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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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!

Inspired Contemporary Art by Women

Laura Borealisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many Blessings,

Ashely

Featured Image (top)  Laura Borealisis – “Frida”

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Inspiration IS Currency, an Interview With Bret Blevins

Artists influence our culture, but what influences the artists? Inspired art has always shaped the culture around us, though it’s a relatively new concept that art would be used for individual profit rather than community enrichment. What are the differences between art that is created for the pleasure of personal expression or with the intention of conveying inspiration versus art created for the sole purpose of selling a product or lifestyle? Both forms of art still influence and shape the culture around us, but in different ways.
For example, when large companies are deciding which music to play on the radio, they do surveys. They ask people to vote on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the favorite and 1 being the least favorite. Since people have varying opinions, the music that receives the most 5′s also is the same music that receives the most 1′s. It goes to reason that if some people really love it, others will really hate it, whereas the music that receives consistent 3′s elicits the least positive or negative feeling and is therefore the music that gets picked for airplay. Commercial media seeks the largest target to make the most sales.
As individuals become more empowered to be creators of art in the form of media, instead of purely consumers of media, it will continue to shape the language of the medium. Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t be likely to see a film that was purely created for the passion of a cause because the production costs would have demanded a financial return.
The messages that define who we are as people, and our responsibilities as an emerging global community may not be profitable in dollars (in fact they may be the death of business as usual), but their value in terms of social equity is priceless. This is the dawn of an era where inspiration and meaning have become their own form of currency. Financial influence continues to be exposed for its flaws of hollow self interest at the expense of many things valued by a healthy community.
Though there is an endless discussion to be had when we talk about sexualization and body-image, demeaning messages in rap music, violence in video games and how it shapes our culture, but the bottom line is the bottom line when the intention is to sell a product. Our media and art have been shaped by the invisible hand of finance that lacks the integrity and accountability that art and artists should uphold for the sake of the greater community. Though short-term financial gain is always tempting, art almost always outlives the artist. What is the creative legacy of our generation, and how will the future define us through the art we leave behind?
Master artist, Bret Blevins has some very balanced and insightful perspectives on the pros and cons of these different influences within commercial media and our culture. As a commercial artist for over 20 years, illustrating & making storyboards for Disney, Warner Brothers, Marvel, DC, Darkhorse and others, you have probably seen his work on many occasions.
The same way that we make conscious choices about our food and where it comes from, we must also make our media diet reflect our desire to live a healthy and inspired life. The birth of independent media, and the democratization of the media through the digital revolution is a hopeful sign for the return of art for the purpose of enriching the community, personal expression, and shaping the future of our culture in a healthy and creative way.

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Hopeful Prophecy Enacted Part 2

Ancient prophecies in modern times have already come to pass, setting the stage for a much needed global transformation in consciousness. Can humans self-fulfill our prophecies and dreams for the future? If so, do obsessions with Armegeddon and the apocalypse serve us? It is fatalism and laziness to assume that we are doomed so that we don’t have to do anything about it or take responsibility for our current situation. If we dare to dream bigger and envision a better future on the planet, we have a lot to learn from the elder cultures of this land.

After the Hopi Eagle Dancers spread their wings at the base of The Pyramid of The Sun on the spring equinox, they learned that they had fulfilled a 500-year-old prophecy kept since the time of Montezuma. Indeed, there had been migration and trade routes stretching from far in South America all the way up through Canada. Montezuma, knowing that his people had an ancient knowledge and culture to preserve and that that he could not defeat the Spanish, instructed his people to scatter to the four directions. These migrations dispersed the ancient knowledge in many tribes throughout the region, where it has been kept ever since. It is no surprise that The Hopi runners arrival in Mexico City was seen as a return of their relatives with a message that:

Now is the time to awaken the dream.

Central American Native runners then proceeded to spread the message of the return of The Eagle from the north (Hopi Eagle dancers) all over the region for many months, bringing with them a sacred fire. It was decided that representatives of Central American tribes would make a return run, re-tracing migration routes to the north and west, symbolically re-igniting the ancient flame of knowledge and reconnection between these ancient cultures. The run from south to north would go through the pueblo villages of Isleta, Acoma (Sky City), Zuni, Dine (Navajo), and end up at the oldest villages in North America on Hopi in Arizona.

Fellow filmmaker and friend, Brian Hardin of Knewways Media picked me up to travel with the runners as they made their way through Texas, New Mexico and ending in Arizona. Brian exemplifies the philosophy of using media to tell important cultural stories. Capturing these stories in a respectful manner and developing close friendships with many along the way has been a wonderful learning adventure for the many artists involved in Culture Collective.

As we were approaching Hopi and the end of the run, Brain asked me the best way to capture the culminating moments of the journey. I responded by telling him it would be best for us to just put the cameras away and be present as I didn’t want to disrespect The Hopi people and appear as tourists. Being present was enough of an honor in itself, and some things are not meant for film. Brian agreed.

As we arrived in the first village on Hopi, Brian was greeted by a man who turned out to be the chief of the Spider Clan. To our surprise the elders wanted this history to be documented and they wanted to direct the filming! they told us where to stand, what to film, what not to film, when to turn cameras on and when to turn them off. The result is some beautiful footage of the most ancient villages in North America and a wonderful sharing across cultures, each with their own way to participate in fulfilling a hopeful prophecy for humanity.

