary here.

Moving Forward: Chief Phil Lane and Four Worlds International Institute, again in collaboration with Unify, have decided to launch a small campaign to honor the community of Wakpala where the whole movement began. As we look and move forward we must always remember to honor the roots. The thought of children in Wakpala without even a decent, safe playground is unconscionable. So together we are going to do something about it. We are calling on you to join us as we raise funds to build a playground to honor the youth of Wakpala who brought this important message about water to the world. Please visit here to help us say “Thank You” to Wakpala!

As children we all probably heard the saying, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you played the game.” This wisdom may not have soothed us in the moments of sorrow directly following a painful defeat but sometimes the difficult moments shape our character better than anything else. In the face of defeat, we emerge stronger than before, strengthened by the love and support of our global community to address the pressing issues of our day. It starts with creating safe places for children to play while knowing that they are loved and supported!

Emotional Intelligence Sets us Apart From Technology

When fresh information is presented to us that contradicts previously held beliefs, it can be hard to accept. This is why people experience “closed-mindedness” that can stand in the way of our personal and collective evolution. The ability to accommodate new information requires a certain level of mental flexibility and ultimately character. We may need to learn to laugh at ourselves a little and delve into our emotions to make room for possibilities beyond our our currently held beliefs. Here’s some research that will inspire you to embrace emotional intelligence for your own well-being, and success!

Research in multiple fields of study show that curiosity, creativity, taking initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking, and empathy are skills that will redefine traditional beliefs about intelligence. According to Multiple Intelligences Theory, what we know might not be as important as understanding the ways that we learn. Emotional Intelligence Theory reminds us that possessing lots of knowledge may not lead to success if an individual does not have good interpersonal and social skills. Knowing how to lighten up and not take ourselves too seriously is a prerequisite.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” -Andrew Coleman A Dictionary of Psychology

A Lust for Learning

Emotions motivate or suppress our behaviors. The emotion of depression may make us stay in bed all day and not give a crap about anything, whereas curiosity may cause us to read ten books. By cultivating the needed emotional state for learning through exercise, good diet, meditation, or yoga you will increase your creative muscle. The ability to perceive, use, and manage emotions isn’t at the top of the academic list of priorities but these skills are crucial to working in groups towards problem-solving, collaboration, and other forms of success.

We are not Meant to Work Like Machines…
We are Meant to Live like Humans.

Our most sophisticated technology does not possess the complexities of organic systems. Computers and machines can do many things for us, but they will never be able to feel for us. The realm of emotion is central and unique to our human experience yet it is only now starting to be recognized as a valuable form of intelligence.

Mechanized inventions can do manual work for us which gives us an unprecedented opportunity to do other kinds of internal “work” and discovery. Our ancestors had very little time to explore what being human meant beyond survival. This is the invisible hand that not only shapes our thoughts and our culture, it is what gives us character.

Let’s build character!

Tiffany Shlain and Let it Ripple have a series of films that articulate this ongoing inquiry for Character Day which is an international campaign to tackle the human component of intelligence. Let It Ripple uses interactive films, discussion materials, as well as live and virtual events to engage people in conversations around complicated subjects like this. Crowd-sourcing ideas to make films (cloud-filmmaking) on topics that we can all relate to is a beautiful expression of inclusivity and collaboration. The Global Q & A utilizes Google where you can go and watch any number of experts explore what skills are needed to flourish in the 21st century.

(above) The Adaptable Mind by the Moxie Institute

Emotional Self-Awareness

Having an honest relationship, even a friendship with your full emotional spectrum is very important. Though we have social norms that require us to not show certain forms of anger, sorrow, jealousy and other shadow-emotions, it is still very important for us to express these in constructive ways. The ability to tune in to what another person is feeling and reflect that back to them with compassion is a very powerful and deep way to create connection. This can help you at work, and at home with your family.

