Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sustainable You

Disclaimer: What you're about to read will confirm your previous judgment of me as an idealist and a dreamer. I can deal with that. Can you?

I've had a lot of dealings with government agencies of late. I recently sat through a presentation on a government-sponsored program in my province which provides laid-off workers with funding for training in a new career. From the outset, the agenda of said program was clear, as the facilitator opened with:

"If you're here thinking that the government will fund your childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, think again. This program is to provide funding and training for an immediately employable, high-demand occupation."

Translation: There are boxes for you to fit into, hoops you must jump through to qualify to be put into those boxes and our main priority is boosting our failing economy by crushing your dreams and making you conform. Okay, I exaggerate. Or do I?

I could see The Matrix code streaming down either sides of Agent Smith, pardon me, Mr. Gov't Facilitator, as he spoke. And the room filled with an odd green hue that wasn't coming from the air conditioner. But, I digress.

Needless to say, I was bored by the rest of the presentation. Scratch that. I wasn't bored. I had my notebook to doodle in. I was actually mildly amused and somewhat outraged. A nice Friday afternoon combination. The questions and ponderings were swirling through my brain:

Why isn't there a government program to help someone live out their childhood dream to become an astronaut? Why aren't our basic political and educational systems set up to inspire the individual's pursuit of their dreams, of their deepest potential? Why are we so bent on corralling each other into boxes?

What if a government facilitator stood at the front of a room full of unemployed workers and said, "So, you've been laid off? Great! Now you can finally pursue your dream of becoming an astronaut or artist or watchmaker or whatever you desire. And we're going to connect you with every resource you need in order to get there." How cool would that be?

Humans have vast potential. Yet, we've created a world that limits that potential. Why? Control, fear, greed and outdated beliefs and systems that are not sustainable, the foremost of which is our monetary-based economy.

I have been keenly interested lately in the work of Jacque Fresco, who, through The Venus Project, promotes the idea of a Resource-Based Economy, which he describes as "a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all of the inhabitants, not just a select few. The premise upon which this system is based is that the Earth is abundant with plentiful resource; our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival."

Utopian? Yes. Is it a perfect system? No. I'm not sure about all of the technology stuff he has in mind which you can explore further through The Venus Project website. But as Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." So, if Fresco's ideas get us to shift our awareness into another way of thinking it is a good thing. The more people on this planet with big dreams of sustainability, the better.

I like this idea of a resource-based economy, that of ensuring all humanity has access to the basics of life: clean air and water, food, healthcare, housing and education.

I watched a series of lectures given by Fresco at Penn State University this past April. This is the first of 13 YouTube clips that cover the lecture in full. Just click along after each one to the next.

While I found the whole lecture interesting, I found one of the audience questions at the end particularly telling. The gist of the question was: If our basic needs are taken care of, what will we do with our time? It's sad that we've reached a stage in our evolution where we don't know what to do with ourselves when we're not struggling to survive. What would you do if you weren't focused on making money to sustain your existence? What would you do if you were no longer at the mercy of a monetary-based economy?

Or, let's put this another way, if there was no external force telling you what you had to do, who you had to be...what would you do and who would you be? Without money being a factor, who are you? Actually, it comes down to this: WHO ARE YOU REALLY?

Fresco replies to the audience member's question by saying that under this resource-based economy, you will be freed up to travel, invent, create, learn, problem-solve. He speaks of arts centers, music centers, open education. Idealistic? Yes. Doable? Why not?

We've done the greed, fear, money, destruction thing on this planet. It's become boring. Not to mention unsustainable. Why not open to the idea of a more sustainable paradigm? Whatever that looks like for you, why not open to the idea of the global village, that there is only this one planet that we must all share and that to make it into the next stage of our human evolution we're going to have to find new and revolutionary ways to work with nature and each other to sustain life? What have you got to lose?

tall penguin

Healing or Stealing?

This is the Commencement Address by Paul Hawken, renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, and author, to the Class of 2009, University of Portland, May 3, 2009. It is moving and powerful. Please take the time to read it through.

"When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation... but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown — Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it. "


tall penguin

It's All Good...

"Sometimes what you want is not what is best for you."

This quote is from the new book by Conversations With God best-selling author Neale Donald Walsch. (By the way, CWG is a great book regardless of your perceptions of what "God" is. It was the book I read post-Jehovah's Witness that helped me re-write my concepts of the Divine.) Walsch's new book, When Everything Changes, Change Everything is blowing my mind right now. Quite literally. It's shifting the way I perceive change, myself, and life in general.

There are things I have wanted lately that I have not gotten. Relationships I have wanted that I have not gotten. Experiences I have wanted that I have not gotten. And it has lead to some upheaval and heartbreak and general discontent in my psyche.

And yet, if I am honest with myself, I can see a bigger picture unfolding in my life and see the truth of the quote above. If I am truly honest with myself, looking back on my life to date, I am happy that I have not received many of the things, relationships and experiences I wanted. If I had, I would've been thrown off balance, been greatly hurt or would've hurt others. So, it's all good.

And, in hindsight, I did eventually receive much of what I asked for, just in a different form or at a different time than I had originally wanted it. So, again, it's all good.

What I have also noticed is that when I tried to make things happen that ultimately were not for my highest good, I caused myself a lot of grief and pain. And you know when this is happening. You can feel that knot in your stomach telling you you're somewhere or with someone you shouldn't be. Or it just feels like there's obstacles each step of the way, blocks that seem to be whispering, "Let go. It's not time for this."

Oh so many times I have ignored that voice, resisting what is; paying attention instead to the petulant child of my psyche who screams, "I want what I want. And I want it NOW!!!"

I am learning to cradle that child in the arms of my heart, let her tears pass, and whisper quietly in her ear, "Be patient. You will receive all great and wonderful things. All in due time."

Walsch's book includes the incredibly moving and insightful poetry of his wife, poet Em Claire. Her poem, "What Is It That You Were Given?" struck a very strong chord with me and sums up the wisdom of accepting change and seeing goodness in all that unfolds in life.

And it's all good.

tall penguin

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Phenomenal Woman...

I have fallen in love with a woman. I knew this day would come. It was only a matter of time.

