Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from India!

I am currently in Bangalore at the Born Free Art School, a small project of artists and street kids in South India. I met the founder, John Devaraj, at Tamera during the Summer University. A peace activist, sculpture artist, actor and cinematographer, John began the Born Free Art School in 2002. The aim is to keep kids off the streets, and the means are art, education, a good home and love and support. Through his art projects John works to liberate the working children of India and the world.

Being back in India makes me feel so privileged. The pain and poverty especial raw in stark contrast to the technology and holiday consumerism of Bangalore. I am falling in love with the children of Born Free, touched deeply by their stories and their fragile open hearts. Sweet young Gaja, who loves school and the hard boiled eggs they serve for lunch, was sold for 500 rupees ($10) by his father. Sanjuna, actress and dancer, is the child of a prostitute. Before coming to the school she lived on the streets selling drugs. The newest addition, loving Lakshmi, was begging on the streets a week ago when she met the kids during a film shoot. Now she is begging for hugs, which she can not get enough of!

I am here to offer myself in service, and to witness this social movement of youth and art. I come at an exciting time; all are involved in the creation of 'Ananda', a feature length film. Ananda means the highest state of bliss in Hinduism, and the story reveals street children on the path towards joy. The artists, former street children themselves, play major roles; acting, costume designing, shooting and creating props. It is a community affair, with volunteers and local people stepping in for bit parts. The intention is to use this film to bring more awareness to the need for a paradigm shift to deal with the problem of working children. Born Free Art School is successful because of its focus on empowerment through art. This project has a higher retention rate than other NGOs working to help street children in India.

The twenty children and four adults have their rhythm down, their main issue is funding. I offer my support through small things, playing with the children, forming friendship with the young ladies, serving food, sweeping the floor, hugging, and listening to John's story and offering my reflections.

Today, during the Christmas party, we sat in circle and held a beautiful council about sharing. It was truly touching, and I hope to work more closely with the youth during my remaining time. Six of the young people will be stepping into more responsibility in the new year, and John has asked me to spend time with them as they transition into leadership.

To me, India is a land of contradictions, a place of bright light and dark shadow. I am equally drawn to the traditions of the ancient religions and the disparity and poverty of modern India. My sixth visit to India, I ask myself why do I keep coming back? What is my pull here? How can I serve? Seen in the context of the Beyond Boundaries pilgrimage, the need for regenerative work here appears to me more urgent than ever before. Our group spent the beginning of our journey in Europe and the USA,. N we venture into communities where the situation is very different, environmental and socially.

The last month of my Independent Study was busy, first volunteering at the Ojai Foundation and finally spending some time fundraising in the Bay Area. I collaborated with Shay and Will, fellow pilgrims, on four events. Such a challenge and such a gift. A necessary part of this work, I feel blessed to be learning from my peers and Gigi, who has offered brilliant mentorship. This focus on funding is not only necessary to support our pilgrimage, but also as part of our inquiry into the work of the world. As we look at methods of sustainability, money is a key area for healing. We were l, receiving great support, thoughtful reflections and funds. Our team has done an amazing job, and we are only $5,000 from our bottom line. I personally need to bring in $2,000 to do my part, so I continue to work. I am currently writing a grant proposal, and continue to work on manifesting funds in creative ways. Please help me in any way you can.

I began my time in India grounding at Ramana's Ashram in Thiruvannamalai. It is a place of deep meditation, and it was a perfect way for me to acclimatize and begin this leg of the pilgrimage. I will spend about a week with Born Free, then I head North to visit two inspirational community movements, Shikshantar and THREADS. At Shikshantar they are 'stepping out of the system', saying no to institutionalized education and waste and saying yes to co-creation and the gifting culture. THREADS is a network of tribal eco-villages in Orissa, through their eco-tourism center Siddartha Village they support non-violence work, vipassana meditation, women's empowerment, and indigenous agriculture.

Happy holidays, may your days be filled with joy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Arrived at Ojai!

Today is Global Grace Day!  On November 9th, 1938 the infamous Crystal Night began the holocaust.  On November 9th, 1089, the Berlin Wall fell.  Today, hundreds of people joined hands, standing in place of the wall that once divided a nation.  

