Evolution isn’t just possible, it’s mandatory

When we make a New Year’s resolution, we are asking ourselves to evolve. Sometimes the agents driving this desire for change are shame, guilt, and remorse. Although understandable, these change drivers are seldom effective, and are usually counter-productive.

Sometimes we wish to be more desirable as a sexual partner, so we seek to improve ourselves physically. Sometimes we wish to shed “bad” habits, to lessen self-suffering, to become better people. These wishes are not in and of themselves wrong, they are usually motivated by the ego, childishly wishing for some instant change of identity, often emulating a media figure with a manufactured image. When we inevitably fall short, we feel worse, and believe ourselves (erroneously) incapable of evolution. We give up.

Suppose our goal is to have a meditation practice. We have heard others praise the virtues of consistent meditation. We may get the idea in our heads that we already know how meditation is done, so we sit down on a hard mat, or on the floor itself, back unsupported, and try to imitate a lotus posture. We close our eyes and try to think deep “spiritual” thoughts. We can’t keep it up long, before irreverent and worldly concerns interrupt our reverie with loud and relentless chatter. We have failed. We have once again proven ourselves beyond redemption. This meditation idea is definitely not for us. Shame, guilt, and remorse have won again.

If we keep seeking, we may eventually be fortunate enough to discover that meditation techniques are not magic, they are natural and easy, when entered into with a sincere and humble spirit. All we need to admit is that we don’t know. We become teachable. Then a sufficient teacher will appear.

Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe.

Deepak Chopra





How does the Veda inform our daily life? That is obviously always left to the individual. We in the Vedic community do not govern anyone’s conduct. However, on a case-by-case basis, there are choices to be made in all things that flow directly from the principles of unity that we espouse. They can be summed up in this statement: “There is only one thing.”


When a public leader, even one with a religious background, condones actions that condemn any segment of our society to lesser status, this contradicts unity. When we as individuals have choices to make regarding our personal conduct, we can behave in ways that are congruent with unity, which further the health of the planet, the universe, and our fellow creatures in it.


If, in matters of sexual conduct, one chooses behavior that is selfish, violent, or is ideologically driven by a worldview that oppresses the other person in the dynamic, this is antithetical to Vedic principles.


If a woman or a man tells a story of sexual or physical intimidation at the hands of another, and they are met with any response other than compassion and listening, something is out of adjustment and requires realignment with the whole.


We have a duty to treat others kindly and not to take advantage of them. To take advantage, and then to rationalize behavior after the fact, is wrong. To manage appearances and manipulate others, to hide a bad motive behind a good one, is wrong. We must stand beside our sisters and brothers, and marginalize no one. This is not always easy, but it is something we must strive for.


Our news media is full of stories, more emerging every day, of systemic sexual predation. When members of our tribe react to these stories, we shouldn’t discount their emotional reactions. We can be supportive and kind. Period.


We can learn the ways with which we can surround and support those who may have been affected by the predatory behavior of others. This involves listening and not instantly reacting. Some of us have less experience at listening than others, but we can practice and improve.

“To my abusers, the act of setting appropriate boundaries was viewed as hostile aggression. They believed that I was denying them something that belonged to them if I resisted. I was a resource to be exploited for their personal use. I was property who didn’t have any rights over my time, my energy, my body, or my possessions. I viewed myself that way too. I believed that they were justified in being angry with me for saying no but I wasn’t justified in being angry with them for abusing me.”

― Christina Enevoldsen


Maharishi and the Beatles


The Vedic Worldview in Popular Culture - Part 2

He was known for his brevity. Guru Dev was the spiritual leader of India from 1941-1953. When he was ready to drop his body, he assembled his disciples, and one by one, gave each of them a brief directive. When he got to Brahmachari Mahesh, he said, "You. Speak English."

Mahesh, later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was unclear what his master wanted him to do. Later, he interpreted this command as "Take my teachings to the West." Maharishi began visiting England, teaching the ancient "Householder's Technique" he learned from Guru Dev to interested Westerners.

