Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where Are The Heroes?

"Heroes are often the most ordinary of men."
- Henry David Thoreau


This morning, I searched the internet for a few people who I have looked up to as something like heroes in the area of alternative lifestyles, sustainability, eco warriors, and general questioners of our present civilization.  I did this in part, because one, whom I deeply respect, is now so old he can no longer read or write.  Another had left the country, and others who had had their 15 minutes of fame, seemed to be resigned, resting on their laurels, or had left the field altogether.

Now, this is not to say that their contributions weren't great - in many cases they were. But who are the heroes today?  It's very probable that there are some great heroes out there, but not being as clued in as I once was, I have no idea who they are.  My mind, for good or bad, has a tendency to dwell in the 60's and 70's, when there seemed to be a whole movement of people questioning authority, seeking alternative lifestyles, and generally seeking to let go of old beliefs and create new paradigms - some freakier than others. 

Today, however, it seems the world has gone status quo.  And the ones who seem slightly off-beat, are still totally influenced by commercialism and the almighty buck.  It's all about their books, or DVD's or their classes, which only the fairly well off can afford.  It's less about love and giving, than greed and taking.  Granted, it's almost impossible to live without sufficient funds, if not downright illegal. But still, far too much of the emphasis is on money, and having all those things which money requires - nice cars, technology, clothes, and so on.  In other words, they want to, on one level, maintain the status quo, and live the modern lifestyle, and at the same time, advocate for an alternative and better way to live.  What you end up with here is a cognitive dissonance - basically two opposing ideas that can't really live together.

Understand, I'm certainly not saying I lead any example of this.  While I no longer really drive or own a car, and live in the same clothes for years and years on end, I do have a phone, an android tablet, and a small computer.  And, I watch far too much TV, as much out of boredom as anything else.  

When I look around, however, I do find heroes, but they're not the flashy kind. Today my heroes are generally unknown. My wife is my hero, if for no other reason than she's put up with me for 35 years, and totally given herself in service to her family.  My friend, Charlie is a hero, also for putting up with me, and never judging the stupid things I say.  My boys are huge heroes, for taking a stance on farming and living simply, even though it's incredibly hard work and they hardly make any money. My daughter is a hero, for having gone through some very dark places, but pulled herself out and still lives with a great sense of humor.  My father, now passed, is my hero, for having the courage to end his life gracefully, giving up food and medication to die peacefully, when he realized there really was no longer a point to continue. Daniel Suelo, though better known, is my hero for living now for over a decade without ever using money at all.  And virtually everyone I know, is one form of hero or another, if for nothing else, continuing the struggle with life. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Nature of Surrender

"The only courage that  matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next."
- Mignon McLaughlin

Surrender is often thought of as a moment of change, where, once one surrenders, somehow, everything will be different - the skies will part, one's life will become instantly blissful, and God will finally reveal Him/Herself.

But, that is not exactly the reality of the situation.  There is, on some cosmic level, I believe, a shift, but, for the most part, surrender is not something that happens in a moment. In happens in every moment, and particularly every moment must be a surrendering. 

When one surrenders, it is not that everything changes. It is that one is actually surrendering to everything staying EXACTLY the same.  You are surrendering to the will of God, as it is, Right Now, In This Moment!  You are surrendering to the fact that this is God's design, and it may change, or it may Never change. That whatever is happening right now, IS God's will, and you accept and surrender into that fully. 

Obviously, this is NOT what most people are hoping for. Most, I would guess, expect some kind of miracle, and perhaps, some get that - a sudden exhiliration, a dropping of worry and stress, like a breath of fresh air, and this is not totally uncommon. But often, it is exactly the opposite, where everything stays the same, and you realize, "This is IT". I am surrendering to what is happening right now. It may seem horrible, or painful, or boring, or whatever, but THAT is God's will in the moment.  One cannot change the will of God. One can only accept it or reject it. Rejecting it, is essentially resisting it. So when you stop resisting it, rejecting it, and willingly and openly accept it, without conditions, THAT is surrender.  "My life is Yours, Lord, and I accept that fully. Whatever You wish to do with me is perfect and divine."   