In solidarity with Tamera and peace activists around the world, I invited community members at Ojai to join me on a silent peace walk, meditation and prayer at the 'power point' on the land.  It was beautiful, sweet and co-creative.  I read a meditation from Sabine Lichtenfels, co-founder of Tamera.  I would like to share part of this test with you:

  "Where there was pain, let healing awaken.

   Where there was anger, let the power for change emerge.

   Where there was fear, let safety and trust grow.

   Where there were enemies, let the awakening of mutual compassion begin.

   Where there was oppression, let freedom reign.

   Where nations were divided, let sympathy for planet earth lead to shared responsibility.

   We have come as a reminder:

   If we want planet earth to survive, then all the walls of separation must fall, the walls between peoples, between Israel and Palestine, between Europe and Africa, between the so-called first and third world. And likewise with the walls that we have erected in our own psyches, the walls between the genders, and the walls between humans and all creatures..."

I am currently at the Ojai Foundation (see my blog post)  I am here volunteering on the land, spending time with the compost and digging irrigation lines... sinking deeper into the work of this organization.  I am aware of a feeling of great depth here, it is a place of deep practice, deep teaching and deep listening.  Through out the span of this organizations life many masters and students have passed through, or lived on, this land.  

I am grateful also for the community that is currently at the Ojai Foundation, it is beautiful and blossoming.  I love  the opportunity to sit together in meditation every morning.  I am also finding community abounding in the surrounding area, I spent my Saturday morning working at Full Circle Farm, a small community based around shared housing and shared eating... community starts at the kitchen table!  

I spent a few days at my parents house before driving to the Ojai Foundation. Going home was challenging; I am meet pieces of myself there, old parts of my personality, fears that I recognize as long lost friends. I pass through, feeling deeply, and moving through another door.

I feel that my time in Germany was well spent.  It was good to stay with my 'family' for a while, seep into relationship with people and place.  Before leaving Germany I visited another community, Zegg, just East of Berlin.   I was glad to have a little time there to feel another community, learn about another model.  

I was particularly interested in seeing how Zegg is similar and different to Tamera, where we began our international pilgrimage.  Both Zegg and Tamera grew out of the same group, the same project.  They gave me a special opportunity; allowing me to participate in an an Introductory Weekend, providing me with a translator and letting me stay beyond the weekend and work with the community.  

The 'information weekend' was fun, very deep and well led.  The land is well cared for, and the buildings are comfortable, beautiful, and green and getting greener.  The land has an interesting history, first built by Missionaries returned from West Africa, then used as a youth Nazi Camp and finally as a secret service training center.  The place feels wonderful today, a small quiet village in the woods.  Beauty way is strong, there is a lot of attention given to create warm welcoming spaces.   Many of the old building have been remodeled to increase heat efficiency.  They heat the most of their water and buildings centrally, with a furnace renovated to use 'bio-mass', locally produced wood chips.   

The community seems happy and healthy, and mostly around 50 years old and living in partnerships.  The work pace is easy, calm and efficient.  I felt good there, very comfortable.  It seemed to me that the innovative projects, the waste water system, the permaculture garden, were all familiar and comfortable friends that have been around for a while.  

The hot topic was consensus.  A  18 year old community, they have met as a group of 60, committed to making decisions all could agreement.  I can only imagine how many hours of meeting they have had...  Now they are exploring a new way  to meet, a brand new idea called 'Holocracy'.  They are discussing radically transforming their decision making structure and process, in a way that they believe will integrate the collective wisdom of the whole community.  It is based on the idea of a holon, something that is simultaneously a whole and a part.  The part carries the information of the whole, and therefor can act as the whole... so into decision making fewer people can be responsible, freeing up others to focus on their specialized work.  I am interested to learn how this works out! 

A nice coincidence... two members of Tamera's Solar Village were there, just one week after their inauguration.   They presented a short video of the October 17th inauguration.  It seems like it was a huge success, with many local students and professionals in attendance learning about this cutting edge model village utilizing decentralized energy.  The village is built as a model of ecological sustainability, the innovative technology comes from Jurgen Kleinwatchter, a visionary physicist.  He has developed these technologies with the poorest countries in mind, “Instead of energy monopolies, we are striving for regional autonomy in energy and food supply. With this we can maintain landscapes and create jobs for life to return to the villages.”

I am feeling inspired by the work I am seeing in each of these communities!  So grateful to be part of this research, to learn about these models of peace and healing at this time... a time that seems to truly be a time of change and challenge.


