Jewels of Indra’s Net

I wrote the following as a reflection from a series of conversations people from around the world had to discuss the climate crisis. As I looked through the wondrous materials considered and assembled by the Conference Weaving Now What? Deep Dives, I was dazzled by the jewels in the Now What?! Consciousness Deep Dive Conversation Harvest. Immediately, I thought of Indra’s Net. Before telling you why, it is important to understand what this net is. And, to find out more about Now What, visit the beautiful new site: Now What?! The art of being fully human in a time of crisis

According to Wikipedia: Indra’s net is a metaphor used to illustrate three essential concepts:

Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • Śūnyatā (emptiness) – This is a Buddhist concept that has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context. It is either an ontological feature of reality, a meditative state, or a phenomenological analysis of experience. [I believe for something new to emerge there must be space for it, thus this feature of reality both outer and inner is essential to all who seek to bring into the world a kinder, gentler, restorative reality.]
Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • Pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination) – This concept “is commonly translated as dependent origination, or dependent arising, is a key principle in Buddhist teachings,[note 1] which states that all dharmas (“phenomena”) arise in dependence upon other dharmas: “if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist”.  [I cannot think of a more essential concept to consider as we engage together in these sessions and others along with the weaving done afterwards. I always need to be reminded what dharma means. There is no single English translation for this word. Essentially it is the behaviors that make life in the universe possible. I think fits beautifully with us joining together in conversations that seek to understand and uplift behaviors that sustain life on our planet. If we don’t understand each other, we are indeed stuck.]
Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • Interpenetration (coalescence) – This concept developed from the Huayan school. It  holds all phenomena (dharmas) are deeply interconnected, mutually arising, and every phenomenon contains all other phenomena. Various metaphors and images are used to illustrate this idea. The first is known as Indra’s net. The net is set with jewels which have the extraordinary property that they reflect all of the other jewels, while the reflections also contain every other reflection, ad infinitum. The second image is that of the world text. This image portrays the world as consisting of an enormous text which is as large as the universe itself. The words of the text are composed of the phenomena that make up the world. However, every atom of the world contains the whole text within it. It is the work of a Buddha to let out the text so that beings can be liberated from suffering. [So, there you go. Perhaps this is why Indra’s Net popped into my mind as I read through the jewels, which is only a tiny piece of the harvest and this is even a tiny part of what is happening when we connect with each other and seek mutual understanding. We are indeed reflected in each other. We are the jewels in the Indra Net enveloping Earth.]

I imagine two wonderous Indra’s Net. One net holds our universe. It is woven by time and space that create the matrix holding everything we see in our universe. The second Indra’s Net is like the first, but this one wraps around our beautiful Earth. All life on Earth create the threads that are woven together to create this web. Humans have taken on an exaggerated importance in this web because of the level of consciousness we have attained. I am not going to delve into my thinking on this now…perhaps later… but suffice it to say we have changed the matrix from which we were born, and now we have a Herculean Task upon our shoulders to repair what has been damaged by us so life may continue to exist on this precious jewel in the larger Indra Net—Earth.

I think when we come together and listen to each other, we repair Earth’s net. Each of us has a special place and unique abilities that are needed to sustain Earth’s Indra’s Net. Each human being is informed by individual passions, interests, experiences, and failures. Some of us are really good at speaking, others are really good at organizing, still others are healers, and others bring visions. Each human being weaves part of this wondrous web enveloping Earth. To heal and repair our net, Earthneeds all our insights, energies, passions, and gifts.

So, this is the idea that struck me as I read the harvest material from the conferences, deep dives, and other conversations. It seems to me every human being is a jewel in Earth’s Indra’s Net. Through us the energy needed to repair, strengthen, and heal this netis made visible. We are essentially portalsof transformation, and it is going to take as many ofus pulling in the same direction as possible to change our collectivefate.

I have not had much time to read everything, nor did I have participate in the Deep Dives, but what I have seen is beautiful pieces of wisdom being pulled up from depths inside ourselves. Wisdom that has become submerged and lost due to current ways of thinking and living in our world. Let me stress the weaving being done through our collective action is utterly essential for the moment we are in now.  

Given limits on my time at this moment, I am only able highlight a few of the jewels that caught my attention as I looked through the excellent excel chart being created to preserve some of the harvest from this collective work. There are also notes and videos of Deep Dives and from parts of the conferences taking place around the world. My selection of a few of the jewels in no way diminishes any of the other jewels.I am a simple and small portal of consciousness informed by my individual experiences, passions, dreams, and failures. All this naturally limits what I can see and how I see it. But, then thisis the beauty of Indra’s Net. Each jewel is unique and reflects every other jewel in the net. I suspect there are as many jewels in Earth’s Indra’s Net as there human beings alive on the planet, and the energy coursing through the webbing of this net is the wonderous life alive on Earth right now.

Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • The first jewel I want to highlight is one that I saw reflected in several discussions. This is the jewel of sacred ceremony. We need to remember our thoughts are powerful. They are able to collapse the infinite sea of possibilities in which we all swim into a single thread of reality. We do this by thinking, choosing, and acting (or not acting). Moment by moment we contribute our strand of reality to all the other strands being created by every living being on the planet. As the strands interweave, this becomes our shared reality. Humans have become particularly powerful in sculpting our shared reality by using our minds gifted with consciousness (or cursed – as many world myths account this moment as man’s great fall). I write about this in other places, so I will not delve into my meaning here, but only say humans emerged from a more primordial state of consciousness into the state we understand it as today. This singular accomplishment allowed humans to not only perceive the world, but to apperceive it. I will talk more about this ability to apperceive our world later, but for now, I will simply provide you with a definition of it: 

From Wiki: Meaning in psychology – In psychology, apperception is “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.”[2] In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience. The term is found in the early psychologies of Herbert Spencer, Hermann Lotze, and Wilhelm Wundt. It originally means passing the threshold into consciousness, i.e., to perceive. But the percept is changed when reaching consciousness due to the contextual presence of the other stuff already there, thus it is not perceived but apperceived.

Apperception is thus a general term for all mental processes in which a presentation is brought into connection with an already existent and systematized mental conception, and thereby is classified, explained or, in a word, understood; e.g. a new scientific phenomenon is explained in the light of phenomena already analyzedand classified. The whole intelligent life of man is, consciously or unconsciously, a process of apperception, in as much as every act of attention involves the appercipient process.[1]

Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • The next jewel is the significant of language in constructing our realities. Here again our ability of apperception is powerful for we have civilized and cultivated most of the world simply by seeing possibilities different from what nature originally provided for life to exist. And, so here we stand at the edge of every moment with this power to apperceive infinite possibilities, and language is the tool we use to share our visions of what is possible. So, yes, it is a commanding tool in constructing our shared realities because it allows us to cooperate in collective action. 

It also comes with peril, as this group of jewels point out, for we can misunderstand each other if we do not take care in truly understanding how words are being used and what is truly being said. Our ability for language is an ability that we have perhaps grown too accustom to wielding. I really like the idea of reconnecting with other cultures and languages. This is a beautiful way to understand how utterly diverse our ability to communicate with each other is… and through communication, our ability to co-create. Human cultures and civilizations have unfolded in so many incredible and diverse ways across space and through time. So, getting stuck in our head with words that have become too small for our current reality is a trap, and it is good to learn how to get out of our self-created thought traps. Gaining perspective of different languages, different cultures, and even different ways of communication (e.g., dance, visual art, dreamtime, empathy), helps us re-appreciate our ability to communicate with each other in so many different ways. This I believe helps us to perceive nuances better for every word is really a universe. Here is one of my favorite shorts by  Dr. Maya Angelou – Power Of Words

Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • The next jewel is learning to let go of the story. Here the question was asked: What are the actions I might take now that allow me to fully offer my gifts in service to what is needed in response to the possibility that everything is going to work our just fine or it is not going to work out? I think this is wonderful because it helps one to understand they can take an active role in telling the story unfolding right now about Earth and her fate (or a passive role). I think most of us began to believe (for me it was around the 6thgrade) that our voice does not matter, that our thinking will never be good enough, and that our internal knowledge is wrong and has no place in the world of educated men (I do use men here purposively). 

