Category Archives: revolution

Winona LaDuke

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Is it possible to be healthy in a sick society? Is it possible to have integrity while working for a corporation that lacks it?

sick society buddha

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.

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AimeeLovesYou aka The Rainbow Farmer (sowing the first few seeds)

butterflies nature

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.

new seed unfurlingI 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 unfurling and the beginningdirection 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.

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Sowing Love: How to Make Seeds Balls & The Edible City Documentary

edible_city_grow_the_revolution_movie

seedball close up

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.

seedball_sproutingSo 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

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Bankruptcy is Bliss! How Filing for Bankruptcy Can Create Clarity & Abundance :)

bankruptcy no credit bliss

In late 2010 I decided to put the wheels in motion and file for bankruptcy. My papers were processed in 2011, and I received a complete discharge in 2012. Between contacting a lawyer and getting all debt cleared, it was almost laughable. Every part of it was like a joke. And believe me, the joke is on us (consumers, the average person). There were so many scams being pulled throughout the whole process: from the government all the way to the common junk mailer. Everyone had some sort of hustle. Even the court trustee played debt american bankruptcydirty. He contacted the owner of my building to see if my apartment was rent stabilized — he wanted to know if there could be money made by evicting me (thus sharply raising the rent & finding a new tenant who would pay much more). He wanted to work a deal with the owner. Luckily, I have a great relationship with the owner, and I’ve always been one of their best tenants. So they just ignored the trustee & sided with me. Eventually the trustee gave up & saw there was nothing to gain from my situation.

Last week I heard about Casey Anthony and her trustee. The fact that the trustee wanted to own the rights to her life story and sell it didn’t surprise me in the least. Ya, they could say it’s to pay her credit debt off, but it’s really just a massive hustle by the whole system — from the banks & credit card companies, to the government & courts, to the small parasite businesses taking advantage of loopholes — everyone wants a piece. It’s all a big game. That’s what loans & credit cards are …game. Every game comes to an end. [To learn more about the game read The Debt We Shouldn’t Pay and watch Money as Debt, The truth about Money – Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3. You can watch Part 1 at the end of this blog post, it’s embedded.]

When people think a game is real, they get hurt. Not only physically, but more so emotionally. Our country is hurting. Not so much the big guys, or one ones calling the shots with all the cards in their hands, but the average player. The donald trump bankruptcycommon guy or average family that thinks they are getting ahead by playing along. But what are they truly gaining by passively following (or by trying to emulate what they see on TV)? Have they lost touch with what really matters in life? With what is truly real? Are they aware of what is most valuable?

Everyone should be clear: forget your credit line — your life is on the line! I’ve seen way too many people miserable over money matters. I’ve even seen friends, family & couples split up over debt or financial disagreements. We are not pawns in a game. We are living beings, gifted with the opportunity of life. Gifted with the precious ability to feel & to love & to see. Why is that not our focus? When did money take the front seat and drive the destiny of our lives? Where is our bankruptcy city debtsense of Self worth? Is it the ‘small self’ or ego that is always worried, always chasing the carrot? The one always looking for approval & comfort? If so, that isn’t the real you. The carrot journey never ends. Oh, yes it does — pardon me. It ends at death. When we realize what truly matters.

The reason I filed or even thought of filing for bankruptcy was because I had a slow death. It started very gradually, slowly, but became very noticeable in 2007. Something in me was dying, and in 2008 it died. Everything I knew myself to be, all that I enjoyed being distracted by …died. I had been someone that loved art my whole life. I was the kid in their room drawing, while all the other kids were outside playing. I loved museums, and all creative things. I loved visual things & magazines. I even became an artist and worked in creative fields for 20 years. It all came to a crashing halt. I no longer wanted to make ‘stuff’ or buy stuff or felt inspired by stuff. I was suddenly turned off by it. I felt the weight & the responsibility for what it takes to make medical debtthis stuff. You can call it art, or fashion, or interior design, or a cup to drink out of — just the whole idea of creating & shopping and the toxicity of it (not only for the person who’s creating it, but for the homes that store it and the landfills that eventually receive it). Everyone is destroying their health and the environment with the need for stuff. To have stuff or to make stuff. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

The ‘death’ or realization came after I finished a serious of bronze sculptures I was working on for a client. When the project was complete, I went to Africa for a month. After my return, I was clear that I was no longer going to make art or stuff for clients. At least not the way I was doing it before. I was going to allow a new work, a new career & purpose for myself to emerge. the american dreamWell, long story long — it didn’t emerge! After returning from Africa, I got very ill, and I had problems with my old spinal injury (from 1997). I used my credit cards to live for a while, and to pay for medical bills. Needless to say, they piled up.

