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Janaia’s Journal » Uncategorized
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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Last Post: Peak Moment TV has a new website!

Monday, February 4th, 2013

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As of February 1, 2013, I will no longer post to this site. I’ll leave it up, so you can still read my past Janaia’s journal entries here.


But I think you’ll prefer our jazzy new site! You can read the newest Janaia’s journal and watch the newest Peak Moment TV videos. (Everything here and on Peak Moment Conversations is on the new site). Videos are higher quality, and you can subscribe to receive an email every time a new journal or video is posted.

The RSS feed on this site will no longer work. Sign up for RSS feeds at (top right).

Thanks for journeying with me. Stay with us as the Peak Moment story continues! ~Janaia

The Firewood Angel

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

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This is a true story. 


It was two weeks before Christmas. As the young wife brought in firewood to light the fire, she thought, “There isn’t enough wood for the rest of the winter. How will I keep my four children warm?”


The man they’d gotten wood from for many seasons had sold his business. It was already a cold winter, and the rest of the firewood wouldn’t last.


Her husband had been in a car accident a few days ago. He wasn’t hurt badly, but now he couldn’t do any cutting or splitting of big wood from the forests. What could she do?


She was a resourceful woman. While she laid and lit the fire, an idea came to her: put out their need on the local email bulletin board. Surely someone in this forested area had extra wood, even though it was very late in the season.


So she sat down at her computer and wrote, “Wanted: firewood.”


Later that day, she received a query from a woodswoman, “Are you looking for free firewood or to pay? We have some dry firewood to sell.”


The woman replied, “Thank you, but I am in need of free fire wood. I have four children to feed and we have only my husbands income. Power bill is expensive during the winter. Trying to balance it out with keeping a fire.”


The woodswoman responded, “I’ll tell you what. I have a big pile of pine branches I can give you for free. They’re well seasoned, but they’ve been out in the rain. You’d need to dry them indoors before you burn them. Would that help you?”


Here was an answer! The wood was already cut into firewood lengths. They could lay them out on the hearth to dry out before burning them. It was firewood, and it would keep them warm. Eagerly, she wrote, “Thank you! Everything helps! When would be a good time to pick it up?”


Several days later, the woman and her husband, who was feeling much better, came with their two youngest children to collect the wood. They drove through a beautiful forest to the motorhome where the woodswoman and her partner lived. She bounded out of the door, and greeted all of them warmly. Then she pointed to a pile of wood to take.


While the couple loaded this wood, the children played outdoors, climbing up on wood rounds and singing with delight. Soon the van was nearly half full. The woodsman led them to another firewood pile, where they filled the van up to the very top.


Seeing that the couple wouldn’t have room for more firewood, the woodswoman brought them to a place with several big piles of already-cut firewood. She said, “You have our gate padlock combination. Come back whenever you want to take this wood. Let’s be in touch next spring. We have more wood that we cut last summer that will season next summer. We will give some of it to you for next winter.”


The couple were very grateful. This would give them all the firewood they needed for this winter, and even the possibility of more free firewood for the following winter! Their eyes shone as they thanked the woman. “What a wonderful gift! You are our firewood angel.”

Whaddya Mean, Eat Fat to Lose Fat?

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

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The responses to my presentation on our very low carbohydrate diet and my blog Celebrating a Lighter, Leaner Janaia share one outstanding feature: many people don’t seem to GET what our eating pattern is and isn’t.


  • This diet isn’t about protein. (Yes, you need moderate complete proteins.)
  • This diet isn’t about calories. (No, all calories aren’t the same. The body deals with carbohydrates differently from proteins and very differently from fats. We pay no attention to calories).
  • This diet isn’t about replacing vegetable oils with saturated fats (yes, it’s important to do that, but that alone is insufficient).
  • This diet isn’t just about eating fewer carbohydrates, especially grains and sugars (yes, you do that, but it’s not the whole story).


This diet is about changing your metabolism. Changing how your body fuels itself. It’s about switching out carbohydrates as the primary fuel — becoming ketogenic. When you drop the carbs, you don’t trigger insulin to store those carbs as fat.


With those carbs reduced, you compensate by increasing your quality saturated fats (like butter, coconut oil, animal fats) to give you the right amount of energy.


This is where the mind goes crazy, because all of our cultural programming says that’s what NOT to do to lose weight. Eat fat to lose fat? — hah!


Except it works.


This is the ketogenic diet. The researchers say it takes about two or three weeks to shift to being keto-adapted if you sharply drop the carbs. That worked for me following The Six Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle. It will take longer if you taper down your carbs, as Robyn did.


