Why Imagination Matters

Allowing time each day for your awareness to drift into dreams and imagination is essential. Many of the realities we take for granted, like flying in airplanes, messaging friends on the internet, or talking on a cell phone all started in the realm of imagination and dreams. Yet in our busy lives we rarely allow the time and space to be informed by this inherent and mysterious aspect of our awareness. This resource within our brain is not only for artists and mystics, it can serve as a powerful, visionary, and therapeutic tool for each of us if we know how to work with it.

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One of my favorite books over the years is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It is more than a book, it is a way of life. The book contains exercises to open the creative mind that are proven to be successful for decades among artists of all types. A key component of the program is Morning Pages. It is an exercise in writing from a place of flow… no stopping to think, edit, or use correct grammar. Just tap into flow consciousness and see what emerges. I highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to learn this precious skill for opening the mind.

Another great article about opening up to the power inherent within dreams is by Anthony Colombo of Dreamspace called Why Sleep When You Can Dream Awake. Colombo introduces the powerful concept of incubation as a core component of dreamwork to inform and transform your life. He has also developed a powerful step-by-step process for incubating and recalling dreams while bringing conscious intention to personal dreamwork.

“Conscious incubation involves being mindful of what you tell yourself internally and what you expose yourself to in the world. These internally and externally generated experiences help shape or incubate the reality you will create during subsequent dreaming and waking states.”
– Anthony Colombo, Dreamspace

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. For obvious reasons, this can be a tough skill to learn since we are used to setting up expectations and having some degree of control over outcomes. The creative process, dreams, and the realm of imagination often work in non-linear ways so be prepared for unexpected surprises!

Jason Silva has rocked the internet with his video rants that explode with inspiration like fireworks full of color. Jazz musicians do it when they improvise, free-style rappers do it with spoken word, visionary artists do it when they live-paint, there is a flowing river of creativity within our consciousness that all of us have access to… all we have to do is open up to it and let it come through. This takes a little practice but it may hold the keys to unlocking a better future for humanity!

“Creativity comes through you but not from you and though it is with you it belongs not to you.”
– Jason Silva


Imagination is key, our dreams hold much wisdom for us if we know how to listen. The ability to adapt, to tune in to the creative impulses, to invite conscious flow into our lives can have a profoundly transformative effect. Take a moment to step back from your schedule, from your expectations and watch the clouds slowly dance across the sky. Allow some space for the unexpected, the unscripted, and then watch the ways that you learn to flow and adapt with what arises.

It is clear that we face many issues as a species on planet earth, but throughout time we have always found a way to innovate and overcome the hurdles that we face. It may very well be that time again when we can no longer look to what has worked in the past but dream something new that will work for our future. Possibilities are endless!

Article originally appeared on UPLIFT

Integral Dreaming, Collective Awakening

A turtle born on the beach knows to walk to the sea, birds know their migration routes, and whales have new songs to sing each year. These and other phenomena point to the idea that there is an innate wisdom in nature. There is an emergent potential in creation that is often overlooked. How do things begin and what are the precursors to birthing something new? When we look to the source of human inventions, we see that visions and dreams are usually at the source of creating something new. Science-fiction and fantasy stories from 50 years ago are now everyday realities for us. The vast realm of our unconscious is latent with information that is yet to be manifested into this world. How do we access it? Dreaming and meditation seem to be two potent ways to access this information, while ceremony and art are the traditional ways that humans engage, to enact this innate wisdom.

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The overlapping space between the academic/scientific research and the artistic exploration of dreaming is one of endless curiosity and depth. I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with two pioneers in the field, Anthony Colombo and Daniel Deslauriers, and our talks seeded what will become an ongoing discussion about the topic. I invite other bloggers, artists, academics, and dreamers of all sorts to join us in putting our heads, hearts, and stories together for this exciting journey of discovery.

By dialoguing with the dream image — and with others about our dreams — we cultivate the skill to take on multiple perspectives — that of self and of the culture for example- and we gain a greater awareness of the roles we enact culturally. — Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers in Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams

Anthony Colombo is founder of Dreamspace which guides groups through an immersive experience where participants engage the brilliance of their dreams and imagination to co-create the lives they truly want. Anthony has produced award-winning cultural and environmental multimedia and taught interactive multimedia design, production and ethics as a university professor. He has also worked closely with indigenous elders in Arizona and Hawaii.

