Sunday, October 28, 2007

Peace Now

The most important thing I struggle with in my life is to become peaceful with myself. War in our world begins at home. For me, I must welcome unconditional surrender, and lessen how I create my own suffering. When I embrace my shadows, and cultivate inner kindness, inner peace becomes more possible. I find that I must accept, not resist, what is true. Showing up and dealing with my issues works much better for me then avoiding them. However, knowing when it is a good time to address my inner demons is something that takes skill. Being kind with myself is a work in constant progress. Just because I feel uncomfortable does not mean I must run from things. Sometimes my cowardice comes back to haunt me. Nurturing a deeper soulful relation with myself, I will be able to become whole and happy. I can find more pleasure with my life when I find how to perform a careful examination of what truly causes me discomfort and how to best address it. This critical development is all about healing, praying, spending time in nature and finding friends to support me.

Such an inner transformation has profound implications for the outer physical work we must constantly be reminded to do. Violence and war in our outer work is so prevalent. Even though we may be in a serene setting such things as the way we drive our cars, talk to one another or even run around conveys bellicose acts.

After much searching and exploring the source of my despair I have realized one thing. All I can do is cultivate my own peace and lead by example . Without some understanding of myself my problems and the world's problems will not go away. I write this struggling with my own life and future. My self education is not just about becoming better at what I do but to address my most fundamental challenge, what I fear most in myself. I cannot find peace if I do not go into myself and see or become more intimate with my soul. What truly is intimacy? Intimacy means to me that I must trust myself and come closer to what is true. Such familiarity calls for many forms of spiritual practice.

The more I can embrace my stress and anxiety as well as the world's, the more harmonious I live. Without my individual awakening to the separation between myself and the world, only suffering occurs, and I sense that our own fears will haunt us until we address them. Only then can the possibility of peace begin.

To find my peace in the world, I must remember to constantly practice inner peace. Developing this mental calm comes through accumulating both understanding and knowledge to keep myself strong in the face of dissatisfaction, stress, or anxiety. Being "at peace" keeps me in better health, and without being "at peace" the opposite happens, and I experience unhealthy stress and anxiety.

There are many forms of violence from which to learn. One of the greatest terrors is how we disconnect ourselves from our world. We humans are part of, not separate from, the other 30 million diverse species on this planet. Can we acknowledge that ultimately the land owns us; we do not own it? The more we all can search our souls to live in harmony the greater we counter the hysteria of terror. We now are at the crossroads to either respect or disregard our delicate world. Just the simple act of caring or showing kindness has a tremendous ripple effect. Each one of us must cultivate more compassionate relationships because we all share the same future. Can we as a people have the courage to find deeper truths and explore what is calling for attention?

We must invest in non-violence and more sustainable ways so to support the cultivation not the devastation of land, cultures, indigenous people, species, and ecosystems. Can we shift our culture that depletes to one that replenishes? Finally, non-violence must be also promoted in our media since the press must be careful not to reinforce further violence.

Our prosperity on this tiny planet will only continue when we develop a renewed respect for what we have here and now. Certainly we must show tough love and protect ourselves from those wishing to harm us. Non-violent action will happen when together we pray, meditate and work towards future life. If we can shift from a society that supports violence to one that fosters peace then we may develop a new sense of hope over the despair and alienation many of us feel.

We will continue to be tormented until we come together with kinder acts that benefit all things on this fragile Earth. We are no longer separate individuals but a part of a greater whole. We must now act with grace to behold what we have been blessed with. Our freedom will only flourish when we evolve from our own personal interests to a global effort to insure our survival. This earth and we are both one and the same. Suffering is no fun. I must remember ways to listen, have faith, relax, show grace and celebrate my boundless heart. By accepting what is, and changing what I can, I liberate myself and enter a peaceful place.

"Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances." - Mahatma Gandhi

There are countless ways for us to discover how to be at peace. The following are several examples:

1. Cultivate thoughts and actions that respect's life with reverent reflection and mindful action.

2. Learn new ways to cherish, not destroy things. Explore the self-concept of less "me" and act as more of a holistic "we".

3. Remember to observe my relationships instead of judging them.

4. Learning to apply an attitude of being "with" instead of "against" in the appropriate settings. Learn that in death we embrace life's new possibility.

