Thursday, June 17, 2010

Diary of a Community Activist

Years and years ago if you told me I could say this I would have laughed!  I think mostly I didn't want to stick out too much or make a fuss.

My new "career" began when I moved into my townhouse on Halloween 2005.  I was one of the first ones into a new construction - and building was going on everywhere around me.   I was living in Fraggle Rock as men with helmets in big yellow trucks went scooting past my kitchen window and all I could see as I sat at my table were the tops of their heads.

Problem was the builder wasn't living here.  Long overdue and unfinished work was left everywhere. Complaints were routine.

Water problems were springing up in basements.  Newly planted trees were dying.

Little by little a new habit was born.

Call the builder.  Get sent directly to voicemail (of course.) Make a report. Request info about completion. Write it up. Take pictures. Send it to the builder in writing. CC the board. Send copies to the town agencies if the problem was appropriate for their domain. Repeat.

It wasn't just a call I made - or a series of calls - it was a campaign.

No blame.  No judgmental name calling - just the facts.  I experienced the value of persistence, that's for sure

Mostly with lots of teeth pulling things got completed.

Then came new tenants.  Seems every single one of them had a dog. Lots of them had no notion of cleaning up after the dog.  What's up with that??  Feel free to walk your dog through the neighborhood guys, and leave big steaming piles of dog poop in your wake.


New campaigns began.

I took pictures of the "green bags for doggies" pylons available in other communities.  You know the ones where there's a "clean up after your dog" sign posted above a receptacle that holds the bags for you to put it in.  Education + solution. (The fact that we, as adults, still need this sort of education is another matter entirely, but so be it. I'll leave that for later.)

This year the big snows came with windstorms that trundled full recycle pails down the street emptying their contents everywhere. After the snow melted the streets bore the results.  My friend Magda and I were semi-horrified on our daily walks until we decided not to wait for "them" to clean up, but to campaign ourselves - this time with lawn bags and gloves on our outings.  Our backyards extended far beyond the boundary of property lines as down the street and up the hill and across the bridge seemed both our territory and our charge.

I took a walk yesterday in the gentle rain and enjoyed every minute of the smells of summer, the large expanses of green, the cleaner streets.  I noticed the doggie green bags in our community and laughed out loud.

I see the results of my activism, and I know that the difference between complaining and action lies at the crux of solution.

What to do with the problems of the world then?

I ask what are you doing at home base.

I just read an article in the New York Times citing that in Nigeria the region of the Niger Delta has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill EVERY YEAR FOR 50 YEARS! You gotta be kidding me...but no.

Perhaps we are just getting around to noticing that this spells big trouble due to our eyes being open in the Gulf.

The answer, like the song says, is "we're all in this together."

We.  The land.  The people.  The animals. Each other.


The Mystic knows that a 'way of being' that can embrace this recognition begins with the individual.

Stop complaining and start doing what you can where you can. Clean up your own mess. Are you doing something that makes a difference in your community?  Simply walk outside with open eyes and something will come to you. No matter where you live I guarantee you will newly see some way - something large or small - that you can do to make a difference.

The qualities you build will help you in many ways, including -

  • Enlarge your heart
  • Embrace your community
  • Fall in love with the land you walk on!
  • Be an asset to whomever you can - whenever you can - wherever you can
  • Leave things a little better for your presence wherever you go
  • Stop being afraid to make a difference
  • Stop with "that's not my mess..."
  • Stop the "who cares" and be the change you wish to see.

Stop with the notion of separation.

YOU care! That's what matters.

Feel free to comment :)

Truly - we are - all. in. this. together...

Namaste my friends.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Four Gifts

The story of the apple, the flaming sword, the crown and the lion begins with "once upon a time..."

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had big dreams and lots of desire to create a work of art from her talents and skills, but she just didn't know very much about the "how to" part.

So the girl - who was me - began a regular program of deep meditation and guided visualization while consciously, and determinedly, putting herself in asking mode with an open heart and mind.

In other words, I went into states of meditation while holding my deep desire for insight and simply waited for answers, observed signs, captured insights, followed directions...and opened myself to whatever needed to be known in order to move to the next steps of my journey.

