I just downloaded a pdf file from a government site, specifically a Veteran’s Affairs website. Here is the link. http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/GWVIS_May2007.pdf Please download it, read it, distribute it, talk about it. Here are some highlights to pique your interest:
73,846 U.S. troops killed in the gulf region since 1990 (on page 8 of the pdf))
The upshot of this is that since Papa Bush we have been at war in the gulf region, and the real human cost just in american lives is way more than the government has been publicly declaring. The real numbers are direct from the VA. Check it out.
28 December 2007
I just downloaded a pdf file from a government site, specifically a Veteran’s Affairs website. Here is the link. http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/GWVIS_May2007.pdf Please download it, read it, distribute it, talk about it. Here are some highlights to pique your interest:
It's the end of 2007. Wow what a year it's been. Just in my own life a lot has happened. I've done some good work in this past year, which is gratifying. I'm not always sure I'm "on track" but 2007 was pretty good in that regard.
Then of course there is all the bigger picture stuff that's happened in the last year, including the terrible murder of Benazir Bhutto that happened a couple of days ago. Watching the world, feeling with the world, intending to effect the world...all cause to take a deep breath.
Now I am planning 2008. Oy vey. I have manifested another set of teaching engagements abroad. I'm pretty excited about the workshops, the enthusiasm of the folks I am working with, and the adventure of more travel.
I'm also feeling mixed, like it would be so nice to find a little cabin in Montana and just settle in.
Ironically, yesterday evening I was thinking about the difficulties I am having finding funds to do things like...buy food, service my truck, buy an airplane ticket to Europe. I started to panic a little, and then I calmed myself and considered...maybe I am not going abroad. Maybe it isn't happening. Maybe I just can't get that together, and I should stay stateside. I felt some relief when I thought this. I even went so far as to imagine getting a counseling license in Montana and working in the field of psychology again. Then I slept on it.
This morning I received email from a friend who may be willing to float me the price of my ticket until I sell the truck in Vermont in February. That casts a whole new light on the situation, and gets me back into thinking about taking this trip after all. Never a dull moment in my life!
Posted by Baruch at 10:44 AM
27 December 2007
Here is some interesting and useful information, sent to me by a friend who is in NOLA, about what's happening in New Orleans right now regarding the destruction of housing. Please take an action on behalf of the disenfranchised in New Orleans.
The Ongoing Struggle for New Orleans Public Housing
"We finally cleaned up public housing. We couldn't do it, but God did." Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA), September 9, 2005.
After New Orleans’ floodwaters receded, many local organizations and their national allies identified the right of evacuated survivors of the storm to return and rebuild as a top priority. Remarks like Baker’s were typical in the immediate neoconservative frenzy to use the disaster in order to implement right-wing programs such as privatization of public education and healthcare, construction of new prisons and immigration detention facilities, elimination of labor laws, and of course, closure of public housing developments.
The current situation for New Orleans' public housing is evolving rapidly, but one thing is clear – the demolition of some buildings is imminent, and in fact, already begun. For background information, please read on further below, but check it out – right here, right now, here’s what we’re asking of you:
The Coalition to Stop the Demolition calls on our national and international allies to support our demands, which are as follows:
1. No demolitions – reopen the existing units and rebuild dignified housing at former public housing sites.
2. Guaranteed one-to-one replacement for all public housing residents.
3. All available public housing units should be made available for the homeless and those likely to face homelessness from the pending loss of rent vouchers and trailer recalls.
4. The Federal government needs to suspend demolition until they complete their own investigation of Housing and Urban Development head Alphonso Jackson regarding the illegal no-bid contracts he awarded to his cronies.
5. Rent control (at pre-Katrina rates) to provide deeply affordable housing so that all will be able to return to the city.
6. Stop the privatization and gentrification of the city.
Concrete ways that you can support those demands are as follows:
1. Come down and help! We need for as many people who are able, particularly Black and other oppressed people, to come to New Orleans to assist with making art and banners, helping with outreach, coalition-building, and base-building, and engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience in line with the resident council’s principles (see below) and the Coalition’s pledge of resistance statement (see www.peopleshurricane.org). To engage in this initiative, we ask that you contact the Coalition at email@example.com.
2. Pressure Senator Vitter! We need to continue bombarding US Senator David Vitter with calls, faxes, and emails demanding that he support the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (Senate Bill 1668) and allow the bill to move from the committee to the Senate floor for a vote.