5. Enjoying each moment with wonder and care.

6. Appreciating life's harmony and interrelationships.

7. Accepting blessings curses, loss, adversity and success as the same.

8. To love all things including oneself with divine reverence.

9. "Praying together" instead of "preying on others" by learning to build bridges instead of walls and speak to what can be of mutual benefit.

10. Awaken in my meditation by breathing in compassion and exhaling pain, frustration, exhaustion, anger, or disappointment.

11. Focus and accept the "right now" with what is right, not what is wrong.

12. Practice showing my love for all things, sharing my joy and seeing that life is balanced by the positive and the negative.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why Conservation Matters

Why does conserving make a difference? If our nation is to become greener we also most become leaner. Simply put, if we wish to prosper we need to become ingenious and waste less. Every time we become thrifty we celebrate a new American Revolution. Not only are we emulating Paul Revere, the silver recycler, and George Washington, the composter, we are showing respect for all our relations as do our Native Americans. Conservation matters because new Natives now wish to renew this value, namely, that saving our land is paramount to everything we believe in.

It is time we defined what tough love is, and start to insure that we take care of ourselves by being tough with ourselves. The question is, can we change our destructive consumerist patterns? Can Americans awaken to the idea that economics is about saving, not wasting things? Is it possible for conservatives and liberals to work together to lessen, not increase our waste? I believe the answer is yes. However we must go through a form of emotional recovery to discover why we indulge in this present insane culture of consumption.

It is all about ecology and economy. "Eco" comes from the Greek meaning house and it is time to do some serious cleaning both inside and out. A new prosperous frontier awaits America if we can revolt and become thrifty, and not just be consumers.

I have been fortunate to be a participant in several conservation tipping points, and I have observed that Americans can change self-destructive habits. Ironically, we have the hardware and the physical ability to change our habits, but somehow our mental software is impaired. Our conditioned habits rule us without regard for our larger body, the earth.

It is evident that both government and capitalism are addicted to consuming. In order for us to begin the process of recovery, we must develop some market-based controls for wasteful greed. We must provide incentive to save. The Federal government must be the first to change this "use it or lose it" way of going about its fiscal business, before we go out of business. For example, Congressman Waxman cited on February 7, 2007, " Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone." Another instance of mismanagement is the case in which our $1 billion contract to train Iraqi police has little or no oversight in the form of receipts for work done. We must champion best management practices and create cost controls and good asset accounting.

Maybe we should label ourselves anxious consumers, and start an Anxiety Anonymous program modeled after other successful treatment programs of addiction. I am a 50-year old white American male committed to recovery. I have spent most of my life in the Washington DC area, and have observed that this region is the universal champion of waste. Our nation's capitol shows a regional carbon footprint that uses more materials than the whole nation of Sweden whose population is 23% larger. We have a "design to waste" governmental policy of spending wastefully known by insiders as "use it or lose it."

No other society has ever wasted more, and has affected our environment so much by rapacious acts of consumption. Our challenge now is how do we become better accountable, how do we manage our dwindling supplies of resources. We have created impending disaster by not becoming natural capitalists.

For more than fifty years, we have been mindless consumers, but now we are offered the choice to be more mindful conservers. In the last half century our population has doubled. The harmful use and disposal of our resources needs to be called into question, especially by our federal government. Why is this so important? Our consumerist driven society has created serious consequences affecting future generations, and the fate of other living creatures and plant life. We must awaken to the curse human impact has wrought upon the earth. We must come to see life and the earth that nourishes life as a blessing and not an object to exploit. Recognizing these blessings, we are able to experience the great harmony that exists in the intricate web of life.

One perfect example of how we must become more accountable is how we can best manage the by-products of energy. For example, America must improve all aspects of how we use and dispose of oil. Americans use 20,730,000 barrels per day¹ One trillion gallons of oilfield waste are injected into deep wells each year in the U.S. As auto consumers, we yearly throw away 400 million gallons of used oil and 300 million oil filters in the United States. We comprise less than 5 percent of the world's population, but consume 25 percent of all oil produced. Our present usage of fossil fuels makes us appear more like fossil fools.

America has become the prime example throughout the globe of wasteful behavior. Our excessive consumption has created a tidal wave of environmental destruction, transcending our borders and directly impacting the health and prosperity of people of all over this planet. Only when we can address the issues of human needs and environmental needs by integrating them into a natural symbiosis can we achieve political and economic stability. Once we walk our talk, we can once again win the diplomatic respect of the global community, at last showing that American democracy works.

