Conflict – Nourishing Fruit or Poison Apple

Are We Lost in the Garden of Eden or Trapped in an Endless Fairytale 

Conflict–what a terrible and yet beautiful word. Conflict is something all human beings must learn how to do from the moment they realize they are a different entity from their parents, primarily of course the mother. In psychology, this moment is known as the Primal Split. In Judeo-Christian doctrines, it is known as Original Sin as epitomized in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis telling how God created the world and all life in it and then created Adam and Eve to live in it and enjoy it.

Image from Wiki: Lilith Lilith (1887) by John Collier in Atkinson Art Gallery, Merseyside, England

But like any children, Adam and Eve inevitably disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge; the one capable of inspiring inside of them the knowledge of good and evil. The conventional story tells that it is Eve who picked the tempting fruit after being deceived by a sneaky snake. But did you know Eve was Adam’s second wife?

Eve was Adam’s second wife. Adam had a secret first wife whom God created at the same time and in the same way as Adam. She was his equal and opposite in every way. Her name was Lilith. History mostly remembers her only as a demonic figure. One must look to medieval Jewish tradition to find where Lilith is remembered as Adam’s first wife, before Eve. However, when Adam insisted, she play a subservient role, Lilith grew wings and flew away. 

I suspect what really happened in the Garden of Eden was entirely all too human. Upon getting his new beautiful, obedient but docile wife–certainly not his equal–Adam carried on an affair with Lilith. Eve never caught on, but God did. The only snake in this story is Adam’s manhood, and God was mad for his transgression for he created Eve for Adam on one condition to be faithful to her and Adam disobeyed. So, he had no choice but to throw Adam and Eve out of Eden. Lilith having transformed into a different sort of being, simply flew away


The First Mortal Conflict

Conflict Styles: What Sciences Says — And how Liberating Structures can help create an environment where the most effective styles are possible. *** Medium blog by Christiaan Verwijs *** Most conflicts happen under the waterline. Illustration by Thea Schukken. *** You can also listen to this blogpost in this episode of our podcast.

So here we are: humans of the world left to find our way forward after the dramatic fall from Eden due to the first conflict of the world! A parent-child conflict, of course, just as the Primal Split is a primal parent-child conflict awakening the psyche to consciousness, but that is another story.

For this piece, I am sticking with the supernatural conflict between God the Father and his children, us. So super charged was this first mighty conflict, discord and strife remain the default mode of knowing in the world.

When conflict is done in an open, fluid, inquiring way, it can illuminate the world between us and inside of us, at least for a moment like a flicker from a spark caused by conflict. These sparks help us see more of what we don’t know about the world, about each other, or about ourselves. When we see the unknown, we can begin to know it. When we know it, we can integrate it into our Field of Consciousness (the part of ourselves illuminated by consciousness–i.e., what we know). This is how we grow our consciousness by seeing and learning more about the world around us and inside of us–most often through conflict.

But conflict can also cause us to get stuck within static, standing patterns of disagreement, disaccord, disharmony, and dissension. These patterns grow instead of consciousness. Over time, these patterns become rigid, unyielding, taut, stressed, tight, solid, and harden objects tend to collapse under pressure, trapping the individual’s desperately trying to sustain and defend them from attack. This becomes a crushing process, a dying process because locked into a standing pattern of permanent defensive conflict, the psyche does not grow and what does not grow in this realm, dies.

I will illuminate two talks I heard recently that were inspiring. I believe they offer opportunities of learning better ways to engage in conflict. This is important to learn because conflict is not going away anytime soon in the human world. So we might as well get better at doing it. I have imagined two common standing conflict patterns that all of us get caught in at one time or another. The first, I call getting Lost in the Garden of Eden. The second, I call getting Trapped in a Fairytale.

Lost in the Garden of Eden

Image from Wikipedia: Depiction of the sin of Adam and Eve by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Pieter Paul Rubens

When we come together in relationships, we recreate a little bit of the Garden of Eden inside ourselves and inside of others. This little bit of Eden is a safe place to grow and learn about the world and ourselves. Of course learning means conflict because we are human now, but in relationship, we are in a place where we can be safely seen and heard for who we are–the good and the bad. This is love. Love is capable of holding the opposites of who we are in dynamic balance as we learn and grow through conflict and mistakes.

There is nothing bad about making mistakes or having conflict, except we can get stuck in bad patterns of conflict that hold us down in inferior patterns of behavior, second class beliefs, mediocre ideas, average/commonplace/uninspired ways of being in the world. This is how we get lost in Eden. We let our inferior self lead.

This leads me to the first talk I want to highlight. It is given by Esther Perel about how we can develop resilience in our relationships. I heard it on the Ted Radio Hour.


Esther Perel: How Can We Develop Resilience in Our Relationships?

Image from Ted Radio Hour: Listen Again — Esther Perel: Building Resilient Relationships *** kts7/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Esther Perel begins her talk saying, “People want to feel alive in their relationships. And they want it in their friendships, they want it at work, they want it in their romantic relationships. It’s essential.” Esther says this feeling of aliveness is what inspires us as human beings to build trust with each other, to collaborate or compete with each other, to build intimacy and maintain it through time.

One of the most powerful things about relationships is that they can help us weather uncertainty and survive against the odds. Esther says any “prolonged uncertainty …is accompanied with a sense of grief and loss, not because we lose people only but because we have lost the world that we knew.” She explains that she focused her work on working with couples because the couple inside the family really transformed. When marriage was a no-exit enterprise, then it didn’t really matter if the couple did that well or not. I mean, it mattered a great deal, but it didn’t matter for the survival of the family. People stayed together miserable if they had to. Once people could leave, the expectations and the demands from their intimate relationships completely changed. And I found that transition really fascinating.

Here are fascinating moments from Esther’s talk:

There’s Energy In the Room

I realized that there was an energy in the room with a couple. You could actually see the change happening in front of you if you helped people to connect or to open up or to be vulnerable with each other or to speak truth to each other or to apologize to each other.

We Think We Can Be Happier: But Really, We’re Just Walking Deeper & Getting More Lost in the Garden of Eden Inside Our Soul

Today, we don’t leave because we are unhappy necessarily, but we also leave because we think we could be happier. And that is how consumerism has entered modern marriage.

The Crisis of Desire is A Crisis of Imagination: We Need Each Other to Get Unlost in Eden

I stumbled upon sexuality. It was absolutely not planned. And I stumbled about it, actually, around the Clinton scandal because what interested me was how sexuality in every society, in every culture becomes the place where the most archaic, traditional, rooted aspects of that culture are lodged or, on the other end, where the most progressive, radical, transformative changes take place.”

So, we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide. Give me belonging. Give me identity. Give me continuity. But give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort. Give me edge. Give me novelty. Give me familiarity. Give me predictability. Give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that.

…the crisis of desire is often a crisis of the imagination.

When I say that we cannot have one person give us what once an entire village used to provide, what I’m saying is that there is a kind of individualization in romantic love that I think is problematic. Look. At this moment, I’m not just even meeting a partner. We are meeting a soul mate. A soul mate used to be God; you know. But at this moment, people are talking about ecstasy, transcendence, meaning, wholeness, you know, things that we used to look for in the realm of the divine that have now been transcended into romantic love. It was meant to be. It’s almost a divine intervention. It fell from the heavens in front of me.”

What I will say is that people need community, and they need other friends. They need other people to talk to. They need other people to share activities that their partner isn’t interested in. To ask one person to do all of that – to give me belonging, to give me meaning, to give me community, to give me transcendence, to give me – and then all the other stuff of everyday life – succession, children, family life, money, etc. – that is…

Massive Transformation 

Relationships are undergoing massive transformation on all levels. But especially couples have gone through an extreme makeover. There is no other relationship that has gone through so much change.

The following comment comes at the end of a segment where Esther and Manoush listen to part of a piece that aired on “Where Should We Begin?” dealing with infidelity… the most difficult type of conflict a couple can attempt to grapple with, especially because of the shame and failure our culture tends to attach to it. What Ester zeros in on is something I think all conflicts hold in common and that is coming to a better understanding of each person’s humanity and their individual journey that has brought them into the current conflict.

And interestingly, when you reach the end of the session and you hear his – you know, his challenges around his feelings about masculinity, about the fact that he could not have a genetic connection to his children, about the way that, you know, he became the way he is not out of nothing. He becomes humanized. You may not like him, but you begin to understand him.”

For anyone playing at being an armchair therapist or just genuinely trying to be a friend and advise someone in a difficult conflict, what Ester says next is very important to remember.

And that is the role of the therapist. The wife has to decide what she wants to do. And nobody lives with the consequences of her decisions but her. So, it’s very easy to tell people do this, do that. We are not in their seat. We help people gain clarity. We help people there to do the things that they are afraid to do if that’s what they say they want to do. But we also understand that this is a couple that has two decades together almost, that they have a rich life, that they actually often get along quite well and that…

The Wonderful World Work & How the Bottom Line Accelerated Our Disorientation that Dumped Us on the Sea of Unconsciousness (Now We’re Really Lost in Eden)

Another fraught and difficult realm to navigate conflict is the workplace. Ester says, “When people go to work, you interview them about their official resume – what schools did they go to, what experience of work have they had? And nobody’s asking you about your unofficial resume, and your unofficial resume is your relationship history, and that relationship history does not stop at the door when you go into the office; it travels with you, and it is going to influence how you work with your colleagues or with your father or with your co-founder, etc.” 

In a character from the Netflix miniseries OA, the young woman playing OA talks about the invisible self. It is the part of ourselves that we hide from others…sometimes hide even ourselves. But this invisible self is a reservoir holding all our potential selves. It holds our values, virtues, principles, ideals, and ethos–what the I Ching calls an individual’s superior qualities/Superior Self. It also holds our deceitful, empty, fruitless, idle, inconstant, ineffectual, nugatory, null, profitless, shadowy qualities/Inferior Self/Selves. It is hard to underscore just how important it is to illuminate more and become acquainted with all of who we are. It is the only way to truthfully, justly, compassionately navigate our fate, which is all those parts of ourselves still hidden in the darkness of the invisible self. We create Eden in relationship to each other. We get lost in Eden when we break our relationship to each other by letting the Inferior Self take control of our thoughts, decisions, and actions in the world we share together–this is how we create Hell.

The OA | We’re Angels | 1,061,667 views•Oct 25, 2017

Esther discusses how for years; it was very hard to get invited to companies to talk about relationships because it was considered a soft skill. It wasn’t part of the bottom line. And soft skills were often considered feminine skills, and feminine skills were often idealized in principle and disregarded in reality. She goes on to say this changed as transformations in workplaces changed and then suddenly, relationships become the new bottom line because no amount of free food or money…Compensation, benefits is going to compensate for a poisonous relationship. And then I began to think, you know, I would love to go and show how these relational dynamics that I have been exploring, they don’t just take place with your partner, your romantic partner; they actually are part of your relational life.”

A Bad Business Breakup

I ask everybody, how many of you and your businesses have bad breakups? And to what extent do those breakups and in what way do these breakups influence the way you start to work with the next person and even who you hire? Often, we tend to hire the person whose strengths match the weaknesses of the one before you. I think work is a very rich ecology to explore the overt and the covert, the seen and the unseen relationship dynamics that people bring. We expected more in our personal relationships, but it happens no less at work.”

On a Time of Working from Home Using Too Much Zoom

So, I would say I don’t think we are working from home, Manoush. I think we are working with home. I am with my family, my children for some of us, my partner for some of us, my parents, my siblings, my roommates. I am inhabiting all the roles at the same time. I am the parent, the teacher, the lover, the friend, the child of the colleague, the boss, the CEO, you name it. And it’s all happening often on the same chair in the kitchen.”

So, we have all these disembodied experiences. And people talk about exhaustion for a reason – because even the phone is much better, you know, where we actually are in synchronized time and not in a delay constantly. And we’re not trying to look at people with whom we actually never make eye contact. So, I think it’s a very different reality.”

On Losing A Job

And when I lose my job, I lose a fundamental part of my identity. I thought I mattered because a younger generation has been raised with a deep sense that they are important and that they matter. And I can – I am totally dispensable and nobody actually really feels responsible for making sure that I will have something to eat. I think what a pandemic does for work and for personal is it rearranges your priorities. It makes – you know, a pandemic is an accelerator. Every disaster is an accelerator of relationships. It’s an accelerator because it brings mortality to the forefront or loss – loss of job as well. And at that moment, you basically say, what am I waiting for? I’m going to go do what’s really important.

Relationships rest at the center of who we are, who we want to be, how we become what we want to be, unless we get trapped in a standing pattern of conflict that can get us lost inside ourselves and in relationship with each other. Ask yourself what relationships are you in and what is their quality, vitality, fluidity, and spirit? Are they growing? Are you growing? If not, why not?

Trapped in a Fairytale

ABC’s Regina the Evil Queen of Once Upon a Time

Conflicts can rear up into ugly, unexpected things that tear relationships apart or trap them in stagnant, unchanging patterns that don’t allow for true growth. The trap may be beautiful where every wish is granted—a fairytale. Or the trap can be frightening and disorientating—another sort of fairytale. Both are dangerous because both end up separating you more and more from the hard work any real relationship requires to stay strong, supple, and grow through time.

If the separation grows too wide, too deep, a rupture of reality occurs. We do this all the time when we fail to heal the cracks caused by conflict, but rather focus on the cracks in another person’s story, ideas, beliefs. When we dissect and vivisect each other through constant unresolved conflict. When we fail to take responsibility for our part of the conflict. When we fail to hold the other in compassion and love and trust both people want to know the truth of who they are, who they are in relationship to each other, who they are in relationship to the world and universe. This is how we break reality into a million, billion, trillion pieces that just keep shattering more and more. This is how we create alternative realities, fairytales, where we may have control, but we don’t have knowledge… we don’t know anymore who we are, what we have become, or that we are trapped in a fairytale where we are the author, the characters, the victims, and the victor.  

Once Upon A Time 1×21 “An Apple Red As Blood” – Regina Forces Snow White Ate The Poisoned Apple | 722 views•Nov 2, 2018

Whole groups of people can become locked inside fairytales, the boundaries of which are defined by one-sided arguments and lopsided beliefs. This is how human conflict becomes polarized. This is how radicalization forms and grows into a monstrous thing like a horrible fairytale.

Our modern lives are very complicated. Because of this, there are lots of conflicts… many, many of which go unresolved and fester. This is what I am calling getting trapped in a fairytale. The trap is inside our own mind and it causes us to lose sight of who we really are turning us into characters like the big bad wolf or Mary with her little lamb and making us ignorant of if we are eat the nourishing apple of the Tree of Knowledge or the poisonous apple brewed by the Evil Queen. The I Ching would say when this happens, one’s inferior selves have gained control are are trying to get rid of one’s superior self… the war is inside.

I really found Adam Grant’s talk with Shankar Vedantam on The Hidden Brain illuminating. I particularly found how Adam talked about two common types of human conflict:

Relational conflicts are inherently much more difficult to see clearly and navigate smoothly.  I think every adult human being on Earth can cite a relational conflict that never was resolved and remains an open wound between both individuals involved. This is a tragedy always when a conflict cannot be resolved for it leaves an open wounded inside each individual’s mind that becomes inscribed within the growing consciousness—potentially causing it to grow lopsidedly, which will recreate the unresolved conflict over and over again with new individuals in desperate attempts to heal and continue conscious growth. 

Task conflicts are very different actually essential for groups of people who have come together to solve a problem or to implement a collective effort. Task conflicts are how collectives grow the collective consciousness. However, if we are individuals who have not mastered relational conflicts, task conflicts are easily co-opted by an individual’s psyche and turned into a relational conflict, which serves to inhibit and sink the efforts of a group to grow and solve challenging problems.

Hidden Brain with Adam Grant – The Nice Guy – author of The Fool’s Journey

Image from Pinterest — Fool Images

Shankar Vedantam introduces Adam Grant by saying, “Grant is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School. He’s the author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. He’s interested in the question of obstinacy. Why do so many of us find it difficult to question our own beliefs and challenge our own views?”

Adam begins his talk by recounting a conflict where he refused to admit he was wrong

I think I was 12. My friend Khan was on the phone with me. It was a commercial during Seinfeld and we got into an argument. I don’t remember what it was about. And I just refused to give in, even though he had really good proof and eventually he hung up on me and I called him back and I said, did the power go out?”

On Competing Powers of Self

And as long as I can remember, I’ve been agreeable. And it’s weird because on the one hand, I hated admitting I was wrong, and I was extremely stubborn. (…) But on the other hand, I really liked Harmony and I wanted to get along with other people.

The Downside of Always Being Agreeable and Wanting Harmony

Yeah, I think like everything else in life, it has tradeoffs. So, on the one hand, agreeable people create a lot of harmony. They tend to get along with other people. They’re constantly encouraging. But if you look at the data on leadership effectiveness, one of the things you see is highly agreeable people tend to be worse at leading organizations and teams than people who are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. (…) They say yes to everything and they don’t challenge people enough.

Agreement Bias

“…agreeable people are really prone to what’s called agreement bias.” Adam tells how this can be bad: “Cleverly. Where you come to the table, somebody offers you a terrible deal, but you hate the idea of saying no. And so, you say yes to something that’s not in your best interests.”

The Problem of Always Going with Your Gut

I remember my mom telling me if you’re unsure of an answer on a test, go with your gut. Go with your first instinct. And yet, if you look at the research, if you do go with your gut versus your second guess your first instinct, which is better, and on average, the vast majority of students who reject their gut, they actually improve their scores on average.” 


“And so, there’s a fallacy that your first thoughts are your best thoughts. A lot of times, intuition is just a subconscious pattern recognition. And the patterns that you’re recognizing from the past may not be relevant to the problem you’re solving right now in the present.”

I want to jump in here because we have lost so much knowledge of our inner realities our language and shared understanding about it has become muddled too. The confusion between instincts and intuition is one of these things. Instincts are short cuts to reality that help the individual survive dangerous and challenging circumstances. They are indeed triggered by pattern recognition that are recognized as dangerous, life threatening, or life promoting circumstances. Intuition is the ability gained by becoming a conscious being. It allows a conscious person to glimpse into the darkness of their unconsciousness and know something that would otherwise not be apparent or knowable. Repeated glimpses into the unconsciousness might recognizes patterns, but it takes conscious effort to unpack it and truly understand it. So, I would reword Adam’s second paragraph as instinct trying to navigate a world in which it never was evolved to live within… no wonder it gets multiple choice questions wrong!

Test Your Gut

And so, you don’t want to trust your gut. You want to test your gut. And even when you tell people about this evidence, they are still reluctant to rethink their first answer…” like what happened with Blackberry “I think we can both remember a time when basically everyone you knew had a BlackBerry and they just dominated the market. And then BlackBerry fell apart because – Mike and his colleagues were unwilling to rethink the very things that had made BlackBerry great.” “And they just got locked into this set of assumptions that what people wanted out of a BlackBerry was a device for basically work e-mail, as opposed to essentially a computer in your pocket for home entertainment.”

