Category Archives: unlearning

The 3 Mules, Koyaanisqatsi, and Us : Life Out of Balance

life out of balance

Think about airplanes, trains and automobiles. Think about the need for a job, then being at that job 40+ hours a week. Think about being home, enclosed, private, away — often far away — from forests, oceans and deserts. The air is stale, movement is limited. Egos get out of control. We forget how fragile and vulnerable we are. Wild animals, harsh weather, powerful plants, mysterious stars, endless waters — remain foreign to us. Even walking long distances, something we are made to do, seems like a thing forgotten and lost. Where are we taking ourselves? With all of this boxed-in living and plastic dreams? We think our technology and creativity has made us powerful, and more secure. Yet we are more afraid of the real world with each approaching day. We no longer grow our own food, or fix our own equipment, or make our own medicines. We no longer sleep outside, or live in awe of our feral surroundings. We’ve built a thick, seemingly impenetrable layer between us and the cosmos. And we wonder why we remain unfulfilled and always hungry for more. Nothing is ever enough. Nothing is the answer. And life seems meaningless, and often cruel. This is the result of a massive disconnect. It’s the result of an imagination so vast, that we’ve dreamed up an entirely different reality for ourselves. Yet, the one we dreamed away, hoping to escape from, is still part of us. Still deeply attached to our being. It continues to pull us back, and gently wake us up. But our ability to see, feel and hear is dull. It’s dim at best. We aren’t as sensitive as we used to be. Gradually and slowly, we can regain this. We can re-wild ourselves. In increments, we can allow ourselves to be more exposed, more vulnerable, more open. We can make it a practice to get out in the rain, in the cold, in the wind, in the sun. We can watch animals in the oceans, forests and deserts, and be reminded of what we intuitively know. Each day can be a lesson of unlearning. Each day can make us wiser, if we are willing to give up our efforts to control everything. Life is not meant to be controlled, it’s meant to be lived. Just as stars have no agenda book, nor stress about their existence or path, neither should we. Are we not made of stars? We are literally made of their dust. Yet here we are. Trying to figure things out and get the world in order. It’s not our job. Our job is literally to Be. How many people do you know that can simply be? Unfortunately, I know not a single one. yet we are all human be-ings — living beings. My only reference for what it means to be is in nature; watching trees, stars, plants and wild animals. Other living beings, the ones that trust the Unknown, are the ones that show me how to live, and what it means to be alive.

This week I was reminded of the 3 Mules. Have you heard of them? I adore their story. There is currently a documentary being made about them. If you can support it, please do. It is currently looking for funding to finish its project. I’ll embed a short ‘work in progress’ of the film below for you. I will also embed in the post the full movie of Koyaanisqatsi. The title Koyaanisqatsi means “crazy life, life of moral corruption and turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living” in the Hopi language. It’s a film that was ahead of it’s time, like I believe the 3 Mules are. I’m sharing the work of both today (as well as my rant in the paragraph above), in hopes of raising awareness. Giving us all (including myself, of course) a moment to re-focus, and re-prioritize. To realign ourselves with what matters most. And to let go of the constant need to control and monopolize. This includes our own lives. They aren’t ours. We live for the Whole, and the Whole lives in us.

3 MULES DOCUMENTARY TEASER

“We just feel a presence around us that protects and guides us. We don’t feel alone at all. It’s more a collective sense of being.” –John “Mule” Sears

“The outside world is disappearing. Man is building an inside world, he’s locked himself up. Everywhere you go, it’s getting harder and harder to move around.” – John “Mule” Sears

KOYAANISQATSI FULL MOVIE

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Real Rest Comes from Being Awake

james_baldwin_awake

“Rest does not come from sleeping but from waking.” –ACIM

Until we wake up individually, we will not have peace. Until we wake up as a people, we will not have peace.

The neglect, the fear of the unknown, and the comfort in the familiar has put us in a compromising place. And what we are compromising is our freedom. I don’t mean our personal rights, I mean our happiness as a birthright. Who we are is love. Who we are is peace. Who we are is awareness. And until we begin to live from that space, we will continue to suffer. Not only that — but we will continue to question ourselves and wonder what life is all about.

I can tell you that life is not about work. It is not about money. It is not about “getting ahead.” It is not about war. It is not about “well I’ll do something when they do something.” It is not about “when the time comes.” It is not about “one day.” It is about right here, right now. It is about YOU. It is about your true nature — Love! You are Love. I’ve heard it said before that the opposite of love is fear, yet most of us base how we live our lives on fear. We choose from a place of fear instead of love. We do this over & over again, without realizing it.

James Baldwin made a comment in a video (in the 1960’s) that was spot on. He said, “The [United States] is for the first time worried about [a movement]. You shouldn’t be worried about [a movement], that’s not the problem. The problem is to eliminate the conditions which breed [a movement].”