The ketogenic diet appears to be what 99.9% of our ancestors thrived on, before agriculture introduced more plant foods, especially the cereal grains.


We don’t feel the same in this new metabolism. It’s hard to describe. It’s subtle. I don’t feel hunger the way I had when carbs ran the show; it’s more a quiet sense of “oh I could eat now” rather than “I AM HUNGRY!”


Carbohydrate cravings diminish or disappear — although it takes listening to your body to find your carb threshold. If we eat more carbs than our threshold, carb cravings will kick in. If a particular food feels addictive, it probably is and we must be mindful to not eat it or to limit quantities (nuts can be this way for us).


We eat smaller portions (those fats have a lot of concentrated energy!) We stop eating because we feel satisfied, not because we’re full. Satiated, not stuffed.


So this is not a diet to lose weight and then return to “normal” eating. This is a diet for life. It means preparing food yourself, buying foods differently, taking along “survival” food when traveling or are out for a few hours, and being selective at restaurants and potlucks.


Want to learn more? Here’s a good summary of what goes on in your body in the ketogenic diet.


Upcoming: What Foods Do We Eat?

Wood Wenches Help Fuel the Local Economy

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

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We’re contributing to the local economy by meeting an essential human need for warmth — selling firewood from deadfall at Lone Bobcat Woods. In the past month we’ve cut and split large and small dead down oak trees (yes, we’re leaving plenty for habitat and food for the soil).  Still dependent on petroleum, though, for chainsaw gas and to deliver the firewood.

How did we spend our summer? Doing woods work. Massive thinning of a slope along the South Yuba River canyon to reduce wildfire danger and gain a peek at the other side of the canyon. We’ve given away cedar poles and hundreds more remain. There are piles of rounds and limbs, now seasoning to become next year’s firewood.

We love living mostly outdoors. Gentle warm days eating lunch in the incense cedar shade, hearing the red-shouldered hawks (a noisy newcomer to the Sierra foothills) and Syncopated Raven (whose calls are really are a complex syncopated rhythm) and spouse.

The end of summer was declared last night with a great exclamation mark! The first storm of the season arrived, a cold rainy winter storm.  So yesterday we covered 15 woodpiles with plastic, closed the electrical conduit trench bringing power from the solar panels, and stored the summer outdoors furniture.

It’s a big shift. We’ll miss the sweetness of summer, while welcoming the interiority of winter.

 P.S. I posted this in the morning. That afternoon and evening we had a local tornado warning — the first in memory, even of the old timers. One funnel cloud was indeed sighted, with lots of tree debris. This storm marked not only the precipitous end of summer, but also extreme weather brought on by climate chaos.

Celebrating a Lighter, Leaner Janaia

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

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I lost forty pounds in five months. That weight has stayed off for over a year without struggle.


I’m absolutely tickled. My tail is wagging. I have the body I longed for since I was a teenager  fifty years. I feel lithe and young, I have lots of energy, I’m dancing inside and out. I just attended a high-school reunion and someone remarked, “you look fabulous.” I was one of only a few people (out of twenty) who wasn’t visibly heavier than in high school.


A wonderful surprising joy is I don’t go hungry! I eat surprisingly small meals that are richly satisfying. I don’t depend on exercise to keep weight off.


I still eat chocolate.


I’ve tried numerous weight-loss diets over the years, lost five to thirty pounds each time, and then regained it over time.


It’s not about deprivation. It’s about letting my body return to the metabolism it evolved with. I’ve become a fat-burner.


My 88-year-old mother lost thirty pounds at the same time. My partner Robin lost ten pounds. She was already slender, but she lost weight around the organs where it’s unhealthy to store fat.


We all have more energy and vitality than we did before. My emotional life is calmer, lighter, quieter. My hot flashes have diminished. Robin’s herbal supplements for lyme seem to be more potent.


This isn’t a diet, it’s really a lifestyle. It’s a very low carbohydrate lifestyle akin to the new Atkins diet. We’ve become fat-burners. It means we’re burning fats for energy, rather than carbohydrates like most people do.


We eat moderate protein, very low carbohydrates, high saturated fats.


Notice I said high in saturated fats. Animal fats like eggs and cream and meat. Coconut oil. No vegetable oils. We’ve learned it’s what the body evolved on, and prefers.


Yes, it flies in the face of standard medical dietary advice, but NOT with the research results which have largely been ignored or suppressed. More about that in another blog.


