Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Make room for everyone . . .

. . . and celebrate your differences!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Stand up . . .

. . . and speak out about what you believe.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blessed! Acting for social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment in my own backyard

At some point in our dinner conversation I noticed Kate, of Richard and Kate, had a piece of paper folded into a card standing next to her placemat, on it a cross-legged Donald Trump sitting in the kind of orange toga usually reserved for Buddhist monks. I bristled a bit at the juxtaposition, but Kate was inspiring with her gentle words reminding us that we can choose to despise someone (which is, they say, like taking poison and expecting the other person to die) or we can send energy of a new and improved version (of our 45th President--45 for short) into the Universe, careening toward and building like-energy. This is Law of Attraction stuff--getting exactly what we envision. If we envision and fear war, the law states, we get war. If we envision and seek peace, we get peace.

It's the perfect example of "for" work that appeals to those of us who are are longing to do something to quell our terror of our newly seated zombie government, but do so in a positive way. "For" work is attending a peace march instead of a protest. It's working for food policy instead of against Monsanto. It is building an emergency shelter bus to send to Standing Rock. We are often too tired to work "against" anything after a long week. Kate was urging us to consider a whole new way, holding positive energy for what we'd like to have happen. She meditates this positive energy 30 minutes a day. I was inspired by her invention and wondered how I could contribute something "for" that fit for me.

I couldn't help but think of our Peruvian Shaman saying with a smirk two years earlier:

Pachamama (Mother Earth) will be fine. It will be us who will disappear, because of our destructive ways. But we cannot be arrogant enough to believe we can save her. Our most valuable contribution is to create environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment each day in our own lives, starting with creating a reciprocal relationship with Pachamama--mutually beneficial, taking only what we need, and never taking more than we give. 

To avoid this work ourselves creates a double standard and hypocrisy for our do-gooding.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Blessed advice for climbing out of the hole

I still wear a safety pin (different sizes for different outfits) to communicate my willingness to provide safety for those who might feel threatened or bullied. But I haven’t yet scored the big volunteer opportunity I sought, my piece of transforming the world—a commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment . . .

. . . and I can't seem to get motivated to do the one thing that has inspired me through tough times--exercise. I walk a few times a week, but I used to run. It's been some time since I made a regular commitment to yoga. My upper body especially needs some strength building. I just can't get off my bum, or can't get off consistently.

I have logged a ton of hours researching volunteer gigs. It turns out there is an occasional need for a photographer and writer, teacher and group leader of some kind (targeting passion work wasn't as difficult as I imagined). I have inquired and applied for about a dozen causes (from the ACLU to a local farm-to-school) that match my altruism. I'm feeling a bit bogged down in what feels like a kind of volunteer speed-dating, looking for a meaningful way to contribute that makes my heart sing . . .

. . . and just like when one contributes to worthy causes to offset taxes, there are dozens of volunteering choices, both big picture (what matters most) and detail (how far/how many hours) considerations. It all takes time, and a good match takes longer. I expected to be doing something big by now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Adding the blessed to my unrest

The first time I heard the term "blessed unrest" was at a Pachamama Alliance seminar called Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream. The Alliance's work is based on the prophecy of the eagle and the condor  and is rooted in social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment--for all people. I remember at the time saying to my husband who facilitated the seminar that it was too depressing looking at injustice in the world without a path for where to go and what to do (at that time the format was high on generating unrest but low on generating blessedness). I didn't feel blessed when I left. I felt overwhelmed.

For the past six months I have been growing my own brand of unrest. I haven't slept a full night since June. I am awful without sleep. I am sick about the disappearance of decency that accompanied the recent contentious presidential election, and yet I couldn't keep myself from reading every torrid detail. I hyperventilated and exhaled in despair. Tears developed just under the surface leaving me to cry at the littlest provocation. I worried about the vulnerable people being targeted by the hate--women, people of color, people with disabilities, the LGBT community, immigrants. In the end someone was elected to the office of president that does not share my values for social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment for all people.

So for six months I withdrew. From friends, from my exercise routine, from my art, from my normal life, feeling hopeless. The unrest was consuming my life. 

And then encouraging words. Organizations I have contributed to in the past, those focused on shared principles, sent me words of hope. As it turns out they are not going to give up their causes, in fact, are using the upheavel to galvanize support with people like me who are stuck in sinking unrest. Their messages chipped away at my solitude. They reminded me I have the ability to make blessed my unrest. I have some skills and talents and I have some convictions and I can channel those to prepare for and participate like never before.

