Saturday, April 16, 2016

The GIft in the Shadow of Climate Change

Or: How do Humans Heal a World?
Heartbreak is a Necessary Beginning

To an observer, the world can look extremely dysfunctional. Humankind seems mired in violence and hate, in political posturing and war-mongering; people who are supposed to be people-of-faith make “illegitimate” and make “other,” those whose beliefs are different; greed and corruption seem to be running the world and we brace ourselves daily against terrorist attacks like those in Paris and more recently, Belgium. As if that’s not enough, we are bombarded with concern for the environment and climate change.

With everything already in chaos, we are afraid to admit to ourselves that the planet may be dying even though we suspect there’s truth in it. It seems that we feel the distress on some level whether it’s conscious or not. We can’t wrap our minds around the idea that life on this planet, which includes human life, could cease to exist. We flee in terror from our feelings in order to avoid pain and having to comprehend annihilation. The mind simply cannot embrace the truth for there can be no evacuation — there is nowhere else to go.

As we gasp for breath and ache for hope, we long for relief from the massive personal and collective suffering and for the magical appearance of a path to new life. We yearn for a mythical rise from the ashes and deliverance to a new beginning, a new way of being in the world. We pray for a savior or wish for a superhero to lead us out of this mess. “He” is us. "She” is humanity. Yes, “we are the ones we have been waiting for;” it’s not just some New Age platitude.
Every human ego has a shadow side and a bright shadow, which are often in conflict with one another. The ego is the infantile self that demands attention, has tantrums, believes in entitlement, manipulates to get its own way and demands more, more, more and thinks ‘it’s all about me.’ The human bright shadow is the part that connects the ego to the heart and to all sentient life and thus the whole of existence. Bright shadow demonstrates human brilliance and compassion. It reveals most evidently in the midst of tragedy. Give humans a disaster showcasing the suffering of others, and watch the bright shadow emerge and shimmer in those who have the wherewithal to act. It is the noblest of all the kinds of love for it is born of compassion. It is eminently “soulful.”

Learn about the Charter’s Earth Week Speakers Series

Soulful or Soulless?

“Soulful” is the natural state of the human being; we come hard-wired for compassion. (Goetz, 2010) We know whether something we are doing is soulful or not. Our body telegraphs to us in unmistakable messages about what is nourishing and soulful and what is life-depleting, harmful and soulless. When you suggest something to your body by holding it in your mind or speaking it, the innate body messaging tells you whether or not it’s soulful.

You can access and observe it by giving your mind/body a choice. For example, if I asked what is more soulful — spending Saturday volunteering at your local animal shelter or going to the casino? Or what is more soulful — going to the fast food restaurant for dinner or the family making homemade pizza at home, and you temporarily “embody” each, your body’s wisdom tells you clearly what is soulful. When the message is subtle, you need but “listen” more carefully: what is more soulful — roller-blading in the city park or a walk in the forest? Use your imagination to try it on; the body knows.

Soullessness is destructive; it turns the human spirit dead and hardens the heart. Soulfulness is good for you; it nourishes and brings the human spirit to life — it leaps inside.
The body summons pain in the face of something that’s not soulful, or when we use only the intellect (head stuff) to examine something instead heart stuff. Discomfort is the price for ignoring that high inner wisdom. Ignore it and watch ease disappear, tightness or tension settle in, or aching, shortness of breath, physical pain, mental anguish, regret, poverty of spirit and eventually opportunistic illness…

There are those who stand for goodness, human rights and justice tempered with kindness and compassion and who reflect the basic goodness of humanity. They “do the right thing” simply because it is the right thing to do. (The body knows it feels, and is, soulful.) When they stand up, they give others permission to do the same. Then there are those others ignoring the caution messages; they like to make the world in their own cynical image. Does cynicism feel soulful? How about optimism? Hope? Which would your body rather carry?

Making soulless choices can become habit so that one uses wealth, power and influence to bend the world to a selfish ego and its will. There are those who devalue humans, life and the planet. Practicing habitual soullessness brings people to a place where they have nothing to lose. When there’s nothing to lose, anything goes. Then people cavalierly cross thresholds without considering the outcome or consequences. They hide from themselves and deny the impact of non-soulful action on the world and in the future. They deny their own shadow and what comes with that denial, is the impulse to project it onto others. To justify treachery.

Greed crosses a healthy threshold; making war is a threshold; invasion, occupation and colonizing is a threshold; Auschwitz was a threshold; Sarin in the subways of Japan was a threshold; slavery; Apartheid; genocide; Hiroshima…

All thresholds humans crossed… but so is the moon landing! So is the establishment of the United Nations; the rise of the Red Cross, international humanitarian law, human rights and the rules of engagement; Doctors without Borders; the Hospital Ships Hope, Comfort and Mercy; Mediation, Diplomatic Intervention, Reconciliation, Reconstruction, Peacekeeping and Peace building; the International Space Station…

Human capacity for destruction (employing the shadow) is equaled by a capacity for sweeping humanitarian compassion (bright shadow in action.) Humans acting from compassion are capable of super-human mobilization and stunning accomplishment. Observe them in a tragedy or natural disaster and watch the miracles happen.

When it comes to the environment, the natural state of the world and climate science, runaway shadow in pursuit of wealth, militarism, greed, colonialism and consumerism, has unbalanced our world. The unchecked abuse of the natural world and nature’s benevolence have recklessly brought us to a precarious place some are concerned, is irreversible. We have arrived at the tipping point; “here” is another threshold. Only this time the stakes are very high.