We got started by following The Six Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle by Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades. Authors of Protein Power, their medical practice focused on conditions best met by nutritional changes. The Cure came about as Dr. Mary’s middle thickened, despite doing what she advocated for her patients.


We radically reduced our carbohydrates. A few berries are the only fruit. No grains or starchy vegetables. And of course no added sugars or flour.


Every meal includes moderate protein and some good quality saturated fat. Meals are tinier than I was used to, but the fats make them very satisfying. I come away feeling satiety, contentment, not full. I don’t get hungry for many hours. I have more stamina.


Within about two weeks, our bodies had switched to burning fats for energy  both the fats we ate, and importantly, the fats stored in our bodies. Hunger sensations faded (we found that these come from carbohydrate addiction.) And the pounds melted off, until I reached a plateau many pounds lower than I imagined. The plateau seemed to be my body saying “I’m happy here.” I didn’t push it lower: I trusted its wisdom.


Robin and I dug into reading more about this ketogenic diet. How healthy is it? Are there contraindications? We’ve learned it’s how our ancestors ate for 99.99% of their time on the planet. Our bodies evolved with this eating pattern. We learned how saturated fats prized by our ancestors feed our nerves and our big brain.


The ketogenic diet doesn’t have the insulin swings associated with blood sugar fluctuations (and hunger) associated with obesity and diabetes. It reduces inflammation, cancer factors, osteoporosis and heart disease. Yes, heart disease. Contrary to what the medical establishment advocates!


I’ll report on our reading in another blog. I’ll give an outline of the 6-week cure; a sample daily menu; what I eat when stressed. I welcome your questions  with delight! Who else wants to give this lifestyle a try?

Whatcha Gonna Believe - Opinion or Information?

Friday, September 7th, 2012

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Differences of opinion or belief should not be confused with differences in information


Opinions and beliefs based on myth, lies, and propaganda may seem normal, correct, or even “common knowledge” and yet hold no validity.


–Caren Black, guest on Titanic Lifeboat Academy - Navigating a Path to Resilience (episode 216)


It seems to me that much of our public discourse involves throwing around a lot of opinions and beliefs as if they were backed by information. We see it in some of the comments on Peak Moment episodes. Episode 191 with Lierre Keith, The Vegetarian Myth, is a prime example. People are strongly attached to their beliefs about The One Right Way to Eat, and scientific research or physiological anthropology be damned.


It sure muddles up the conversation, be it in politics or economics or health. Surely much of it is intentional obfuscation: keep the public from knowing what’s so, keep ‘em pacified, and carry on to your advantage. It gets tougher to weed the noise out from the facts. I’m thankful for people and media who work hard to give us accurate information, and those whose well-tuned antennas filter out noise from information for the rest of us.

Joanna Macy: Active Hope Reconnects Us to Life

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

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Joanna Macy’s talk in Grass Valley, California, August 24, 2012


Michael Stone: For young people, the future isn’t what it used to be. Joanna has been an activist for five decades. She’s an eco-philosopher, and she has touched people all over the world. Joanna is one of the great wisdom elders.


Joanna Macy: 

  At the heart of our hearts is a generosity. The love we have for our children, our kin, as things fall apart in this time. It’s a time to test men and women’s souls, and it’s hard for the young. It feels good to know there is no suffering we want to close our eyes to. We aren’t going to let anybody fall aside. We’ll be with each other when our hearts are breaking and they are breaking open. We are capable of the boundless heart of the boddhisattva.

This book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy takes out to the broader public the work I’ve been doing in the last 30 years, the work that reconnects. This book is not for Buddhists, but there are two terms we use because there is no English equivalent. Boddhisattva — the hero of the Buddhist tradition; the one with the boundless heart; the one who “gets it” how woven we are in the web of life, through space and time. And therefore there is no private salvation. No place we can go for our private security. We either all wake up or …

The second word from the Buddhist language is Boddhichitta: the motivation of the Boddhisattva. The yearning in your heart that life go on. That yearning for the well-being of all you experience not because you’re noble or pious or virtuous, but just because you love life and you don’t want it to be trashed. And you don’t want our beautiful planet to be trashed, either. You don’t want all the love and beauty the ancestors have done to be flickered out.

Before writing this book I thought I knew that. I recommend writing a book so what you think you know can percolate into your body, your cells, become more real and genuine. I’m glad for that.


What is Active Hope?

  The book title is Active Hope. I never thought I’d write a book or article with the term “hope” in it! I used to say, “don’t talk to me about hope. Hope is a killer.” I had good reasons for thinking that. I saw that hope could put people to sleep, as if the lone ranger would come take over.

