Posts Tagged With: life

A Few More Words on Climate Change

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I’m a reasonable person, fairly discerning, observant and not overly skeptical…though I am learning to question much of what I hear these days.  I’m not a “climate denier”, but I am nervous about how the world is dealing with the issue.  I see and hear a lot of concern about global warming, even the national budget statement uses alarming language like “street flooding as oceans rise”, “longer, more intense fire seasons”, “more radical weather”, “droughts”, etc.  I also see and read a lot about people who dare to question the “general consensus on climate change” being ground into dirt by media, corporations and even our government for asking reasonable questions.  Even more alarming is reading comments about killing “climate deniers”, imprisoning them or, at the very least, not allowing them to hold public office.  What happened to the First Amendment?  Why is debate on this issue being not only discouraged, but aggressively suppressed?  Why have “gag orders” been placed on many of our weather experts?   If this is such a critical issue to all of us, shouldn’t EVERYONE be in on the discussion and every viewpoint heard? Shouldn’t we be able to hear all sides…especially since this is a situation that no one alive has ever experienced?  I read and see the same “data” and reports that all of you do.  It’s clear things are changing, but then we’ve always known we live in a dynamic universe where there are very few constants.  I wonder why the huge push just now.  As George Carlin stated in his monologue, “Save the planet”, the earth has existed for millions of years;  the industrial age began less than 200 years ago;  do we REALLY think we have tipped the scales permanently in that little bit of time?  WE might be on the way out (via nuclear war or killing each other off with biological warfare, etc), but the earth has survived a lot worse than us and will probably shake us off like a bad case of fleas and continue on just fine without us.

Ok…George wasn’t a scientist, or even a great statesman;  he did, however, have some common sense….and the ability to point out very clearly when we were straying away from it!  Yes…things are changing; we DO need to prepare ourselves…for anything;  it’s simply practical to make some changes in the way we live and operate…and view the world and it’s resources.  Fossil fuel use pollutes our air and water and affects all of us and all other species on the planet;  there ARE better alternatives.  Chemical dependence IS also polluting our water, air and food as well as messing up most of our natural systems.  We DO generate WAY too much garbage and waste way too many resources in unnecessary packaging, etc.  We (at least in the west) DO live largely at levels beyond which our own environments can support and our demands DO have direct effects on those in poorer countries where labor (and life) is apparently cheaper.  But is alarming our children in schools by teaching them that we are destroying the earth just as many of us were terrified by having to go thru pointless drills in event of a possible nuclear attack during the cold war REALLY the way to change our direction?   Wouldn’t it be better to simply teach them respect…for themselves and everyone and everything around them…and how every choice we make has an impact on the world around us?  Is our government funneling huge amounts of our tax dollars (well over 20 billion/year and rising) into “climate change activities” REALLY the way to help mitigate the damage and prepare us for a more radical future that is predicted to come?  Is trying to force ANYTHING ever effective for long….especially when it comes to citizen participation?

I think we are all being played.  I think there are a select few pockets being lined as a result of the “war on global warming” just as there are in keeping us in a perpetual state of war on foreign soils.  This is a huge, self-perpetuating system that collects our tax dollars and directs them to the same few over and over and over, with just enough trickling down,and enough fear being continually created to keep the system going.  Despite promises of corrupt politicians, the poor keep getting poorer, the streets fill with more and more homeless, the news is filled with more and more atrocities committed by desperate people all over the world, it is getting harder and harder for everyone except for a relatively small group of elitists to exist and we keep buying into the story.

I think the way to REALLY change things begins with me…and you.  First of all, we need to realize we are being played….and refuse to join in….refuse to be manipulated through fear.  Then we need to realize that little changes in our collective daily choices and methods will be much more effective in terms of affecting the climate than any government-sponsored program that will eventually fizzle with the monies in a few chosen pockets.  I’m talking about simple things here!  I was researching on energy use just prior to the issuance of Bush’s last stimulus package and found out that if every house in the country were to replace just one incandescent light bulb with an energy-efficient one, it would amount to the same carbon reduction as removing something like 200,000 cars from the road.

