~ Our Albatross is Greed, But We’re Not Sunk Yet ~

June’s theme at the BeZine is “Environmental Justice/Climate Change: Farming and Access to Water”.  It’s a good time to think about water as we are easing into summer here in North America. I know there are many, like me, who wonder if this summer will continue the trend of breaking record heat indexes, or how bad the drought will be this year?

It’s easy to take fresh water for granted when you have unlimited access to it. It’s easy not to think about people thousands of miles away who walk as much as six hours or 5 miles a day, just for clean water. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? What we take for granted here in the West, millions of others struggle every day to reach.

I could write a book about all the things which contribute and are causing the shortages of fresh water in the world, or how these shortages are leading to more wars and will continue to get worse as the climate changes. But I decided to write a poem instead, and borrowed a technique from another writer whom I greatly admire, Michael Dickel. I’ve inserted links inside the poem with the hopes that you’ll follow them and learn more about the water crisis that imperils the planet. Maybe it will motivate you to look at fresh, clean water with a different perspective, and even inspire you to take action(s). As always, thanks for taking the time to read.  🙂

*********

Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink…”
Prophetic words, which won’t be heard?
We’re already pushing at the brink.

We give our water to corporations,
So that we can buy it back again!
Poisoned taps, like third-world nations,
But here, in towns like Flint, Michigan.

Runoff pollution kills rivers and streams,
Water tables poisoned by mining and fracking,
Droughts and hurricanes, climate extremes,
Children die each day, from clean water’s lacking.

Sands slip through Humanity’s hourglasses,
But the future’s not fully carved in stone.
Technology may save Man’s collective, dumb asses,
Or buy us more time to correct what we’ve done.

Check out clean water that comes in a book!
Or an edible, bio-degradable sphere.
A billboard makes water from air — take a look!
A sieve that makes seawater drinkable! *Cheer!*
 
One man is walking 3,200 miles,
Another invented these portable stations.
Can you imagine the millions of smiles,
Saved, by clean water for all the world’s nations?

It starts and ends with each one of us,
Individual actions have ripple effects.
Water is life: without it, we’re dust.
Water is life. And all life connects.

~ © 2017 CLR

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To tell you the truth…

Honesty and Transparency are the themes for this month’s BeZine. I started to write about these things in relation to the current political administration in the United States and quickly realized that it was turning into a (badly-written, full of sarcastic anger) book. So instead, I’d like to ask you to consider something different, but just as important.

Image borrowed from lovethispic.com

Someone once told me, “Friends keep you honest. Good friends keep you honest with yourself.” Not only do I believe this, but I am blessed to have good enough friends who will do exactly that.  Because we’re all adept at self-deception, we all need outside perspectives that will help keep us true to who we really are. This is a good thing, because honesty and transparency are crucial for trust; it’s critical that we be able to trust ourselves in order to live our best, most fulfilling lives possible.

How do I know how to trust myself? You may ask. The answers are there, and complicated, and they may not be what you want to hear, but self-honesty isn’t always easy. In fact, I’d say it’s probably harder than being honest with other people, because we all tend to be our own worst enemies – Ego is ever present and will do any number of shady things to protect itself (and you, in the process).

The over-simplified, short answers are that there are a few things you can do to start on the journey to being more honest with yourself:

* Pay closer attention to your emotions, your thoughts and your behaviors. By becoming aware of those times when your emotions, thoughts and behaviors don’t seem to match who you believe yourself to be, you’re honing your ability to be self-aware. This takes practice, so don’t get discouraged.

* Understand that it’s a journey, not a destination, and that it’s likely to be painful. There’s a good reason that the phrase “The truth hurts” has become such a cliché. Also realize that the rewards are worth it! There is nothing quite so empowering as knowing that you’re comfortable in your own skin, living the life you were meant to…as a direct result of doing the hard work of taking stock of your personal inventory (some of you may even recognize this as the 4th step in any 12-step program: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”)

* Don’t be afraid to seek therapy or professional help with personal issues that may be holding you back. Unresolved issues and baggage will stick around as long as you allow them, and will hinder your attempts to practice self-honesty. It takes guts to admit you’re not perfect and that you may need help to unravel layers of inner knots.

