Happy Thanks-living!

sweet potatoes happy thanks-living

Last week I was emailing with a friend. Before I ended my email, I added this sentence: “Have a super-duper Thanksliving next week. It’s nice to know that neither of us will be eating anyone. ;) It will be a celebration of life & thanks! So much to be grateful for.”

As most of my regular readers know, I don’t eat Turkey on Thanksgiving. I shared my point of view and reasons why in this 2012 blog post titled “Who Me?” If you click on the title, you can view and read the blog post. Please do! You’ll be happy you did.

I’m wishing everyone (in the USA, since it’s an American holiday) a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. But before I go, I would also like to share a video that was sent to me this week. I found it so inspiring. The video if of Jason Brown. He was an NFL player, that had a glamorous life and a 37.5 million dollar contact to play football. All that is behind him now. With awareness and insight, he made the decision to move to North Carolina to start a farm. He decided that living closer to nature & family was what was most important to him. This year, his farm grew 117,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, and he donated almost half of that amount to feed people in need. He is more connected to his environment, community and his family than ever. But more importantly, his more connected to himself on a deeper level, and lives with greater awareness. (His video is embedded below.)

I was talking to my dad on the telephone this morning. I was telling him that with greater awareness comes a deeper listing. It happens naturally as a result of stillness. When people are more aware, there is a stillness within them that allows them to listen intuitively. And it’s those internal messages and cues that guide them. Jason Brown was guided in this way. He knew that money & status wasn’t going to buy him what is most important. He was clear that love & connection is what he valued most. You can read more of his story here.

Whatever it is that we decide to do, in career, family, relationships, diet — it’s always best to choose powerfully. In order to choose powerfully, there needs to be some deep questioning and listening. If we can create a sense of stillness, and quiet the mind chatter or story that runs like a broken record in our minds, we can hear what is most important. For each person the details might be different, but the core of it is the same. Love, honesty, connection, and contribution is paramount. Without that, our lives wouldn’t amount to much.

Everyone defines their core values in their own way, even though we generally share the same values. Which is great, it makes us all unique. But it’s important that we repeatedly ask ourselves if we are living in alignment with our core values. Continuously checking in with ourselves and seeing if our current choices are in alignment with what matters most to us, and if it follows the guidance of our heart. And if we aren’t living in alignment with our highest values, why? What is stopping us? And what actions would it take to make sure that we are? What would our lives feel and look like if we made sure that our lives were based on powerful choices made with awareness, compassion and great love?

 

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Pockets of Light

Today I am re-posting a blog post I wrote and published on November 13, 2011. The topic & movie clip I share in the post resonate with me in the same way it did three years ago. Many things have changed for me personally since writing the blog post. I no longer live in New York, that is one example, and is for sure the biggest change. But overall, I still feel the same. I still share the same feelings and I’m still moving in the same direction.

This week a friend of mine put me in contact with the film My Dinner With Andre, directed by Louis Malle, made in 1981. After finding out a bit about the film I rushed to read the script, and after reading the script I finally watched the film.

Below I’ve embedded a short video clip of the film for you, as well as the script for the scene. I recommend reading the text in addition to watching the video. Just so you catch all that Andre is saying since the scene happens quickly. Underneath the script excerpt, I share a few of my thoughts (very briefly).

My Dinner with Andre

ANDRE: Okay! Yes! We’re bored! We’re all bored now! But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brain-washing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money? And that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks. And it’s not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say “no”. See, I keep meeting these people, I mean, uh, just a few days ago I met this man whom I greatly admire, he’s a Swedish physicist, Gustav Björnstrand. And he told me that he no longer watches television, he doesn’t read newspapers and he doesn’t read magazines. He’s completely cut them out of his life, because he really does feel that we’re living in some kind of Orwellian nightmare now, and that everything that you hear now contributes to turning you into a robot!