It is obvious that while our individual efforts may seem meaningless, multiply them by 100, a 1,000 or many thousands and you begin to see the power in individual choice.  Here is just a tiny list of things we can all do that will add up to REAL carbon reduction:

1) LED bulbs have come down in price and are much safer than the cfls that were being pushed a few years ago….start replacing some bulbs if you haven’t done so!  And while you’re saving on electricity, turn off your computers, phones, TVs and other electronic devices for an extra hour or so/day to begin with.  There’s a whole world outside to rediscover!

2) Drive less and bicycle more! It’s good for the planet AND you in so many ways!  Some simple planning/organizing can eliminate a lot of those quick trips to town.  If you have mass transit available, use it while it’s still an option…before the traffic in your city becomes completely gridlocked as it often does in some cities around the world.

3) Start now growing at least some of your own food! Anyone, anywhere can do this!…even if it’s only sprouting or small-container gardening.  This is addictive since home-grown food is so much better-tasting than commercially-produced goods and the process of growing it is great for the soul!  Soon you will be amazed at how much you can produce on your own…even in a small space like a windowsill or patio.

4) When you do buy, try to buy locally. This not only promotes local businesses and enhances community relationships, but saves on huge amounts of transportation and fuel costs and generally will land you better quality food picked when it should be rather than when it needs to be to survive weeks of shipping time.  If you don’t have a local farmer to buy from, a farmer’s market, start a community farm/garden!

5)  Buy less processed/packaged foods. Not only does this save on transportation costs, natural resources and landfill space, NOT choosing these types of foods (many of which contain GMO products) will, collectively help eliminate the need for GMO labeling, discourage the use of pesticides and herbicides and lead to higher-quality foods for all of us.

6)  If you are building, be conservative with the size. You will not only save money at every stage of construction and future maintenance, but also cut down on transportation of materials AND give yourself many, many more hours of freedom from maintenance, etc.

7)  If you are in a community, consider sharing costs of purchase and maintenance on lawn mowers and other power tools. It can be a little convenient, but will help you get to know your neighbors, greatly reduce (collectively) transportation costs, landfill needs, etc.

8)  As permaculturists know, our dumping carbon into the atmosphere for years has been an investment in our future to a very real degree. Planting the right plants and trees in the right combinations and in the right places can provide us with almost everything we need to survive….materials for shelter, fuel, clothing, food and clean water…all produced from carbon removed from the air around us.  This is one of the most practical and sustainable (if the two can be separated!) ways of living there is.  If you’ve not heard of Permaculture, there are many great resources on the subject online and in your libraries.  Get going!…this is the way of the future!

This list could go on much longer but I don’t want to spoil your fun in finding the many more ways you can become independent, make life easier and more enjoyable for yourself AND help save the planet at the same time.  Some really amazing things about all of these suggestions that we often forget is that they are all very legal, they are all good for you in terms of health and finances, they are all good for the health of your community, they are all beneficial in terms reducing our carbon output and the negative effects of our wants and needs on poorer countries, they ALL encourage local jobs, they ALL encourage involvement with your community and they ALL increase our independence and our resiliency!   This will in turn decrease our dependence on government and make us better able to handle any kind of emergency that may arise whether it is the result of global warming, war or some other catastrophe.  As a side benefit, it could also decrease our need to work and increase our playful, creative time!  What are we waiting for?!!!  I’ve never been a boy scout, but I admire their motto:  “Be prepared!”   If we all start now becoming as independent as possible, we will soon be well-prepared to meet any kind of emergency that might come up and will greatly-reduce our stress levels in the meantime.  To quote another motto;  “Just do it!”