Harvesting the apples at Zegg, produce in my parents garden and acorns for my sister's latest art, I look towards harvesting my own experience.  I feel full, and have not yet digested.  I intend to ground and process in this next month while I am volunteering here at the Ojai Foundation. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ancestral Dreaming

I am in Essen, where my great grandmother was born and buried. I am comfortable and uncomfortable, staying with relatives and struggling to be open to their generosity. The family is sweet, so sweet. They have given me a room for these days, with its own entrance and a key. I dream there, praying each night to strengthen my connection to this place. The first night I dreamt of home, of my people moving north, of the cold and of love. My dreams are full of love, birth and death, and I am grateful for their strength and memory.

Yesterday I visited the Dom in Koln, or the Cathedral of Cologne, with two relatives, Uschi and Laura. It was really amazing--- began in the 1400s, and it took centuries to build. I was awed by the size and design, reverent to the work and dedication. Later, at the Holocaust museum, I saw photos of the city in ruins all around while the Cathedral stood unscathed.

We visited the museum of the Gestapo, and I was deeply moved. The museum was recently opened, as the people don’t seem to want to remember the dark days. This was the first my relatives, one 20 and other in her 50s, had ever come into contact with anything related to the Nazis. We saw the prison cells which were overcrowded with people from all over Europe, and we sat in a memorial space while names were displayed and stories told. “..died 1943, in Auschwitz, persecuted for being a Jew.” Laura led me to a particularly ´scary´place, a small dark cell, used for isolation, interrogation, and abuse. I felt a deep pain there, and it moved through my whole body and lingered, sour for hours.

The site is special in that the basement was untouched until the museum opened, and thousands of messages and drawings were left scratched into the walls. There were expressions of hope, longing, fear, despair, and anger. I was so moved by it, especially the beauty that came through a time of such unknown misery.

Love is a present of nature on the whole world,

and without it one cannot live.

All people live from love,

allow, life to love you, too.

-Volodza und Nadza, Russian

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I have arrived in Germany! I am currently at the ecovillage Sieben Linden, where I will be working for two weeks. The community is a model of sustainability. They are working hard to create viable sustainable social, environmental and agricultural systems. The community members have the opportunity to live in 'neighborhoods', small community groups within the larger community that live in large homes together. These neighborhoods have distinct cultures and values. In coming together they decide how they want to live, make agreements, and create their home based on their needs. Each new house is an evolution from the last, looking towards the most environmentally sustainable building possible. One home has a spiral design--- only the central room is heated and the heat radiates to the rest of the house.

One of the neighborhoods, Club 99, is known for being very ecological. They built their main community house without any machinery, using materials that come from the land and recycled waste. Their home took five years to build, as they split each beam and log by hand saw. It is a wooden frame with straw bale walls and is truly a piece of art. This house is used for communal activities only, and members live in other homes. Their second building project was a straw bale home, and for this they decided to use machinery as the members began to work in other areas. They work with horses, to pull wood and plow the garden.

I am part of the 'international experience week', a week long service opportunity and introduction to the community. My group is cleaning up the construction zone of the newest neighborhood. Yesterday we planted a hedge on the property border, transplanting native bushes from their winter nursery. Today we are busy moving a wood pile, deconstructing and re-building the wood shed in a new location.

My time at Findhorn ended strong, with a beautiful week on the Island retreat of Erraid and a way of Council Training back at the park.

The Isle of Erraid is a small island of granite in Western Scotland. It is an elemental place, exposed to the winds, tides and rain. This was our last week together before we separated for our independent study time, and we took the opportunity to be on retreat together, meditating and meeting daily to process our journey thus far and prepare for the time ahead.

I just finished a 'Nature of Council' for Findhornians, working with Will as an intern and support for Gigi. The training was wonderful, integrating experiences in nature and the practice of deep listening and speaking from the heart. It was a great learning experience, continually pushing me to my edge. Feeling full of gratitude for opportunities to grow, I am so thankful for the opportunities for continual learning. I love finding myself in truly uncomfortable situations, realizing I chose to bring myself fully into the practice of stretching my limits, stretching beyond boundaries.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Findhorn Experience

Ahhh, how good it is to be alive!  I am recovering from a 24 hour flu that had me questioning my sanity in signing up for 10 month community pilgrimage and looking up symptoms for swine flu online... Waking up without a headache and fever feels good!  