In the Buddhist tradition, there’s hardly a word for hope. Hope takes you out of the present moment. I found, though, in writing this book, that I couldn’t get away from it.

I have to admit, since I’m something of a Luddite, suspicious of modern technology, this book was largely a product of Skype. From Somerset, UK to Berkeley, CA. One day I got to talking and my co-author Chris Johnstone and he recorded it:


Active hope is not wishful thinking.

Active hope is not waiting to be rescued

by the Lone Ranger or by some savior.

Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life

 on whose behalf we can act.

We belong to this world.

The web of life is calling us forth at this time.

We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.

With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,

strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.

Active Hope is a readiness to engage.

Active Hope is a readiness to discover strengths

 in ourselves and in others;

a readiness to discover the reasons for hope

and the occasions for love.

A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,

our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,

our own authority, our love for life,

the liveliness of our curiosity,

the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,

the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.

None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.


Yes, but in a world like this? Yes, but in this mess? Can we face the mess we’re in without going crazy or numbing out or shutting down? Without blaming each other and going to war? Can we face the extent to which we are in bondage to the largest military power in history? …the fact that we are making war in this country right now? It doesn’t feel like it now, not like when I grew up in World War II, with our victory gardens and saving scrap metal. Does this feel like a country at war?

Can we face the mass extinctions of our brother-sister species? Can we face the dying of our oceans, the deadening of our rivers, poisoning of our topsoil blowing off in the wind, the toxins and sickening they cause? Is there a way to face that? Can we face the truth of what’s happening in our world and let it be an occasion of love?

In our bondage to a political economy that is destroying our world, can we face that and have it be a gift of love? Day after day I find that to be true. It involves a choice, doesn’t it? So one part of that gift of facing our world is the choice that’s made, the choice to speak truth.

I was thinking while we chanted how we have a Bradley Manning making us a gift of true. Julian Assange believed he was giving us a truth, but we as a culture can’t accept that gift. No, we believe that truth must be assaulted, punished, tortured…. All the viciousness we put onto whistleblowers shows we’re not willing to accept the gift of truth — so how will we find the gift of love?

Active Hope had me feel ready to engage. It’s not something you have, it’s something you do. You find yourself wanting to engage in.


Three Stories to make sense of our world


Right off the bat, what’s been helpful to me is seeing that our sanity and our aliveness stem from how we choose to understand what’s happening to our world. That could be put in terms of “what story, what narrative, do we want to get behind?” There are three main stories which make sense to what’s going on.


The first is what the military, media, corporate, and government believe: Business As Usual. Industrial growth society will see us through. All we need to do is get back to economic growth. That is actually believed. Even though we see what it’s doing to our planet, to all species, to us. It has a great following. Any preaching, ranting and speaking in this election comes from this frame: both political parties are in bondage to this story. It’s a story in which the world itself, our earth, is viewed as good for extracting commodities, raw materials to make into goods and weapons. You dump the wastes. The earth in such a view is a supply house and sewer. Sure seems [the story] most people in this country, and much of the industrialized north,  seem to believe in.


A second story is seen and believed by those who peel back the carpet of Business as Usual, who see that it is costing us the world. The Great Unraveling. I like that term because that’s what systems do — they unravel. They lose their distinctiveness and change towards entropy, as the monoculture of industrial growth society spreads and we subject our planet to the demands of ceaseless and accelerating growth.

That’s happening! It’s filling the news, at least the news that is trying to give us the gift of the truth.


The third story is the epochal transition from industrial society to a life-sustaining society. A historical epochal adventure. You have to train your eyes on it. When there’s a revolution, there’s a veneer of “business as usual.” [she named whoever was attributed to saying:] “Nothing appears more solid and authoritative than a great civilization on the eve of its collapse.”

More and more of us call this The Great Turning. It is happening. It is so big, so historic in its magnitude and scope that it is seen as vast and significant as the first human journey when we settled down from hunter/gathering and settled down into agriculture. It took a long long time.

There was no shift of such a magnitude until the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 1700s…. natural resources, engines, machines, of the industrial capitalist state. On the heels of that, when we see where that is leading us, when we harness that to the belief of unlimited growth, that we find ourselves in the third revolution.

The first person I know who called our attention to it, 35 years ago under Nixon, was William Ruckelshaus. He said this was the third revolution, and what must be different this time is that it must be conscious.


Wow, we are alive for that! You in this room are not only alive for it, but interested. You’re not shut down. Your lives are evidence of that. That’s what gives me hope: we can choose what story we want to get behind.


