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.

Mother Earth as Divine Lover

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

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

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

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

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

New ways to look at old stories.

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

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

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Above: The Artwork of Mark Henson

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURED IMAGE, PAINTING BY PENNIE AUSTIN

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

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.

Peer to Peer Diplomacy, Open-Sourcing Peace

Across the globe it is becoming clear that nations are failing at creating peaceful solutions to international challenges. More bombing does not create more peace and understanding, but communication does. We are at a cross-roads in history where it has become apparent that the “old” ways of doing things are no longer working in our modern world. The internet allows us to communicate peer-to-peer rather than the traditional top-down model which allows for cooperation in ways that we have never experienced before. This emerging, collectively-driven model is imperative for a peaceful, sustainable future and every one of us has a part to play in this process.

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In January 2015, CODEPINK protesters spoke out during Senate Armed Services Committee attempting a citizens arrest of Henry Kissenger. The publicity stunt drew a lot of international press and attention to a need for change in the way that America (an imperial super powers) conduct foreign policy. CODEPINK National Coordinator Alli McCracken (26 years old) stated:

We need to stop rehashing these tired old war criminals and come up with a new foreign policy based on diplomacy and compassion –– two things Kissinger knows nothing about.

In stark contrast, before the same Senate Armed Services Committee Former Secretary of State George Shultz stated that people, not solely leaders need to be talking to each other. He highlighted the need for non-military solutions and praised the United Religions Initiative in testimony before the United States Congress. You can see the video and learn more at this link.

Responding to Shultz’s testimony United Religions Initiative Founder and President, Bishop Swing stated:

In the space between one religion and another religion, there is often a hard history of grievances, memories of coerced conversions, and competing claims of ultimate truth. So the space between religions is often toxic. This toxicity drags neighborhoods and regions into religious strife that stymies daily life, sometimes leading to intimidation and, in the worst cases, horrific spectacles like beheadings.
URI’s purpose is to fill the space between religions with interfaith bridges so that the grassroots people of all faith traditions, indigenous communities and humanistic groups can cross over, and discover other believers, and take positive actions together. URI is not a religion, nor a United Nations of Religions. URI is grassroots and singularly tries to fill the void between religions with something that the world needs desperately: bridges between cultural, religious and spiritual differences.
Religions are about salvation. URI is about civilization. People around the world have responded to this mission of URI; in a few years, URI has expanded to more than 665 Cooperation Circles in 85 countries, touching the lives of over three million people daily.

There are a number of grassroots efforts that are using social media to undermine the dominant military paradigm by addressing international issues in a de-centralized way. One of them is the Peace Factory, who is building a bridge of communication between the people of the Middle East. Ronny Edry, a graphic designer who started this project by making a simple but profound picture of himself with his young daughter that says, “Iranians we will never bomb your country, we ❤️ you” and posting it on Facebook. The results went viral and people began sharing similar messages across social networks from countries around the world!

If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. ~Moshe Dayan


It is as simple as changing the story, creating new images, breaking down stereotypes, and sharing inspiration. Dialogue can happen with an image, a hashtag, a blog, it comes with a willingness to listen, to see the humanity in each other and stop buying in to the continued demonization that is spread through mainstream media. We can no longer wait for leaders to act towards peace, the power is in the hands of the people.

Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The top-down diplomacy of nations has failed at bringing peace, it is up to the people to build these bridges. Ronny’s story is only one story, what will you do to create peer-to-peer open-sourced peace? Whatever ideas you have for this must allow for others to contribute with their voice. Combining your efforts with media and distributing these ideas via social media is becoming a viable model for social change.

This is the moment to let love and compassion transcend national, cultural, and religious boundaries to create the peace we all desire. Corporate media and top-down “nation building” is being exposed for the narrow interests that it represents. Individuals now have the capacity to represent themselves, peer-to-peer and change the narrative that is manufactured to benefit the few at the expense of many. What do you want to contribute to this unfolding and how will you present it?

Article first appeared at UPLIFT

Faith Spotted Eagle, Native Elder Reflects on Keystone XL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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