Dreaming comes to life when we collectively use our inner creative brilliance to co-create the vibrant planet we all want. The greatest resource we have lives in the infinite potential of the human spirit, imagination and dreams. — Anthony Colombo

Daniel Deslauriers is professor of Transformative Studies at CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies)in San Francisco and former chair of the East-West Psychology Program. He teaches courses on consciousness studies (especially dreams), arts-based research, and multiple ways of knowing. He is also the co-author of Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams with Fariba Bogzaran, Ph.D.

Exploration of this collective level may bring into awareness our past (the ancestral history we share with others), our present (our current cultural and ecological embeddedness), and our future (as the result of our present actions aggregating at a collective level). — Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers in Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams

As you can imagine, our conversations covered a whole lot of ground. One common thread is the notion that somewhere in our past lies keys to understanding our present and co-creating our future. Sense of self, and sense of place within the larger community is central to tuning into the impulses that emanate from our core. The boundaries of the self can expand well beyond our bodies to include the realm of dreams, or even an understanding that we are an integral part of our environment both influencing and being influenced by it. Yet the center of our being remains the same and any expansion of this sense of self must be in proportion to our rootedness at the core within.

Karen Jaenke explains in her study, “Personal Dreamscape as Ancestral Landscape,” that dreams have the power to reveal forgotten memory. She notes that a relationship to ancestors “forms a central anchor for personal identity” allowing this sense of self to extend” into a generational awareness of connections, patterns, and stories woven into the relationship with land and cosmos.” We are part of a greater web, all of life is emergent within this matrix.

People in contemporary Western societies often suffer from a form of fragmentation due to a lack of contact with their own ancestry. Because most of our ancestors had a strong connection with place, connecting with one’s ancestry often sensitizes one to a sense of place. –Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers in Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams


Memories Can Be Passed Down Through DNA video from DNews

I recently read a great article that talks about how scientists have found that memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA. As a fan of Bruce Liptonand the study of epigenetics we know that belief and experience plays a major role in changing our genes. Some would argue that genetically passing on “memories” is a misleading statement, but perhaps our understanding of “memory” could  be expanded… Is the shape left in the canyon long after the river that carved it has dried up potentially a memory left in the land? I explore this idea in World Water Day, a Reflection.

With the recent globally synchronized meditation movement sparked by Unify and supported through media by UPLIFT, as well as the many examples of crowd-sourcing that the internet has facilitated, we are seeing the emergence of a global consciousness. Perhaps a collaboration is in order… A dream this big can not be carried by one person, it’ll take an international, cross-cultural community to piece it together. That’s where you come in! If integral dreaming is the key to global transformation, then what is your part in this story? Perhaps you’ll need to consult your dreams…

** article originally appeared at UPLIFT**

This Sublime Dance, a Journey Between the Covers

Good coffee table books are like presents that you unwrap layer by layer each time you open them. In our age of social media, we often forget the joy of flipping through glossy pages and sinking into luscious imagery in a real book. It is a timeless experience that evokes senses which are missing from the immediate, on-the-go, fleeting nature of digital devices. Visionary Artist, Michael Divine recently lured me into this magical realm with his new release, This Sublime Dance.

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Michael Divine’s paintings make me reach for words that don’t exist in an effort to translate the feelings my eyes swallow as they glance at the colorful pages. Somehow these still images capture the morphing shapes that clouds make when they glide across the sky. There are stories in his work that are delicately unfinished, leaving just enough room for my dreaming mind to complete them. Beautiful combinations of geometry and perspective overlaid with whimsical dancing curves and silhouettes of invisible landscapes.

“It is crucial for the Visionary Artists of today to transmit their highest glimpses of mystical experience, to plant seeds of liberation in the mind-streams of viewers, and to validate the psychonaut’s sacramental gaze. Michael Divine is a champion brother in this quest.” -Alex Grey

Divine’s academic studies in comparative religion are apparent with each brush stroke as he  intertwines East, West, past, and future. Recognizing that academia only gives an objective discussion of the writings and experiences of others, Divine set out to create snapshots of his own journey visually. This playful, free-spirited, joyous celebration of color and form functions as a doorway into my own inner world causing me to reflect upon the journey I have made in this life. This is a true accomplishment for any artist, or art-lover!

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He shares parts of his own subjective journey and evolution through travel, meditation, and art as vehicles for personal liberation. There are fold-out pages that allow you to explore the detail that might otherwise be overlooked. I also enjoy seeing the preliminary sketches of some of the larger compositions so that I feel brought into the secret dimension of the artists process.

In the foreword, the editors mention that Visionary Art is and has always been a “people’s movement”. This accessibility to everyone and the willingness for the artists in this genre to celebrate each other rather than silently compete is also quite inspiring. Featuring the art of his contemporaries like Amanda Sage, Android Jones, Randal Roberts is also a testament to the mutual respect in this emerging creative community.