She is exquisite. Beautiful. Strong. Wise. Powerful. Grounded. Passionate. Compassionate. Loving. Lovable. Graceful. Endearing. Enduring. She is all of this and more.

I must admit that I'm only really getting to know her. I've known of her for awhile but never really saw her this way before. Life's funny that way. Sometimes, you can have the most amazing person right in front of you and not see them. But I see her now. Yes, I see her now.

tall penguin

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Journey...

What an incredible day.

I spent a few hours this afternoon sitting in a local coffee shop, listening to my Ipod, writing, and generally enjoying. I love sitting near the window and watching people go about their day, wondering where they've been and where they're going. People are fascinating to watch. Anyhow, an older lady comes into the crowded coffee shop and comes over to my table and puts her stuff down in the empty chair across from me.

"Don't worry," she looks at me as she puts down her purse and bag, "I won't talk. I'm just going to read my book."

I nod and smile. "No worries," I say. "Be my guest."

She returns with a tea and sits down opposite me and takes out her book. And then proceeds not to read, but to talk. So, I take out my earphones, turn off my Ipod and listen. This is life. When people need to talk, you listen.

She proceeds to tell me about how nice it is to get out for a tea, since she lives alone and doesn't do much outside her apartment. She lives on a limited income and can't always get around as well as she'd like to. I ask her how long she's been living alone.

"Thirty-three years," she says. "But I'm not a widow. Nope. I was married. Tried it once. That was enough. Didn't need to do it again."

"Ya, I tried it once too," I tell her, laughing.

"Well then, you know better now don't you?" She smiles wryly. There's a wisdom behind her smile that I am beginning to see in my own reflection of late. Sometimes, a smile can say so much.

Our talk turns to books. She loves books and proceeds to tell me about some of her favorites. There is easily about forty years between us but there is something in her eyes that knows no age. She talks about books, about life, with the same aliveness that I feel now.

She tells me about her life, her children, her family growing up, and then she talks about her own mortality. "So many people think that when they die they're going to someplace else. Not me. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to the ground when I die and that's it. That's it. I don't wanna go anywhere else. And besides, there's nowhere else to go. No heaven. No hell. I think deep down, everyone knows this. If we're honest with ourselves, we all know. We all know that this is it. We just have to be honest with ourselves."

She leans back in her chair and laughs out loud, "But I'm not ready to go yet. My kids don't have enough money to bury me!"

I laugh. These are the moments I live for. When someone lets me into their story and shares a glimpse of what life is like for them, how they see the world, what meaning they derive from their existence. I find it soul-affirming. A reminder of what it means to be human.

And then, later today, I danced. I attended a Journey Dance class. I blogged about this after my first experience with it a few weeks back. It is a free-form dance experience which I can best describe as a moving meditation. For me, it is a most freeing, grounding, expanding, movement experience, which connects me to my body and spirit in a deep and profound way. After two hours of moving to the beat of my heart and the breath of my soul, I left the studio feeling as if I was walking on air, and at the same time, very connected and rooted.

Dance is one of those experiences that really gets me in touch with the very primal, goddess-like aspect of myself. At one point in the dance process, we were moving around the room like warriors, making guttural noises from our core and awakening the deep fire within. I felt transported to a time in my genetic code where my ancestors would have danced around a fire, invoking the spirits to bring them rain or healing or wisdom. Very cool. Very, very cool.

I can feel something very base, very instinctive, very pure and very old arising from my soul. It showed up today in this beautiful, old woman who sat down at my table and shared her journey with me. And then, in the journey I took through dance. And now, in this post I am sharing with you.

This is the beauty of being human. This is the beauty of story. This is the beauty of now.

And so it is.

tall penguin

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Connection and Separation...

I stumbled across this magnificent photo-blog of a couple's journey through India and surrounding countries. Not only are the photographs incredible but the prose is simple and allows you to feel as if you are on the journey with the writers. I spent over an hour going through this blog last night. As you know, India is on my list of dream trips. I feel an affinity with the people and culture there that I can't explain. Somehow, it feels like home to me.

I experienced so many different emotions as I went through the photo-blog. I was overcome by a deep sense of connectedness as I looked into the faces of these people from another part of the world. I could feel them, as if their story was my story. I could feel what their lives would be like to live. I could feel their joys and sadness, their triumphs and their defeats. And I realized that this is the human story. No matter where in the world we go, our basic story is the same, regardless of the varying cast of characters, scene and setting. In my recent studies of the mythology of various cultures across time and across the planet, this is being exemplified again and again: we are all living the same basic story. We live. We struggle. We die. And in the meantime, we attempt to find moments of joy and come to an understanding of what love is. There is a sense of oneness that comes from this, a sense of connectedness.

And yet, in looking at that photo-blog, I was also struck by another, contradictory, truth. While we are all connected in this common human story, there is still a vast separateness. This separateness lies in the fact that no other human being on this planet perceives the story in the exact same way. No other being that has lived or will live has your particular mix of genetics, experience and perceptions. For the real story is not the common one we share but the one that plays in our head. Or rather, that is the story we perceive to be real. It is our personal reality, the parameters within which we experience and interact with the world. And that is as unique to each individual on this planet as their fingerprint. Sure, there are commonalities, but there will never be a moment where another human being will be able to understand precisely what the world looks like from within your mind, from within your body. This realization brings with it a deep sense of aloneness and isolation.

And so, I work to understand how best to integrate these two states, both the connectedness and the separateness. I have a difficult time with this. Both states feel overwhelming. I imagine my inner guru would say to just let go and let them both wash through me. I'm not sure I know how to do that yet.

It's still amazing to me how much things move me, how hard-wired I am for a deep response. This journey through someone's photo-blog brought up some very interesting feelings, thoughts and questions for me. Everything does. Everything. Sometimes, I don't feel made for this world. Sometimes, it's all too much. It's so loud. And beautiful. And heartbreaking. And overwhelming. And exciting. And confusing. And exquisite. I hope some day my soul will find some peace with this human experience. Some day.

tall penguin

Friday, May 22, 2009

That's Not a Bird!

Never a dull moment I tell ya. I awoke at 1:00 a.m. to flitting sounds coming from my bathroom. At first, I thought it was just the wind rustling my shower curtain. Then I realized it was a very distinctive kind of flitting, like wings beating against a wall. Living thing wings. Uh oh.