The future members of The Beatles, growing up in Liverpool, were exposed to Maharishi through television. The common storyline is that their paths converged by total happenstance. Paul McCartney describes below that they knew of him much earlier.

"We'd seen Maharishi up north when we were kids. He was on the telly every few years on Granada's People And Places programme, the local current affairs show. We'd all say, 'Hey, did you see that crazy guy last night?' So we knew all about him: he was the giggly little guy going round the globe seven times to heal the world."
Paul McCartney, Anthology

After years of stardom, Beatle George Harrison attended a lecture in London given by Maharishi. Already an admirer of Indian music, George was ready to transcend the prison that his waking consciousness had become. The band members were exhausted after maintaining six solid years of nonstop touring, recording, acting, posing, and living under a microscope. They had become targets of unprecedented adulation. George wanted out. His first meditation gave him just that. He found himself able to transcend, albeit for twenty minutes at a time. He told the others.

It was a perfect fit. Maharishi, the "giggly little guy" from their childhood imparted to them their own personal mantras, words they could repeat silently, privately, and use to go within. The Beatles were ecstatic, and they enthusiastically endorsed Maharishi's ancient technique.

Maharishi invited them to be his guests at his Ashram in Rishikesh, Northern India. They all went. During this period John and Paul were composing prolifically. The songs from this trip dominated The Beatles White Album.

Although John Lennon became disillusioned with Maharishi himself (due to undeserved gossip and innuendo), he admitted the technique that Maharishi taught him had changed him for the better. George Harrison was an ardent meditator throughout his lifetime until he passed in 2001. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still daily meditators.

In one of Lennon's songs from the Rishikesh journey, Across the Universe, he directly references Maharishi's teacher, Guru Dev.

"Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind
Inside a letter box they
Stumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai Guru Deva, Om -
Nothings gonna change my world"



"Without going out of my door, 
I can know all things of earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of heaven
The farther one travels, the less one knows"
The Inner Light, George Harrison

maharishi and the beatles.jpg

The Force

The Vedic Worldview in Popular Culture - Part 1

There is only one thing. This statement can be used to encapsulate the foundation of Vedic philosophy. The one thing is also called Brahman. In Star Wars it is called the Force.

The Veda is the basis of the oldest system of science and civilization known to man. It is also the basis for the popular film series Star Wars. While a student at UCLA in the early 1970's, Star Wars creator George Lucas learned Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation technique. Reportedly, he still meditates daily.

Disclaimer: I am not a fan boy. I have only seen the first two of the many films in the series, but the impact on western culture is pervasive and undeniable. 

Here are some lines from the films that define and describe aspects of the Veda:

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
Yoda - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
Obi Wan Kenobi - Star Wars (1977)

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Yoda - Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

This invented fictional universe, this backdrop for a space soap opera, turns out to be a more profound creation than we could have perceived at first viewing. Lucas' desire to convey the deeper truths of our lives in an easily digested fashion has been wildly successful. Kids may not know who Joseph Campbell was, but they certainly know Yoda.

Next week: The Vedic Worldview in Popular Culture - Part 2 - The Beatles

When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.
-Joseph Campbell

Emotional Stability

“If our emotional stability is based on what other people do or do not do, then we have no stability. If our emotional stability is based on love that is changeless and unalterable, then we attain the stability of God.” 
― Marianne Williamson

Is it within our reach?

Where do our emotions come from? They are mysterious to us, arriving out of nowhere, like a tsunami. They overwhelm us and capsize our normal behavioral functions. We become unable to predict our actions, and we feel lost.

Then we open ourselves to a new meditative practice. Almost instantly we become aware that the mysterious emotions we possess are not so mysterious after all. They are the result ofSamscara, sanskrit for "the ruts of the mind." We have an associative experience with some aspect of an emotional scar from long ago. The entire trauma replays in our mind and body uncontrollably. If we are able to observe this experience dispassionately and not become overwhelmed, we can see that nothing in the present is really happening. We are treating ourselves to an emotional bummer over something long past, nothing appropriate for the present moment.