“With his imagery, Michael Divine creates access points to the “Divine” and holds the gates of “Heaven” open and ready for our arrival – a passage well worth taking.” – Martina Hoffman

Michael wanted to be an architect in his younger years but realized that art allowed him more freedom. Now he builds palaces of impossible visions, hallways of thought, and temples of imagination that are visible through keyholes engraved with Celtic Knots. One feels as if they have fallen into a kaleidoscope as they flip through the pages. I felt like I was soaring through arches and domes of stained-glass within a house of mirrors inhabited by whirling dervishes ascending and angels descending.

“I saw that all the stuff of life- all the wonder and beauty and darkness and disharmony, all the words and all the songs, the people and the places and the things, the emotions and opinions – it it was all this one ineffable thing. Feeling it, knowing it, didn’t require religion or spirituality – this thing-within-all-things simply was, and is. It was so sublimely beautiful, so supremely blissful, that I couldn’t help but call it Love.”  -Michael Divine

I am grateful to have taken the time to sit with a coffee table book. I miss it already like a vacation I took to a place that I long to visit again. I am  eager to journey into many others like it to give myself a much-needed break from hours at my glowing screen. If you haven’t done so in a while, give yourself some time to cuddle up to an art book. This Sublime Dance is a great place to start.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

What we can Learn from Forgotten History

During the early days of slavery in the American Southeast, native Seminole, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creek Indians were known to raid plantations and free captive slaves. Despite their cultural differences, they recognized their common struggle against oppression at the hands of colonial rule. In an attempt to keep these original African and American people divided, colonial authorities granted slaves to some native tribes.

The tribes recognized the slaves as equals, married them into their families and culture while continuing to raid plantations and free other slaves.

This has a lot to teach us today as all of us from diverse backgrounds around the globe face common threats. It is also a testament to not “buying into” or believing narratives that allow for oppression of others.

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If you believe people have no history worth mentioning, it’s easy to believe they have no humanity worth defending.
 William Loren Katz

Colonialists assumed that the narrative about wealth, owning slaves, and power was universal. They wrongly assumed that natives would also live by this belief when they granted them slaves. Changing power structures is most effective when the stories that support them lose credibility. As we have seen throughout history, and what is now backed by science is the power of our beliefs to shape our reality. To learn more about the Biology of Belief, you may want to explore the work of Dr. Bruce Lipton. What are contemporary stories that keep us divided?

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. – John F. Kennedy

 

Successful political and social movements succeed by building coalitions and alliances between diverse groups that share a common interest. Movements are easily diffused when division and mistrust is seeded. Today humans everywhere face common threats of exploitation, contaminated water, air, and more. What are some other common threats that people everywhere can agree on?

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Antiquated colonial belief systems have been incorporated into modern corporate structures and woven into policies and laws that continue to haunt us. The core belief that justifies the exploiting of another people is the same as the notion of exploiting natural resources, exploiting children, or exploiting women. The beliefs of scarcity, fear, superiority, competition, and entitlement are central justifications. Like the early colonialists, many of us assume that these stories and beliefs are universally true but they are not. Are we willing to examine our own assumptions and rewrite these stories together?

We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.
 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

We have seen environmental groups compete against each other for grants while their shared cause suffers. We have seen social movements scream louder, insisting that their cause is the most important and nobody’s voice is heard. Meanwhile we continue to see the global elite, and corporations write oppressive trade laws like Trans Pacific Partnership, FIPA, and TTIP – that weaken democracy, threaten the environment, and open the gates to exploit workers. These antiquated policies keep us all pitted against each other while instilling division, oppression, and exploitation into the fabric of our economic system, and justice system.

The same cooperation shown between slaves and Native Americans that eroded oppression in their time can be used today to make a more equal, safe, sustainable future for all of us. We can listen to the voices of others who are feeling oppressed and find our common cause. We can embrace environmental causes that recognize the importance of a healthy ecosystem as integral to a healthy society. We can stop listening to the narratives that keep us separated, turn-off our television, and start sharing stories that bring us together for a common cause. Our connectedness has grown exponentially through social networks, it is time for our connectedness to included the realm of the heart and compassion into an integrated community of people who genuinely care.
Divided, our global issues are overwhelming. United,our collective strength is unstoppable!

PHOTO CREDITS: CHRISTOPHER PORCHE WEST

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.

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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.

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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!