With my heart in my throat, I got up and went to the bathroom, quickly threw on the light and, just as quickly, removed my hand from the switch to see a black, winged creature just inside my shower clinging to the wall. I promptly closed the bathroom door and let out a shriek. Uh oh.

It took a couple of seconds for my brain to filter through my catalog of winged creatures. Black. Wide wing span. Furry. Beady eyes. Not a bird. It's a bat. Uh oh.

Now, I've blogged about my battle with the local squirrel who has, on more than one occasion, broken and entered into my top floor apartment and helped himself to cookies, avocados and my general living space. But bats?!

My first thought: How the hell did it get in? Second thought: How the hell do I get it out?

I hop on to Google and do a quick search. I find this article on How to Catch a Bat in Your House. It starts with: "Bats should not be flying through your house." No, really? I continue reading:
  1. Take care using your hands directly. Wear leather gloves to protect against rabies. (Rabies. Fabulous. The last thing I want to do with my day off is go and get a rabies shot. On go the gloves.) Open your door or window. The bat is looking for a way out. Open a door and leave it open to give the flying bat a clear path. The bat may sense the fresh air and fly out of your house. (There is no clear path out of my house. I live in an apartment building. Notice there's no instructions for How to Catch a Bat in Your Apartment? That's because bats aren't supposed to find their way into your apartment.)
  2. Allow the bat to land. Stay out of its way and watch for it to land. (There was no watching. Only waiting outside the bathroom door until I heard the flitting stop and until I worked up enough nerve to go back in.)
  3. Pick up the bat if necessary. If the bat lands low, toss a towel carefully over the bat. It will not be able to take off again. The towel should cover the bat without causing injury. (Towel. Check. Pick it up? Great. I should be sleeping not bat wrestling. And now my main priority is making sure I don't injure the bat? Okay.)
  4. Scoop up the towel. Keep the bat wrapped inside. You should expect to hear clicking noises when the bat is frightened. It is best to presume that the bat might try to bite through the towel, so put on gloves or oven mitts to be safe. (Okay, gloves are on. Oven mitts? Geez. So, I go back into the bathroom and find the bat curled up in a corner behind the toilet. I throw the towel on it. No clicking noises. No chewing. Is it dead? I carefully lift the corner of the towel to find it moving very slowly underneath. Uh oh. Now what?)
  5. Coax the bat down from high places. If the bat lands high on your wall or ceiling, place a coffee can or plastic container over the bat. Slide the lid of the container cautiously between the bat and wall. Keep the container as close to the wall as possible. Do not pinch the bat. (Again with the bat's health and safety. Strangely, or not so strangely, I find myself talking to the bat apologizing for any pain my efforts to remove it from my home might be causing it. And a mea culpa should said efforts end in its untimely demise.)
  6. Carry the towel or container outside. Set the trapped bat on the ground some distance from your house. Close your door so that the bat does not accidentally fly inside again. (I wrap the bat in the towel and place the towel in a plastic bag and proceed out of my apartment.)
  7. Remove the towel or container carefully, so that you can see the bat on the ground. Walk away and watch. The bat will attempt a few hops, then become airborne. Bats have some difficulty taking off from the ground. (I get outside and open the bag spilling the towel and presumed-incapacitated bat onto the pavement.)
  8. Help the bat if it seems fatigued. If the bat is too tired or scared to take off, you may want to place it near a tree. The bat will climb the tree where it can drop into flight. (Fortunately, the bat finds a second wind and flies away. I breathe a sigh of relief. For both of us.)
I get back to my apartment to find my bathroom has been somewhat defiled by the nervous, exit-seeking bat and must now be sanitized thoroughly. I've had enough drunken parties here to know how to handle this, but none of my usual party guests could potentially have rabies, so extra care is taken with this cleaning task. I try to figure out how the bat got in. I notice a small hole chewed through my window screen that I don't recall being there before. Much like my other rodent friends, apparently bats can both chew well and squish into tiny spaces.

I don't think I'll be sleeping anymore tonight. And yes, my Super will be getting a call in the morning. If I'm going to continue to share my living space with the local animal population, I expect some concessions. Perhaps a reduction in my rent is in order.

Just another day in the life.

tall penguin

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I got to hang out with munchkins today. And by munchkins, I mean little people. And by little people, I mean kids under the age of five. I started volunteering at the community centre where I have taught workshops in the past. I decided that it was time to re-introduce kids back into my life in a large way. I have missed them so.

Both when I was in private practice and in my local Jehovah's Witness congregation, I spent a lot of time with children. I loved them and they loved me. I had forgotten how much I loved them and how much they loved me. Some things are worth remembering.

At this community centre, there is no shortage of munchkins. Today, there was easily over twenty-five little ones running, crawling and playing, along with their parents or caregivers. Picture one very large room with semi-controlled chaos ensuing. Yup, lots of fun.

My way with kids has always been to just get into the middle of things, play to myself and then let the kids make their way to me. I like to blend. Since I'm the newest face around, I wanted them to have the opportunity to get used to me on their terms. With kids though, this never takes long.

I gravitated towards the playdoh table. I love playdoh. I think it's because the constant motion of my hands, rolling, sculpting and moulding the playdoh, keeps me grounded and in my body. Other parts of the environment can become overstimulating and overwhelming for me. I've never been a jungle gym or hopscotch kinda girl. And, I assume that the kids that end up for long periods of time at the playdoh table are probably much like me, which means we'll all get along just fine.

As I predicted, a like-minded group developed around the playdoh table. Within a short time, the group had warmed up to me and was making me playdoh hearts by the handfuls. Nothing like playdoh love.

One girl in particular arrived with her Dad. She had been there the week before as well when I showed her how to make playdoh donuts. She is a very petite, very timid two-year-old who spends more time observing the other kids than playing with them. She talks very little and keeps her Dad very close.

When she arrived today, she came right over to me at the playdoh table and sat down. Her Dad joined her and said, "She doesn't warm up to people easily. She likes you." I smile. I like her too. She ends up hanging by my side the rest of the morning, even allowing Dad to drift off to chat with other parents. She leads me around the room by my pinky and stops once in a while to say a few words.