After we have been meditating awhile, the samscara softens gradually, and we are able to heal old scars. Not only that, but new experiences tend not to wound us in the same way. Our ego has lost some of its control over our inner narrative, and we see things in a different light.

We have demonstrated to ourselves and to our ego that we don't have to succumb to overreaction and drama. We can step around the puddles in our path because we see them clearly. Although we will occasionally slip, and have old habitual negative reactions to life's ups and downs, these incidents are less intense and frequent than before.

We can have emotional stability and even happiness. We will discover that these are our birthright.

Unity Points

Our connections to each other

Winning at all costs. It permeates our social culture, embodies a philosophy that is at odds with all things spiritual, even our own happiness. How can we justify feelings of empathy, love, and togetherness, when all that is coming at us through the media and through our leaders embodies the opposite?

We can search for unity points. We don't have to look far. We already have an internal compass with a foolproof mechanism that enables us to discern the way of conflict from the way of peace. Do I feel myself tightening and preparing for a fight? That is a red flag to look for a unity point with the other person. When a conflict is unavoidable, how can I influence the outcome to be more "frictionless"? Can I avoid ratcheting up the drama, foregoing whatever dubious satisfaction I might receive by doing so?

The answer is yes. Always.

We can start by asking ourselves what we are in conflict with. If it is, in fact, an aspect of ourselves we dislike, are we not engaging in hypocrisy? We are condemning a person for behaving as we do. We are forgiving ourselves and damning them. This is patently unfair.

We can extend the hand of understanding, acknowledge that we share similar unifying traits, and go from there. When another person is not an "other," but a brother or sister, it becomes a pleasure to learn more about them. If they are belligerent, we can withdraw, refusing to feed their conflict energy. If a conflict is inevitable, we can enter it with compassion, making the encounter short and decisive.

Unity is not about connecting two separate things. It is about uncovering that which is temporarily hidden, the underlying oneness.

I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
Abraham Lincoln

Where does our food come from? Part three

Seed Saving

We as free citizens can play a huge part in preserving what is left of the world's biodiversity by engaging in the practice of seed-saving. The war being waged against conservation and self determination of the small farmer is real, and it's being advanced every day by companies like Monsanto with deep legal pockets and immense lobbying power on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Seed savers and seed banks do their parts to save biodiversity, but we can, too. Seed Savers is a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation of heirloom varieties. http://www.seedsavers.org/ 
We can support and donate to them. We can buy organic, raise crops ourselves, and save the seeds or exchange them with others. Food can be grown in pots or buckets, in backyards, or on city terraces and windowsills. Seeds can be scattered in vacant lots. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2010/01/30/urban-seed-bombs-next-generation-green-ballistic-missiles/ Anywhere that sunlight meets soil, we can raise healthy food.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to eat real food just as we do. We as meditators can execute our dharma to the earth and others, and to consciousness itself by aiding nature when we can.

There is an excellent film on seed saving: Seed: The Untold Story .http://www.seedthemovie.com/

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. Confucius

Where does our food come from? Part Two

Loss of biodiversity

Biodiversity benefits humankind by creating ecosystems from which we as a species derive nourishment and sustainability. Big agribusiness is based on a system that limits and wipes out this diversity. The practices of sustainable agriculture may indeed be the better way, but evidence of the benefits won’t readily show up in the short-term profit cycle.

Since the 1900s, some seventy-five percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers are forced by economic competition to replace diverse local seed varieties with central-sourced high-yield crops.

When we as farmers (anyone who works the earth to grow food) rotate our crops, many beneficial things happen. The nutrients in the soil are not depleted. Each successive crop leaves artifacts that are plowed under to build and benefit the next. This requires fore-planning and thought. Luckily there is a wealth of knowledge we can draw from to plan our gardens and fields most effectively. The changing of crops cuts down on insect blight, because a balanced ecosystem naturally discourages overpopulation of pests. We are then able to cut reliance on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

The decision to not use these chemicals results in food that is safe, that our bodies recognize as food, and that we as a species have been assimilating for millennia. Genetically modified, chemically soaked food that has been processed and packaged is poisonous, and it is wise to avoid it.