3. Demand action from that committee! We need to get all members on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, where 1668 is currently stalled, to move it to the Senate floor. See below for a contact list of committee members.
4. Pressure Senator Mary Landrieu! Now that prominent members of her party have come out against the demolitions, we must push her to demand that the Federal government, via President George W. Bush and the Justice Department, suspend the demolitions at least until the federal investigation of Jackson is complete.
5. Make media and get the word out! We need to reframe the struggle to stop the demolition based on the demands of the Coalition. To this end we need everyone to
a. Write letters to the editor for your local news outlets,
b. Blitz the major newsprint, TV, and cable media networks and demand that they cover the issue
c. Write articles on the issue based on the Coalition’s demands and post them to as many listserves, blogs, and websites as you possibly can.
Topics to cover include connecting the New Orleans struggle to what’s happening in your community; the violence used to try and silence and suppress dissent at the City Council hearing on the 20th; and the recent letters and statements from Pelosi/Reid, Edwards, Obama, Clinton, and Mayor Nagin’s letter to Alphonso Jackson.
Finally, we need some financial resources to carry out this work. Some of the specific things we need resources for include:
1. The "Stop Da Demolitions" Mixtape made by Sess 4 – 5, Nuthinbutfire Records, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement for the Coalition the Stop the Demolition. We need $1,400 to produce and print 2,000 CD's for youth outreach and education.
2. We also need resources to help with transportation, food, and accommodations for both residents and volunteers.
3. We need resources the cover the Coalition's cell phone expense. If any individual or organization is able to donate a phone and cover its bill, that would be ideal; currently the Coalition is using our members' private phones, which is not sustainable over the long term.
4. We need resources to cover printings of outreach materials (flyers and posters).
5. Finally, we need materials to produce banners and other mobilization props.
Donations can be made out to the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition (MDRC) and mailed to P.O. Box 31762 Jackson, MS 39286. Please indicate on your donation "Coalition to Stop Demolitions". All donations are tax-deductible.
The vacant promises of mixed-income housing, solutions to growing homeless populations, and of disaster recovery assistance are not new, nor are they unique to New Orleans. As governments and corporations value people based not on their inherent humanity and dignity, but rather, on their level of participation in the market economy, we see and hear of folks from Oakland to New York, Miami to Los Angeles, and across the whole hurricane zone from North Carolina, across the Gulf South, and throughout Mexico, the Carribean, and Central America struggling for homes, clamoring to rebuild, fighting for community. Though the spotlight for these issues, laid bare by Katrina, is so often on New Orleans, we guarantee that if you look for it, you’ll find disasters in your neighborhood, your community, your city.
As human rights lawyer Bill Quigley wrote recently, “What is scheduled to happen in New Orleans is happening across the United States. It is just that New Orleans offers a more condensed and graphic illustration. The federal government is determined to get out of housing all together and let the private market reign. A 2007 report of the Urban Institute confirms that in the last decade over 78,000 low-income apartments have been demolished by HUD. That is why locals are receiving support and solidarity from residents and housing advocates in Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and New York.
“Destruction of housing for the working poor is also a global scandal as corporations and governments push entire neighborhoods out. In India, traditional fishing villages destroyed by the tsunami are being forcibly moved away from the coast and the land where they lived is being converted to luxury hotels and tourist destinations. The International Alliance of Inhabitants, which opposes the demolitions in New Orleans, points out poor people's neighborhoods are also being taken away in Angola, Hungary, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.”
Here’s what we can share with you about the struggle in New Orleans: African-American residents and their allies are particularly concerned that plans to rebuild the city will eliminate African-American neighborhoods. A brief overview of the events in the first year after the flood shows the deep urgency and validity of these concerns.
1). In October 2005, thousands of renters faced eviction based upon notices attached to the doors of their apartments, despite the fact that they had been evacuated.
2). On Christmas Eve 2005, the City of New Orleans announced it would begin demolishing homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina -- without notifying homeowners. Community organizations were concerned that many families had not yet retrieved their salvageable mementos and belongings and many were still in disputes with FEMA and their insurance companies.