Big Stakes Can Led to Big Mistake: The Importance of Rethinking What We Know

“Our reluctance to think again can have even bigger stakes in the 1980s, NASA downplayed a brewing problem in the spacecraft Challenger. Since the spacecraft had completed many missions, officials assumed it was safe. But in January 1986, the spacecraft exploded moments after liftoff, killing seven astronauts on board. […] Or take the U.S. war in Iraq, where President George W. Bush and his colleagues failed to rethink their views after their initial rosy expectations of the war.

The Soup Nazi & the Drivers of Obstinacy

Shankar  says, “Adam, I want to talk about some of the drivers of obstinacy in our lives. I know that you’re a fan of the TV show Seinfeld. And there’s a famous scene which features a restaurant owner who is called the Soup Nazi.

Adam laughs as he explains what drives the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, “He makes great soup, but he cannot tolerate the slightest criticism or deviation from the script. I want to play you a short clip where the character Elaine visits the Soup Nazi.”

The Soup Nazi | 1,914,009 views•Jul 22, 2017 | “NO soup for you!”

Task vs Relationship Conflicts

Shankar  recaps, “So the Soup Nazi illustrates something that you talk about at home, the difference between relationship, conflict and Task conflict.”

Adam replies, “Most of us, especially those of us who are agreeable, when we think about conflict, we are thinking about Relationship conflict. That’s the personal, emotional, of us, especially those of us who are agreeable, when we think about conflict, we are thinking about Relationship conflict. That’s the personal, emotional, I think you’re a terrible person. And my life would be better if I never had to interact with you.” 

[…]

There’s another kind of conflict, though, that an organizational psychologist named Eddie Jan and her colleagues have studied. Task conflict, and it’s the idea of debating about different opinions and perspectives. It’s potentially constructive because it’s actually about trying to get to the truth. It’s not personal. It’s not emotional. We’re not trying to beat up the other person. We’re not feeling like we’re being attacked.

How the Soup Nazi Inside Us All Turns Task Conflicts into Relationship Conflicts

“We’re trying to hash out or sought out different views through what might be a feisty conversation. But it’s intellectual. And I think one of the biggest problems that the Soup Nazi had is he could not have a task conflict without it becoming a relationship conflict.”

How the Soup Nazi Inside Us All Turns Task Conflicts into Relationship Conflicts

“We’re trying to hash out or sought out different views through what might be a feisty conversation. But it’s intellectual. And I think one of the biggest problems that the Soup Nazi had is he could not have a task conflict without it becoming a relationship conflict.”

The moment that you object to his line, that you don’t follow his rules, he takes it very personally and bans you from his soup oasis.”

Less Conflict is Better: A Critical Mistake

I think the mistake that a lot of people make is they assume that less conflict is better. That if you want to build a successful collaboration or a great team, then you want to minimize the amount of tension you have. But as some researchers have argued, based on a lot of evidence, the absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy.

How We Create Collectives of Apathy: Fairytales That Don’t End Happily Ever After

If you’re in a group where people never disagree. The only way that could really happen is if people don’t care enough to speak their minds.[…] in order to get to wise decisions, creative solutions, we need to hear a variety of perspectives. We need diversity of thought. And task conflict is one of the ways that we get there by saying, you know what, I think we actually don’t agree on what the vision for our company should be or what our strategy should be or how to design this product.”

Adam’s Study on Groups 

I tracked team performance over a number of months, and I surveyed people in teams on how often they were having relationship conflict as well as task conflicts. In one group, even if they agreed on nothing else, they agreed on what kind of conflict they were having and how much of it.”

It turned out in the failed groups, they tended to have a lot more relationship conflicts than task conflicts, especially early on, they were so busy disliking each other that they didn’t really have substantive debates until about halfway through the life cycle of their project.”

And by then it was almost too late to change course, whereas in the high performing groups, they started out with very little relationship conflict and plenty of task conflict, saying, look, before we design a product, we really want to get all the ideas on the table about how we might do it or what it might be for. […] …once they sorted those out, they were able to really focus and align around what their common mission was.

Where and How Things Go Wrong in Groups: Enter the Poison Apple or the Dragon

Adam says most often in a group, “Someone raises an issue with something that the group is doing, and people behave like the soup Nazi. They react and take things personally.” When this shift happens in a group, then “Everything that gets raised by the other person is interpreted in the most negative light possible. And then I think the other problem is people sometimes just they don’t even hear the substance of the idea because they’re so invested in defending their ego or in proving the other person wrong.”

But Wait… There’s More: Sometimes Conflict Arising Due to Confusion Over Beliefs & Values

Shankar  says, “There’s a related idea to this distinction between task conflict and relationship conflict that you explore in your book. Adam, you say that one reason it’s hard to admit we are wrong is that we sometimes confuse our beliefs with our values.

Belief or Value & the Dragon Scale

Adam says, “When I think about a belief, I would say that’s something that you take as true. A value is something you think is important. And yeah, I think a lot of us make a mistake of taking our beliefs and opinions and making them our identity. And since I spent a lot of time studying the workplace, I really enjoy thinking about how dangerous the world would be if people in the professions that we rely on every day did that.

Conflicts That Clarify Rather Than Confuse

There are examples of leaders who basically model what it’s like to have task conflict without relationship conflict. I was thinking of something that President Obama said some years ago when he invited someone, he disagreed with to play a prominent role in his administration.

We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.

To disagree without being disagreeable.”

On Correcting Others

Shankar recaps, “I think many of us forget this lesson at and we think that if someone else is wrong, our job is just to correct them. How we correct them is unimportant.”

Adam replies, “Yeah I think that’s such a common mistake in communication. We think it’s the message that matters. But so often whether somebody is willing to hear a message depends on who’s saying it, why it’s being said and how it’s being delivered.”

On Trust, Dignity & Respect

“I cannot tell you, Shankar, the number of times that I have rejected useful criticism because I didn’t trust the person who was giving it to me. Or they delivered it in a way that I found disrespectful or offensive.”

On Threats to the Ego: The Big Bad Wolf or Poison Apple Problem 

Not all of us listen to useful feedback even when it’s presented clearly and without rancor. That’s because we confuse challenges to our views with threats to our ego.”

Or Maybe It’s Just a Case of the Totalitarian Ego

“There’s a term that I love for this which comes out of psychology originally Tony Greenwald’s term. It’s the totalitarian ego. The idea is that all of us have an inner dictator policing our thoughts. The dictator’s job is to keep out threatening information, much like Kim Jong Un would control the press in North Korea.”

Inner Dictator to the Rescue!

“When your core beliefs are attacked, the inner dictator comes in and rescues you with mental armor and, you know, activates confirmation bias where you only see what you expected to see all along, triggers desirability bias, where you only see what you wanted to see all along.”

Corner Stones of the Totalitarian Ego Are Obstinacy and Stubbornness

“You can see the totalitarian ego at work in a study conducted some years ago by researchers in Australia. They asked volunteers to think of a time when they did something wrong and apologized for it, and to also think about a time when they did something wrong and did not apologize for it. Researcher Tyler Okimoto explains what they found.”

Adam: When you refuse to apologize it actually makes you feel more empowered. That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth. [00:24:41]

Shanker: And in some ways, the sounds like the inner dictator when we when we apologize, in some ways we are disarming ourselves. And when we refuse to apologize, in some ways we are mounting a form of emotional self-defense. [00:24:50]

Adam: Yeah sadly, staying attached to wrong convictions makes us feel strong. And psychologists have also found for decades that the act of resisting influence only further fortifies our convictions. Because we can we basically get inoculated against future attacks. We have all of our defenses ready and we end up sealing our beliefs in an ever more impenetrable fortress. [00:25:04]

Edges of Convictions, Beliefs, and Conflict: Maybe This Really Isn’t Your Fight… Your Just A Scale in the Armor of Your Group Who’s in Conflict with Another Group

“So, I have a brilliant colleague, Phil Tetlock, who wrote a paper about how almost every decision you’ve ever made, almost every opinion you’ve ever formed, is influenced by your relationship to the people around you and by the groups that your part of and the identities that you hold about who you are in the social world.”

Preacher, Prosecutor or Politician – Do You Know What Your Conflict Mode Is?

“What Phil observed is we often spend time thinking like preachers, prosecutors and politicians.”

The Preacher

“Preaching is basically defending a set of sacred beliefs and saying, look, I found the truth. My job is to proselytize.”

The Prosecutor

“Prosecuting is the reverse. This stance in a conflict is to prove you wrong and win my case with the best argument.”

Getting Stuck

“Any time an individual or group has strong beliefs. It’s pretty unlikely they are going to rethink any opinions or decisions if they slip into preacher or prosecutor mode, because we already know.”

The Politian

“We’re a little more flexible when we shift into politician mode. […] when you’re thinking like a politician, what you’re trying to do is get the approval of an audience that you care about.

“And so, you might be campaigning and lobbying. And sometimes that means adjusting and flexing at least what you say you believe in order to fit in and win them over. The problem is that we’re doing it because we want to prove our allegiance to a tribe, not because we’re trying to get closer to the truth.”

Strategies that Help People Reconsider Cherished Opinions

Shanker asks Adam to tell the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who invented the first successful airplane. Adam describes:

“Of all the moments in history that I would love to witness, I think watching the Wright brothers argue would be pretty high on my list. So, if you look at the history of what the Wright brothers created together, it seemed like they were constantly in sync. They created their own printing press together. They ran their own bicycle shop. They made their own bikes together. They launched a newspaper together. And of course, we all know they invented the first at least successful airplane together. And I always assumed that they were just lucky to have such harmony.”

“And if you read any of the biographies that have been written about them, if you read their own letters and personal communications, if you read the stories and the anecdotes from people who knew them well, it was very clear that arguing was their default mode and it was almost the family business. What I think is fascinating about the Wright brothers is they mastered the ability to have productive task conflicts without it spilling into relationship conflict.”

It was typical for them when they were trying to invent their airplane to argue for weeks about questions like how do you design a propeller? 

They would sometimes even shoot for hours back and forth.

At one point, their sister threatened to leave the house because she just couldn’t take it anymore.”

The Power of Scrapping

But they seem to get a kick out of it. They called it scrapping and they said, look, the whole point of an argument is it helps both people see more clearly if you do it well.

They never saw an argument as personal that their mechanic used a phrase that I think about almost every day. He said, I don’t think they really got mad, but they sure got awfully hot. […] “That to me, captures the passionthe energythe feistiness that goes into, you know, duking out a set of ideas that’s really important to you, but not leaving that interaction angry.”

Even Brilliant Visionaries Need a Team to Scrap With

“You tell the story of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, obviously a brilliant visionary, but he was also famously stubborn.

The Problem with Highly Agreeable People

When you think about your network, we all have a support network that’s usually the highly agreeable people who we know are going to have our back and, you know, really lift us up or pick us up when we’re down. I think what we overlook is that we also need a challenge network, which is a group of people that we trust to question us to point out the holes in our thinking, the flaws in our logic, the ways that our decisions might be leading us astray from our goals.

Creating a Great Challenge Network

“It’s not clear to me that Steve Jobs did this intentionally, but he was very lucky to be surrounded with a group of people who played that role of a challenge at work for him. […] He was dead set against making a phone. He complained for years about how smartphones were for the pocket protector crowd. And Apple makes cool products. We don’t want to touch that. He could rant for hours at a time about how, you know, everybody was beholden to the cell phone carriers and they didn’t know how to make an elegant product. And sometimes he would even throw his own phone against the wall and shatter it because he was so frustrated with how bad the technology was.”

Cultivating a Fertile Idea Field & Planting Idea Seeds that Grow

“Luckily, Jobs surrounded himself with brilliant engineers and designers who knew how to get him to think again. You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. A lot of the things they did as part of his Challenge Network are things that we’ve seen people do every day. They would plant seeds.

They would say, ‘Hey, I hear Microsoft is talking about making a phone. How ugly do you think that’s going to be? And if we ever made one of those, what would that look like?’

They would ask questions like, you know, hey, we did the iPod. We’ve already put 20000 songs in your pocket.

What if we put everything in your pocket? And what they were doing was they were activating his curiosity.

Taming the Inner Prosecutor: The Sneaky Little Gremlin in Any Good Fairytale

“If you told him he was wrong, he would immediately go into prosecutor mode and tear your argument apart.”

Taming the Inner Preacher: Every Terrible Fairytale Needs a Sinister Minister

“If you told him about your idea, he would preach about his idea” 

Inspiring the Curious Seeker

“But if you could ask a question that intrigued and led him to realize that he didn’t know some things, he might then go out and try to discover them or give you the green light to go and discover them. And those kinds of conversations finally got him to reverse course and make a phone.”

Madhvi Parekh: A Curious Seeker

Beware the Logic Bullies: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall — Enter Evil Spock

Adam tells how he got the nickname logic bully: “I had a former student named Jamie [who came to me] for some career advice. It was clear in the first minute or so of our conversation that she was already locked into the plan she had made. I was worried she might be making a decision that she would regret. So, I told her all the reasons why I think [she was] making a potentially big mistake. She listened patiently for two or three minutes, then said, ‘You’re a logical.’ She [told me] that I overwhelmed her with rational arguments and data, and she didn’t agree [with], but she didn’t feel like she could fight back.”

The Real Magic Happens Inside

“The curiosity we show in trying to understand more about [our] own views and motivation to change [this type of] thinking. That’s where real thought happens.

Habits of Highly Effective Thinkers

“There’s a classic study by Neil R. and colleagues [that examines] experts versus average negotiators where they compare what their habits are.

One is [average negotiators] spend a lot more time both in their planning and in their actual negotiations, thinking about common ground and talking about common ground, saying we want to build areas of consensus before we find out where we’re opposed.

They asked a lot more questions (e.g., OK here are two or three possible proposals. What are your reactions to this? What do you like? What do you dislike and what are your thoughts? And that allow them to both learn more and again, signal more flexibility as well.)

Getting to the Great Ideas – Is It A War or A Dance?

Shanker summarizes: “We often think of trying to change someone’s opinion with the metaphor of, you know, a tug of war, that the harder I pull, the more I can get you off balance, the more likely I am to win. And the model that you’re suggesting here is a very different model, you know, model where you’re asking a lot of questions, where you’re seeking common ground, where you’re willing to make concessions, where you’re open to figuring out how you yourself might be wrong.

Adam adds: “There are some psychologists who have said we should think about disagreements, less wars and more as a dance. And I can’t dance at all. […] But what I like about the dance metaphor is, you know, that in a dance your job is to get in sync with your partner.”

You Can’t Lead All the Time to Save the Planet!

That means if you’ve both shown up to the dance with an idea about what steps you’re going to take; you can’t lead all the time and expect your partner to do all of the adjusting.

You actually have to be willing to step back and let your partner lead from time to time. And that’s what expert negotiators seem to do, its what great debaters seem to do, and I think it’s what all of us could do more when we have polarized conversations.”


 

I’ve taken you 40 minutes into this very beautiful and important talk, but there is more. You can read or listen for yourself if you have found any of this helpful. Adam and Shanker discuss how to frame multiple versions of an idea, setting up effective challenge networks, creating psychological safety to get to more and better creative ideas (idea places where people aren’t punished or penalized for offering opposite ideas), and creating group cultures based on trust and respect (critical part of psychological safety). Psychological safety does not mean sloppy:

[00:44:38] — Amy Edmondson is quick to point out that psychological safety is not about being nice or having low standards. We actually need psychological safety with accountability. We can have high expectations for people, but also give them the freedom and permission to rethink some of even what we might have called best practices.

They discuss creating environment where people are rewarded for being nuanced rather than punished. They talk about how to avoid becoming a group that is solution averse like what is happening with Climate Change.

[00:45:55] — “So, let’s say with climate change, for example, if you say, well, we need a whole bunch of companies to reduce their emissions and you’re talking to somebody who’s a staunch free market conservative, they’re not necessarily going to like that idea. And so, their motivation then is to deny the existence of the climate problem in the first place. And I think we should be really cautious about jumping to solutions. We would be better off saying, hey, I’m aware that there are some problems when it comes to climate change.”

[00:46:30] — “We shouldn’t spend all this time talking about why my solution is right or why your view that climate change isn’t an issue is wrong. Instead, I should say, well, given your views about what we should do on climate policy, how would your proposed solutions work and how would you implement them? And when you ask those questions, something really intriguing happens.

They talk about the invisible balance between idea flexibility and inflexibility (e.g., [00:48:15]

Winston Churchill facing down, you know, Adolf Hitler, even think of, you know, people like Mahatma Gandhi, you know, very singular, focused in terms of what they were doing, very unwilling to reconsider sort of the rightness of their views.)

They talk about explanatory depth, which is the idea that we think we understand complex systems much better than we actually do. They talk about the importance and benefits of being a little bit more intellectually humble, curious, nuanced, more doubting, and less dogmatic. These are the behaviors and habits that help people moderate their own views, become more patient with others, and become less extreme. In a time of extreme polarization on almost every conflict of existential crisis to human existence, isn’t learning how to become less extreme inside yourself a beautiful idea?!!!

Are you ready to rethink your cherished ideals and ideas today?

Click here to see full transcript of Hidden Brain with Adam Grant provided by the Happy Scribe

Click here to hear the full talk with Adam Grant on Hidden Brain, go to The Easiest Person to Fool

Other Resources Related to Conflict

Throughline: Billie Holiday and Shirley Chisholm

Image from Throughline — Billie Holliday

This tells about two women you stood in conflict against oppressive, lopsided, racists beliefs, behaviors, and practices. Because of their sacrifice and courage, our shared reality has been changed.

Description: When Billie Holiday was harassed by U.S. government agents and told to stop singing ‘Strange Fruit,’ she refused. When Shirley Chisholm ran for president and was ridiculed and told she shouldn’t aim that high politically, she refused. On this episode of Throughline, two pioneering Black women, Billie Holiday and Shirley Chisholm, who set their own sights and never backed down from a fight.


Searching for meaning in the North Dakota oil boom

Image from MarketPlace | An oil drilling rig in North Dakota in 2013. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

This piece talks about personal transformation through work and struggle.


Women Take The Lead In Fighting ISIS In ‘Daughters Of Kobani’

Image from  All Things Considered

Sometimes conflict is essential to change the world and bend it back into balance.

So much of the news from Syria consists of sad stories of chaos, of brutality, of war. But a new book — while a story about Syria and about war — brings us a refreshing story of hope, of female courage, and of heroes.