To survive in our modern civilization, we learn how to bend ourselves and squeeze into the tiny boxes of perception and apperception that are allowed by the systems dictated to us by our modern, civilized world. Most of these systems come out of Western Civilization for this civilization has had a huge propensity to colonize the world with its particular brand of thinking and mindset. For humans living in modern Western systems, there are patterns for how to make money, where to live, how much free time to spend with friends, family, or anything else that is important, even how to think and use our minds. Since so many human beings are born into this system, we do not even realize how much control of our shared narrative we have given up by making ourselves fit into this story being told mostly by powerful ones inside of Western Civilization. 

Most of us do not realize how shallow the conscious waters have become inside of this great narrative. But, we have been told we must swim only in these designated waters—conscious waters that are too shallow to sustain us much longer. I think other cultures and civilizations have not taught this out of their people. This is why we need our indigenous brothers and sisters, but we do not need to misuse their precious knowledge (as another Jewel cautions), rather this knowledge is inside every person trapped inside Western thinking, we need to marshal our courage and venture back into the deep end of our conscious capacities. This is where our indigenous brothers and sisters can be guides, but we must do the work.  And, help each other to take a more active role in telling our personal story that becomes part of the collective story…this is so important. Active storytelling is a precious jewel—indeed, it is a super ability.

Another really critical element in this list of jewels is letting go of the ending of the story. When we let go of what we hope or want the ending to be, we put ourselves squarely in the present moment. This is where our power is. It is not in the past (we’ve already been there). It is not in the future (we are not there yetand thusour choicesare only future possibilities). It is NOW—this is where we choose our thread of shared reality. This is where our voice can help guide the flow of the collective story being told about Earth and its inhabitants. By letting go of our attachmentto what the ending needs to be or should be, suddenly all possibilities open up again. 

In this moment of infinite possibilities, we can get about doing what we are so good at doing. In fact, we have evolved as human beings to not only perceive the beautiful world around us, but to appercept it. I am using apperception in the psychological meaning of this word, as defined earlier: “the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole.” With this ability, we become transformers. It is what we do better than any other species on the planet, and that is to take our individualized toolbox (the mind) equipped with individualized knowledge, experience, and hopefully wisdom and create something new. Even when we don’t employ our wisdom, when we choose from the infinite number of possibilities swirling around us every momentof every dayand act on one, we collapse the infinite stream of possibilities into one possibility. This becomes our thread of reality. 

Indra’s Jewels — Art by Bébé

So you see, we are more powerful than we think… and yet, just like the Buddhist concept of Pratītyasamutpāda, we are completely dependent on each other making the best choices possible to survive within our shared reality—the web we weave together. What a dilemma!  

The world cannot be saved by one human being, not even by the most powerful and rich 1 percent of human beings. I don’t know how many it is going to take to save Earthfrom the looming climate crisiswe have woven into the story, but it is probably going to take asmany of us as possible who are awakening to our new role as narrators in this collective story. So, releasing the ending you want is essential because to be a powerful narrator, it is essential to see the present moment for what it is and tell this story as accurately as you can… how you avoided the rocks or boulders in the stream, how you saw and out smarted the poisonous snake laying wait in the rocks, how you navigate the stream of possibilities.  

These are power stories. They have always been power stories from timeimmemorial.  Now we must learn how to tell these powerful stories about ourselves again against the backdrop of our modern age with all its distractions, pain, and fear thatcreates chaos meant to keep us docile and frozen in non-action. Or at least trap us in polarized action. Such action simply gets cancelled out by its equal and opposite action by others trapped on the other side of a false divide. It is a trick of the powerful narrators of our time who currently control most of our collective narrative. Too many of ushave fallenintotheir trap, makingus desperately grasp at things beyond our reach. This especially happens whenwe lose the firm ground of our inner reality; then, we are especially at the mercy of nefarious forces trying to control the collective story through fearmongering  and other dramatic techniques. 

We must grow stronger consciously. This is how we strengthen Indra’s Net because each one of us is a jewel in this beautiful net. We can help each other by giving freely our time and attention to lift each other when we falter or fall.  We don’t have to leave anyone behind. When we stand on the plain of our present moment and really see what is in front of us, we are powerful beings. This is a link to some of my early writing and visual storytelling about these ideas. This began to emerge inside of me more than two years ago: Consciousness Waves.

Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • Another jewel is pain. Here another critical question is asked: How do we create a space for pain? So much of Western Civilization is focused on avoiding pain at all costs. I don’t know about you, but I grew up feeling it was not OK to admit to feeling pain. Physical pain was fine to admit. Everyone can clearly see if you have a scraped knee or broken arm. But, emotional or spiritual pain…this was scary. Often it is assumed you did not follow the prescribed rules you were taught, and thus you are the cause of your own pain and deserve to suffer. No one deserves to suffer. Hardly any of us has such control over all the things that impact us, it is ridiculous to blame a person in pain for their pain. But, so often this is what we do. I have been going through a year of pretty intense pain, I can tell you one thing: Pain focuses ones attention and time like no other stimuli. Pain tells us something is wrong, and it prods us to seek solutions. When we are in pain, trivial matters, mindless distractions, the things that use to fill our time fade away and the mind focuses on finding solutions. [I captured this idea in a fantastical little story about my trials in The Divine Dodo – Hanga Dyra Mingja.]
The Divine Dodo — Hanga Dýra MingjaArt by Bébé

So, yes, make space for pain. Do not be afraid of the power pain offers. Perhaps this is what victim blamers are really afraid of… the person experiencing pain finding their power making them no longer so easy to control. Finding solutions to things causing pain is absolutely critical. 

In this collection of jewels, there is also discussion about the power of music. I write about the power of music in another story I am writing, so I will not wax on about it here. I will simply say our ancestors understood the power of music and how it can inspire action in the minds of individuals and groups. We have forgotten the power that music and dance give us. We have let them become co-opted into the realm of entertainment and money-making. It is so much more than this. It is part of our internal guidance system. Find your song. Find your dance. This is how the universe moves and expresses itself through us. Our magical powers to transform reality rises from inside of us and through us… and it is through our collective action that what rises from inside our minds is made visible through our collective action in the world—this is our shared reality. 

Indra’s Jewel — Art by Bébé
  • Another jewel closely connected to pain is grief. Indeed, grief as this group discusses, breaks open the heart. The group also shares a beautiful poem expressing grief exquisitely. Grief connects us to our empathy. Our empathic powers are needed now more than any other time in human history. To me empathy is not just understanding that someone else is in pain or is grieving, but it is the capacity to stand beside the person who is suffering, to bear witness to their pain knowing we cannot take their pain from them, but perhaps we can help them hold it for a time… maybe help the person endure it, however long it takes. 

I think really powerful empaths can absorb into their own bodies other people’s pain, anger, grief, and the unbearable emotions. I think our ancestors and indigenous people understand how this works and know how to help transmute these powerful emotional states. But, this takes time and skill to understand and most of us in Western Civilization have lost this ability. However, Medicine men and women around the world still possess it, and known how not helping people navigate these difficult parts of the journey can impact the health not only of the individual suffering but of the entire group. In most modern cultures, we have lost the rituals of transformation that can transmute and balance these negative and destructive energies with their equal and opposite energies. It is here where we have our power as individuals and as groups in helping each other find and maintain balance so that wisdom can rise and shine brightly. 