Our emotional realms are complex and beautiful if we are willing to explore them in a safe space. We have the ability to create that safe space for ourselves and others by listening from the heart, not judging, and allowing stories to be told. This expression can also come in the form of art, music, poetry, it is a way to bring unconscious wounds out into the open. The end result is empowerment, healing, clarity, as well as increased creativity, compassion, and productivity.

What we know is always in flux, as we are constantly being re-informed and evolving. Personal resilience along with humor, compassion and humility will prove to be invaluable moving forward. Dig deep into your own character, embrace the emotional rainbow that is unique to your human condition and loosen up a little! Having an adaptable brain may be more important than having one that is full of knowledge…

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!

Ancient Trickster Wisdom for Uncertain Times

Sometimes you need to break the tradition in order to keep the tradition alive and the accepted tradition breaker is the clown. – Hopi Scholar Michael Kaboti

This was one of the first teachings I learnt from the deep cultural wisdom of the Hopi People. The western mindset is built on having answers, whereas traditional cultures have reserved a special place for the unknown, often called reverently the Great Mystery. We are living in potent – yet uncertain – times, and the trickster/clown archetype has some powerful medicine that will help us dive into the depths of this uncertainty in a fearless way.

The trickster teaches us that sometimes it is better to wonder than it is to know. Accepting this truth can be exciting and humbling for us as humans. The words human, humor, and humility, all come from the same linguistic root for a good reason. We are noble beings when we are in balance with our folly. When we become arrogant and rigid is when we often create the most trouble for ourselves and those around us. When we get too high on our horse, the trickster is the one who will knock us down a notch and remind us to laugh at ourselves, otherwise others surely will.

Many Native American Tribes Consider the Coyote a Trickster and a Teacher

What is the Trickster?

The distinction between clown and trickster is subjective; however, generally, tricksters are considered more mythic and archetypal, whereas clowns are their more worldly counterparts. Thus, the trickster comes in many forms, including clowns, merry-makers, buffoons, and jesters – they can be playful, mischievous, disrespectful, backward, paradoxical, or even obscene. This archetypal energy can play out through various circumstances in our lives, and make us feel like we are the butt of a cosmic joke.

Tricksters cross boundaries in society, playfully disrupting normal life. This bending of the rules usually appears in the form of tricks or thievery. Tricksters openly mock authority, and can be both cunning and foolish. They break rules, boast, and play tricks on those around them.

Take, for example, the great American contribution to clowning, the hobo-clown. We laugh at him as he slips on a banana peel and everything goes wrong in his life. This form of slap-stick humor teaches us to laugh at life’s challenges and not take ourselves so seriously. Sometimes things go our way and other times it can seem like the whole universe is conspiring against us.

Once you can laugh at a situation it will no longer have power over you. – Slave Adage

Tricksters come in many forms including clowns, merry-makers and jesters.

Tricksters Around the World

Tricksters and clowns exist in almost every culture around the world. Many Native American Stories have the trickster embodied as a coyote, and Coyote Tales were central to long nights around the fire during winter months. The Lakota call their trickster, Heyoka, and he is often seen sitting backwards on his horse. The Azande People in Central Africa have Ture, a trickster that is a spider who can change form into any animal. Ture brought food, water, and fire to the people, but he is always tricking people, stealing from them, serving his own interests, acting crudely, and being disrespectful.

Oftentimes we are grateful for the gifts and revelations the trickster brings us without actually condoning the behavior of this confusing character.

These characters that don’t neatly fit into traditional categories, or can’t simply be called good/bad, are the characters who fall in the trickster category. Often we are grateful for the gifts and revelations the trickster brings us without actually condoning the behavior of this confusing character.

Joker is Wild and Anything Goes…

Hopi Clowns in Action

Writing about Hopi ceremonial culture is very delicate because they have strong oral tradition, but Hopi artist and scholar Michael Kaboti explained the importance of sharing the clown wisdom everywhere that it has been forgotten. So I am happy to share a magical experience I had at a sacred Hopi dance in honor of my friendship with Michael. The Hopi Mesas are beautiful places with ancient wisdom, but it is not respectful to visit without an invitation, or someone that can guide you through proper protocols.