What in the last fifty years has become known as the “Standard American Diet” (or SAD) has not been based on nutritional worth; its value is determined by profitability. SAD includes ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. This magic ingredient seems to find its way into every processed food item. It is highly addictive, contributes to obesity, is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and contributes to the generation of cancerous tissue. It fosters poor health and early death.

If a corporation can successfully justify using such toxic ingredients in something so basic to survival as food, it is easy to extrapolate that being of benefit to humanity and the planet is not paramount on its list of priorities.

Can we avoid corporate food?

Yes. We can buy certified organic. But it's expensive and not always readily available at the local supermarket. We can support local organic growers by shopping at Farmer’s Markets, but again, this can get expensive. We can grow our own food. This is tough for city dwellers and those with limited time. But we should and can strive to move toward establishing these priorities of health in our daily lives.

We can become re-acquainted with our kitchens. Modern convenience often means eating at restaurants or drive-thrus, buying prepackaged microwaveable fare, and eating junk food while watching TV. Re-learning the lost art of food preparation is pleasurable and rebuilds connection within our family relationships. Slowing down and making a ritual out of food sharing can become the most pleasurable part of the day. By putting earning money above all other things, including taking responsibility for our own nourishment, we have lost one of the secrets to a happy life.

Next week, Part Three: Seed Saving

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Virginia Woolf

Where does our food come from?Part one

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Home grown organic raspberries, Ashland, Oregon.

Corporatization is not competition

In the United States, our food sources have become corporatized. This means that over time, large agribusinesses have bought out family farms. Vast tracts of land have been given over to mechanized monoculture.

Monoculture: Bad for the soil, good for short-term profit
The US has 96,000,000 acres dedicated to the production of corn, the majority of which is used for livestock feed. This corn is grown in the same geographical area again and again. This practice depletes the soil of nutrients over time. Monoculture crops are very vulnerable to insects, so increasing resources must be spent on chemical pesticides and herbicides. Chemical fertilizers must also be used to amend the soil.

Monsanto: Products that harm us for short-term gain
The Monsanto corporation has engineered solutions to these monoculture problems. Glyphosate is an herbicide. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It has recently failed to conclusively pass tests which would absolve it from a direct link to cancer in humans. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto'sRoundup. Monsanto has recently been shown to actively recruit scientists at the EPA who would be amenable to signing off on conclusion papers written by Monsanto executives. This would go a long way towards muddying the waters of scientific consensus regarding Roundup's safety.

GMOs: Utilizing the "straw-man" argument
Monsanto is at the forefront in genetically modified seed products. One of it's most successful GMO efforts are crop seeds that resist the toxic effects of Roundup. This way, the plants are protected from harm, but the humans who ingest the plants that have been soaked in Glyphosate are not. This is the main reason people are clamoring for clear labeling of GMO products. They simply want to know if they are buying products that might be toxic to themselves and their families. Many in the skeptic community have used the argument that GMOs have gotten a "bad rap" and that, if clearly labelled, their products will not sell. They label those of us who are resistant to Monsanto's efforts as "anti-science." This is a classic use of the straw man fallacious argument. "Straw man" is defined as an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.

What does all this have to do with meditation and consciousness?

Stick with me. More will be revealed in parts 2 and 3.

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”  - B.K.S. Iyengar

Into the Unknown

This is where all growth occurs

Evolution happens. We are going to grow. Our level of willingness to embrace this fact can create an atmosphere of resistance and fear, or of ease. The choice is always ours.

A life changing event, such as a move, can generate stress and anxiety in some individuals. It can create an overwhelming reaction of panic when one sees the coming logistics and required number of tasks as a monolithic block, impossible to tackle. This is obviously not the most effective approach to take.