We have been here in the North East of Scotland for two weeks now, and I am soaking up the atmosphere of the Findhorn Foundation Community.  We began with 'Experience Week', the entry program for any visitor interested in a closer look at the Findhorn Community.  It was quite an experience! It has been running for many years, we have met elders of the community that entered in this way decades ago.  Highly facilitated, this program brings individuals into a community within a group, introduces aspects of the Findhorn philosophy, and offers a taste treat of the tools and practices of the spiritual community of Findhorn.  In addition to sessions with elders introducing the multifaceted life at Findhorn we separated into work departments for service each day.  I got to work in the Cluny garden.  Cluny is the second home of Findhorn, a grand Victorian mansion that houses 35 or so community members in addition to guests participating in Experience week and other programs.  The garden is 'focalized' by Svere, a Norwegian man with a deep spiritual connection and love of gardening.  I was touched by his relationship with the earth, his approach is to tune into nature and find a way to aid in natural flows rather than impose his will upon a garden bed.  As a facilitator he offered much freedom to his workers, I felt like I had choice and freedom in my movements in the garden.

After our week at Cluny we moved to the Park, the center of the Findhorn Community.  As we go deeper into the workings of Findhorn, I find the system is diverse and complex.  There is a core community of the 'Findhorn Foundation', composed of people that work within Foundation, mostly on educational programs and the running of the facilities.  The eco-village is run sustainably, and so the Foundation encompasses projects such as the Living Machine, the biological waste water treatment system that effectively treats the waste of the 350 or so people living at the park.  In addition to the Foundation, which is not for profit, there are a variety of other businesses, both for and not for profit, that support the Findhorn Community.  One example is Trees for Life, a dynamic organization working to restore the Caledonian Forest of the highlands.   Another supporting organization is Earth Share, a large community supported agriculture farm in the area.

The Foundation began in a caravan park (a.k.a. trailer park) in 1962.  The founders (Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean) had followed a spiritual life for many years, and settled here under guidance.  Dorothy was led to gardening on this sandy land, and found an intuitive connection to plant spirits that she called 'devas'.  Soon her garden flourished, and became famous for 40lb cabbages!  Her world renowned garden drew visitors, and the community began to grow.  It seems like the community has grown organically, with members bringing their own interests, practices and technologies.  

The physical community has grown too, from the original caravan to a large and diverse community encompassing dunes and newly forested land.  There is a variety of housing, from caravans to a variety of eco-buildings.  Early sustainable housing included recycled whisky barrel houses.  The charming cottages were first built in 1986 and are still standing strong.  We met some of the neighbors, and visiting their gardens saw permaculture living side by biodynamic gardens.  The 'field of dreams' is an eco-experiment... the developers were given a lot of freedom beyond some basic environmental and sustainable guidelines.  The result is a beautiful medley of architecture

We have met a lot of interest in our pilgrimage here.  Last Sunday we held the 'Sunday Slot' and spoke about our journey and intentions.  We held a youth council with the Youth Project teenagers, which included elder witnesses.  We shared videos from the Ojai Foundation, and have events planned next week including more council, information about Tamera and a new film about Auroville.

Today is a day of rest, and I am grateful for the opportunity to recuperate and work on my logistics for the upcoming independent study! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Arrived in Scotland!

We have just begun our month with the community of Findhorn! It is a dark and gloomy morning and I just returned from a lovely stroll out in the forest here. It is so lush and full of life!
Findhorn is a beautiful community, and I am enjoying 'experience week', our introduction to our time here. We are immersed in the community, learning about the ecological work, sustainable housing, community structure and spiritual life. We are also serving in various parts of the community. I spend my time in the gardens which became famous in the 70's for 40lb cabbages and other enormousness vegetables. The gardens are still beautiful and plentiful, but these days the emphasis at Findhorn is on growing people not vegetables.