I don't say much when I'm around children. I prefer to just be open and let them be who they are with me. I listen a lot, to what is said and what is not said and I watch. Much like my new little friend, I'm an observer. I like to watch how things unfold and be with what is, as it happens. And besides, I trust that the kids that most need a calm, centered, loving adult to be around will gravitate towards me and we'll spend some time together just being who we are, as we are. I never used to think that that was enough. I'm learning that really, it is.

tall penguin

Monday, May 18, 2009

Puttin' Down Some Roots...

I killed yet another plant. Actually, I think this one killed itself. It never put down roots. In fact, it uprooted itself right out of the pot and died on the surface of the soil. If that's not a metaphor for my life right now, I don't know what is. I had to laugh. I kissed its soft leaves as I scooped it from the pot and deposited it in the trash. I thanked it for being a beautiful messenger.

When I left the Jehovah's Witnesses four years ago, I uprooted myself from the only tribe, the only soil, I knew. Since then, I have been enjoying an immense amount of freedom. Freedom to explore life, love, and everything in between. I have loved and lost. I have loved and won. I have taken drugs, smoked, and gotten drunk. I have had more casual sex than I ever would have imagined. I have stayed up all night and slept all day. I have eaten ice cream for breakfast, potato chips for dinner and lived on pennies a day. I have laughed, painted, danced and generally frolicked. And now, it is time for something else. It is time to plant some roots.

It is time for me to burrow myself deeply into the soil of life, to feel grounded in my body, in who I am and where I am going. It is time to claim my right to be here and to feel safe doing so. It is time to find a tribe or create one, to set limits, and to follow my dreams.

I have written recently about coming into my own power. This past week, I felt a surge of physical power run through my body. Along with a strong surge of creativity. But by week's end, I once again felt overwhelmed and suicidal. As has been the pattern for most of my life, if not all, I have difficultly being here and have trouble bringing things to life. I can see what I want to do, smell it, taste it, reach out and bring it to me, but somehow it just never grows, never blossoms, never manifests. And my little plant reminded me of why that is: I lack roots. I have no stable base from which to manifest and move from. I am this strong, amazing, creative, powerful woman without a foundation on which to build.

A sense of roots comes from our earliest experiences in utero, through the birth process, and into early childhood. I used to teach new mothers about the significance of the first year of life and the impact that their pregnancy and the birth process would have on their child's ability to move in the world. It is funny that sometimes we can teach things to others but forget to apply them to ourselves.

I was a breech birth. I'm not sure why I didn't turn in utero. My mother either does not recall much about the pregnancy or chooses not to share it. But, I do know that I came out feet first, not head first as is the natural way of things. As I used to teach in my movement classes...yes, I used to teach movement classes...ironic, isn't it? They say we teach what we most need to learn...the trip down the birth canal is begun with the infant's push off the uterine wall. It is this push through the infant's spine, through the legs and through the feet that awakens the body's deep sense of grounding. It gives our root system (feet, legs, spine) the ability to experience solid movement and the first experience of choice. I am choosing to come into the world now and I'm going to use my body to do this. Without this push out into the world, solid grounding doesn't take place. This is why I recommend a lot of leg and foot massage for breech babies or those birthed by Caesarean.

The other part of the Westernized birth process that mars our ability to establish roots and our right to be here, is the traditional medicalized birth. When babies are born, the most optimal scenario is to have them placed on the mother near her heart so they may establish a bonding connection. What we often see though is a newborn that is taken from the womb to be swabbed, cleaned and wrapped before being returned to the mother. This interferes with the important first grounding connections.

The other important part of that first skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant is the infant's first post-natal action of autonomy, that of "crawling" to the mother's breast to receive nourishment. Once again, the infant gets a sense of setting a goal (although unconscious at this point) and moving towards fulfilling it. Their focus on moving and sucking is strong and when left to its own natural progression, wires up the brain for a sense of grounding, focus and manifestation.

This process has been interrupted for most of us. Few of us experienced a non-invasive, natural birth. Fortunately, it can be supported and nurtured to develop through grounding exercises later on. And that's what I've been playing with lately. I've been doing things that get me back into my body. I laid on the floor this morning and worked with some very basic breathing and movement exercises. I was surprised to hear a very small voice screaming from within me, "I don't want to be here. It's not safe. I must escape." Yes. I hear you little voice. I hear you.

I am being patient with this voice and giving it a chance to be heard, as well as supporting it with grounding movements, eating root vegetables, spending time in nature and doing my best to create stable routines around sleep, meals and work. It's been a long time since I had a sense of routine, a sense of limitations.

Limitation has been a four-letter word for a very long time, closely linked with dogma, narrow-mindedness and slavery. I have thrown off so many limited constructs in order to gain my freedom. I have tested long-held beliefs in the fire and burned up those that no longer held true. Thank you, Kali. I have questioned who I am and why I'm here. I have floated around in my head, excavating and exploring, just as I have floated around life, excavating and exploring. This was my exercise of freedom. But even freedom needs limitations. Sometimes, to reach for the stars, you need to plant your feet firmly on the ground.

I have been reading Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith. Now, first, a little aside here. I find the chakra system an interesting system of metaphor for looking at the self and the world. Do I really believe that there are spinning wheels of light, chakras, hovering about my "auric field"? No. Does it matter if they exist or not? Not really. To be human is to engage with life through story. All thought is story. Whether you choose the metaphors of religion or science or astrology or Battlestar Galactica, you are creating a story through which you see and navigate the world. It is what it is.

So, Judith writes beautifully about the first chakra, also known as the root, or base, chakra, which is where we develop our sense of grounding, manifestation and our right to be here. She speaks of the necessity of limitations to bring our dreams to life:

"In order to manifest, we must be able to accept limitation. We have to be able to focus on what we want, to be specific about it. We have to be able to stick with it long enough for manifestation to occur...To become proficient at something, we have to practice it over and over again, limiting ourselves to that specific activity until we master it."