An easier and more accurate view of the event is to a series of smaller, more manageable tasks that are performed in the now, without struggling with the overview. One can use knowledge of the "bigger picture" to keep oneself on track, but each sub-task is much more enjoyable when full attention and presence is devoted to it. The work gets done more completely, more easily, without fretting over speculation and self-recrimination.

How is this presence possible? We meditate regularly. We spend our time in positive action rather than getting mired in speculative fantasy. It is possible to enjoy even the most seemingly mundane task when we perform it with full commitment and deliberation.

The joy of work well done is nature's gift to us, and our gift to the world and ourselves.

When you are present without the conditioning of your past you become the presence of God.
-Eckhart Tolle

The Gentle art of Consistency

Try again, and again, and again

When we learned meditation, our teacher said something like: "There is only one thing about this practice that is non-negotiable. Twenty minutes, twice a day, get to the chair. Whatever happens, happens for good." 

In that moment, our teachers were stressing that we are not encouraged to judge the quality of our meditations. The emphasis was to be taken off of achievement. We were to simply sit with the intention to effortlessly repeat the mantra.

Inevitably though, a student will forget these simple instructions and try to complicate things. This is when repeated interaction with one's teacher is of most use. This can be in a group setting, at a Vedic knowledge meeting, or one-on-one meeting with the teacher, even by telephone or skype. It is recommended to check in with others that meditate and compare notes.

As a teacher of Vedic meditation, I have made a commitment to each of my students to be available for life. They can call at any time, and I will address their questions or concerns. It is my pleasure and my dharma to do so.

If you have learned to meditate and feel that you need a restart, don't feel ashamed. Just call, and your teacher will give you some gentle but insistent instruction on how to get going again. We all fall short at times; we would hardly be human if we didn't. When this happens we simply try again.

We refer to meditation as a practice, not a perfect.

“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.” 
― Anthony Robbins

Self Forgiveness

Southwest view of the Siskiyou Mountains, Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon.

Southwest view of the Siskiyou Mountains, Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon.

Why I took four months off

I recently made the non-decision to abandon my duties as a blogger and newsletter writer. This can happen to us humans. I wanted to offer my readers real and tangible help and inspiration in the wake of a divisive and polarizing political election. I chose to let my ego hijack a worthy endeavor instead of reaching out to my friends and students. The reasons are these: perfectionism and procrastination.

The illusion of perfection is seductive and pervasive. This is the slippery slope upon which the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. This is the reason some of us abandon our creative goals and duties and engage in unhealthy wallowing and self-recrimination.

If I don't acknowledge fully that a situation exists, I get the dubious benefit of stasis. I enter into the ever-repeating known, putting off even the slightest progress toward a desired outcome. If I try, I might fail. What does this say about me? Why do I waste time justifying my own behavior?

The Apology
Here it is. I really do appreciate anyone who takes the time to read these newsletters. It is my commitment going forward to knock them out on a regular basis. I fell off the horse. Now I am riding again. I extend my most sincere apologies and pledge to make amends by taking corrective action.

When we fall short, as humans do, we try again. The only sins we are guilty of are lack of forgiveness and the punishment of inertia.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” 
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The Mosaic House, Venice, California