Integrating the “Other”

We live in a world of duality, where we use opposites or opposition to determine our position. If it’s not down, it’s up, if it’s not in it’s out; if he’s not like me — he’s “other;” friend/enemy; for/against; life/death; make or break; all or nothing. The world is meant to be in balance, not at one or another pole of a spectrum. The feminine and masculine polarities are present inside each human, for each human is inherently born with both. These polarities are active too in the collective of humanity. They constitute spheres of existence — the (micro) human and the (macro) world.

The world has, for the last few thousand years, leaned heavily into the shadow side of the masculine — the warrior archetype has been prominent and dominant: conqueror, machismo, macho, warrior, hunter, war-monger. And the feminine micro and macro archetypes have been underemphasized. So, with feminine and masculine principles imbalanced we have made quite a mess of things.

“The true feminine brings a deep wisdom rooted in trusting one’s intuition and heart. It is a passionate, creative, and life-giving force. The true feminine supports deep heartfelt nurturing of all creation and the passing along of traditions from one generation to the next.” “The true masculine is characterized by confidence without arrogance; rational thinking without a need to control; honor without a desire for war. It provides stability, strength, and courage in an ever-shifting world.” — Arkan Lushwala, Indigenous Leader and Ceremonialist

We humans must end polarization and integrate both poles of dualities. We can observe our tendency toward shadow and at the same time acknowledge our bright potential. Behind shadow become active in the world is its opposite pole. A great deal of shadow shows up in the world as violence. If we could see the shadow through Alice’s looking glass, we’d find bright shadow waiting to be expressed.

Bright shadow shows up in compassion, empathy, generosity, magnanimity. Acknowledging and embracing shadow can actually lead us to the light in human bright shadow. To illustrate: the nuclear age was a time of despair, anxiety and nail-biting for individuals while the world collectively teetered on the brink of destruction. Doom over-“shadowed” the global landscape and hung in the air. The arms race insanity, once past denial and faced squarely, found humanity with the inspiration and momentum to come together to work out a solution. The superpowers (formerly acting out of the ego’s shadow) found a way to compromise and so drafted treaties and weapons decommissioning plans (bright shadow engaged) Without that threat of annihilation, the superpowers and the world would not have come together to work out a peaceful coexistence.

Sound familiar? Humanity, in order to save its planet and therefore itself, must come together in unity not just to peacefully co-exist, but to continue to exist. It will take moving out of the shadow into the light of bright shadow to pull it off. This new threshold — a tipping point that demands a new way of being in the world requires that we look at our choices and ask: which of these ways nourishes the soul of humanity in the collective? Which way makes the human spirit shimmer? Which complements faith in humanity, in the future? (That will save the world.)

To come to choices which showcase the brilliance of humanity, we may summon the innate wisdom each of us carries. You and I already have it; we already know it. You can observe: what makes your body tense? Which choices feel right in your body? Which way of being deepens your breathing and makes the breath fuller? We can continue arguing with our innate knowingness, but then the collective loses. Trust that the body wisdom discerns what feeds the spirit, what nourishes the soul; and it knows what depletes them. A twinge isn’t just a twinge; it’s a message from your deep inner knowing.

We can feel the urgency; we feel the creeping infection of shadow. Have you noticed that people seem inordinately fearful, angry, easily annoyed, behaving out of character — often violent? They are turning inward and self-protective. Does it feel as if our culture is careening out of control with runaway greed, colonization and consumerism? People know what’s going on because they feel it in their bodies. That unease becomes evident in the prevailing sadness and collective melancholy surrounding the lack of stewardship of our precious planet.

The Gift in Grief

In hundreds of discussions with people about the environment, every person revealed themselves to be in one of the stages of grief that Doctor Elizabeth Kubler Ross identified in the dying. Denial, fear, anger, overwhelm, helplessness, hopelessness, resignation… are all part of the process of grief. Grief lives in our shared consciousness, in our breath. On some level, we know that we know that we know…

Denial of climate change may bring temporary relief from the overwhelming deep grief in letting the truth sink in, but it’s not healthy nor will it fix things. Grief invades our bodies even when uninvited and unwelcome. We can sit frozen bracing ourselves against reality or collapse into hopelessness. Or we can mobilize. We can fight with shadow or shadowbox with the feelings that paralyze us or we can demand change and take action.

How do we thaw our feelings and free up that energy to mobilize? We courageously walk right into the feelings, allow them, deeply experience them in order to pry loose their grip on us. We can release that pent-up energy with movement. If you’re moved to tears — good. Tears release the sadness! Movement loosens and releases feelings. Whatever the feeling, go boldly into it and allow its humanness to shake you awake. Embrace your vulnerability, your brilliant humanity. Feel it fully, allow it to move and to move you. Movement is medicine. Dance your anger; dance your fear, your sense of failure. Let your body express it.

Cleansing the toxic sludge you have accumulated in your internal ecosystem is self care and compassion. Allow your heartbreak — nothing softens the human like heartbreak. That heart you hardened is brittle; allow the soft vulnerable animal to feel and move the body. Then fortified with human compassion, you can put love from that same heart into action — share information, come together, join something, create a community task force. Invite people to your living room for a conversation. Ask them to feel with you, get them to move, inspire them to action. Leave behind your part of the problem. Become the solution instead.