The villages sit high above the painted desert with stone buildings that are hundreds of years old. Some structures are said to be over a thousand years old, and the houses surround a central plaza where the ceremonial dances take place. People crowd the plaza and sit on the roofs under the hot Arizona sun to learn and remember aspects of their ancient culture.

During the dance, at a certain moment, the clowns enter the plaza. Boisterous, disrespectful, talking loud, eating, throwing food, maybe even desecrating the altar and acting completely oblivious to the fact that there is a sacred ceremony happening. The audience oscillates between laughter and a feeling of anger as these clowns act increasingly rude and disrespectful.

Hopi Clowns taunt the Sacred Kachina Dancers

Confronting Ignorance

As the ritual theater unfolds, the Kachina Spirits enter the plaza in full regalia, decorated from head to toe with yucca whips and gourds of holy water. They have come to reprimand these unruly clowns and purify them from their ignorance. When the clowns see the Kachinas, they run into the audience to get away. The audience cheers as the Kachinas follow them in the audience. What few people notice though is that the Kachinas are throwing the water on the audience as they run after the clowns.

The clowns represent the ignorance of us humans, the childishness that we exhibit, the way that we can be so self-absorbed, so arrogant.

When the Kachinas chase the clowns, it is the humans watching that receive the purification. This deep cultural wisdom allows people to laugh at themselves indirectly, and be purified of their own judgment and anger through ritual theater. A beautiful aspect to this dynamic is that the clowns are considered to be the parents to the Kachinas. In this way, there is also a reverence for the child-like innocence within us, that we must strive to evolve, but we will always be humans full of folly.

Tragedy and Comedy Artwork by Lionel Milton

Profane and Sacred

The trickster makes us examine the profane and the sacred. It brings the shadow to the light. Both the profane and the sacred are two sides of the same coin, and they often define each other. French sociologist, Émile Durkheim, considered this to be the central characteristic of religion. He believed that the sacred represents the interests of a group or community, which is embodied in cultural symbols. The profane involves the opposite, the not-so-special, the mundane, the human day-to-day individual concerns. Durkheim made a very important observation that is not part of conventional wisdom, which is that the sacred/profane dichotomy is not equivalent to good versus evil. The sacred can be good or evil, and the profane can be either as well. We do not live in a world of absolutes, there is much grey area in between. This is the place where the trickster taunts us, pushes us out of our comfort zone and helps us evolve.

Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden. – The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Émile Durkheim

Only when we confront our unknowns and our ignorance, and accept them, can we embrace new ideas. We can often become so attached to what we know that there is no room for anything else to enter our consciousness, and this is usually when we find ourself face-to-face with the trickster archetype. The antidote to too much pride is a dose of humility, and the trickster is more than happy to laugh at your human-folly in case you should ever forget it.


The trickster taunts us, pushes us out of our comfort zone and helps us to evolve.

Developing a Relationship with the Trickster

Sorrow, loneliness, doubt, anger, depression, confusion, and many other shadow emotions, are universal to all human experience. This is why we laugh at the sad-clown who is down on his luck, because we can all relate to these feelings. Our ability to have compassion for these aspects of being human, and have a relationship with these expressions of the self, is the key to personal mastery.

Losing control, or melting down, may be embarrassing, but we cannot always be in control of circumstances and sometimes breaking down is essential to transformation. Sometimes we are as helpless and foolish as a clown, and the only way to respond is with compassion, humility, and humor. The ability to laugh at ourselves is invaluable in this inevitable process, this is central to the medicine of the trickster.


Tricksters bring compassion, humility and humor to difficult feelings and situations.

Trickster Medicine in Modern Times

It is enlightening to look at the chaos of our modern times from the perspective of the trickster. We have politicians completely disconnected from their role as representatives of the people. We have extractive industries wreaking havoc on our sacred environment, desecrating the waters, air, and land. We can feel ourselves losing control of this monster that has become modern society, and the feeling of helplessness grows.