Dr. Cortney S. Warren is a well known psychologist who has explored this subject in depth. Her website, choosehonesty.com has some good insights into becoming more honest and transparent with yourself. Here is a quick article of hers that was published in Psychology Today that gives a brief explanation of how to get started. And below is a very good TedX Talk video of hers that goes into more detail.

One of the most important things to remember about honesty with oneself is that it’s a continual process. We have the choice each day to honor our true selves or put on a mask. We can defer to who and what we think others want or expect us to be, or we can try to be self confident, honest and live our lives the way we think and feel we should.  I’m not advocating selfishness, but rather, self-awareness. Learn to trust yourself and be honest about who you are. It’s one of the essentials for living a complete, enriched and fulfilling life. And if you find yourself unsure about what that means and don’t already have one or two, get some good friends who are willing to keep you honest with yourself.  😉

Image borrowed from Pinterest.com, Dalai Lama quotes

Posted in Awareness, Food For Thought, Friendship, Honesty, Life | 2 Comments

Some Scientific Snippets

I’ve loved science as long as I can remember. When other little girls my age were collecting Barbie dolls, I was helping my brother find and label bugs for his bug collection.  My first science fair project in 4th grade was a very simple Skinner Box maze that utilized my two pet mice, Ebony and Ivory.  So when I saw that the theme for the BeZine this month was “Science in culture, politics and religion” I was overjoyed at the idea of being able to contribute something about one of my favorite subjects.

To be fair, the theme itself seemed a bit daunting. I mean, that’s a huge amount of stuff to choose from! I was overwhelmed.  So, I decided that I would choose something that science has influenced in each of the three categories and share a video for each one.

Image borrowed from Reddit.com

Science plays an important role in most global cultures, but in some places it has proven to be exceptionally innovative. We tend to take scientific advances in the medical field for granted here in the western world, but there are still many places that lack basic medicines, and particularly lack any kind of specialty medicine field. In Brazil, for example, they don’t have a working skin bank and don’t have a lot of resources to treat burn victims. Because of an unmet need, doctors have looked to Science to provide a way to help, by using what they do have available:

Moving on to science in politics, I’m going to use our own culture here in the United States as a prime example. The current administration is full of ties to the fossil fuels industries, climate change deniers and anti-environmentalists. The politics dictate policy and that’s very bad news for Science.  With cuts proposed to vital agencies like the E.P.A. and N.O.A.A., the removal of climate change information from the White House website, and the silencing of federal scientists with gag orders, is it any wonder that scientists both here and abroad see this as the opening salvos of a war on Science?

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Luckily, as one of my favorite scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “That’s the good thing about science. It’s true, whether or not you believe in it. That’s why it works.” Now, that doesn’t necessarily translate to power in politics, but don’t despair, because there are still people out there who care enough about science to make sure it doesn’t disappear in a short-sighted, ignorant, political purge. Here are two of my favorite men discussing how it’s more important now than ever to enlighten those who don’t believe in science and what the changing planet is trying to tell us.

While we’re doing some heavy mental lifting, let’s examine science in relation to religion. So many people think that science and religion are polar opposites that have nothing in common. I’ve heard people say that they both rely upon faith, although one is faith in things seen and the other is faith in things unseen – factual, tangible evidence vs. circumstantial and communal/personal/anecdotal evidence. There are so many arguments for each side…that I would like to challenge you to stop. Just stop. Put aside what you know or think you know about science and religion, and for just a few minutes, consider a completely different viewpoint. What if…why not have BOTH?  Wild, right? Crazy, I know.

I invite you to open your mind and watch the following TedX Talk. It’s only about 18 minutes long. That’s really not long in the big scheme of things. As for me, I believe it’s entirely possible to have both science and religion (although I personally regard it as more of a spirituality than ‘organized religion’). The point is that they don’t have to conflict, it doesn’t have to be an either/or stalemate.  There is another way.