This is all I have time to reflect on right now. I wish I could do more, and I am sure my thinking and efforts to communicate are inadequate for the rich reservoir of ideas, thinking, collaborative efforts transpiring through this collective work (collective action of transformation) unfolding right here and right now.  I can only encourage each person who has participated in the dialogues or who is just discovering these resources to use your own unique toolbox of thought, perception, experience, ideas to continue strengthening this net we are repairing together. We do this by providing our time and attention in whatever capacity we feel called to do and with whatever time we have available to do so. Time and attention are the most valuable resources in the universe. It really is all we need to be powerful narrators of our personal stories, which of course become a part of the collective story of Earth.

The Thing That Feeds on Fear and Sadness — Art by Bébé

Postscript

After writing this, I came upon readings and conversations about the importance of emptiness. I quite frankly did not understand how absolutely essential emptiness is when I wrote the above. I intend to write more about it when I have time, but for now I must devote most of my attention to finishing editing the story I began 7 years ago (almost to this day for I remember first finding the thread to the story I have been writing ever since late one September afternoon–this story is Sapience). And so I leave you only with a quote from Carl Jung whom I was reading and finally understood the power and importance of emptiness. He said:

“The archetype corresponding to the situation is activated, and as a result this explosive and dangerous forces hidden in the archetype come into action, frequently with unpredictable consequences. There is no lunacy people under the domination of an archetype will not fall a prey too. “

“If 30 years ago anyone had dared to predict that our psychological development was tending towards a revival of the medieval persecutions of the Jews, that Europe would again tremble before the Roman fasces and the tramp of legions, that people would once more give the Roman salute, as two thousand years ago, and that instead of the Christian Cross an archaic swastika would lure onward millions of warriors ready for death–why, that man would have been hooted at as a mystical fool. And today? Surprising as it may seem, all this absurdity is a horrible reality. Private life, private aetiologies, and private neuroses have become almost a fiction in the world of today. The man of the past who lived in a world of archaic ‘representations collectives’ had risen again into very visible and painfully real life, and this not only in a few unbalanced individuals but in many millions of people”

“There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the form of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action. When a situation occurs which corresponds to a given archetype, that archetype becomes activated and a compulsiveness appears, which, like an instinctual drive, gains its way against all reason and will, or else produces a conflict of pathological dimensions, that is to say, a neurosis.”

— The Portable Jung, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, p. 66-67

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INTERCONNECTEDNESS

I laid in bed meditating on the last few paintings I created (with assistance from my subconscious helpers) on the AMAZON and the FIRES.  I asked for guidance what these paintings were about and what they were trying to communicate to myself and all of us.  I heard the word very loudly in my minds eye, INTERCONNECTEDNESS.  I thought of what the ravages of the fires meant in the Amazon with millions of acres burning, Siberia and all over the world currently. I knew since we exist on a living planet this effected us all because it is all energy and ripples to where ever we live on the planet.  I felt so deeply that my heart was hurting, what is this doing to us psychologically? The death of so many species of life discovered and undiscovered, animals, bird life, Indigenous Peoples and the changing of their narratives, stories retold, insects, the dependency of interspecies.  We are connected intrinsically.  Do you feel the burning of the Mother in some way? How? Does it effect you? Do you feel hotter than usual? Is your anger or grief manifested in some level unexpressed? Do you notice the disconnectedness we feel around us to avoid talking about what really matters now, how we continue to live on a planet that is burning, flooding, getting hotter and hotter year after year? Do you feel the avoidance? Do you see it with more acting out and violence? And, meantime shallow discussions continue, and we don’t address the core of what really is happening as denial feels so safe or at least it offers an illusion of safety that these events are not taking place? I cannot and refuse to live in that place of complacency and denial. 

First, I am an artist with every fiber of my being. I know the writers, artists, musicians, creators of gardens, novels, poetry, films, dance, storytelling can be a catalyst of change.  I would like to think as we get our work in the public domains that we can change the narratives.  We can write the truths, is it uncomfortable? Yes. Painful and even traumatic? Yes.  But we no longer have the luxuries of denial.  We depend on one another.

We are INTERCONNECTED.  What happens to humanity through devastating events trickles into our fields of energy.  We needed these plants, animals, people, villages, communities, stories to be a part of the Universal Narrative as they burn what does that mean to you and the place you live on the planet? Do not think the area you live in is not a possibility of future events?  This home is a living organism and it will keep having it’s evolution.  We absolutely cannot escape that.  I think at this time on the planet we are dealing with what is true and what is not. Climate change at the most intense and dire levels are being recorded now.  This is true.  There is a chasm between honoring and offering sacred reciprocity to the planet and honoring ourselves and others in a good way.  Do no harm. You ask how we can do that?

One small ripple of extending kindness is a start. A kind word.  Reaching out to someone in need with no concern of how it will benefit you but how it will help your neighbor.   Recycling, being conscious of your water intake, composting, zero waste, eating no meat, gardening your own organic foods with no pesticides we know of all these possibilities. Living in respect of one another and the planet is a act or prayer of gratitude.  Having deep conversations with others about these issues helps.  Reading literature and books that guide in changing the narrative helps.  Creating a painting of contemplation helps.  I know we are all so busy but what if we chose one thing to volunteer our time to weekly?  One hour or two? Giving back to a cause or agency you strongly believe in? I love teaching art classes to high risk students or working on creating safe environments for others to gather and share conversations with. Painting is always my medicine. Listening to your dreams and intuition, it rarely steers you wrong.  

AIRIA OF THE AMAZON, RAIN MEDICINE, ELLORA OF ECUADOR, and THE CHILDREN ON THE BORDER all came to me without premeditation. So many of my paintings do, I say this humbly as I do not know the magic that will enfold till I start the process.  Our paper, our canvases, music sheets are bursting to translate messages. This will be the new planetary language.  It is a new language we are learning through interconnectedness, one of co-existence.  We have no other choice if we really want to make it.  Our lives count on it.  Our breath and all that lives and breathes on this planet counts on this.  It’s beyond the stage of urgency which leads me to the next topic of being ECO GUARDIANS. I am still in the process of writing this entry.

Thank you for consideration of these words. 

I must write them.  I am asking you to please contribute your storytelling and narrative to this piece.  I want to hear from you.  I am counting on you.  Till we meet again…

In Loving Respect and Kindness, Donna Alena

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Celestial Tendencies — A Daughter’s Journey After A Father’s Death

One year ago, close to this time, my father died.

I was with him when he died. I was reading him the story I have been working on for the past 7 years. The previous night, I made a very difficult decision. He had been making phenomenal recovery from what should have been a fatal event 10 days earlier. But on the 9th day, he was sitting up in his hospital bed. He had a bible under one hand, and a pen and paper in the other. He immediately greeted me warmly when I walked in with a huge smile on his face, and I greeted him equally warmly. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he had a lot of thank you letters to write but didn’t know where to begin. The nurse came in after a little while and fed him his medicine crushed up in pudding so he could swallow it. That was the problem. The day before, he had been more in a state of delirium than lucid consciousness. That day he worked his feed tube out of his stomach 4 times due to coughing or by using the back of his tongue. His entire critical care team was flummoxed by how quickly he was working it out, requiring it to be reinserted (not a pleasant experience… in fact, quite traumatic). The night nurse that night decided to leave it out. Dad rested peacefully. And, then I found him so happy to see me and wanting to write thank you cards. Everyone was so excited. Nurses who had cared for him earlier popped in to make sure I saw him. There was so much hope he would pull through this devastating event–where his heart had been stopped for more than 15 minutes as first responders worked so hard giving him CPR to get a shockable pulse.

So, here was the problem. To get him back to full health, he needed the feed tubing reinserted to get all the medicines he needed, and the doctors were not certain yet if his swallowing reflect had been damaged. How could we know after reinserting the feeding tube this final time that it would send him into a delirium he would never return from. That’s what happened. If I could do this over, I would have followed my gut and not allowed it. He would have died… I know this… but he would have died possibly more peacefully.