Or as Lord Chaitanya stated in His Sikshastakam:  "I know no one but Krsna as my Lord and He will remain so, even if He handles me roughly by His embrace, or makes me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, because He is always my Lord, unconditionally."  

We are so conditioned by our radical entitlement, particularly these days, that we expect everyone and everything, including God, should bend to OUR will, when the reality is we MUST bend to His will, whether we recognize it or not. Surrendering, in large part, is simply a recognition of what is already true - we are already experiencing the will of God. Do we lovingly embrace it, or do we continue to resist it?



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Ultimate Pyramid Scheme


"One of the weaknesses of our age is our apparent inability to distinguish our need from our greed."
                   - Unknown



Ahhh....  Pyramid Schemes. They've been around, it seems, forever.  They're always around to some extent, but every so often, they pop up anew, as a new batch of individuals arrive on the scene, eager to make a quick and easy buck - or $5,000 or $40,000 or whatever the amount du jour is.  

I shouldn't be too quick to judge, as I myself have lost an embarassingly large amount of money on such things in my eager and ignorant youth.  You tell yourself that It's like the lotto --- You can't win if you don't play, but the reality, and the statistics are, in both, that only a very limited few (like 20%) ever actually make the big win, or in pyramid style, to the top.  

If, somehow, you have managed to remain ignorant of the pyramid scheme (I mean other than the Federal one), it looks something like this:   You join at the bottom level, giving X amount of money to the person on top. You then recruit at least 2 people who also give that amount of money, but to the person who is just below the person on top. They then each get two more to give their X amount of money to the third from the top. With each new group, YOU are moving up toward the top, until you are the recipient, of whatever X is from each of 4, 6, 8, 16, or ??? depending on the number of layers or levels there are.  Once you've reached the top and received your money, you're done. Yahoo!  (There are an endless number of variations on the theme - how much you give, to whom, and so forth, but the principle remains fairly constant.)

However, when you work the math on these things, for you (and many others simultaneously playing), it builds up rather quickly, into the hundreds, thousands, and yes, millions who have to give their money and play before you end up at the top.

The difficulty is that there just aren't that many people willing to play. You often alienate your friends trying to convince them to play (so you can make your way up), and one of three things happens: 1. You make your money (not likely), 2. You end up breaking even (possible), 3. You lose your money, AND in every case, cause possibly hundreds or thousands or millions to lose their money - money that might have been taken from the food or rent or medicine funds in order to hopefully make that "Big Score," and potentially lose a lot of friends in the process.

For fairly obvious reasons, pyramid schemes are illegal, and those who push them have come up with a wide variety of legal and other answers to why THEIRS is NOT a pyramid scheme.   One of the biggest things lately is to put a compassionate, new age, or spiritual twist to them, by calling them gifting circles or empowerment circles, and so forth, the further caveat is that you are simply GIVING your money to someone in need, and then of course, the universe will return it to you multi-fold.  And I find this particularly sad, because the reality is that easily 90% or more of the people doing it are REALLY seeking the money, as much as they say they want to help each other.   I even have a friend who had an abundance group, and when she suggested that they make it a prayer group without the abundance idea, everyone quit coming!  

So, I think I've come up with the Ultimate Pyramid Scheme.  I call it the World Peace Pyramid Scheme!  We leave in the idea of pyramid scheme so people will get excited, but then we add the World Peace bit.  

Here's how it works:
1. You make a commitment to pray for peace every day.  (You can call it pray for, meditate on, think a good thought about.... whatever)
2. You recruit at least 2 friends to commit to doing the same.
3. They recruit at least 2 friends each to commit to doing the same.
4. They recruit at least 2 friends each to commit to doing the same.
5..... Well, you get the picture.
6. Besides simply praying for peace (or whatever), they each commit to trying to LIVE that peace  -  to watch within themselves when they are not peaceful, to themselves or others or the environment, etc. and correct that.