3). In April of 2006, the Sierra Club released results of their study of FEMA trailers having dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. In July, FEMA announced that they would conduct their own testing. But it wasn’t until December of 2007 that testing actually began; the results are expected sometime in early 2008. Meanwhile, many internally displaced people living in trailers are sick; unfortunately, their way out is that FEMA announced in November 2007 that all 50,000+ trailer residents will be evicted by May of 2008.
4). In July 2006, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would demolish 5,000 of the 7,700 public housing units in New Orleans. Within months of the storm, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson asserted that New Orleans would never again be as African American as it had been. As many homeowners lost everything, many public housing residents' homes sustained no damage but were boarded up.
Since then, things have continued to accelerate. A federal court has refused to stop the demolitions. A class action filed on behalf of 5,000 public housing residents was thrown out of court. Public housing residents offered evidence showing that the buildings were structurally sound and that the local housing authority itself documented that it would cost much less to repair and retain the apartments than demolish and reconstruct a small fraction of them. The New York Times architecture critic described them as “low scale, narrow footprint and high quality construction." The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that requires one for one replacement of any public housing demolished, but Senator David Vitter (R-La) has effectively killed the Senate version.
Reduction of crime was supposed to be a major reason for destroying thousands of public housing apartments--yet crime in New Orleans has soared since Hurricane Katrina, with over 200 murders in 2007 alone. The real crime related to public housing is coming from Alphonso Jackson, who is currently under federal investigation to determine the extent of his involvement with rigging bids to redevelop New Orleans’ public housing to enrich himself and his friends.
HUD has approved plans to turn over acres of prime public land to private developers for 99 year leases and give hundreds of millions of dollars in direct grants, tax credit subsidies and long-term contracts. This is the biggest tax-credit giveaway in years. Until the investigation is concluded, it is inappropriate to move forward with any of these illegally awarded, no-bid demolition and rebuilding contracts.
On December 20, 2007, New Orleans’ first majority white city council in over 30 years (elected in large part due to widespread disenfranchisement of African American New Orleanians) voted unanimously to execute Senator Baker’s blatantly racist vision of “cleaned up” public housing. When former residents of public housing and their allies arrived to attend the meeting and testify, they found the chambers already packed with people in favor of the demolitions. Those most affected by the plans were shut out of the meetings, and when they expressed their legitimate anger and frustration that they not be allowed to participate, several of the handful who had made it inside were attacked by police and security guards and shocked with Tazer guns before being brutally ejected from the chambers and arrested. Meanwhile, outside City Hall, police tazed and pepper sprayed the crowd who was trying to attend the meeting, sending five people to the emergency room and arresting fifteen more.
Video of these events can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMBWAXfGsc4
"The City Council’s vote to demolish in the midst of the ever-growing housing crisis is an egregious violation of human rights. It is beyond callous, and can only be seen as malicious discrimination. It is an unabashed attempt to eliminate the Black population of New Orleans." said Kali Akuno, of the Coalition to Stop the Demolition.
Not only does this halt any semblance of a democratic process, there also are serious conflicts of interest, misrepresentation of facts (such as a Times-Picayune article on the Sunday before the vote), a lack of consultation with the public, and the pending federal investigation of Jackson. The Council's deliberate disregard of these factors – not to mention holding their meeting behind locked doors, and during business hours – makes their vote illegitimate.
Despite the repression and coerced and discriminatory vote, the struggle to stop the demolitions and the human right to housing in New Orleans continues. The Coalition to Stop the Demolition is moving without pause to the next stage of the struggle and is calling on everyone to stand with us in this fight.
To successfully engage in the next stage of struggle, a concrete understanding of where the movement now stands is in order. While the shameful vote of the City Council approving demolitions was a temporary set back, our movement was able to force the council and Mayor C. Ray Nagin to make some critical concessions to several of our demands. These include:
• An expansion of the replacement units
• An expansion of the HANO Board from one to three people
• More resident inclusion in the “redevelopment” planning process
• Thorough public documentation and review of all redevelopment plans, particularly their financing plans
• Federal guarantees for resident vouchers
The movement was also able to force several prominent national politicians and presidential candidates to respond and put pressure on George Bush to halt the demolitions and to live up to his September 2005 promises to rebuild New Orleans and confront the racism and poverty that underlined the catastrophe. These figures included John Edwards, Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barbara Lee, Barack Obama, and most recently, Hilary Clinton.