After almost 48 hours of non-stop movement of mind and body, my father was lost in space and time and utterly exhausted. The medicines were not calming him any more. Just before I was about to leave at midnight on the 10th night of him being in the ICU, his night nurse said, “If he was on Comfort Care, I could give him more medicine to help him calm down and rest.” The doctors had talked to us earlier that day about our options. I knew Comfort Care meant he was dying. And, so before I left, I gave instructions to move him to Comfort Care.

The next morning, he was sleeping. He nurse told me he had cleaned him and was doing everything to make him comfortable. He looked peaceful. He never woke, but I talked to him. I had a vision that morning about what I needed to do for him. So, after the nurse left, I told dad what I was going to do. Earlier that summer I promised to send him the latest part of my story. I hadn’t sent it yet. It is set in the time of the Vikings. My father was pure Norwegian. The girl in my story was on a glacier between Odda and Rosendal, Norway. My father’s family is from Odda. This girl in the story had just been in a terrible accident that left her companion unconscious and with broken ribs. My father’s ribs were broken from the CPR.

I told dad I was going to read him the story. It was going to be a sleigh made of sound to help him get across to the other side. In my story, my girl had just made a sleigh out of a bear hide to pull her injured companion across the glacier. So, my voice and this story they were going to serve as a sort of sleigh to help him cross. I told dad that his mother, his brother, brother-in-law, and all the people he knew and loved who had already passed were waiting for him. I told him he could leave any time during the story or wait until the end. Then, I started reading. The hospital Chaplin came after a while, and I told him all about dad. He said a prayer incorporating all the things I had told him. And, he recited Psalm 23.

I continued reading the story.

I read to him until 2:40 p.m. I held his hand as I read. I had just finished reading the part of the story where the priest meets a woman who mysteriously washes up on the shores of Dublin, Ireland. He helps her recover, find work, and get a home. They fall in love. They have to keep it hidden. They have a baby, but she dies during childbirth and the priest cannot admit he is the father, so he gives his daughter to the nuns who live in a nearby nunnery to be raised. I had read to him about this girl’s early childhood and a very scary nun she encounters. I was about to read him the part about Resurrection Sunday when I heard his breathing change–dramatically. I saw his pulse rate dropping–dramatically. I knew what was happening and rushed to him, my heart pounding. I told him mom and my brothers were 15 minutes away, he needed to wait. His breathing quicken and pulse went up, but only briefly. Then, it plummeted again. I knew the nurses could give him a drug through his IV to bring his pulse back up, but I also knew I had moved him to Comfort Care last night. Instead of running to get the nurse, I threw myself over him and hugged him fiercely. His nurse and doctor came in. They held my hand and hugged me. No one said anything. After some time I looked up and asked the doctor if he had gone. With the kindest face and deepest empathy, he nodded. Neither he nor the nurse left. They stayed with me and never once did I feel like they had anything more important to do–though I knew they were responsible for many people in very serious conditions. My mother and brothers arrived 10 minutes later. They had indeed been 15 minutes away, though when I told dad I had no way of knowing this. My brother thinks at the time of dad’s passing they were at the last rest stop, and mom was picking daisies. I had just been reading to dad about daises.

So, one year later, this is my telling of the journey I have been on since his death. It is told through music and art. The starting image I drew on the plane on July 27, 2018 as I flew out to be with my father one day after this heart attack. As I drew, I listened to Asura’s Life2 album. I listened to one song in particular over and over as the image took shape. This song was Celestial Tendencies. Each song from Asura’s album held special meaning and energy for me during this time. The music was a way to hold onto some divine and sublime at a time of great crisis and ultimate tragedy. The visual journey is an expansion of my original drawing in my notebook. Please forgive my indulgence as I spent a lot of time drawing the different layers. Ultimately, I decided to use each of the songs that helped me to be strong for dad and my family during this terrible time. I realize it is a video that probably only I will ever watch in its entirety.

The visual story of this journey can not be viewed. I have tried, but I believe algorithms used by most of the major social media platforms flagged this image possibly as a man on a cross and this has been tied to White Supremacy. I understand this concern. It is validate given our time. I would just say that this is how the vision of my father appeared to me as I flew out to be with him, and that during my 10 days with him, he indeed held his arms out this way many times for he was suffering. I think outstretched arms like this are also a symbol for the suffering of the world, and my father felt this deeply, our collective human suffering. It powered him and transformed him as a force of compassion in the world. As this image progresses, it transforms from an image of human suffering into one of transcendence. I am sorry I cannot share this work at this time, but that is our current reality and I accept the collective wisdom of our time.

You may be able to view the video if you can get to my Art Page on Facebook; here it is pinned to the top of the page.


As COVID-19 has steadily made its way around the world and really hit the United States of America particularly hard, I have thought a lot about those 10 days in the hospital sitting by my father’s side, hoping for the best but knowing he was skating between two realities–one was life, the other death. No one wanted to talk about the death reality, but it was there. It was always there. I could see it in the doctors eyes. I could feel it in the nurses voices. I drew it as I flew out to be with my beloved father.

He fought for life, absolutely he did. But, he was up against incredible odds, unbelievable odds that cannot be conveyed to a living person in good health because until you are at this threshold, you do not know. But, healthcare professionals learn to recognize the signs of approaching death, especially when people are fighting to just breathe, which is what dad was doing at the end because his lungs were filling up with the fluid. The doctors were watching for it because they knew Pulmonary edema or pneumonia is often a result after CPR because to do it right to save a person’s life, the first responders has to push hard often breaking ribs and pushing debris into the lungs, which causes the pneumonia.

This episode that I just heard on This American Life captures so vividly what I saw dad suffer through. I tuned in just as the nurses were describing what has to be done to save a person’s like can feel like torture. And my dad absolutely felt this way that day when he woke up, and he was writing thank yous, and we had a precious, fleeting moment of normalcy, until the feed tube had to be reinserted. This haunts me so much because he was wide awake and to him it felt like torture and he was counting on me to stop it…and I failed because I wanted to save him.

And now so many beautiful people are suffering through the very same thing. To find out more about this episode, click here.

This American Life —  The Reprieve

I would like to end with two stories about my father that were given at his memorial service. One is by one of my brothers and the other by me. My father was one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate human beings anyone could ever hope to encounter. His deep and unconditional love for everyone was felt by all who got to know him, even when they messed up, he held them in patience and love. What a lesson for the times we live in now.


This is my brother’s eulogy:

Monrad Kicks the Hell’s Angels Out of Yellowstone

As we go through life, our impressions and feelings toward our parents change. I’m going to share with you some impressions from my childhood, Around the age of eight or nine when we lived in South Dakota. At this age boys  want a tough dad with street creds and unfortunately, I was convinced my father was a wimp. The previous sunday he had preached Yet  another sermon on love. By my count the 4th sermon on love that summer .

But it didn’t matter because we were about to commence  on a  treasured family tradition ; the summer vacation.  We’d take a popup camper  and head out West for one or two weeks .  On this trip, I believe we went to either Grand Teton or YellowStone, let’s just say it was Yellowstone.

We had the camping routine down pat. We’d set up camp, spend a few days hiking or fishing then move on to the next location. In these popular parks you needed to get to the next campsite early, well before 5 pm, or the campsites could fill up.  On this particular day we had had a long drive and almost all the sites were taken but we finally found one and a nice secluded spot at that. After we had set up camp and were settling in,  some loud motorcycles pulled up to a clearing just across the road from our camper. They wore leather jackets and skull caps. We kids immediately knew who they were because they had been covered in last week’s TV news.  This was none other than the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang.  About this time Monrad notices what is going on and Yell’s across to the gang “that is not a campsite, you can’t camp there.” The reply came back to “Mind your own business” or something similar. Monrad responded even louder and more angry “That is not a campsite you can’t camp there “.  We kids were terrified, we were sure our dad was going to get beat up …  or worse. But to our surprise after a few more exchanges, maybe a few insulting gestures exchanged as well, the bikers revved up their engines and moved on.

