Category Archives: revolution
Is it possible to be healthy in a sick society? Is it possible to have integrity while working for a corporation that lacks it?
I was sick this week. My closest friends where shocked: “What you? Sick? I never see you sick.” Well, I was. And I still am. The good news is, I was forced to cancel work and all appointments, and stay home. While at home, I decided to learn how to loom bead. I had a small wooden loom that I had yet to try. I literally had to pull it out of its box, unwrap it and read the directions. I felt intimidated. Trying something new always feels a bit scary. But after an hour or so, I said to myself, “Wow. This feels just like meditation! I love this. It’s so centering and peaceful.”
The forced slowing down of my overly active schedule (and brain) allowed me to realize what an opportunity my current state was. If I were to be home getting well, instead of racing about as usual, I could catch up on things I rarely get a chance to do. For three days I was able to enjoy so much. Just sitting in one spot, quietly beading and listening, or taking a few moments for a little reading.
In the next few blog posts, I’ll share what I listened to over those three days. But for today, I’ll share one thing that I read.
This is an except from Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment, by Jay Michaelson:
“I asked this of Jon Kabat-Zinn on the last night of the conference. I mentioned David Loy’s open letter entitled “Can Mindfulness Change a Corporation?” written to a board member of Goldman Sachs, and arguing that a Buddhist couldn’t serve in good conscience on the boards of corporations that have been involved in unethical business practices. It was a pointed and well-stated challenge.
So I was curious what Kabat-Zinn, who has consulted with numerous corporations and had just given a talk about mindfulness in business, had to say. Although he hadn’t read the letter, his answer was surprisingly similar to Loy’s. “This whole issue of ethics is really important,” he said:
“It’s not like Goldman Sachs can just do a little mindfulness and then be driven by greed, hatred, and delusion all the more. That’s not mindfulness. This is about restructuring things so that your business is aligned with the deepest domains of integrity and morality. You can make money in the service of creation of wealth, but not lying, cheating, and stealing, or cutting every corner.”
Then he made a further point:
“I did some mindfulness work with a major Boston law firm back in the day, and people ate it up—and then a whole bunch of them left. We have to be prepared for that…. These people were being given annual bonuses called ‘no-life bonuses’ because you had to work so many hours that you never saw your family.”
So wait a minute. Meditation is being brought into the corporate world because it improves well-being and productivity–but then it causes people to leave. Who’s gaming who here? I was reminded of something Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Sometimes the unavoidable fact may be that our lives need to be adjusted to the dharma—if what we’re after is deep change. And often, seekers (including this one) actually integrate too fast, moving too quickly from low-level spiritual states back into the conventional world, without adequately deepening the stages and insights they bring about. Sometimes, we use the rhetoric of “integration” to have our spiritual cake and eat it, too.”
What the author shared is something I experienced too, and something that I am still working with. I stopped being a professional artist with corporate clients (like high-end art foundations, retail franchises, ad agencies, etc.) because I could ethically no longer do it. I could no longer support a paradigm that I felt was outdated and blind. I literally felt like I was working for big dinosaurs that were manipulating and muscling their way through life, and would one day be extinct because of it. I felt like the longer I served the ‘bottom line is king’ agenda, the longer that type of thinking would be the standard. This was over 5 years ago, and although these corporations still run the show, the emperor is gradually being seen without clothes. People are beginning to wake up to the co-created sick reality.
I did make changes in my work, and I’m still finding my way regarding work (it’s not easy to bite the hand that feeds you, unless you have your own thriving garden set up first!) But living in the city, a city like New York City, you can’t help but get swept away in the frenzy. My days get filled to the brim, because that is what we do here. One tiny New York minute is probably one whole hour in the country — things happen fast! I feel like every time I write someone (family & friends), I am rambling on about how overwhelmed I am with what I have going on. Why is this? I’m like a broken record. Every email seems like it says “I had a crazy week this week!” Do you feel like this too? Are you jammed packed busy until you are forced to slow down?