Once we do, how are we sustained? How do we keep ourselves from falling part, as we see billions in hunger, the dust blowing, the corruption… That’s why I feel grateful to be immersed in the Work that Connects. Between those two stories, the Great Unraveling and The Great Turning, we do not know how it is going to play out. Sometimes I feel I ought to know. I ought to have some fail-safe assurance to give people. But honeys, there isn’t! Sometimes I wish I could give a medicine to assure everyone that everything’s going to be okay. But if there were, would that draw from you and me the greatest intelligence and courage and creativity? It’s that not-knowing, that razor’s edge. How many stories and scriptures use that metaphor, of being right there on that breath-stopping, heart-pounding edge? It brings you right into a very humble and alert presence in the moment.

And then I realize that there’s one thing I can count on. I can’t count on which is going to win out— The Great Unraveling or The Great Turning.

I can count on my own caring. That’s where the boddhichita comes in — the earnest desire of the boddhisattva for life to go on. I can depend that caring, though I cannot depend on any outcome.

I used to think that what mattered for me in my activism is my effectiveness, and that my motivation didn’t matter as much. How do you know you’re effective? If you look at the interrelated nature of life, our lives are caught in a web of intricate weavings that you don’t know what the effects are. Some of the people that have affected you, do they know? How do you know how you’ve affected others? I used to take my pulse — how effective was I?

But your caring, your motivation! That’s why the scriptures see that boddhichitta is like a flame in the heart. You treasure it as the most important thing. You kind of protect it. You might blow on it when it gets to guttering. This is your most priceless ground on which to stand. It’s like in the New Testament what Jesus said about salt:

“Salt is good but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”

Your caring is a treasure. If you woke up one morning and found you didn’t give a shit….your caring is what you can count on in a dark and shaky time.


Aspects of The Great Turning

There is a journey we take in the Work that Reconnects that helps us stay on our feet, helps us not shut down in grief over what’s happening, helps us feel the exhilaration of the moment, that we have an incredible part to play in The Great Turning. There are so many ways:


Actions to slow down the destruction — all the legislative and political action to save what’s being trashed. Civil disobedience, boycotts, petitions…


Building new structures, new ways of doing things. Probably there is no time in history where there have been so many new ways arising, and pre-industrial ways bubbling up. Housing together, growing food, distributing it without middlepersons, new ways to resolve conflict, to measure wealth, new currencies, renewable energy, etc., etc. When people look back at the time of the Great Turning, they will feel awe at the inspiration and the inventiveness.

The third part of the Great Turning is a shift in consciousness. It is so thrilling to be alive at a time when that is happening. There is a revolution going on both scientific and spiritual. From spiritual voices we haven’t heard, going way back — indigenous people, alchemists, witches — as well as contemporary scientists. What they’re coming to, a converging view, is that the Earth is Alive. It is a living system. It is not a sewer and supply house.

It breaks our hearts to see it being mistreated. Deep in our hearts we know this is our mother/father Earth.

(I can’t keep on over-feminizing her [with how women are treated]: “She’ll be there forever — take what you want, rape, pillage, she’s always forgiving.” The hell she will.)


This gives me so much gratitude. That’s the first movement in the work that Reconnects. Then honoring our pain for the world. Then seeing with new eyes. Then going forth into the Great Turning.

So it begins with gratitude. It makes you know you have a right to be here. How wonderful to be here at a time when it is recognized spiritually and scientifically that Earth is Living, we are alive parts of a Living Earth. Everything we know and have derives from this larger whole of which we are a part. Therefore it is sacred to us. There was no breath of this when I went to school.

In this time, in countless ways, in art and music and our heartbreak, we see this Earth is alive and is sacred. After centuries of projecting the sacred out onto a big daddy god, or some abstract ideal, as reality got bled of mystery and enchantment and became a supply house and sewer, we are retrieving that projection and bringing back the sacred, re-sacralizing our lives.

It’s a great thing to be alive now, if you can stand the grief. That’s what we learn in the second part of the spiral of the Work that Connects. Our pain for the world. Our dread of what’s happening. Our sorrow and grief for what we’re doing to the body of earth. Anger and outrage for what’s happening. Impotence and futility and overwhelm. I haven’t met anyone in my life who is not in their hearts in grief for the world.

The trick mainstream society does is to have us think this is a personal thing, and to pathologize it as a weakness on our part. That’s true to an extent. But there’s a strong tide now to recognize that our sorrow for the world cannot be reduced to the separate individual ego. Your grief for the world is of a different order than what’s happening to your fridge or your bank account or even your own body. It is something vaster. We’re beginning to see that our pain for our world does not derive from a personal craziness. It comes from our caring. That caring comes from our absolutely undeniable inter-existence in the web of life.