How do you get to the top and WIN?  Well, as you can guess, the numbers add up pretty quick:

People      Day
1                Day one
2                Day two
4                Day three
8                Day four
16              Day five
32              Day six
64               ..........
128                
256            
512
1024
2048
4096
8192
16,384        Day fifteen

Anyway, believe it or not, within 30 days it will reach over One Billion!!! And then that continues to double each day, so that within just a few more days, EVERY PERSON ON THE PLANET is Praying for Peace, and seeking to make their actions match their peaceful thoughts.  

So, what do you win at the end?  Duh!!!!  How about a place that might actually be worth living in, the kind of place that the very thought of which should bring tears to your eyes.  Why not, instead of thinking about our own greed, we start thinking about the World's NEEDS, and how to make this place a paradise for EVERYONE?

I don't know.... It's just a thought!
(And a prayer)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vedic Knowledge on Your (Android) Phone for FREE

   


I'm breaking from my own tradition here, basically to plug (review) something. But both because it is a great (and free) product, and as something of a promise to it's maker, I present the Android app - Gitabase.

Gitabase offers the bulk of all the books translated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, including the entire Bhagavad Gita As It Is (both current version and his original 1972 version), Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Sri Ishopanishad, and more, including the original Devanagari script on most, transliteration, word for word translation, readable translation and exhaustive purports.  

The program allows you to simply read through the verses, or to look at each verse in detail; copy and paste elements into other programs; an incredible search function, allowing you to find every occurence of any given word or phrase; bookmark verses as favorites or tag them with your own tags, etc. 

You can also choose your font sizes (great for those of us with poor eyesight), and to include or exclude the Sanskrit.

In paper form, this would be some 50 or 60 books and would cost you hundreds of dollars. Now you can carry them around in your pocket.

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (my spiritual master), was the foremost scholar and proponent of the Vedic Gaudiya Vaishnava culture, circling the globe 12 times in just 10 years, and starting over 100 temples.  

Gitabase is available from the Amazon App store, or directly from 
http://gitabase.com/

When reading these scriptures, I can completely concur with Gandhi, who said of Bhagavad Gita: "When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day."

Or with Albert Einstein who said: "When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous."

Or as the Bhagavatam itself declares: "The great scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, compiled by Maha-muni Vyasadeva from four original verses, describes the most elevated and kindhearted devotees and completely rejects the cheating ways of materially motivated religiosity. It propounds the highest principle of eternal religion, which can factually mitigate the threefold miseries of a living being and award the highest benediction of full prosperity and knowledge. Those willing to hear the message of this scripture in a submissive attitude of service can at once capture the Supreme Lord in their hearts. Therefore there is no need for any scripture other than Srimad-Bhagavatam."

A compendium of Vedic knowledge and understanding!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Passing of a Great Teacher

"The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires."  -  William Arthur Ward
Throughout one's life, if they are lucky, they will cross paths with many teachers - many mediocre, some good, and if truly lucky, some who are indeed great!  Cascade Anderson Geller, who passed away on May 4th, 2013, was absolutely in the Super Great category.  She WAS Herbalism.  Although she had been working with and teaching about herbs long before I met her, nearly three decades ago, even then, she had a quality and a wisdom that pulled you in.  You wanted to know what she knew. You might have even wanted to be like her.  
 
Like many hundreds of others, my first foray into the world of herbs was with Cascade, taking a basic class.  I still remember one of the first nights, when a friend and fellow student, Joel, had a sore throat, and she demonstrated wrapping the throat with a cloth coated in a ginger powder paste, and the look he had as it heated up. 
 