It’s going to take our collective bright shadow to counter the darkness we find ourselves in. We, together, have unconsciously created the world we now inhabit; it’s time to awake and consciously create a new one. To mobilize compassion, we need to mobilize the deep love we already feel but have mistaken for grief — love for self, for others and the planet. Together.

Learn about the Charter’s Earth Week Speakers Series

Sources: Goetz, Jennifer L., Dacher Keltner, and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. “Compassion: An Evolutionary Analysis and Empirical Review.” Psychological Bulletin 136, no. 3 (May 1, 2010): 351–374. ERIC, EBSCOhost (accessed March 28, 2016).
Quote by Lushwala, Indigenous Leader & Ceremonialist from “Do These Two Forces Exist Within You?” by Nick Polizzi Arkan

“One Wordsmith” Barbara Kaufmann “writes to simply change the world.” Writer, filmmaker, artist, minister, nurse, healer, spiritual advisor — trained conventionally with a Management Degree, trained unconventionally and ordained in seminary, alternative healing disciplines, Spiritual Emergency and shamanism, she dreams out loud of “a more humane narrative on the planet.” In pursuit that more human narrative, Barbara founded and is editor, contributor and steward of “Words and Violence,” a 600 page compendium of resources about bullying in all its incarnations hosted in the Education Section of the Charter for Compassion International. She writes for a variety of publications including The Charter for Compassion and Huffington Post. Lifelong activist, leader and citizen diplomat, she believes in communication, connection and agency through the arts. Lawrence University Dean of International Students once called her work in the arts “art in service to humanity."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sometimes Compassion Must Be Fierce: Revolution, Renewal and Angela Davis

I have had a secret for all these years that I finally admitted-- I have an unnamed hero. It's been held in the quiet recesses of a heart that kept its own council and kept silent about an admiration that was once controversial and likely to raise eyebrows, questions, or worse yet, ire. 
What happens to women of a certain age is that they can become bold enough to exit whatever closet they may have been hiding in. That courage, with its late arrival leave one wondering "why" does it suddenly seem important to speak your uncensored truth and let the heart step into the vulnerable.

It may be that it's legacy calling. Or it may be that the time comes when not speaking a truth is the same as a lie.
Meet my unlikely hero in this article...
"Sometimes Compassion Must be Fierce: Revolution, Renewal and Angela Davis.


The World Talks Climate Change: An existential conversation

The conversation about Climate Change is existential.

Decisions that are made right now will determine whether human life will continue on the planet. The best argument for human beings to start getting along with one another on this planet is taking place as we speak. We are one. We'd better "get"that, and soon. We're already past a benchmark set by the scientific community to continue life as we know it. Climate change is already underway under your feet.

The glaciers are melting, the ocean is rising, the weather is changing... and humans are engaging in activities that may lead to the extinction of the species. Whether or not humans will  extinguish themselves depends on what we do immediately.

We can't afford to take time to invent a strategy. There is no time. We've talked it to death; we have to stop talking and start doing. The first thing we need to do is a mental adjustment: awaken to the idea that we're all in this together. We are an interconnected and intimate shimmering web of life; the times demand that we stop thinking "I" and start thinking "we." We need an adjustment that opens the heart as wide as the arms and lets everybody in. If we continue this path of "them" and "us" and xenophobia or separation, we will be drafting our own death warrant.

When I talk with people about what they are feeling about the Earth, the environment and planetary stewardship, they all speak to a feeling of sadness, sometimes crushing sadness, sometimes melancholy that is similar to a low grade fever, sometimes a deep grief that lodges as an ache in the region of the chest or rib cage.

I think we all feel it. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we feel a thick sadness. One can freeze in that grief which prevents any movement. What is underneath that bone-aching sadness is love. The love for Earth and all of sentient life is immense. We are, after all, mammals. We feel the connection and we feel the hurt. People will try to avoid the deep heartache that wants to take up residence in the body with distraction, denial, distancing, bravado, avoidance, overwhelm, paralysis, grave sadness, a cavalier indifference, avoiding the subject, becoming and staying angry, disgust, minimizing... Those are all the ways we humans are "whistling past the graveyard" which means creating an illusion of safety so as to deny the danger. Danger motivates. Let it. Love motivates better. Let it.

If we freeze in an emotion and flail around in a frenzy, nothing changes. Nothing gets done. Rathr than lock up that energy, find a way to redeploy in fixing the problem. The most healthy way to come to terms with the crisis is to allow the feelings in, witness them, allow them to chip away at your protective armoring and mold you into a steward.

Keep in mind, the reason you feel the way you do is because you have a limitless capacity to love. Sometimes love and compassion is fierce. Let it be fierce in you.

Read my article about Climate Change here:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Every Earth needs a good song...

It turns out that  not only are we, the collective, journeying through the stages of grief about what is happening to our planet— whether we are conscious of that grief or not, but we are all personally grieving and inhabit a unique stage of that grief.

Journalist Richard Schiffman writes about the environmental crisis through the eyes of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross' seminal work that showcases the stages and coping mechanisms of those facing the end of life and its loss. His essay “The Five Stages of Environmental Grief” is included in a trilogy of his work featured with permission, in the 4th edition of “Words and Violence”—one of the Charter’s educational programs and a permanent installation at Voices Education Project Pedagogical Institute, now adopted as the educational arm of the Charter for Compassion International.