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A Collective Moment of Silence

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I’ve written quite a lot in recent years about the benefits of stopping the mind (not thinking) for even a few moments on a regular basis.  With a very interesting (and important) U.S. presidential election looming and large numbers of citizens stressing over the potential outcome as well as worrying about the many other issues facing us at this moment, I can think of no better time for us to collectively turn off our TVs and other electronic devices for just a few moments and simultaneously stop thinking, meditate on peace, sit silently or however you want to participate.

You might wonder what possible good this would do at an apparently critical time like this when we “should” be trying to think of solutions, campaigning for our preferred candidate, posting our opinions on social media, marching against violence….”doing something!”  It is very likely the BEST thing we could do at this point and will probably do more to stimulate creative thinking and bring peace to this country (and to each of us individually) than anything else we could do.

I am personally going with my gut here, but there is considerable evidence that this is an effective exercise.  In the past 40 years or so, a number of studies have been conducted using relatively small groups of persons trained in Transcendental Meditation meditating collectively on peace to reduce violence and generally improve the quality of life in areas like Jerusalem, Beirut and Nicaragua.  The website of the World Peace Group states;

“The effect [of the group meditation] is spontaneous, immediate and systematic. Furthermore it does not rely on any form of social, political or diplomatic interaction between the meditating group and the effected community. The influence is created by just a small group of these meditators equivalent to a tiny fraction of the number in the rest of the population.

This powerful and invisible effect has been documented dozens of times in fifty research studies (Watch video) and is now known as the Super Radiance effect.”

While the World Peace Group proposes to use groups of trained meditators to bring about world peace, I would like to suggest a less formal approach…at least with regard to our current national situation.  For the next 20 days or so (at least), let us all stop for 5 minutes at 5:30 pm Pacific Time/8:30 Eastern  each day and focus on peace.  I mean stop thinking, stop composing responses to those with whom you disagree, turn off radios, phones, ipads, computers and TVs and just focus on peace…on the word, the feeling, etc.  The idea may be a bit scary for you, but this can be accomplished even if you’re driving or engaged in other activities not requiring thought.  It might surprise you, but not thinking does not turn off your awareness.  Doing so while driving may actually improve your safety as much as turning off your radio or phone or other source of continuous noise.

If you’ve never exercised the “off switch to your mind”, I guarantee your mind will wander.  Just accept this and don’t fight it or force anything.  As soon as you notice your mind once again running from thought to thought as normal, gently swing your focus back to peace.  If you have trouble focusing on a word or feeling, focus on your breath….on how the air feels as it passes through your nostrils on inhalation, on your chest filling, the pause at the end of the breath and then the feeling of the air moving back through your nostrils.  Be patient with yourself and be as persistent as you would be learning any other new practice.

Does this sound absurd to you?  It is certainly an approach most of us are not used to, but what harm can come of it?  Has all our screaming and arguing and judging and name calling and stress done anything except escalate issues and cause us to lose sleep?  I challenge all of you reading this to join me and to pass this on to everyone else you know, encouraging them to join in….beginning tonight, just before our third and final presidential debate.  Let’s see if we can get things rolling by encouraging a peaceful and productive debate that gives us a real look at our two main candidates and what they stand for.  What easier way to be involved is there than this?  I think you may be pleasantly surprised at the effects.

What? :  Stop thinking, meditate/focus on peace or just sit silently for 5 minutes (or longer)

When?:   Each day at 5:30 pm Pacific time/8:30 Eastern beginning today, 10/19/2016

Why?:  To help bring peace, understanding and cooperation back to this country and our leaders (to begin with)….and to relieve excess personal stress you might be experiencing.

Together we can do this!  Please join me!

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Canoeing

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I woke up this morning thinking about my experiences whitewater canoeing in Alaska and, as usual, my thoughts moved into how those experiences relate to life. Although I’ve often thought of “normal life” and the processes and stress we often go through while making decisions and getting things set up “just right” for ourselves as “paddling upstream”, I’m not sure that’s always accurate.

I attended my first “poetry jam” last night. I was really impressed with the word talent displayed and the courage it takes to get up and read some of your heart’s most personal expressions in front of an audience, but was also struck by the pain and suffering revealed in many of the pieces. I’m sensing now that life might be more like hurling down a wild stretch of river with two entities in the boat that don’t communicate well.

