Good Vibrations

If the Universe is vibration, everything is waves.  
In an infinite Cosmic Ocean, we’re all riders. The physical reality reflects the emotional pattern. The rhythm of the heart guides and communicates, putting individual and collective patterns into the Unified Field and building the fabric of evolutionary consciousness.  
As a mystic, I’ve seen it, a golden light web anchored by relationships forming the knots between strands. We are each one strand, a ribbon of light running through our bioenergetic physical-light structures.  
In each of our lives, we experience the movement of other parts of this living matrix, as we ourselves move through the Universe in spirals often represented two-dimensionally as sine waves. As we all know in this life, the oscillation is real.  
Surfing the crests of positive experience, we can drop, if we are not paying attention, into the troughs of negative thoughts and feelings. Yet when we stand back to consider the larger view, we can always rise again when our circumstances change, which they do in endless symphonic motion.  
Some characters in our waking dreams jump off their boards and hang out in the troughs between the high places, letting the foamy crests crash over them. Perhaps the majority of us busy ourselves with the gleeful challenge of standing up and hanging on in order that we might let good times roll.
Folks hanging out in the low parts of the wave will always be a part of the One Verse, the great song of all life that is the Universe. For reasons particular to them, and probably fed by the Archon agenda to kill life on Planet Earth through mind control propaganda promoting separation from Nature, they scowl in the general direction of the rest of us. 
But! If there weren’t trolls under bridges, what would be the difference in walking over rather than under? Negative people are opportunities to practice intentionally elevating our vibrational state. The client who doesn’t get it, the developer who cuts down trees to put in condos, the President admitting to climate change while approving oil drilling in the Arctic are all perhaps here to stimulate us toward solutions-thinking. 
Patterns like these are infuriating, yet I wonder at their spiritual underpinnings; what might happen if we, instead of vilifying the people generating them and feeling hopeless because of it, rose up with individual and collective responses that build directly from their impacts on the world we share?
In my mind’s eye, this could look like a few key actions or activities we can each take that will both raise our own vibration and infuse the whole, i.e. global consciousness, with positive frequencies.  
Each time we emit happy, hopeful, appreciative vibes we make it easier for others to switch tracks, too.  
One effective response is to set up weekly or monthly letter-writing to elected officials on topics that most affect us. In my 25 years of corresponding with state and federal government, I have learned that every citizen letter is counted as 2,000 citizen voices, and that our Senators and Representatives are waiting in their offices to hear from us on all manner of topics on which they must decide. Otherwise, the corporate lobby, having been erroneously granted personhood, is their constant source of “constituent opinion.” The only guidelines for joining the conversation are to be respectful (Honorable Sen/Rep), share your true thoughts as if they count (I am concerned/this affects me), and include a call to action (I urge you to). You don’t have to have all the facts and can even request that the person you are writing to inform you further on the issue. The only form letter I got back in all the years I’ve been writing was from George W. Bush, but I expected that. Still, my letter had, legally, to be counted.   
Another key action anyone can take is to plant habitat. Precious pollinators literally feed humankind, and eradication of plants these key insect species require to feed themselves are endangered and eradicated by large corporations operating without appropriate checks and balances. Regular citizens putting in Showy Milkweed across the nation have prevented the extinction of the Monarch Butterfly after Monsanto reduced its population by millions from Canada to Mexico in the last few years. Other important insect species include Hover Flies, Dragonflies, and Hummingbirds, among many others. As a Permaculture Designer for the past 11 years, I have found that including herbs and other flowering perennial plants in front and back yards stimulates incredible response in the insect kingdom. Daisies, Anise, Purple Angelica, Aster, Echinacea, Oregano, Thyme, and other similar plants provide food for beneficial insects, are easy to grow and maintain, and also give us gorgeous flowers.  
In life, we all encounter people living in bummer land. But we can choose our response to this infusion in our daily tea. Instead of getting annoyed ourselves, and maybe complaining to coworkers or family, we can and need to take positive, inspired action to turn things around for everyone.
Jadene Mayla has served clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states since 2004 and has passed the city of Portland’s rigorous Eco-Biz program every year since 2007. Find more tips for taking positive action in your life and landscape at

Reforestation Drone Seed Bombs

High tech seed bombs dropped by drones.A very cool project: a company called Biocarbon Engineering has received seed funding to plant 1 billion trees every year, and they’re doing it with drones.

This excites me because they’re essentially using seed bomb technology, maybe without knowing it.  Regardless, what matters is the technology fits the goal, and the goal addresses the sweeping problem of global deforestation.

At some point, we probably have to consider how much talking about this issue is doing and just get out there and put new trees in the ground.

This team is using drone technology to do just that.  “Firing a pregerminated seed pod into the soil with pressurized air,” the drones fly over areas they’ve mapped as well as revisit them after planting to monitor tree growth.  The project also uses the drones to consider planting patterns and appropriate timing to give the tree seeds the best chance to take root.

The drones allow replanting to catch up with the pace of deforestation, which is so important.  The project leader says “We’re going to change the world, one billion trees at a time.”

The project won the UAE Drones for Good award. I think they deserve it. They’re not using the drones to simply broadcast dry seed over clearcuts, but using pregerminated seeds wrapped in nutrient gel. This closely resembles what seed bombs accomplish, albeit on a much more grassroots level.

Tree Hugger reflected conservatively on this project, saying, “even if you can’t plant thousands of seedlings per day, you certainly can plant and nurture at least a few appropriate trees in your yard or neighborhood each year, and with much more precision and care than any flying robot can.”

I agree.  And I love this project.

Disturbed Landscapes And The Human Energy Field

While walking the other day in a part of my neighborhood that I hadn’t explored before, I happened upon a home for sale next door to a raw construction site.  The house sat up a steep driveway from the street.  Next to it rested an exposed new concrete foundation that stepped curiously up the slope as if it was to become a giant staircase.