That was the day I was proud of my father, he just kicked the Hell’s Angels out of Yellowstone.


This is my eulogy:

Monrad Mandsager

Born: April 16, 1935; Died: August 4, 2018; Age: 83

My father… Monrad Mandsager…  He is why you are here today… Monty!  And, do you know what he would have said?

HUMBLE

He would have said, “Goodness sakes… you’ve come all this way… for me! You shouldn’t have… thank you… thank you so much… thank you for coming!”

SHOWING UP & PAYING ATTENTION = LOVE

His whole life dad never felt worthy. In his mind, he was a poor, simple farm boy from Iowa who could never quite do all the things exactly the way his dad wanted them done, and he grew up without his mother’s kind and loving warmth and support. These early beginnings always left him questioning his worth. But my dad would always show up and give any task (big or small) his best! For him, what was most important was making time, paying attention, and creating a space to understand the needs of others because dad knew this is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other… for it is the most basic way we show our love to each other. Dad’s capacity to create and hold a sacred space for others was one of his superpowers! He would listen with empathy, kindness, and unwavering attention to someone’s life story, latest frustration, or good news. And, he would remember what you told him and ask you about it the next time he saw you.

SUPERPOWERS OF ATTENTION + LISTENING + UNDERSTANDING

Dad’s ability to pay attention and listen combined with his humbleness allowed him to be there for people at their greatest time of need. I remember one tragedy where dad demonstrated his tremendous capacity to empathize and be there for a grieving family after their 16-year-old son was killed in a hunting accident. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember my parents explaining to me how this family had lost several children before this tragedy and this was their last son. I remember going with mom and dad many times to visit the family after dad broke the terrible news to them. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness. But, I also remember knowing being there with my parents was important. I was no older than first grade, but I remember this experience vividly, and I’ll come back to this later for as I was reading through dad’s writings to figure out what I would say today, I found his reflections on this same tragedy for it had profoundly impacted him too. Grief it turns out is not bounded to one day or one week or one year… it is a deeply personal journey and dad understood this. He understood a time of grief is not a time to give people “pat answers” about why death or a tragedy occurred… neither is it a time to tell the person how and when to recover from it. He knew he didn’t know, but what he did know was he needed to be there for however long it took and at whatever capacity the family or individual needed, even if it meant just sitting in silence with them. I’m going to share with you several of dad’s amazing traits (I call them his superpowers), and now that he’s gone, I realize they were precious gifts given freely and in love to me and I suspect he gave them to many of you!

WANDER

One of his wonderful superpowers was his adventuresome, wandering spirit. Little more than 6 weeks after being ordained at Luther Seminary and marrying mom, they took off to Brazil where dad was to serve as a missionary in Sao Paulo and the surrounding area. Mom and dad had to learn Portuguese and spent almost a year studying and learning it before dad began his mission work. He was one of the first missionaries to give all of his sermons in Portuguese, and of course, this is where I and my brother Craig were born. We learned Portuguese too and spoke it to everyone outside of our immediate family. I am told when we returned to the states, and I met my grandparents for the first time, I sat on their knees chattering happily away in Portuguese as they smiled and enjoyed meeting their granddaughter and grandson for the first time. I was pretty young in Brazil, but I have snap shot memories of life with my parents such as galloping on my father’s shoulders through the jungle with monkeys shrieking at us from high in the trees (that was magnificent)! Watching a steel drum band at a gathering and marveling at the beautiful music coming from the steel cans the musicians had turned into their drums dad had explained all this to me for he loved the steel drums! I also remember traveling with dad in our jeep over muddy, rutted, red roads and being surrounded by hundreds of sheep on their way home, leaving dad and I to revel in the wonder of the moment.

From Brazil, we flew back to the Midwest, this is where my brother Phillip was born. From there, dad helped his brother-in-law Bob start a new church in Southern CA – so, we moved to Sunnymead where my brother Peter was born – and, then our family was complete! I won’t go into all the places we moved or family vacations we took, but dad loved to travel, and he wanted us to experience and see the vast, beautiful, wondrous places of this land, and we saw many thanks to him!

THE DREAMER & LEARNER

My father was also a dreamer and lifelong learner! He loved geology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and even astrophysics; he transferred his love of learning to me and my brothers! Dad would tell you that his love of learning and interests in science was sometimes disturbing to his faith, and he often navigated between the waters of faith and doubt. But, this made dad stronger, not weaker for he was able to transform his doubt into a deeper, vaster faith in God.

In his own words, he says, “Since I am often between faith and doubt, my stockpile of “pat answers” has diminished considerable. Life is discovery, growth, affirmation of faith in God in the midst of doubt. Life is affirmation of the creation of oneself, of others, of the goodness and love of God. Christ is our best light of this, pointing us to a loving Father God through the goodness and light His life has given for us in loving service through suffering even onto death.”

And, so here again you glimpse dad’s superpowers of kindness, compassion, and deep empathy for people and all living beings, and this guided him through his journey between the waters of faith and doubt; and it greatly informed his ministry for he saw himself as a humble servant who would stop to help anyone in need—and this is a gift he gave freely and frequently!

TRANSFORMATION OF FAITH

As I was reading dad’s writings, I found one piece he titled an Account of My Life to Age 43 where he describes honestly and elegantly his life journey, especially about the transformation of his faith. Here he accounts the same story I remembered about the 16-year-old boy. (I’ve changed the names for it seems even after all these years, the family is entitled to their privacy) Dad writes: “…the summer of ’72, we moved to Redway to serve Grace Lutheran Church. At that time, the KindFamily was a family of four: Joe, the father, a Roman Catholic and lumberjack; Corothy, the mother, a member of Grace; David (16) had been confirmed that Spring; and Lucy (13). Previous to our acquaintance, they had been a family of 7—two boys had been born with progressive muscular dystrophy and died in their young teens and a baby girl died of lung cancer at age 3. … About two months after our arrival Corothy talked about going to stay with her husband for a week in the woods – something she had never done before. She was apprehensive about leaving the kids. They ended up taking Lucy, while David was to stay with the next-door neighbors who were trusted friends. They left Sunday. Late Tuesday afternoon, council member, Karl came running up our steps, out of breath, a strained expression on this face. “Pastor, Pastor, something awful has happened, they found David dead beside his motorcycle and rifle along a trail. He’s been shot! This is awful. I can’t believe it… David’sthe only boy they had left! They were so proud of him. He was such a good kid. What are we going to do?” 

Dad writes he was equally shocked as he attempted to reassure Karl that with God’s help they’d find a way to help the Kinds. Karl asked if dad would be there when the family arrived home to tell them what happened. Dad said yes, and he’d like Karl to be there too since he was a supporting friend of the family.” This event solidified for dad at a moment of great tragedy and grief, it is not a time to theologize or to tell a person not to protest to God as they grapple with the question why… why… why…  Dad describes how he simply sat in the ditch with the father as he wept, and when he asked questions dad answered them simply with the information he knew. Then, they wept together, talked a little more, and wept again. Dad was there for days and weeks later walking with the family one small step at a time. He came to understand, as he tried to answer the agonizing question why, that we live in a world where accidents and disease happen, death is a mystery, and we don’t know all the answers. He came to believe it is not God who appoints the hour and manner of death, but more evil and death have come into our world through the backdoor (as it were). However, God is on the side of goodness and life; nevertheless, since evil, accidents, disease, and death have come among us, God Himself in Jesus, went through suffering, sorrow, and death… because he loves us and wants to show us he understands, cares, and shares our burdens and carries them with us during our greatest times of grief, pain, sorrow, and need. And, so the gift of faith was given to me—a gift dad demonstrated vividly throughout his life!