And when I was at Findhorn, I met this extraordinary English tree expert, who had devoted his life to saving trees. He just got back from Washington, lobbying to save the redwoods? He’s eighty-four years old and he always travels with a back-pack ’cause he never knows where he’s gonna be tomorrow! And when I met him at Findhorn he said to me: “Where are you from?” And I said: “New York.” He said: “Ah, New York! Yes, that’s a very interesting place. Do you know a lot of New Yorkers who keep talking about the fact that they want to leave but never do?” And I said: “Oh, yes!” And he said: “Why do you think they don’t leave?” I gave him different banal theories. He said: “Oh, I don’t think it’s that way at all.” He said: “I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing they’ve built, they’ve built their own prison. And so they exist in a state of schizophrenia, where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made, or to even see it as a prison. And then he went into his pocket and he took out a seed for a tree, and he said: “This is a pine tree.” He put it in my hand and he said: “Escape, before it’s too late.”

You see, actually, for two or three years now Chiquita and I have had this very unpleasant feeling that we really should get out. No, we really should feel like Jews in Germany in the late thirties. Get out of here! Of course, the problem is where to go, ’cause it seems quite obvious that the whole world is going in the same direction. You see, I think it’s quite possible that the nineteen-sixties represented the last burst of the human being before he was extinguished. And that this is the beginning of the rest of the future now, and that from now on there’ll simply be all these robots walking around, feeling nothing, thinking nothing. And there’ll be nobody left almost to remind them that there once was a species called a human being, with feelings and thoughts. And that history and memory are right now being erased, and soon nobody will really remember that life existed on the planet!

Now, of course, Björnstrand feels that there’s really almost no hope. And that we’re probably going back to a very savage, lawless, terrifying period. Findhorn people see it a little differently. They’re feeling that there’ll be these “pockets of light” springing up in different parts of the world, and that these will be in a way invisible planets on this planet, and that as we, or the world, grow colder, we can take invisible space journeys to these different planets, refuel for what it is we need to do on the planet itself, and come back. And it’s their feeling that there have to be centers, now, where people can come and reconstruct a new future for the world. And when I was talking to Gustav Björnstrand, he was saying that actually, these centers are growing up everywhere now! And that what they’re trying to do, which is what Findhorn was trying to do, and in a way what I was trying to do…I mean, these things can’t be given names, but in a way, these are all attempts at creating a new kind of school, or a new kind of monastery. And Björnstrand talks about the concept of reserves, islands of safety, where history can be remembered, and the human being can continue to function in order to maintain the species through a dark age.

In other words we’re talking about an underground, which did exist in a different way during the Dark Ages among the mystical orders of the Church. And the purpose of this underground is to find out how to preserve the light, life, the culture. How to keep things living. You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language, a language of the heart, languages in the Polish forest where language wasn’t needed. Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language, you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception, where you have that sense of being united to all things. And suddenly, you understand everything.

My Thoughts

To answer Andre’s question: the problem is where to go, ’cause it seems quite obvious that the whole world is going in the same direction”  I think the place everyone should go, is within. Don’t move out of your city to save yourself, and don’t go anywhere to awaken, and definitely don’t look for a place that will bring you happiness — it’s useless. The only place you can do that is within yourself, right here, right now.

And these “pockets of lightthat he talks about — we can be them for each other. We can create public works, or a home, or a community space, that acts like a center or gathering place for sharing or schooling (or rather, unlearning) — centers where people come together to recreate their lives powerfully. Individually we can also be beacons of light, encouraging one another to shine, and to be human beings that think for ourselves (instead of following religion, tradition, or corporate marketing like consumer robots). We can begin to speak that universal language that Andre talked about, the language of the heart!

For me I have no doubt in my mind I will live this. No doubt at all. And this blog, and the work I do, and how I live my life now, is just the beginning. I feel more connected to everything than ever before. I also feel more optimistic about the future than ever before.

[Free online links for reading & viewing My Dinner With Andre, written by Andre GregoryWallace Shawn. If you would like to read the script click HERE. If you would like to view the full length movie click HERE.]

[The tree photo is of me! Taken by my dear friend Jack.]