So we practice that in the Work that Reconnects as we look at what is, without diagnosing, without running away, without paving over what’s happening to our brothers and sisters, the gifts of the ancestors, what we’re leaving for the future generations. Honor it, because it is proof positive that we are interconnected in the web of life.

It’s the good news that we can suffer with our world. Suffering-with is the literal meaning of compassion. That pain you feel, when you think you can’t stand hearing any more about the flooding of the Pacific Islands, the radioactivity assaulting the children in Japan and the mothers who can’t move away, the animals in the factory farms — that pain means you are a compassionate one. You do not need to pretend. That’s the definition of a boddhisattva, you know.

That gives us tremendous power of truth. It gives us capacity to speak the truth. And then, when you are able to see that — as Jung said, there’s no birth of consciousness without pain — this pain you are feeling on behalf of your world, it says something extraordinary about who you are and the vastness of life within you. There’s an immensity of life in each of us. The Whole Story is in each one of us. This is more thrillingly put forth by the new cosmologists and new scientists.

Let’s do something experiential right now. [Holding hands with another person and feeling what these hands can do, have done, may do in the future, on behalf of Life.] Our hands came from fins coming out of the oceans, and were shaped to grasp. You can take inspiration and sassiness from that. You are 14 billion years old. Use it when you talk back to the dam-builders: use the authority from back there.


That third part of the spiral of the Work that Connects is Seeing with New Eyes. We see our place in the holographic immensity of time. We see the vastness of our self-interest. We stop identifying solely with the self inside this bag of skin, or with the family. We see we have to defend not just our lungs, but the lungs in the Brazilian forests, the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

We’re at the moment when scales are falling from our eyes, and there is a shift in our identity. So many artists and poets bring this forward. One of the things I love about the discoveries is what our power is. Coming out of centuries of hyper-individualism, we think we can only act out of our own supply of diligence, smarts, our inner strengths. It’s not enough. I don’t have courage enough, I don’t care enough, for what’s called for right now.

It doesn’t matter — I can use some of yours. We can draw from each other. Life can live through us, think through us.

Here’s a story about the education of King Arthur when he was a boy, from T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. The boy Arthur’s teacher was the wizard Merlin. Merlin had unorthodox ways of teaching. Without giving him any warning, suddenly he’d transform Arthur into a creature of another species. Suddenly Arthur was a carp swimming in the palace moat — he stayed there long enough to learn the ways of the water people. Or another time he became a falcon, becoming the great hunter with sharp eyes: learned quickness and fearlessness. Another time he became an ant learning to be a good soldier, dutiful; a badger in the hedgerows learning diligence. A good goose going on long migrations. This book was an inspiration in my creating the Council of All Beings with John Seed.

Later when Arthur was a teenager, the word went out that the old king had died, and a tournament would be held in London town to determine the new King of all England. He had to be able to pull the sword from the stone: there in the churchyard was a sword buried to the hilt in the stone.

All the knights tried and gave up. The boy Arthur, not yet a knight, thought he’d give it a try. He put his hand on the hilt of the sword, pulled at it: no way. He raised his eyes, saw in the bushes all of his teachers: badger, goose, carp, falcon, ants — all that taught him their strengths. He had the impression they were smiling at him. He turned back to the sword, and it came out as easy as a knife from butter. He wasn’t using his own strength. He was using it on behalf of, and with the help of, all his kin across all species.

That’s how we’re going to manage the Great Turning. There is no heroic person smart enough or big enough to do it alone. But we can do it together with all of our kin, the trees, the forests. We will cultivate this power increasingly in the Great Turning.

I will close with a couple of poems. I mentioned how important the arts are in a transition like this. We are healed by the chanting tonight; by the flowers in this place tonight. We need that.

I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to translate the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke with co-translator Anita Barrows(Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy) These mean the world to me. They were written when Rilke was 20 years old at the beginning of the 20th century.


I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world

I may not complete this last one

but I give myself to it


I circle around God, around the primordial tower.

I’ve been circling for thousands of years

and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,

a storm, or a great song?


You carry the past and also the future with you. The future ones are counting on you.


I’ve been circling for thousands of years… probably I’m all three and more than that!


He’s been talking to God in this collection. And then God begins to be blended with the Earth:


Dear darkening ground,

you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,

perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour


and grant the churches and cloisters two.