She also comments that a distorted view of freedom can hamper our ability to manifest, that an unrealistic attachment to our sense of freedom is "an unwillingness to accept limitation long enough to manifest our basic needs." I have experienced this to be true. While I have enjoyed living a simple life and the freedom that comes from not having a regular work schedule, I have also at times been confined to wondering how my basic needs would be met, wondering where my rent money is coming from and how I will buy groceries for the week. While these scenarios have allowed me to develop faith and resourcefulness, they have also trapped me in survival mode. I have tried to transcend limitation without first accepting that limitations can be both necessary and useful.

It has been awhile since I saw the value of limiting my focus towards a particular goal. It has been awhile since I even experienced focus at all. Interestingly, a month of Adderall use reminded me of this. A few weeks into the pharmaceutical experiment, my mind went, "Oh, so this is what focus feels like. I forgot about this." Incidentally, I'm also reading the book, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher. It points to numerous studies showing how the brain uses focus to pursue and manifest goals, as well as regulate emotion, once again supporting the notion that what we see is what we get; what we put our attention on is what we create in our lives.

I used to be good at focus. I used to be good at a lot of things. I am slowly remembering this. I am allowing these forgotten bits of myself to come up for roll call as I get my mind, body and heart together to move forward with the life I want.

Remember that brain blip I've been consciously trying to figure out for the last year or so? The one that took me down in my teens and has impacted my life ever since? Well, I think a lot of what happened then is about this need for grounding. Somewhere along the way in life, perhaps as early as at my birth or even before, my body checked out on me, or rather I checked out of my body, out of this life. I never quite got the message that it was safe to be here. So, I went upwards into my heart, into my mind. I intellectualized, analyzed, and tried to love my way through things. But the body. I forgot about the body.

You'd think twenty years of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue would've reminded me about the body. You'd think that every heartbreak would've reminded me about the body. But I'm stubborn, and frankly, a little slow to learn sometimes and, to be gentle with myself, I'm only human and evolution takes time.

Miraculously, my body is still here, bearing with me, giving me quiet and not-so-quiet nudges that it wants to be heard, that it wants to be integrated with the mind and with the heart, and that it is indeed interested in helping me get to where I want to go. All I have to do is pay attention to it, ground it and give it some roots. From there, it's onward and upward.

Watch out world. Once I get this body grounded, there will be no stopping me. Booyah!

tall penguin

Edited to add: I think that's the longest post I've ever made here. Huh, who knew I had so much to say?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The ants go marching...

I was walking through my favorite cemetery last evening and came upon an interesting sight. I had stopped to commune with a large tree. Running my hands along its bark, I noticed a steady flow of ants traveling up and down the tree's length. I focused in to get a closer look and noticed that one ant was hauling behind him what appeared to be the corpse of a fellow ant. And behind them, was another ant who helped steady the remains should there be any wavering, a formic pallbearer of sorts. The irony of my beholding this in a cemetery notwithstanding, I found the event both curious and macabre. I wondered how many creatures, besides humans and ants, have a formal procedure for dealing with the dead.

Of particular interest was the way the lead ant would communicate with any other ant that crossed its path coming down the tree as it was moving their late comrade up. There was a quick brush of feelers and I can only imagine what was said. Perhaps, "Get out of the way, Doc Brown needs to have this body by eight o'clock" or simply, "Jimmy's dead." Regardless, it all took place rather quickly and, within minutes, the ants were way up the tree, and out of my sight line.

I was reminded of the great Robert Frost's poem Departmental:

An ant on the tablecloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn't with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch,
And was off on his duty run.
Yet if he encountered one
Of the hive's enquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He would put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn't given a moment's arrest-
Seems not even impressed.
But he no doubt reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher-up at court.
Then word goes forth in Formic:
"Death's come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.
Embalm him with ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen."
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician;
And taking formal position,
With feelers calmly atwiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair
It couldn't be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental.

tall penguin

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Bear One's Power...

I awoke in the middle of the night, my heart racing, body in a cold sweat. Nightmare. I was being chased by two large black bears. The faster I ran, the faster they closed the distance between us. Finally, a police car picked me up and I told the officer that we needed to get a tranquilizer gun and shoot the bears to sedate them; that was the only way to stop the chasing. Then, I woke up.

Now, I know dreams can be interpreted any which way. I'm of the opinion that the only person to interpret a dream is the dreamer. It's my subconscious, my symbols, my metaphoric story. So, I got up and journaled for a while, then went back to sleep. I awoke this morning to an interpretation of what I think the dream means for me at this point in my life.

Bears, to me, are incredibly powerful and strong animals. I have blogged recently about the Hindu Goddess Kali and the power she has come to symbolize for me. I can feel my power and strength increasing daily. And frankly, I'm afraid of my own power. Yet, here in my dreams, this power, as symbolized by these large bears, was chasing me. It was hunting me down. The more I tried to run from it, the faster it was catching up to me.

I can feel this power play weaving through my life. I feel the power rising within me, yet am also acutely aware of my long-standing pattern of running from it, or attempting to tranquilize it, sedate it, as I had suggested be done with the bears. Having the power to create and direct my life is still a new concept for me. I have become more accustomed to it since leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses almost four years ago, but it is still a battle to re-write the voice in my head that comes along each time I want to try something new or dream or create, the voice that says, "You can't do that."

With my growing strength, I am beginning to talk back to this voice with more and more courage. "Who says I can't do this? Maybe I can."

I have to keep reminding myself that this is my life. My life. I am no longer living for the needs of the group, for the needs of my mother, for the needs of a God bent on destroying what makes me me. This is my life. The only one I get. And it's up to me to choose each day how it's going to be.

I have also been feeling an incredible amount of anger of late. Anger is a powerful energetic force. It is also the manifestation of Kali, who uses her rage to destroy in order to lay the foundation to create anew. In the past, I have cowered from my anger. I pushed it down. I did not allow it to speak, to transform and to create. No wonder I was so tired all the time. Try keeping down 10, 20, 30 years worth of anger. Talk about a whole lot of wasted energy.

It's interesting to watch my old patterning surface. Not just the self-negating voices but the self-sabotaging behavior. I watched the other night as I gulped down a bunch of sleeping pills because I could no longer bear (hahaha...bear) to be with my anger. I could not transform it, so I felt it best to just tranquilize it. I am still gaining the tools to move from anger to transformation to creation. It is a revolution, an evolution, and frankly, a bit of a convolution.