Schiffman traces the stages of grief as we travel the environmental path together that we have constructed or allowed others (mindfully or not) to forge into the predictable future. All toward our tomorrows-- on this planet. Or our no tomorrows. Our fate hangs in the balance and is dependent on our awakening and when awakened, engaging in earnest, in the work of healing the planet.

Last summer, I  staffed a booth for the Charter Environment Sector at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association annual exhibition and conference at their headquarters in Wisconsin. For the 3 days and nights that I immersed myself in dialogue with people walking through the exhibits, a common narrative emerged. I came away knowing one thing to be true: We know. We know and we feel it. We sense what is happening to our world. Everyone I met was feeling it. It was in their speech, in their eyes, in the way they held their bodies, in their language, in their involuntary sighs, in their breathing.

Because the problem is earth-sized, (soul sized, really) we can easily stagger around in a state of overwhelm at the magnitude of what we face. And because we can feel so insignificant in comparison, we sometimes cope with defense mechanisms that protect us from allowing that grief in. We armor ourselves against it. Every person I met and spoke to at the MREA was personally in some stage of grief and feeling things like—anger, overwhelm, hopelessness, pain, despair,... All felt a sense of urgency. Some were even using denial, indifference or distraction to cope. There was a lot of anger. There were mostly failed attempts at denial or minimizing. There was some resignation but mostly there was frustration. Many felt powerless. They felt helpless. Impotent. And nobody wants to feel impotent.

As a former nurse, I know well the varied stages of grief Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified in those facing a loss of life. I have accompanied people through those stages during their final journey. I witnessed the same phenomenon in everyone I spoke to at the conference. To a person, each of them was inhabiting a stage of personal grief. Some demonstrated multiple stages. I listened. I understood. I validated.  And I congratulated everyone for their capacity to love and the magnitude of that love for their planet—for that is the truth of where and why these feelings arise. And I told them about the Charter for Compassion and the hope intrinsic in a movement racing toward critical mass that aims to spread compassion over the earth and create a more humane narrative for humankind on this planet.  I acknowledged the collective pain and vowed to do something to help thaw frozen grief, for grief that is stuck in the human heart-- harms. It can prevent action. To move beyond the grief, we must first acknowledge it and feel its impact to allow it to move through unimpeded. If impeded, it cannibalizes our energy and produces an emotional stalemate. When we thaw, we are freed to move forward.

The film featured here is a journey where we are accompanied to our feelings, through our grief (whether unconscious or not) and to the soul-sized message that underlies our anxiety-- LOVE. (Big love.) What triggers this grief is a deep and fathomless love for our planet and its gift of life. 

Author and scholar Karen Armstrong, founder of the Charter for Compassion International has said that a compassionate community is an uneasy community-- uneasy because where there is a lack of compassion, there is suffering. And there is likely suffering somewhere in the ecosystem we call "home." 


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Health and Human Rights and Women

Women heal the world.pngIn the International Health and Human Rights class I'm taking at Stanford, I'm having to confront some very uncomfortable issues. I knew "intellectually" about the oppression of women planet-wide, but that kept me safe at a distance from real harm or real emotion. Since joining the class, I've not just "learned" about how women all over the world "give up" their rights involuntarily at the hands of men, I have come to know some of those women. They have become real people to me because I can interact with them in real time. Imagine the stories that begin "in my country.." and that recount similar yet divergent ways in which women's sovereignty is violated.

How does this happen in the modern age? In the 21st century? Well, it's an old tradition the arises out of ignorance and a sense of "entitlement" on the part of men. Many men around the world believe it's a privilege of their gender to do whatever they wish to women in their culture. Incredulously, some of these same men complain about fascism, cast systems, domination and slavery.

Entitlement and domination come through economic suppression, illiteracy or lack of education, an accident of geography or birth, cultural traditions, religious doctrine, tribal and other rivalry, attempts at ethnic cleansing through forced procreation, war-making and just plain... opportunity.
What is it about human nature that welcomes superiority and an opportunity to wield "power over" another human being? Do we believe so little in our own intrinsic worth that we feel compelled and satisfied to diminish someone else's?

What's really striking about the practice of entitlement, superiority and domination over other beings is that as humans we are NOT hard-wired for barbarism. We are actually hard-wired for empathy and compassion. It's hard work to overcome one's natural inclinations so as to justify the submission of other humans in whatever form that takes. It's a practice of the ego, not of the human heart. We literally have to "harden our hearts" to accomplish violence, barbarism, terrorism and war.

Given the times in which we live and the urgencies that face us as a planet running out of resources, running out of tolerance for human consumption, waste and folly, and running out of time-- we might want to look at how to develop solidarity instead of creating differences artificially and acting out of illusion or delusions that there somehow is forever or endless capacity for human infantilism and egocentrism.

Newsflash: This is not the planet I signed up for:
Bully Women and You Risk the Planet:
(Article at the Charter for Compassion)

And neither did you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

One Billion Rising

A couple of years ago Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues) quietly started a movement. It's not quiet anymore. One billion people joined the movement and scheduled activities and staged flash mobs all over the world.

We continue the tradition February 14 in 2015 to stand up and speak out about violence against women. The statistics are sobering. The stories are compelling. The violence against women on this planet is mind-numbing.