I estimate Americans use, discard and recycle more than 17 billion tons of waste, not including nuclear and hazardous waste. There is an "out of sight, out of mind" violence happening in our "waste mentality" culture. This "out of sight" attitude threatens our very well being, a form of waste that hides itself in many ways. We must detect the consequences by tracking waste more completely and responsibly. Yes, more people recycle than vote in the U.S., but we still tend to value "ending" over "mending." I am not just talking about appliances, but people, places and things. Our very freedom is in question until we awaken from the nightmarish myth that we have a limitless supply of goods, and the right to do whatever we wish, which ultimately brings harm to others—for the most part outside of our awareness.

Yankee ingenuity must be reborn. There are millions of kind acts we can do that show we care for this land. We can bike or walk instead of drive. We can fill up the empty spaces in our refrigerators with bottles of water thereby reducing our electricity requirements—and our electricity bill as well. Water from our roofs can be captured in rain barrels for watering our plants. Promoting sustainable economic growth by transforming waste is an investment in our happiness. What we do affects our planet, and also impacts our very spirit.

Can we see that our natural resources are not separate from us but interconnected with human life? Without one we will not have the other. Yes conservation matters, and so does the America spirit. We are innovators who can improve our environment thus stimulate life-affirming and life- enhancing choices.

Conserving, preserving and protecting our environment is tied to the very notion of human excellence. Americans can demonstrate their virtue and make our human experience flourish by promoting a healthier relationship with our planet. Just the simple act of riding a bicycle instead of driving a car serves to better our world. Any choice that can lessen the threat of further habitation fragmentation and biodiversity loss is an investment in the future of our resources. Therefore, any way we can better this planet directly betters ourselves.

In this exciting time we can both give by conserving and receive by consuming. However, we must show respect for what we use, and if we pollute we must directly pay. Bury now pay latter is wrong. Our actions must show a new eloquence in our use resources for the sake of our future. We must connect and create wholesome feedback loops not to just change our behavior but to plant seeds rather than casting despair.

Our very freedom is in question until we awaken from the myth that we have a limitless supply of goods. Presently, the total wealth of the United States amounts to $70 trillion dollars. Congressman Ron Paul cites the impossibility of funding Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drug insurance, in total amounting to $71 trillion dollars. We must awaken from the error of spending what we do not have. This mismanagement takes many forms.

Let's show we respect our community and manage our resources more safely and thereby give hope to our world. In return we find such leadership gives us greater freedom and a peace of mind. Responsible action equates to greater possibilities. Creating sustainable business is a critical democratic challenge demonstrating that conservation matters.

Please question our culture of "effluent affluence" and take responsibility for your actions. We, the people, will only prosper if we become truly conservative and economical. A rich life does not necessarily translate into a richer life if we spoil future opportunities without better and more frugal management. Let's enjoy our life and profit from conserving so as to pass on a wonderful legacy for future generations.

Notes from Natural Capitalism
Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins 1999 Little,Brown

Natural capitalism as if living systems mattered (p 9)
* Environment is not minor factor of production.
* Economic development depends on natural capital to continue life-supporting services.
* Badly designed business systems, population growth and wasteful patterns of consumption are primary causes of loss of natural capital.
* Economic progress and sustainable economy relies on all forms of capital fully valued.
* Key to benefit people, money and environment is radical increases in resource productivity.
* Human welfare is best served by improving the quality and flow of desired services delivered.
* Economic and environmental sustainability depends on redressing global inequities of income and material well being.
* The best long-term environment for commerce is provided by true democratic systems of governance that are based on the needs of people rather than business.
Four central strategies of natural capitalism: 1) radical resource productivity; 2) biomimicry; 3) service and flow economy; and 4) investing in natural capital (pg 10)

¹CIA World Factbook, June 14, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why I Cultivate Gratitude

Appreciation allows me to walk a path of tremendous love and respect. Counting my blessings becomes a gift that keeps on sustaining me. Nothing can be more rejuvenating for me than expressing gratefulness for all the ways this life has been kind to me. Just maintaining a state of gratefulness re-energizes me, and moves me to shift my attitude so that I look for the silver lining in every cloud. Instead of looking at things as a curse, I can see them as the blessing they truly are.

The power of gratitude leads me to a greater sense of purpose, and a richer life. Invoking appreciation gives me a profound sense of joy, and links me with all things, filling me with a sense of harmony and well being.