We are like that crowd in a Hopi Village watching the dance. It is sometimes funny to watch, but we are also fighting this deep anger and sorrow for what has become of our society. We point fingers at the politicians, and the corporations, yet they are manifesting an aspect of humanness that is within all of us. How do we shift our relationship with these shadow parts of ourself? How do we accept this inevitability, while also purifying ourselves and returning to our rightful place of humblest servants to this wild and beautiful creation that we are part of?


Tricksters help us to face the chaos in our society and see it in a new way.

Nowhere to Run

Sometimes a healthy dose of humor, deep felt compassion, and acceptance for all things that are beyond our control is the best way to shift the paradigm by healing from the inside. There is nowhere to run, when the trickster has come for us, we must learn to accept this wisdom regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.

Cooperation 2.0 for Global Solutions

Political and social upheaval across the globe signify that a major paradigm shift is under way. It has become very clear that we are living in accelerated times! Democracy is not without flaw, it is a process that must continue to evolve and adapt in order to address the needs of the day. At the heart of democratic principles is a sense of mutual respect and a desire to cooperate in a way that is best for all. Is the world finally ready to embrace this perennial wisdom?

We are not going to be able to address major issues on the planet divided

Our current system where 51% (the amount needed to win elections) are winners and 49% are losers leaves almost half the population feeling that their voice is not represented. Meanwhile the winning side feels a public mandate to assert their agenda without regard to the losing side. Some people call this style of governing the tyranny of the majority. The “winner takes all” mentality is fine for a sporting event, but it is not an appropriate way to govern. We have a responsibility and the ability to make sure that all voices are heard, while collectively caring for each other, our natural resources, and the planet at large. It is not a game…

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Addressing climate change, nuclear contamination, polluted oceans, proliferation of war and more will not be solved so long as a significant amount of people (49%) oppose it strongly. We are being called to engage in a dialogue that invokes mutual respect for the needs of all parties. Non-Violent Communication (NVC), also known as Compassionate Communication is a great tool for achieving this expression of cooperation.

All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions. — Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd

There’s Another Way

The world is not black and white, so we should not govern it that way. Recent social rumblings in the European Union, starting with Greece and including the recent Brexit referendum are complex. The movement towards globalization that favors the freedom of capital over the needs of people has caused many voices to be muffled. When policies are made by individuals who are disconnected from the people and places they are governing, there will always be social upheaval. We see the two-party system failing in many other parts of the world as well including the United States and Australia.  What if your views and needs are not represented by either party but instead fall somewhere in the middle?

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Our binary approach of winner/loser is childish and ineffective at meeting the needs of our increasingly technological global society. Our indigenous forbearers who influenced Ben Franklin and America’s Founding Fathers, the Haudenosaunee, understood the importance of a council which allowed diverse perspectives to be heard and incorporated into a shared vision of moving forward as a society. You can learn more about The Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee here.

If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. -Desmond Tutu

Can Haters Become Lovers?

Hate is an unpleasant human expression that can be suppressed or expressed, but with the proper tools it can be transmuted and evolved into shared understanding. We see so many news outlets that are ready to simplify social upheaval as racism without doing proper analyses and looking at the bigger picture. Very often hatred is the result of a need that isn’t being met, born of fear, or a deep wound, but it is also an expression of passion even though it is destructive. In America we are seeing a great example of this playing out with the candidacy of Donald Trump. In Europe we see it with immigration and the recent vote for Brexit from EU.

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What fear, deep wound, and passion is being expressed in these popular xenophobic movements? What needs are not being met? What economic or environmental conditions are fueling the social instability? Diversity is usually celebrated when everyone has food, shelter, abundance and basic needs taken care of. Racism usually flourishes when scarcity, economic inequality and fear are prevalent. The news media, feeding on the black/white, binary, good/bad oversimplification perpetuates the divide, the ignorance, and the fear.

There is passion underneath hatred, even if it is self-preservation, ignorance, and that passion can erupt in very destructive ways. How do we diffuse this? By listening, and educating each other, by becoming compassionate to our own needs as well as the needs of others. We are all connected by deep emotional experiences that often have no voice in this world. There is always common ground if we choose to meet there. This is called cooperation…

Social Harmony is Impossible When Individuals are Internally Conflicted

We used to use the description multiple personalities until we recognized that all of us have many voices (perspectives) trying to express themselves within us depending on mood, or situation. Today we understand illness as dissociative personality disorder. In other words, when we repress aspects of ourselves, our desires, needs, fears etc. without acknowledging them that is considered a form of mental illness. We are seeing this expressed externally in the world around us and politics is a great reflection of our internal conflict. What does it take to be present, listen, and acknowledge the perspective of those who we disagree with?

 

As with most things in the world, we are blinded by the cultural lens through which we see things. Once again we are called to start from within and disassemble our inner conflicts. We can change our world view from a debate-oriented competition where a winner takes all into a council which allows for all voices to be heard and respected.

The act of witnessing opposing perspectives within ourselves and within community allows us to see deeper into the emotional needs these feelings/beliefs represent. Making a genuine connection from the heart is one of the most essential and powerful ways to diffuse conflict. This is where spirituality, and self-awareness meets the political process.

The Evolution of Cooperation

Cooperation is a fundamental law of biological evolution. We are a species that has developed through biological evolution, and the result of billions of cells cooperating to optimize life. We are in a process biologically, socially, and politically of evolving towards optimizing life for all. Let us not lose hope!

 

Though competition has hogged up the spotlight due to the scientific misconceptions inherent in Darwinism, it pales in comparison to cooperation. Dr. Bruce Lipton speaks of this extensively in his work as it is apparent in biological evolution from the smallest organisms all the way up to the most complex. Compassion is an emotional connection whereas cooperation is the ability to work together towards a common goal and create mutually beneficial results. It is possible to set up scenarios that allow for win/win situations, sadly most of our political structures are not set up to accommodate this.

Dictatorship/Monarchy/Oligarchy (1% rule the 99%)
Democracy (51% rule the 49%)
Consensus (100% we cooperate to create a future that is mutually beneficial for all of life)
-The Cooperatist Movement

Cooperatist Movement

The Law of Cooperation as coined by Scott Malis is quite simple and states that “What cooperates the most thrives the most.” The exploration into cooperation as a topic of study is fascinating. War and slavery are considered the lowest forms of cooperation because they forced cooperation, yet there is no refuting the potentially creative (or destructive) power of large groups of people working towards a common purpose. The Cooperatist Movement seeks to develop a community of people promoting consensual cooperation towards goals that benefit all involved parties. It is possible to own less and share more to increase personal wealth and well-being!

The Cooperatist Movement’s mission is to create a movement of consensual cooperation for the betterment of mankind and the Earth. To provide structure, a forum and resources to aid in our conscious evolution using the Law of Cooperation as our directing principle.”

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Cooperation is an antidote to corporatist ideology which works toward private gain often at the expense of the general public or the environment. It is also valuable to individual and public health as depression and addiction are often rooted in a sense of isolation and disconnection. The values of cooperation can be applied internally to become less conflicted, externally with your family or community, and also beyond that to include cooperation with our environment.

This expression of living harmoniously is potentially the most beautiful thing that humans can strive towards. We have done a pretty good job at showing ugliness over the centuries with sparks of creative genus from individual artists. Now we are seeing that genius manifest collectively and in time we may understand our whole existence as a conscious act of creative beauty!