Damanhur was incredibly impressive, complex and varied. 
I loved the emphasis on the arts, art as a worthwhile expression. We spent a day immersed in art, working along side Damanhurian artists on a mural. The neucleo homes are often painted with larger than life nature scenes where the flowers, insects and birds tower over humans. This is a reminder of our interconnectedness, perspective, and part in the whole of the universe. Falco, the visionary, ‘spiritual teacher’ and leader of Damanhur, said that the ascetic value of the art is not what matters. It is the practice, the healing that is possible in the act, which is valuable in of itself.
Meanwhile, artists at Damanhur are doing amazing things. In addition to creating paintings and stained glass, their restoration artists of work all over Italy and beyond. The work of Damanhur is done within cooperatives… the Italian approved way to share ownership and property. The cooperatives are businesses with different skills and products from real estate to selfic art (an ancient healing technology).
There are many projects going on and as Falco said to us “Damanhurians run”. This means they work. A lot. During our final days at there we spoke with a few of the people involved with cutting edge technology. We visited the newest green building model, a building that houses 30 people, as well as accommodating up to 10 guests in a bed and breakfast wing. The building is well insulated with natural material and utilizes technology such as ‘triple locking doors’. A lot of the technology is German based, while most of the materials are local. I was particularly impressed with their energy systems, innovative water and air circulation systems.

We, Beyond Boundaries, have been sharing the information we gather at the communities through deep discussions on various research topics. We are recording our observations and insights while we share and collaborate with each other. One of the many blessings about working together is the variety of perspective and interest, we all have different ‘ins’ and therefore gleam diverse information. Our conversations are rich, and more and more often we are exploring ideas of integration…

I am loving the work we are doing, and really opening up to this holistic research. I am making a lot of connections, and feel that one of the many gifts I am receiving is knowing I am part of this web of positive work and healing on the planet, and I am gathering tools and contacts that I can connect to and through. Already we have offered connections from one community to the other... if feels good!

I also am learning what is important to me in community, and what seems to 'work'. Also, what some challenges are. I am interested to see where this all goes, what is the next step with the project... a program? a book? a community? We are still in the listening, and very busy 'in the soup' with each community we visit.

After our time at Damanhur we had a short break, I used the time 'on' to explore Italy. I visited Cinque Terre, a beautiful spot on the Mediterranean. Three days of hiking, swimming, and eating great food… then off to Florence, where I was sufficiently awed by the art and shocked by city living after living so close to the earth in community for the past three months.

My independent study time is taking form, I am making plans to travel to Germany to follow my ancestral roots and visit and work with an eco-village there. I will be returning to California sometime in November to volunteer at the Ojai Foundation and complete my fund-raising. I am planning on collaborating with other Beyond Boundaries members for events in the Bay Area and would love to see any of you there! At this point I am looking for connections, and would love your help if you have anyone in your circles that may be interested in learning more about our work and funding the completion of this pilgrimage. If all goes well (and fund-raising is complete) I plan on travelling to India in December to work with communities there before meeting up with the group at Auroville in mid January.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Greetings from Damanhur, where esoteric knowledge meets community…
The underground Temples are magnificent! Truly awesome, I am humbled by the amount of work that went into the excavation (by hand) and construction of these holy works of art. The full construction was in secret, both from the local authorities and new members of the community. Now they are not so secret, and are known as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, a major tourist attraction. Known for their craftsmanship, the art combines mural, stained glass, mosaic and metal work. They have created beautiful tiffany style domes; in fact they hold the record for the world’s largest.
On our first afternoon here we were given a tour, finishing our day with a beautiful concert in the temple of mirrors. It was amazing! Drawing on many traditions they have created a uniquely Damanhurian style of music accompanied by spirit dancing.
We spent a day painting rocks in one of the extensive spiral labyrinths, a meditative service. These are considered to be connected to the temples, which are situated at the crossing of many synchronic lines of earth energy.
A special treat was the ‘concert of the trees’ , they have researched a way to use bio feedback technology to interact and generate music with plants. Sitting in the beautiful woods, listening to new age sounds, I felt my inner voice questioning the feasibility of the situation… but the truth was these people are working with the plants, and living in connection. The concert was in the middle of one of the many neucleo, or families, here. Twenty to thirty people live together with common kitchens and living spaces and private rooms. This particular neucleo is known as ‘the tree people’, because they live in the trees! It was beautiful; in this space I felt playful and was reminded of the Miwok village.
Today I learned a lot about the alternative technologies through visiting the neucleos doing this research. So cool! In addition to straw bale houses and tree houses (with living trees supporting the structures both inside and out) they are building a rotating building. This building is situated on a crane joint, and when complete will move with the sun to receive the most energy possible. It is designed to be a completely self sustaining home, with no input or output. This means full solar, rain catchment and composting toilets.
Immersed in this new community, I already miss Tamera. I miss my new friends, and the feeling of being surrounded by open hearts. Damanhur's analytical and esoteric approach to spiritual and research feels different to the heart centered field of research at Tamera. Both are working to create models for holistic sustainable communities, in very different ways. It is interesting to see these different models and notice similarities and differences, and notice the effects on my personal experience. More and more I am learning what is important to me, and what I value in community and work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Global Grace Village