But we must not be numbed. We must be moved. We must bear witness to some of the most heinous crimes on the planet and the senselessness of harming women and girls. There are so many ways women are wounded by a kind of patriarchy that is cowardly and criminal. One in 3 women will be assaulted in their lives. This is completely unacceptable. Untenable. It must stop. Womens' lives must be valued. They are the nurturers and bearers of life.

Women are valuable. Real men know that. Real men are kind. Real men stand up for their daughters and their daughter's futures.

No looking away. No excuses. No passes. We must act. And we must build solidarity among women. From mean girls to sex trafficking to the kidnap, torture and killing of women because they are diminished people is inexcusable.

Join us. Stand up. Speak. RISE!

For resources go to and create and promote your event!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Words and Violence 4th Edition "Bullying the Planet"

This is the fourth year that Voices has compiled a new edition of Words and Violence 
The emphasis in this edition is on Mother Earth, and how resilient she has been in the wake of our endless "bullying." We've all heard stories of climate change, deforestation, global warming, pollution, and the misuse of our natural resources. This new edition helps concretize the planet's reality, and offers hope for a new beginning, providing ways to take our concern and move us to action.

"Who will save us now?" is our invitation to examine the problem of "Bullying the Planet" and to find the antidotes for becoming the solution. As we consider this poignant question we come face to face with a trilogy written by environmental journalist, Richard Schiffman. Schiffman introduces us to the "Five States of Environmental Grief," forces us to consider still another question, "Are the Oceans Failed States?" and concludes with exposing us to the issues of "Hunger, Food Security and the African Land Grab." 

In a second trilogy, this time written by Chicago Tribune columnist Robert Koehler, he unmasks his life mission and invites us to join him in undoing the mythology of violenceWalk Softly, speaks from the Indigenous voice and looks at what the earth's marginalized peoples may have to teach us about balance and how to protect the context from which we live. He explains why We Can’t Afford to Lose Another Decade and why and offers a reasonable request in asking us to grow up and act In Partnership With Mother Earth.

Poet and author of Harlem Renaissance Encyclopedia, Aberjhani, contrasts the philosophy of shared community with guerilla decontextualization—the insidious and deliberate art of manipulation in order to discredit and nullify, in Creative Flexibility and Annihilated Lives.

We enter a day-long healing chamber where we begin Awakening the Dreamer, a process of waking from the modern trance, healing the grief, and creating an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just world.

Artist and storyteller Carol Hiltner, who works with the Altai of Siberia guides us on a journey with those who have been pushed aside in favor of modern progress and with Maia Rose, we learn their story from the inside out in Mother Earth Cannot Be Bullied.

There is something you casually do every week and more often, that graphically demonstrates bullying to your children-- from the time they are toddlers until they become adults. You personally escort them through a gauntlet of bullying that illustrates, in living color, precisely how to brutally bully someone, humiliate them, dehumanize them, and sometimes even dismember them publicly-- for sport and entertainment. This demonstrates to your children how to take this bullying public by publishing it to a wide audience. And you do this a minimum of 500 times before they graduate from school. Your silence gives them permission. You may then wonder, "where do these kids get these ideas?" And when the principal calls to tell you that your child has been involved in an incident of bullying-- and not as the victim-- you may be shocked and asking yourself how in the world your child learned to be so mean. How? You taught them how and your silence was permission. You exposed your child freely and willingly to this toxic environment and you never once complained. Did you Teach Your Children Well ? 

In this edition, educator, author and admitted tree-hugger Kate Trnka takes us on a fanciful journey with her students as they explore the magic that awaits them in the forest as they communicate with trees and get to know them intimately in If These Trees Could Talk, Park I 

Lesa Walker, M.D. leads us through some classroom exercises, antidotes and compassion games in Bullying the Planet: Is There an Antidote? Community Activist and Environmental Guru Karen Plamer shares ideas for organizing a community and teaching kids about eco-responsibility with her game “Let’s Save the Earth” as she finds out Can Educating Them to Be Stewards be Easy, Educational, Engaging and Fun?

Voices Education is the education arm of the Charter for Compassion InternationalThe Charter is committed through its work and network of partners to bring compassion to the earth and all living things that call this place "home." You might even want to join the global movement toward compassion and make a donation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

4th Editon of Words and Violence to be released soon

We are working on the 4th edition of the Words and Violence Project at Voices Education (dot) org, a humanitarian organization and pedagogical institute. The work addresses bullying in all its incarnations and seeks the antidote to bullying grown to epidemic proportions in words and images.

The resource has grown to more than 600 pages with an audience of educators, civic leaders, and the general public in 140 countries.

We are please to welcome contributors to the 4th edition: Robert Koehler of the Chicago Tribune: Richard Schiffman, Environmental Journalist; Author and Poet Aberjhani whose work in "guerilla decontextualization" examines how bullies attack by dismantling the humanity of their target; Carol Hiltner, Author, Artist and Founder of Altai University who works with the Indigenous in Siberia; Kate Trnka, Author an Educator who takes students into the woods for conversations with nature... and more...

We are excited and hope you are too. If you'd like to become a contributor, please let us know by sending me an email.