Back in the cave man days as humans were just forming, we were in very small clan type groups. Life was a struggle to survive, yet we did have a means of cooperating well together. Over time we formed bigger and bigger clans, tribes, and village communities. Alone we were weak, but as a hunting party we could take out the biggest of animals and we began to dominate. As we formed and cooperated more and more we began to civilize into larger societies, and things like agriculture began and soon after forms of industrial revolution. As millions of us began to cooperate we became cities or countries as vast societies and became a super species. The next step is a cooperative global society that considers the needs of all species and acts as a steward of this precious planet. -Scott Malis

Let’s make something extraordinary with our short time in this world. Perhaps if enough of us begin to embrace  the principles of cooperation while developing the capacity to communicate and listen compassionately we could unlock a potential collectively that will transform and heal our broken world. It may seem like an impossible dream or a John Lennon song, but we have unprecedented tools to make this real and we don’t need to imagine anymore. It is time to, as Gandhi stated, be the change we want to see in the world.

**This article was expanded upon in a reflection on Brexit at Uplift that is worth considering in relationship to current political affairs**

Creating Culture: A Village Way of Life

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

― R. Buckminster Fuller ―

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Spring is here, and with it comes plans for summer adventures that are truly transformational! The alternative festival scene often attracts those who resonate with counterculture ways of thinking and being. Yet it is this subversive hotbed that takes the status quo, transmutes it underground, and sets the new trends for its re-emergence in mainstream popular culture. Isis Indriya and Eve Bradford have been vanguards of this movement for over ten years. Both have been guided by personal and community spiritual practice for many years and in every sense these two live what they teach. Their brainchild Living Village Culture aims to influence society through bringing culture back into the heart of community. This project is experimental in nature through seeing what emerges when we create a village way of life in modern, western contexts such as festivals and symposiums.

Their next offering is The Village Symposium, which will be held over five days (April 20th-24th) in Nevada City, California. A journey into community building, education, ritual and social change, this will be a conference exploring the place where science and mysticism meet. It will explore how we as humans can reinstate ourselves back into a harmonious and symbiotic relationship with the web of life. The Village Symposium is a taster of what can be expected from The Village at Lightning in a Bottle festival later this spring (May 25th – 29th).

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Community Creates Culture – The New University

Our generation is one in which individuals have been separated from their lineages and from a community-based way of living. Our interconnectedness with one other and the planet has been denied through linear time systems, hierarchical social structures, centralized politics, capitalistic economies and the false separation of mind, body and spirit. Western education and its institutions propagate these systems, leaving a stark gap between what we are taught and reality.

Conscious gatherings such as festivals are increasingly putting energy and resources into bridging this gap through formalizing the ‘school of life’. No longer just places to listen to music and party, gatherings have become a place where we can learn from each other and professionals at the top of their game through workshops, talks, film screenings, ceremony, symposiums, debates and exhibitions.

Combined with the advance of technology that facilitates mass communication, this new culture has helped forge ‘communities in the sky’ that go beyond borders and do not need permission from any institution to exist – the ultimate E-democracy. We now have the power not just to envision a new world, but to co-create and actually realise it coming into being. This is not about predicting the future, this is about inventing it.

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The Living Village Culture family sits at the core of these changes, through actively seeking to provide an authentic community experience at festivals and gatherings. The curation of their event narratives is based on cultivating skills and practices focused on earth-based wisdom and mystical traditions. Spaces are created that bring the sacred into a contemporary context through an honouring of our ancestors and the spirits of the land in ceremony. This experience fosters collaboration and creativity and makes space for the coming into being of a new culture where knowledge is crowd sourced.

It is through experiences such as these that we can collectively remember who we really are.

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Happiness is Letting Go of Outcomes

All of us have had to reconcile when things didn’t go our way, and sometimes that is more important than getting what we originally wanted. Somewhere in our past as children we learned that crying or pouting might just get us that candy bar in the store from Mom. The memory is still there and the urge to try this strategy as adults almost never seems to go away, but it does become less effective as we grow older. Let’s face it… more things seem to not go the way we want them to than actually the other way around, so maybe we can make this aspect of Murphy’s Law work in our favor.

If anything can go wrong, it will… – Murphy’s Law

It’s okay to poke fun at ourselves about it, and maybe occasionally we all need to sneak off and have a private temper tantrum but one of the most respectable things is to see someone handle misfortune gracefully. Grace isn’t about suppressing heart-ache or failure so much as it is about being present and honest about these things while holding your dignity. That’s why we always love stories about the underdog becoming triumphant and how we can empathize when they are not.