I remember hearing over and over again at JW meetings about the destruction of the wicked, the destruction of the earth, the destruction of the world that I knew. There wasn't much talk about what would happen after. Somehow, it would all just be better than before. But there wasn't much to support how this would happen, what it would look like and what my individual role in the creation of Paradise would be.

The Jehovah's Witness regime is good at destroying things...marriages, spirits, creativity, lives. It's not so good at creating. Actually, JW's, like all humans, have a strong creative force. My JW friends were great artists and comedians and writers and actors and musicians but all of us were steered away from these talents in favor of taking on other, more menial, jobs so as to support the proselytizing work. It's sad really.

No wonder my burgeoning creativity and power at first blush feel like a threat. They were a threat for a very long time. There was no room as a JW for pursuing creativity or having a sense of personal power. I remember the phrase "independent spirit" being used by the JW elders to describe anyone who was manifesting a desire to be an individual. The further implication, of course being, that a good little JW would not associate with such a person so as not to be tainted by their "worldly attitude". Geez, so much division. So much destruction. So little creation. Makes me angry. Makes me sad. But now, it mostly makes me want to make my life different.

It's obvious there is much work for me to do here. Those bears that were chasing me in my dream last night were messengers of the work I need to do. I am reminded that I must face my own power, stand grounded in my ability to create, over-ride my tendency to sedate my feelings and choose each day, each moment, to live the life that I say I want. Not easy, but I'm learning.

tall penguin

Monday, May 11, 2009


So, for the first, and hopefully last, time I was solicited for prostitution the other night. Never a dull moment in the life of the tall penguin.

My friend D and I went to a nightclub. I got dressed up in usual nightclub wear: crop top with corset lace-up back, short black skirt and knee-high, high-heeled boots (see photo below). D dressed more conservatively as she was nursing a bad sinus infection. In the context of the club, all was well. My clothing, or lack thereof, was appropriate. But, around 1:00 a.m., things changed.

While we were out on the patio taking some fresh air, D decided that she desperately needed some throat lozenges to get through the rest of the night. Not really thinking, we left the club without claiming our jackets first and headed out onto the main street of our large city. Now, it's 1:00 a.m., about 10 degrees Celsius and it's only the beginning of May, so the street is pretty empty. Everyone is still in the clubs except for D and I wandering in search of a convenience store and Hall's Mentho-Lyptus.

It was this aimless wandering, combined with my Pretty Woman-like ensemble, that began to get the attention of drivers passing by us. The second time a car started to slow down near us, I began to clue in. Uh oh.

And then, it happened. A guy pulls up beside us, rolls down his window, looks me up and down and asks if I want some company for the evening. I sneer at him and continue walking. I turn to D, "Did I really just get solicited for prostitution?"

"Yes, I believe you did," she laughs.

A few minutes later, it happened again. At that point, I just had to laugh too. Just one more example of my ridiculous life. Now, it would've been less ridiculous if, true to the Pretty Woman story, a Richard Gere-type pulled up in a Lotus and asked for directions to the Royal York Hotel, but no such luck. It seems my knight in shining sportscar has yet to materialize. Until then, it's sleezy guys in Buicks trying to get their rocks off on a Friday night. But I digress. D and I eventually found a convenience store, acquired the throat lozenges and made it back to the club unscathed.

Now, I have to tell you a bit about what took place inside the club. The first Friday of the month, a local gay nightclub hosts an open South Asian extravaganza called Besharam which, in Hindi, means "shameless". The intent of the event is to shift the view of the word from meaning indecent or shameless behavior to the happenings in our world that are offensive and shameless, such as poverty, homophobia, war, etc. Each event has a particular charity focus. The night we were there, representatives from the ASAAP (The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention) were giving out condoms and raising awareness of the issues related to their cause. Free condoms are always a good thing.

I grew up with a large community of South Asians, particularly those from India, and have blogged about my love for their culture, music, food and cinema. But this was my first time at a large South Asian dance event. And wow, these people love to party. Now, I've been doing the club thing for a few years now and typical "white people" behavior is to get very drunk before entering the dance floor. It's usually midnight or 1:00 a.m. before the party really gets started. But not so at Besharam. Them "brownies", as I've been directed over the years to affectionately call my South Asian friends, are on the dance floor almost immediately. By 11:00 p.m. the floor was packed, and by midnight, we were crammed like sardines, bobble-heading en masse.

The other difference I noticed is how the men attempt to get the ladies attention. Since the music is predominantly from Bollywood movies, and since most Bollywood films are about love and relationship, the lyrics are often directed to an object of affection. So, if a guy is interested in you, he starts singing and dancing in your direction. It's a ritualistic serenade, like a peacock flaunting its feathers. There was very little grinding-up-to-me behavior; in fact, despite the crampedness of the dance floor, there was a large amount of personal space maintained between dancers; quite different than my usual club experience.

But, by night's end, every man with enough alcohol in his bloodstream begins to behave the same way. As D and I were leaving the club, there were groups of men lining the halls, grabbing my arm, asking me to stay a little longer.

We finished the night at McDonald's, where every night of drinking and partying must inevitably end. And then we took the long bus ride home on what is affectionately known here as the "Vomit Comet". A good time was had by all.

tall penguin

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I just did something I've never done before. I called my Mom, who as a Jehovah's Witness doesn't do Mother's Day, and left her the following message:

"Hi Mom, Happy Mother's Day! You may not celebrate Mother's Day, but I do, so Happy Mother's Day! I love you and hope you're enjoying this beautiful sunny day!"

So there.

tall penguin

Friday, May 8, 2009


I'm pregnant!!! With dreams that is. Gotcha.

I found this article from Chameli Ardagh incredibly inspiring this week. The article, "Using Your Female Instincts to be a Leader" has some great comments on what it means to be a woman in this world, or even to be a man who is able to access his feminine side. I am increasingly in awe of women. I am amazed by their power, wisdom, resilience and strength. I am amazed by my power, wisdom, resilience and strength. Perhaps that is the shift I have made in the last year. I have come to realize that I am a woman and that to be a woman is not lesser, just different. And to be a woman is to have deep compassion and wells of strength and will. And to be a woman is pretty cool.