The ways in which we bully the planet are countless: irresponsible environmental stewardship; exploitation of the Indigenous; mismanagement of land, oceans, water, air; the greed of earth's resources that belong to all, not to those who wish to conscript them as commodities and commerce; the skewed and exploited economy; climate change; artificial agriculture and food production; political indifference or the abuse of influence; the treatment of animals; land grabs and mismanagement; the collective psychic disconnection and denial; the moral vacuum in business and commerce; racism; double standards; the rising phenomenon of a spiritual vacuum; the abuse of authority and power; the trampling of human and civil rights; slavery; conflict; genocide; war...

If you have submissions, ideas and suggestions, or wish to volunteer to help with the project, please contact me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bring your Red Shoes- we're changing the world

Author and Scholar Karen Armstrong asked the question: "If we were truly compassionate with self, others and the planet, what would the world look like?"

The Charter for Compassion is asking, and answering, that question.

Karen described her fantasy in a TED Talk that won her the annual prize. She then set out to meet with religious leaders and luminaries asking them to help her draft a "Charter for Compassion" that would transcend all religious, ideological, and national differences.

At the mystical core of all religions lies the Golden Rule. All gods say the same thing: "be what you want to receive." That also happens to be how the quantum world works, so we are talking about creation here.

We are all living immersed in the invisible quantum soup that determines our experience. Do you want fear? Look for it in the world and stir in more... Do you want violence? Go looking for it; throw more into the pot. Or would you like a compassionate world where everybody is a steward of everybody else and the planet?

What will you stir into the quantum soup that becomes the ecosystem you have to live in? If you want to sour the soup bring hatred, fear, anger, prejudice, violence, war... If you want to sweeten the soup, bring generosity, empathy, kindness, love, compassion...

You might ask "is it really that simple?" The answer is "yes." The creation and the cosmos is a dance of atoms and molecules and minds. What if everybody brought their best game and wore their red shoes to the party, could we create a new Oz instead of a faux one?

The Charter for Compassion is asking you to sign on. So far there are almost 900 partners worldwide and close to 300 compassionate cities. It's the best idea humanity ever had and it's growing exponentially. You can join the charter by signing and you can become a member by making a donation whether that's with your money, your time, your talent, your enthusiasm, or your voice to spread the word. Spread the word, spread the world.

Be the change to make the change.

You're invited to the party. Oh, and bring your red shoes.

Here's how it works:

 Part I
What if the World Gave a Compassion Party and Everybody Came? Or bring your red shoes, were changing the world...

Part II Bring your red shoes...

Part III Bring your red shoes...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Who Remembered Their Mother?

On Mother's Day, mothers were recognized for their care, love and sacrifices while raising their children. Some have done it with partners and some single mothers have done it alone. Some have had the privileges that come with a comfortable life, and some have struggled through hardships in places that are challenging, neighborhoods that are poor, streets that are not safe and housing that is barely habitable.

Some mothers cared for their children in homeless shelters or maybe even on the streets because there is no partner or the partner was downsized and they are unemployed, have lost their home to foreclosure or a health crisis drained their savings and bankrupted them.

Some mothers have had to carry water miles to shacks that are sticks and straw while navigating through territory of marauders, rapists and predators. Some mothers have nothing to feed their children. Some children themselves have become mothers to their little brothers and sisters because their own mothers died from an AIDS epidemic that went unchecked by the uninterested. And yet...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

For Mothers

It was Mother's Day and mothers everywhere were celebrated.  "Mother" is supposed to be synonymous with "nurturer," "fierce protector," "first teacher," and one who would lay down her life to save her children.

Kevin Durant, who received MVP (Most Valuable Player) award for basketball, thanked his mother in an emotional speech that ended with his mother getting a standing ovation.

A black man who grew up in a rough and poor  neighborhood claimed his stature as a successful professional by saying "we weren't supposed to be here."

He thanked his mom:
“We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe,” Durant told his mother. “You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. “You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

But there were some mothers who did not celebrate Mother's Day. Mothers in Nigeria spent the day in tears and anguished pleas "Bring our girls home."

Poet and author Aberjhani spoke for them...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An invitation...

The 3rd edition of Words and Violence an internationally recognized (140 countries)pedagogical resource on bullying in all its incarnations... from the playground to the tabloids to the mortuary-- and hosted at Voices Education Project, featured "Performance Arts" in 2013 because they are a quintessential communicator and change agent to impact contemporary culture. It is one of the places where mass change can occur, where minds are awakened, challenged and where a portal opens for the enlightenment of mass consciousness.

"Performance" is story and communicates with words or without, with photos and images, movement and art... it is often where the human first encounters the mirror of self reflection and the glint of (Aha!) possibility. The arts can paint both the horror and beauty of the human condition and make us Think! (capital T.) It inspires some things and expires others. The canvas of human imagination, this table rasa of potential and raw material of human evolution grows the psyche, breathes inspiration and creates the collective future earth narrative. We are, after all, what we imagine ourselves to be and what we make of ourselves and our ecosystems.

The current ecosystem supports bullying and does it in ways that we don't even imagine because they are so acculturated as to have become invisible to us. But they are there-- like background noise that we no longer hear because it is such a constant low drone. We are infected with a virus-- epidemic and pandemic and while we have identified the illness that the virus causes (despair, overwhelm, cynicism, intractable fatigue, adult and horribly-- youth suicide,) we haven't quarantined the virus nor found its true cause. Time to get into the lab and take a look under the microscopic eye of honest and fearless scrutiny. Here's how...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Compassion served here! Now there's a drive up window!

