Category Archives: awareness

Being Peaceful = True Happiness

Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Many people think excitement is happiness… But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.”

Quote by Thích Nhất Hạnh

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I went to Poland last week


…that’s the subject line I saw, as I opened a newsletter email from Emily McDowell.

Here’s a handy link to what she wrote:

I thought the newsletter was so timely and well written. It’s worth your attention. The quote below is a small piece of it.

“I took this photo last Thursday night, in the lobby of the Warsaw airport hotel. When I posted it on Instagram, it got one-tenth of the engagement of my previous post, which was a selfie I took at the border. In hindsight, I should have posted this picture with a hand-lettered inspirational quote about failure or burnout or spiritual growth as the first slide, because then more people would have seen it or maybe engaged with it. In case you’ve been living on Mars: the algorithm is actively invested in making this world a worse place.

[aside: what does it do to our brains, to our nervous systems, to open our phones day after day, hour after hour, and scroll through this: Jeans haul / buy this coaching program / Black man murdered by police / French bulldog on a skateboard / school hit by bombs / this dance is trending — I have observed that it both numbs and overwhelms me, and it flattens the meaning of everything into a low hum of consumption. It is almost impossible to pay attention in a medium that has been carefully designed to train us to do the opposite.]”

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Nonhuman Rights for Chimpanzees

nonhuman animal rights

Sharing a post written by Rich Barlow, for Boston University’s magazine Bostonia–embedded below. For more information on Nonhuman Animal Rights, click here.

Inside the Manhattan courthouse of New York’s Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, five robed appeals judges peer down from the high, intricately carved bench at attorney Steven Wise, who rises on behalf of his clients. Their supporters are here too, scores of them, watching from the audience section, and wearing, in one case, a black “Vegan Power” sweatshirt.

Wise himself, salty haired and bespectacled, looks the part of a public defender, in a sober black suit. A founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), he’s representing Tommy and Kiko—chimpanzees owned by private individuals in New York. Wise has spent the last 30 years fighting for chimps—arguing in courts and in books and before law school classes that laws decreeing higher animals to be things rather than autonomous beings with certain rights are inhumane relics of earlier times.

Today, he’s appealing lower court decisions that denied Tommy and Kiko habeas corpus, the writ that springs a prisoner from illegal detention, and that if granted, would force the chimps’ owners to free them. He doesn’t get a minute into his argument before the fusillade commences.

“You’ve had the opportunity to be before every other judicial department in this state, and yet you’re before us,” presiding Justice Dianne Renwick interrupts. “Why isn’t this forum-shopping?”

Wise, in a respectful tone that starts quietly and becomes audible as he presses his case, says one lower court decision he’s appealing declared that to qualify for habeas corpus, Tommy would have to be able to fulfill duties and responsibilities, as humans do. That “irrational” rule, Wise says, “places millions of New Yorkers at risk that their personhood will not be respected, either,” from children to the infirm who can’t assume duties.

“We’re asking for the rights of persons, for chimps,” he says. “And that does not mean declaring them a human being.”

Another judge demands to know when the word “person” has “been used to indicate a nonhuman.” Wise replies that courts historically have deemed partnerships and even ships as legal persons (the latter since the 19th century; in cases where the owners were absentee, vessels were assigned responsibility for accidents, with damages set according to their value). He concedes that “there is no case law specifically with respect to chimpanzees.”

“Lions, tigers, any case law as to any other animal?” a justice presses. No. Renwick bores in: “Why isn’t this issue better dealt with by the legislature?” The judiciary “is a coequal branch,” Wise answers, adding that “the courts have taken the lead in numerous instances.” He cites Lord Mansfield, the English jurist who in 1772 granted habeas corpus to a black slave, then viewed as less human than whites, marking a landmark step in dismantling human captivity.

The justices also question whether habeas corpus is appropriate in this case, as Wise isn’t seeking absolute freedom for his clients. Now kept in cages, he says, they would be transferred to an outdoor sanctuary for chimpanzees; obviously, for their own safety, they would not “be driven to Times Square and be let out.”