I’d been wandering on one of my brief efforts to get out of my office, and I’d never seen this particular street, being that it was one of the few traversable cross-streets leading up the north bank of the extinct volcano, Mount Tabor, from the rush and choke of East Burnside.  I breathed in deeply in relief as I turned off the smoggy thoroughfare, after walking without an outlet for a few uncomfortable blocks.  I’d felt like a race car driver needing maintenance while the rest of the cars on the track blocked my exit.

Something about the foundation made me walk up the driveway.  As I entered the property, I noticed that the “blue room,” as we called them when I was a kid, was locked and the site was entirely clean of debris.  As I pushed up the slope my calves burned and I imagined how I would build the house that would someday cover the low grey wall outlining its floor plan.  If I had an architect’s skills, I thought, I would start with a living room that stepped up the hill into the dining room, kitchen, and bath, and further up the slope into the bedroom, with windows on the tall conifer trees standing at odd angles against a backdrop of someone’s meticulously terraced yard.

I traced its outline with my eyes again as I descended again to the street, slightly puzzled at why I’d never seen this kind of foundation before, nor a construction site so clean-swept.  I cast a glance at the empty house next door and looked back once more at the new house site before continuing up the street. Quickly I realized that I was on a cul-de-sac, invisible from lower down where I had viewed the two residential lots a minute ago.  Satisfied I’d gone as far as this walk was going to take me, I turned and began to walk back the way I’d come.

Suddenly, in a rush of energy, I sensed something I remembered from a day at summer camp, the feeling of being exposed, and the threat of attack.  I heard the scrape of claws on hard concrete and the whoosh of a body in rapid motion.  I could almost see the swooping line of the dog’s approach from behind a row of Arbor vitae, and I took the remaining seconds before our inevitable meeting to note that it was descending from the last house on the street, the one next to the two empty sites I’d just visited.

I braced myself and squared my frame to face the situation directly.  If I had learned anything all those years ago on a perhaps similar lonely road, it was that a dog without restraint can be blocked by an energetic wall if no weapons are handy for defense.  True to the sensory indications I’d received preceding the dog’s arrival, he looked me right in the eyes with a ferocious and aggressive glare and charged me in a sprint, only stopping five feet away when I met it with a wall of sound, yelling at him to “back off,” and “get back.”  The dog understood me and wavered slightly but continued to make attempts every few seconds to move in with the intent to bite.  I raised alternate legs with my foot threatening to kick him when my voice wasn’t enough to maintain that perimeter.  About this time, I started wondering how the interaction would come to a close.  How would it happen that I would get out of this conflagration between me and this strange dog obviously upset by my presence on ‘his’ street?  I started thinking of possibilities while maintaining my defense perimeter, such as backing down the street slowly while continuing to yell.  I thought I’d seen a hefty branch about fifty feet behind me on my way in, but I could sense that looking away from the dog would be a mistake I would regret painfully.

At last I sensed a stir at the top of the dog’s driveway, beyond the scraggly line of Arbor vitae trees that bordered it from the empty foundation next door.  A man’s voice and footsteps told me that the owner of the dog had heard the barking and shouts and was on his way to intervene.  I looked away from the dog for a second at the man.  In that moment, I saw that his skin had a sallow cast and he seemed to need a restorative sigh, his chest sunk inwards, like he wasn’t eating enough, and his voice was muffled, as if emanating from inside a ball of bread dough.  The dog ignored him entirely, continuing to bare its teeth at me and bark ferociously while circling like a boxer looking for a take down punch.  The owner hadn’t become part of the equation, as he seemed to have mildly hoped.  As he approached from my side, he said that the dog was friendly and that if I simply walked away it wouldn’t bite me.  Yeah, right.  It is a bit ridiculous in my opinion for dog owners to say this kind of thing to someone whom their family pet is ferociously about to dig into.  I’ve heard the same feeble attempt at preventing lawsuit before.  I told the man without breaking my gaze on the dog, “I’m not looking away from a dog that is barking and cornering me with the intent to bite.”  He seemed to understand that he was going to have to step in and control his dog, and I wondered, why don’t people who own dogs with obvious people problems put them in a fenced yard or on a humane tether?  The owner of the dog extended his hands protectively and stepped in between us.  The dog continued to bark loudly and press towards me, trying this time to get around the man, who began yelling at the dog, too, telling it to go home and pointing in the direction of their house.  The dog was not altering its behavior, and I knew it was time to use the man’s distraction and defensive block to start moving down the street.  I slowly walked away, keeping my eyes on the dog until I felt the vortex dissipate as the owner’s presence replaced mine in the dog’s field of stimulus.

I wasn’t as shaken as the summer a dog chained to a spike in the ground had pulled it up and cornered me along a bend of country road devoid of anything that could be used as a weapon.  I’d gotten out of that particular jam of energy by calling for help and being ultimately joined by my campmates, whose number persuaded the dog to back off.

After I escaped from the dog in my neighborhood, I walked home and went about the business of being too busy with projects and other commitments.  I’ve been working on multiple projects at once, and while usually I can handle multitasking lately I have more on my plate requiring equal amounts of attention than usual.  Yesterday I had the good fortune to share my overwhelm with a good listener and decided to make some changes to my pattern of effort.  In the evening I relaxed with a movie after arriving home, instead of tackling a large project to get as far as I could before collapsing into bed.  I programmed 5 minutes of daily meditation into my Blackberry.  I went to bed at nine.  You’d think these things would be obvious, but I had slipped out of balance.

Like anyone in this pre-apocalyptic society we live in today, I had become ensnared in the tangled spider’s web of progress.  I’m obviously a sensitive person, and so for me to have allowed myself to over-commit like I had was a bit precarious.  Something was bound to break.  The neat thing was waking up this morning with a clear understanding of what had happened to get me back on track.