This harmonious connection with life awakens in me the understanding that everything in my world is only alive in the present moment. As I empty myself of ego preoccupations with the past, and concerns over the future, I am truly awake to the moment, and in such times, I find in myself a feeling of greater compassion for my fellows. The act of compassionate gratitude is a form of stewardship that allows me to be more sensitive and respectful of people and nature. I become mindful and deal with all things in a sacred way. Cultivating this kind of relationship with life fosters a sense of devotion and divinity.

Appreciation creates for me a more wholesome mindset that reconnects me to the things I value most. Living this way creates a greater sense of possibility and freedom. My feeling of gratitude expands when I reflect on how all things must be respected. And I feel more humble as I observe the mysterious spirit of this world.

Exercising my gratitude is a wake-up call for me to remember what matters most. We live in a critical time, and how we can best deal with it comes into question. Awakening to how we can see each moment with a clear mind, as a new event, is an action I would define as "the attitude of gratitude." This approach not only liberates us from suffering, we become more mindful of the possibility of being truly open to all possibilities.

What do I appreciate right now? Can I hear the birds singing outside? Can I simply enjoy hearing my own heartbeat? How grateful am I to all those things life on this planet has given me? Do I cherish the food, shelter and other gifts? Let's say I have just moments to live, would I count my blessings? What would I wish to do to give my thanks? The very nature of my entire life and my liberation comes down to embracing these questions.

It seems much of my life has been enslaved by my unconscious acts. When I am only partially aware of my actions, I am truly as if asleep, and thus in some way imprisoned. My mind does one thing while my emotions feel conflicted because my decisions come from fear rather than from love. Where can I find the courage to change and allow my soul to become liberated? How can I learn to keep in mind that all things will pass, and to let go of my material world? To remember such a simple thing like coming home to the appreciation of life here and now, is the art I wish to cultivate. Today's world makes it so easy to fall into darkness. Why is that I am unconsciously afraid of allowing the greater light in? Am I paying attention to my senses? Or I am held captive by a self-destructive story of shame and loathing? Can I remember to listen not just to my own body but that greater one that connects all things? Reverence for this earth opens the door to my happiness and freedom.

To be free, I must change my various behaviors and attitudes that imprison me with negative and unwholesome consequences. Sticken thinken and paralysis analysis are the various ways I have recycled my past to curse my future. Only in the present moment I can pause and take a new course down a road toward light instead of journey off a cliff.

Next by relaxing and enjoying this changing process of becoming, seeing it as a labor of love, I can open myself to boundless potentials. Trusting in this PRO (Pause, Relax and Open) process, there is the emerging belief I will give birth to many magical possibilities, and not fall back to the same old I-am-the-victim, or the poor-me mindset. Just becoming enlightened enough to stop "should-ing" myself can be a wonderful first step.

I have the freedom to fully appreciate my life when I practice loving friendliness. This comes about only if I am mindful and exercise right intention to transform an abiding gratitude into action. How I train my mind to greet all beings and events with loving kindness, provides me with the opportunity of changing a curse into a blessing. First by identifying the various ways I create ill will, anger and judgment, and doing something positive about making a change in my attitude—only then do I have the chance to liberate myself. This is a form of action I call radical acceptance, and it can only happen when I constantly observe what is of benefit to all. By awakening to wholesome mind states, I can best go forth. And more, I will require patience to mindfully change some old habits and patterns. Finally, I have to show more tender loving care and forgiveness to my self as I engage in this transformational process.

So I return again to appreciation, and I count my blessings and take note of what I have in my life to be grateful for. When I awaken and show reverence through these actions, I prosper. Gratitude for me is about cultivating four skillful things:

*Showing up in the present moment.
*Paying attention to what has heart and meaning!
*Giving a positive voice to what I see!
*Remaining open to all possibilities while being unattached to outcome!

Appreciation is both a loving and a kind method of being with profound affects and effects. Developing my appreciation purifies me and offers me a sense of greater peace, and freedom. It's amazing how gratitude spreads when you're just grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Coming Home to Nature

We live in a time in which we must find greater ways to mend our souls. Healing occurs for me when I become more intimate with nature. Feeling the soft earth beneath my feet renews my soul. When I venture outside and discover the wonder of the universe, I feel more whole. Such visits into the wild both refreshes and rejuvenates my spirit. A journey into a forest under a canopy of trees or to a local watershed provides me with a growing sense of well being.