The Mosaic House, Venice, California

Martin Luther King's Tactics

Civil Rights, Non-violence

King is the only home-grown native son in our illustrious list of heroes, and the most famous in the West, but nonetheless offers us useful lessons.
He was a black American leader in an era that saw immense hatred, vitriol, and enmity against his people. In the “Jim Crow South,” prejudice was abetted by the racial scapegoating that bubbled beneath the surface of America’s growing prosperity. Blacks in America fought in the integrated armed forces defending our freedom, only to return as veterans to a lower class status and segregation in their homeland. Post-slavery America was, and continues to be to this day, a white male dominated social structure. In the late fifties and early sixties, this racial tension came to a head.
King was inspired by leaders like Gandhi and increasingly employed his tactics in a surprisingly effective fashion. We will focus on the 1955 incident in Montgomery Alabama, the “Montgomery Bus Boycott.”
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus. Leaflets were distributed to black citizens calling for a one day citywide boycott of the bus system. This went so well that the leaders extended the boycott. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Reverend King was elected president of a newly formed organization, MIA (the Montgomery Improvement Association). He committed to further organize the boycott.
Montgomery’s response to MIA demands was to cut service to “most negro districts.” King responded by organizing carpools. Black cab drivers started charging ten cents for rides in defiance of a city enforced minimum of a forty-five cent fare. Throughout this protracted battle, King was arrested picking up riders in his car, received daily death threats by phone, and saw his home bombed. Angry crowds gathered outside his home, but King pled for his followers to adhere to his stated principles of non-violence.

After an intense back and forth debate with city officials over many meetings, the MIA did not concede any of its demands. They lost many battles but ultimately won the war. In the end, Montgomery realized that integration would be good for business. One by one, city officials conceded. Legally, Jim Crow would recede on both a national and a local level. 
On December 21, 1956, over one year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, Montgomery City Lines resumed full service on all routes. King was among the first passengers to seat himself in the former white section.
King traveled to India in 1959. He met with the Gandhi family, as well as Prime Minister Nehru. Later King preached on the significance of Gandhi’s 1928 salt march and his fast to end discrimination against India’s untouchables. King ultimately believed that the Gandhian approach of nonviolent resistance would ‘‘bring about a solution to the race problem in America’’ (Papers 4:355).*
King observed that only by steadfastly adhering to nonviolent principles was real progress toward liberation possible.
Be like Martin.

The Journey of Leymah Gbowee

Trauma healing, peace-building

We have abundant potential within us, and all of nature to guide us as we navigate through the world.

Leymah Gbowee was seventeen when the First Liberian Civil War broke out in 1989. As a native of Liberia, she suffered major privations and hardships at the hand of brutal soldiers from Samuel Doe's ruling government, only to face worse conditions at the hand of former government minister Charles Taylor, who ousted him. She survived as a refugee, fleeing to Ghana when rebel forces took the city of Monrovia. Her family scattered, and her home looted and destroyed, she was witness to countless atrocities at a very young age. She married a serial abuser and bore four children. The abuse she suffered at his hand informed her later activism and led directly to honing her skills as a social worker and Women's Rights advocate.

Trauma healing
Leymah volunteered at a program at St. Peter's Lutheran Church called the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Program (THRP). They were tasked with repairing the country's considerable collective psyche of damage caused by the war. One of Gbowee's first assignments was working with children who had been employed as soldiers in Charles Taylor's army. These boys, some as young as five, had been forced to carry and use weapons. They were taught to murder, to take alcohol and drugs, and to recruit others. It was in the process of helping these seemingly hopeless boys learn to heal that Gbowee formulated what she later used as the basis for political change. She realized if change were to come to Liberia, it would be at the hands of its women.

Gbowee later joined WIPNET, an acronym for Women in Peacebuilding Network. She led a contingent of Liberians from all classes to fragile peace talks in Ghana, which had bogged down in the egotistical torpor of the exclusively male leaders. She staged a sit in blocking the glass doors of the exclusive hotel's meeting room. The protestors held signs declaring "Butchers and murderers of the Liberian people - STOP!" Leymah passed a note in to the head mediator General Akubar, former president of Nigeria. She stated her intention to link arms with her compatriots, holding the delegates hostage until an agreement had been reached. Gbowee and her partners stayed on site for days. Weeks later, the war ended.

Leymah Gbowee pioneered the modern-day version of the ancient custom of openly sharing with a group the traumas one has suffered in war. She discovered that the deep sense of shame these women all carried kept them isolated, impotent, and demoralized. When she was first tasked with building a coalition of women across religious, tribal, and class differences, she had to appeal to their commonality, to their unity. She succeeded, and it was the women of Liberia that turned the tide and won the peace. I recommend her excellent memoir Mighty Be Our Powers.