Do you often wonder whatever happened to honor and integrity? Altruism? Compassion?

Are you just plain tired? Some days, dog tired? Were you up all night with a sick child? With your children and family responsibilities is it enough just to get the groceries purchased, food on the table, the car payment made, the lawn mowed in Summer or sidewalk shoveled in Winter?

Can you stand one more thing on your list of things that you have to check out? Is it too much to ask you to be informed on every single issue that affects you-- in the financial world, the political climate, your school system, the news, weather and climate change, what products you use that may be toxic, what is being recalled for what reason and that your food is safe?

Don't you wish people would "do the right thing" simply because it's the right thing to do? Wouldn't it be nice to expect the truth because that's just how things are done-- with unimpeachable honor? With impeccable integrity?

Don't you just wish that everybody on this sandbox we call "Earth" would just get along and play nice?

Wouldn't you like to reclaim your idealism or at least retract your cynicism and ...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Hands (Up) for Compassion

Four years before the shooting in the Sikh Temple, it was my own faith that was under attack. In 2008, a man who sharpened his anger on the jagged edge of hate walked into a Unitarian Universalist Church and opened fire killing two people and injuring eight.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville held 200 members and 25 children that day who were presenting a stage play for the congregation. The shooting was politically motivated. The shooter railed against liberals, democrats, African Americans and homosexuals saying they were the ruination of America.

Unitarian Universalists are free thinkers and the standing joke is that trying to organize UUs is something like herding cats. Each is on a different path to faith and understanding. The bonding factor for Unitarian Universalists is that all believe the questions are the answer and each is on a quest for truth. Call it a search for the holy grail if you will-- and it may be religious (or not) but it requires no allegiance to dogma or doctrine. All faiths and journeys to God (or not) are respected. UUs are known for a common dedication to social justice and to make the world a better place.

The Sikh Temple shooting wasn't a politically motivated act. It was pure racist rage. 

Charter for Compassion

Jeremy Rifkin says we are hard wired for compassion. I want to believe him. I think it's one of those things like buying a red sports car. When your new car is a red sports car, suddenly you notice that there are a lot of red sporty cars on the road. 

Do you see in the world what you are looking for? What you are "accustomed" to seeing? Are you more inclined to notice the vibe you are "attuned" to? It's a kind of resonance. Did you know that a guitar "G" string plucked in a room of guitars will cause all the other guitars to play that same G? And if you strum a "D" all the other guitars will resonate to "D."

A drum struck in a room full of drums will vibrate all of the skins on all the drums. And if you put sand on a on a plate over a drum or music, it will arrange itself in organized geometric patterns.

Did you know that if you put a whole room of clocks with pendulums in a room swinging at different rates, when you come back in the morning they will all be swinging simultaneously?

Perhaps we truly are what we resonate with.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The 3rd Edition: "Words and Violence" and the Healing Arts - How to De-Weaponize Words

The Power of Words:

Our weekly Unitarian Universalist Fellowship ("UU church") service ends with these words: “Let us carry the light of compassion and commitment to build a better world." 

 A pledge repeated becomes a mantra and a mantra repeated becomes a vow, a deeply embedded blueprint for how one lives life. Vows coupled with strong emotions construct realities. Vows are not to be taken lightly; they change lives; they change the world. 

I am a storyteller and studio and performing artist and I believe that the arts-- particularly story and  the performing arts-- holds the greatest potential for healing a troubled and broken world.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dance as Community

Call for Peace Drum and Dance Company
Dance is a communicator, it tells "story;" dance builds community.

This brand new 3rd edition of "Words and Violence" features Performance Arts as a catalyst for change, for compassion, for human evolution in “story” conveyed:
  • Through the force of words
  • Through the eyes of art
  • Through the language of movement,
  • Through the magic of film
  • Through the magic of storytelling via “song.”
It’s part of the movement toward a new narrative on the planet– one that is compassionate, responsible and deliberately created. WE write the script. WE perform the dance and dramas. WE sing the world into being. WE are the narrators and the narrative. WE tell the story of the world. The world is a performance! Our performance!

The world is a vectoring of what we dance.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Finding the Antidote to Bullying

 We (individually at Voices Education Project) and collectively as a culture, have done a good job of pointing the finger at bullies and bullying. We have raised consciousness to the ceiling.

But the culture of violence continues. Why?
Because we have created school curricula, documentaries, anecdotes and antidotes; we say "It Gets Better," or "I Choose."

We pronounce with any number of clich├ęs, tired pseudo-encouragement slogans, and we think we motivate change. But as long as we miss the point, support and demonstrate a culture of violence, or perpetuate a disconnect between adult behavior and childrens' bullying, the violence is not going away.

We need to teach and role model social wellness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tabloid Journalism at Huffington Post?

Well, I am now duly impressed. This is encouraging: the Huffington Post now has a section: "Tabloid Journalism." Whoa.

I once wrote a piece about an icon-- Whitney Houston, and featured how she was directly linked to Nelson Mandela and his release from prison.

Yes, that Whitney Houston.

Did you know that Whitney Houston was an anti-apartheid activist who began some freedom fighting activities in South Africa disguised as concerts where she sang about freedom? Did you know that  Houston's covert activism was one link in the long chain of events that led to Mandela's release from behind the barbed wire?