Quantum Mechanics, Free Will and the Game of Life

Image from Scientific American | Credit: Getty Images

Excerpt: “Before I get to the serious stuff, a quick story about John Conway, a.k.a. the “mathematical magician.” I met him in 1993 in Princeton while working on “The Death of Proof.” When I poked my head into his office, Conway was sitting with his back to me staring at a computer. Hair tumbled down his back, his sagging pants exposed his ass-cleft. His office overflowed with books, journals, food wrappers and paper polyhedrons, many dangling from the ceiling. When I tentatively announced myself, he yelled without turning, What’s your birthday! Uh, June 23, I said. Year! Conway shouted. Year! 1953, I replied. After a split second he blurted out, Tuesday! He tapped his keyboard, stared at the screen and exulted, Yes! Finally facing me, Conway explained that he belongs to a group of people who calculate the day of the week of any date, past or present, as quickly as possible. He, Conway informed me with a manic grin, is one of the world’s fastest day-of-the-week calculators.”


There is so much we don’t know. An open, fluid, flexible mind able to navigate complexity and conflict with curiosity, passion, and compassion is beautiful. They world needs more beauty now. Are you ready?

Just Breathe

“Breath Is Too Precious for Hate” — Rev. William Barber

In a time of Great Grief, one must find a thread of Great Belief to hang onto. Not just any thread, but one grown and spun from the center of your heart… the core of who you are as a living being traveling through space and time with other living beings all struggling to survive the setbacks and challenges inherent in being a space-time being. It must be a thread spun with compassion, understanding, truth (at least a willingness to sink into and see truth as it is revealed through time), kindness, patience, and love. This is an elusive thread to find because so many of our systems of being are based and reward the opposites of all these precious qualities of being human. But to survive Great Grief, this is the only way that will lead you and everyone you love to a better place in space and time.

But how do you do this? How does one find this rare and precious thread inside oneself to hang onto as the waves of lost, injustice, disease, death, isolation, exploitation, cruelty, ill treatment, and so many other things that happen to us as we try to survive through time…things that wash away at our very soul?

Just breathe… breath is powerful.

In a Scientific American article that I link to below (Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020), the Stanford neurobiologist Andrew Huberman discusses two things all of us can do to control our response to distress, trauma, pain, and suffering, even during a high-stress time such as this past year has been with an extremely divisive election, racial disparities spotlighted in brutal, traumatic ways in the killing of George Floyd (and so many more individuals unjustly) and unequal access to wealth and healthcare causing black and brown people to suffer the highest death tolls from the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.

Breathe has never been more forefront and center than it has been this past year with the tragic events leading to chants across the country, indeed the world, of “I can’t breathe” combined with COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe as the novel coronavirus robs them of their ability to do so.

In the article mentioned, Andrew Huberman says, “Breathing represents a bridge between the conscious and unconscious control of the body.” Since I’ve been writing about consciousness and unconsciousness in my story Sapience, drawing much from Carl Jung’s work, I wondered what is the equivalent to breath for the psyche. Then, I remembered this song Breathe by Télépopmusik.

Breathe – Télépopmusik – Album: Genetic world

I brought you something close to me
Left for something you see though you’re here
You haunt my dreams
There’s nothing to do but believe
Just believe

Just breathe

Another day, just believe
Another day, just breathe
Another day, just believe
Another day, just breathe

(…) From LyricFind

Breath has long been a symbol for spirit–that invisible force powering all living beings. As human beings, we are aware of this spirit that is powering us and flowing throughout our life on Earth. Jung talks of the importance of this thing that is aware, he calls it Self or psyche. He explains that this small part of self that is aware must swim between that which is conscious inside oneself and that which is unconscious inside oneself to generate the energy necessary to maintain consciousness. This is what gives us the ability as human beings to choose actions different than what our instincts would otherwise dictate. It requires us to ascend up and down within the parts of ourselves that we know about because they exist within our sphere of consciousness and the parts of ourself that we do not know about because they exist within the sphere of our unconsciousness (the bigger sphere). Belief might be like a psychic vessel (a ship, a submarine, or maybe a fish) that we create inside ourselves (in our mind space) in order to make our epic journey through space and time.

However, belief is not omniscient (all-knowing, all-wise, all-seeing) in and of itself. Belief is a part of the immortal body that exists somewhere in the realm of mind, but it is also very mortal and because of that imperfect. For belief to exist through time, just as the body exists through time, beliefs must be refreshed and refined with new knowledge (hopefully even wisdom) all the time, just like the lungs must be refreshed all the time with new air, fresh air so the corporeal body may live.

So how does one hold on during a time of Great Grief, Great Sadness, Great Stress, and Great Lost--like now? It is breath. It is belief. But one must take care to keep the immortal and mortal air breathed clean and refreshing for beliefs can lead individuals into very dark places as well as into illuminated places. It is up to you to choose which place you journey through space and time.

Following is a collection of stories percolating through me since I heard them that have inspired these thoughts. Or perhaps, I should say immortal breaths…and so, another day, just believe, another day, just breathe…

* * *

Michel Martin’s NPR

Civil Rights Activist Weighs In On Biden’s Early Days In Office — NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with civil rights activist Rev. William Barber II about his inaugural homily and what he makes of the first few days of the Biden administration. 

Excerpt from NPR transcript of this interview:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: And finally today, it’s been less than two weeks since the Biden administration took office, and it has already been a whirlwind. The president has signed more than two dozen executive orders addressing everything from immigration to climate change, as well as one of the issues he says propelled him to run for the presidency for this third time, racial justice.

So we thought this would be a good time to check in with civil rights activist, the Reverend William Barber II. He was invited to offer the homily at the inaugural prayer service. The text came from the prophet Isaiah.

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING of the Rev. WILLIAM BARBER II:

And so the prophet gives the nation God’s clear guidance out of the jam it is in. Choose first to repent of the policy sin, and then repair the breach. The breach, according to the imagery of Isaiah, is when there is a gap in the nation between what is and how God wants things to be.”

MARTIN: It was both an affirming message but also a call to action, so we wanted to hear Reverend Barber’s take on what that should look like. To remind, he is the president of an organization called Repairers of the Breach, which is based in Goldsboro, N.C. He’s a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called genius grant, and the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. And he is with us once again.

Reverend Barber, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us.

BARBER: Thank you so much for having me on today.

MARTIN: What gave you the inspiration for the sermon?

BARBER: Well, I was asked to deliver it, and that was quite a humbling request. And then they asked me, did I know much about Isaiah 58? And, of course, that is one of the major passages of scripture recognized by Jews, Muslims and Christians especially. It is a scripture specifically speaking to the nation about how to repair itself after it has been through lying leadership, extreme leadership, mean-spirited leadership, oppressive leadership. And it really gives a step-by-step what has to be done.

MARTIN: Well, to — you know, to that point, I mean, the president in – President Biden in running for office and certainly at his inaugural message has been stressing a message of unity. And during your homily, you spoke of unity. I mean, you said the breach would be knowing the only way to ensure domestic tranquility is to establish justice, but pretending we can address the nation’s wounds with simplistic calls for unity. Can you expand on what you’re saying here?

BARBER: Well, surely. You know, one of the things I think more than just being a civil rights activist, I’m trying my best with others to be, you know, a moral leader, one who looks at things through the lens of moral analysis, moral articulation and moral activism. And you can’t have a simplistic view that all we need is “Kumbaya.” All we need to do is slap back — is pat each other on the back. No, no, no, no. There are real forces — and we have seen them — forces that we saw that would rather put a person on the Supreme Court than protect people from dying in caskets from COVID, forces that would rather give trillions of dollars — trillions — to corporations during COVID while billionaires make almost a trillion dollars and then fight to just give a few trillion to poor and low-wealth people and those who are hurting. These are real battles. And some people are not going to unite with justice. But if enough of us can unite with justice and love, we can move this country forward.

MARTIN: But I am interested in how you feel that happens when some have made it abundantly clear that they do not agree with this agenda. I mean, for example, I mean, your first, as I – you announced on Twitter that beginning tomorrow, the Poor People’s Campaign will be holding special Moral Mondays events. Your first event will center on increasing the minimum wage. Your group is calling for some very ambitious things like universal health care, limiting defense spending. I mean, the fact is that a significant number of people in this country don’t agree with that. So how does he reconcile both the desire that some people clearly have for a more sort of temperate, more moderate, more constructive tone and yet people like yourself who say, no, there are ambitious things that need to happen? How does he resolve that?

BARBER: Now, yes, 70 million people voted for Trump, but over 80 million people voted for Biden and Harris. They knew they were going to pass – they were going to fight for living wages, addressing systemic racism and to address health care. Biden won 55% of all poor and low-wealth people voting under – that made under $50,000 a year. In Georgia and other places, poor and low-wealth people voted for Biden and Harris at a rate 14% higher.

We’re talking about, how do we heal the soul of the South Side? And it’s only by healing the sickness in the body. And so what we’re talking about is a must – is a must. These things must happen, and when you have the power, even if you only have one vote – Republicans showed us something. They did it for the wrong reason, but they didn’t care if they had just one vote. They did what was wrong. So people who have one vote now must do what is right.

MARTIN: I can’t tell from listening to you whether you feel encouraged or you still feel frustrated.

BARBER: So I’m encouraged because the movement is encouraged. I’m encouraged because more people turned out to vote in the midst of COVID than ever turned out in the history of this country. I’m encouraged because 6 million more poor and low-wealth people turned out in this election than they did in 2016. I’m encouraged because this country has shown us that if you run on a progressive agenda, if you talk about health care, living wages and dealing with racism, you can win in California. You can win in GeorgiaYou can win in Pennsylvania. You can win all over this country if you give people a vision of progress for which they can vote.

I am discouraged on one thing, and it’s — but it’s going to come — that we still don’t hear enough about poverty. We hear Democrats talking about the middle class and workers. But if 43% of this country was poor and low-wealth before COVID, and 8 million more have been thrust into poverty since May of last year, and if only 39% of this country can afford a thousand-dollar emergency, we must use the word poverty. We must talk about poor and low-wage people. We must say their name and say their condition. And we must say we’re not going to lift from the middle up. We’re not going to trickle down. We’re going to lift from the bottom up.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, I want to acknowledge that, as you have acknowledged, that many people are still struggling because of the pandemic, because of the downturn. Obviously, some people – many people were struggling before that, but a lot of people are suffering right now. And this is something that you brought up in your homily. And I just wondered if you had some words of encouragement for people who are struggling.

BARBER: You know, as a pastor, I will tell you, in this season, sometimes I have not had words. I’ll just be honest. All we’ve had is presence, even if it was distant presence. All we’ve had is love. All we’ve had is sometimes just getting on a video and crying together when people couldn’t go visit their loved one. Sometimes that’s all we’ve had.

You know, one of the things some of us have done is ask the question real seriously, why are we still alive? I mean, in this moment when any of us could be gone in seven days, seven minutes – you know, we could contract COVID. We could be breathing fine one minute, and it could all shut down – why is it that we’re still alive? Or more importantly, what is it that we’re going to do with the breath we have?

And some of us have decided in the midst of the tears, in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the pain, we decided that breath is too important to waste. We don’t have any breath to waste on being mean and hateful and unjust and hurting people. The only real use of our breath is to try to breathe some more love and truth and grace and justice into this world and in this society.

And so whether we live seven minutes, seven days, seven months, seven years or 70 years, that’s what we’re committing ourselves to do with every breath we take from now on because this moment has been a moment where we all have to face the potential of our own mortality in a very real way. We can end any moment, be alone on a breathing machine with nobody able to come and see us. And many people have died like that. And in their name and in their memory, even with our pain, we must use every breath we have to turn things around, to push our political system to do right from the bottom up, with every breath we have left until we have no more breath in us.

MARTIN: That was the Reverend William Barber II. He’s president of Repairers of the Breach. He’s co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. Reverend Barber, thank you so much for joining us once again.

BARBER: Thank you so much. And blessings to you and your staff.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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* * *

After hearing the Rev. William Barber speaking with Anderson Cooper earlier in the year of 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and then again in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd, I was so inspired by his deep wisdom, knowledge, and words that I created a playlist: Repairers of the Breach. We are all responsible for the existence of this breach, which grows deeper and wider with every act of ignorance, malice, and hate that we conduct into the world through our thoughts, words, and actions.

But we are all also healers of this breach, and we can repair this breach when we act with knowledge that we have distilled from our experiences in the world and that we have gained by taking the time to educate ourselves about things, about great mysteries and unknowns in this complex and beautiful world, and when we pay attention to great masters/teachers who have lived throughout time who can help us remove the veils of illusions and delusions–sadly created by others who have chosen to trick and deceive people for their own self-betterment.

We can repair this great divide, the breach we have all forged inside ourself and between each other when we conduct ourself with love and compassion, when we take time to pay attention to other people, especially to people who are suffering, who are in need, who have been ignored and left behind, who have not received the blessings meant for all living being on Earth because these blessings have been diverted and hoarded by a few, especially in these modern times.

Each of us is a healer and repairer of this terrible breach that has broken so many families and friendships recently, but we must constantly refresh our beliefs.

* * *

This American Life

Beware the Jabberwock — Stories from the upside-down world where conspiracy theorists dwell

Image from This American Life — Matt Chase

I had heard Act 1 of This American Life before (Down the Rabbit Hole, which is the story of Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook. In the years after Noah’s death, Lenny and his family were harassed by people who believed the shooting at Sandy Hook never happened – that it was all a conspiracy. Until one day, Lenny decided to fight back).

This is a powerful, heart-breaking, and terribly important story to hear. So, if you have not heard it, you should start with Act 1.

Act 2 is new to me, and it blew me away. Reporter Jon Ronson travels to Texas to uncover the origin story of Alex Jones, infamous founder of InfoWars. Having just finished watching HBO’s Watchmen, I was into origin stories. This is one that needs to be heard because it encapsulates an Archetype of our time. One that is dominating the minds of millions and millions of people these days. One defined by Conspiracy ObsessionSatan FixationBully Compulsion tendencies. It is so prevalent in America society today, percolating even more fiercely by the isolation imposed on every human being in the world due to COVID-19. Alex Jones is a man who had great sway and influence on our former President, Trump, who has a very similar mental world bound by the same Conspiracy ObsessionSatan FixationBullying Compulsions as Jones—something we all saw fall off the page of Facebook and come to life in the storming of the Capitol of the United States of American on Jan. 6, 2021.

I can just feel how one’s breath must tighten and grow shallower and shallower as one depends deeper and deeper into such rabbit-holes of deception and obsession that leads to hate, grief, and pain all for the good of someone like Alex Jones or Donald Trump, not for the good of the ones going into the holes.

* * *

The Moth — An Hour of Incredible Stories

Crashing the Coronation by Bokara Legendre“And she turned to me and she said, ‘Did you know the queen’s wig was eaten by a yak this morning?'”  

Photo by Sarah Stacke as featured on The Moth

Which direction in life will you choose to go? The journey running away from grief and pain by going to fancy parties and coronations in fancy golden high heels? Or will you choose to climb the highest mountain to see the llama or the Lama? 😉

* * *

The TedRadio Hour

Breathe — “Breathing is essential to life. And lately, the safety of the air we inhale, or the need to pause and take a deep breath, is on our minds a lot. This hour, TED speakers explore the power of breath.


This episode is all about breath. I did not think too much about it after I heard it, but then I heard the words of Rev. William Barber and I saw the importance of these stories in a new light. Because of this, I am highlighting them here and providing links to them so you can listen to them as you have time and interest to do so if you decide to explore the links between breathing, believing, and life. [Note that the images accompanying each story do not necessarily match the TedRadio Hour images but rather link to similar ideas/stories but different sources.]

Image from TedRadio Hour Benjavisa Ruangvaree Art/Shutterstoc

First Story: Tanya Streeter: How Can Breath Help Us Understand Our Limits And Our Potential? 

Image from Everything You Need to Start Free Diving — BY MEG LAPPE, MAY 18, 2019

Description: In 2002, free diver Tanya Streeter completed a record-breaking dive of 525 feet—in one breath. She reflects on the obstacles she faced, and the experience of pushing her body and lungs to the limit. This is a riveting story!

About: Tanya Streeter is a world champion freediver who was inducted into the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame in March 2000. For more than two months, she held the world record — for both men and women — diving to 525 feet in the “no limits” category, which is still the women’s world record for No Limits Apnea.

She has been featured in the documentaries, Freediver, and A Plastic Ocean. She also hosted a show on BBC Two called Shark Therapy, in which she attempted to overcome her fear of sharks.

Streeter received degrees in Public Administration and French from the University of Brighton.


Second Story: Andy Puddicombe: What Is The Connection Between Mind, Body, And Breath?

Image from Manhattan Mental Health Counseling: TOP 5 SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS ON MEDITATION/MINDFULNESS

Description: Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on appreciating breath.

About: Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.


Third Story: Beth Gardiner: What Are The Consequences Of Breathing Dirty Air?

Image from Smart Cities World — Who cares about dirty air?

Description: Journalist Beth Gardiner and activist Yvette Arellano explain the long-term health effects of air pollution. Yvette lives in a Houston neighborhood near the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S.

About: Beth Gardiner is an American journalist based in London. For ten years, she reported for the Associated Press in New York and London.

Now, her reporting primarily focuses on the environment. She has discussed her work on NPR’s All Things Considered, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, and the BBC’s World at One.

Gardiner is the author of Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution, an exploration into the long-term health effects of air pollution. Gardiner received grants to support her work on Choked from both the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Society of Environmental Journalists.


Fourth Story: Emma Schachner: How Did Dinosaurs’ Lungs Help Them Dominate The Earth For So Long?

Image from TedTalks

Description: Dinosaurs ruled Earth for 180 million years, but to dominate they had to outcompete a slew of other animals. Paleontologist Emma Schachner thinks their lungs could have been the competitive advantage.

About: Emma Schachner is an anatomy professor at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She also specializes in the 3D digital modeling of anatomy from CT and MR images, as well as scientific illustration, which merges anatomy, art, and scientific communication.

Schachner’s research uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the soft tissue and skeletal anatomy of a broad range of animals including alligators, chameleons, parrots and ostriches. She uses these data to reconstruct the biology of extinct reptiles, particularly dinosaurs and the fossil ancestors of crocodilians.

She received her master’s degree in paleontology at the University of Bristol and her PhD in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.


Fifth Story: Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Us In An Ever-Changing World?

Image from Scientific American | Vision and Breathing May Be the Secrets to Surviving 2020 | Credit: Bonnie Tarpey Getty Images

Description: Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on breath and impermanence.

About: Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.


Sixth Story: Caro Verbeek: What Can The Scents Of The Past Tell Us About Our History?

Image from article: Life Without a Sense of Smell | Losing your sense of smell takes away more than scents and flavors — it can fundamentally change the way you relate to other people. By Emma Young | August 4, 2015 1:00 AM | Discovery Magazine [I chose this image/article because COVID-19 is robbing the sense of smell from many people, sometimes for months… and we don’t know how long yet this could last]

Each day, we breathe about 22,000 times–and all that time we smell. Scent historian Caro Verbeek recreates scents of the past. She says, just like music and art, smell is a part of our heritage.

About: Caro Verbeek is an embedded researcher of olfactory heritage at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and International Flavours & Fragrances. She creates olfactory tours and interventions for museums.

Verbeek teaches the course ‘The Other Senses’ at the Royal Academy of Arts The Hague and is the curator in chief of the olfactory culture program ‘Odorama’ at Mediamatic Amsterdam. She is also an advisor for immaterial heritage projects at Mondriaan Fonds.

She received her M.A. in curatorial studies at VU Amsterdam University and her M.A. in art history at the University of Amsterdam.


Seventh Story: Andy Puddicombe: How Can Breathing Help Improve Our Relationships?

Image from Tiny Buddha | Let Go of Control: How to Learn the Art of Surrender By Dr. Amy Johnson | “You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ~Steve Maraboli

Mindfulness expert and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe guides listeners through a meditative reflection on how breath can bring us closer together.

About: Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives.

Puddicombe also writes for The Huffington Post and The Guardian on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living.

He attended Wellsway Comprehensive School in Keynsham, and studied Sports Science at De Montfort University. He also has a Foundation Degree in Circus Arts.

* * *

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro Interview with Sophie Fustec

Sophie Fustec’s New Albuum Is A Journey Through Her Grief

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with Sophie Fustec, known artistically as La Chica, about her new album La Loba, in which she comes to terms with her brother’s recent death who died after jumping into a hot spring to save his dog. I was deeply touched by this interview and Sophie’s beautiful voice.

LA CHICA – LA LOBA | Dec 2, 2020

LA CHICA – OASIS | Dec 5, 2015

LA CHICA – Agua | Dec 3, 2020

LA CHICA – Sol | Dec. 3, 2020

ALTERLATINE | La Chica | Jun 27, 2019

* * *

Sophie Xeon

Then there is the tragic death of another beautiful Sophie–Sophie Xeon who was popularly known as just Sophie. She died at 34 after a terrible accident where she fell from a roof that she climbed to get a picture of a full moon. Ludovica Ludinatrice, Sophie’s representative, said: “True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us. The family thank everyone for their love and support and request privacy at this devastating time.”

SOPHIE — It’s Okay To Cry (Official Video) | Oct 19, 2017

Concluding Thoughts

Each breath we take is precious for every breath links us to every individual we ever come into contact with each and every day. Breathing\believing is how we weave the web of life (our shared reality). It is a timeless process done in our corporal bodies through breath and in our immortal bodies through belief. We all need to breath…to believe to survive and thrive.

What will you do with your breath today?

It is so precious…you are so precious…and life is so fragile and short.

Happy September 20, 2020!

I don’t have much to say, except that is is a beautiful blue day unlike several of the previous days when we had silvery skies from the fires burning on the West Coast.

Silver Skies — Western Fires: All Is One — Music: Lighter Than Air by Zhao Cong — Series: Have You Been Outside Today?

Two years ago, we were traveling between my father’s memorial service and our niece’s beautiful wedding. Here are some of the pictures of this journey:


And, this was the beginning of an artistic journey that I am still on. These are Consciousness Warriors I drew for my Divine Dodo story! They are still coming.

Consciousness Warriors — The Divine Dodo!!

Have a beautiful day!

Presencing

On Presencing — fair warning to my friends on this artificial platform, which is any social media platform you choose to use because all pit us against each other for ungenerous, teensy-weensy, Lilliputian amounts of limited and fractured attention. And, these platforms continue fracturing what conscious attention we have left as a human species, so if you bring up presencing with me, you will trigger my anger.

Let’s Define It

In the past year, I have been observing more and more individuals who have become completely captivated and activated by this movement called prescencing. So, I looked it up:

“Presencing is a movement that lets us approach our self from the emerging future. In many ways, presencing resembles sensing. Both involve shifting the place of perception from the interior to the exterior of one’s (physical) organization.” — seems that Otto Scharmer may have begun this movement.

Pat Yourself on the Back

I say to you — congratulations! Now you know what all of life knows, you are submerged in a sea of consciousness that is becoming visible through your senses. 

Now, I ask you, what are you going to do about it?

If you are just going to bask in the beautiful (and terrible) light of consciousness (for consciousness has both sides–they go together like two sides of a coin) but do nothing with it but look to your left and then look to your right and smile in the glory of being: why not be incarnated as a sponge on the bottom of the ocean, or a flower basking in the glory of the sun, or a bee buzzing about a flower.

You have grown out of this Earth for a reason. You are aware of your consciousness for a reason. So, I ask you again, what are you going to do with your tiny plot of consciousness?

Visualizing Consciousness

I made this video yesterday after sinking down to figure out why I got angered by this word.

I Am Everywhere… And Nowhere

Music: Defeat — Hiatus 

Have You Been Outside Today? series

Photos: Me

Hashtag Consciousness

Hashtags to consider in moments of presencing:

#Presencing #Consciousness #Unconsciousness #Good #Evil#BeingHuman #WhatWillYouDoWithYourConsciounessToday#MoreImportantlyWhatWillYourUnconsciousnessDoWithYouToday

Time & Attention

Where you put your time and attention grows in this world. So, I ask you again: What are you going to do with your plot of consciousness? Where are you sowing your seeds of time and attention? What grows in this world right now in this very moment because of where you are putting your time and attention? These are just some of the places individuals are placing this most precious resource in the universe, human time and attention:

#COVID-19

#Love

#JusticeforAll

#EndingRacism

#WhiteLies

#Peace

#Anger

#Capitalism

#Resistance (and what are your resisting)

#Wisdom

THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES: OIL SPILL IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE

Sinking Deep

Do rivers weep? Does the Arctic Ocean feel the pain of pouring deluges of oil? Does it feel the energy dripping of deep magenta and cayenne red? Dripping with no respect of boundaries? Sinking deep within the depths of your layers? Nothing you can do as the oil rigs have collapsed. They gave way. They let go falling into a trust fall that you would catch them. And you did. Not that you had to but where else was it to land? The narwhals, the orcas, the humpback whales sent out their sonar communication, crying and crying but it was all too late. A lullaby far past the hours of soothing.

State of Emergency

The permafrost was melting. The structure gave way in the land of the Russian Siberian full of forests, tundra, mosses, reindeer, moose and caribou. Their domain too. All will be taken over red blood on lichen. Deep red on marina pristine clear waters. Tainted. We did it again, we keep messing up.

Today The Arctic Circles Is Blood Red by Donna Alena Hrabcakova‎ 

Falling Into The Oil

A State of Emergency is called in the region of Norilsk, Russia. Yet, isn’t already too late? Ambarnaya and Daldykan Rivers filled with purple highlights, violet and burnt red oxide. On fire. Bleeding. Damaged. Will it ever really clean up?

Falling Into The Oil by Donna Alena Hrabcakova‎ 

We Are All One

All of this is happening while chants for George Floyd are recited as a holy mantra all over the world. Black Lives Matter. We are all one. But didn’t we once know that in the beginning of time? How soon did we forget that lesson?

Witnessing The Death of Two Blue Horses by Donna Alena Hrabcakova‎ 

Death of Two Blue Horses

The drums are also beating, the heart beats of all, a pandemic is in the forefront, stealing lives and breath and we still are not fully listening are we?

Witnessing The Death Of Two Blue Horses by Donna Alena Hrabcakova‎ 

The Elders Are Listening

We are trying. I have to give us credit. I have seen you protesting. Thank you. I see you painting. I see you writing. I see you playing your violin all alone at night writing ballads for health care workers. Thank you. I see you baking non gluten free bread for the one whom is in need. I see you holding the hand of an elder listening and offering love.

The Lost Blue Horse Tribes — Their Eyes Never Forget — Northern Russia and Arctic in a State of Emergency by Donna Alena Hrabcakova‎ 

Thank you.

Ancient Walk About

I feel deep in the narrative are my blue horses. I felt they have been aware of the oil spills to come in their Motherland. They were there on their Ancient Walk About, they have been so many times. I know they are present, they knew there was a reason they were to gather there. Sadly a few did not make it, even though they have lived in that region for so many eons. They could not survive and they so very selfishly gave up their spiritual existence to help us.

They see it all in the Universal Consciousness of their eyes.

Their soul eyes.

The Ancient Ones. The Lost Blue Tribe of Horses.

They are here. Transmuting energy.

They have always been here.

They will continue to guard the North Lands, the Sacred Circle till they are no longer needed. But, for now they are needed more than ever.

They will continue to circumambulate the Arctic. They walk the cold lands with their Nordic Companions. They walk on this ancient walkabout and have been here in time without time. Timelessness. Eternal. The blue horses will continue to hold the Sacred Stories. It is their destiny. They showed up the day the waters turned crimson.

They are holding us.
They know we are suffering.
They will continue the walk about till we are no more.
They are weeping with us.

The Lost Horse Tribes See and Hear Us –Paintings by Donna Alena Hrabcakova (animation by Genolve)

Written on June 5, 2020
Alena Hrabcakova
Midwest USA

THE LOST BIRD TRIBES, LOST HORSE TRIBES, AND LOST LANGUAGES SERIES

“Painting to me is a truth, and maybe…a memory..” — Andrew Wyeth.

What a beautiful documentary on Prime on his life and painting. I have been self-isolating for some time due to several changes in my life and am examining the deeper purpose of ARTISTS in this time of complete uncertainty. What is our role as helpers when many are suffering? I do not have the answers but I know because we cohabitate on a living breathing planet we are all effected. I can’t imagine anyone could not be effected in some way. If the Earth suffers we suffer. Many things that are happening now my grandmother predicted, she has been gone 24 years and told me stories long before that. Anna Mae. Wise Woman.

I THINK SHE KNEW ALL ALONG. Watercolor pencils. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

The Lost Bird Tribes

I always loved moody weather. Fog. Rain. Snow. Gray days. Sun present then not. Today I woke to misty fog with raindrops and if you close your mind you can pretend none of what we face now has happened. Of course it’s an illusion. I still want to paint beauty now and my Spirit Birds. I think we are starving for it. I love to surround myself with flowers, vibrant colors, art, textiles, textures. Jungian analyst Ellen Sweeney my dear friend said to me: “Does this feed your soul, or your despair?” I am looking at that question each day as I remain isolated due to respiratory issues.


How can you feed your soul today? How can you practice lovingkindness to yourself and others? How can you love this Earth more? This living breathing home that sustains us? 
Tell me what is helping you as you stay home, reflect, and be present to this narrative. Sending love. Thank you for following my art. I hope it brings a breath of beauty to your day. 

Watercolor. THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES SERIES. SPIRIT BIRD AND RAVEN COMMUNE. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

I woke up in the night full of fear, the only thing that shakes it off for me is painting, art, Romeo. I will continue to paint beauty even in the depths of deep uncertainty. My heart went to CA. Blair and I loved our bohemian community in Trinidad. I was lucky to do additional studies at The Center for Sacred Studies in the Guerneville/Bay area. The energy there is infectious, alive and free. I think of my dear friends there I love. 
This is based on a dream I had years ago where I was in Tehran. I was in an opulent store full of gold and women were in full burkas. I was the only Westerner there having no idea why I was. The women went outside in the street in unison, their burkas fell off and they became a flock of ravens in the clear teal skies…off they flew. Free. I never forgot that amazing dream and finally painted it. ONCE UPON A TIME IN TEHRAN…holding all of you in my thoughts….🌿

THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS. Acrylics. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Frida Kahlo suffered so immensely in her life. She survived a horrific car/bus accident, had so many surgeries, was lame and became one of the most incredible artist of our times. She had many miscarriages and despite the depth of her pain she painted continually. She endured alot with Diego Riveria which caused her heartache. She remains one of my favorite artists because she was so completely raw, authentic, bearing her soul in spite of her suffering. She could be not be caged. Her art was her partner too. I relate so deeply to that. 


We can not nor would I want to compare peoples suffering. It is all relative and when you are in the midst of it this is your personal narrative. I know many are suffering with worry, family, anxiety of the unknown. I will still repeat my mantra: WE NEED ARTISTS MORE THAN EVER AT THIS TIME. Whatever form that takes. Many of you are artists that follow my page and I thank you for what you bring to others. Who knows maybe in this time of creativity/adversity a great art exhibit, a novel will be finished, new music and lyrics will find new homes. Let’s hold that thought and exhibit what we did in these times to bring HOPE to others. Art is home. There is no place like home. Sending love to you from my studio. 💖

WHEN FRIDA WAS A BIRD — By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Pandemic Paintings

My first Pandemic piece about the Virus. I wrote several pages on this. In this dream I saw horses that were skeletal like I could see their features but they were bones and air. They were balancing one another holding all the energies dark thoughts, suffering, hope and rebirth. To the right is a figure already reached by the virus going through a life review. Re-remembering all memories. All good, bad and mundane needing to make a decision if his soul will stay or not.


The left is a nun like figure dressed in a habit and covered veil. In the beginning I saw a large black and prussian blue moth in front of her. She has a mask covering her mouth. She too is having difficulty breathing. The apparation then becomes this moth being. Expanding. Breathing. Cleaning our lungs and the Earth working on us thoroughly whether we feel Her or not. 


We are rebirthing a New World, we are One. This brings to our us to our raw truth, our essence. Feeling between the worlds something so much larger than us is happening….So much larger than us…Soul Beings this is a Ceremony that needs all of us. Lovingkindness. Thinking of all of you. 💖💖

Pandemic Sketch. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

I worked on this 2 straight days while reflecting on this virus. Here is a poem I wrote 19 years ago that I feel connects with this piece. 2001. Image and poem copyright. 2020. 

Mother of the Night
of my interior silence and shame 
of top heavy scarlet peonies shedding into your rich terrain
So tender to touch.
Mother of the Night
Whom hears our muffled cries yet knowing.
You stand beside me as the cool winds descend torrents of rain, 
fresh green upon my thirsty soul.
Mother of the Night
of dreams entering my consciousness, 
You are here.
This I know 
In my sojurn of hellos and goodbyes
of the completely unexplainable.
You know me inside and out.
Mother of the Night, 
I release my heart 
Amongst the astral skies 
Remembering last Spring’s weeping
This May at Peace. 
Mother of the Night, 
It is getting easier to breathe.
Mother of the Night it is getting easier to breathe.

*One year from now I hope we feel this next Spring.
Love. Love. Love.

THE LOST HORSE TRIBES. Acrylics. MOTHER OF THE NIGHT. With Horse Spirit. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Horse Tribes

I wrote this on Dec. 6, 2001.


“Once I thought I would die of a broken heart.
Now I live because I am broken.”
The Horse Spirits of my dreams comfort me in my dreams. Awakening me at 3:33 a.m. to get out of bed telling me to continue to write and make my art catalogue. NOW IS THE TIME as my father always said.
It is my gift to others in these times. 
Artists creating in this New Age difficult as it is, we were made for these times. 
Here we are ready to change the narrative, adapt, build hope, bring light, love, perception & compassion through empathetic lens…May be shared. @2020.

THE LOST HORSE TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES. Painting on Bristol Board Palette filled with color and turned into this painting. Recycled art. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Bird Tribes

Excerpt from my night monk hour poem: 

” Please don’t tell me you are not afraid.
Please tell me the truth. 
Not what you think I want to hear.
Not a heartless platitude. 
Emptiness. 
If you really and honestly are doing great
I want to know your Divine secrets 
Because the night hours call me 
Taking me down endless roads and universities 
With no names.
I never know where I am.
And tonight I feel so lost.” 3-28@2020. 
Fear of the Unknown.  #NeoVirusArt.
THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES.

Morning Zen Mandala. PLEASE TELL ME THE TRUTH. ONE Hour paint and write. 3:30.a.m. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Rainy night
Pattering on my window to WAKE UP
Marc Chaghall visited in my dreamspace
He said, ” Be fantastically playful!”
The composition of my twilight hours painted itself
Two Asian Strawberry Finches 
A Blue Horse leaping into an ethereal Walk About
Interconnected
One Tribe.
They said to me their names were
The Awakening. @2020. 

Inspired by the great artist Marc Chaghall. 1887-1985.
Russian, French, Belarusian Jewish origin.
He painted ” dreams of our humanity.”
Colorist. Surrealism. Cubism. Expressionism. Modern Art. Symbolism. Fauvism. 
I am deeply inspired by his art. I would define my art as a Visionary Colorist Birthing The New Earth Movement. Loving Awareness, Donna Alena

THE LOST BLUE HORSES AND BIRD TRIBES — THE AWAKENING. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Horse Tribes & Possibilities

If I lose HOPE I will have lost everything. 
What is something that brings you a sense of peace and hope today despite adversity? 
Loving kindness, Donna Alena. @2020.

SPRING BODHISATTVA: HOPE. Acrylics 36 x 24. 
THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Oh Empty Spaces
The Silent Night Hours
We are Living Texts of this time.
Breathing into this Holy Moment
Listening to my inherited narrative
Knowing this is the catalyst of
Infinite Possibilities. 

SPRING: AWAKENING. @2020. Acrylics.
Time of the Virus and Reflection. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

The Luminance Hour

From my journal I wrote this: 

The Luminance Hour has arrived
I think we deep down knew this moment was possible.
A sudden urgent STOP
Catching our breath
Hearing the words the Period of Impermanence 
The moment of Reconcilation.
We have no choice other than to 
Awaken. 

Morning Meditation: I Am Loving Awareness. Ram Dass. 10 minute a.m. sketch watetcolor pencils
Be Here Now iheart radio. 2020 By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Crossing the Atlantic with the Mermaids

To my Aunt Ann whom has been gone 23 years. When she was crossing the Atlantic, age 15 she said “the mermaids followed the ship to Ellis Island.” This was a devout Catholic woman whom believed in mermaids! Yes she saw them, yes they guided her ship. She was to live in West Mifflin, PA the rest of her life near her parents meeting my incredible Uncle Andy. I see these mermaids as beacons in the journey guiding us to new places, new homes. Something we all need!

THE MERMAIDS OF ELLIS ISLAND. Experimental art. 3 D. Molding paste is 
made out of broken shells, fiber paste, acrylics. @2020 By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Raven & Lost Horse at Night

Evening is when I love to paint. The lighting is uncertain, the colors a question.These are the Night Companions we cannot see that help us. Maybe we do see them, I imagine them & paint them like a novel. Someone asked me yesterday how disciplined should an artist be. I say draw, paint, and sketch everyday and when you do this for years you will witness the metamorphis of your techniques and art. I know these times are so difficult. Keep doing your art, don’t stop. We need your stories and dialogue!! 

WHEN THE RAVEN MET THE LOST BLUE HORSE IN THE NIGHT. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

The Story Begins

Good morning friends. My prologue to my book passed my editor’s approval. Chapters forming. Good vibes while I am home healing and painting please.

THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBE. @2020. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

I have been dreaming on it for awhile and have begun writing. Hint the story begins in Mongolia where the horses originated before crossing the Bering Strait. They were Medicine Helpers, companions, and nomadic travelers. May be shared. More awaits the story. 💖💖

THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES: THE BERING STRAIT. Copyright 2020. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

She is a Mirage. She follows the Nomadic air. No-one owns her. The tundras are full of arctic moss, bearberry, and labrador tea cradling her feet where no map has existed. Like fog that appears and dissipates she is led purely by instinct in the North Lands. 

THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES. It’s all a dream. SHE WHO RUNS WITH THE NOMADIC AIR. @2020. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Super Moon couldn’t sleep so I worked on the fauna and plant life that will be in the book. Another chapter ready for my editor. Will not share what I wrote but oh it is good, I feel it in my Slovak bones. This inquiry started when a 5 year old client asked me if flowers could talk. I said “of course!” He said “I knew it because I heard the dandelions today….” 

THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES. Watercolor pencils. Encounter with the Tundra Flowers and Plants. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Another Blue Horse on the journey from THE BERING STRAIT. Imagination is such a gift. I think I have been writing and plotting stories since kindergarten. God bless my mom and dad. Dad used to tell me to publish my book! “I don’t always understand what you are doing but I am proud of you.” Eventually, he even bragged I was an art therapist! When I was 18 in college he begged me to not major in art. “You will never find a job.” Imagine his horror that I would be an art therapist. Well it took Post Masters work to be certified so I think he was relieved I would get a job. 30 plus years later out of college I am still creating art and doing art therapy with trauma and grief. It’s been a ride. Thank you dad and mom. All the family! 

From THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES. @2020. ART AND IMAGINATION HEALS. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Almost finished. In the beginning blue horses roamed the lands of Mongolia and Siberia with unabandoned freedom. They were on an Ancient Walk About following the interior maps they inherited for centuries. Migration was something that was the divine makeup of their beingness. There were so many territories to roam. They could be not be stopped, owned, hoarded for this too was unattainable.

SACRED ROAMING. THE LOST BLUE HORSE TRIBES. 36 X 36. @2020 By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Water and Bones

She is composed from the Waters crossed long ago to a home unseen. Leaving everything behind not sure one would ever return. Her granddaughter became a vivacious swimmer and everytime she closed her eyes she saw her grandmother Bubbie and Aunt Aunt knowing they were in her bones, always present, a melody that haunted her softly in the blue light…

THE LIGHT IS BLUE. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

The Story Continues

Meet INGRID: SIBERERIAN HORSE RIDER. She comes from the lands of snow. The myth goes no one knows for sure how she ended up in Mongolia but she was seen with the Blue Horses. She was so fair and ethereal that the Original People called her Ingrid. She was the color of the expansive plateaus, caribou moss and the endless turquoise skies. This painting was started by Andrea Dawson-Johnston at my house as a sketch and I asked her if I could paint my interpretation she said yes and so she became a character in my book. So TY Andrea! Perfect day for her debut as faint tender snow is falling. Storytelling heals…

INGRID: SIBERERIAN HORSE RIDER. Painted on scrap lumber. Acrylics. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Vandana means Worship. She is a strong character, named after one of my dear friends from Graduate School. She is committed, brave, decisive based on instincts, allie to all birds, and a culture keeper, one who holds the Stories. First sketch of her so she might evolve and change. She is a dreamer of big adventures and nothing gets in her way to try! 


Dreaming Sacred Places & People

The original painting I will post below later. I painted it in 2018 and yesterday I went back in and updated it. 

Two times I was to go to Kathmundu and the Tibetan Plateau but both times I had siginificant life changes and could not go. Interestingly, the places I don’t go to I dream about. Do you dream of places you want to visit? I totally believe we can go their in Dream Time. I count on it! 


Yesterday, I dreamt I was there surrounded by Shamans, Inuit, Mongolian, Tibetan, and from India. They were so beautiful in their regalia from their homelands. I am leaving out a lot of details but when it was time to go I pleaded and cried for them to take me HOME with them. At first they were in disbelief that I wanted to do this then they knew I was very sincere. I asked them what my job would be. They said ” they would place me in front of one of the monk’s houses, people would come to me and my job was to only Listen.”


I know as an art therapist that has worked with trauma, and bereavement for years this is what I do. But this listening was different. It is Sacred Listening. Being present in everyway possible. No judgement. I felt this was very relevant with grief and the New Virus Age. I have had daily conversations with dear friends where they are there for me. I deeply listen to them back. Maybe in this time we begin to learn the true responsibility the sense of hearing and how we use it. 


I still hope to get to Kathmundu one day and place some of Blair’s ashes near the Himalayas. Meanwhile, I can dream…yes I can always dream….Love…..

WHEN WE MET IN KATHMUNDU. 2018-2020. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

It’s all a dream but it is getting closer to reality.
PAST PRESENT FUTURE.

In the dream I wear a Ukrainian cornflower blue crown. I am holding roses that will be planted on Great Zetal’s land. Added rain and rose water. 
Memories of all the Grandmother’s. Bittersweet. Based on a suggestion by Reda Rackley. Site of BONEWOMAN. Thank you Reda.

ZETAL’S ROSE GARDEN. 19 x 24 By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Based on a dream. I see the back of myself in what appears to be the future. I am wrapped in an ochre blanket. After so many questions, dreams, travels, I finally see the deepest desire I have revealed. I am sitting in Zetal’s village. Looking at the low line hills. The air is clear. The hour is sunset when I was born. It feels like a mirage, like rain softly falling. It feels so deeply familiar.

SITTING WITH THE OLD ONES. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

My niece will be giving birth during this pandemic. This is for the new mothers. The Ancestors that stand with them. The trees. The seen and unseen. This is also the rebirth of ourselves. The New Consciousness that the virus is teaching us. The birth of a New World. The knowledge that some cycles of life must fade, they no longer serve humanity. Birthing a new way of living. I hope you have made new decisions of living. 🥀💖

Birth of a New World. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

For all our Mothers here and on the other side. 

For All Our Mothers. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

SERIES FOR BLAIR. Third Anniversary nearing. Many many layers. I am bewitched by the Patinas of Eastern Europe. I was trying to recreate them to look like ones I saw in Poland. They form these lovely palettes of color naturally. Reference for fields of poppies in Slovakia.

SERIES FOR BLAIR. By Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Thank you for journeying with us!

Heaven And Hell

Heaven And Hell Are Not What Jesus Preached,” Religion Scholar, Bart Ehrman, said during an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air about the end of March of 2020. Bart Ehrman talked about how the ideas of eternal rewards and punishments are not found in the Old Testament or in the teachings of Jesus. He was discussing his new book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife when at about 36 minutes in he mentioned the End Times. Ehrman said that so many people were talking about how we we all living though the End Times now (i.e., the time of Coronavirus). However, Ehrman points out people have always thought the hard times they were enduring were the End Times. In reality, it was usually due to man’s stupidity.

This is not exactly what Ehrman said. He phrased it much more elegantly than I have paraphrased it, but what he said reminded me of two recent encounters with this idea of man’s stupidity. The first time occurred 2 days before Christmas when my beloved dog died suddenly and unexpectedly in my arms. She had been bleeding internally, but I had missed all the signs. As I stood over her dead body, stroking her soft chocolate hair, I said over and over, “We were so stupid, so stupid, so stupid…”, meaning myself for I knew I had missed all the signs that might have saved her life.

I encountered it again in February, as the gravity of the Coronavirus was sinking in around the world. At this time, terrible reports were coming out of Italy, which had quickly become the epicenter of the novel Coronavirus that was making its way around the world. I was listening to an interview on the BBC with an Italian Emergency Room doctor who said, “Man was stupid in dealing with this disease. We let whole families come in with their loved one who got infected themselves and then spread it far and wide.”

Again, this is not an exact quote, but what the doctor was expressing echoed my own sentiments about my stupidity in the death of my beloved dog. And now Bart Ehrman was expressing this idea with Terry Gross. I haven’t learned much in life, but I have learned to pay attention when things happen in threes.


In the Wake of Death, I Found Comfort in Alan Watts

In the wake of my dog’s death, I had found comfort listening to Alan Watts who often danced around the idea of man’s stupidity in his lectures. In this particular string of 3s, I remembered a particularly memorable tangent he had taken in one lecture. Watts was famous for veering off on tangents in his lectures, but he always linked them back to his main points. Before veering off on this tangent, Watts had discussed the limits of man’s thinking.

Watts artfully drew his audience’s attention to the thing behind the eyes looking out onto the world–asking his audience: “What is the thing that lies behind the eyes?”

Then, Watts answered his own question by saying: “It is the thing we cannot think or perceive or name. It is the nothingness from which all form has risen.”

Watts and His Riddles

Watts’ lectures were full of riddles he attempted to explain through stories, thus the reason for his tangents. In this lecture, Watts veers into this tangential story in this way:

“…the farthest we can go in thinking about nothing [is a question…to try and get to the root of the matter]. Let me put this in another way. The world is formed, [and] now you cannot look for the origin of form in form because what you would get then would be maybe a universe where you couldn’t make out any form at all. [This is] because of us [because of our thinking] so much of it would be like writing a letter on top of a newspaper, and then putting a picture over that, and then doing something else until there wasn’t a single square millimeter of paper left of blank paper! Nobody could read anything. One can read, one can see form, one can see the world because [there is] emptiness: Emptiness [is] the mother of form.”

Watts goes on to talk about how people are really just rascals at their core, playing games and tricking each other. He told the audience he was doing that to them Now. He had hoaxed them all into coming to hear him that night. It was a trap, but he was going to make it an entertaining trap, so they wouldn’t feel so badly about it. He continues talking about how all of life is participating in this game: “The water is going around all day going tttt tttt. The fish and ducks are doing the same going dddd dddd.” Then he gets to the outrage people natural feel upon hearing this, “Well, what do mean we are all just fiddling around…and this is only a game?!”

This is where he gets to his really interesting tangent for he has anticipated the audience’s question: “What do mean life is a game?” And, he answers it for them: “Well, what did you want? Didn’t you want a game? Did you want it to be serious in the end?”

The Van Eyck Tangent

Watts continues saying:

“What I mean think about the question. What kind of a thing would you like God to be what would you like to do for eternity? Really, here is young Van Eyck who paints the eschatological picture of the Last Judgement. What a strange man he must have been where we have heaven above and hell below…and in heaven, here’s God the Father Godthe Son God the Holy Ghost all there together and Virgin Mary and the apostles and they’re all sitting in committee, and they have an aisle you know just like in church. And there they are facing each other. and they’re all sitting there very solidly. I don’t know what it’s about…but below [them] right at the end of the aisle you [can] see where all these apostles are sitting is [the archangel Michael.]”

“Isn’t Michael a rather gorgeous figure in beautiful armor with wings and underneath him is a bat winged skull and beneath those bat wings are all [mannar of] horror let loose. Michael is about to squash that skull. See [there] with his sword. But below whoow! There are nude bodies some of them pretty comely. They’re all squirming in there, and they’re being eaten by worms, and they are eating the worms, and there’s a kind of a mush. It’s like the sort of situation you find when you turn up a big rock and there’s all that going on underneath.”

“Now, there’s no question whatever the van Eyck the painter had more fun painting that part of the picture [than the top part!] So [it was] the same way with [many of the great painters of those times] they painted every kind of weird surrealistic deviltry going on and they really loved it but they couldn’t admit it…”

Watts goes on, of course, but that’s another story. To me, the crux of what Watts was conveying in this lecture was our inherent ability as human beings to be stupid simply because we are not paying attention to all of who we are as living beings. When something bad happens, we may not consciously think of feel that we have chosen this thing or that thing to happen in our lives, but if one settles… to really sinks down into the fullness of who one really is… there is something else entirely going on within us. All that stuff going underneath that rock we just have not gotten around to turning up inside our psyche.

Links Related to this Story

For the FreshAir interview, go to link below:

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824479587/heaven-and-hell-are-not-what-jesus-preached-religion-scholar-says?fbclid=IwAR3QqeAiq9QWsaOKm7PSEgcf9UIXOoTra_A7tvBvIwp7PMMDOjlq8TlnraQ

For the Alan Watts lecture, go to:

Postscript

I first scribbled this post in a Facebook group where not very many members found it particularly interesting. However, a couple members commented, and one member in particular commented and extended some of Watts thinking, which I will share a little bit below, referring this member as GG and to myself as Bébé.


GG: “If I remember rightly, Alan Watts made the point about what you would do for an eternity, connecting it to the idea that the universe is “playing hide and seek with its self”.

I have contemplated a lot on infinity and eternity during the last few years, since this seems to be the basic deal, that whatever it is we are a part of it could never have begun but must have been going on forever. Since there is movement inwards and outwards ( this seems somehow even like the basic architecture of timespace: a movement inwards and a movement outwards which at every point is always meeting, and thus giving rise to complex and strange kinds of forms ) this also points towards a truly infinite world also in extension, as well as in depth. All our experience also points towards this: we never see an end to life, everywhere there is movement and transformation and events happening, we see neither the smallest nor largest units, there always seems to be more. Physics becomes increasingly exotic, as does mathematics, as does psychology, the more we learn. And so on and so forth, this pattern can be seen everywhere, and it all points towards this infinite eternal multidimensional manifold where for some reason there is even mind and consciousness and experience. 

This being the ground of my being, I have wondered, if I could have my greatest wish fulfilled, what would it be?

And the best I have come up with so far, is I would really enjoy to be able to shape shift between all possible and imaginable lifeforms, in such an infinitely large as well as deep space, forever. To live forever, and also live as all possible lifeforms, and thus see and know and experience reality from all possible angles.

The suggestion from Watts that the universe is playing hide and seek with itself might be that this is actually what is happening, and this is the reason why beings are born without strong memories of where they come from, go through an enormous drama of birth and living and death, experience an inner yearning and nostalgia for something timeless and unchanging, until eventually again becoming united with the ultimate source.

The Multiuniverse is among the cosmologically popular explanations for what was before the big bang, this also assumed to be infinite and eternal, along with this exists other models of something more sequential, but even here the main theme is that it never begun and never can end and always have been and will be ongoing. 

With this in mind: Is the Multiverse yet another name for God?

It seems clear that both God and the Multiverse share the basic characteristics: forever having existed, full of life in all directions, endless potentiality for new form to arise within it, processes of evolution and learning, and of course intelligent conscious life with self-awareness on a variety of scales and levels. If we assume there are even more intelligent lifeforms than ourselves somewhere in this infinity, or simply assume that evolution of intelligence is a possibility, then this already implies that this possibility has been fulfilled forever ago. 

Therefore, both God and Multiverse is a myth of something that contains SUPERINTELLIGENCE and contains as much of it as anyone could like, it having always been a part of the package: the highest possible intelligence forever ago realized and an inherent part of our existence.

Watts indicates that such a superintelligence may be quite playful, feeling in its roots completely secure in its never ending foundations, there might be good reasons to play some games in the meanwhile for nothing other than the pure fun of it, even play some extreme drama, and even pretending to not remember ones origin, searching to come back to it, and since knowing that we have all the time in the world to find the thread back, eventually succeeding. Once again.

That would explain a lot!” 🙂


Bébé : “You are absolutely right! That is exactly what Watts says–the universe is playing a game of hide and seek. 

It is a mind warping idea, especially for us living in Western Civilization that does a pretty good job crushing most minds to accept the collective norms of this civilization. Jürgen Hornschuh writes about this a lot, but I believe he is taking a break from this platform as he lives in India and this country is in a massive shut down now.

Where you ask yourself… I have wondered, if I could have my greatest wish fulfilled, what would it be?

How you answer is exactly what Watts says… you would be you doing you right Here & Now. I will attach a song that incorporates this in their music.

Then, you ask: With this in mind: is the Multiverse yet another name for God?

I think you may be right! Have you heard Watts’ lectures about this idea of a super intelligent universe? I can try to find it for you. I was listening to it just before we went into shut down here in VA, so now for whatever reason, I am just not listening to Watts… just trying to feel into what I have heard over the last 2 months of listening. In several of his lectures, he talks about the Earth peopling just like an apple tree apples… and this would not occur in a stupid universe as we have been taught to believe that the universe is a mindless machine… he says that is as crazy an idea of a man with a white beard sitting up on high ruling over heavens and earth… Watts did piss off a lot of people with his ideas… he was a myth burster… but really he was teaching people to release their minds for the boxes of thought we have trapped ourselves inside.

Thank you so much for responding!” ❤️


GG: “We are something the universe is doing” is another idea which when hearing it sounds perfectly reasonable, yet involves such a change from the habitual point of view, a change towards feeling more as a part of the great whole. For me this feeling of being part of the great whole brings a lot of peace, while also makes it all seem so much richer and more interesting. We who live today sure have an enormous gift in the sense of how we can listen to the voice of some of these great masters all the way to our living rooms. Just listening to wise people like Alan Watts, contemplating it and using it as a mirror to reflect back on ones own life, this is a kind of food for the soul.” 🙂


Bébé : “I have been reflecting on your previous comment of if we are eternal energies that your wish might be to be and experience as many forms of being as possible, and I think that would be my wish too. Even the scary ones… I supposed… though that seems insane really! This short song, which is not the lecture that I still need to find, hints at this.

And, yes, Watts goes back to this idea again and again about we are what the universe is doing. It is a beautiful idea. I think I am incubating it right now for the new material I am adding to my story… this the universe is doing man, just as man is doing the universe at the point of Here & Now… I find this so deeply comforting some how.”


GG: “Some of this may move into the realms of speculation but it has been on my mind a lot for several years.

Lets say we accept that the universe is ultimately eternal and life has existed forever. That something like big bang would be yet another moment of change, yet part of something larger pre-existing it, also part of something larger pre-existing it…forever. So some kind of action, movement, transformation happening forever.

Lets also say we believe there is such a thing as evolution. That under some circumstances, life progresses in stages and ascends levels, which means a process of increasing awareness, intelligence, ability, understanding. Learning. We can all relate to this during our own life, some things do evolve, learning and maturation does happen.

Lets also assume there are higher levels of intelligence, awareness, consciousness than humans have known so far. Much points towards this. It seems very unlikely that we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. More likely that there are enormously much higher levels.

All this seems to me as highly probably true. That the universe could begin out of nothing, for no reason at all, seems like the most impossible of all possible impossibilities! That evolution happens is supported by all our experience. That there are higher undiscovered levels seems overwhelmingly likely. 

If this is true, must it then not by necessity be true that Superintelligent life which has evolved to the highest possible levels, has also existed forever? And evolved and developed forever? And created new versions of itself forever?

Then the universe as a whole would indeed be superintelligent. And these higher levels, and dare I say these far more advanced Beings, might be an inherent part of timespace itself. So that all the talk about spirits and angels and gods and entities, are all true, only that the whole truth is exponentially wilder still?

This would explain a lot. I can not see any weaknesses in this reasoning. If we do live within eternal action, there is consciousness, there is evolution, then the highest possible results of this evolution must be expected to always have been a part of this action, at every place where life and consciousness and evolution is taking place.

All this points towards humans having enormously great possibilities if we can somehow get in contact with these higher powers and get help from them.”


Bébé : “I think everything you say is most definitely, highly likely… I agree with all you have said… we each can help evolve and reach higher levels of consciousness by developing ourself. Alan Watts found Buddhism and Hinduism to provide the most helpful daily practices and narratives to possibly do this. But, Watts would always say that it is an individual journey and everything he said should be taken as a story and a form of entertainment. He always nudged his audiences to do their own thinking and make their own conclusions, which is what you do so well Glenn!

Here is one of his lectures where he talks about the super intelligence matrix from which we have arisen: This is the one where Watts talks about a Super Intelligent Universe: The Tao Of Philosophy – Alan Watts.”

In Times of Crisis, Look for the Lost Bird Tribes

During A Time of Crisis (Personal or Collective), Look for a Lost Bird Tribe

Whenever a person experiences a crisis or difficult period due to the death of a loved one, job loss, changes in family structure/cohesion, or anything that places an acute strain on the individual, the effects can ripple for years, decades, even the rest of their life. If a person has enough money, resources, and social status, they often get the help they need to weather the storm. However, a person lacking any or all of these supports, a time of crisis can quickly turn into a crushing time and potential collapse. In my experience during such a time, less robust friendships quickly dry up and disappear. If this happens, very often a person is left to tread the waters of distress alone in a growing sea of fear, sorrow, pain, grief, and abandonment. Digging deeper inside oneself is quite often the only pathway forward. This is when a lost bird tribe might show up. They are messengers and protectors of inner languages that have been lost due to overly busy and complicated modern lives. They remind us of what is really the most important to things to being alive.

One Lost Bird Tribe: Our Lost Inner Worlds

Right now, in the time of COV-19, hard times are being experienced by people around the world almost simultaneously. And these trying times are touching every echelon of society, even the very rich. It is a global crisis that is unprecedented in our modern age and one that is not only threatening human lives but economic systems that the Western World depends upon to thrive.

Just before COV-19 hit, there were big and little crises and civil unrest on the rise all over the world. One could feel this growing global turbulence and turmoil, but one could also still ignore it, concluding it was something happening in Hong Kong (the protests), not here, or something happening in Brazil, not where I live. Co-occurring with this was the rise of authoritarian governments in some of the most democratic countries in the world. People fleeing deadly wars (such as in Syria and Yehem), violence (such as so many countries of Central America), and starvation (such as so much African countries, Venezuela, or any place where conflict and lopsided economic systems ruled by the rich) were welcomed with closed boarders, walls, deportation, and blockades at sea. And, young people around the world who were making their voices heard about the dangers and coming crises of climate change were mocked, and even worse, ignored.

Rather than being brought together by our shared needs as human beings, rampant individualism seem rather to prevail–a type of focus that tends to tear at the fabric of our social structures rather than repair it. Before COV-19, the world seem to react to big and little crises more like a contagious disease to be contained. Barricades and a do not get involved attitude seemed more socially acceptable than providing help and care. And, watching crises unfold far away was strangely comforting as individuals went about their lives as business as usual.

What I am going to tell here occurred before the rapid rise of COV-19, but it is about dealing with crisis and it shows how Lost Bird Tribes can show up during such times to remind us of our lost inner languages–the ones that make us thrive and feel joy and help us heal. These powers come from inside. They are sorely tested during a time of crisis, but that is why the Lost Birds show up to help us find our inner reservoirs of strength, resilience, and wholeness. It is from a point of wholeness that all human beings are empowered to weather the most severe crisis or time.

Following are some of the Lost Birds I have found during my time of personal crisis as well as the ones my friend and colleague Donna Alena Hrabcakova has found.

The Lost Bird Tribe: How To Be Nice

After suffering another devastating personal loss when our beloved dog died suddenly and unexpectedly two days before Christmas. I barely had enough energy to go on any more. A decade of escalating crises had whittled me down to the point of personal collapse. The death of my father a year and a half before combined with the cruel act of my employer firing me while I was by my father’s bedside for 10 days before he died had left me at a point of psychology collapse. It is a place of collapse from which I almost did not pull out from. Many other things contributed to this as well such as most of my social support drying up, including friends, family, even pastors and bishops who looked the other way. But, my dogs did not look the other way. Especially my little brown dog that we called Cider. She stayed by my side night and day. She needed me, and I needed her. I know dogs died unexpectedly all the time. But, what made her death especially hard was that she had been there for me when everyone else was not.

I have written about and made a video (Tribute to Cider), so I will simply say after Cider died, I collapsed again, and it got really bad again. The only thing that pulled me through the aftermath of my father’s death was storytelling and art. And so, that was what I attempted to do again.

When a person creates a thing, it is natural to want to share that thing. One of the things I created was a one minute video. I used a template to create a short trailer using all the bells and whistles that iMovie provides. I selected a longer video I had made a while back about doing inner work to make a promo of. And so after making this, I shared it in several groups I belonged and in which I had shared very similar work previously. These groups had always welcomed similar work I had shared there before, or so it seemed. This time, one group refused to approve the video and another one deleted it. When I asked why the admin of the group that deleted the video, I was told:

“I did not see the link anymore between your personal experience and expression and the relation to us as a species in this time and place.”  

Really? That’s just plain mean.

The Lost Bird Tribe: It is OK to Get to Your Last Straw & Draw It!

That’s when I found my Lost Bird Tribe: The Last Straw Tribe. I terminated that friend on Facebook and left that group. Then, I purged many “friends” and left many “groups” because I finally realized a couple of things.

One of these things is that many of my “friends” were in a race to get to 5,000. That’s the limit of friends Facebook allows a person to have, but have you ever wondered how one person can really have 5,000 friends? Do you think the algorithms can even share your posts in such “friend’s” News Streams, even your most popular posts? But, I realized having them as my friend dilutes who sees my posts. And, these were individuals who even if they saw my post, they were not showing up for me. And because the algorithm feed it to them and they did not react, my post was shared less and less, meaning friends who might have seen it did not see it because the algorithms judged it unimportant. And so, these friends were really rather a burden to me. I was simply a bead on their necklace of getting to 5,000 friends, nothing more.

At the same time, I came to realize through a series of incidental conversations that I had “friends” not necessarily in a race to 5,000 but they had seen post about my dog dying in my arms as we rushed her to the vet, but they chose to stay invisible. They did not let me know they knew this, nor did they offer a word of comfort or support. They were just watching, which is a very odd feeling when you realize others are watching your pain. I know…it’s on me for sharing it. I take full responsibility for this. But, until this moment I supposed my friends were doing as I tried to do if I saw they were going through a hard or painful time. At the very least, I would let them know I saw their post. And most of the time, I try to leave a word of comfort or support. I understand that I miss many posts because I rely on the algorithms to show me stuff in my News Feed. I have thought many times that I should try to visit my friend’s timelines to make sure I don’t miss something important, but I always run out of time, just like everyone else does. And so, I rely on the algorithms, just like everyone else does. It is really a terrible way to be connected.

But now, I was realizing something I had not considered before: I had friends who were seeing my sad news but not letting me know they saw it nor offering a word of comfort or support. Rather, they were watching like voyeurs. If you look up the meaning to this word, it means a person who enjoys seeing the pain or distress of others. I began to feel like a Voodoo doll–a thing others can watch, perhaps even derive satisfaction or pleasure that the needles of pain and suffering were being visited upon me and not them. Have you ever watched a Reality TV show and said afterwards: “Thank God that’s not my life.” I began to wonder: Do we harbor as human beings somewhere deep in our collective psyche that our own personal pain and suffering might be averted by letting others suffer it for us? If so, this would be an ancient and unpalatable thing for a modern, civilized human being to admit, and therefore, it would have been forgotten by most. Indeed, it would have be buried deeply in our unconsciousness, but that doesn’t mean it went away…not at all, it’s still there lurking in our collective unconsciousness ready to pounce on someone else’s pain as if doing this could avert one’s own pain.

All this happened before COV-19 began its relentless march around the world, putting one country after another and another on lockdown. Before it became clear this was a global crisis that no one would be spared. If you are a human being, you are susceptible to becoming infected by this novel coronavirus because no one has immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. It is an evolving situation, but so far this novel coronavirus appears to be 10 to 20 times more deadly than seasonal flu. Indeed, older people are more likely to go on to develop serve symptoms, but there are cases of younger people getting very sick too. And another novel feature of this virus is that some individuals may show little or no symptoms at all, but act like super spreaders.

This was, it is, a crisis that everyone is experiencing virtually at the same time. And, it is one that has removed almost every form of distraction we might have depended upon not to feel so bad about something we was or are experiencing. Sporting games have been shut down, bars and restaurants are being shut down, gyms and public spaces of every kind are being shut down. People must isolate, and if they got out into a public space, they must try to keep 6 feet distance. It is something we are not use to in modern, highly advanced, civilized societies, even though many, many people in the world have and are suffering much more everyday, but somehow we have managed to keep our distance from their pain.

The Lost Bird Tribe: Grow A Supportive & Caring Community Yourself

After this winnowing down of my online social contacts, I did something I didn’t expect to do. I created my own group. Yes, this was a crazy thing to do. I called this group: If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?  It’s a phrase Alan Watts said in one of his lectures. I started listening to a lot of Alan Watts after Cider died. I found his lectures strangely comforting. This particular phrase made a lot of sense to me as I was coming to terms with my fate and the world as it really is, and not how I wanted it to be. In a way, Watts was leading me back to one of my Lost Bird Tribes. He was helping me trust my inner knowledge and wisdom. He was helping me learn how to trust myself to take the actions I needed to take to heal me.

After creating this group, I invited a few friends who had stood by me. I really wasn’t sure what sort of group I wanted it to be, but I wanted a group that could honor differences between members with dignity and respect. I wanted a group that could foster deep conversations on issues that matter without being cruel to each other when we hit points of divergence on such issues as human beings are naturally going to hit because we are individuals. I had been in enough groups where I had seen the equivalent of online shouting (e.g., my idea or opinion is better than yours). It is a type of behavior that seems to have infected so many online groups and communities. I also wanted a group that could help individual members do things they felt deeply called to do but it can be incredibly difficult to do such a thing for doing so often requires a person to step back from the trappings and expectations of modern society and to live on shoestrings until something becomes self-sustaining, if it ever become self-sustaining.

The idea of creating a Swimming Pool for the Mind began to emerge. A place where friends can gather and share stories and ideas just like friends might do when they sit around a campfire. A place where we can grow a true sense of community like our ancestors surely shared when they came together to survive on the vast savannas and glaciers of long ago when humans did not rule the world. A place where we might discover moments of synchronicity that inspire or connect dots of thought or ideas. A place where we might go like a swimming pool to strengthen our body, but this was a pool for the mind to strengthen compassion, kindness, curiosity, and understanding. A place where we gathered to listen to each other and to grow in our individual beingness as human being living through extraordinary times that requires all of us to dive deeper inside ourselves and find inner lost languages and abilities needed right now to survive our times by making choices that regard the wellbeing and safety of others just as highly as the safety and wellbeing of one’s self.

The Lost Bird Tribe: We Are the Medicine of Now

Now is the time for our storytellers and artists and philosopher bloggers to shine a light forward; a way towards a kinder, a greener, a more compassionate future that has room for all living beings of Earth–the rich ones and the poor ones, the human ones and the non-human ones. We all go together and it is going to take every single individual making the choices that are as inclusive and compassionate as they can be to make it through our current crisis of COV-19 (e.g., maintain social distance and help to flatten the curve so that our medical systems don’t collapse and we do have enough respirators to help those individual who get severely ill from COV-19). It is going to take every single human being (rich and poor) to make personal sacrifices and choices to ensure and protect the greater good. We need each other doing this now to flatten the curve and avert the most devastating possibility this virus looks capable of inflicting everywhere where human lives.

And when our daily lives return to “normal” again, perhaps we can integrate some of the lessons we have learned about crisis and how we need each other most of all during these times. And, we can set aside our differences to flatten another curve of a catastrophic nature, the climate change curve, which also threatens human civilization as we know it.

Our individual choices hold the transformation power to hold COV-19 at bay and to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. This power resides inside of us. We are the medicine for Now. When we are going through a time of crisis, whether it is personal, regional, or global, the Lost Birds come to us through our nighttime dreams and daydreams, in visions and doodles, in flashes of insights and moments of intuition. They are the wings of wisdom that lift us above our circumstances to we can see a better way forward. They are the feathers of creativity, imagination, and artistry that reveal the buried treasures hidden in our souls.

They come in every shape and color. They can fly to the highest echelons of our minds or dive to the deepest, darkest parts inside our psyche. They help reconnect us back to the parts we have lost inside ourselves and show us how we to converse together again as one vibrant, alive Tribe of Earth.

What Lost Tribes and Languages wait to be discovered inside of you right now? Now is a gift of the most unique and unusual kind…it is the gift of time. We have all been knocked out of our usual routines and distractions. Perhaps with this time, you might catch a glimpse of one of your Lost Bird Tribes who can reconnect you with some of your lost inner languages. Now, you have the gift of time to venture an inner journey and become a legend. This is breaking the rules of modern life because if we truly find what matters to us inside, all the consumption and distraction and deadlines just might not matter so much.

Take now to recover a little bit more of who you are…who you have always been, it’s just been forgotten and buried by our modern, civilized life. Allow some of your Lost Bird Tribes to reveal themselves and show you beautiful things inside of yourself that can rejuvenate, inspire, and renew you, Now.

The Lost Bird Tribe: Be the Spark of Mutual Support & Understanding

One of the first conversations to emerge from this group was started by Founding Member Donna Alena Hrabcakova when she posted a couple of short stories and paintings that she called:

The Lost Bird Tribes and Lost Languages

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova — The Lost Bird Tribes and Lost Languages (Crisis and Lost Birds)

“TOP LEFT, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, painted last night. I am deeply effected by the diminishing songs of the birds and I see less birds here in the Midwest these days. What would life be like without their sings and presence? So I dream of the Shamanic Birds whom lull me to sleep. Mourning. What will be their last proclaimation and who will be listening?  Translating for the birds. My last name Hrabcakova in Slovak means BIRD.”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Night Shaman Bird: One Whom Flies With Elk

Night Shaman Bird: One Whom Flies With Elk — Donna Alena Hrabcakova

THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES 
Night Shaman Bird: One Whom Flies With Elk. 
More birds to be posted with writings. Sketchbook.
Good morning my fellow artists!”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

The Lost Bird Tribe: Be the Nourishing Rain that Grows A Conversation

Donna Alena’s two posts inspired another Founding Member, Ulrike Schütz, to share this:

The Legend of the Rainbow Crow

“The story of the Rainbow Crow is a Lenape legend, symbolizing the value of selflessness and service. After a long period of cold weather, the animals of the community become worried. They decide to send a messenger to the Great Sky Spirit to ask for relief. The Rainbow Crow, the most beautifully feathered bird, offers to make the arduous journey. He travels safely, and is rewarded by the Great Spirit with the gift of fire. He carries the gift in his beak back to his people, but upon his return, he does not appear to be the same bird that he once was. The fire has scorched his plumage black, with only hints of his previous color, and his voice has been made rough and hoarse by the smoke. In this way, his sacrifice is commemorated.

Another name for Rainbow Crow is Many Colored Crow. This is in reference to the iridescent feathers created from the fire that scorched his plumage black, with only hints of his previous color that reflect when sun light strikes them.” — Wiki

— Thank you Marianne Connor for sharing the magic of the Rainbow Crow.

Ulrike Schütz shared this picture as well, and she told how she had taken it just after hearing the story of the Rainbow Crow. The sky was retelling this legend and the crows were flying in the formation of a bird/crow. If you look for it, the way the clouds are shaped and how this flock of crows are spread out, they look like a crow in the sky. Ulrike said over the past few years she has developed a kind of communication with the sky that she calls Skylistening. Not only does the sky listen, but it can answer, just as the land, earth, and all the elemental forces.

This is a beautiful example of a synergistic conversation and how we as individuals can learn to tap back into our inner reservoir of wisdom waiting to help us, especially when we are confronting a challenge or enduring a time of crisis. Birds have always been messengers in myths and legends from around the world. And that makes sense because they are boundary crosser. In the normal everyday world, they cross the boundaries between land and sky. In the inner unusual world of the psyche, they can cross between boundaries of despair and hope, fear and confidence, love and hate.

This is what we need Now: To catch glimpses of our Lost Bird Tribes who will help us reconnect to our Lost Inner Languages and Parts of ourselves needed now more than ever to weather the storms we face, whether they come from inside or outside or regardless of it is it a personal crisis or a global one.

Here are a few more Lost Bird Tribes from Donna Alena’s beautiful series.

Lost Bird Tribe: Raven of the Night

“I woke up and painted this Raven of the Night.”

“It’s message: Art heals. Art is the Medicine of our times.”

Narratives. Bards. Poets. Painters. Storytellers. I think its message is to fly into the night and listen for the birds who are always singing, even during the Darkest Nights of the Soul.”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Raven of the Night

Raven of the Night — Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Bird Tribe: Lone Bird — The Language of Aloneness and Authenticity.

“Funny we don’t ask people who are alone, tell me about that…the world wants to share stores of partners, families, children etc…but I want to know about you in your alone moments? 
Who are you? 
What do you do? 
What do think about? 
Meditate on? 
Listen to? 
Read? 
Spend time doing? 
What is your passion in the alone moments that get you out of bed? 
That determine you had a satisfying day? 
That determine your sorrow? 
Sadness? 
Dreams? 
Happiness? 
Bliss? 
What do you dream of??? 
Tell me more about YOU. 

Let’s get to the SOUL of you because isn’t that what we are really hungry, no starving for authentic connection? 

Now that I am alone, not by choice but by fate rolling the dice, I think alot about who are we when we are alone? And why are many terrified of that. I struggle, yes, but I am finding peace more day by day. “

Lone Bird

Lone Bird — Donna Alena Hrabcakova

— LONE BIRD. Watercolor pencils. Sketchbook.

“I think this could be a beautiful collaborative blog if enough of us wanted to explore these very important questions. What are your thoughts?”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Bird Tribe: He/She Whom Crossed the Bering Strait. 

“I saw this one with wider features. He/she was covered in paint and feathers and crossed the lands that opened Pangea when we were all one continent. No borders. Ethnicities of every sort. Thousands of languages exploring the unclaimed landscapes trusting home existed somewhere. This was done in the night and I love how the colors turned out.”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Acrylics. *Nighttime is a beautiful hour to paint.

CROSSING THE BERING STRAIT: MIGRATION OF THE UNNOWN.

CROSSING THE BERING STRAIT: MIGRATION OF THE UNNOWN. — Donna Alena Hrabcakova — Crisis and Lost Birds

Acrylics. *Nighttime is a beautiful hour to paint.

Lost Bird Tribe: Riven

“I just painted my fav painting thus far. I am taking a painting class MOTHER EARTH my teacher is the amazing Michal Shimoni. My art has truly shifted by practicing her techniques along with personal shifts in my life. Title: RIVEN: INITIATION. Riven is a Hebrew and British name meaning to split or tear apart. I had a dream 2 weeks ago I was in a painting class. I saw a book in the room I wanted to read but was told I could not read it by the Professor. I took the book and plastered it into the painting. The title was JE NE SAIS PAS. Which in French means “I don’t know.” My Slovakian Bubbie always said this. In Slovak it is YE NES NUM. I think art is a great mystery into the Darkness, the Void, the Unexplainable Places, I call them the Ancestors. There the Divine Spark is lit. I never know what I will bring back. Art and books can never be censorsed as it so much bigger than us!”

“Riven represents an adolescent girl becoming a woman. She is composed by the forest, a deep enigma carrying this forbidden book with her Shamanic bird companion. I saw her in a jingle dress and feathers. I lived on an Indian Reservation for years. She was apprenticing for this Sacred Calling. These women are the Medicine Dancers. I am so honored I walked on Ojibwa lands for 7 years. What a gift. Something has shifted in my art with this painting. I don’t fully understand it but we will see where it goes. I am honored and humbled to share RIVEN. Are you going on a personal initiation also?”

— In loving kindness, Donna Alena

Riven

Riven — Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Bird Tribe: SPIRITS IN THE TREES: HOOVER DAM

“I was inspired by Hoover Dam this morning. Horses, Elk, Shamanic Birds, Tree Goddesses cohabitating in these magical landscapes of trees… Watercolor Pencils. Inspiration from Michal Shimoni my teacher abroad and our MOTHER EARTH PAINTING CLASS. Today was a hard day so I am happy with this. 💘”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Spirits in the Trees: Hoover Dam

SPIRITS IN THE TREES: HOOVER DAM — Donna Alena Hrabcakova

Lost Bird Tribes: WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS.

“Well this seems like 1,000’s of layers. I see her as Persephone rising from the Earth being reunited with her Mother Demeter. It appears she is half bird a shapeshifter of some sort. I am thinking as we isolate more I will try and focus on my art even deeper. The ARTIST voices are needed now more than ever to transmute this energy we are faced with. The day is so quiet with snow falling it almost seems like the pandemic crisis of this virus is at bay but we all know better. I used quite a bit of molding paste mixed with spices, coffee, rose oil, dirt and more. I have stated earlier that my last name in Slovak means bird. Seems very fitting since I have painted them so much. I want to hear your songs, stories, see your art, poetry, writings and musings. Let us embrace the alone time to really evaluate what is TRULY important. 💙”

— Donna Alena Hrabcakova

When Women Women Birds

WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS. — Donna Alena Hrabcakova — Crisis and Lost Birds

More Lost Bird Tribes and Languages
Individuals Who Are Following Their Creativity and Passion

Here are a few more individuals who I know are doing wonderful things by sinking deeply into what they feel called to do right here and right now. Really, this is all we ever have is Here & Now. It is at this point where we can transform ourselves and the world. Each of us holds a critical pieces to a better future and to a more sustainable and compassionate world. How are you going to use your gift of Now?

My friend Reinhard Hopperger is launching a new website called GreenerAndWiser. This is a site that gathers together in one place information on current events, climate issues, Native American wisdom, spirituality, society, technology, economy, and more–basically everything that makes Now so very challenging to navigate, especially as a global collective whose footprint covers every nook and cranny of our world and whose individual choices that add up to a massive collective choice could determine the fate of our world. He also has launched a Facebook group with the same name.

GreenerAndWiser — website and group

My friend Ben Roberts is growing a global community to explore the art of being fully human in a time of crisis. Individuals gather from around the world a couple of times through a series of Zoom calls that explore relevant topics impacting participants. There is also a Facebook group where people gather to share ideas as well as many other innovative social platforms being woven together to create a new type of social platform to harness the good each individual seeks to share and amplify it through this growing collective. It takes the form of a global gathering and gift economy for collectively navigating the complexity of our times in order to support action, build community, foster healing, and unleash generosity. To find out more, visit Now What?! A new series of Zoom calls are about to begin on March 23, 2020, so go check it out.

Now What?! website and Facebook Group

My friend Alex Lavigne-Gagnon is an artists, musical, and philosopher blogger. Through his work, he shows us beautiful ways to reconnect to inner landscapes of musical expression or color or words. Each of us can find these inner-scapes through the act of creating. Here are just a few of Alex’s beautiful creations.

Nuit blanche – Improvisation

And on Reverbnation: Jonas-Thanatos the Engineer is a selection of songs he has composed and produced.

Jonas-Thanatos the Engineer — Singer/Songwriter

My friend Hannelie Sensemaker Worldpainter Venucia is helping people reconnect to joy through the Joy Generation. Check out her website and YouTube channel:

My friend Jürgen Hornschuh writes thought provoking blogs and will soon publish a book entitled “Mach was!?” (Do something!?). He writes about the predicament of our culture, otherwise known as global industrial civilization. His book will draw upon the works of Daniel Quinn, John Michael Greer, Derrick Jensen, Thomas Henry Pope, Keith Farnish, George Gorman, and Charles Eisenstein, to name a few of the many sources of insight and inspiration for “Mach was!?”, which is a look at civilization from various angles in order to find out how we can face its omnicidal trip individually and collectively.

My friend Floris Koot also blogs The Gentle Revolution: Towards a revolution we all want to dance in, for a flourishing planet.

My friend George Chiger is a professional eater. Yes, you read this right. He trains as a competitive eater. This is a competitive sport that takes training. George is ranked 12th in the world. He is trying currently to reach enough views on his YouTube channel The Smorgasborg to monetize it. This will help him make this a self-sustaining profession. He dreams to leverage his success as a professional eater to help children and youth in the United States who do not have enough to eat to get enough to eat. If you are looking for interesting things to view on YouTube right now, check out George!

George Chiger on Porkroll & His Competitive Eating Journey

My brother is working to create innovative graphics for websites and social media that catch attention and are unusual and unique. He has created a self-evolving algorithm that evolves your original designs. All the moving featured images, website graphics, and even the moving spacers in this blog have been created using his WordPress plugin. He needs people to try things out and help him evolve it even more. If your interested, check out his website and for early adopters of the WordPress plugin, he may provide it free for a limited number.

These are just some of the people who I know sinking down into doing something they feel deeply called to do. Many have made sacrifices to do so. So find your Lost Bird Tribes, tell your story, create your art or music or movie. This is what leads us to the reservoirs of wisdom where our lost inner languages flow eternally, this is where we get our strength to survive practically anything. It is how we grow as individuals, how we find the courage to be compassionate, how we change the world.

Be the Most Creative You that YOU Can Be, Now, and Change Reality

Cider — Dog of Wonder & Love

Remembering

It’s been 2 months since Cider died in my arms. I can still feel the moment when her heart stopped beating. She stiffen suddenly, then slowly let go of everything. I was utterly helpless to keep her from leaving. Her heart was unable to keep up with the blood being lost due to internal bleeding. We did not know she was bleeding inside.

Cider died 2 days before Christmas. It was a terrible shock. As a cockapoo, her breed can live to be 20 years old. We thought we had more time with her. We were wrong. When she died, she was 11 years and 1 month.

What made her death even harder to bear was she had been helping me navigate one of the most difficult years of my life. My father suffered a heart attack in 2018. He was revived and flown to the Mayo Clinic, but his heart had stopped for 15 minutes. It was a miracle he was revived. I tell this story elsewhere, so I will not do so again here other than to say he died 10 days later. I was by his side. On top of this, my workplace fired me for being with dad when he died. These two events released a string of other tragedies (big and small) that swept over me like a tidal wave. It took me a year and a half to resurface.

Seven months before Cider died, I began drawing pictures with a little brown dog in them. After Cider died, I realized I was drawing her. She had been a spirit guide walking with me every day through my grief and despair; just like dad had done for so many people in their time of pain and anguish. I realized during this year I had placed a piece of my soul with Cider because I could not carry all of myself anymore.

Cider gladly helped me carried myself through my time of sorrow and desolation. She never thought me petty or that I was wasting my time or that I should just get over it. Cider simply went with me wherever I went. And, she loved me no matter what I was feeling. Cider loved everyone she met. Dogs seem innately able to do this–to comfort us well beyond their size and status as a creature consider far less important than a human (see NOVA’s Dog Tales). But, dogs seem capable of providing unconditional love far beyond what “normal” humans demonstrate day to day. Cider was nothing less than an angel with fur and a short tale she waged constantly. She helped me repair my shattered world after dad died. Without her, I’m not sure I would have recovered.

As fate would have it, just as I was beginning to feel myself returning to something resembling myself before dad died, Cider died. I say I was returning to something resembling myself because no one is ever completely the same after a great tragedy befalls them such as the death of a loved one. Death, disaster, or sudden tragedy (or all at once) are not meant to keep us intact. We either survive and somehow grow despite all the pain or we collapse. Without each other (or without dogs), recovering from psychological collapse is very improbable. (See a blog about the 11 years Cider helped our family survive at Tribute to Cider: A Super Sad Story and see a blog about conscious grow sprouted from disaster In the Heart of the Sea of Grief and Guilt.)

This post is really about the video I made for Cider. This video shows the progression of the drawings I was creating as I struggled to return back to the world of the living after dad died. I created a video tribute for dad too. Little did I know I was making one for Cider. This video is best described as a musical diary of these images. I’ve come to see them as an imaginative rendering of a perilous inner journey with Cider by my side. Words simply fail to describe what is going inside when a person is forced to make such a journey due to circumstances. When such things befall us, they always push a person much deeper than they ever intended to go had they not been shoved.

Since Cider’s Death — Puppy Buddha

Since Cider’s death, we adopted a new puppy. She turns 3 months old this week: two days after Cider’s 2 month death anniversary. Cider and puppy shared life on this planet for one month. Also, puppy was born the same week Cider was born 11 years earlier.

We found puppy the week after Cider died. My daughter saw her and her siblings in a video posted by a rescue organization (Reach Out Rescue Resources). After watching the video of these adorable puppies, a rainbow appeared in the direction of Cider’s most favorite walk. My daughter and I felt it was Cider telling us she will always remember and love us. And, she was telling us the best way to honor her was to keep growing love by adopting one of these puppies who needed a loving home. So we did, and we love her.

She is not a replacement for Cider, but she is helping us grow love every day. And in the end, love is all that really matters.

These are short videos of our new puppy that I call Puppy Buddha.

Photos of Cider in the Her Last Year

Beloved Cece: I will love you forever…

Cider’s Great Passion Where Tennis Balls
“Oh… I thought this was a ball!”
Cider Was the Best Howler!!
Merry Christmas — Cider Loved Opening Her Presents!
Cider at the Lake on the Way Back from Dad’s Memorial Service

Unexpected Letter

As I got ready to post this blog, I glanced at our mailbox and was surprised to find a letter because it was Sunday. Then, I remembered my neighbor told me he dropped a misdelivered letter into our box. I saw him on a walk earlier that day with Sasha and puppy. He greeted our puppy for the first time and told me had done this. The letter was from mom. She was wishing us a happy spring and included some of dad’s writings. She said he was trying to write his life story. These are the pages she sent filled with his beautiful, beautiful handwriting. I will never see his beautiful handwriting again or have the joy of receiving these written treasures from him.

Love is the most precious gift we give to each other. It is the love that we share that helps us weave strong lives and tell wonderful stories. Every individual story is woven with every other story being told by all living beings about what happens to them as they travel through time on this little blue planet spinning in space. The stories that are woven with love are the strongest stories. And, these stories contribute to a vibrant and life-sustaining shared reality. This is how we polish our precious jewel of the universe, Earth, making her shine brightly. When we share love… we share what really matters in life… it’s not money, it’s not power, it’s not fame… it’s love!

Angel in the clouds

In the Heart of the Sea of Grief and Guilt

Recently, my husband and I watched the movie: In the Heart of the Sea. It is based on a true story about a whaling ship the Essex that was rammed by a sperm whale in 1820. The whale sunk the Essex about 3,000 miles from the shores of South America. Several books have been written about this disaster then and since. The movie is based on a book of the same name written by Nathaniel Philbrick and published on May 8, 2000. It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction that same year. The movie does an admirable job dramatizing events that led up to the sinking of the Essex and the crew’s 90-day struggle to survive storms, hunger, and despair. The movie also depicts how Herman Melville came to write his magnum opus, Moby Dick, though there are some inaccuracies in this part of storyline as well as in the main plot (see the video below). I think it is interesting to note that Melville was born on August 1, 1819 (one year before the Essex sunk). He died September 28, 1891. Moby Dick was published in 1851, essentially the middle span of his life.

The movie begins with Melville tracking down the last living survivor of the Essex, Thomas Nickerson (this is not historically accurate). 

From Wiki: “In 1850, author Herman Melville visits innkeeper Thomas Nickerson, the last survivor of the sinking of the whaleship Essex, offering money in return for his story. Nickerson initially refuses, but then finally agrees when his wife intervenes. The story turns to 1820: A whaling company in Nantucket has refitted the Essex to participate in the lucrative whale oil trade, and 14-year-old Nickerson signs on as a cabin boy.”  Wikipedia: In the Heart of the Sea

According to the movie, the rainy night Melville arrives, Thomas is consumed by his inner demons because he has never spoken about his ordeal. It is eating him up from the inside and causing hardships for himself and his wife. After some back and forth about the money Melville is offering Thomas to tell his tale, Thomas finally relents. Melville is shown listening and taking notes while Thomas sinks into the memories that are haunting him. I will not retell any more of the movie, except to highlight a few scenes that stood out to me as relevant to me personally and to our time, which is presently 2020. This is exactly 200 years after the Essex was sunk by a whale, which is weird… but I’ll get to that later.

The first thing that struck me as pertinent to our time was the importance of whale oil to the life and commerce of the early 1800s. It was whale oil that lit the Western World from Europe to the Americas, and then following the fracture lines of colonization to light the entire world. The movie does an excellent job depicting how the whaling industry operated. It shows how the corporations of this time were eager to mine the fortunes to be had from whale oil. And, it would become painfully clear just how willing these corporations were of doing despicable things in order to safeguard their money, their hierarchical structure, and their systems of commerce focused on profit at all costs.

At the end of the movie, there is a scene that hints at the discovery of oil that comes from out of the ground. It is a nod to the fossil fuel industry that will soon replace the whaling industry in less than 40 years after the sinking of the Essex. It is also a nod to the transfer of blueprints from hard-hearted industry to another. However, before the whaling industry would decline, nearly every species of whale is hunted to the brink of extinction. I could barely watch the scenes in this movie when the men of the Essex successfully hunted and killed a beautiful bull whale, then stripped him of every ounce of fat he had, which they boiled down to make the treasured Nantucket whale oil. By 1820, whales in the Atlantic had grown scarce. Thus, the Essex had to sail around Cape Horn, a dangerous strait between South America and Antarctica, to reach the whales in the Pacific. But, even here the whales were being hunted aggressively, and so they were moving further and further away from the continents to get away from man. But, man followed them.

* * *

The next scene I feel is germane to our time was when the men were boarding the Essex in Nantucket Bay. On the docks, there is a group of pilgrim-like people who are praying for the men as they board the Essex. You can see this scene at 6 minutes and 30 seconds in the video below. The preacher is heard saying: 

“Oh Father (…) ensure they return safely with a full ship, so that the white flames of Nantucket’s whale oil continue to light our homes and fuel the machines of industry that drive our great nation forward as our noble species evolves…”

Clip of the Preacher’s Prayer from In the Heart of the Whale at minute 6:30

This video is from The Cynical Historian who brings up a very important point about framing.

As you read the rest of this blog, consider the different ways humans frame reality. We can’t help it really. It’s the price we pay for consciousness. And, there is a price for being able to make a choice other than what instinct would have otherwise dictated we do. Time is a framing device that our minds use to distinguish between a moment in the past and a moment yet to be. Money is a framing device most people who live in Western Civilization must use to make a living and to acquire a station in life. Western Civilization itself is a framing device (For more on this frame of reality, see How to identify imperialistic thought (Yurugu series #2)).

Frames are helpful because they encode observations about when something like this happens that follows. Frames serve as shortcuts in thinking that can help us make decisions quickly when we encounter similar situations again. But, all frames leave out critical parts of reality. And, it is these parts that get left out that can really mess us up when we encounter a situation that we really don’t understand… like the men on the Essex when they encountered a whale that was not acting like any whale they had ever encountered before. Sometimes our misjudgments and lack of seeing reality as it really is results in terrible consequences. What is being left out of the dominant modern frame imposed by Western Civilization?

This idea of our species being noble and evolving ever forward plays out again after the Essex has been sunk. The men have been adrift for many days and nights and days. They are surviving on a single piece of hard tact per man per day, and a very small one at that. They are also allowed a single swig of water each day. Since the ship did not sink as dramatically as the movie depicts, the men had time to strip the Essex of her sails and supplies, but only what they could fit into the smaller boats they took out to chase whales, now turned into their life rafts. However, these three boats were hardly big enough to hold enough supplies so the men might survive their 3,000-mile journey back to civilization, especially since they were caught in the doldrums of the equatorial region of the sea. Thus, it does not take long before the men are slowly starving to death. Just before anyone dies, they come upon an island. It is a deserted island, but it provides a short respite from their ordeal. Soon; however, they eat up everything edible on the island. So, they have no choice but to shove off in their little boats again to try to reach the mainland if they want to live. 

This is where the next scene occurs that I feel is closely connected to our time. It is the night before they are to set sail to try to make it back to South America. The first mate Chase speaks with the Captain Pollard about their differences. He is making a peace offering because he knows there is no other way to survive but to set aside all differences and work together from a place of unity. Chase comes from a working-class background. He is a man who knows his trade, which is whaling, and he is very good at it. According to the movie, he was supposed to have received commanded of the Essex, but it was taken from him because of his social class. It was given to Pollard instead because he came from a rich family within the whaling industry. But, Pollard did not know his trade, not like Chase did. Needless to say, there were problems. Pollard accepts Chase’s peace offering, but continues to cling to the idea of the supremacy of man saying something like… “God put us here to circumvent navigate the world and rule over all creatures.” Chase replies, “Does it look like we are so supreme given where we are at right now and what has happened to us.” Neither men at this moment has any idea how much worst their situation is going to get, but I think Chase senses things are probably going to get worse before they get better. And, they do get worse–-they get a whole lot worse.