In closing, I’d just like to say thanks for reading and I hope that I’ve given you a few things to consider.  🙂 And last but not least,

Image from Tumblr- Inspire

 

Posted in Ecology, Environment, Food For Thought, Future, Life, Nature, Past Present and Future, Politics, Science, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Your Attention, please…

“There is not a single instance in history where hate has brought joy to human beings. Hate destroys those who hold it in their minds and bodies. If humanity released all hate, fear, and resentment, then no dictator could ever rise, and we would have peace on earth. Peace on earth can occur only through peace within each of us.” ~ Rhonda Byrne, The Secret Daily Teachings

There’s a saying, “Energy Flows Where Attention Goes”, that has been attributed to several different sources. Regardless of who initially said it, I believe it to be true. Not only is it true, I also think it’s crucial as a way of “Overcoming Hate”, which is this month’s BeZine theme.

In order to “overcome” anything, it must first be understood, and broken down into the parts which make it up as a whole.  When you think about the word “hate”, what comes to mind? Do you picture the opposite of love? Do you picture anger, or fear in disguise? What makes up this powerful emotion to which we humans so often cling? Why do we allow it so much power to influence and run (and ruin) our lives?

From a certain perspective, hate may be defined as “Judgement directing Anger”.  There is a good, more in-depth post about this at one of the blogs I follow, here. In addition to judgement directing anger, I also believe that fear is a strong component of hate. Whether it’s fear of “Different” or “Other” (someone who is “not me” or “not like me”) or fear for survival, fear of someone taking away what I have, having more than me, being better than me, etc.. To truly overcome hate, we must be willing to overcome (and face) our fears.

Just as there are almost infinite shades of grey between black and white, there are many nuances of hate. I found a chart from here which shows some of the most widely accepted types, but there are different variations and combinations of all of them.  Do any of your personal “hates” seem to fall into any of these categories?

Oh, I know there are people who will say, “But I don’t hate. None of those fit me. I try very hard not to hate anybody or anything.” While that may be true, hate is such a base emotion that I find it hard to believe anyone who says they “never” hate. Trying hard not to hate is a noble effort, and a good first step. Self-awareness is always a good thing, even when it’s painful.

But then I would ask, what are you doing to decrease the hate in the world? Using the self awareness you have worked for, to be mindful and not spread any kind of hate can be a lot tougher. Especially in today’s technological society, where memes, tweets, and all manner of social media stories spread like wildfire…often without being fact-checked, without the user consciously thinking about what kind of ripple effects and consequences sharing that particular story, meme, tweet, etc. will have.

where-your-mind-goes-energy-flows_tbt

There is a big difference between passion and hate, and it seems like lately, people tend to confuse the two. I understand being passionate about something, willing to stand up and fight for your beliefs. So when does it cross the line to hate? When it harms other people? When it harms your own well-being? The measurement is probably different for everyone, and only you can make that call.

Where is your energy going? If you are focused on the negative, then all of your energy and attention is only making that negativity stronger. “But what about all these other people who are spreading hate and misinformation, how do I change their minds?” you might ask. I could answer with something like “only love can conquer hate”, and while I do think that’s true, it doesn’t quite address the reality of the extent and amount of hate that we face every, single day. The thing is, you can’t control anyone other than yourself. So you concentrate on YOU.

“Never waste energy on talking to a closed door with a person ready to fight behind it. First work on releasing the fight, then opening the door, and then finally finding any middle ground for reason. Then a dialogue can start.” ~ Casey Kochmer, Personal Tao

Where is your energy going? To what are you giving your attention? Is your focus only serving to spread and invigorate hate or are you helping to overcome it?