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Choosing to Love Louder

Many years ago my dear friend, Al was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor told him to enroll hospice care because he only had 6 months to live. He decided to ask the woman he loved to marry him, and began planning the wedding instead. After the honeymoon he went in to see his doctor and the cancer was in full remission, he couldn’t believe it, he was actually hoping to get a wrong diagnosis compensation but this wasn’t the case. He told me the story about 10 years later when his cancer had returned to claim his life. He had refused chemotherapy because he didn’t want to have a war going on in his body, he was open to what the cancer had come back to teach him.

He stayed at home during his last months, surrounded by friends until his final breath. I sat up with him once as the whole community took turns doing the hospice work with him. His body withered but he kept his spirit high. One night I jokingly asked him if he could play the part of a dying man for just a minute and he said that was the best joke he heard all day. He said to me:

10 years ago when cancer threatened me, I chose to love louder and it scared the cancer away. If it is coming to take me this time I will have had the last laugh because look at this wonderful party and all my friends coming every day to be with me.

He passed later that month but he must still be smiling because his wisdom continues to inspire everyone who knew him and now maybe you too. He was such a great example of grace in hard times. We’ve heard, “It is the journey not the destination” or “it’s not about winning or losing it’s about how you played the game” and so many other sayings. They have become so cliche’ that we often forget to embody them.

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Changing the World by Choosing Love over Fear

Right now our global community is waking up to the reality that there are potentially catastrophic changes coming to all of us due to climate disruption. With a massive story of unfavorable outcomes on the horizon we are being called more than ever to embody the spiritual wisdom that invites us to remain present, to love fearlessly, and cultivate compassion. This collective evolution in consciousness may reveal a blessing in disguise.

…it is possible to be at peace if you pierce through our false reality, which is based on the idea of life and death, to touch the ultimate dimension in Buddhist thinking, in which energy cannot be created or destroyed. By recognising the inter-connectedness of all life, we can move beyond the idea that we are separate selves and expand our compassion and love in such a way that we take action to protect the Earth. – Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

Naomi Klein has been showing us that this crisis may be a great opportunity to take a look at things that are not working and change our course in history. Pioneers like Bruce Lipton have illuminated how important it is for our creativity and health to choose love instead of fear as a lens through which we see the world. In my previous post, Will Humanity Choose Love or Fear I write about the science behind this revelation that also includes a profound native prophecy.

To the work you own the right, but not to the results thereof. – First Tenant of Karma Yoga, Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 47

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Happiness is Letting Go of Outcomes

Stress is almost always the result of fear, or worrying about outcomes. Peace almost always arises when we can be fully present in the moment. If we make now the destination then we will find that we are already here and outcomes in the future will mean a whole lot less. Right action is its’ own reward, we don’t need to chase dangling carrots.

We might not have this world as we know it forever, but right now the sun is still rising every morning. We have so much that we overlook as we gaze into the future. The solutions we seek may just present themselves effortlessly if we can become fully present and receptive in the moment. If the world ends tomorrow what will it matter if we didn’t take the time to enjoy it today?

*This article originally appeared on Uplift*

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Street Art that Changes the way we see the World

From cave drawings to urban graffiti, images and words shape the way we perceive the world. It is adequately established that our environment effects us in fundamental ways, and that visual art literally changes our consciousness when we look at it. If you wander through any city street, or drive on the highway you will see advertising everywhere. Billboards and posters cluttering our visual landscape with messages to buy this or that.

What if public space was used to convey a shared idea from within the community instead of a brand that is privately owned by people living outside of the community? People everywhere are reclaiming public space to change dominant corporate, consumer narratives using beautiful and thought-provoking art.