Hold on this is a long one! I have been too busy to write, and the passing days have been full.
The Summer University was amazing! The diversity and complexity of the offerings and experiences created a powerful field. We joined a group of almost 500 peace workers from around the world to participate in 'a vision for a free earth'. We heard messages and lectures from specialists and leaders from Tamera as well as individuals from the solar movement, the Peace Community Community San Jose de Apartado in Columbia, Tibet, Palestine and much much more. The members of Beyond Boundaries separated into various 'focus groups', I joined the 'Peace Activism, Grace Activism' group. This group was incredibly diverse, and I was deeply touched by the stories of both pain and success I heard. The first days I was hit with a question of hope, how to face hope in an extremely violent world? I felt deep emotions in response to the stories I was hearing, and shame for being an American who is somehow ignorant of the world situation. I was particularly touched by peace workers who said they had no hope for the end of violence in Columbia, and yet they are living in a peace community committed to protecting their lives and land. By the end of the ten days I felt a real connection, and heard that many shared feelings of connection and support. As we step back into the world, our work begins a new, strengthened by the love and commitment we share.
During this time we were serving in the garden, helping with early morning harvest. The mornings were beautiful, waking up with the sun rising over the lake outside our tents, moving through the mist to a opening prayer and then on to various gardens on the land. Beautiful, and sometimes hard due to late nights at the 'Aonda', the Tamera bar full of good conversation and often live music.The landscape is a waterscape here, sculpted by lakes that are designed to regenerate the soil, feed the greater water table, and contribute to the health of endangered local species, such as the cork oak.
As our time in Tamera comes to an end I feel grateful for the full experience, and the opportunity to share in this experiment. Tamera is interested in research, facing the question of how to live peacefully in this world. Creating models of social, ecological and technological healing, Tamera is a healing biotope providing alternatives to our current systems of violence. The core teaching here is about love, and the belief 'there can not be peace on earth as long there is war between the genders'. The work of peace and healing in the world goes hand in hand with the work on ourselves and in our communities.
We enter into this community, and each community 
on this journey, as witnesses, pilgrims and servers. As witnesses we have soaked up the field, and are now sharing our research in beautiful discussions on a variety of topics. We have been acknowledged for our 'witness' role, and have been thanked and given opportunities to share our insights and experiences with individuals and the community. Yesterday we performed the 'Matinee', the Sunday morning community gathering. We began walking up on stage singing Emilia's 'Mountain Song', and we all participated in some way. It was beautiful. I gave a dedication, begining in gratitude for the vision quest that is currently going on here. I was so nervous before hand, but when it was time the words came and I felt good.
We continue to look for ways to collaborate and share, individually and collectively. This morning we will be doing men and womens councils with the youth, with witnesses from the community.
I have made a few great friends, people I am sure I will continue to work with in the future. 
One is Mara, who is a youth leader, and the other Momo Jana, our hostess here and a leader
 for Monte Cerro Peace Education. We have seeded a dream of a program taking 'Peace 
Workers in Training' (students) from Tamera to India and beyond. . . I am interested to see how our futures weave together, and how we can support each others work.
We leave in a few days for Italy, where we will visit Damanhur. I am sad to leave this place, where I resonate so strongly with the work and the people. I have made some amazing contacts, and have new dreams of future collaborations. I am curious, will I fall so deeply in love with each community I work with?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Movement for a Free Earth