Most people think that something will solve a problem; let’s cure the symptoms! I say, No! Let’s look at the cause! Let’s examine the root! Leave the symptoms be and bear the discomfort. Be accountable and do what it takes to radically correct the root cause. And the fastest way to do this is within each and every one of us, individually, by taking personal responsibility. And then collectively, together as a people, by sharing ourselves and our lives with each other, by sharing our challenges & changes, our personal accountability & insights — together we change the world.

If we want to feel well rested, if we want to feel free, if we want to feel secure, if we want to feel peace, if we want to feel love — then it’s time we wake up! It’s time we take off the mask that we have been programmed to wear. It’s time to be ourselves. James Baldwin said it beautifully in this quote: “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” Love is who we are. Let’s allow Love to show us what being human is all about. Let’s let Love show us how to live.

[This blog post was an except from a post I wrote in 2011.]

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Take Another Look


When I say take another look, I mean take a bigger look. I’m talking about big picture thinking. Other terms for big picture thinking are: holistic thinking; expanded perspective; macro perspective; perception-enhancement; and global vision. What I am suggesting is to raise above your current level of seeing (a situation). Raise above it and see what the view looks like from higher up. You might find that it suits you much better.

If seeing is believing, that means you take what you see to be the truth. Why believe something that isn’t working for you? I’m sure we have all said, or all heard, the following views: I’m broke; this is just the way I am (or she is, or he is, or they are); life is meaningless; they don’t care about me (or us); it shouldn’t be like this (or they shouldn’t be like that); this is so hard; it’s impossible. Understand that there is always another view. Not only the view from another person (or animal, or insect). But an even broader view. Think aerial view. Think universal view! It’s that kind of view that is the most helpful — that gives someone the most advantage, the most freedom and the most power.

Think of something very personal that happened to you. Hold it in your mind. It’s hard to see it clearly because you are so close to it. You totally identify with it and you feel so close to every detail that it’s hard to see it clearly. It’s like holding a piece of paper up to your face. Imagine that paper being close, so close it’s only one inch away from your eyes. What do you see? Maybe only a few letters, or maybe some blurry words that you could take a guess at. Now pull that paper away from you so that you can read the whole sheet in context, fully and clearly. You needed some distance in order to see, right?

What about something that happened to you years ago, something traumatic? Does it feel the same now as it did then? Think of something that happened 10 – 20 years ago that made you upset. Or think of a lover you had in your life. Think of how upset you were when the relationship was over. Now take your mind to the present. How does what happened years ago make you feel now? Did the distance help to get some clarity, some ease, or greater awareness? This is the freedom that big picture thinking can give us in the moment — in the present, while it’s still happening!

Even if you can’t see the big picture. Even if you don’t know why something is happening to you, don’t worry. Just know that there is a bigger picture that only has your best interest at heart. Just the thought alone will revolutionize your life. But you have to take the time to step back and not take what you are seeing and experiencing personally. You have to see it from a greater awareness, a broader view.

[Today’s blog post was written and posted back in December 2011.]

[The script image is of a brilliant quote by Mary Anne Radmacher.]

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What is Being Yourself?

being yourself be you

[Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote in February 2012.]

Being you is beautiful. It’s when you don’t need to do anything, or be anything. It’s when you just know without question. It’s when you follow your feet, and your feet follow your heart (and your mind just tags along for the ride). It’s when you trust that you are supported. It’s when you feel so much love, that you can’t believe that much love is possible! It’s when you wake up in the morning free & empowered & relaxed. It’s when you are free to be! To put it simply; your beingness (not your doingness) is you being you. The way you love unconditionally is you being you. When you are silent and at peace, this is you being you. Those moments of freedom, simplicity and bliss are all you.

You might ask: “But what about when I’m enraged or angry, this is also me! Isn’t the me that isn’t at peace, or isn’t being love, or isn’t oneness or awareness me as well? What about when I am depressed & I am suddenly able to create great works of art, this is also me! What about when I have lost a loved one & I am in tears, this is also me! What about after I’ve been taken advantage of and I’m full of anger & resentment & fear, this is also me!” — No, that is you under the influence. I don’t argue that those are also beautiful states of humanness filled with emotion. I don’t argue that the contrast of those feelings or experiences bring a richness and a texture to life. I don’t argue that the contrast between painful experiences and enjoyable experiences lead us to a greater appreciation. I don’t argue that the terrible experiences in our lives make us stronger and (hopefully) wiser. I don’t argue this one bit. I’m in full agreement with you. But where I draw the line is by seeing that and telling you that, these are not pure states.