When a landscape is disturbed, i.e. its plant community and soil structure removed, and especially when this violent destruction of microcosm is neglected, energetic patterns swirl out of balance.  The folks at Findhorn in Northern Scotland describe this in their nonverbal communication with the plant world.  They learned through this fey interaction that plant beings perform tasks within the biosphere of this planet which human beings haven’t even developed the broad ability to recognize.  Tall trees, for example, anchor our planet’s orbital path via their singular ability to channel raw cosmic energy currents into the atmosphere and soil.  This energy is so powerful and harsh, that without our forests, we would be rocked by violent patterns from space.  If I hadn’t experienced this directly (see my forthcoming book), I perhaps would not have this deep understanding of what Findhorn is trying to say.  I revel in the knowledge that a growing global community is waking up to this sort of grok of our world.

In the meantime, however, most of American culture is dominated by corporate advertising that corales us into unnatural patterns of our own energy, while deconstructing the complex and multifunctional webs Nature has woven over long periods.  Certainly, the earth has the strength,  wisdom, and precision to recover from disturbance.  Much of what is considered native now was a result of the movements of people and non-human beings.  Buffalo, for instance, have hooves which till the soil they walk over to allow seeds hitchhiking on their hides a place to get started.  This kind of movement of energy is everywhere.  The lesson in the dog attack I experienced last week is that in an imbalanced system there will always come recovery, even if it feels like things are out of control. Often, we are instruments of vibrational correction.

I know something in my bones about that interaction, now that I have unplugged from the matrix, so to speak, and remembered to balance my own frequency.  I happened upon a pocket of disturbed energy with no outlet.  The particular combination of two sites not benefiting from the care of human presence and an animal feeling it at the blunt end of a linear path of energy flow, i.e. his home at the very end of the cul-de-sac, was too much for the dog at the addition of my imbalanced energy body.

In Feng Shui, elements and relationships are organized in patterns that support harmonious energetic flow.  This can be applied to interior or exterior spaces.  In the case of the dog, it was like a little volcano erupting to release the tension of the pattern.  I acted unknowingly as a catalyst to the mini-release.  Ultimately, the unoccupied home will be inhabited, and the home next to it will be completed and grounded by new owners.  The noise of construction will be replaced again by the peace of the mountain, and the dog will only have the repetitive energy of the cul-de-sac to deal with, a much more calm situation for a sensitive animal.

In a broader view, this cooperation among multiple elements served as a source of inspiration and understanding that relates to our species’ dilemma.  I could extrapolate my experience to the larger pattern of disturbance on the planet and liken my own inadvertent interaction with a vortex of unsettled energy currents to that of our responsibility as human stewards in a web mis-tended by those we have felt powerless to rein in.  My position after having considered the implications outlined in the film Thrive as well as worked to integrate a range of  extra-sensory experiences, is that a disturbance in the Force is something we are called to and capable of adjusting.

Governments and others have hired operators of Wilhelm Reich’s orgone accumulator to bring  natural moisture regimes back into balance through adjustments to the energetic patterns over disturbed sites, such as deserts.  Lakes and streams have returned where dry lands struggled to recover from deep disturbance from human practices that are out of balance with natural law.  The native peoples of this continent were not ignorant of the powers of vibration and the inherent abilities with which we are equipped as a species.  They used dancing as a form of vibration creation and sent up a resonant wave that naturally drew rainfall.  Another ability of trees is to draw water to themselves for their own use.  The presence of trees has been shown to indicate rain, not the other way around as we might expect.  Frogs are another example of energy adjustment.  Their croaking literally emits patterned sound waves that are on the same wavelength as rain.

What I would like to impart from this personal story is a stronger sense of our impact on the world and the encouragement to use the effect we have to affect positive change in areas we perceive as disturbed.  Many people I speak to seem to have an attitude of disempowerment and resulting resignation.  That, ironically, is exactly what corporate media intends.  We as warriors of what is right and good in this world have a responsibility to step out of the entrainment set up for us to be consumers fueling the operations that cause system imbalance in the first place. We can do this by recognizing that we have powers not only to write to our elected officials but also to directly affect the stability of the landscapes in which we live.

One of the main ways that I took charge of my own sinking ship when I realized that I would have to save myself from the productivity mindset of American corporate culture was to incorporate meditation into my daily schedule.  We all know the benefits, so I won’t go into them in too much detail.  But what meditation accomplishes is to give us the break we need from the entrainment patterns emanating from corporate culture.  Simply getting us to step back from the barrage of information available to us, the endless list of things we think we should be doing, and the hyper-availability of opportunities that promise to make our lives “perfect” is all it needs to do.

This is a time when we need to step up as individuals and communities and embody our powers in this vibrational, living system Universe.  Our planet is a vibrational entity, part of a finely-tuned network of symbiotic wave-forms in local space.  A friend recently observed that Facebook would one day soon be implanted in us as microchips so that we could access the social media functions it provides without external devices.  While I respect healthy debate, I had to suppress my gag reflex to be able to say that I thought one day soon we will all recognize our innate, biological ability to network socially via the meridian-circuitry system of our own bodies.  It might start with noticing what we perceive on nontraditional levels, stopping to check in with ourselves when something catches our attention, and simply asking within what has touched our perceptive field and what it means to us in that moment.  In those instances of conscious interaction with the unseen energy vortex all around us, we develop our organic apparatus for sensing and affecting the world itself.

*Note:  I will be teaching a special workshop on specifically how to this.  Please join my mailing list if you would like to be alerted when it becomes available.

Two Ways To Help Plants Thrive And Make Money As An Urban Farmer

For those of you wanting more information on plants and the gardening aspects of managing your property, especially if you have a Permaculture master or consultation plan and are ready to take steps to implement, I will be sharing tips, events, and other relevant information with you via this blog from time to time in support of your thriving as new or aspiring Permaculturists.  It is my intention to serve my readership as well as express and explore my favorite topics:  ecology, Taoism, zombies, etc.  I welcome requests for articles covering topics that you would like to learn more about.  To make article requests, you can post your own comments to any blog post or use the ‘contact’ tab at the top of any page in this site.