Be like Gbowee.

Gandhi's Tactics

Nonviolence, civil disobedience

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a fanatic Hindu, who believed he was too accommodating to India's minority Muslims.

Gandhi's ideas were not new. He synthesized thoughts from sources as diverse as The Holy Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, and Thoroau'sWalden. Gandhi's brilliance was in applying his ethics stringently, without straying from the core ideals, but expanding the application of these tactics to a national level.

Ahimsa (nonviolence)
Ahimsa stems from the belief that all living beings have divine spirit; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.

Satyagraha (peaceful civil disobedience)
Satyagraha is a compound of the Sanskrit term satya (truth) andagraha (polite insistence). Satygraha seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves.

Gandhi strove to differentiate between the western concept of passive resistance and these two bedrocks of his strategy which eventually brought down the mightiest militarized colonial force on the planet. He won independence for India. No one was betting on the humble man in the loincloth, yet he prevailed.

Take the Salt March. On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and a handful of followers from his Ashram walked 200 miles over the course of three weeks. They arrived at the ocean outside the town of Dandi. Gandhi walked out to the water and scooped up some salt with his hands. This symbolic act was a gesture in defiance of British law forbidding Indians from gathering their own salt, requiring that they purchase it from the government. 

Gandhi did not act aggressively toward his opponents in this confrontation.

Masses of Indians followed his lead, gathering and processing salt. History sees this small victory as one of the turning points that ultimately culminated in the English defeat and the liberation of Maa India.

Gandhi absolutely adhered to the Vedic principle that we are all one people, yet his unwavering strength in the face of injustice brought down a violent occupying imperialist empire and freed his native land.

Be like Gandhi.


Trump presidency

The most effective protest

So, it happened. We took the shot we thought would work at the time. We were wrong. We took the polls seriously, and we got slammed. I'll not expend effort to soft pedal or sugarcoat this reality. There is only moving forward. Evolution is not optional.

One option we have is to study the lives and tactics of those who successfully employed effective techniques to protest injustice. Here are three:
Mohandas Gandhi, Leymah Gbowee, Martin Luther King.

Don't feed the trolls

Sunset rendering

Sunset rendering

Living and dying by social media

I like Facebook. I check in with friends from all the periods of my life, sending mazletov to my old bandmate who just got married in Brooklyn, sending happy Diwali messages to my friends in India. Birthdays are great now, both giving and receiving. I can learn facts about dear friends that I may not otherwise know, like their losing a parent or recovering from cancer.

What I don't find so charming about Facebook are political posts. They can be divisive and insular. I may gravitate to those whose views I already agree with. This is counterproductive to a loving, inclusive Vedic worldview.

And then there are the trolls.

I let my guard down and posted a response to a news story. The tone of my post was less than friendly. It generated an almost instant response of astonishing vitriol and anger from those who apparently disagreed. The tone of these responses was so toxic and insulting that I laughed. It seemed like an atom bomb explosion in retaliation to a peashooter. I posted a single response: "Whee!"

I did a little research and discovered that trolls lie in wait, using key words in search engines. This includes publicly shared content on social media. The key words or phrases they are searching for identify the user as being from a target demographic. That demographic identifies the target as liberal, feminist, animal rights defender, or environmentalist, or any combination thereof. When the troll gets a hit, they go to work, unleashing a torrent of abuse on comments pages. This serves to discourage free expression by people they disagree with, and gives them a chance to vent anger and get attention (albeit negative) from an audience.

Sometimes these trolls are paid by partisan idealogues and corporations with a "culture war" axe to grind. In my instance, I was lucky. Facebook has excellent blocking options. Also my one word response dampened the enthusiasm of the trolls. The torrent stopped immediately. I didn't engage them the way they wanted, which was to offer a counter-argument. I went about my day, suffering very little from the negative energies on display, and I learned a valuable lesson.

