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"For me, and, I am sure, for most of you, to be human is to always be in the process of becoming, to be in quest of openings, of possibilities." ~ Maxine Greene

Thursday, December 16, 2010


For some reason, the other night I found myself listening online to David Wolfe, a guru for understanding healthy eating, living, and being on the earth. What he shared made a terrific amount of sense.

Basically, those of us who spend a great deal of time each day plugged into electronic gadgets (guilty!), and who are rarely standing barefoot on the earth (guilty again!), are physically and spiritually disconnected from our Source Energy.  The way to regain a sense of balance is to, literally, take off our shoes and walk upon the earth.  "Rubber-soled shoes have been the worst invention of mankind," David Wolfe states (paraphrase).  "You know that, during a lightening storm, if you are in your car you are probably going to be safe from electrocution.  Why is that?  It's because of the rubber wheels.  Rubber does not conduct electricity.  So", what do we wear on our feet?  Most of us wear rubber-soled shoes.  As a result, we cut ourselves off from the vital energy that the earth gives us freely, every day."

Given that we are electric beings (more than chemical beings), it makes sense to pay attention to what we expose ourselves to in terms of electricity.  I spend several hours each day in front of a computer, and I carry around a cell phone, and I also watch TV on occasion.  I also listen to the radio while in the car 2 hours each day, and am exposed to microwaves, other people's cell phones, and so forth. Knowing that all of these electric "beams" are coursing through my body each day, I bought a "Q-Link," which I wear around my neck several times each week; it's intended to protect a person from all of those harmful electric waves, and sustain one's own energy field, or aura.  I do feel like I have more energy when I am wearing it: I am more focused and clear about what to do.  I finish tasks more quickly.  And my head feels light and spacious.  It's quite amazing.  I am still experimenting with that technology.

But, back to the earth.  The basic idea about walking barefoot is this: The earth emits a "negative charge" that actually helps to balance us, inside and out, as electrical beings.  All of the technology we deal with each day emits "positive" electrons, which wouldn't be so bad if we then balanced those with negative electrons; but we are usually disconnected from the earth by our rubber wheels or rubber-soled shoes, so the positive electrons prevail, leading to all kinds of problems with our health.

Now, these labels of negative and positive may seem counter-intuitive, since "negative" (which carries the connotation of "bad") actually means something good; but this is not a zero-sum game.  We are speaking of BALANCE of both negative and positive, yin and yang.  When we are out of balance, we have inflammation of the joints or a certain organ in our body.  When we are out of balance, our hormones act in ways that are aggravating, especially at certain times of our lives!

When the earth's negative ions can enter the soles of our bare feet, they recharge us, so to speak, with the natural energy that is already within us.  It's like plugging yourself into the right electrical wall socket.  That's why people who are depressed get better when they walk on the beach.  I have heard this before, but the little detail that was left out of that prescription is that you need to walk BAREFOOT on the beach.  Some people still keep their shoes on, and that is no good.  "You have to be skin on skin with the earth," says David Wolfe.

So, after spending about 3 hours on my laptop at a coffee shop today, I went to the beach across the street, and took off my shoes and socks.  It was about 40 degrees outside, and cloudy.  The sand was icy cold, and at first the sensation of cold and wet sand preoccupied my mind.  But, after about 10 minutes of strolling slowly and watching the little waves roll in, and the seagulls flutter about, I became more aware of the sensation of the sand under my feet.  It was hard as concrete in some places, and gave way in other spots ... It was grainy and smooth, cold and strong.  I stood still for a few moments, and actually felt some bubbling energy entering my left foot!  I have no idea what that was, but I don't think it was a clam with indigestion. 

I want to return this weekend again, and walk for a little longer.  You should try it, and see for yourself if that experience re-energizes you!

Here's the YouTube with David Wolfe explaining all of this (10 min, 50 seconds (hit the back arrow when finished, to return to this page!):

Sunday, December 5, 2010

As long as I live

I just got a call tonight from a colleague. "I need your help. My husband has only two weeks to live, maybe three." She paused. "I don't know what to do about my contract or benefits. Do you know who I can talk to?"

Hearing these words from the quivering voice on the other end of the line automatically made me take a deep breath. As she continued, I found my mind quickly clicking away with answers, and maintaining a straight-up policeman's report approach to the situation. I have known this colleague for about 7 years, on and off; we teach at the same university, but in different locations. She is an artist, a scientist, a psychologist -- fully involved with life, and engaging her students 150% in their own learning. Her classes are rated the best of any I know, and I am always stunned by the amount of creativity that flows from her efforts—although, for this woman, it seems as easy as breathing.