If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside. – Jim Kwik

Using Art to Shift the Global Narrative

The current global narrative is one steeped in the wounds and trauma of history. Many humans see themselves in an endless struggle to pay bills, pitted against each other in a competition for scarce resources. The resources, which come from the earth, are extracted without reverence or respect for the natural systems of life that they support. This is rooted in an outdated belief system that is described in more detail here, which has humans at war with their own environment instead of collaborating with it harmoniously. A powerful way to shift these beliefs is through images that model a different story

Melting Point Mural by Mural Mice, Arizona
Melting Point Mural by Mural Mice, Arizona

What if advertising was used to inspire thought and connection instead of encourage mindless consumption and competition?

Creatively Breaking the Rules

We see it online, with individuals creating their own memes (images partnered with inspiring quotes) and sharing them through social networks. This ground-swell of creativity has now started to spill onto the streets of everyday life and it is taking many forms. Public murals, mosaics, sculptures are socially accepted yet graffiti, wheat-pasting and others are more activism-oriented while making a statement by breaking rules.

Sidewalk Chalk Art
Sidewalk Chalk Art

Creative Activism on the Streets of Paris

During the recent Paris Climate Talks, activists replaced over 600 banner advertisements around the city with messages about our shared responsibility to take care of the environment. This included over 80 artists from 19 different countries who made artworks to challenge the corporate takeover of COP21. This stunt helped to reveal the connections between advertising, the promotion of consumerism and climate change.

With large corporations sponsoring the climate talks they are able to appear that they are part of the solution while actually being part of the problem. This term is commonly called “green-washing”, and cultural creatives have found a humorous way to make a parody of the kind of influence these corporations have over our public policy.

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We start from the democratic conviction that the street is a site of communication, which belongs to the citizens and communities who live there.  Our interventions are a rebellion against the visual assault of media giants and advertising moguls who have a stranglehold over messages and meaning in our public spaces, through which they force-feed us with images and messages to keep us insecure, unhappy, and shopping. – Brandalism Website

Many of the artists who participated in Paris are inspired by the famed street-art outlaw, Banksy. “Exit Through The Gift Shop“, is a film that chronicles the lifestyle and attitudes of street artists. Street Art News is a great place to learn about this growing movement. Yet you don’t always have to break the rules to make a statement.

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Street Art that Inspires Community and Kindness

Jeff Daverman, of Root Concepts has found a way to influence peoples ideas spiritually and politically through sticker lines like Non-Violent Revolutionaries that depict heroes of peace. Muralists like the Mural Mice, gather input from the local community to inform their giant public installments and then invite everyone to help them paint it on a wall.

Individual artists like Xavi and Chris Dyer have placed their visionary art in prominent public places giving an expression of transcendence to an otherwise mundane locale. Essencia Art Collective works with youth using powerful themes like the importance of water to create urban masterpieces.

Jeannette Maré lost her 3-year old son, Bert to croup and created a public art campaign around inspiring kindness as a vehicle to heal her grief. Berts Bells in Tucson, Arizona creates colorful bells and places them around the city in trees with a note saying “take one and pass it along with kindness”. They also invite the community to make porcelain tiles that are used for creating mosaics on walls and park benches to convey messages of kindness.

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What stories do you want to see flourishing in the world around you?

Though each of us may have different talents, we all have a gift to be creative. We may practice developing our creative gifts, or let them atrophy but they are there regardless. We each also have a desire to see a better world, not just for ourselves but for our relatives, and future generations.

It is not enough anymore to hope and expect that anyone else will create this for us, we must step up and add our piece to the puzzle. This may require you to collaborate with friends who have talents that you don’t possess but collectively we have the capacity for great change.

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Free Yourself and Inspire the World Around You

In Chip Richards’ recent article Moving from Stress to Creative Power he shares a powerful story of how we can transmute “stuck” energies through creativity and action in the world. In the process of freeing ourselves, we can provide inspiration for others.

Art is therapeutic to create and to observe, by empowering ourselves to participate in creating the visual landscape that surrounds us we can literally change the world for the better. The possibilities are endless!

Article originally appeared at UPLIFT