Insights come to me from many non-ordinary experiences when I am in nature. I transcend ordinary perceptual boundaries. Being in nature connects me to the spirit of being. Otherwise, I am lost in a culture of affluence and effluence. In nature, I find comfort from sensing how my ancestors lived long ago. Just the simple act of digging into the ground and doing yard work while surrounded by the woods around my home does much to lessen my anxiety.

Another way I find refuge in the mystery of the wild is to listen to the subtle sounds of the woods. Whether it is the wind going through the trees, or the birds chirping—these and many other reminders awaken me to magical moments of being here on the earth. Nature is my ultimate teacher. I am a part of nature; it is truly who I am. I am not separate, but rather a part of this world in which all things are tied together by air, water, soil and flesh.

My pilgrimage is to seek silence and stillness. I know it is hard work to quiet my mind. However, aligning myself to the invisible world does much to allow me some quiet sanity. Civilization can burden my soul, but I can remedy this by forgiving, and purifying.

My mind grows quiet in tranquil woods. I am comforted by its mystery. Yes, I am constantly challenged seeing the earth's destruction and despair. Yet, when I embrace the maladies of the world as being just a part of my own impermanent life, I gain a sense of inner renewal. And how I face the prospect of death allows me a sense of greater life because of how nature teaches me. Balance comes to me when I go beyond my thinking mind, and venture into the universe of my heart. For whatever happens in the future, I can make the best out of the present by appreciating all that this life shares with me now.

Meaning in my life comes from nature. If I wish to have a meaningful life I must observe everything that is connected with nature. Time spent outside is like an electric plug that recharges my spiritual battery. Consciousness arises all around me and within me, allowing me to experience the web of life, and to see how all that I relate to is so closely interconnected. As I breathe in and out, I know that this Universal Life Force, which ties all things together just as a spider weaves its web, interconnects all things.

This expanded awareness awakens in me the question of how I can skillfully respect the sacredness of nature and its "wilderness." Sacred observing provides me with grace, and a feeling of harmony. Simply put, the woods provide me with a portal to boundless healing.

At any moment I am susceptible to inattentiveness—and then at such time, something great is lost from my world. But if I listen deeply, I can hear my soul calling. It invites me to visit a forest, or walk along a sandy shore—find a place of calm in the wild. When I remember that I am not a separate being, that indeed I am part of the interconnectedness of life, then my feverishness subsides.

John Muir once said, "By going outward, I am going in." All beings have a sacred link to our green world. Going outside begins the most sacred ritual. As I become more intimate with my earth, I return to my beloved home.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Saving Not Wasting Our Nation's Capital

It is safe to assume Washington D.C. region now creates greater waste then anywhere in the history of our planet. Last Sunday’s Washington Post article in the Metro section, “D.C Area Outpaces Nations in Pollution,” was more than coincidental. The federal budget cycle for 2006 that day just ended and Americans have no idea to all the different ways we stimulate discarding.

The Washington area not only produces more carbon dioxide than Sweden, Denmark and Finland but our government stimulates the most significant global loss of resources. For example, the District of Columbia and other government’s budgets are based on the principle of “use it or loose it.” Government must shift from this behavior of consuming more to understanding performance is measured by output over input.

The fed’s are the largest consumer of goods and services in the world producing a buying power yearly exceeding 25 European Union nations. Just look at one department protecting us. The Congressional Budget office cited that funding in homeland security have more than doubled in the first two years after the attacks from $20-$40 billion dollars. Contrast this with the fact we invest a fraction of one percent money on how we conserve resources. Wise economy and world security is all about the path of discovery around recovery.

There are no exact figures or comprehensive methods of determining of how much our region wastes. Each year Americans use, discard and recycle more than 17 billion tons of waste. This does not include how we create tens of thousands of incentives to waste. Improved feedback in how we can reutilize our discards may stimulate a frontier of economic development. Developing market mechanisms to conserve is just one avenue minimize our carbon footprint.

The good news is that more Washingtonians are recognizing that becoming more environmentally efficient improves our well-being. Now that the insurance industry predicts climate change is caused by people, citizens went to feel better about their impact by using less stuff. Also, as we prevent pollution, we also reward ourselves and profit our country. Saving our land, air and water has many implications besides just peace of mind for our future generations. Better managing and accounting for our nation’s eco-capital must become “tenor” not the “terror” of our time. Let's recover our nation's capital by saving things instead of ending them.