When I say they are not pure, I mean they are forced by outside influences. They were not created out of thin air, something brought them on, and that something was outside of you. The states that I talked about previously, when I described what it’s like to be you truly being yourself, those examples are of you in all of your pureness & wholeness, without anything extra. Without the influence of anything or anyone. — Example: When was the last time you were completely enraged for no reason? When was the last time you felt cheated by nothing? Yet I can come up with numerous examples of when I smiled or even laughed for no reason at all. — Do you understand the difference? Truly being yourself is unconditioned, while not being yourself is.

Everyday I get some sort of impression of someone who is suffering. It can either be from the media, or on the street, or from a friend or family member. The one thing they all have in common is that they are suffering over things that aren’t within them. They are suffering over things that have nothing to do with who they truly are. And they continue to carry these pangs or these burdens as if they have to — & they don’t! Just as simply as they picked them up, they can let them go. But, only if they can see that they are holding on to something that isn’t real.

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The Meaning of Happiness

happiness meaning

Happiness, along with love, joy, bliss, peace — are feelings that you really can’t put into words. People get hung up on what they mean. Images that the media presents gets stuck in their minds: people madly in love, lucky men clicking their heals, girls acting silly, etc. But what if it just meant stillness of mind? What if it meant for a split second, you were content? Notice how when you get what you want, you are happy. Then that happiness wears off. In a relatively short amount of time you are in the same place of discontent and left wanting again. Don’t get confused. Happiness is not some hit and run emotion that happens wildly. It’s pretty basic. You are happy because you have embraced what is. You got the car you wanted, at an amazing price, and you aren’t resisting that at all! You embrace it with opens arms! Without a doubt or second thought, you are present to it, fully focused and in the moment. It’s just you fully present with your shiny new car. But then you get old and the car gets old, and you are left wanting again. Distracted by past and future. Feeling scattered and fragmented and no longer fully present. You aren’t embracing what is, you are now resisting it, feeling like another reality would be far better. So, is happiness fleeting? Or is it your thoughts and desires that are fleeting? Some people say being happy all the time isn’t realistic. I would say that thinking that your desires could ever make you happy isn’t realistic.

Quickly, let’s just look into the word Happy. For most of Europe in the 14 century it meant Lucky or Fortunate. In the 1500s the definition evolved to mean Pleased and Content. But from the very beginning, the Welsh had their own definition of the word, for them it meant Wise.

Without painting an extreme picture of happiness (like an ear to ear smile while jumping in the air with glee), let’s look at what it might feel like instead of look like. I’ll just tell you what it’s like for me. When I am in flow, open, fully embracing the moment without resistance, feeling whole and at peace with myself and what is happening — feeling good — feeling like this moment is enough — that is what I feel when I am happy. This can happen while giving a hug, working on artwork, dancing to music that moves me, reading a good book, spending time in nature, and even sitting quietly doing nothing or patiently waiting inline at the post office. It never happens while I’m arguing with someone, hating my environment, or feeling like I’m not enough. It never happens when I am resisting what is happening or wishing for things to be different. Can you see the difference? Can you see the resistance that is usually present when someone is not happy? They are internally at war. Fighting with themselves, fighting with life, fighting with others, fighting with what is. Usually, is not happening openly, more often than not, it’s happening privately, within their own mind.

I’m telling you this from experience. I was horribly depressed from ages 5 – 25. Approximately around the age of 27 there was a turning point, my life began to rapidly change (it’s a long story, I can’t go into here, it would make this blog post way too long). Since that time, I’ve been learning what it means to be happy. What it really feels like to be content (<–key word), and at peace with life. I've learned so much. As a result of it, I love my life, and I adore people. More importantly, I've learned to love myself. I'm so much kinder to myself now. There is no longer a brutal battle in my mind. I have the occasional brain hiccup or bout of discontent, but as the years pass, they because few and far-far between.

Below are 3 steps that you can take towards being more happy.

Step 1: Reexamine your idea of what happiness means. Don't see it as some extreme fleeting state, that only happens to the lucky or the stupidly-silly ones. See it as contentment and presence. And if you don’t have a clear idea of what contentment or presence is, work on that. Practice and study it. You can contact me directly for help (see my contact info in the blog header), or you can simply focus your attention on those words (contentment & presence), and the universe will show you what they mean. That’s usually how it works. “Where your attention goes, it grows.”

Step 2: Pay attention, develop more awareness. Notice yourself. Notice your desires, notice the thoughts in your head, notice how you view other people, notice how your treat yourself. This is really important, because without noticing what you are doing, how could you change it? You’ll always be working on the symptom of the problem instead of the root cause of it.

Step 3: Learn to love & embrace what is. Begin to soften up. This doesn’t mean become a ‘push-over’ or someone weak willed. It means to become more compassionate. Develop flexibility instead of rigidity. Become more spacious, more all encompassing. Practice revealing yourself, sharing yourself, and helping others. Begin to relax into life. Make it your friend. Feel good about it.