I found myself not wanting anything that creates and (supposedly) fulfills the life of an average human being: children, family, marriage/partnership, career, things, home, car, pets, property, hobbies, etc. I had no feeling or desire towards any of  it. No goal to achieve it, no want to have it, no idea that it could bring me happiness — no interest at all. I found myself in a very odd place. I found the world and most people’s dreams totally unrelatable. What I thought might pass and resolve itself in a year or so, quickly turned into 5 years.

My love for art, or visual creative stuff never returned. My desire to go back to work, doing what I was doing before (making stuff that is toxic to people & to the planet) never returned. And neither did a new inspiring career to replace the old one. That never surfaced either. But what did was synchronicity. Perfect opportunities, that suited the new me. The right people at the right times. I met people that wanted me to teach. People that were excited about things that I knew how to do. I also met a person that was excited student loans debtabout getting land, and living off-the-grid. I teamed up with this person & I bought 5 acres of land (with their help & the help of a best friend).

All of the energy from the people I’ve been working with lately got me inspired to start a new business. It’s a business that teaches people how to be boundless (via e-books & videos). The business I’m beginning inspires me because it helps people to remember who they are. Who they really are; the Self they get in contact with at death. When one realizes that all the stuff in their lives is not what’s most important. All that they work to buy or keep up or represent, in the end has no value for them. What matters most is what could be felt. Was I loved? Did I love well? Was I present to feel life’s unconditional gifts? Did I truly appreciate the gift that was my life?

cut up credit cardsThe interesting thing is, I don’t miss credit or credit cards at all (my life is so much easier & better without them!). I never needed a bank loan to buy land. I’m living with more freedom and more abundance then I’ve ever experienced. Not to mention, love. The amount of love in my life is unfathomable to the former me. Everyday is a celebration of life. Everyday I’m grateful for the little things. I’m healthier and more connected to my body, to nature & to all living beings. Life feels sacred again. I’m debt free, and my mind is free.

I’m also making moves towards a life of self-sufficiency, by moving to the country with my partner. Which I hope to do in the next year or two. I want to teach people how to grow their own food, make their own home, and find peace in simply being. Life could be really-really simple. It doesn’t have to be a money & status game. There are no “I bought my happiness” winners of that game. There are no winners in life. But there are ones who are successful. My definition of success is an unconditional constant abundance of peace, love & happiness. If you have achieved or realized those — you are rich.

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No Excuse: Yoko Ono, Philip Wollen, Julia Butterfly Hill & Malala Yousafzai

julia butterfly hill lunaFour 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.

yoko ono frackngEverything 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?

YOKO ONO
(avant-garde artist, turning 80 years old tomorrow — prolific as ever)

PHILIP WOLLEN
(former Vice-President of Citibank & General Manager at Citicorp, 63 years old)

JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL
(daring environmentalist, turning 39 years old tomorrow)

MALALA YOUSAFZAI
(brave student, outspoken blogger, & gunshot survivor, 15 years old)

Links for each activist & links to assist their efforts:

Yoko Ono‘s Imagine Peace website, dedicated to peace activism.
The Artists Against Fracking website & list of participating artists, as well as what you can do.

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.

Julia Butterfly Hill‘s website recommendations for environmental activism.
As well as her partnership with The Engage Network, What’s Your Tree, & Off The Mat.

Malala Yousafzai‘s Malala Fund for women’s rights & education activism.
To view the New York Times‘ documentary about her life, click here.

….Happy Birthday Julia & Yoko! 

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NEVER SORRY

never sorry ai weiwei

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.

ai weiwei never sorry

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