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Autumn : Loved to Death

autumn colors

black mountain nc

The mountains are blotted with saturated & deep autumn colors. There is the faint smell of chimney smoke in the air. Locals are beginning to reveal clothing that has been tucked & stored for months. I’m excited about the change in weather, the change of seasons. It means death, rebirth.

Often people compare winter to death, when all is barren & bleak. For me, death is autumn. I don’t mean that in a dark way. It’s just to say that things are drying out, getting colder, losing their former life.

wet fall leavesIn winter, life is brewing & bubbling underground. New beginnings are preparing for spring. Everything is in an embryo stage, rapidly forming, but not ready to announce itself to the world. For some reason, I’m more interested in the beauty of what is dying. I prefer autumn. It reminds me of seeing the hands of Louise Bourgeois (artist & sculptor, died in 2010). Her hand’s were thick & manly, had knots like gnarly branches, and wrinkles that resembled woodgrain lines. I loved looking at her hands. I admired them. I wanted to be like them.

Being used up can be a beautiful thing. It’s like a well loved seat, that’s butter soft, yielding, and showing signs of being loved …to death. It might not be the seat everyone wants to display proudly, but it’s the seat everyone wants to sit in.

autumn leavesDeath and rebirth go hand & hand. Death is never the opposite of life, but life itself. Rebirth is a reminder of that.

November has been an amazing month so far. I’ve had the great privilege of picking & eating edible mushrooms. As well as collecting wood to burn in the fire place. Both good examples of what it means to end a life, only to continue it in a new form.

The mushrooms I picked were Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea complex). Without a doubt, one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. (That’s almost 40 years of meals to choose from! They were that good.) I made a somewhat elaborate meal out of them at first. I realized that I wasted their unique flavor by pairing them with so many things. So the next day, I picked more and tried again. I made a dish of just Honey Mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil, with a little sea salt & black pepper added. The taste was divine.

dried leavesThe wood I’ve been bringing home was chopped by someone else. It was here when I moved here. It’s an enormous pile, that will soon topple over. Each day I have to bring in enough pieces to create about 8 hours of fire. It’s approximately a 1/4 of a small log per hour. The wood is interesting to handle. Each piece has it’s own color, shape, fungi and bugs that travel on it.

Life is good right now. I have no complaints. Each day is a new day to explore. I’m excited for what the future might bring. But not more excited for what each present moment holds. It’s glorious. There is so much life in us, around us, beyond us. It never ends.

Each death, is only the beginning. Autumn will go, just as fast as it came, until it is reborn to die again. Dry autumn leaves will fall, to nourish the ground, that feeds the tree, that creates fresh green leaves, that will turn golden and drop. Where did the original autumn leaves go? They were always here.

fall leaves

Honey Mushrooms….

Armillaria mellea complex honey mushroom

honey mushrooms

Leaving one life…

honey mushroom Armillaria mellea complex

honey mushrooms recipe

To take on a new one…

honey mushrooms edible wild foods

honey mushrooms recipe

Big wood pile…

wood pile

wood chopped

Just like mushrooms, just like autumn, just like us — the wood pile is going through a transformation. Its ashes will be placed out back, to wash into the soil when it rains, to feed new plant growth & trees. What a beautiful process.

fireplace

fire

[All photos are of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Mostly from my front yard.]

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Hour of Power : Time to Move

hour_of_power_tony_robbins

I’m more than aware that moving brings energy. I recently moved from New York City to the Appalachian mountains. The whole process took so much mental and physical energy. It’s very easy to stay rooted in one’s comfort zone, but there comes a time when one just has to move. And it feels scary, unpredictable, risky. Like one is moving away from their life source. It’s always worth it though. All the new people, energy, experiences, challenges — all great for personal growth. But there is another kind of moving that brings energy as well. One that I’ve dearly missed since leaving New York. The Big Apple is full of energy: bright lights, speeding taxis, crowed airports and roaring subways. People rushing mindlessly & frantically to get somewhere; be it in their life goals & pursuits, or to simply reach a particular destination on time. The city is also filled to the brim with places where people can practice movement, like gyms, dance centers, yoga studios, driving ranges, swimming pools, basketball courts and running tracks. And let’s not forget, the walkers. One can walk for hours in New York City. You can zig zag for days. And most people do.