Some of us, from that first class, later started, under Cascade's direction, the Herbalists of the Pacific States (H.O.P.S) where we would meet regularly to study herbs and present our findings to each other.  We put together presentations and gatherings, and many of us would regularly attend the Breitenbush Herbal Gathering each summer.  Gradually, that group dissolved, and I moved in other directions, although always keeping herbs close to my heart.  Often, over the last 20 plus years, I have thought to myself, I should (or I could) contact Cascade.  We live on 7 acres, filled with flowers and many weeds, and she would be my first thought when I wondered what plant was popping up here or there.   So, she inspired. She inspired me, and easily thousands of others over the years. But it was a quiet inspiration. The kind of inspiration that truly makes you want to go deeper, to learn, to experience, to love. 
 
Cascade, Thank you!  You were truly a blessing to my life and to so many others. You will be loved forever.
 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

But Who Will Build The Roads





"You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too." - John Kenneth Galbraith



Generally, when people are presented with the idea that the government is essentially unnecessary, and only is created by powerful people in order to continue and try to legitimize their power, one of the most common questions is something like, "But who will build the roads?"

I find it very interestesting that government is looked upon much like some kind of Deity, as if we're saying that it's okay if we destroy the world, government will build us a new one. It is as if 'government' is the all inclusive, all knowing (well, they're getting there), all powerful, giver and taker of all things. As much as they would like you to believe that; as much as we have been taught to believe that, by the government, the media, our schools and institutions, our parents and their parents, and so forth, it is absolutely untrue. Government is itself a fallacy. Government is a bunch of people who either decide to take power, or have inherited it, in one fashion or another, from others, whether by family or some kind of contractual arrangement.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Frog in the Pot



Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest" - Mahatma Gandhi

Obviously, this is not one of the more well known quotes from Gandhi. It has surfaced lately with all the gun control hub-bub we seem to be in the midst of. Such a quote from the Prince of Non-violence is, in itself, something of a shock. There are arguments that he was referring to the weapons of the Indian military and not the people themselves - which could be true, but does it matter in this case? After all, guns are guns, whether they are used by the government or by the people. They can kill people no matter who wields them. The writer, Don Feder, points out that, "The problem isn't easy access to guns, but easy access to oxygen. Certain people shouldn't be breathing."


Monday, January 14, 2013

Global Agenda


"What are we going to do tonight, Brain?"
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky...
TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!"


For those of you who may not be familiar with these illustrious characters, they are two lab mice known as Brain (a genius), and Pinky (who is insane). Each night after the laboratory staff leaves, Brain proceeds with elaborate plots in order to take over the world, and asert his own Global Agenda.

While these zany antics are quite amusing, the reality is that Brain is not that different from any one else. In fact, each of us, consciously or unconsciously, has our own Global Agenda. However, in our case, it's simply known as "I'm right, they're wrong." You may think that simply thinking that you are right is a far cry from a global agenday, but the truth is, you would be pleased as punch if everyone in the world saw things just as you did, acted as you believed they should act, believed as you believed, made available the things you needed, and so on. I mean, in what day does something happen that you didn't wish it had happened differently, or not at all. Each of us is thinking/hoping that we are in control. In fact, there's an old saying, "If you want to be happy, resign as C.E.0. of the Universe."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 - Welcome To The New Year!??!


"An optimist stays up to see the New Year in. A pessimist waits to make sure the old one leaves." BIll Vaughan

A wonderful quote to begin the new year. Of course, my current favorite is the one by J. Krishnamurti which I have as my email signature: "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

Which brings us back to the topic at hand - the new year. How do you perceive this rather arbitrary time distinction, of leaving one time space and moving to another? Some would strongly put forth that there is an energetic shift when we move from one year to another. Perhaps it is created by the people themselves, anticipating or hoping for a brighter new time - Hope. Of course, we know how well the proverbial new year resolutions generally go. Perhaps we should all make a resolution to express more love, to give up idiocy, and investigate the true nature of being human and alive in this world. I won't hold my breath. I started this morning by searching the internet, thinking that perhaps I would come across good news for the new year. The first article that drew my attention was "20 dark predictions for 2013 - the year of oppression and insanity." I guess it greatly depends on where you look, huh?