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Proverbs, New American Standard Bible

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.” 
― Neal Stephenson, 

The demonized ego

Rendering of Mt. Shasta, Northern California

Rendering of Mt. Shasta, Northern California

Misunderstanding ourselves

We make an all-too-human mistake when we believe our egos to be ourselves. This belief sells us short on the vastness of our true nature. The ego sees threats everywhere and insists on the "otherness" of everything in the world around us. This makes the universe seem a hostile and treacherous place.

"Stick with me," the ego tells us. "I am the only one who knows how to keep you safe." 

The ego is bluffing. It has no idea whether its actions are effective or not; it just needs to have us accept it as the alpha and the omega. It demands to exclusively rule the whole of our existence. It wants to be boss. If we accede to these demands, we are engulfed in misery and alienation. Ease and a sense of belonging leave us, and we become more and more alone, cut off from others.

Where, then, do we find relief from this trap? It is in the moment, in the now, in the presence of the unchanging Self (note large S). The creator places us in a position of neutrality from our fears. We finally get a rest!

This rest is deep and profound, and comes as a result of meditation, diligently pursued and actively engaged in.

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome."
"And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody."
"And yours," he replied with a smile, "is wilfully to misunderstand them.” 
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice




Cedar Breaks, Southern Utah

Cedar Breaks, Southern Utah

The ever-repeating known

We often opt for what we know. To our ego, it seems the most easy, safe way to proceed toward any given goal. Instead of choosing a new path, we take the one we are most familiar with.

The problem with this approach is that, if we look at the record, it does not work. If we stay where we are, we are embodying the consciousness of the static, the stable, that which does not evolve. The ego takes comfort in the familiar and comes up with a myriad of reasons why we must not risk forward movement.

We heat our houses, we dress warmly, we refrain from challenging ourselves physically. We tend to choose familiar foods, activities, pleasures. We re-read the same books. Why does this not bring us happiness?

Because we are not built to behave this way. Advances in knowledge in neuroplasticity indicate that stroke victims who have suffered brain damage are able to recover more quickly and completely when they are challenged to learn new activities, to go outside their "comfort zones," and to engage the world without a safety net. This new brain activity actually forms new neural pathways. Slight activity variations are more effective than rote repetition in achieving this result. Taking bold action towards unknown activity is even better.

When we make it a habit to avoid the habitual, we are rewarded with a refreshed and renewed experience of existence. Let's challenge ourselves, even by starting small. Take the long way home. Turn this corner instead of that. Pay attention to nature whenever we feel the urge to go on autopilot.

Nature will reward our bravery every time.

“Great people do things before they're ready. ”
-Amy Poehler

Bristlecone Pine, Southern Utah

Bristlecone Pine, Southern Utah

Balance is elusive

Sunset, Rogue Valley, Oregon

Sunset, Rogue Valley, Oregon

Until it's not

Do you remember the first time you successfully rode a bicycle? One moment it seemed impossible, and you thought you could do nothing but fail. Suddenly there was a shift, and you were up and riding. Everything clicked, and it seemed as though you would never return to that state of "failure" again. What actually happened at that moment? Was the "you" that was failing really you, or was it only a part of the whole you, mistakenly trying to run the whole show? 

Our ego tries to convince us that it is all that we are. It claims ownership. It assigns blame. It sees any expansion of our resources as a threat to its own dominance. It parsed the bike riding experience as too hard, as impossible to achieve. Better give up and retreat, licking our wounds. Then our instinct kicks in, and we find an effortless, frictionless balance. We fearlessly move forward with confidence.

The ego is a busy little bee. There is seemingly no end to the machinations it will use to distract us from any task that threatens change or growth. Yet it will fold in any fight if we stand firm in our resolve.

When we learned to meditate, the ego had a little bit to say about it. Luckily we did not listen.

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” 
― Rumi, The Essential Rumi

Moonrise, Guru Purnima, Studio City, California

Moonrise, Guru Purnima, Studio City, California