After moving to the mountains, I missed being able to move like I did in a big city. I don’t have the options here to dance, or to be with like minds that want to walk everywhere, or bring their body to a full sweat. But something came to mind this week, something I hadn’t thought about in years. Something I read in a book, back in 2002. It’s Tony RobbinsHour of Power. It’s basically a ritual you set up for yourself, that ideally takes place first thing in the morning.

This week I decided to start each day with an hour ritual that completely aligns me and sets-up the rest of my day. It might be a little different from what Tony Robbins recommends, but it’s in the same vein.

I start my day with a 15 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), short bursts of exercises, that gets me sweating & breathing fully. After that, I go into a more meditative, but still active 15 minute stretching session. Followed by 15 minutes of seated meditation, along with 15 minutes of spiritual reading (from any spiritual book, you can find my favorites here). Right now this whole routine takes me only one hour, and what I’d like to do is add-on to the HIIT session, so that by winter, the whole routine will be 90 minutes (because by then, HIIT will be 45 minutes long).

So far I am absolutely loving this routine! It has brought me to much energy and clarity. It was exactly what I needed.

If you’d like to know more about Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power, he explains it all in this video:

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I Sing Because I Am Free – Thank You

aretha_franklin_thank_you

The last time I was brought to my knees in tears and gratitude must have been 3 or 4 years ago. I don’t know what sparked it then, but I do know what sparked it now. Somehow, I stumbled across a Jennifer Holliday video, and that lead me down a path of more gospel videos. I found myself in complete awe of how self-expressed the singers were. As if they were empty, a complete open vessel for Spirit to pass though. Each singer was unique, yet each signer belting out gratitude & grace equally.

I’m left humble, and speechless. Open, and so grateful for what is my life. Being grateful is very much like being loving. It’s the highest path, highest road, without limits or an end. It’s all-encompassing and powerful. Like love, it can shake you at your core and sober you, wake you up to the truth.

Someone asked me recently, what I recommend to turn one’s life around, to cause a transformation. I said only Grace can propel a real transformation and awakening, but gratitude is a sure-fire way to get someone’s life on track fast.

I wrote a blog post on Grace in 2010. My definition of Grace might be different from the average person’s. The blog post was titled, Cultivating Grace: Survival of the Most Harmonious When I talk about Grace, it isn’t linked to a religion or meant in a religious way at all. But I do consider it spiritual, and of Spirit.

In the song Jennifer Holliday sang, I heard the words, “I sing because I am happy, I sing because I am free.” Deep moments of gratitude show me that no matter what the circumstances, I am always free, and joy is always present. Like peace, joy & freedom are not things that you can physically get or strive for — they can only be known & felt. They are available always, in every moment. But it usually takes an unconditional acceptance of the world and of one’s life. Seeing the whole, instead of fragmented pieces. Seeing how divine & miraculous life is.

I’ve embedded the video of Jennifer Holliday singing ‘His Eye is on the Sparrow,’ and also of Al Green, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin. The songs Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin sing in the videos are not gospel songs, but you can see the gospel influence in how they sing them.

Al Green

Jennifer Holliday

Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross & Aretha Franklin

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Stop Suffering and Start Trusting: Buckminster Fuller Paves The Way

“Dare to think for yourself.”

“Do more with less.”

“Be aware of the power of your word.”

“Don’t be preoccupied with the negative, be preoccupied with the constructive.”

“Forget the trouble, go to work!”

[This blog post was previously written and posted in October of 2011.]

Richard Buckminster Fuller is by far one of my most beloved thinkers. When I feel overwhelmed, when I don’t know where to start, when I think it’s all too much – he nails it. He says just what I need to hear in order to get to work!

I will share two of my favorite videos from a 5 part interview with Buckminster Fuller for this blog post. I have also transcribed a few of my favorite quotes for you. I hope these videos resonate with you as much as they do for me. If not, come back next year (after 2012) and view them again! You might feel differently.