But she was having a very hard time breathing now.  She called me because I am the level-headed one between the two of us -- not carried away by emotion, but able to quickly see the lay of the land and make a decision about the most appropriate course of action. In spite of that capacity, which was being called upon in this moment, my heart opened and I felt my eyes tearing up. I wanted to communicate something of value ... but what helps at a time like this? "I'm sorry" just doesn't seem to fit.

So, I acknowledged her pain. "You have worked so hard these past couple of years to bring healing to your husband; he has lived so much longer than anyone thought, and that’s on account of your care."

That's all I could come up with. But she accepted it, and spoke a little more about the situation. "I don't know how to be with a dying person. I have never had to do this. We have to give up now. He’s going to hospice." She sounded so strained and absolutely exhausted.

I had no answers, and I knew she didn't need to hear me say something trite. The closest I have been to dying was when I picked up a small sparrow that had flown into our dining room window. I held it and felt its rapid-fire beating heart, and its delicate lungs moving faster than I could count the breaths. And ... then ... nothing. I felt the Life Force leave, just like a switch being turned off. The bird stopped breathing, its heart stopped its beating, and the weight of its tiny body pressed itself into my palm. One instant it was almost weightless; the next, it was like a heavy river rock.

That was, perhaps, the most sacred moment I have ever had the privilege of experiencing so far in my life.

As I write this, I remember a similar experience the day I met this colleague. We were at a faculty retreat in late September, the venue of which was a large lodge on a lake in northern Washington State. It was a clear day. My first impression of her was that she was extravagant and very stylish in her large-brimmed hat and scarf. Her coat was long and nothing you would find in a typical American store. She wore long black boots. "Flamboyant" came to mind, but in an intriguing sort of way. She was not lofty, but very earthy. We were both seated facing one of the huge windows that looked over the lake. Someone was talking about something to the group of 30-some educators there, but only my colleague and I flinched at the moment a small bird flew right into the window. THUD. We saw it fall straight to the deck below. There may be a few others who heard it or saw something, but this woman and I were the only ones who registered concern.

When we went on a break a few minutes later, I found myself making a bee-line out the back door to check on the bird. So was my colleague, and she got there first. Without hesitation, she gently scooped up the little bird and talked to it, caressing its tiny brown feathers. I am pretty sure it died right there in her loving hands. I remember that we looked for a suitable place to bury it in the woods near the lodge. It was so strange to come back at the end of break with black, pungent earth under our fingernails, and pine sap on our hands. I remember noticing that—in spite of the flamboyant dress of my new friend, her fingernails were those of a worker: short and industrious. When we got back into the room, all of the other faculty members were standing around and chatting over cups of steaming coffee and donuts. None of them had a clue about what had just transpired outside with that little bird. It was our shared precious moment. Our Sacred Secret.

I don't know if she remembers this incident, but as I write this, I think it is exactly what I need to recount to her: "You DO know what to do. You were just there, and you spoke with love from your heart. You held that little bird and caressed it. You were just THERE. That's all you could do, and that's what you did."

Of course, I know that losing your husband of many years is a bit more traumatic than these incidents with birds, but isn’t the principle more or less the same? All you can do is speak love to the dying person, and be there.

This recollection of the bird at the lodge was not part of my thinking during our short conversation. All I knew was that I needed to be the firm "foundation of sense" to her when everything about her world made no sense at all. Why did a robust man in the prime of his life suddenly succumb to this disease? How could it have robbed him of 60 pounds of precious body weight in such a short period of time? Why him? Why her? They were madly in love after many many years of marriage. Why why why why why?

I steadied my voice. "Yes," I can get those contacts for you; I’m sure there is something that can be done to help you out..."

She interrupted me: "Please email me. I don't have any paper or pen right here."

"Of course," I replied. “My computer is right here, and I will do it now.”

"Okay, bye. Thank you." She hung up the phone.

Such a precious conversation. I cannot be with her to hold her hand or give her the hug that communicates everything I want to say without words. All I know is that, as long as I live, I want to prepare for death better. I want to be present for more moments -- my own, and those I spend with others. I want to be able to "hold" even a distant colleague as gently as she held that bird—as gently and lovingly as I held my little sparrow.

That’s all a person can do.  I think that, ultimately, that's what we are called to do for each other, every day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Song Lines

I was recently in Boulder visiting some friends and colleagues at Naropa University and, after speaking about my trip to Australia and showing them pictures, I received on loan a book titled “Stories from the Origin,” by Ann Parker (another Naropa faculty member).