Posted in Awareness, Food For Thought, Frustration, Inspiration, Peace, Philosophical Ponderings, Social Media, Zen | 2 Comments

~ Scraggly Dandelion in a Concrete Crack ~

This month’s theme at the BeZine is all about resistance. The community of artists and poets, seers and doers have come together to show our resistance to all of the madness and badness pervading our country lately. Not just with the craziness of the recent election cycle (although that is prominent) but the unrest, hate and intolerance that seems to be spreading around the world. We must RESIST adding to the darkness. Below is my humble offering to this month’s issue. I hope it makes you think. And I hope you check out the rest of the ‘Zine for some extraordinary examples of creative resistance!

Image from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License Source author: Kleuske

Image from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License Source author: Kleuske

It begins, with one brave enough to appear.
One idea, one voice in an asphalt void.
Oligarchs try to crush all dissension with fear.
Undaunted, the idea will not be destroyed,
Shares roots with others; reassures, “I’m still here.”

One soft heartbeat, then two, then ten.
It becomes a thrumming pulse of multitudes.
Hundreds turn to thousands, to millions and then
It can’t be paved over with false platitudes.
Like defiant dandelions, reaffirm, “We’re still here.”

While those in power, on their golden thrones,
Bloated and squinty-eyed from swallowing so much hate,
Full of flatulent, hot air and pompous-pride groans,
Fail to recognize that their hour groweth late.
The masses are gathering; reassert, “No more fear!”

History paints rebels and martyrs the same:
Trading their lives for belief in their causes.
The greater the oppression, the brighter the flame
Of kindled resistance in lieu of such losses.
The full bloom of awakening, “We won’t disappear!”

To the tyrants, the haters, the xenophobes, too,
The racists, misogynists, who spew toxic bile:
No matter your claims for your self-righteous views,
You must understand: our resistance is fertile.
Love conquers hate, and it will always persevere.

~ © CLR 2017

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Piece By Painted Piece

art-washes-away-from-the-soul-the-dust-of-everyday-life-50This month’s theme at the BeZine is “The Healing Value of the Arts”. The Arts have an intrinsic value in and of themselves, of course, but most of the time when people read or hear the word “Art”, they don’t associate it with healing or medicine. And yet, there is a very real power in art to be and do exactly that. I want to share a personal story with you about how art really can change a person’s life and help them heal.

My brother-in-law, whom I will call “TW”* for the sake of this piece, is a proud USMC and Army National Guard veteran who served our country for almost a decade.  He did tours in Bosnia and Iraq and when he returned to the States, he was not the same vibrant, easy-to-laugh young man who first enlisted. The things he witnessed and experienced overseas changed his mind to such a degree that his everyday functioning was affected. You see, TW suffers from severe, debilitating PTSD. There are good days and bad days, but on the bad days, his body freezes up and he has problems performing simple tasks that you and I might take for granted. He has been known to curl up into a fetal ball for hours at a time, trying to escape the monstrous hell his memory is reliving.

Of course, he has meds which his doctor prescribed for him, and they help…to a degree. But the most amazing treatment of all has been his painting. His art has helped save him more than any pill ever could. TW builds and paints hundreds of miniature figurines and it has become much more important to him than a simple hobby.  He agreed to answer some questions about how this type of Art has changed his life and how it continues to help him get better.

imperial-knight-1

Q: How did you get started in using painting to handle your PTSD?
TW: I was having so many panic attacks, and when that happens, there are a lot of times it’s something that you’re not aware of until you’re right in the middle of it. It’s like your body does its own thing, it floods with adrenaline, the nerves go haywire and it gets hard to control your emotions. That’s something you learn as a marine…you learn the ultimate control, you don’t feel fear or rage or any of that, because having emotions over there can get you or your buddies killed. So to not be able to control it like that makes me feel like I need to do better somehow.

I tried video games for awhile, but they didn’t help the same way that painting does. They say “idle hands are the devil’s work”, well, an idle mind is just as bad and I got sick and tired of being afraid all the time. So I was looking for an outlet, something to take the place of the fear, you know? Back in high school, I kind of messed around with models a little bit, so I thought, “Here’s something tangible to keep my mind and hands busy” and it just grew from that.