Greetings from Tamera! I am a week into my time in Portugal, fully immersed in my work with this Peace Biotope. We are involved in the Youth camp, a group of engaged activists and peace workers from all over the world. I have been touched by stories from Columbia, Brazil, Israel, Palestine, and beyond.
The people here at Tamera live peace in a holistic way, following the belief that the outer revolution in the world has to go hand in hand with the inner revolution. I am very moved by the way the international youth enter into this field, both listening deeply to the philosophy and sharing their work and insights in an extremely open way.
We, the Beyond Boundaries group, have been given the honor of a challenging task: to design a 'cosmogram'. Tamera has created a stone circle, a spiritual site connected to other stone circles in Europe and around the world. We are dreaming up a cosmogram to carve on the 'American' rock. It is to represent the healing of the United States. Whew! What a question, what a prayer to dream up! Our group has been deep in process about this topic. We have not yet conceived our image, but the conversation has been rich. I think it is a great issue to dive into as a community at the very beginning of our time entering into international community. We also are learning and practicing our rock carving skills, which is a whole other challenge!
We have also been doing early morning service work at the Solar Village, a very exciting project of Tamera. They are building a model Solar community, a test field for technology developed by Jürgen Kleinwächter. The technology is based on ideas of sustainability and ease, the materials used are things easily and inexpensively available on any corner of the planet. It is complex, utilizing a multitude of innovative means, and yet very much realizable. We have been cleaning and beautifying the construction area in preparation for the Summer University. In this short time I have learned new skills including how to make low cost and beautiful shade structures.
The Summer University begins tomorrow, and people are arriving from all over! The gathering will last for 10 days, and include focus groups to cover various aspects of the peace movement.
I leave you now with many thoughts and feelings brewing in me. In this full experience I feel the 'field ' of Tamera working on me, new questions are arising in response to the philosophy and way of life.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Ojai is hot!  I am currently at The Ojai Foundation, home to 'the way of council'.  The practice is a way of communicating in a circle format, with the intention to speak and listen from the heart.  The Ojai Foundation has been around for about 30 years, and has been home to a lot of teachers and spiritual leaders.  This past weekend I participated in the Gathering of Council Leaders and was positively inspired!  A lot of people were from Southern California, doing the work in schools, prisons, corporations, and many other venues.  The weekend was jam packed with activities, networking and councils.  I finished the weekend with a sweat, it was long, healing, hot and powerful!
The past three days we have been doing a variety of service work, here on the land and with the Chumash people.  We worked on a piece of land recently given to a group of Chumash.  They have created a monument, and have big plans for future work on the land.  We hope to return in March and work again.
We leave on Sunday for Portugal, and I am super excited!  We will be working with Tamera for a month, doing service work and participating in the Summer University, a two week seminar described as "Global Grace Village - Creating Models for a Future without War".  The intention is to envision a healthy planet.  "With global crises overlapping, it is becoming evident that we are close to facing a paradigm shif; so let's get together for a think-tank and the vision of a future worth living!"
My sister Laurel arrives today for a last minute visit before the big send off.  I haven't seen her since October, she has been in India doing service work.  I am so glad to have the opportunity for some sister love before taking off.
Well, I am off to a council on diversity, a council we are living every day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Last days in Big Pine!

We leave for Ojai on Friday!  I am busy with packing, logistics and excitement.

The last couple of days we have been working on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation, planting trees and flowers at the Education Center and the
new Fitness Center.  The Fitness Center is great, it has a lot of new equipment, programs in the work, and an emphasis on healthy diet and cooking.  A lot of the Paiute in this community have diabetes, and I feel encouraged to see the focus on health.  In addition to after school and summer programs, there is an emphasis on traditional dance, both from the Paiute and other tribes.  We also had the opportunity to play some hoops, so much fun!  I still have some moves. :)  

I connected with a couple of high school students and while volunteering, and was very interested in their goals and ideas about the future.  Both had plans to study outside of the community.  An elder chimed in that without jobs, there is not a lot of opportunity in the area.  This phenomenon is something I have witnessed in rural areas all over the world, the youth are pulled to participate in the economy of globalization, often leaving old ways behind.  Part of the long term dreamscape of the reservation is to work in the area of job development.  One concrete idea is to begin a large community garden behind the Fitness Center.  In addition to providing new jobs in the local economy the food will be sold locally and used in the teaching kitchen.

It looks like we are going to be able to continue to contribute to this community while we are away, by donating a sprinkler system and timer.  We will connect with them again in the Spring when we return to the area.  

Our group feels strong, we have so much to talk about and learn together!  We just completed a Non Violent Communication training, and are having fun playing with new communication techniques.  