In closing, look at real people you know personally (or via the media), that seem happy with life and content. The 14th Dalai Lama seems to embody that. Notice what he is like, and what his life looks like. Unless you catch him laughing, his face looks pretty serious. He doesn’t have unusually happy face or demeanor. He lives a life of few desires (this is a state of mind, anyone can do this). He seems to really listen to people and care. He also helps and works to serve others. It’s a combination of living a self-less life with a strong sense of Self! As paradoxical and ironic as that sounds. It’s deeper than it reads though. I intentionally gave the word Self a capital S. This is to tell you that it is not a strong sense of personhood (strong sense of a physical body attached to a name and story), but a strong sense of being a spiritual being; a spirit infinitely connected to all beings (including the Universe and all that remains unknown) while living through a corporeal form (temporary physical body). If you can do that, be a fully compassionate being, loving & honoring yourself, fully in touch with your body & spirit, serving & sharing with others — how could you not be happy? If at moments you find that you aren’t — notice. Notice where your attention is, and what your thoughts are focused on. Notice if you have been honoring yourself. Notice how genuinely connected you feel to others. If you see some incompleteness there, you’ll see where you need to make some adjustments. Life is process. There is no final destination or stagnant state of being. Life is simply happening. That’s what it does. And it’s happening now, in you. Every moment is an opportunity to see that and to feel fully alive. Everyday is an opportunity to connect with yourself and with the world on a deeper level. Try it. See if it makes for a better more fulfilling life. See if it brings you happiness.

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Winona LaDuke

winona laduke quote

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Happiness as a Skill

happiness beingness

I was riding the subway the other day, when I noticed a new ad campaign from our local energy company (Con Edison). Although the ad was meant to be cheeky or clever, I found it disheartening. The ad read: “You don’t have an off switch. Why should we?” I embedded a photo of the ad below, so you can see it for yourself. It’s a photo of a man on his way home, in an elevator, glued to his smart phone. It appears to have been a very long day, coming home late at night, still working as he makes his way to his front door.

con ed subway ad 2013Why would Con Edison find this image and message a positive selling point for their company? Maybe because they find it is the truth. An adequate portrayal of the life people live today. This is what I find disheartening.

Where are we? As I walk down the street everyday, I encounter so many people that are on their phones. Many of them practically walking directly into me because they don’t look up. They are glued to their phones. Is that really where they want to be, glued to a phone all day? Is that how they want to be? Completely distracted, all the time?

I found this really great video on meditation this week. I loved it. It’s full of such great conversation on the topic of mindfulness. One of the speakers mentioned that happiness could be considered a skill. And that practicing mindfulness (awareness) can lead to an increase of overall well being.

We forget that we are human beings. Time spent enjoying the breeze, or a sunset, or the sound of birds, is part of our nature. Shutting down; getting adequate rest at various times during the day, and sound sleep at night, is crucial to good health. Having moments to quietly ponder things is part of maintaining your sanity. Taking time to see and experience what is around you, or to greet people with eye contact or a simple acknowledgement, or to simply be fully present — this is what brings peace to you, and to those around you.

It’s no wonder we are at war, and families are falling apart, and people are starving or hopelessly unemployed, and there are so many car crashes, and alcoholism and drug abuse is so rampant, and there are people with extreme greed, and people are killing innocent people out of rage. We are losing the BASIC threads that hold society together. Our physical health and our mental sanity is at risk when we have no idea how to be peaceful, or happy, or to simply be — because we are consumed with work and technological gadgets. Consumed with getting ahead, instead of being in the moment!

happiness-as-a-skillTry to catch yourself in these moments of being hypnotized by the media, by gadgets, by work, and by consumerism. Unplug. Shut down by shutting it off. Get outside and enjoy the elements. Rest indoors and find some quiet. Exercise and move your body in new ways. Give hugs and physically reach out to people in person. Look people in the eye, even people you don’t know. See what is around you. Work on creative projects that you never have time to get to. Find out what it is to BE YOU. To do what you like to do, versus what society tells you you should be doing. Have fun experiencing what it is like to simply breathe. To feel what is like to be alive, without all the busyness and excessive doing.

A meditation practice helps with this, but is not necessary. If you are a person that has a hard time shutting down, I highly recommend a structured meditation practice for you. This means, scheduling time to meditate daily, making time to shut down or shut off, if only for a few minutes a day. See it as a priority, just as you would for anything important on your to-do list. For the people that are relatively ‘at peace’ most of the time, or find resting or ‘simply being’ rather easy, just keep at it. Continue to explore it, and continue to cultivate and share this sense of peace. Either way, continue to have a practice of mindfulness. Continue to see it as a skill, as a key ingredient to health, happiness and overall well being. If you have any questions at all about it, please feel free to contact me. You can post a message in the comment section, or you can find me here: click link.

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