This is why meditation, mindfulness and spiritual matters (not religious matters, totally different) can be so challenging for most. It’s very difficult for the average person (especially living in a big city) to slow down. To sit still, surrender, and just be. Or even to be fully centered in what they are doing. Like using the current activity as a mindful practice, or a way to be fully present.
When things are ready to happen, they happen. When things need to change, they change. Sometimes we find ourselves home sick, or we suddenly find that we can no longer do what we were doing. We are forced to wake up. But we are not isolated individuals living in separate bubbles. We are completely dependent and interconnected. The sun, stars, sea, animals, insects, people, trees, wind — all work in harmony. If a large enough group is sick, everyone is sick. Right now, people are not living well, despite what many of them think. They are overstressed, and preoccupied with money or superficial things. As a result, the planet is sick. Things are crazy. The planet is trying to find balance, and so are we. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Regardless of whether or not we threw the planet off balance with our actions, we all have to clean up the mess. That’s what families do. Consider the entire universe, everything that is a part of it, your immediate family. Did you forget that is was? It has been all along.
Like I tell most of the people I work with, it all starts with awareness. If you know you have a problem, it’s less of a problem. If you have no idea you have a problem, it’s a HUGE problem. I’m fully aware that major changes need to happen in my life, and in the world. I am fully aware that this will take heart. It’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of courage and clarity. And the change in the world begins with me. How could it not, when I am an integral part of it? We all are. It’s time we stop selling ourselves (or things that make up the planet, and universe) short. Life isn’t for sale. And if it is, it might be time we finally took it off the market. And if we won’t, maybe nature will. Regardless, we are in this together.
Over the last few weeks, I planted my first seeds of being The Rainbow Farmer. The name was given to me by my partner & friend, and it’s basically a term of affection/poke-fun-at-Aimee tease. The rural land that I hope to move to (not sure when, maybe in the next year or so) has the name Rainbow. It’s the land’s legal name. So since I plan on cultivating and living on that land, hence the name The Rainbow Farmer.
As I make a transition from city dweller to country farmer, there is a whole list of things that need to be put into place. I’m slowly working with each to-do item on the list, and doing the best I can. The items on the list vary greatly, some are things I can do and cross off rather quickly, while other items require more time. Some of the things are also experimental, and are in place just to see what happens and where they might lead to next.
I started a new blog, and I opened a vintage shop. Both of these things are crucial parts of the city to country transition. On the new blog, (appropriately titled The Rainbow Farmer), I will share whatever I’m interested in or inspired by, as well as how my projects and experiments are coming along. And hopefully the actual move from city to country, featuring the process of setting up a self-sustainable off-the-grid home.
The vintage shop (The Rainbow Farmer on Etsy) currently features all of my personal things that I want to sell. These are things that I am not taking with me on the move. And I will continue to add to the shop as I continue to evaluate my things and reduce my belongings to the bare minimum. The shop is also instrumental in other ways, it helps to raise money for the move and for The Rainbow Farmer projects (like creating ‘how to’ & DIY videos, as well as helpful digital books, and possibly if the store really takes on a life of its own, it will help fund meditation retreats on the land — helping people get in touch with nature, each other, and themselves).
Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, what I’ve planted are only my first seeds, just a small sprinkle, the tiny beginnings of a few ideas/projects. I have no clue what might come of it, or in what direction it might grow. But in whatever direction it grows, and whatever fruits it may bear, my goal is to pass it on. To continue to share how I am living and what I am learning in a practical way, so that anyone that wants to live a little closer to the ground can do the same. You might not be able to move closer to nature, but you can be reminded of your own true nature. Your innate intelligence. What is always with you and in you, but forgotten in the hustle & bustle of city life.