The big question of “can we feed our family year-round on our property?” is one that has circulated throughout the Permaculture community for years.  In my opinion (IMO to social media savvy types) it depends on regional climate, in terms of what will grow where you live, and the maturity of the plant and soil community.  Permaculture requires intensive inputs in the first year (or round of installation – I’ll discuss phasing in a future article), namely when you first put the plants in your design into the ground.  These ‘newbies’ to your site are going to need TLC just like any plants during their first year.  Keeping the as-yet-to-be-established root systems moist during the hot summers we humans enjoy here in the Pacific Northwest is vital, and unless you are able to rely on existing sprinklers, have installed your drip irrigation system along with your plants, or have incorporated an ancient-style flood irrigation system (I will discuss this as well in the future), you will need to think about how to get water to those plants furthest away from your water source.

Here are two ways that I recommend to help all of your plants thrive during that first season after planting:

  1. Spread a 12″ layer of natural mulch over all your plantings just after you put them in the ground and water them in thoroughly.  Now you may be thinking, ‘Can’t I skimp on this?  Is a foot of mulch really necessary?’  This key initial investment in labor and materials will pay off big time over the long run, simply because you are giving your new plantings a huge head start by protecting their root systems from frost, drying out, and weed competitors all in one move.  Not only that, but this step also attracts Earth Worms, who will do the work for you of both aerating your soil and adding highly beneficial natural fertilizer in the form of worm castings.  Not bad for a bunch of shredded wood chips.  (Note, you can also use straw; just be careful not to buy hay, which is straw with seeds!  There are also other materials suitable for thick mulch, such as leaf mold from your site or evergreen needles.)
  2. Plant in the Fall.  This second key move utilizes strategy to weld the power of Nature in your favor.  One of the great sources of intelligence when it comes to Permaculture is the willingness to work with the natural smarts of this planet’s ecosystem.  Planting when the rains come makes for not having to water.  It also gives your new transplants (from nursery pot to ground) a solid winter season during which they can conserve growth energy and put down a strong root system.  You will find that if you do this one thing, your plants will thank you with sturdy Spring leaves and then abundant flowers and fruit.

For those of you wanting to buckle down and turn your property into a Zombie Safe Zone, meaning you don’t have to leave much for supplies and risk being shoved over by frenzied Black Friday shoppers or worse, this week’s gem is a FREE online urban farming course!

“Curtis Stone, owner/operator of Green City Acres, a pedal powered urban farm
in Kelowna BC, wants you to create a successful profitable urban farm! In that
last two seasons, Curtis has made $20k and $60k in sales by growing fresh
vegetables on 3/4 of an acre. This year Curtis is teaching you how to become a
successful urban farmer.”

Enter the Dragon

Chinese New Year decorated the hearts and minds of  hundreds of revelers last evening in Portland at the annual Threshold celebration in honor of China’s lunisolar new year, January 23, 2012.  This is considered an auspicious year, that of the water dragon.  In the excellent animated film ‘Spirited Away,’ spiritual beings come to an otherworldly spa to cleanse their energy bodies of the gunk of the world.  A white dragon spirit soars in loops after his visit, and the main character wades calf-deep out into a silvery lake to watch. 

Last evening’s performance featured costumes designed for The Dapper Vagabond label, firecracker ‘pom poms’ made from recycled materials, a 15 foot dragon, the Good Time Girls, and live music by many artists.

As I completed the steps of the routine we’d spent months learning and rehearsing, I felt a release of the potential energy that had been building in preparation for this event.  My relief to be able to check one thing off of my (crowded) list of projects was like a table cleared of a recent dinner party.  It seemed the water dragon soared into the emptied pocket in my head then, and my troupe’s super hero poses at the beginning and end of our performance seemed to clearly fit perfectly with the good luck dragon symbol.

In a vital way, each person is being called by sheer obviousness of the imbalance of the current system to step up and embody his and her inner super hero self.  We have allowed capitalism to go farther than makes sense, to the point of holding our very species back from reaching our potential.  For instance, consider where we would be if free energy devices were not held down by companies profiting from dirty, expensive technologies.  It would seem that someone ought to be stepping in about now and telling the children that it’s time to grow up and share.  Who else but We the People to step into this role?

It’s a winning move.  When the internet was very recently threatened with legal censorship, citizens of countries around the world spoke out against such a blatantly criminal maneuver.  We were successful. Our villainous arch nemeses had to take a (surprised) step back, and though they will undoubtedly try again as ‘the bad guy’ always does, super heroes the world over demonstrated their power to shape the direction of humanity’s evolutionary path this month.

2012 opens before us with significant excitement and hope stirring in the global community of awakened natural people working to free basic elements of our living support system, Earth, from the clutches of confused elitists.  How many reports do we need to see stating plainly that we have a decade or three before turning things around is no longer an option before each of us decides it is time to do something?  I think we’ve all seen enough reports.  We know in our deepest selves it is time to act.

In support of the water dragon of 2012, and mirroring the poses my dance performance troupe took to open and close our guiding of the dragon through the crowd last night, I would like to invoke readers’ inner super heroes.  This year, how can you stand in your power, voice your truth, share your gifts, make a difference in the world, and generally be the person you know you are, deep within?

The Zen of Dish Washing

A Buddhist monk once said something like, “There is so much to do and so little time to do it, we must take great care not to move too quickly.”  A great dishwasher I used to know once said, “There are so many dishes here before us, and lunchtime is approaching; thus, we must employ great speed.”

There’s a lot of sense in that last statement.  As for the first one, well, I’ll leave it to the monks.  Actually, the great dishwasher who said the second quote was, at the time he said it, standing next to me, and we were sharing the great pleasure of his proud art.  We were doing the dishes.

There is something to be gained in washing the dishes.  But you have to shift your focus.

The monk and the dishwasher must have known each other.  They both spoke with fortitude of their task and the path to which each knew he must adhere.  Each knew what lay ahead, and each steadied himself so that he might perform better.  Yes, the dishwasher has a lot in common with the Zen Master.  I know this because I have read zen works and I have stood beside a dishwasher; yes I too have experienced the zen of dishwashing.