And those that labor—let their work

grip them another five hours, or seven,


before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness

in that hour of inconceivable terror

when you take back your name

from all things.


He dared to see and name what haunts us too! That things could end. And then he says:


Just give me a little more time!

I want to love the things

as no one has thought to love them,

until they’re worthy of you and real.


He doesn’t ask for time so he can write grants or make money! There are things no one loves in the world as YOU do. Now’s the time to let that bloom and grow.


God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.


These are words we dimly hear:


 You, sent out beyond your recall,

 Go to the limits of your longing.

 Embody me.


 Flare up like flame

 and make big shadows I can move in.


 Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

 Just keep going.  No feeling is final.

 Don’t let yourself lose me.


 Nearby is the country they call life.

 You will know it by its seriousness.


 Give me your hand.


This of all his poems has had the most requests [to be set to] choral music. Of course, it’s the boddhichitta.


Go to the limits of your longing…it’s what we’re here for.


Praise be! Go to the limits of your longing!

Guy Dauncey & Joanna Macy: the Great Transition

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

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sunset_trees_100.jpgThings are heating up quite seriously. Smoke from enormous wildfires many miles north drifts into the river canyon beside us. The Midwest drought finds the land in far worse condition than the last massive droughts in the 1930s, and a world far more dependent on its food exports. No, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. 

And yet the silence around climate change, from president, candidates and administration, is a deafening affirmation that The Powers That Be, whoever really controls the ship of state, does not want America to turn and face the greatest crisis humanity has known. Therein lies the power of money, the short-term thinking of global capitalism, and the massive entrenchment of “Business as Usual” that needs to be dismantled. People are working at it, and we join our hearts and voices with theirs. But much more is needed — an upsurge of collective will to face and “solve” climate change and peak oil. That means us.

This message is at the heart of Guy Dauncey’s rousing conversation on The Great Transition (forthcoming episode 218). Author of The Climate Challenge:101 Solutions to Global Warming, Guy asserts that we CAN summon the determination to meet these environmental crises, get onto renewable energy, and re-create an economy in harmony with nature.

Joanna Macy, who coined the term The Great Turning, and Chris Johnstone have a new book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy provides broader perspectives for facing the crises, envisioning such a future, and personal tools to strengthen our capacity to face the crises, and find our point of engagement.

This week as I read and listen, their voices have blended, like a synchronistic syncopated duet:


We can do this if we’re determined not defeated, cheers Guy.

Here are personal tools to strengthen you, rejoins Joanna.


This Saturday I’ll participate in Joanna’s workshop on “The Work that Reconnects.” Look for my notes.

(Photo by Robin Mallgren)

Practice Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush

Monday, June 25th, 2012

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120625_barrow_250.jpgI piled the laundry basket into the wheelbarrow and headed towards the Lone Bobcat Woods house. We’d agreed with our renter to share the washing machine. As I pushed the ‘barrow about a quarter mile to the house in the warm sun, I thought of John Michael Greer’s recent blog Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush. He lays out why collapse is happening and what individuals and communities can do now when more options are available than further down the road. 

Robyn and I call it “collapse practice.” If we choose to change, even with a spirit of playfulness or adventure, it’s a whole lot easier than when we’re backed into a corner. Here are some collapse practice ideas off the top of my head, not in any particular order.


Less is more, starting with expectations. The myth of progress is now curtains. It seemed to work while we had abundant fossil fuels borrowed from the future. The future is now and the debt is coming due. The post-progress myth is still being shaped, but I think we’ll see deeper prosperity than mere stuff can provide.


Every point of simplification can be a source of joy. A smaller house or apartment is faster to keep clean and maintain. Less stuff means fewer items to fix when they break, and less guilt when you throw them away (and of course giving them away is another source of joy and lightness).


Exception: you may want to have a boneyard — reusable stuff for construction, repairs and projects. If over time you don’t end up using those glass windows for your cold frames, you can pass ‘em along to somebody else.


Share: you may want access rather than ownership. Sharing a washing machine with hundreds of other people at a laundromat, or with a few neighbors (as I’m doing in the photo), beats owning one. Sharing rides, or a car, is a major energy and money-saver, especially for city dwellers.


Roll downhill on the technology/complexity continuum. An outdoor clothesline doesn’t need fixing or take energy like a dryer. A motorcycle for commuting takes a lot less than an SUV.


Reduce your dependencies. Reduce dependencies on the money economy, the freeway transport system, grid power and water.  If you can, installing solar-powered water heating and electricity on your house — but start first at Less is More: reduce the amount you need! Grow some of your own food or raise chickens (and/or solidly support locals who do.)