When I was visiting the land in July, I thought, “I’m not sure if I can do this, I have no idea how! I’ve been in big cities my whole life.” I had to calm myself and reassure myself that it’s very much like riding a bike. The balance is already within you, you just need to surrender and work in harmony with your surroundings. Sometimes you need training wheels to slowly build your trust. Sometimes you need to fall to learn. Sometimes you just need someone to cheer you on, and tell you you can do it.
We can all benefit from a similar process/practice, to get us back in tune with our own innate intelligence and abilities. Finding our own sense of balance, and what it means for us (individually) to get back in touch with nature (with our own nature, and nature itself). I learn and benefit from you, and you from me, everyone from everyone. Before we know it, if we continue to trust & try & fail & cheer, we’ll all be experts in what it means to live more sustainably, more naturally — and what it means to have fun in the process.
Instead of writing a blog post this week, I was in the mountains of western North Carolina, randomly tossing huge bags of homemade seed balls. Having fun sowing a variety of seeds, while camping on the land for the 4th of July holiday.
So you aren’t left out of the fun, I have a soil-rich documentary for you to watch that is filled with sowing & tilling — city style! It’s called Edible City: Grow the Revolution. It’s about the local food movement in the Bay Area (San Francisco & Oakland, in Northern California). And not the posh & pricey kind that most city dwellers think of, but the kind that includes every community, every age, every income level. It’s quite inspiring to see.
And if you want to make your own seed balls (aka seed bombs) and toss them into empty lots, open fields, dead yards or empty gardens — try this how-to recipe from Heavy Petal, or this one from Kid Zui.
If you enjoyed the movie and want to help grow the revolution (& the Edible City cause), you can make a donation or host a screening or spread the word. More info here: grow-the-revolution
Four different generations of activists. All dedicating their lives to not only their personal work, but to the collective work it will take to create a compassionate world that reflects its values. The four of them have unique backgrounds that allow them to assist the world in different ways. Their age, their status, their finances, their education, their gender, their country of origin; regardless of these being high or low, near or far, good or bad, accepted or unaccepted — there is no excuse — everything is being used as an advantage. This is what it means to be brave, to be grateful — to live fully. When one lives this way, the whole world benefits & improves. Everyone is & has, exactly what they need to make a difference.
Everything we are, everything we have, can be used to make a difference in the world. A single life is linked to all lives. Each human life represents all of humanity. There is no pointing the finger. There is no room for blame. There is no time to sit & wait, hoping that things will get better (when someone else makes them better). You are the one you are waiting for.
How many choices throughout our lives have we been given? How many days, hours & minutes have we been given? How many more will we have? And if we are given more, what will we do with them?
(avant-garde artist, turning 80 years old tomorrow — prolific as ever)
(former Vice-President of Citibank & General Manager at Citicorp, 63 years old)
JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL
(daring environmentalist, turning 39 years old tomorrow)
(brave student, outspoken blogger, & gunshot survivor, 15 years old)
Links for each activist & links to assist their efforts:
Philip Wollen‘s venture capital for good causes website, Kindness Trust.
As well as his website recommendations for animal rights activism.
If you would like to watch the full debate Philip was featured in, click here to watch the video.
….Happy Birthday Julia & Yoko!
A few days ago I watched the documentary about artist & activist Ai Weiwei. It’s called, Never Sorry. Midway in the film there is a quote that really stood out for me. Ai Weiwei was answering a journalist’s question, he said, “Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a country.” Upon hearing that, it made me think of so many types/levels of freedom I have experienced. After experiencing them, there really is no turning back.
There is one experience that stands out the most. It was the experience of ‘no thought’. Or what felt like ‘no thought’. It’s very difficult to determine, or to put into words. There really is no successful way to do it, but I will try. (A little challenging to put a ‘no thought’ or ‘no words’ experience into thought & words. Crazy of me to even try.)