“What I see in doing my own thinking is the following: that the animals don’t have any money, and the sun and the wind doesn’t have any money. If money is some kind of invention of humans, and I see that all of ecology on board of our planet is inter-supportive and the Universe itself by the best we know in physics is eternally regenerative, it’s 100 percent efficient, that what goes on in our little planet must be in support of the eternal regeneration of the greater Universe itself. So I said, I see ecology is inter-regenerative, and it could be, that if I understood what human beings are here for on our planet, what we are supposed to be doing in the local Universe – if I were then to undertake, to support and make that a success, to make the human beings a success themselves, to get rid of the “it has to be you or me earning a living” idea, to get that out of the way, if I could commit myself to that effectively, it might be that nature would support me just the way she has the hummingbird supporting this other little nest and so forth. So, it needs then a commitment to doing a big task on a working assumption of absolute faith in the integrity of the Universe itself. There is a greater intelligence operating in the Universe then that of human beings. And, if you can commit yourself to faith in that, you may find that you can get on.”

“Only the impossible happens. I’ve been up against miracle after miracle. Just as I need things at the critical moment, the last critical moment, then I have what I need.”

“I have now come to the most extraordinary realization: that all of the great governments, all of the great religions, all of the great businesses would find it devastating to their activity to have man be a success, they are all predicated on man being an inherent failure.”

“If success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on how I am and what I do… HOW WOULD I BE? WHAT WOULD I DO?”

The remaining videos…
Part 1video link.
Part 4video link.
Part 5video link.

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Tao Te Ching & Nisargadatta Maharaj

Tao Te Ching Nisargadatta Maharaj

There are two approaches, or two views, you can even say two books, that sum up what I innately know; Tao Te Ching and I Am That, or you can say the views of Lao Tzu and Nisargadatta Maharaj. When I teach mediation, I reference them, or when I want to be reminded of what I know to be true, they both bring me to clarity and balance. They instantly answer any problem, any confusion, and any disharmony I could ever have. Even though one is from the 6th century BC, written by a sage — and the other is from the 1970s, written by a beedis (leaf-rolled cigarettes) shop keeper — they both speak similarly to the same unspeakable truth. They both communicated something beyond words in a way that is supreme.

Below I will list quotes by both Nisargadatta and Lao Tzu (also spelled Laozi and LaoTze). As you read the quotes, feel the finely balanced infinitesimal thread they dance upon. It’s the thread of complete surrender and unconditional love. To most of us, it’s the invisible thread that is rarely seen. The one we seem to trip over, in a clumsy manor on our worst days. Usually suffering, pain and death bring us the eyes to see what is always there. But anguish is not needed to be reminded of true wisdom. One only needs to see, and be reminded of what they already know, but have forgotten.

Tao_Te_Ching_Lao_Tzu

“To understand the limitation of things, desire them.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”  ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial. If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked. If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be reborn, let yourself die. If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“When there is no desire, all things are at peace.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.” ― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Nisargadatta_portrait

“In order to let go of something, you must first know what it is.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

“All you want is to be happy. All your desires, whatever they may be, are longing for happiness. Basically, you wish yourself well …desire by itself is not wrong. It is life itself, the urge to grow in knowledge and experience. It is choices you make that are wrong. To imagine that some little thing; food, sex, power, fame — will make you happy is to deceive oneself. Only something as vast and deep as your real Self can make you truly and lastingly happy.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

“It has nothing to do with effort. Just turn away, look between the thoughts, rather than at the thoughts. When you happen to walk in a crowd, you do not fight every man you meet, you just find your way between. When you fight, you invite a fight. But when you do not resist, you meet no resistance. When you refuse to play the game, you are out of it.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

“You will receive everything you need when you stop asking for what you do not need.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

“You have put so much energy into building a prison for yourself. Now spend as much on demolishing it. In fact, demolition is easy, for the false dissolves when it is discovered.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj

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