Do humans have a natural role on this planet? I recently watched Growing Native: Great Lakes, an American Public Television special about the tribes that live around the Great Lakes, and was fascinated as one of the tribal members talked about the white corn. She explained how the people need the corn, but the corn needs the people too—to separate the kernels and plant them individually. Left to itself, an ear of corn will fall to the ground and all those kernels will sprout
From the center of Reality, the whole circumference of life is seen to be completely harmonious, for when the center is found, it becomes clear that the enumerable radii all converge from the circumference towards a single point.
~ Maharishi Maresh Yogi I’m learning to see my life as if I was standing in the center where all things are one. If this moment was the center of the circle, my shoulders would be relaxed, my hair would be strong and healthy and I would sleep restful
My mother loved butterflies. Her house was full of them. Not the real kind, but butterfly pins, embroidered butterflies, painted butterflies, chains of quilted butterflies, even those on a wire that you stick in a potted plant to decorate it. All the books in her library were stamped with a green butterfly stamp. Mom passed away suddenly this fall. It was rather an abrupt end to a rich and full life. The other morning I had a flash of an image of her—she’s a beautiful butterf
Twenty-five years ago, Priscilla Plummer was sitting with a group of women in a village in Mozambique. Knee-deep in the research for her master’s degree, she wanted to learn about the realities people were facing in Southern Africa. As she got to know the women in her village and listened to their stories, Priscilla realized their experience was very different from the picture painted by the big development organizations with their projects and programs and reports. It was cl
I recently talked with Aaron Enyetu, who arrived here from Uganda just a few months ago. Aaron has worked both as a volunteer in the community-building work of the Baha’i community, and as a professional for Kimanya Ngeyo, an organization based in Jinja that promotes the empowerment of rural people to participate meaningfully in the development of their communities, families and themselves. One of the organization’s areas of focus is sustainable organic farming methods. Eager
How do we develop a learning mindset? It’s not possible to know everything, so obviously we’re going to have to learn as we go. But how do we get ourselves into a learning mode? So often I get defensive when I run up against my own ignorance. Or when I make a mistake. Or when I inadvertently say or do something that causes pain for someone else. But defensiveness is the antithesis of learning. I can’t actually learn anything when all my energy is marshalled into defense mode.
Becoming conscious is not easy. It’s about clearing my inner landscape of old beliefs—and that takes work. It’s like clearing debris from a physical landscape. We have a small stand of trees on our property that we’ve ignored for years. Some of the smaller trees are dead and need to come down. The lower branches on the rest of the trees are dry and brittle and need to be trimmed off. The latest ice storm brought down even more branches. It’s not complicated work, but it’s exe
It’s hard work, becoming conscious. And what makes it doubly hard is this: I wake up and look around. My eyes are open and it’s a beautiful thing. So I go down the path a ways and then realize I’ve just awakened from a dream within the dream. Now I have another awakening to go through. And another. And another. After awhile I think, “Will this ever end?” But it doesn’t. It keeps going, uncovering layer after layer. Okay, so this isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. We’re in this f
I recently participated in a Zoom workshop on consultation offered to an association of facilitators. The workshop was a familiar setup — a speaker gave a presentation and then we split up into breakout rooms to practice the skills of consultation by talking through a scenario. But this time I got a valuable lesson in making space for others. We went into the breakout rooms of three or four people to discuss our scenario. You know how there’s often an awkward pause when you’r
What do you do when someone voices an opinion that opposes your own? It’s so easy to argue. We see daily examples of this in the news. But the problems we are facing in this world are complex and multi-faceted. One-sided solutions aren’t going to get us where we need to go. It’s going to take looking at the issues from all sides. And that means listening to viewpoints we disagree with. How do we do that without coming to conflict? In our current public discourse, examples may
Last week I was at a conference for Portland-based organizations involved in global development work. It was sobering and hopeful at the same time. The dangers of climate change, the refugee crisis, the challenges faced by peoples and countries around the world, the even greater challenges looming on the horizon, are all rather staggering. At the same time, there are bright spots of hope, many of which come from our youth. One speaker shared the story of Richard Turere, a you
When we look around at the public conversation these days, it’s rather sobering. Issues have become polarized, with each side becoming more entrenched in their view. Arguing has become more important than problem-solving. And yet the problems we face as a humanity grow larger and more tangled every day. Are we doomed? Is it human nature to argue and fight about everything? What constitutes human nature? M. Scott Peck found a humorous way of explaining this in his book, The Ro
Here’s what I’m learning: When we’re learning something new—when we enter new territory—it’s uncomfortable. As far as I can tell, it’s always uncomfortable. I keep thinking it will get easier, and it does… this new territory becomes familiar, known, more comfortable. But then I turn a corner and I’m in a different new territory. Once again, I don’t know how things work, I don’t know the lay of the land, I’m just feeling my way through. Slowly I’m getting accustomed to the fee
They say, when you start something new, to begin with baby steps. As you move forward, you build capacity, develop skills and it gets easier. But right now, I feel like I’m barely taking little, tiny mouse steps as I work on writing and promoting this book on consultation. Pushing the edge This process reminds of me of stretching and yoga. When I first started doing yoga, my muscles felt like glass, like they’d break if I went any further. I thought the goal was to keep stret
The little town of Ii, Finland, has set an audacious goal—to become the first zero-waste town in the world. And they’re well on their way. The Little Town That Could This tiny community of 10,000 people has already moved to completely renewable energy sources—geothermal, wind, solar, wood chips. They no longer use any fossil fuels; no gas, no oil, no coal. They’ve already switched to electrics cars. As a result, they reduced their CO2 emissions by half between 2007 and 2015.
Have you ever noticed how we tend to separate people by age in this society? The young and the old are shuttered off by themselves. What are we losing? How would we benefit by reaching across the generations? My daughter and I were looking for a place to sit and chat one sunny afternoon recently and found a bench overlooking a grade school playground. Below us, we saw all kinds of people doing all kinds of things, peacefully coexisting. The little kids were playing on the mon
It's about reframing Do you often find yourself churning over something, worried about whether it will turn out alright? How do you get past this? I heard something in a class I’m taking that really struck me: Fear, doubt and anxiety are all symptoms of belief in a negative future. Wow. This is from Shariff Abdullah, who did an interview for this blog a couple years ago. He then he went on to say that it takes just as much energy to think about a positive future, so why not d
Grace Reed’s article on Solving Homelessness talks about how effective the village model is for getting people off the streets and back into stable lives. A village… It also takes a village to raise a child. I was sharing all this with a friend the other night and suddenly we both realized—it takes a village to do anything! We think we are independent. We think our success is our own. And so we look at those who struggle and say, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” But we
by Grace Growing Medicine Eagle Reed Everyone agrees that homelessness is a serious problem. But good-hearted people everywhere are at a loss about what to do. We offer food and blankets, toiletries and warming centers. But this is just a band-aid—temporary relief at best. How do we actually solve the problem? How do we help individuals get off the streets and into stable housing, regaining dignity and normalcy in their lives? Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon Current State
Interview with Rose High Bear Inspired by a vision to write the story of Martin High Bear’s life, Rose High Bear ended up buying a video camera instead, and recording the wisdom of this Lakota medicine man, who happened to be her husband. She and her team have been recording elders ever since, to preserve the rich treasure of their knowledge and wisdom and share it with the world. An elder herself, Rose still holds herself accountable to her own grandparents as she pursues th