“The question clear, the answer deep, each particle, each instant a reality..”  (Sodo 1841-1920)  I pondered this 19th century Buddhist poem as I plunged my wrinkled hands into the sudsy hot depths of the sink and caught a slotted spoon.  My translation went more like, “The water unclear, the suds deep, each particle, each bit of cooked-on food a reality.”  I wondered if I’d ever see the end of the pile of dirty dishes I had to wash.  Then I remembered another Buddhist poem:  “Fresh in their new wraps, Earth and Heaven, and today I greet my eighty-first Spring.  Ambition burning still, I grip my nandin staff.  Cutting through all, I spin the Wheel of Law.” (Nantembo 1839-1925)  Ahhh, I thought; here I stand, fresh in my new apron, kitchen and hell, and today I greet my eighty-first dish.  Ambition flaring to get out of here, I grip my S.O.S. pad.  Cutting through all grease, I look at my hands and they’re raw.

Okay, so being a dishwasher isn’t the most convenient of jobs.  But it’s got character.  It’s poetic.  I’m convinced that most of the Buddhist monks who wrote poetry got their ideas while they were dish washing.  I mean, what better time for a lyricists’s musings, when there is warm water to dunk one’s hands into, and the cat is rubbing against your leg?  “Under the cloudy cliff, near the temple door, between dusky Spring plants on the pond, a frog jumps in the water, plop!  Startled, the poet drops his brush.” (Sengai 1750-1837)  This guy must have been washing dishes when he came up with this one.  Didn’t he mean:  “Under the cloudy water, near the clogged up drain, between obscure chunks of food on the bottom of the sink, a hand searches to pull the plug.  A messy cheese grater gets dumped in the water, plop!  Startled, the dishwasher drops his scrub brush?”  You see, the dishwasher thought he was done, but that cheese grater spoiled his mood.  He couldn’t handle it, and so he lost his grip on the scrub brush he was holding.  Believe me, I can identify the situation.

However, there is a better side to the relationship between Zen Buddhism and washing dishes.  It’s actually rather nifty, because you can meditate while you scrub.  You’re really killing two birds with one stone,* because the meditation calms you and you don’t have to wonder what other people are thinking as you reach into your inner depths.  They’ll all assume you’re just reaching into the depths of the sink.

Dishes are open-source, too; each rinsed round is like a little blank slate reminiscent of one aspect of our home planet.  From a backyard project to what any one of us wishes he could tell Congress, this chore presents a rich time for grounding peace and contemplating the next move toward a goal.  Heck, I even read a book telling me how to “wash the dishes to wash the dishes” once.  But that’s a whole other story.

The next time you find yourself stuck in the kitchen with your arms up to their elbows in soggy quiche from your dinner party the night before, strike up an attitude and entertain some deep thoughts.  For, as the Buddhist says, “Should you desire the great tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads.” (Ekaku 1685-1768)

*No animals were harmed in the writing of this article.

Citizen Participation: Communication & Powerful Consumption

Today I received a mailer from Congressional Representative Earl Blumenauer. I heard the contraption sounds of the mail man pushing the delivery through the metal slot in our front door and the clatter of it falling to the hardwood floor.  I consider it the best piece of mail I have received all year.
Representative Blumenauer is smart to take the time to let his constituents know that their voice is key to his work. In my experience, most folks don’t believe that we have any power left.  Consistently over the past twenty years, Congressional Representatives and Senators from across Oregon have responded to my letters with personal stories, information, and appreciation.  Twice during that time period of letter-writing I received a form letter. One was from then President George W. Bush and the other came from the office of a Republican Senator, typed by an assistant.
The mailing I got today called ME to action, asking that I contribute my voice to the efforts underway to end corporate “personhood,” reform Congress due to insider trading, address Justice Clarence Thomas’ ethics violations in the Supreme Court, reform Wall Street with full implementation and enforcement of the new financial regulations, and restore and rebuild the country through things like a Water Trust Fund and reinstatement of the Superfund Tax.
Regardless of what you may believe based on mainstream corporate media, the commercialized American landscape, recent and on-going moves toward increasing corporate dominance over ecosystems and communities, or the hopelessness and cynicism of family and friends, our voices are the power of We The People. We still hold the right to express them with our elected officials, and, as the band Boards of Canada powerfully state in a song about censorship of their music, “Defend your Constitutionally-protected rights. No one else will do it for you.
There are a number of inspiring and telling examples of citizen voices making vital change or protecting crucial regulations.  When organic standards went under attack in 1998, the FDA wanted to include toxic sludge and other inappropriate things that constituted a wake up call garnering 300,000 citizen voices to ring out and halt the move to ruin real food in this country.  In 2008 Northern California residents spoke up and by doing so successfully put a stop to the spray of sterility-causing chemicals over multiple counties.  The thing to remember is that we are the ones with the power under the current governmental structure, and it is still our choices which allow or stop the multi-national corporations from making moves that threaten the biosphere and thus our health and freedom.
In addition to writing a bi-monthly, that is twice a month, letter to each of your Representatives in Congress and each of your Senators (you can write one letter and modify it slightly for each official), you have another powerful right to say no to atrocities and abuses of natural resources, animals, food, and people through your spending.  Every dollar you spend either supports or boycotts actions on the part of the transnationals.  The internet is still uncensored to a great degree (let’s keep it that way!), and it is easy to trace ownership of brands. For instance, in looking for skin care products that do not contain dangerous chemical additives, I found Aubrey Organics. I was surprised to find that almost all other lines of skin care have additives that have been scientifically found to cause serious diseases and complications in the human body.  But now I essentially vote for pure ingredients and boycott toxins simply by putting my dollars where my convictions are. I believe we all have a basic right to health, and that basic body care should not come with unnecessary chemicals that suppress our immune systems.
I extend this challenge to you: consider why you may have not written to a government official in the past when an issue made you angry or afraid. Compose a simple, straight-forward message sharing your thoughts about the issue and asking for an update on the status of the issue, and put it in the mail to your local Representatives and Senators. This gives the official the job (it is their job to represent us) of investing their attention toward the issue. Simply adjust the names and addresses on the letter to make sure each of your elected officials gets to hear your opinions, ideas, and requests.  One thing that I have learned works is to maintain a respectful yet confident tone when writing to representative government. It can be as simple as using appropriate titles, such as ‘Honorable Representative (then their name),’ and signing your name, ‘Sincerely.’ This sets a receptive and open tone to the relationship.
American government wants and needs to hear from us. Earl Blumenauer, one of my local Reps. in Congress, actively sought my voice and that of the rest of his constituency. I wonder how many households recycled the mailer he sent out today, and how many concerned citizens seized the opportunity to participate and keep democracy alive?
“Remember, a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Why Ecology Is Important