Colorado Fest Highlights Budding Culture

Festivals, unlike concerts, are a way for the whole family to get away under the stars for a weekend of revelry and color. With Woodstock almost 50 years ago, festival culture (and it’s 1960’s pioneers) have come of age. This means that multiple generations can now come enjoy, and add their own flavor to the evolving music festival phenomena. Arise Festival in Loveland, Colorado embraces this idea by celebrating a healthy lifestyle, embracing ecological values and simultaneously throwing one of the area’s best summer music festivals.

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Colorado is home to some treasured festivals including Telluride bluegrass, jazz, and blues fests as well as the emergent Bloom Festival which is primarily electronic dance music. Arise blends these flavors into a locally-grown community showcase with internationally recognized acts. You can take a yoga, qigong, tantra, belly-dance or other workshop at the Healers Village or enjoy any variety of music genre spanning electronic dance music, latin, folk, or funk.

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Electronic Dance Music Producer known as The Polish Ambassador has embellished a concept that has roots in Numundo and has continued to sprout in communities across the country. The festival is preceded by a 3 Day Permaculture Action Course at Sunrise Ranch, where the festival is being held. Participants will help to steward and create an edible food forest that can be enjoyed for years to come. foods planted include:

-planting Nanking Cherry, Manchurian Apricot, Siberian Pea Shrub, Sand Cherry, and Golden Currant and more
-inoculate logs with Shiitake, Pearl Oyster, and Blue Oyster mushrooms
-build a Willow archway to the Edible Forest Garden
-finish off a cob oven
dig rainwater catchment earthworks (swales)
-re-plant garden beds and plant fruit tree guilds
-and a few other projects

Living Folklore, a Telluride favorite for almost 20 years brings a giant “parade in a suitcase”. Giant puppets (8-10 feet tall), umbrellas, flags, and kids costumes are all provided allowing festival-goers the opportunity to have the experience (and photos) of a lifetime. This years parade highlights the importance of rain, and the interconnected web of life that depends on the gift of water from the clouds.

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The concept of combining educational programs, interactivity, and  immersion into a musical fantasy dreamscape is catching on all around the world as the conscious movement towards sustainable communities continues to build momentum. You can learn more about this emergent phenomena in a creative new book project called Reinhabiting the Village. These solutions-based approaches to making the region more sustainable (and Colorado’s recreational marijuana policy) are reason to enjoy rocky mountain high in a whole new way!

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Musical acts at Arise include Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Emancipator Ensemble, Ozomatli, Rising Appalachia, TURKUAZ, Trevor Hall and many more. The human desire to gather on the land and celebrate through music, dance, and pageantry goes back generations and today we are seeing ancient elements blending with contemporary expression in beautiful ways. Come play at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado August 7-9 and be part of a blossoming new event that promises to become a favorite local pastime. I’ll see you at the parade, but you might not recognize me with my colorful costume on…

 

International Forgiveness Day, Time for Liberation

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. -Lewis B. Smedes

Usually when we hurt another person or ourselves it is unconscious, the act of forgiveness is always a conscious decision. The act of forgiveness allows unconscious actions to come into the light of awareness. Forgiving others does not fix their mistakes, we forgive them to release ourselves from the heavy burden of holding grudges and carrying bitterness in our heart. It accomplishes something even greater than that, it allows us each the space to let go of past mistakes while helping to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion for ourselves (and others). Take The Forgiveness Challenge initiated by Desmond Tutu, and start by picking one person or incident and offering forgiveness. World Forgiveness Day is the first Sunday of August each year. This year it falls on August 2 and you can learn more here www.forgivenessday.org

“With each act of forgiveness, whether small or great, we move toward wholeness.” -Desmond & Mpho Tutu, The Book of Forgiving

Spiritual traditions around the world embrace the concept of forgiveness as a trait of virtue. Consider how many times your parents may have forgiven you in the time you were growing up? Making mistakes is part of our human journey, forgiveness allows the growing process to continue lovingly. It also alleviates guilt when we forgive ourself or others which allows us to open up and feel emotionally free of our past.

Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian forgiveness practice. Similar forgiveness practices were performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including SamoaTahiti and New Zealand. The ceremony allows for everyone’s feelings to be acknowledged and ends with a feats that allows for a releasing of the past. The prayer is very simple, it consists of saying these words, “I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me, I thank you.” How much could we heal just by taking the time to speak these words to our loved ones?

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Unify.org is well known for their popular Facebook Page with inspiring quotes and articles, but their strength is in organizing globally synchronized initiatives. Globally synchronized meditations focusing on different themes throughout the year as well as community actions are central to Unify’s mission. For International Forgiveness Day, Unify is inviting a global wave of forgiveness actions at 2pm in your timezone.