I particularly enjoyed Ardagh's commentary on the creative cycle of life. She uses the analogy of pregnancy and childbirth to discuss the cyclic nature of the creative process:
  • "If you have a sense of something you are called to do but you don’t know yet what it is, you are in the conception phase and the right thing to do now is simply to wait. Spend time in silence, in nature perhaps, and open yourself for guidance. This phase is full of possibilities, nothing is clear yet, and that is exactly how it should be.
  • If you vaguely know what you are called to do, but it has not yet taken form, you are pregnant. You don’t know the gender yet, or how the baby will look, but it is clearly there. Your job now is to nurture yourself and to gather strength. Perhaps you want to prepare the nest before the birth. Patience is needed, remember you cannot push the baby out before it is ready!
  • Maybe you already have an infant? You now know the gender, the name and you begin to get a sense of your baby’s personality. Sleepless nights, exhaustion, and the thrill of the new are all parts of this phase, you have to be ready to give everything.
  • The toddler needs even more attention as it is beginning to have a sense of will and creativity.
  • As the child grows older you have some time now when all is needed from you is gentle steady maintenance and guidance.
  • Then you hit the teenage years, which may be a time of obstacles and fierce resistance. Your persistence and guidance is now needed more than ever. Many give up in this phase.
  • One day the child has grown up and is ready to live an independent life, this may be the time when you let your project go, and again open yourself to new horizons."
I would say that I am definitely in the pregnancy phase right now. I have a sense of what I'm to do next with my life, but it has not yet taken form although I can feel it growing in my awareness with each passing day. I am reminded here that "you cannot push the baby out before it is ready." Indeed. I realize the painful truth of this so clearly now. So many times in my life I have experienced aborted dreams because I tried to make them come to life before they were ready, before I was ready. I did not have the needed strength to bring them to fruition. So, now, I feel myself gathering that strength, gathering momentum, and completely allowing myself to fall in love with what is growing in my soul.

I find myself getting ready for this birth. I am eating and sleeping better, getting more exercise, and consciously taking time to nurture myself. I am spending time at home "preparing the nest", clearing out the old and no longer needed, simplifying my space to make room for the new. And I am getting other things in order, paperwork, finances, resources and support persons, so that when this baby births I will be ready to attend to it fully. The only thing left is to plan the baby shower! I'm thinking my upcoming 35th birthday will be a celebration of the birth of my dreams. Hmm...better get on this...only six weeks to go.

Some years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the birth of my friend's daughter. The experience changed me. As I watched my friend bring this little being into the world, I stood in awe. I had watched for nine months as this mysterious process took place within her whereby nothing grew into something. I watched my friend's body change and I wondered about the miracle taking place inside of her. As the baby emerged from her body, I felt this wave of energy surge through mine. There was this very intense realization that I was a woman and, "Wow, my body can do that."

Yes, my body can do that. My dreams are coming to life. It is the labor of many months, nay, years, of waiting, incubating, getting ready. I am on the cusp here. And this baby is gettin' ready to pop. I'm so excited.

tall penguin

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Death and Other Trivialities...

My brother and I had a rather candid discussion the other day about our funerals and how we want to be handled once we die. I have blogged about this subject before, but never really had an outright conversation with anyone in my family about it. It was incredibly freeing to talk so openly about death and laugh over all the crazy stuff we see happening once we're gone.

I hope one day soon we will be able to have such a conversation with my parents. As they are aging, their inevitable passing is something we're becoming more acutely aware of. And with their beliefs being different than ours, I want us to be clear on what they want to happen at their funerals so there are no surprises.

I have yet to write a will. Basically because I don't have anything I consider willable. Except for my writing. And I told my brother how I want that handled. Other than that, the rest of my possessions are negligible and can go to whomever needs or wants them. The important part was really to be clear about how my funeral is handled and to ensure that the Jehovah's Witnesses don't turn it into a proselytizing event. I may be quite healed of the whole JW experience but there are still some things that I feel pretty strongly about. As I said to my brother, "Keep them the fuck away from my funeral service."

We laughed about it. I'm glad we can laugh about it. As I see it, if you can't laugh about your own mortality, you aren't really living.

tall penguin


OMG! Anyone else out there remember DoodleArt?! I have very fond childhood memories of hours spent coloring in these large intricate posters. The black and white posters would come in a long tube with 12 markers. I remember coloring this one as a teen. Good times.

I've been looking for DoodleArt on the web for many years now, and finally, they're back! According to the History page on the official site: "In 1979, after worldwide sales of 8,000,000 posters in 16 countries, the international rights were sold. The Canadian rights were retained in the event that they might want to “do it all again”, and the internet has now provided the perfect opportunity to re-introduce DoodleArt to a new generation and to re-create nostalgia for those who had already “doodled” back in the 70’s and 80’s."

Wow, I can't believe it. DoodleArt is back! YAY!!! And now officially added to my birthday wish list. :)

tall penguin

Monday, May 4, 2009

Consciousness is the Creator?

I've recently taken an interest in Quantum Physics and its related theories. I don't propose to understand it fully but there is something about it all that resonates with me, no pun intended.

I stumbled across the article "The Biocentric Universe Theory: Life Creates Time, Space, and the Cosmos Itself" in the latest Discover Magazine. It explores a biocentric view of the universe, namely that "life—particularly consciousness—creates the universe, and the universe could not exist without us."

I would suggest reading the article for more info as I cannot even attempt to explain what I read. What I find interesting is that in my reading of some of the ancient Hindu teachings, one of the fundamental Sanskrit mantras is Pragyanaam Brahman, which means "Consciousness is the Creator".

I wonder about these connections. Hmm...

tall penguin

To See the Other...

The other day I was crossing the busy street corner where I live, and noticed a young woman waiting for the light to change. She had the most striking bluish-purple hair. Yet, she was standing with her head down as if she was afraid to be noticed.

As I approached her, her head lifted. I looked her right in the eyes, smiled and said, "Your hair is beautiful." She smiled back, a smile that said, "Thank you for noticing me."

We don't take enough time to notice people. Particularly if you live in a city, a North American city, you probably keep your head down or your gaze averted from the eyes of others. I'm the opposite. I like to people watch. I like to look at others as I pass them on the street. I use discretion of course, but generally find it to be a safe experience. People want to be seen. We all just want to be seen.