The Gift of Courage

The last gift I’ll mention today is courage. It was a heart attack that took him down the evening of July 25, and it was the heroic efforts of first responders and hospital staff in Albert Lea and the Mayo Clinic that brought him back along with our good neighbors who brought Mom to both hospitals that night to be with Dad. One nurse who had also been an EMT told me about 4% of patients flown in after such an event survive, so dad was a miracle—even if it was just one week. Each day on the ICU was a battle, but dad made amazing progress regaining consciousness and recognition surpassing the tempered hopes that the excellent doctors and nurses held for him and worked tirelessly to achieve. The best the team could work out is dad probably went without oxygen to his brain for 15 to 20 minutes—most agree after 9; severe brain damage can begin. Despite tremendous gains coming back consciously, his body continued to reel from catastrophic system failures. The doctors figured out one problem was a blockage in an artery in the heart, which they fixed this with a stint, but the other required a pace maker. This was a challenge because dad had several broken ribs since CPR is really only effective when ribs are broken. But, pneumonia set in creating a vicious cycle of needing to cough, which caused pain that sent him into cycles of delirium. It was a delicate balance the medical team at St. Mary’s walked, moment by moment to figure out what dad needed.

Two days before his death—I call it his Lazarus day. I arrived in the morning. He was sitting upright in bed with wonderful color to his face and a sparkle in his eyes. He was holding a pen, paper, and bible and exclaimed happily as I walked in: “Debbie!” I returned: “Dad!” I sat down beside him and asked him what he was doing. He told me he had a lot of thank yous to write but was having a hard time getting started.

The day before had been pretty rough for he had worked his feed tube out 3 times, earning him the title of the Hundi of Feeding Tubes. He still did not have it reinserted, and so his nurse fed him pudding with his pills crushed in it. It was slow, and dad was having a hard time swallowing. But, this day, everyone was so hopeful he could recover at least to this point; however, to do so, he would need the feed tube reinserted. This sent him into a delirium he would not come out of, and this is where the courage comes in… I had to have the courage to see the totality of his reality – I needed to reconcile the hope of his recovery with the despair of cascading system failures in his body. After 36 hours of continuous delirium, I made the tough decision to move him to comfort care, allowing the nurses and doctors to give him stronger medications to keep him comfortable and out of pain. The Mayo team was magnificent in providing me and our family with all the options ranging from further invasive interventions to comfort care, and it was his night nurse, Luis, who said something about being able to give dad stronger medicines that night, which finally made me understand the reality of dad’s situation. We had never made it out of the Sea of Delirium, and dad was suffering and needed me to make a courageous choice. So, I did.

When I returned the next morning, he was sleeping—the delirium was over. His day nurse told me he had cleaned him, and they were making him comfortable. He looked at peace. I could hear the gurgle of the pneumonia in his lungs, but he was not struggling for air. I sat down next to him and began to read part of the book I have written for I had promised to send him the manuscript but had not yet sent it. The Chaplin came in after a couple of hours. I told him all about dad and the past week. He recited the 23rdPsalm, and then he said a prayer incorporating everything I had told him. I resumed reading. His nurse came back to turn him. I continued reading holding his hand, comforted by his warmth. Less than 45 minutes later, his breathing suddenly changed. I looked at his monitor and saw his heart rate dropping just as it had been doing over the past week (this is why he needed a pace maker). I felt panic and pleaded with dad to wait for mom to arrive (for I felt she was 15 minutes away). Dad breathed, and his heart rate went up, but for less than a minute; then it plunged again. I wanted to run and get the nurse to give him a drug to increase his heart rate, but I didn’t… I knew he was going and I needed to let him go… this took tremendous courage… how could I let my father go? I couldn’t, so I threw myself on him, hugged him and cried. His nurse came in and put his arm around my shoulders as I held onto dad, and his doctor came in and held my hand. After a while, I looked up and asked, “Is he gone?” His doctor simply and compassionately confirmed dad had gone. My brothers and mom arrived 10 minutes later. His nurse and doctor stayed with us for a long time. I did not feel for one minute they had anything more important to do than to be a witness to dad’s passing and our grief—a tremendous gift.

The Gift of Love

So, thank you all for being here to remember dad and to celebrate his life and the many gifts he gave to so many of us.

I know dad never felt he deserved this sort of attention, but dad, if you are listening, you deserve it, every last bit of it for your gifts have healed so many people in our broken world, which desperately needs the compassion you shared and your capacity to listen and be with others during their greatest hour of need and to do so in kindness and with empathy, all of which came so natural to you.

We love you dad!

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We Are All One Human Tribe

Enigma has a song called The Same Parents, and of the many videos of this song, my favorite one mixes a highly technologically state of being human with ancient states of being alive. This is something that fits well with me since I love skating back and forth across huge expanses of space and time searching for the visible and invisible forces shaping us all (e.g.,  What Do I Do With the Mad Inside Me? and Wake up, Wake up and Is Collective Transformation Possible and We Are All Connected).

ENIGMA – The Same Parents ( Seven Lives Many Faces )

Today, many people realize we are in a moment demanding deep wisdom combined with meaningful action and sacrifice so our children and grandchildren might inherit a world capable of sustaining life. At times, it feels like facing a massive tidal wave of indifference, denial, and unawareness of the growing signs that if we do not stop what we are doing to the climate (and very soon…perhaps less than 12 years!), then we won’t even be able to mitigate the worst effects of the ever increasing and more destructive climate catastrophes. Even worst, there are people in this world who do not want to change the status quo because they are profiting from the systems pushing us all over the climate cliff. These are powerful forces. They are unconscious in nature and surround us night and day as revealed by the confusion and division keeping us from working together to make positive and sustainable change. Soon Earth’s delicate ecological balances will be pushed too far.

As a ray of hope, I am dedicating this post to highlighting some of the people and groups around the world who are pushing back against these destructive forces… people who embody the changes Earth needs Now.

Kalinga Day — Photo: Cynthia Addawan
Kalinga Day — Photo: Cynthia Addawan

One courageous person is Cynthia Addawan who lives in a mountainous region of the Philippines where her people continue to live in tribes and protect their land from intruders. She told me how most of the young men in her tribe are still trained to go to war using spears and bolos and how the Spanish colonized her country for almost 333 years but were not able to conquer the mountain tribes (her people). Then, the Americans and Japanese came, but her tribe managed to retain their originality and culture (not easy in the face of the steady swept of Western Civilization bent on creating one gigantic monolith civilization). Over time, she described how her people adopted more peaceful ways of settling disagreements. Since the 1980s, there have been few tribal issues leading to war, and recently they celebrated indigenous month, which includes commemorations of ancient war dances. This festival is not meant to encourage young people to go to war, but rather to realize the richness of their tribal traditions and how the mountainous tribes have come to understand and practice more peaceful ways of dealing with differences and conflict today. Thus, the commemorative war dances celebrate their shared heritage and help the youth understand and value the journey the mountainous tribes have taken to avoid conflict and sustain peace. She read my blog about Mr. Rogers and is now reading some of his wonderful work to her classes for she is a teacher and understands how important it is to teach the children and youth about handling strong emotions. She is also working to establish a Climate School in the Philippines and collaborating with people around the world to do this. She says beautifully, “I am so concern about all the children—the little angels of this earth. We owe them a planet and a future. We have the power and responsibility to give them a better place to live, and one way to do this is to conserve the environment. This is one legacy we can leave them. Another is to help them control their mad emotions and to channel these energies into something that is beneficial both to them and to other human beings.”