For dependencies, create contingencies. If your water comes from the city, store some for when the power goes out. Ditto for backup lighting and real-live cash, and canned/packaged foods. It’s also about resilience — being able to weather a disruption pretty well.


Cultivate flexibility and options. Getting out of debt frees up money to do what you want or need: it’s probably the most important collapse practice of all. A mobile small house plus a network of friends means you can readily move if a better employment opportunity appears elsewhere.


Build your skill set and tool set. This is DIY time. Learning to sew means you don’t need somebody else to repair your clothes or make insulated curtains to (this from the work jeans patch queen). Likewise for simple plumbing, construction, electrical, herbal medicinals, first aid, engine mechanics, and good interpersonal communication skills. DIY doesn’t mean you learn ALL of these: start with what interests you, and broaden your skills as opportunities appear.


Join hands. Humans are tribal creatures. Despite our culture’s bias for hyper-individualism, nobody’s gonna make it through the rough patches alone. Find the people you can work with. It may be neighbors for emergency preparedness, other gardeners at the community garden, members at your church or social group. Develop your skills so you become valued by your community, and have them as “currency” for exchanges.


As you simplify and build resilience, you can celebrate fewer worries, shorter to-do lists, and better sleep. You’re increasing security in a different way than our materialist culture promotes: you’re moving it from stuff to people, starting with yourself. A deeper security, a deeper prosperity.

Review: “Hooked on Growth” documentary from GrowthBusters

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

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“Hooked on Growth” is the quintessential David vs. Goliath story, starring modern-day filmmaker David (yes, his real name!!) Gardner in his autobiographical crusade against industrial civilization’s prevailing and largely unquestioned myth that Growth is Good, whether it’s populations or economies. As he points out, infinite growth doesn’t work a finite planet.


Bucking the tide, our crusader runs for city council in his hometown of Colorado Springs, pointing out to his constituency how continuing development and resource-use actually ends up costing the city more than they can tax for: budget cuts become inevitable. Even his own own supporters struggle against stigma of being anti-growth — it’s, well, it’s un-American, isn’t it?


And of course the city council members, like those elsewhere, are depending on new development to pay for current municipal services. But what about maintaining those services in the decades ahead? Oh well, they won’t be in office when the whole ponzi scheme collapses and the piper needs to be paid…as we see in austerity measures and cutbacks in many states and cities everywhere.


The film is thoroughly sprinkled with experts like Paul Ehrlich (the population bomb), Bill McKibben (The End of Nature), Bill Rees (inventor of the Ecological Footprint), Chris Martenson (The Crash Course), and many more.


I especially admire professor Albert Bartlett, whose examples of exponential growth (like human population numbers), almost exceed our human capacity to really comprehend. The film’s graphics make it vividly clear… especially showing that we cannot see the effects until it’s too late to change course. Which seems to be where we are now, with the status quo hanging on like Wily Coyote over the abyss, running in place.


The DVD cover shows our GrowthBuster crusader and his followers, working to fight the growth profiteers. Dave’s personal story could’ve been a stronger narrative thread tying together the expert comments. I wanted to follow him his journey of awakening about growth and see how it evolved to taking on the city council, and then running for office himself.


We taped a Peak Moment TV conversation with Dave in summer 2010. He’s a passionate at his best. I wish more of that passion had come shining through the documentary. Portrayals of his visits to the local shrink during his campaign seem particularly weak — or make him appear weaker than he really is, though certainly we can identify with his emotions, his reservations, and his search. Then there’s some outrageous humor — one of my favorites is Dave on the sidewalks offering “Extinct Species condoms” to help reduce population!


I felt inundated by the flood of website headlines underscoring his points about population and over-consumption. They go by too quickly to take in. Younger viewers accustomed to faster-paced media may do fine, but I would suggest that Less is More — more impactful.


I hope the GrowthBuster crusade catches on, as tough a sell as it is. The growth imperative is an invisible driver that needs to be stopped. In fact, it will be stopped — either voluntarily, or when planetary limits slam humans against the wall, as happens with any population that overshoots its environmental base. If humans choose to stop growth, there will be a lot less destruction.


This David facing the Growth Goliath is courageous, persistent and compassionate: he wants humans to find true prosperity rather than leaving a seriously impoverished planet for future generations (human and non-human). He may have lost his bid for the city council, but his film superbly busts the myth of growth from all angles, and I hope its impact reaches well beyond the city limits. It may be an uphill battle, but you go for it, Dave and the GrowthBusters!


Find a screening or buy the DVD and host your own at