I wrote that story. It wasn't published. The editor gave no explanation or feedback. It was just... well, ignored. This was shortly after Houston's death and she was she was the manic topic d'jour so my piece was timely. I suspected it wasn't "sexy" enough or macabre enough. It was the truth. But truth often doesn't sell well; it likely wasn't tabloid enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A More Humane Narrative, Please

When did mainstream media become "medialoid" and when did social media become "mean-stream?"

One of the initiatives at Voices Education Project is to: "create a more humane narrative on the planet." Why is the current narrative on this planet so inhumane?

When did mainstream media become "medialoid" and when did social media become "mean-stream?" One of the initiatives at Voices Education Project is to: "create a more humane narrative on the planet." Why is the current narrative on this planet so inhumane? When did mainstream media become "medialoid" and when did social media become "mean-stream?" One of the initiatives at Voices Education Project is to: "create a more humane narrative on the planet." Why is the current narrative on this planet so inhumane?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Conversation in Need of Having?

Words can, and often are, used as weapons. We have seen what happens when there is a call to arms, an incitement to war, a rousing speech from a dictator who condemns part of his own population, racial epithets and hate speech, an organized and violent response to bullying by classmates in schools.

When words are used as weapons, we are all down wind of an ecosystem in which we live, work and pursue leisure that is made toxic by the introduction of cynicism, greed and bullying of real people. Bullying is now epidemic and not just on playgrounds and classrooms. It is on the front pages of newspapers getting their material used to dismember live people in a public forum from hacking and other illegal means. It is in reality TV, "mock"umentaries, and "harmless" comedy routines.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wisconsin and the Sleeping Giant

It seems Wisconsin has become ground zero for a new movement that is a push to bring true democracy back with a few new amendments: Integrity, truth, fairness, accurateness and not manipulation in media, an end to partisan politics, a voice for the people, leaders who listen, human rights, civil rights, civility, inclusion not exclusion, a shift in power from leaders to constituents, acknowledgement of human worth...

Is there an app for that?

Read about Barbara's immersion experience at the Wisconsin Capitol Rally:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Speaking of Violence- Words in the Wake of Tuscon's Tragedy

There are words and phrases in every language that convey the intention of violence. In colloquialisms, slang and everyday speech we find violent references and military metaphors. When did our casual language get so violent? It is worth examining our speech for indicators of violence. The result may surprise you. The Huffington Post featured my article after the shootings in Arizona that many speculate were politically motivated by a climate of violent rhetoric. What do you say?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bullying is Not Just for Playgrounds

Working on the "Words and Violence" Curriculum for the last year has made me acutely aware of the power and impact of words. 

The power of words has been recently demonstrated with a worldwide protest against the use of an image and program that crossed a line of civilty and a in the worldwide focus and  discussion about a fallen leader-- U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

People are dead including a nine year old girl because for whatever deranged reason, someone found what someone else was saying unacceptable and tried to silence a voice. People died in the crossfire. Crossfire and crosshairs-- those were the buzzwords. They are words that hold charge. And the words we speak should be examined for their lethalness-- just like any other wielded weapon. We can maim, harm and murder people with the weaponry of words.

Words harm or they heal. Words bully. And sometimes they kill.

See my article on bullying with words and images at the Huffington Post...

Friday, March 11, 2011

If They Asked you to "Come Change the World" would you RSVP?

How many times do we receive an offer to change the world? To make it a better place? To reach the hearts and hands of people across the globe? If that moment comes, the question is first of all, do we recognize this opportunity for what it is? Or do we spin around and look behind us to see whom "they" are talking to? Who me?

If and when that moment arrives what would you do? Laugh? Grin sheepishly? Stammer? Put your nose back in your book? Pick that fuzz from your navel?

It's not widely believed that one person can change the world. Such a giant idea is hard to wrap one's head around, no? Because we expect a full marching band with the arrival of that kind of announcement or invitation, maybe we miss it when it is whispered in ordinary company or flickers by in a fleeting moment. Would you know it if it arrived in your life? And would you RSVP?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Not On My Watch: The enemy who saved the world

Voices Education Project is about story and tell stories is what I do. It is the story that lends us our humanity. Here is a Playback story for Voices and a thank you for my life to Mr. Petrov...
Read the Story at Voices Education Playback Series:  "Not on My Watch: The Man Who Saved the World

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visual poetry: A New Video

I have discovered a new artistic medium- visual poetry.
This is the new video I produced for Voices Education Project which was a collaborative work with another artist. Enjoy and share!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Way With Words

In 2009 I wrote a case study for George Washington University's School of Business Womens' Studies Program. The case was accepted and I became a founding case author for the "Hot Mamas" program at GWU.

GWU's Women's Business School Program includes "Hot Mamas" and "Cool Daddy's" who are authors and mentors for business students. Their goal is to build the largest case study library in the world and they are well on their way.

They invited me back this year and asked for a new case study and I was pleased to author a new case and to announce the inauguration of the Voices Education Project "Words and Violence" Curriculum that is now available for free at Voices Education Project to schools. That curriculum was a project for the last year and remains a work in progress.

The case study for George Washington University:

"A Way With Words" is available online at:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Barbara's Award Winning Story...

Tickle Monster Therapy won the first place Curtis Brown award for short story in 2008. It now inspires nurses as a front page feature at Scrubs Magazine...

Read Maddie's story at Scrubs Magazine

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...