Kalinga Day — Photo: Cynthia Addawan
Kalinga Day — Photo: Cynthia Addawan

Kalinga Day — Photo: Cynthia Addawan
Kalinga Day — Photo: Cynthia Addawan

Another person working to help save our civilization is Hans Jørgen Rasmussen. He sees helping children and youth in their activism worldwide as one way to help. With more than 30 years of practice as a psychologist behind him, he understands the dynamic forces confronting young people today. One of his approaches is listening to and being open to standing by a person who is facing a challenge or a personal crisis by availing himself to be supportive as a dialogue partner—you might call it a coach—whereby he gently helps people experiencing a difficult part of their journey by listening. He understands he cannot solve another person’s problems, but he can walk beside them in empathy and compassion. By doing this, he offers support as the person figures out a solution for themselves and finds a way forward, and while dealing with their challenge, they often find unknown resources in themselves resulting in an empowering process with personal growth a by-product of this process. Other ways he is helping to address the threat our civilization faces is by applying his skills in psychology, coaching, and teaching to: 1) start a Climate School in his home town & create a Climate website: Saving Our Planet; 2) build a collection of climate change related videos: The Climate Cinema; 3) co-found a NGO named Saving Our Planet that offers awareness raising concepts such as The Climate School free of charge to organizations, institutions, and groups; and 4) start a climate awareness project in collaboration with a large private school and a university in Turkey, where he spends the winter… and he’s just getting started. 

My friend Lucy Rist is founder and runs Girls in Sports—which is a Swedish-based charity that empowers girls through sports and outdoor adventure. Recently, Girls in Sports was selected as one of 5 international organizations that will work together through this international initiative called Girls in the Lead, helping girls become leaders. Through this initiative, Girls in Sports is collaborating with four other organizations based in South Africa, India, Germany, and U.S. to build capacity to empower girls around the world. 

My friend Alöna Litovinskaia is designing an innovative educational curriculum for children and youth that will help connect them to the enduring value of nature and working together. Part of the curriculum involves play where children and youth explore and engage together in a natural setting called Kid’s Land. In this space there are many challenges that require them to use their creativity and work together to solve problems in a playful, fast-paced world they are creating as a group. With the help of facilitators versed in art and architectural, management and psychological, as well as educational backgrounds, kids design, plan, build, and settle upon rules and laws to govern their country. She says, “It’s going to be a great and fun practical and social experience for growing minds!” To see more exciting elements of this new space and vision, visit Newa.

My friend Hannelie Sensemaker WorldPainter Venucia is on a journey to explore and embody Whole Person (Embodied Wholeness) Living, Relating, Creativity and Innovation. She is sharing her life’s work through the JOY Generation, which is an embodied wisdom and adventure portal helping to transform the world through JOY. The JOY Generation Portal is the playground where our younger generations can take part in self-discovery adventures and have access to wisdom, inspiration, and guidance as they engage with peers around the world. The portal offers access to 3 interactive web nests; namely JOY Planet, JOY Rides, and JOY Festival (JOY Generators believe good things come in 3’s!). Without a JOY Planet, we cannot thrive, and thus, this is the home of JOY Casts that talks with individuals across the globe who share wisdom, insights, and other possibilities in her series: Your World or Mine? The second aspect of the JOY Planet is the Joy Panorama Interactive Multimedia Multi-Sensory experiences that provides opportunity to explore phenomena and concepts impacting the ability of humanity to thrive. As humanity fails to find solutions to so many dilemmas, in JOYSense, Hannelie and the JOY Generation team share a variety of Collective Sensemaking downloadable, online, and physical experiences. Hannelie is a seasoned author, public speaker, facilitator, and radio host.

Fyodor Ovchinnikov is a facilitator for the Just, Sustainable, and Flourishing Future seminar, which is part of the Young Professionals for Sustainable Development Program. This program provides professional development for young professionals seeking opportunities to align their careers with the UN Agenda 2030 or to make a career transition to a different sector or industry while focusing on some or all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many participants report making useful professional contacts with mentors and panelists, building long-term peer support relationships, learning about relevant networks and opportunities, and feeling supported, inspired, and more confident integrating UN SDGs into their work as hallmarks of the program that they found genuinely helpful. If you are interested in mentoring our participants, apply here: https://www.una-sf.org/mentors. More information about the program: https://www.una-sf.org/ypsdg

These are just some of the compassionate and passionate people around the world working to make a difference to secure a sustainable future. We have a longs ways to go to ensure our children, their grandchildren, and 7 generations forward have a livable planet. This is our legacy. We begin by taking the first step together. No other time in human history have we been as deeply dependent on each other as we are Now. We need to hear every voice for today we stand as one global human tribe where every member’s choice is a vote for a sustainable and livable planet, or not. We have never depended on each other as we do Now.

Now is the time for wisdom and for working together.

Other Voices and Places Helping to Change the Tide:

In Seattle, a youth driven group has established Zero Hour. They have also taken the bold action of suing the state of Washington for not taking enough action for a sustainable future (WA State Children’s Trust Lawsuit), and they are doing so much more (visit their site)!

Also, checkout Youth4Planet International for innovative ways to help youth help the planet.

Teens Marching at the People’s Climate March of 2017

High School Seniors Who Skipped Prom at March for Science of 2017

College Students Marching at the People’s Climate March of 2017

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What Do I Do With the Mad Inside Me?

Recently I began to read child of the jungle — the true story of a girl caught between two worlds. My good friend, I will call him M., who lives in Germany knew I was going through a difficult time after the sudden death of my father. He said the book reminded him of me because he knew my father had been a missionary in the jungles of Brazil, which is where I was born and lived for my first three years. As I began to sink into this story, I definitely see resemblances between my early life and her life as this girl who gets caught between two worlds—though there are stark differences. For one, her father moved his family to a very remote place in West Papua, Indonesia on the island of New Guinea to live among the Fayu tribe who until then were an undiscovered people that were unknown to Westerners. Her account of her father’s first encounter with this isolated tribe and how he came to know he was being called to be with them is an incredible story that I will not recount here. Needless to say, her experiences were much more dramatic than my own, but I recognize the girl caught between worlds, and my friend was right to send me this book.

The part I wish to recount is The First War (Chapter 10, page 65). The Fayu were known to be fierce and warring people consisting of four distinct tribes within the whole of the Fayu people. From time to time, they would fight among themselves as well as band together to keep out others from their territory. It was due to one of the Fayu leaders who was tired of war and sought peace for his people that this remarkable family came to live among the Fayu who are a people most remarkable in their own way for many reasons. On this day, the girl, Sabine, was sitting around a fire with her brother and their childhood Fayu friends eating kwa (breadfruit) when the Fayu men of their village grabbed their bows and arrows and assembled at the beach as canoes landed and unknown warriors stepped out. Sabine said, “No one smiled and none of the customary courtesies were displayed.” Her father went out to greet the newcomers and tried to engage them in conversation with the bit of Fayu he had learned. For hours they talked. Then, the voices grew louder. Sabine recounts “the Fayu were standing and sitting in two groups — the men of our village on one side, the strangers on the other.” Another hour passed, and she recounts the hostility grew and the gravity of the situation thicken as the warriors gripped their bows. Her mother called her and her brother inside. Her father soon followed as the loud talk became aggressive shouting. Her father barred the door. Sabine and her brother watched from the window where now the men were all standing facing each other and screaming. She says, “Suddenly the atmosphere changed again. I felt something I had never felt before. I can best describe it as a dark, heavy and threatening. The sun was still shining brightly, but somehow it seemed darkness had descended.