On one of my early trips, I experienced this with my then-wife…an Irish/Italian girl who had operated independently for quite some time before we became canoe partners. In tandem paddling, it’s common practice for the person in the stern (back of the boat) to make directional decisions and call out commands to the person in the bow. When the boat is in fast water and racing toward a rock, it’s very easy for the bow person to anticipate a command and draw left or right before a command is given. This works ok with a team that is used to paddling together and is “like-minded”, but not so well with two strong-minded people who tend to think independently! The object in whitewater canoeing is , of course, to find a safe “line” through rough waters, to negotiate the obstacles and pitfalls keeping the bow pointed roughly downstream. When the bow moves right and the stern to the left as the boat approaches a rock, the result is typically exciting; unwrapping the boat from around the rock, or worse yet, dragging the boat to shore, dumping all the water out of it and trying to dry out yourselves and all your gear however, is not….and often leads to words flying about at levels exceeding the noise of the rushing water.  Otherwise-very-enjoyable trips can turn into unhappy, frustrating or even painful experiences.

As we hurl along on this often-bumpy ride we call “life”, there are also two entities attempting to direct our route that don’t always communicate well—our hearts and our minds. Our minds are right in front, busily taking in all the dangers directly ahead and often reacting out of fear, not waiting for directions from our heart. The results are…well…often exciting, as we have all experienced.

I don’t mean to imply that we’re all schizophrenic. Just as we are all one with everyone and everything around us, our bodies, minds and hearts (soul/Self/essential self) are also one entity….different parts of the whole. The mind, however, left to run wild, can act much like a cancer cell—also part of the body, but operating at odds with it…to the detriment of whole. It “forgets” its connection with the rest of our being, carrying on as if it were completely independent and with little or no regard for the body and the heart. Left unchecked, the mind, like a cancerous tumor, can bring an end to the whole on which it depends.

Our hearts connect us to our source, and their directions are infallible…they are the perfect stern person. However, the “voices” of our hearts and bodies are very quiet–in fact don’t even use language, and it is very easy for the mind to miss their signals over the typical roar of thoughts rushing through it. Our goal in life is to first learn to hear those directions and then to faithfully follow them. If we suffer…find ourselves lodged against a rock or capsized… it is our mind that is behind it, not our heart. When we quiet the mind so that we can hear our heart’s signals…our intuitions…and we follow those directions, we begin to operate as we were designed to…one unit being carried effortlessly downstream, maneuvering flawlessly around all the rocks, sweepers and other dangers than may come along.

Looking back, my former wife and I would have benefited greatly from practicing in calm waters before taking on more challenging runs. In much the same way, it is beneficial for each of us to practice listening in quietness before we enter the chaos of normal life. A quiet location is helpful, but in order to hear our heart, it is also necessary to quiet the mind.

This seems at first to be an impossibility since most of us have gone our entire lives with our minds operating like independent bowmen…never realizing that, just as our electronic devices do, they have an “off switch.” Like my laptop, the mind is a tool that picks up wireless signals from outside itself, gathers information and stores it, facilitates communication and carries on many maintenance functions without me even being aware. It is an amazing tool, but it is not the whole of me….or even in charge!

I also had occasion years ago to solo canoe. This requires some repositioning, but is entirely workable. Interestingly, it involves operating from the center….without a bowman. When we are “centered”, or operating from the heart with a quiet mind, it is also a “very workable” situation…often a preferable one! Without the bowman obscuring our view, we are actually more aware of what is going on around us and ahead of us.

There are times and places for both methods, but whether you’re in a position to tandem paddle or solo, it’s important to practice…daily. There are many methods of quieting the mind; find one that suits you and work with it, but be patient as it takes time to overcome life-long habits! Start out somewhere quiet, hone your skills and then carry them with you when you enter faster waters. I guarantee you’ll have a much more pleasant ride!

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