Start small

I started small. I heard of the safety pin "flag" that started in Great Britain after Brexit. People like me can wear a safety pin to show quietly, outwardly our willingness to help others be safe. In the words of @cheeahs, the Twitter user who launched the trend, the idea was that anyone against the sort of nationalistic, racist violence we've been seeing could identify themselves as a safe ally. Though I also read negative comments about such a practice, I decided that if I could help one person it was worth the small investment. And it made me feel like I was doing something.

Grow courage and range

At a potluck gathering for an unrelated reason a few days after the election, I was reminded of the importance of holding space for people who hurt, need to be heard, and want to do something. People with personal stories of coping and action inspired each other. 

Dialogue can transcend differences and it's good practice for future reconciliation and inclusiveness. Public, respectful discourse is mandatory for our collective future.

Jump on local, moving bandwagons

Momentum is a lovely thing that takes what you are doing and gives it a booster shot. In this case, headlines proved there were others preparing for attacks against their principles. Portland Public Schools and Portland State University (PSU) shortly announced their plans to make their campuses safe places for immigrants, and their decision to resist immigration attacks on students. I teach for PSU, and have a good friend inside the school district, and can easily join in. I don't have to create my own movement.

Volunteer for passion work

I know the power of working toward passion and so I've begun the search for my new normal, dedicated time spent working for social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment--beyond the compost bin and being kind. I am looking for options that are not just a contribution of time, but a supercharged contribution of passion. is one organization that has a plethora of opportunities to channel my energy. I am currently weighing several postings: writing for the ACLU, shooting pictures for Habitat for Humanity, overseeing culture kits for the World Affairs Council.  While I may take part in protest "against," I am looking for opportunities to work "for." I am also clear I will have the most to offer if I can work 1:1 some of the time, in groups some of the time, and in solitude being creative some of the time. Passion overcomes obstacles.

Rekindle the unrest

In all of this I need to walk a line between obsessing over every scary action (and overdosing on the pundits) on the one hand, and practicing overwhelm-induced-apathy on the other. I need to know enough to keep my motivation up and the citizen within me inspired to act. I can't do this if I am paralyzed, but I also cannot allow myself to be complicit in a new normal that is a violation of my values by standing by letting it happen.

Finally my unrest feels blessed.

Grateful for weird Portland

Normally this is a piece that fits more appropriately in another blog, but as I find my voice post-election, it occurs to me that a piece about tolerance more aptly fits in the conversation about change. One of the most tragic things for me in the vitriol we have endured in the recent political circus is that we are growing increasingly intolerant. I live in this City partly because, for the most part, we are kind. Even Garrison Keilor jokes about it. My blessings go to the two drivers I write about below. May their kindness be reciprocated.

The steady stream of downtown traffic trickling north on 10th Avenue stopped at the red light on Columbia. Across the intersection from the pickup and van stopped first in the line of traffic, a slight man and his quad walking cane stepped off the curb into the crosswalk like a slow-moving drain. 

 Though his right foot skimmed the asphalt in tempo with other pedestrians, his left foot resisted a lift from the pavement, defied resting a step ahead and required re-booting several times before it would allow the weight required to take the next step. The man was a third of the way across the street when the light turned green, signaling the van and pickup to proceed. Neither vehicle moved. The drivers made no eye contact to confirm some sort of covenant; they just sat behind the white line waiting for the man to cross the street. 

The man, head down, worked hard to move his unmanageable left foot, which grew more unruly with each step. By midway into the crosswalk, it appeared as though the foot had given up any forward movement and the man shifted his strategy to one of moving his body around the foot planted in short bursts, in order to gain some distance. The light turned red again and the man continued to coax his foot to behave and move forward. A driver a few cars behind the lead vehicles honked once. The lead drivers ignored the blast. 

The light turned green and the two vehicles remained still; step, attempted step, re-boot, re-boot, re-boot, traverse, move a few inches forward. The small man grew smaller with each effort ahead as the light turned red. Four long steps from the curb he denied an offer of help from a young woman walking his direction. Two long steps to the curb, the man arrived safely in the parking zone as the light turned green. The van and the pickup led the waiting traffic slowly through the intersection continuing north on 10th Avenue past the man stepping slowly onto the curb.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Great Horned Owl

A wise old owl sat in an oak
The more he heard the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.