In this book, written 30 years after her own travels in Outback Australia, the author provided vignettes and musings about the Aborigines, about her own perceptions of life “in the bush,” and the juxtaposition of those perceptions with the continual unfolding of a different reality ~ a reality that has been described by Aborigines as “The Dreamtime” (and they refer to it as many other things, as well, but that’s too much to go into here).

What struck me about the book were the similarities between the author’s experiences and insights and the experiences and insights I had when living in a small village in northern Alaska about 25 years ago. I was there only 9 months as a high school teacher, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember something from that space and time; it profoundly altered my perceptions of myself, of my students, and of the greater cosmos. My recollections from those months have been working inside of me all of this time, continually shaping my trajectory, much like water has shaped the Grand Canyon over hundreds of thousands of years.

For a long time, I have wanted to take my journal entries and sketches from that Alaskan experience and publish them. But, as the years dribbled one into the next, other things took precedence and I figured that no one would want to read about them anyway. But, now, after reading Ann Parker’s book, I realize that those stories are timeless; they need to come out. Somehow, I feel as though giving them a voice will further that trajectory (whatever it is) in a powerful way. I don’t know what it will look like, but it feels urgent now in a way that it didn’t before. I am excited about writing my stories, and will endeavor to publish some posts about my process as I go along.

In Ann Parker’s book, she writes about “song lines” and “singing the world into existence” ~ I found all of this incredibly intriguing. The concept of a “song line” parallels my inner yearnings to publish my stories; I feel like I am trying to listen very carefully for my own “song line” into the rest of my life, and somehow through writing about things that happened a quarter of a century ago, I will finally hear my own tune.

It goes like this (and I am paraphrasing and quoting Ann’s writing here, while she also quoted from a book published in 1997 by Bruce Chatwin, titled “Songlines”):

“The Aborigines believe in the existence of ‘song lines,’ which are like ‘energy lines’ that guide them across the landscape in search of each other, in search of another encampment, or some yams, or a watering hole. The belief is that the totemic ancestors (those from the Dreamtime), while traveling through the country, scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of their footprints. These dreaming tracks lay all over the land as a means of communication between tribes. The song is the map as well as the direction finder. If you know the song, you will always find your way across the country” (pp. 76-7).

I love this idea of song lines … Who knows, we might ALL have “song lines” of one sort or another ~ an inner map and compass ~ but the continual cacophony of our daily lives drowns them out. I certainly do not mean to co-opt the Aborigines’ ancient beliefs, but there must be something universal and connected about their song lines, and my resonance with them. Such an experience leads me to ask, “If there is a song line for me to follow, what is it be saying? Where did it come from?  Where will it lead?”

As the title of this blog asserts, the answer will come while I evolve … intentionally.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Dream Time

When we think of the history of Australia, we often assume that it started with the Portuguese, or the Dutch, French, Spanish, or British explorers. But we need to roll back the clock from the 1500-1600s to approximately 68,000 to 40,000 BC, when the Aboriginal tribes were thought to have traveled by boat from southeast Asia. Some historians put that date back to 70,000 BC! Before the Europeans invaded the continent, there’s no telling how many Aborigines lived there, but by the time the Europeans arrived, it is estimated that there were about 1 million native people. They lived in about 300 clans, and spoke 250 different languages; they traveled continuously in search of food and water, but maintained a special spiritual connection to specific pieces of the land. In spite of the great diversity between the clans living in the desert, the rainforests, the mountains, or along the shores, they all shared (and still do to some extent) a belief in what is called “The Dreamtime” ~ a mythological “era” in which ancestral beings (“totems”) formed the Creation.

I recently watched the film “The Last Wave” (1977), which offered this explanation of the Dreamtime: “Aboriginals believe in two forms of time; two parallel streams of activity. One is the daily objective reality, the other is an infinite spiritual cycle called the ‘dreamtime’, more real than reality itself. Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws of Aboriginal society. It was believed that some people of unusual spiritual powers had contact with the dreamtime.”

I am fascinated with the concept of “time,” and enjoy learning about the perspectives of the Aboriginals who, even now, do not seem to operate in the one-dimensional 24-hour day cycle that a great deal of the world’s people build their lives around. But what IS “time”? And is there a Dreamtime for non-Aboriginal people? This is worth exploring …

For more images and a helpful overview of Australian Aboriginal history, go to: