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!

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...