As people file out after the hearing, a supporter harrumphs about the justices’ relentless interruptions. In a postmortem in the basement, however, Wise assures his small crowd of backers that skeptical probing is not necessarily a barometer of their thinking. “Some cases I thought I lost, I won. Some I thought I won, I lost.…We feel confident that our argument is built from a foundation of justice.”

Three months later, the New York judges ruled there was no legal precedent for chimpanzees to be considered people and denied Wise’s request for habeas corpus. Wise plans to take the case to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Animal Rescue

Tommy is owned by Patrick Lavery, who sells trailers for transporting animals and who acquired the chimp from a circus owner living on his property. When Wise first saw Tommy, the animal was alone in a small cage in a dark shed reeking of bad milk; Lavery says that Tommy prefers solitude and likes to watch his TV and listen to his stereo. Yet after Wise saw Tommy’s living conditions, according to a New York Times writer who accompanied him, the lawyer said with a “quavering” voice, “I’m not going to be able to get that image out of my mind.…That’s a dungeon.”

Kiko’s owners, Carmen and Christine Presti, run a nonprofit, the Primate Sanctuary. To the best of its knowledge, the NhRP says on its website, Kiko “is held in a cage in a cement storefront attached to the Prestis’ house.”

Steven Wise, who regularly visits the world’s foremost primatologists, with a friend at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary.

Steven Wise, who regularly visits the world’s foremost primatologists, with a friend at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Pennebaker Hegedus Films

Two years ago, the group represented a pair of chimpanzees named Hercules and Leo. A judge declined to free those two, who were being used in locomotion research at New York’s Stony Brook University, citing an earlier court ruling that habeas corpus applies only to humans. Wise says the pair were no more than three years old when taken from their mothers and caged in the basement of a computer building at Stony Brook, where experiments “involved having fine wires inserted in their muscles. Worse, they were forced to undergo general anesthesia once every month to six weeks, for years.” Stony Brook subsequently returned Hercules and Leo to their owner, a research center at the University of Louisiana, and the NhRP is now seeking their transfer to a chimp sanctuary.

As appalled as Wise is at such treatment of animals, the NhRP doesn’t claim that any of the owners violate cruelty laws. Wise’s argument is that humans should not have the right to keep them at all, because chimpanzees are autonomous beings with advanced minds that make them suffer in captivity, especially solitary confinement, just as a human locked in a cage would suffer. The NhRP has compiled 200 pages of affidavits from leading primatologists worldwide backing those assertions.

Wise argues that humans should not have the right to keep chimpanzees at all, because chimpanzees have advanced minds that make them suffer in captivity.

James R. Anderson, a psychologist and animal behavior specialist at Scotland’s University of Stirling, has written that “no other species comes so close to humans in self-awareness and language abilities, and in diversity of behaviors such as tool-use, gestural communication, social learning, and reactions to death.” Anderson says chimps recognize themselves in mirrors, which “requires holding a mental representation of what one looks like from another visual perspective.” They are empathetic, consoling each other and watching out for each other at road crossings. They plan for the future, as when they bring stones to different places to use for breaking open nuts. They’ve been observed caring for a dying group member, testing her for signs of life as she died, and cleansing the body. Chimps not only mimic each other’s facial expressions, but contagiously yawn as we do.

“Like humans, chimpanzees have a concept of their personal past and future,” the NhRP argues in court papers filed in Tommy’s case, “…they suffer the pain of not being able to fulfill their needs or move around as they wish….They suffer the pain of anticipating never-ending confinement.” And while no court has yet granted Wise his grail of chimp personhood, he is convinced that “the world is going our way rapidly.”

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Watch Whatever Is Happening

alan watts

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In And Out Of The Ground

turtle medicine

Shared without permission. The writing embedded below is from Luis Mojica‘s newsletter.  He’s a musician and somatic therapist, and an amazing being.

Yes, it happened.

Several months ago, my wife lay with a mother turtle as she laid her eggs in a hole she made in our backyard – right where the edge of the grass met the road.

For nearly 4 months we walked out to the spot in the morning, afternoon, and evening to see if the baby turtles were being birthed out of the Earth. We didn’t want them to get hit by passing cars.