Post your stories of forgiveness here. You can also post to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #forgive.
“Forgiveness is an inherent virtue of being human, a prerequisite for a healthy human society and a central component to every religion. To forgive is to liberate ones self from the bondage of blame and recrimination. When we forgive, the trauma heals. Forgiveness transmutes poison into medicine. We lament the wars and conflicts across the globe yet what about the battles in our own lives? The battles inside each of us?” -Jonathan Human

The world is so divided right now. If each person took the initiative to clear old wounds through forgiveness, perhaps it would open larger doors of healing? I was deeply inspire to spend some time reading other peoples forgiveness stories (submitted anonymously at www.unify.org/forgive). I think you will be too! Hopefully you will be inspired to share your own forgiveness story and tell your friends. Join us this coming Sunday, August 2 for International Forgiveness Day at 2pm in your timezone as we make a wave of healing around the world.

Forgiveness image above by Jessica Key

Does News Media Distract or Inform?

A well-informed public is a powerful force of nature!

We take it for granted that when we turn on the news that we are supposed to get “the news” but generally that is not what we are getting at all. We are getting a crafted narrative that is a mere distraction at best and deliberate misinformation at worst. The mainstream media is corporate and privately owned and does not owe us what we expect and it is detrimental for us to assume otherwise. Private interests with private agendas masquerading as a public service to inform the population. It is indeed Orwellian when you turn on the mainstream media and recognize what most people are being fed. Yes, you are what you eat – so make wise choices about the media you digest.

Luckily we have the internet and access to worlds of information and solutions that are not to be found anywhere on corporate networks.

The inspiration for this story came while I was researching the Trans Pacific Partnership for an article I wrote at Huffington Post. I was wondering why there is barely any mention of it on the mainstream media. This trade deal will effect almost half of the worlds economy as well as the lives of millions of people in 12 Pacific Rim Nations including Australia, United States, Canada, and Peru yet few people even know about it. Then I found a list of the corporate advisors for the TPP.Not surprisingly, supporters of the trade agreement also own the large media conglomerations. The media effects public opinion with the narrative they deliver as well as the information they choose to omit altogether. There is a reason they have been wanting to keep the TPP secret and out of the news, but that is another story.

We humans want to trust, we want to believe that the news media has our best interest at heart. Unfortunately quite the opposite is actually happening. Mainstream media is corrupting peoples minds and systematically confusing, or avoiding altogether many of the public health and environmental news that we need in order to be an informed public. Throughout history oppressors have employed “divide and conquer” techniques to keep people down. We see that in the news also with an emphasis on racism, gay marriage, abortion, and other issues that amplify strong divisions between people.

Though these are important social issues they are also systematically used to distract and divide people while bigger environmental, economic, political injustices continue to be ignored and perpetuated.

There are endless solutions waiting for us if we can free ourselves from the limited world-view that is packaged and delivered to us on the evening news.

We are sensitive beings, we feel deeply, we thrive on inspiration, joy, and beauty. These things make us healthy, active and strong. Yet the overwhelming barrage of murders, riots, scandal, corruption, and gossip on the “news” can make us want to go numb and believe that humanity is horrible. News media has the ability to put these negative aspects of humanity under a magnifying glass. We must embrace the negative because it is real but we must also keep it in perspective and steer clear of overwhelm. We need to be informed enough to act, and do so while staying balanced in a healthy and positive mind-frame.

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Taking an honest look at the problems we face as a species while pointing to solutions

How do we take an honest look at the problems we face as a species while pointing to solutions and embracing a broader dialogue for positive change? No media channel can keep you mentally healthy and balanced that is your job. However, an uplifting, solutions-oriented approach can dissolve the isolation and division created by traditional mainstream media. We are a community of people pulling for each other as a collective, and as individuals to rise to our highest expression. Together we can support a larger vision of healing for the planet, ourselves, and each other rather than be stuck in the mud forever!

So often we see two extremes:

  1. Activists who always seem to be angry and righteous (even if justifiably so, they can be tough to engage with)
  2. Spiritual people who would rather hang out in a cave, meditate and pray on oneness and hope that all the problems will magically go away

Is it possible to bring the activists a little closer to spirituality, and bring the spiritual community a little closer to activism? That would be very potent for all involved parties!

We face many problems but they are all small if we can come together respectfully despite our differences and seek solutions. Media literacy involves asking yourself if you are being distracted or informed. It requires listening to your mind, your intuition, and following the money. Is the person, organization informing you someone who has your best interest in mind, or do they have a private agenda? As you begin to reflect on these things you will be able to see through the clutter and help your friends to do the same. In the information age, ignorance is a choice…