As I think about this ‘no thought’ experience, the question does come to mind, “How did I know I had no thoughts unless there was a thought about having no thought?” But regardless of this question, I will explain the experience, because that is what is was. Or maybe it wasn’t an experience. I don’t know what it was. I just know what happened & how it felt in the moment.
I entered a New York city subway train, as I usually do for transportation from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I sat down. My eyes were seeing, & my ears were hearing, & my body was feeling, but there was no internal dialogue about it. There was a full train, full of people & noise, plenty of things to mentally comment on & judge critically — but there was no judgement, no commentary. I literally sat there for a period of time with absolutely no desires, or thoughts on anything. No judgements, no preferences. Not even an identification as a separate self. There was seeing & listening & feeling, but no one to take a personal interest in it.
As I sat there, there was nothing. Just a profound feeling of peace & balance. I’m not even sure I could call it a feeling. I was nothing more than openness or emptiness. And as a result of that, I could say that I (or the moment itself, I’m not sure how to identify it) was what I would imagine absolute peace to be. It was perfect. Everything was. Not a single thing was good or bad, nothing needed to change, or stay the same. There was no preference or attachment at all. No investment, no interest, nothing to gain or lose, nothing to protect, no one to pretend.
After some time, I snapped out of it. The internal dialogue, the preferences & requests, the likes & dislikes, the need for security & meaning — it all came flooding in. The thinking & processing, the obsessing & focusing, the mental babble & commentary — it was all back. But for the previous moments it was gone (I’m not sure for how long it was, because it felt timeless).
It was bliss. Not a bliss based on joy or happiness, but a bliss of absolute clarity & emptiness — which felt like prefect wholeness & balance. I will never forget it. And I can’t help but imagine what it would be like to experience it all the time, …or at least more often. But then again, there goes my mind; full of desires, creeping in constantly with a personal interest — determined to make the moment as it is, just not good enough. Having the awareness to see it do that though, is kind of charming. Like the ego-mind is an active character in a play. A very sweet & endearing character, that the viewer can easily sympathize with & be entertained by.
There are other times that I have felt an unforgettable feeling of freedom. They are pretty simple, & they might be fairly easy to duplicate: Rejecting society’s constant push to pimp people into becoming brainless consumer machines. // Ending my former career without a new career in mind. Totally taking a leap of faith. // No longer keeping photographs or keepsakes of my past. Releasing them & their significance. // Saying ‘No’ or ‘Yes’ when it’s considered unorthodox or a huge risk by most standards. // Staying clear of the media’s constant need to bombard people with drama & bad news. // Fully accepting that one may never know why, or how, but trusting life regardless. // Being ‘moved’ or effortless, allowing life-force or Universal Will to dictate every step or path.// Putting my needs second to someone else’s, that might need attention or extra care in the moment. // Donating, selling, or disposing of, almost all of my creature comforts & possessions. // Embracing life & loving unconditionally, without a second thought.
The last line is freedom to me: “Embracing life & loving unconditionally, without a second thought.” Never mind no-thoughts, or even the opposite: feeling like one has a personal sense of freedom based on anything physical (even one’s own life). Loving unconditionally, embracing all fully — to me this is freedom. In that, why would there ever be a need for an apology? Who would be sorry, or not sorry — what significance or importance would it have? There would only be love. There would only be life! As it is. In the moment. Without apologies.
That being said, continue to explore what freedom means to you. Continue to explore the depths of love. (I will continue to explore freedom & love as well. I consider it my life’s work.) See the film about Ai Weiwei by Alison Klayman. Be an artist & an activist in your own life (treating your life as your greatest statement, your greatest creative work). Share what lights you up. Share what you are passionate about. Enjoy being alive. Relish it. See it as a gift. Be grateful for all of it. Regardless of what is understood or not understood. Put unconditional love to the test. Be vulnerable. Be open. Be empty. Be the space for something great to happen. Allow spontaneity & inspiration to take over. Don’t be afraid to begin again. And again.