Q: How often do you paint and for how long at a time?
TW: At least once a week, but sometimes a lot more. It just depends on when inspiration hits, and if or when I need it. I’ve learned some of my triggers, but the attacks can still creep up on me and can happen at any time. If I feel like one is starting, then I can take some meds and start focusing on my painting and it helps calm me down almost immediately. I usually paint for a few hours, but sometimes it can go all day. It just depends.

model-groupQ: Why do you think it helps?
TW: Well, this may sound weird, but it’s a routine I do. I have several steps, and those steps have steps. Like, I prepare my work space, and that might be two or three steps. Then I pick out my paints and brushes, and that’s a couple more steps, and so on. It’s a ritual, and it helps calm my mind by giving me something tangible to focus on, one thing at a time.

Another part of it is the ethos of the figurines I paint. What I mean is that the lore behind the models is something that empowers me. These figures, they’re Space Marines, so of course I can relate to that part of it, but it’s a fantasy world, too – they’re soldiers who don’t ever feel fear, they never get PTSD; I can command troops and build my own army without any of the weaknesses of real people. I mean, they’re super-human, genetically engineered warriors. So being able to pour myself into that…helps me feel better about myself, helps me be stronger.

Q: Have you told your doctor about it and has it affected what kinds or the amounts of medicine(s) you take?
TW: Yeah, I did tell him about it and it’s encouraged for patients like me to keep busy and calm. He called it a constructive focus, so that I can come back to reality with a possible different perspective, from a different place mentally.  As far as the meds go, I can tell you this:  before I started painting, I used to drink, a lot – to escape all of it…and now I don’t. I have a pretty good schedule for the meds I do have to take, but on days when I paint, I don’t need some of them because I just don’t have any attacks on those days.

Plus, if I’m going through a period of insomnia, which happens more than I want, I can paint and come down enough that I can actually get to sleep. Most of the time, though, I like to paint during the high sun of the afternoon and my doctor has encouraged that, because the sunshine helps with my moods, too. It also helps me see how the models look with details that show up in natural light that don’t always show under artificial light.

demon-modelQ: Do you think it could help other veterans like you and have you mentioned it to anyone else whom it might help?
TW: Yeah, I do. I mean, it’s not for everybody, and some people might find it boring, but it’s helped me become more patient, keeps me calm and focused. Making sure all the details come out right is a good challenge for me.  A couple of my buddies are vets, too, although they’re from different units, and I’ve told them how much it helps. But everybody has to find what works for them, and I think it’s good if you already have an interest in it, like I used to be sort of interested in it in high school. But I recommend that anybody should try it because you never know. I know it’s worked for me and I think it would work for other people, too.
_____________________________________________________________

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that Art can’t heal. I’ve witnessed it, so I know that it can. I know TW’s case isn’t the only one, or the only way that art has helped someone. Look around, pay attention. I bet you can find ways that The Arts heal people, too. 🙂

* When I asked my brother-in-law what nickname I should use for this piece, he said to call him “The Wizard”. It’s a private joke with his doctor, about the ‘powers’ that each of them have to help TW get better. I abbreviated it to keep it from being too distracting to read. 

 

Posted in Art, Creativity, Food For Thought, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Veterans, War | 2 Comments

A Little Kindness…

heartlit

I had no idea what to write for this month’s BeZine theme: Metta. Metta is also known as loving-kindness. It’s a practice often found in Buddhism, but also in other religions. It builds empathy and compassion for self, others, and the world around us. I was going to talk about random acts of kindness and senseless beauty, and while it’s a subject I adore, it didn’t seem quite right. As I was thinking about what to write and searching for some inspiration, the perfect story presented itself.  I’d like to share it with all of you because to me, it sums up what the idea of loving-kindness is all about. Enjoy, be inspired (and maybe have a kleenex handy  😉 ).

http://www.littlethings.com/tara-wood-mr-dan/

heartflame

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