I haven’t written about the general subject of ecology yet in this blog because I was going by the assumption that ecology’s importance in relation to, well, everything, is obvious, and so what could there be to say?  But I recall the many discussions I’ve shared with brilliant, creative friends wherein it was agreed that so-and-so prefers tarot cards while another dear soul doesn’t trust them and instead likes to write in a journal as a way of figuring out her life.  It’s true with authors, too; multiple perspectives are important in every subject, just as diversity is the key to balance on a farm.

And that brings us easily to our subject.  In this sort of post-modern capitalist America, screens and boxes seem to have garnered a foothold on our education.  In my last year of high school, my home room was “gifted” with a mounted television and required to “participate” in its program in order to balance out the deal the school made with Channel One.  What had been a quiet morning adjustment period and sacred chance to immerse our young minds in stories and our noses in the wonderful scent of paperbacks had, without our input or consent, become suddenly a forced commercial-watching indoctrination.  I didn’t think it made any real sense as far as learning was concerned, but it was clear to me that it was a sign of the times, and not a particularly fortuitous one.


Text books are taught as a sort of law in a way, as if all the information, the important stuff anyway, were contained within their nearly indestructible binding and resolute bullet points.  They are standardized for mass absorption and used nationwide, although I hear they are mostly produced in Texas.  The diagrams depicting the Earth’s* water cycle in my grade school text books were clear about it’s closed nature, meaning the assumption that the Earth did not exchange water with space.  The fact that this is actually not how it works at all, and that Earth does receive a constant Cosmic Rain from outer space has still not been included in text books.  Why this is seems to point subtly to the importance of this scientific discovery, for it revolutionizes our understanding of ecology; such information opens the mind to a Universe filled with water, and thus biology.

We get, in short, a deeply abbreviated view of our cosmological reality from the public school system.  But my point isn’t about education.  It’s that ecological smarts are the most important ones we have the opportunity to develop in ourselves, right up there with interpersonal communication.  Ecology is the study of ecosystems, and the Earth being the largest living system of which we have direct knowledge as a species, it is vital that we undertake a clear and whole understanding of our role within the web of life on this planet.

What might that role be?  We know some things from the experience of those pioneering new understanding in the fields of biology, human development and energy systems, physics, and chemistry to name a few.  For instance, we know that wolves play key roles in keeping deer and elk from overeating deciduous trees, and that allowing wolves to return restores these tree species to their natural growth cycle.  In the film Thrive an evolutionary biologist equates the 1% who own mainstream media houses and big banks in the U.S. and abroad to a caterpillar.  It eats down its environment at such a rapid pace that it passes out and cocoons inside a chrysalis.  While inside, the caterpillar’s body breaks down and new, special cells are generated that digest the old body and form that of the emergent butterfly.  For a period of time, both caterpillar and butterfly exist together.  The biologist had a good point when she said, “you don’t go stepping on caterpillars,” because they are the building blocks of the wondrous butterfly.  The 99% have the task of demonstrating the peaceful, positive alternative to war, mono-crops, and control of ecosystems and communities.  We are being called to create this vision because of the folly of the fear-based 1%.

An example of human beings who took it upon themselves to work cooperatively with Nature and as a result found themselves in a position to demonstrate to the world how our species can fit within an abundant organic planetary system and thrive is the founding team of the Findhorn center in Scotland.  With specialized training, Peter Caddy, Eileen Caddy, and Dorothy Maclean communicated with the sentient spirits of natural elements, specifically plant devas and landscape spirits.  The messages they received from this realm were specific and eloquent, indicating that the plant kingdom is waiting patiently for humanity to awaken to the sentience of other species and begin a more conscious journey of co-creative evolution together.  You may find that such makes sense on an inner level.  Perhaps this idea is foreign to you.  Either way, the Findhorn community was recognized internationally for transforming an unproductive, frigid, windy, and grey landscape into a lush bounty of record-setting food and flowers, which is more than I can say for Monsanto or Fox News, both accepted in mainstream society as operating on real assumptions.

Author Michael Pollan provided us with another example of possible human niches within Earth’s ecology-based system when he wrote about the various ingenious ways that plant species have utilized humanity over the centuries for their own benefit.  We unwittingly have been key players in the evolution and survival of species such as the potato, the tulip, the apple, and cannabis.  By selecting for traits we found desirable, we transformed the apple from a spindly, tasteless base for cider to a robust, juicy fruit covering acres of land.  Peruvians working with the terrain and climate of their landscape farmed numerous varieties of potato to ensure their own food supply in times of change.  Compared with factory agriculture in the United States, which relies on manufactured “consumer demand” for uniform french fries to pay for its operations, Peruvian potato farming builds soil and water wealth without needing chemicals for its abundant production.  Perhaps even more interesting, the human brain has specialized receptors that were recently discovered which exactly match the well known psychotropic/hallucinogenic compound produced by the cannabis plant.  In fact, the human brain manufactures its own THC.  Because of human desire for the plant that provides an easy source of THC, the cannabis has evolved from a ditch weed with low levels of the compound to glistening, bud-laden towers with more equipment options for pampering by humans than any other plant.  We have been its means of achieving its own evolutionary development.  I wondered, after watching PBS’s documentary on Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire, whether cannabis developed THC in order to attract humans.