This is important. What she witnessed as a girl and so beautifully captures in her story is an incredible power we all hold as human beings. The challenge has always been how to channel and control these tremendous flows of energy when they break over our collective edges of consciousness and social norms long ago established to create peace and sustainability. This is not the same energy of the sun that powers the Earth — though the sun has long stood as a symbol of it through the ages. Rather, it is an energy that powers the human spirit, and we are the channel makers — it is up to us to recognize this energy and direct it as we choose. Her father was trying to help the Fayu warriors direct this rising tide of energy in a less violent way, but the energy was greater than him in that moment. What the warriors did next is utterly fascinating. Sabine describes it this way: “Individual men began stomping their feet. They moved in circular motions and began repeating a single word, ooh-wa, ooh-wa, ooh-wa. This was the war cry. Soon all had joined in the chanting. They faced each other, stomping the ground, arrows notched in their bows. Then they started to run in what seemed to be a pre-determined choreography. First, the two groups would run away from each other until they were about fifty yards apart. Then, they ran at each other, stopping when only a few yards separated them. More stomping would ensure, and the the war dance would be repeated.” This went on for hours! Can you imagine this? The warriors have talked for hours, then shouted for hours more, and now they dance, for hours. Even in this extreme and dangerous state, they are channeling this powerful energy — an energy left unchecked could destroy every man, woman, and child in the village. Sabine recounts how the warriors entered a trance state: their eyes glazed over and movements became stiff and robotic [they have descended into an unconscious state]. She says their voices changed as well with some becoming very deep while others grew shrill, and this continued for hours more. She remembers getting bored and going to read a book when she heard a scream of pain that pierced the chanting… then another and another… the war had begun. Time sped up. She and her brothers were kept away from the windows, and fortunately no stray arrows pierced their hut.

This recounting is amazing and incredibly important to understand for this type of energy does not occur only among primitive tribes in far off places who are considered to be uncivilized. Indeed, I would say they are highly civilized for they have learned how to collectively channel this dangerous energy — this war dance they did evolved over centuries. When the other warriors finally left, no man was left dead. Many had arrow injuries that if left untended could kill them from infection; however, the women and children and village were not destroyed despite the terrible darkness Sabine recounts feeling descended upon them all — like a destructive storm.

We have forgotten this in the West. We have forgotten we can be overcome by terrible forces rising from deep within ourselves. Our ancestors knew this and developed rituals and spiritual practices to help them navigate these forces. Of course there were still wars, and humans have done terrible things to other humans since the beginning of being human. But as human beings, we have obtained the gift of consciousness, which provides us with a powerful tool to navigate these inner storms that can rapidly overflow the collective channels we have constructed in out social systems and erupt in catastrophic and terrible ways. Consciousness gives us an offramp from destructive inner storm that rise from time to time, if we choose to use it. And, these warriors did to the best of their abilities use their consciousness to mitigate a terrible calamity that was brewing.

Mr. Rogers understood this too. Yes, I said Mr. Rogers who gave us decades of gentle and dignified children’s programming. I watched him as a child. And, I loved him until one day I had absorbed too much from my surroundings that told me Mr. Rogers was a show for babies, and he was a simple man, and I should not watch him anymore. This was a sad day, but I sneaked watching him from time to time until my life flowed in different directions.

If you watch the Mr. Rogers documentary you will see in the very beginning he plays a piano while he talks to the camera. He was a magnificent piano player and understood how difficult it was to master this instrument. While he plays, he says growing up is like playing a complex and beautiful song. Some modulations are easy to master and a child needs very little help doing so — others are very difficult and a child does better when he or she has someone who can help them until they master it. How right he was, and this idea formed a foundational piece to the television programming he was going to go on to create — the one I watched as a child!

If you have not seen Fred Rogers testimony to Congress in 1969 when PBS’s budget was on the chopping block with Senator Pastore leading the hearing, then you should watch it. By the time Fred Rogers turn came to testify, Senator Pastore had just told everyone how bored he was from all the written testimonies being read. He was not in favor of funding PBS, and it looked like the tide was going to run the other way for the newly established PBS with funding about to be revoked. This is why Fred starts out the way he does telling Senator Pastore he trusts he will read his 10 minute testimony later, but now he just wants to talk about it. Fred didn’t know what he was going to say in that moment, he had to turn on a dime, but if you watch this, I think you will get goosebumps just like Senator Pastore says he was gets as Fred talks.

At the end, he asks Senator Pastore if he can tell him some of the words to a song he sings in his program about the good feeling of control. He tells the Senator that children need to know it is there. The Senator says yes. Mr. Rogers begins: “What do you do with the mad that you feel.” He stops to tell the Senator the first line came straight from a child for he works with children with puppets and storytelling. Then, he continues, and the part I find most miraculous is this part:

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.

He is teaching children how to channel their mad. How to stop and consider their choices. How to know they are in control and how to get in touch with another type of feeling also rising from deep inside that helps us become what we can. Every single human being on the planet has access to this place that is deep inside us and helps us become what we can. Our ancestors and the people we continue to call primitive understand this. Mr. Rogers got labeled a simple man who was not to be taken seriously by adults because he understood this. He understood depths of the human psyche few modern human beings ever come to understand today. This is partly due to the lopsided nature Western culture has adopted (see Is Collective Transformation Possible for more on this idea). Increasingly, the Western way teaches us to discount our inner realities and to pay attention solely to outer adornments that are attained by making money, leaving our inner worlds to run amok from neglect and ignorance (like unschooled, unloved children). There are spiritual practices, religions, and many pockets embedded within Western culture still paying attention to the importance of our inner worlds, but even Mr. Rogers felt the tide turning the other way towards the end of his life. After 9/11, he was asked to make a series of short messages to convey hope and understanding in the wake of this great tragedy — an event that shook people to their core, including Mr. Rogers. He was reluctant to make these promos for he said he felt he could not say much of anything that would make a difference. I suspect he felt something profound had shifted in our collective human consciousness, and despite all the good work he had done for decades, he could not stop it, and it was getting heavier and darker. But, he made them despite his feelings of inadequacy, and we are so lucky he did for we lost Fred Rogers two years later. In this clip below he says: “Look for the helpers…. there are always helpers rushing in to help in the wake of any tragedy.”

And, this takes us back to what Sabine witnessed as a child in the far off jungles of New Guinea living among the Fayu people. What she felt and how she described it as a tangible force that descended among them all with such destructive potential is something we need to understand Now. It is the same force Mr. Rogers was teaching children how to channel and control through his song. It is the same force running amok today, but on a much, much grander scale for we have become so interconnected and interdependent. Men like Sabine’s father, the leader of the Fayu tribe, Mr. Rogers, and my father are the consciousness warriors of our time. They understood what can happen when these forces do run amok. As consciousness warriors, they learned how not to use bows and arrows, but to use their consciousness and the deep spaces inside themselves where empathy, compassion, caring, and love rise eternally. By Western standards, these are weak and mostly useless emotional tools that prove inadequate to survive in the fiercely competitive economic environments we have created. The key words here is we have created, and we can create them differently by imbuing greater understanding of our fullest human capacities that are grounded in human dignity, equality, and love.

I won’t say any more about all this. I am hopelessly inadequate for the task with far fewer accomplishments than so many other great thinkers and doers who have come before me. But, if any of this has moved you as the reader, may I suggest you read the book by Sabine Kuegler: child of the jungle, watch the Mr. Rogers documentary, and read some of Carl Jung’s writings about the collective unconsciousness. Take what serves you modulated within your own vast knowing accumulated through your own experiences and spiritual, religious, and cultural practices. All I know is we need the Consciousness Warriors to rise Now… both men and women… for the war is within… the forces are as old as time… and our greatest tool is our inner light of consciousness and learning how to use it wisely just as Mr. Rogers taught us in this song What do you do with the mad that you feel?

Postscript:

What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel? (Song)

Written by Fred Rogers | © 1968 Fred M. Rogers


What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag? 
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a lady
And a boy can be someday a man.

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