So, be aware of this today as you go about your daily business. Look people in the eye. Smile. Nod your head as if to say, "Hello there, I see you." And notice what happens.

tall penguin

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Going Back to Kali...

In recent months I have begun to explore different mythologies of the world. Having grown up with the very patriarchal Judeo-Christian set of myths, I was curious to learn about the mythology of other cultures. In particular, I find the Hindu pantheon of Gods to be rich with metaphor and am quite drawn to their plethora of goddesses. It’s nice to see some women in charge for a change.

My current fascination is with the Goddess Kali. Kali is the goddess that is most often depicted with wild hair, bare breasts and a string of severed heads around her.

According to the wikipedia entry on Kali:

“ a Hindu goddess associated with death and destruction. The name Kali means "black", but has by folk etymology come to mean "force of time (kala)". Despite her negative connotations, she is today considered the goddess of time and change.”

Kali is the force that creates change. In order to create this change she must destroy that which is no longer needed. She clears everything in her path that stands in the way of truth and authenticity. Her darkness, her forcefulness, her wildness is what makes way for enlightenment and creativity, change and the new.

In the most common story of Kali, she arose out of the warrior-goddess Durga to wage a fierce battle with a horde of powerful demons. She emerges the triumphant warrior and becomes a symbol of the force and strength needed to battle the ego and its many masks.

This symbolism is eloquently expounded in the article “How to be Fierce” by Sally Kempton over at Yoga Journal:

“Kali is the enlightening force that smashes preconceived notions, frees you from conditioned beliefs, false personal identities, and everything else that keeps you from recognizing your true identity. In other words, part of what Kali represents is the power to release that which is true in you—not only the ultimate truth but also the truth that is uniquely yours. That power often remains in shadow, hidden behind social masks and even the masks you assume in yoga. So tuning in to Kali in daily life often means tuning in to aspects of yourself that you normally don't have access to, a power that can reach outside the conventional to become bold and fierce—fierce in love, fierce in ecstasy, fierce in your willingness to stand up to the demons in yourself and others. You don't become free just by going with the flow. You become free by knowing when to say no, fighting for what is right, and engaging with the fiercer forms of grace.”

I have had a tendency to be nice and to go with the flow of what others wanted. When I left the faith and community of my childhood, I began down a very fierce Kali path. That decision left a wake of destruction that is only now beginning to uncover a clearer, more authentic, version of myself.

The past four years I have faced and slain many demons. I have looked at the masks I have worn, those given to me by culture, religion and conditioning as well as those I created in order to survive. I have looked them in the eye, questioned their necessity in my life now and relieved them of their power. And yes, there is still more to be destroyed within this ego. There is still more truth to be discovered. As it stands now though, my voice is getting stronger with each passing day. I can stand more firmly in what is true for me.

As you know, I have also been exploring my wildness. From casual sex, to dance, to drugs, to art, I have tapped into the wild and fierce bits of myself to unleash a creativity I didn’t know my soul contained.

And I have become “fierce in love, fierce in ecstasy.” I experience love and joy now with an intensity that words cannot touch. Since I was a young girl, one of my earliest intentions was to learn to love intensely without fear, to love fully, completely, and with wild abandon. And I do. And this love fills me with joy and bliss and an ever-expanding compassion for all that surrounds me.

You may recall the naming ceremony I had last September, when I moved into my new name, Anya. Anya means grace. It is a quality I have worked quite consciously to develop over the course of my life and the quality I intend to continue to bring into greater abundance in this world. It is interesting that the article speaks of Kali allowing one to ‘engage with the fiercer forms of grace.’ I have often displayed a grace that was not fierce, but cowardly. I hid behind being “kind”, when what was called for was speaking up and saying “No,” “Enough,” and “That is not true for me.” I am learning that grace sometimes means tough love. It means speaking up for truth, for what is right, for love and for beauty, for the glory of what it means to be real and lead an authentic life.

And my life is changing as a result. The anger and rage that once ate at me, destroying my strength and vibrance, is being spoken when necessary and channeled into creating the life that I want. I see with greater and greater clarity my dreams unfolding. I see who I am and who I want to be with, where I am going and how I am going to get there. I see the light at the end of this dark tunnel that has been my cocoon of change for so very long.

I feel the Kali rise within me. I feel her strength feed my dreams. I feel her free me to shine my light into this world. I am becoming. I am. And it is glorious.

tall penguin

Friday, May 1, 2009


Love...The Great Mystery

Love can consign us to hell or to paradise. It always takes us somewhere.
~~Paulo Coelho

Love keeps me afloat in this world. I believe it is what keeps us all afloat in this world. I know I have ranted about love. I have lamented its topsy-turvy dance on my life. I have even questioned its very existence, relegating it to the world of biochemical reactions. But there is nothing I believe in more than love. Perhaps that is why I have held such strong and opposing views of it.

I do not propose to understand love. I have been held in its embrace and bitch-slapped by its mighty hand. I have been torn up by love and mended once more. I have been shaken to my knees by its turbulent waves and lifted to new heights by its supportive wings. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful love is. It is the creative force of the Universe. It is the Great Mystery of Life. And I shall worship at its feet all of my days.

tall penguin

The Creative Process of Life...

I've been working on a canvas for the past couple of weeks. It's had at least three incarnations so far. I decided to take a palette knife to it this morning. Never used a palette knife before. It was like icing a cake. I like to watch colors blend and the knife provided an interesting texture to the process.

I like watching the creative process unfold. There is always this point in the middle of every painting where a rush of panic waves through me and I think, "Oh my God! I've ruined it!" The colors don't seem to go quite right. The strokes aren't blending the way I'd hoped, and really I'm not even sure where I'm going with it all. But I take a deep breath and plod on. And at some point, things start to flow again. Sometimes it takes a number of colors and strokes and tools, not to mention a few tears, a little fist-shaking and a few choice profanities, but it all comes together in the end.

Life is like that. Being an ongoing creative process, there are always those moments in life where we try something new and we get in the middle of it and think, "Uh oh." But we breathe and we continue on and trust, that in the end, something beautiful will emerge. And inevitably, it does.

tall penguin