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mirroring Workshop

While the youth went out on their solo time on the mountain the 'interns' were given a special treat... a mirroring workshop with Joseph Lazenka and Meredith Little, heroes in the Wilderness Rite of Passage world.  The Beyond Boundaries crew was joined by members of the Ojai Foundation (where we will be going later this month).  The workshop was amaaazing, packed full of learning.  We had opportunities to go out on medicine walks each day, and in the evenings we shared our stories and practiced mirroring each other.  The idea, as I understand it, is to listen deeply to a 'story' and reflect it back in an empowering way with love and respect.I feel a real calling for this work, I feel the lack of meaningful rites of passage in our culture.  I see our youth struggling to assert their independence through drinking and other unconscious activity that is mostly unwitnessed by the elders of the community.  

I am so touched by the deep knowing of the youth, and their capacity to listen to the world, each other and themselves.  

Witnessing rites of passage; youth stepping into adulthood, adults stepping into elderhood, individuals confirming their relationships with their selves and the world, gives me real hope for the future of our world.  

Youth Fast

As part of our service work here in California we worked with the School of Lost Borders on the Youth Vision Fast.  Gigi, Win and Will served as the guides of the rite of passage, and the rest of us had the opportunity to apprentice.  I anticipated that the time would be challenging for me, the leadership style of the School is very different than my prior experiences.  I slipped right into it, finding my way, deeply appreciating the space held by the guides and the youths' ability to show up and participate fully with the ceremony.

I am inspired by the questions they youth faced, and how they are reflected by the questions of our world at this time.  How do we find the courage to do work that will support peaceful healing on this planet?

I am so blessed to be part of this community, exploring this question through partnership with organizations that are living their answers.  Together, YES WE CAN!

Life at Three Creeks

Our time at Three Creeks is busy!  We are rapidly progressing in preparation for the journey ahead, having many 'sessions' on our community agreements, the eco-villages and communities we will be working with, and logistics.  Every day we spend some time working on the land, I am working with the creeks and ponds.  I spend my time weeding the ponds, clearing the water ways and allowing the precious water to flow freely.

The mornings and evenings are relatively free, and I love them!  There is time to read and explore the beautiful dessert hills.  I am currently reading Grace: Pilgrimage for a Future without War by Sabine Lichtenfels one of the founders of Tamera, our first stop on our international itenerary in Southern Portugal. It is an international training and experimental site for the development of peace research villages and healing biotopes worldwide.

For a while I played the role of yoga teacher for Aaron and Sam on 'the island' in the pond, now we have all settled into our own morning practices.  There is an open invitation to meditation in 'club med' each morning.

Vision Fast in the Inyos Mountains

Soon after arriving in Big Pine we headed out to the Mountains together, to fast and confirm our intentions.  The time out was powerful for all, and afterwards we went directly to a Paiute ceremony in honor the opening of their new wellness center.  I was so inspired by their choice to close their casino and create a new offering for the community.  In the days that followed we shared stories and feasted together in celebration of our time, the land, and ceremony!

Beyond Boundaries has begun!

On June 7th, 2009 I arrived at Three Creeks in Big Pine California to begin my journey with Beyond Boundaries!  Located in the Owens Valley on the Eastern Sierras, my new 'home' is a dessert Oasis.  Gigi Coyle and Win Phelps, the elders of our community, are our hosts here.  They are caretakers of this beautiful land, and shepherd it well paying close attention to the water.  The 'three creeks' come from the Owen's River, and flow through the five acres providing water for the orchard, garden and a lovely pond.
The group is made up of eight individuals ranging from 19-66 years of age.  This is truly an inter-generational group!  Gigi dreamed up this crazy adventure, and together with her husband Win is leading this first stage of our work together.  Gigi is an amazing visionary who has done a variety of work, most recently in the realm of wilderness rights of passage and the way of council.  Win is also a wilderness rights of passage guide, and was once a hollywood director!  Will has been working in wilderness and leadership, both with The School of Lost Borders and his own organization.  Shay, my roomate in the yurt, has been working closely with the Bioneers Youth programs.  Aaron and Emilia come from Maine, where they both worked in the outdoor industry and the arts.  Emilia is an amazing songstress and photographer, and Aaron is rekindling his relationship with the paint brush.  Sam is our youngest member, with an amazing heart.  He comes to us from Hampshire college, and will be continuing his studies through participation in Beyond Boundaries.
We jumped right in, talking about our intentions and the work ahead.  So much excitement.  Our first council included many witnesses; friends, family, donors and members of the Biosphere Foundation.  I felt so good sitting there, knowing I was right where I was meant to be, full of gratitude for all the support I have received.