Hopi are a warm and welcoming people, but are also private and protective of their cultural heritage and wish to continue living as they have for hundreds of years. Some of these villages still have no running water or electricity (and they like it that way). Hopi have been living happily and traditionally for over 1,500 years on cliffs above the Painted Desert. It is completely inappropriate to visit Hopi villages unannounced or uninvited, but for people interested in learning more about Hopi culture, please visit The Hopi Cultural Center. If you are interested in helping Hopi to preserve their cultural heritage, you can learn more here.

There are many parts of the story that are purposely left out, for there are much better qualified people to share these parts. The story and history are far too deep and rich to convey in written words here. More videos, and articles from others involved in this unfolding story will be featured on this site in the coming weeks/months. Please get social, by sharing and “liking” these posts with your loved ones. We each play a part in the transformation and healing of our selves, our communities, our nation and our planet. You are here for a reason!

Hopeful Prophecy Enacted

Emanating beauty, a mother and daughter dress in full regalia to welcome Hopi and Aztec runners

*Updated, 1/31/2014*
Many prophecies that are positive and hopeful have been misrepresented or not even mentioned by mainstream media. The Maya 2012 Prophecies have been seen through a Christian, Indo-European lens as armageddon or apocalyptic whereas these cosmologies didn’t really exist to traditional Maya.  Maya are not extinct at all but living in traditional ways by the thousands throughout Central America, and many of their descendants still live in places far from Central America. Now that 2012 is behind us, we can clear away the hype and get to the root importance of this story.

Lucky for us, a collection of friends set out many years ago to learn and document these stories directly from the cultures that created them. What happened was quite unexpected and beautiful as these young film makers collaborated in harmony with elders, combining ancient wisdom with modern technology. This mutually respectful exchange was without the usual “outsider” cultural appropriation that has happened in years past. Everyone deserves to tell their own story in their own words. For cultures that come from Oral Traditions (stories must be shared through dances, spoken-word, ceremonies without relying on books and the written word)  it is not appropriate to have an anthropologist come in and write about them. Documentary footage captured on location directed by the elders themselves is a much better way to have this wisdom shared.

The Prophecy of The Eagle and The Condor is known amongst tribes from the northernmost tip of the Americas all the way to the southernmost tip. So there are many variations and interpretations, but the central theme says, “When the eagle flies with the condor, the north and south will be re-united and there will be peace upon the earth”. It has been well established that before there were state and country borders, native people traded and migrated covering thousands of miles in all directions. This unity ended with the arrival of Europeans upon American shores. Dividing tribes that once roamed free and placing them on reservations was devastating to First nations People, but they have endured with a story for all of humanity to honor and embrace.

The eagle is said to represent technology, physical strength and ironically has become a symbol of American military mite. The Condor is said to represent ancient, spiritual, indigenous/earthly wisdom. Obviously, the technological and physical prowess of the eagle, when not tempered with spiritual wisdom, can be quite destructive. As history tells us through the massacres by Conquistadors and Calvary of days past and current wars being fought on foreign soil. A merging of modern technology with an ancient sense of wisdom and respect for the earth and all of her inhabitants could surely bring a great peace upon the land.

In 2006, native people from all over the world sent water from sacred springs to the oldest continually inhabited villages in North America on The Hopi Mesas of Arizona. The water, representing the prayers of people for peace and healing, was poured into gourds. Then a group of Hopi ran over 1,500 miles with the water to Mexico City, where they were greeted by hundreds of traditional Aztec, and other local tribes at the foot of Tlaloc.

Tlaloc is a giant stone carving of The Aztec God of rain and water that has been moved to the center of Mexico City from its original home at The Pyramid of The Sun. Ceremony is the traditional way to “awaken” and make real the stories of the people, and when the Hopi runners arrived there was much ceremony between these ancient tribes.

The Hopi were invited to bring Eagle Dancers to the foot of The Pyramid of The Sun on Summer Solstice to fulfill a 500 year prophecy from the time of Montezuma. On Spring Equinox of 2006, the people of central America welcomed the ceremonial and symbolic return of The Eagle signifying the beginning of a great time of change, healing, purification, and ultimately peace.

This was one piece to the unfolding of the ancient prophecies of 2012 as kept by The Maya who know themselves as The Keepers of The Ancient Flame, The Lords of Time (known to Ancient Celts as The Vanir). This milestone also represented an aspect of healing of the 500 year-old wound since the arrival of Columbus, a time when native people would no longer need to hide their ancient knowledge from the world. A time when the world is ready to listen to the ancient wisdom of the original people of this land is upon us. That time is now.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the video and see the actual footage for yourself. With much gratitude to Brian Hardin and Alison Fast for capturing this historic event and to the many native people who have kept the flame of their ancient knowledge alive this footage is now available to the world. There is much ground to cover in the coming months for this is only one small part of the unfolding story. In future posts we will touch on the return run of The Aztecs to the Hopi Mesas of Arizona, hear words from The 13th Generation Keeper of The Mayan Staff as captured by filmmaker, Steven Copeland and much much more.

Evolution is not a spectator sport, get involved and participate, spread the word by “liking” the article, re-posting and supporting the movement to heal our planet and our history for the sake of future generations. Some stories are told, others are meant to be lived.

To learn more about this project, please visit here