* * *

After the movie, I thought I might dream about a white whale ramming the Essex. But I did not dream about a whale. Instead, I thought about all the signs I missed one month earlier when my beloved dog Cider died in my arms.

ALL ALONG THE ANCESTORS WERE GUIDING ME HOME. Whale, Sea Turtle, and Heron by Donna Alena Hrabcakova
WATER AND BONES. Women with Rib by Donna Alena Hrabcakova
Cider Dog
Cider-Fox by Donna Alena Hrabcakova — Alena drew this picture about 3 weeks after Cider passed. My husband, I, and surviving dog Sasha were on a walk retracing the last run I took with Cider before she died. On that last run, Cider and I saw a fox. Cider was thrilled about seeing it and barked so vigorously. One would hardly guess she would be dead in less than 48 hours. She loved looking for foxes, and we saw them many times in the months before she died. While we were walking, Alena felt this image rising and drew it then sent it to me. We both felt it was Cider’s beautiful spirit saying: “I am still here.”

That terrible night occurred two days before Christmas. Her heart was racing so fast and her breathing labored. Her body was suffocating because it could no longer keep up with the depletion of hemoglobin in her blood. This was because she was bleeding internally, but we did not know this. The signs were subtle, even the doctors to whom we took her dead body in hopes they could revive her said it would have been hard for them to diagnosis her in time to save her. The symptoms she had displayed, I completely misread and misunderstood. I will not recap this super sad story. You can read it in the previous blog post, but her sudden and tragic death set me back adrift upon my inner sea of sadness, grief, despair, and now guilt, growing waves of guilt. It is a sea that has steadily risen inside me after a decade of struggle that got a whole lot worst just after our family vacation in 2015.

This would be the last vacation our family could afford due to mounting unfortunate and deteriorating circumstances. Now with hindsight (and this movie), I can see that this moment was when our family shoved off from our desert island. We had no idea we had already been rammed by the whale, or maybe I should say the buffalo or bull–or perhaps the buffalos were trying to bring our attention to our imminent danger just ahead of us in time. This really happened to us that summer.

After this trip, every fragile idea and frame of reality we had ever harbored about what it takes to create and sustain a home and maintain safety and security would be shattered, one painful one after another for 5 years in ways that were unreturnable to what we had known before. When people find themselves in such circumstances, overwhelming guilt is inevitable for how else can one confront such devastating losses and continue moving forward? The only other feelings I can say that I was aware of underneath the guilt was terrible despair, overwhelming helplessness, and a rumbling anger… a dangerous anger because this type of anger can blow up into hate, especially when a person feels abandoned, forgotten, or even worst, discarded, dispensable, disposable.

So, you see, guilt is a pretty good armor during times like these because it masks these other more threatening and extreme emotions bubbling up from unfathomable depths and threatening to submerge one’s already shattered ego. At least by feeling guilty, a thin veneer gets created, making a papery barrier that insulates the conscious part of one’s self from those other parts where these powerful emotions churn–and where one can feel these emotions could transform into forces that could sink the listing Ship of Self.

When our frames of reality are first shattered, the feeling of being cast adrift on a vast and foreign sea is almost inescapable. And perhaps it is necessary for these old frames pretty much have to be shattered or abandoned, just like the Essex had to be abandoned after it was rammed by the whale. This is so because they have failed us in significant and fatal ways. After one abandons the mother ship that had been carefully constructed by one’s former smaller frames of reality, one is suddenly confronted with a vast and bigger reality–one that is a great deal bigger–like Pacific Ocean bigger. And, this reality can be brutal. When one finds oneself adrift on this great Sea of Misfortune and Sorrow and sailing in a boat that is too small to sustain you for long, or even worse, clinging to a piece of wreckage, pretty much the only thing you can do is hold on for dear life. One also lacks the most basic tools to navigate by, so it can be hard to get one’s orientation. It is a lot like the situation the men who abandoned the Essex found themselves in without their tools of navigation, or at least, very few of them, which they needed to find their way back to civilization.

If you can hold on during such extreme times, and there is no guarantee that you can because I am talking about catastrophic circumstances that happen to perfectly normal and good people. These are events that come out of nowhere, they cannot be predicted, and they occur through no fault or short coming of the individual (well at least not from our current frames of reality, the ones we are taught from birth and punished if we don’t follow the rules our modern systems purport… so there is a bigger thing going on). These are events that just happen, and they happen to everyone like weather. They are crippling events, even lethal, regardless of whether they originate from inside oneself or come from outside like the whale who rammed the Essex. Now, I understand it is hard to spot a person in such a state. After all, they have ventured outside of the normal frames of reality in which we have all been taught to operate and to stay inside. Thus, such a person may be as hard to spot as the men of the Essex who were 3,000 miles from where most of the other humans who could have helped them were congregated. However, if you do happen to spot someone enduring such trauma and crisis, it is essential to believe this person and be kind to them. Pay them extra attention, so they know they are not disposable like a piece of trash to be thrown away because they are broken at the moment. It is important to do this because these individuals have survived a disaster, and they now possess information about reality that those of us who have not endured such a trial of survival still need to know in order to grow.

It is difficult and draining to support a person in crisis. I will not lie about that. And, inevitably survivors begin to grapple with the whys: why me, why now, why my beloved, why is the world like this? This is hard too, and these are not easy questions to answer. In fact, often they cannot be answered, only endured. But, catastrophic situations might be essential for our collective survival because they force us to confront our most cherished ideas, beliefs, and frames of reality. They force us to grapple with the unanswerable and re-examine how we have come to our beloved beliefs and mental frames, but ones that have kept vast parts of ourselves submerged in our unconsciousness–good parts and bad parts. When we begin to see these parts as a whole, we start to understand how they are essential to be integrated into our growing field of consciousness. Both superior and inferior qualities are essential to help us make more balance choices and live more wisely. With parts of ourself still submerged, we tend to move through the world in a lopsided way. We get stuck just like the men from the Essex who got caught in the doldrums. We do not move forward any more. Rather, we go around in smaller and smaller circles. It is only when we confront and integrate these lost parts of ourself that we can begin to move forward again. And, if bad things continue to happen, we have grown a deeper reservoir of fresh water inside ourselves, this is wisdom, and we can draw on it to help survive and recover from our ordeals a little more quickly.

Eventually, as we continue to do inner work, we also confront the knowledge that what we did not know or understand contributed to the situation that caused us so much pain and suffering and to those we love. This can be difficult knowledge to bear. However, it is precisely this sort of knowledge that help us grow and transform ourselves and our situation. It is a choice of course to grow, and if we do choose to grow, then a lot of work is going to be needed to build a bigger boat. In fact, you are probably going to have to grow the wood, to turn into timber, to build your shiny new Ship of Self because now you are working beyond the frames of reality most people still must work within. This not easy. And, it can be very lonely. And, you need to build it yourself because only you have the blueprint for who you are and what you need to do. There will be many setbacks and challenges because no one has tried to be you before, and so you have to figure it out the hard way, which means lots of failures. So, I do not find fault with anyone who chooses to go back to a smaller frame of reality because, heck, it’s really scary out there. And, now the world has shown you just how harsh and dangerous it can be. And, it has also illuminated how utterly helpless you are. The biggest problem doing this is succumbing to a bunker mentality. So, moments like these tend to mold and shape us in the most significant ways…for the rest of our life… and these choices can ripple backwards and forwards along our thin strand of time… the one each of us spins and contributes to our shared reality.

But, if you choose to build this bigger Ship of Self, then just like Captain Pollard had to confront the idea of human beings a noble species put here by God to circumvent navigate the world and rule over all other creatures, you have to confront it too because it is an idea that forms some of the foundational aspects of Western Civilization. But, are we really so noble? Do we really possess the intelligence and wisdom needed to rule? I wonder if our species might have been better named Homo intelligentes rather than Homo sapiens. It seems to me we are still trying to get there…to wisdom.

STANDING ON MY ANESTRAL LANDS: GIGLOVCE, SLOVAKIA by Donna Alena Hrabcakova

I can say with absolutely certainty that I am not noble enough to rule the Earth, nor do I possess the intelligence, or more importantly the wisdom, essential to reign as a supreme being. But now I want to transition from this speculative stream of thought, to say 2015 was also the year this movie In the Heart of the Sea was released. I didn’t see it then. It turns out a lot of people didn’t see it then. 

“In the Heart of the Sea was one of two flops released by Warner Bros in 2015, the other being Pan.[20] It grossed $25 million in North America and $68.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $93.9 million, against a production budget of $100 million.[3]”  Wikipedia: In the Heart of the Sea

But, had I seen it in 2015, I would not have the thoughts I have now here in 2020; not that they are anything special, except possibly to me. During, these five years of mounting misfortune, wreckage, and deepening despair, I often saw myself floating on a piece of wreckage on an endless sea that I dubbed the Sea of Sorrow. It was an inner sea; I drew it many times, as the image below shows (see blog The Sea Within Us). It was also during this time that I came to understand how this sea had been created by my own unconscious choices, but I was not alone in these choices. I had been taught to make them by my culture, by the collective systems within which I must abide to survive. These are carefully crafted frames of reality created by mere mortals who were crafting corporations and all sorts of other systems to run our shiny new modern civilization. And, there are many systems that rule our civilized world: systems of commerce, systems of class, systems of favoritism, chauvinism, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and many other isms and frames used to exclude certain people while elevating others.

The Sea Within Us by Bébé

And so, this is why I very much relate to the suffering and hardships of these men of the Essex. Though I must admit I also rooted for the bull whale protecting his pod after the men harpooned one of his females who had a calf. One might say I am divided individual, and Carl Jung would agree with this. Indeed, to be human is to be divided inside. It is another price for being consciousness. How we resolve this divide can determine everything.

After the bull whale successfully saved the mother and her calf, my sympathies returned to the men and their dire situation. Sure, they were surrounded by water, but it was water they could not drink. Sure, the sea was filled with abundant food, but it was food they could not reach. It was rather as if they floated on a vast desert, and actually that is what happens inside of us when we accept frames of reality that are ultimately too small for who we are and what we ultimately need to do in our life. The men of the Essex had most definitely ended up in the middle of the Pacific partly due to their own poor choices, but in a greater part, they ended up their due to the priorities and short-sightedness of the industry for which they worked. A system of commerce hungry for whale oil that made it impossible for the men to turn back home until they had filled their ship with this precious oil. A hunger that would soon be replicated in full within the nascent fossil fuel industry about to burst out of the ground–imagine that.

* * *

The next day after watching this movie and not sleeping very well due to my great guilt over Cider’s death, my husband and I went for a run with our older surviving dog Sasha. I pointed up into the sky and said: “Look — that cloud looks like a White Whale.”  

Cloud Shaped Like Whale — Masterfile

This was not the cloud I saw, but I think we have all seen clouds that look like White Whales at some point in our life. Captivated by the movie, and now by the cloud, a thought popped into my head: “The world has been struck by the White Whale again.”  

It is clouds, is it not, that are being screwed up by climate change? Either they are growing too big and dropping too much water causing torrential floods, which are only supposed to happen every 100 years or so, but now seem to occur every other year around the world. Or, it is clouds that blow up into mega-typhoons and hurricanes that are far more devastating and deadly with terrible winds and tidal surges. Or, it is clouds that just don’t form at all, evaporating before they can release their precious water further inland from the sea, leaving the land dry and parched and extremely susceptible to wildfires and devastating famines due to droughts that never end.

KOALA — I Weep for You Australia by Donna Alena Hrabcakova — This is just one of the precious species we are losing every day…

Today, we live in a modern world that is populated by nearly 8 billion people, most of whom no longer understand the wisdom of our ancestors or the people who still live closely connected to nature and understand the balances necessary to sustain life. We live in a world where we no longer hear the wisdom of animals and life all around us, really enveloping us and sustaining us. We have become a people who are blinded by ideas of success, glory, and riches to be had in our grand new industrialized world. It is a world we created, but one begotten by short-sighted schemes and greed. And, there is a price for this too.

Recent data shows 2019 was the second hottest year on record.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2020-01-20-at-12.44.03-PM.png
Popular Science — 2019 was the second warmest year on record—here’s what this means for our future: New government data shows climate change is (still) heating up — Kate Baggaley, 1/17/20

As our man-made world, powered now by fossil fuels rather than whale oil, pushes nature’s delicate balances ever more out of whack, balances that nature worked out over billions of years, our framing of reality is snapping–just like the timbers of the Essex splintered after the whale rammed the ship. It is 200 year since the Essex sunk, and in this incredibly short amount of time, Earth is breaking, all because of our extreme enamoration with oil and coal.

PBS NEWSHOUR: Could bushfires erode Australia’s climate change ‘inertia’?

The price for our collective short-sighted industriousness is going to be paid by all of us. No one will be spared the consequences of the choices made for far too long. We have changed the world to our liking, but it’s not to the liking of life. Despite this, corporate interests guarding their profit margins stay the course, like Captain Pollard going straight into the hurricane. It is a course that supersedes the needs of life on Earth… a dying Earth… an Earth rammed by the white whale. But this time, there is a twist to the story because this time we are the whale. We are the ones ramming our ship that is carrying us through the vast and desolate emptiness of space, and believe me, if we have to abandon this ship, where we end up is going to be a lot harsher than the Pacific Ocean, probably unendurable. This whale that is living inside us feeds on the powerful emotions that are found in great abundance within our inner Seas…of Sorrow, …of Despair, …of Grief and Guilt and …of Helplessness and Hate. Believe me, or don’t believe me, but modern life is full of people who have fallen into such seas.

If we happen to catch a glimpse of how our personal blindness and short-sightedness has contributed to this current moment, it is often overwhelming, and so, it is quickly concealed or we blame someone else for our sad and sorry fate. But soon, there will be no one else to blame. Soon, our individual seas will spill over and merge with every other sea spilling over to create one gigantic wave of despair for this will be the only emotion left to feel, if we survive that long. Much of this will be because of what our small frames of reality have wrought. Most likely, it will be a prolonged and brutal odyssey, just like the men of the Essex endured… unless we wake up, unless we change our frame of reality, unless we put aside our differences, unite, and help each other do the inner work essential to survive what is coming next. 

This is not easy or pretty work, but what lies ahead of us is not easy or pretty either. Even though the situation is dire, each and every one of us can take action this very moment. This action is to heal ourselves and to help others heal. It requires one magical, elusive ingredient, which is love. It begins by self-love and being gentle with yourself. Love is what can stop this wave of destruction. But, love is work. 

This is what I have learned about healing love:

Is quiet, unless it needs to roar.

Is kind, but not stupid.

Puts others needs above ones own needs and desires, but sees through false appeals for assistance and insincerity, then it simply nods and chuckles.

Listens, hears, and understands what others say.

Waits…sometimes a long time…without judgment… if judgement is necessary, love has a good argument with the Self… and pays attention to all the information, good and bad, then weighs it fairly with the intention of discovering truth and implementing justice.

Rearranges time to do the right thing… rescue a stray dog, listen to a lonely person, help someone in need… these are the moments that really matter… when someone else’s needs truly supersede your own.

Is inclusive knowing all beings are utterly dependent on each other to survive and thrive on Earth.
Protects the rights, dignity, and well-being of all living beings.

Penetrates through everything… it is the great mixer of the universe, but even as it passes through every visible thing in the universe, it does not change or destroy a thing or being in any way, not like hate does, which also penetrates everything, but when it does, it rips things to pieces… love unites, bonds, supports, comforts, and sustains.

There are many other qualities to love. I still need to learn more. But, I am ready to keep learning. I am ready to deconstruct and reconstruct my frames of reality daily, if needed. Are you ready to do intense inner work? Are you ready to build a bigger Ship of Self by growing your own inner strength, resilience, wisdom, and capacity to love deeply? All of this is absolutely essential to be ready for the Great Transformation or whatever is supposed to come next because it has begun. There is no time to waste. Earth has already started listing severely to the side from the ramming we have given her.

THE EL CAMINO OF GRIEF. 
A dream of me in my Russian fur hat on ancestral land — by Donna Alena Hrabcakova
WHEN YOU BECAME LOVE AND BLISS. Blair in the afterlife — by Donna Alena Hrabcakova



* * *

One final thought on the importance of doing inner work since I’m all worked up about it. Many people think that we are on the cusp of a Great the Transformation, a Shift, or Metamorphosis, or Great Awakening of Gaia…but if we have not done critical inner work to get ready for it, to grow big enough for it, whatever you think is coming next, will not necessarily be what you think it is supposed to be. Nature does not care one wick for the transformation of consciousness or even if we survive as a species (case in point, note what happened to the dinosaurs). If we leave it up to Her, we might just all be transformed into Banana Slugs (see the 2nd song in the video below: Muy Tranquil — it’s at about 8 minutes… ah Cider is in this video! It is a concept video for one of the characters in the story I am writing).  

We are the ones who stepped across the Matrix of Minds into consciousness (I explain what this is in the story I am writing, which you can read when I finally get the 1st book out; otherwise, just make up your own explanation). Now, we must make a choice. One of the choices is to learn how to love ourselves fiercely. And, I am not talking about narcissistic love. I am talking about the kind of love that leaves us in great grief when our loved ones are taken from us through death. This is how we save Earth. It begins with you. It begins with healing yourself, and then helping others to do the same. It is time-consuming, messy work, and one slides backwards all the time, it’s very frustrating… but one does not give up and one does not wince when another to small frame of reality is shed. Of course, this is painful, but without pain we do not grow.

I have included my friend Alena’s paintings, lots of them, because she is showing us through her art how to get back to inner, deeper spaces inside ourselves through dreams and visions and imagination. It is only here where we can see inner storms rising and circumvent navigate them in order to survive them. It is here where we learn that we can live a lot more simply and happily than we have been told. It is here where we can learn how to see, feel, taste, and hear our way back to what is really important, and that is love. When we love fiercely, we fight for truth and justice. We fight for life and self-determination. We help each other grow our fields of consciousness, so that we can all make better choices. Alena brought my attention to Robert Moss who recently published a blog on soul loss and recovery. Much of what I have written above can also be understood as soul loss. This is a beautiful analogy to what happens to us when we face situations and circumstances that overwhelm and crush us. He says: “Understanding soul loss and how our Active Dreaming approach facilitates soul recovery and helps us become shamans of our own souls.”

So, activate your imagination…make time to dream…find ways to re-engage your inner world, and most of all love deeply. When you find yourself in grief, which is a natural consequence of deep love, do not fear it… embrace it. Let it help you shatter your previous frames of reality because they were probably too small for your soul, which needs a bigger body and mind to do what it came here to do, so grow! All the while, love yourself and help others in whatever way they need. We will not survive any other way unless we put aside our differences and unite as a force of healing love for life.

Drawing by Bébé from video blog: It Came From Inside and Tribute to Cider