Ecology is simple yet complex.  Water enters our atmosphere as house-sized chunks of ice from space, melts, and becomes rain, entering our oceans, streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.  Frogs call rain with specialized vocal chords that produce a rhythmic pattern which affects the “electrobiosphere.”  Pioneer plant species move in via wind and animals to begin the long trajectory toward climax ecosystem following human or natural imbalance.  Successions of species, animal and plant, perform specialized functions within the growth back up towards mature forest.  Grasses anchor topography with dense mats of fibrous roots.  Water is filtered naturally by healthy porous soils anchored by plant materials and replenishes water tables with fresh drinking water.  Ocean currents stir nutrients for use by myriad species that play their own roles.  Whales sing across the seas in a language we do not understand, talking probably about the things most important to us:  mating, relating, exploring, creating, living.  Algae photosynthesizes and billows out as much if not more oxygen than world forests.  Tall trees anchor the ground and catch raw cosmic rays with soft filamentous branch networks to temper it into the biosphere for use within the system and to hold the planet in orbit.  Birds are awoken around 4:30 each morning by an energy current and begin to sing, a song that can be heard from space.  Plants of dizzying varieties have devised amazing ways to propagate their seed.  Earthworms simultaneously aerate and fertilize soil.  And so forth.

Everything is so connected that cooperation for mutual benefit is not difficult.  It amounts to learning the connections closest to the point at which your project would participate in or affect the system as a whole and then designing your project in harmony with that which is already naturally functioning successfully.  For instance, a property sheds rainwater, both over land and off hard structures like rooftops and concrete pads.  Two measures of water harvest and infiltration make use of free resource flows across a site while adding to the overarching abundance of the local and thus global ecosystem.  To stop water shedding rapidly across ground surfaces, break up a paved driveway into a permeable surface that allows storm water to infiltrate into the ground, both getting filtered and preventing stormwater overflows in the process.  To catch and store or utilize storm water hitting your home’s roof, divert downspouts to rain gardens, bioswales, grey water systems, or rain barrels.  Another example of cooperation with ecology for a win-win is to plant a multifunctional hedge around the perimeter of your property.  Choose species on the outer perimeter that are attractive to deer and other wildlife that you do not want coming onto your land and species you can consume or otherwise use on the interior perimeter.   Alternatively, plant a deer-resistant or unpalatable hedge as a living fence.

Some broad-stroke solutions suggested by this approach:

  1. Redesign factory farms to utilize outdoor landscapes as forage lands, filter waste water into the ground, and give animals deserved basic fresh air, water, grasses, and room to move naturally.  Account for actual expenditures and returns holistically and in consideration of the amount of dependence currently on subsidy and the costs, both financial and ecological, to everyone.  This is sustainable not only to the local and regional ecosystem, but also to the industry itself.  It improves the quality of the food being produced as well as protects essential air, water, and soil from toxic medicated factory animal waste spills.
  2. Plant a diversity of native trees in logged areas along with multiple varieties of native shrubs, forbs, perennials, evergreens, grasses, and ground covers.  Mulch around plantings with local materials.  Transition to non-tree paper sources such as Kenaf, Hemp, and others.  Phase out clear-cut logging completely.  Fund alternative energy and building material sources.  Account for actual costs and subsidies when making value comparisons between alternative crops and tree crops.  Creates long-term, sustainable livelihoods while expanding and broadening resource availability.
  3. Take advantage of beneficial pollinators and understand other insect, animal, plant, and bird species niches in order to strategically phase out chemical applications and mono-crop agriculture.  Accurately account for costs and benefits by including ecosystems, communities, and quality of life in profit equation.  Redistribute subsidies away from factory farms to encourage local food sourcing and reinvigorate small farm operations.  Permaculture principles also create cash crops for family and community economic health and interdependence.
  4. Expand riparian areas nation-wide to allow for bank stability, flood mitigation, and healthy water and fish species.  Require commercial production in all industries to make water protection a high priority.  Work with natural water cycle via design innovation funding.  Phase out corporate buy-out of sustainable technologies.  Redistribute subsidies to give weight to technologies that protect, restore, and sustain natural water flows through the ecosystem.  Design cities and redevelop with regard to ecological harmony.  Creates sustainable jobs, expands local recreation opportunities, resource and food availability, and stimulates industry capable of continuing long-term.  Leaves room for new ideas and design that works with the system.  Minimizes wastefulness, pollution, and garbage for landfill.  Increases native fish populations.  Respects tribal traditions of food and material harvest.  Reduces need for engineering band-aids.  Etc.

It may be obvious that this list is both only a partial one and dependent upon the perhaps more immediate issue of corporate control over ecosystems and communities.  For now, I hope to have broached the subject of ecology and started a conversation about why it is of utmost importance and how humanity can benefit from making it a priority.

*Technically, the word “earth” is capitalized only when referring to our planet, Earth, and not when preceded by the word “the;” however, seeing as the planet Earth is far more important than the President, whose title is capitalized and who has been George W. Bush, I take the liberty here of capitalizing it whenever I use the word for emphasis on the point this article intends to broadcast.

The Gift Of Yourself

I wondered if writing this article would help anyone get through the holidaze, and I remembered the story about the starfish:  A man walking along a beach tosses washed-up starfish that are still alive back into the sea.  A stranger passing by asks him why he bothers to do it when there’re so many of them.  He tells the stranger that his small action meant something to the one he was about to toss back out into the ocean.

If there’s any doubt about whether Christmas is a stressful time as well as a merry one, just look at the shopping craze that goes on in America every year about this time.  Advertisements camouflaged as news on the radio try to convince me that I’m behind on essential shopping, television shows I’m practically forced to watch at the gym (most machines have screens 12-18″ from the face that block the view through the window) tell me how key it is to wrap gifts the “right” way to impress the most, and print ads scream at me to get items I didn’t even know were missing from my life.