For my birthday, a few weeks ago, I went to NYC to have an extensive 48 hour artist date with myself. It went horribly wrong and the entire experience was a process of letting expectations die, which was the perfect birthday gift after all.

On my way across the Rhinecliff bridge toward the train station I passed a big, ancient-looking snapper turtle that had been hit and killed on the highway. She was on her back, her limbs open to the sky, and a neon gash of red over her abdominal area.

Since I had spent nearly 4 months fathering the eggs of a turtle just like her, I experienced a grief. A sudden stab in my abdomen. A moment of relating, empathizing, and pain – all at once.

Then, from the pain, came a song from my lips
Listen here.

Turtle I have seen your eggs,
I’ve seen them fall into the ground,
I’ve seen them hatching little legs,
I’ll keep them safe in and out of the ground.

Immediately, the grief transformed from a sense of constricted pain into a rush of love and tears. Now, I didn’t see these eggs hatch. To my knowledge, they hadn’t. I was just following the sensation, sound, and story of my body.

My ego & expectation death in the city sent me home early and my daughter, my wife and I all felt compelled to gently dig up the turtle eggs for it had been way past the time for them to hatch.

One by one we retrieved emptied, soggy, eggs and celebrated. With each egg, a feeling of relief in my body. The joy of new life – until we uncovered a tiny dead turtle.

I felt a sense of guilt like “Am I allowed to be doing this? Did I kill this turtle by gently digging around this womb in the Earth?”

She was perfectly intact, so tiny and compact, and lifeless. The baby turtle must have died from not making it out of the hard clay.

I held her in my hands and this fatherly instinct came over me to protect her, and then my somatic therapist role turned on. I noticed the smallest movement in her tail and thought “she’s in a freeze response from near-death”.

So I gently took my finger and stroked her shell, hoping to create a sympathetic response and move her out of freeze. Her tail moved more, then my wife poured water over her and it was as if a seed had sprouted and came to life.

She looked all around, reoriented to the fact that she was alive, and began crawling all over my hands. She fell onto her back in my palm and right there, just like the mother I saw hit on the highway, was a raw opening. Her tiny belly button where the egg had attached to her and nourished her was so present and tender.

One dead turtle. One new turtle. One expectation dead. One new experience lived. One wound that killed over the same opening that nurtures.

This is the way of the world and the turtle taught me this. We are in a constant state of renewal and destruction, death and life, rupture and repair. The way of the turtle is slow. They take time, they take space, and they find safety within.

I was reminded by this turtle to slow down. I unfollowed everyone on Instagram, cut my client schedule in half, and began walking the mountain again every day to let my mind have more space, so that my body has more space, and then I’m able to listen and respond and relate to everything around me and within me.

I thank the turtle for this reminder and I am curious where it takes you, the reader. Where do you feel parts of my story in your body? Where are you constricted with fear or grief? Where have you not allowed something to die so it can be reborn?

What I continue learning about trauma is that it cannot metabolize until we release around it. There must be a somatic acceptance of it so that we can physiologically release our grip that we have on it.

And then it composts and turns into new life, into something else.



Baby Turtle


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The Unshakable State

Shaolin Temple Europe | 歐洲少林寺

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Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz & U.S. History


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The Most Successful Story Ever Told

believing a story

The video will explain what that story is. This is a quote from the ending of the video:

“We humans control the world because we live in a dual reality. All other animals live in an objective reality. Their reality consists of objective entities, like rivers, and trees, and lions, and elephants. We humans, we also live in an objective reality. In our world, too, there are rivers, and trees, and lions, and elephants. But over the centuries, we have constructed – on top of this objective reality – a second layer of fictional reality. A reality made of fictional entities, like nations, like gods, like money, like corporations. And what is amazing, as history unfolded, this fictional reality became more and more powerful; so that today, the most powerful forces in the world are these fictional entities. Today, the very survival of rivers, and trees, and lions, and elephants depends upon the decisions of fictional entities, like The United States, like Google, like The World Bank – entities that exist only in our own imagination.”

– Yuval Noah Harari

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