For those of you who have done this kind of work, it is quite remarkable to let it direct you, isn't it?  Similar to lucid dreaming, guided visualization invites you to relax deeply and walk your mind through a receptive mode, observing without interfering with what's going on.

If the subject of your quest is to find answers to some life question or dilemma, then you settle yourself into the question itself before you begin, knowing that information will arrive - in some form or other - that will shine some light on your request.

And so it was for me asking about the nature of my career - my very survival - during a time of stressful life circumstances and little support.

I call what I eventually received The Four Gifts.

The first was a bright shiny apple.

I didn't want it at first. :)  I was terribly disappointed and actually tried to give it back.  How could this silly symbol be the answer to my heart's desire and the seriousness of my request?  Was I supposed to make my living with an apple?? I was on the cusp of big stuff I tell you ...BIG!

Then I went to a women's writing retreat led by an author/editor I knew pretty well and lo and behold she told the group that we were going to practice various creative writing techniques for the whole week using one single solitary symbol.  "Choose well" she advised!  While everyone else was hemming and hawing I was into that apple from the second the words were out of her mouth.  How fortuitous to have a masterful teacher guide me into some understanding of what this rather disappointing symbol actually meant.

By the time the week was done you can't even imagine what I did with the word itself.  I created ode to apple in clusters, diagrams, synonyms, word name it.  Mostly, that was the point.  I named it.  Health, holistic, ripe, knowledge, seeds within, and the best one - the old "apple a day keeps the doctor away" - which gave me valuable insight into the scope of my field of endeavor: preventive medicine.

OK then.  This was starting to make sense...

I practiced validating my "other than conscious" ability to manifest the exact right thing for me to know, and I clearly followed my directive even while in the midst of the storm (of which there were some doozies.)

Laugh if you will but a few years later came the flaming sword.  AHA!! That's more like it!

The only thing was it didn't feel victorious when I finally received it.  By now I was older and wiser and it felt more like the tool I would need for the responsibility that foretold a journey where, if flaming swords were needed, I was probably in for it.  So be it when you pioneer any movement against the tide of common experience or people's comfort with the party line.

Third came the crown.  I can barely handle that one to this day.  No pansy crown this - more like a jewel encrusted gold monolith that I was supposed to get comfortable wearing.  I accepted it without judgement.  Perhaps one must do this in order to ordain themself no matter what the work is when you yourself are the creator...

Fourth and last came the lion.

I saw myself climbing a mountain.  It took time - lots of time - and effort - lots of effort.

As I reached the summit, I could finally see over the top and view the other side.

What I saw was a tiny lion cub cowering about 6 feet below me.  He was looking up, clearly wanting me to pick him up.  As I reached down, he crawled into my arms. As I lifted him up to join me he began to grow and grow and grow until by the time I straightened up I was holding a very handsome full grown lion.

I knew at that moment that my business would grow, and that with time - and a very long climb - I could handle the size and strength of it.

My symbols have sustained me through all sorts of challenges over the past years as I have witnessed events unfold around me.

That brings me to this past week.  The photo above is the cover image on the new fall catalog from our distributor APG that carries four of our new YPC Print/CD titles.  I didn't see the catalog until we were presented with it at the Book Expo America event at the Javits Center in New York, but my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the cover.

Although I have been fortunate in being promoted for the programs I have created for other companies, I've never had a National Distribution channel for products that my own company produced before - not even for one title much less for four - but there's my lion, strong, proud and full-grown right on the cover, with the placement of our offerings filling the opening page.  I think this is a good sign :)

My heartfelt message for you:

If you have a dream, then you mustn't give up.
Don't ever give up.
Work hard... work long... work it on the side if you must... but don't ever give up your dream.

Expect the road to twist and turn, life may have many bumps in store for you.

You may have to shift, delay, postpone or get along with far less in the way of support than you would ever hope for. You may even have to go it alone for a while.

People might laugh and call you a loser, or worse.

Don't give up.

You may fail.  Don't give up.
You may fail again.  That's the way of it.  Don't. Give. Up.
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius and power and magic in it" said the great philosopher Goethe.  

May your own genius shine through, and may all your dreams come true. 

Let me know how it goes...