Despite the mega blow-out holiday blitz experience that citizens are encouraged to strive for each winter, I think what most of us want is a feeling of joy which comes from inside ourselves and our relationships.  For those tired by the bombardment of messages these days, and especially during the holiday season, ignoring the advertising and instead finding peaceful and celebratory ways to connect with loved ones without the focus on spending a lot of money or trying to outdo anyone else is a reasonable alternative.

So many options abound for deepening connections with friends and family at no or little cost.  One of the major centers around which relationships are nurtured at any time of year is food.  Homemade cookies are fun to make and fun to give and eat, too, for instance.  It’s relatively easy to mix a few liquids to make a delicious and soul-satisfying beverage to share.  I’ve recently discovered that if I use a French press to make two servings of local coffee and pour that over a couple of tablespoons of dark drinking chocolate, it gives me a feeling of well-being and subtle energy.  Both chocolate and coffee are filled with antioxidants.  One tip I recently learned about is that citrus essential oil restores coffee’s depressant effect on the nervous system, so I eat an orange with my homemade mochas.  Sharing a steaming mug of this with my housemate gives me time to consider how I will use my day while gently brushing away the fog of sleep.  Sure, it costs maybe a dollar or two to make this, but compared to $4 or $8 spent at a cafe for similar joys adds up faster.  A few other examples such as hiking or snowshoeing take a little internal combustion but infuse our spirits for weeks afterward until we can get outdoors again.  Taking a simple walk in the evening even makes a difference sometimes.  Thrift store shopping can yield less expensive finds for gift exchanges and reduce the impact on our environment through reuse.  Printing photographs for used frames is just one idea.  Do this with a friend, and you give the gift of yourself.  Your time and energy is valuable, infusing your companions with love and hope.  Creating memories that last and sharing your non-material gifts of companionship and friendship are worth a lot more than a new toy in many ways, because like the wise one who said it so well pointed out, you can’t take your accumulations with you in the end.  Many scientists are finding evidence that the human energy body continues beyond the physical life span in some way.  Whether or not you believe in that notion, most of us can probably do with a little more good things to think on while waiting until the end of the work day and a little less stuff to fret over protecting.

This is not to say that Americans should boycott everything (just major banks and corporations responsible for human suffering and environmental destruction).  Of course we buy supplies as part of our lives.  But what are your wishes really about?  Is material abundance attractive for its own sake or as a means to the end of happiness?  If we all look beneath the desires we are constantly encouraged by our corporate media to indulge, we may find that community, fun, connecting, and adventure are the real motivations behind much of our holiday bustle.  Perhaps we can consider ways we can move closer to those sensations and respond to the holicraze with more peaceful, unharried hearts.

Occupy The Thrive Movement

The best rendition of the state of the world and its solutions available so far is the brilliant documentary Thrive.  At a time when it has become a battle to access pure drinking water, organic food, basic housing, jobs, and energy, this film packages reams of research into a balanced narration that anyone can understand.

The argument is that all of the struggles people around the world are facing right now are coming to such a head that it is impossible anymore to ignore the connectivity of the problems and their source.  Environment, community, health, media, natural resources, energy, and food are some of the major areas which show strong indications of imbalance in the “post-modern” era.  No longer are the issues that stem from these imbalances viewable as isolated incidences, but numerous well-documented scientific findings clarify the systemic nature of the problems facing the human race today.

It may have once seemed a bit “out there” to postulate that all of our problems are connected and that therefor their solution is simple.  Maybe you remember a time when your high school debate team considered the spotted owl an issue of jobs versus the environment.  Certainly, television content promulgates the old line that it is best to fit in and shop like a good consumer.  However, people are citizens, regardless of how boxed we are into a spending and consumption pattern that makes little sense, creates massive waste, and funds the very forces working hard to suppress our own basic rights.

Two years ago, a small group of activists took a video camera, still camera, and audio recording device into Wal-Mart, Old Navy, and Best Buy on an all-night independent citizen media exploration into the American “holiday” known as Black Friday.  One woman sitting with a “pocket t.v.” at the front of a line snaking through the local mall told the independent journalists her family had made Black Friday a tradition for the past twenty-five years.  Another teenage shopper on his way to the electronics department of a Wal-Mart nearly toppled an old man walking with a cane and didn’t even stop to apologize or see if the man had fallen.  The team of journalists discovered many more instances of ingrained “retail therapy” that night.  The truth is, if advertising was halted for just one day, there would be a massive reduction in consumer spending.  This indicates that people are entrained by constant encouragement to spend money on things that do not contribute to real happiness or stability.

Another indicator of the systemic nature of problems facing the world today is the urban grid of most cities.  If you have ever tried to go out of your house on a given day and meet up with a friend or simply leave your home, you will have discovered the difficulty in not spending money.  There are very few places to easily go that do not cost some money for entry.  Cafes will ask visitors to buy something in order to take up space.  Library meeting rooms must be reserved.  Bars and pubs as we know can be great places to socialize, but there is always a price.  Walking in a park, riding a bicycle, or attending a free lecture are about it in terms of free recreation and socialization outside the home.  The point is, where are people gathering to exercise their freedom of speech and work on solutions to the problems we face?

The Occupy movement is addressing the connected problems of the world in a grass-roots manner consistent with past ecological and social justice movements that have been successful in raising awareness and mobilizing the voice of the people to affect change.  One inspiring thing is how aligned the Occupy movment is with the film Thrive.  It is like a call and response relationship between the two.  It is a wonder to see international mobilization of citizens against the brutal and organized forces of control that have systematically cracked down on the natural wealth of communities and ecosystems worldwide for hundreds of years.

The film Thrive leaves the viewer wondering how s/he will organize locally to take the actions suggested.  One wonders who to talk with, who will be willing, who will understand the imperative, where to meet up and make a plan, and how to organize with other groups nationally and internationally.  Occupy Together stands up in the streets and shows the world that unity has been initiated worldwide and with momentum, wide support, and media coverage.  The result is a sense that the age-old struggle for freedom is nearer to being over at long long last than it is to defeat.

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