While the concessions offered by City Council and Mayor Nagin are fairly significant, they do not provide sufficient protection guarantees for public housing residents, and more importantly, they do not concretely address the escalating housing crisis presently afflicting the city. What the concessions in effect attempt to do is give political cover to Nagin and the council through a façade of progress and false promises of home ownership and inclusion in the “ownership society” of Bush’s American Dream. What they offer in reality, however, is further legitimacy to the neoliberal Gulf Coast reconstruction program of the Bush regime outlined by neoconservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundationand administered through government institutions and agencies at every level, including the neo-colonial city administration of Mayor Nagin through his “free market recovery” policies.
If the concessions are administered, rents in the city will continue to skyrocket, homelessness will immediately escalate, more and more working- and middle-class Blacks will be forced out and further exiled, and the city will become irreversibly whiter.New Orleans already has a homeless population in excess of 12,000, and by the end of May, there will be more than 50,000 families evicted from closing FEMA trailer parks in the hurricane-affected region. The only legitimate solution is to reopen all available housing now.The Coalition to Stop the Demolition seeks to stop these calamities and asks you to join us.
For more background information, check out these links:
This Is My Home– a compelling video about why public housing must be saved and restored – go to: http://www.advancementproject.org/ourwork/other-initiatives/hurricane-katrina/video1.php
Info Packet compiled by the Advancement Project: http://www.advancementproject.org/ourwork/other-initiatives/hurricane-katrina/information-packet.php
Public housing: Rooting the struggle in past reconstructions –article linking past and present struggles: http://www.sfbayview.com/News/Editorial/Public_housing_Rooting_the_struggle_in_past_reconstructions.html
Resident Principles for Guiding Action
I. All actions should be non-violent.
II. There should be no weapons or drugs at any actions, and no alcohol or drug or weapon possession at any action.
III. No destruction or defacement of resident property.
IV. No coalition meetings without resident knowledge and input
V. No media without residents or resident knowledge.
VI. Focus on defending public housing and affordable housing in the city for all.
Federal Government Contact Information
George W. Bush - 202-456-1111
Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of HUD - (202) 708-1112
Mary Landrieu, US Senator, (D-LA) 202-224-5824; Fax: 202-224-9735
David Vitter, US Senator, (R-LA) - (504) 589-2753, DC Office (202) 224-4623
Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee contacts – demand that they approve Senate bill 1668:
Senator David Vitter: New Orleans Office (504) 589-2753
Senator Christopher Dodd (202) 224-2823
Senator Tim Johnson (202) 224-1638
Senator Jack Reed (202) 224-4642
Senator Charles Schumer 202-224-0420
Senator Evan Bayh (202) 224-5623
Senator Tom Carper (202) 224-2441
Senator Robert Menendez (202) 224-4744
Senator Daniel Akaka (202) 224-6361
Senator Sherrod Brown (202) 224-2315
Senator Robert Casey (202) 224-6324
Senator Jon Tester (202) 224-2644
Senator Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744
Senator Robert Bennent (202) 224-5444
Senator Wayne Allard (202) 224-5941
Senator Michael Enzi (202) 224-3424
Senator Chuck Hagel (202) 224-4224
Senator Jim Bunning (202) 224-4343
Senator Mike Crapo (202) 224-6142
Senator John Sununu (202) 224-2841
Senator Elizabeth Dole (202) 224-6342
Senator Mel Martinez (202) 224-3041
New Orleans Mayor and City Council Contact Information
Mayor Ray Nagin – 504.658.4900
Arnie Fielkow 504.658.1060 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacquelyn Clarkson 504.658.1070 email@example.com
Stacy Head 504.658.1020 firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelly Midura 504.658.1010 email@example.com
James Carter 504.658.1030 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell 504.658.1040 email@example.com
Cynthia Willard-Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Baruch at 3:05 PM
22 December 2007
Plans for the gentrification (white-ification) of New Orleans are in full swing. I don't know if you've been following what's going on down there but the new City Council (majority white for the first time in decades due to the preventing of people from voting by making it impossible for them to come home) voted unanimously to proceed with the demolition of low income housing. This will make way for expensive development which will insure that only people with money live in New Orleans.
If you haven't seen it yet check out an article I wrote after leaving New Orleans in 2006.
Here are some other recent pieces to check out.
New Orleans to Demolish Thousands of ‘Poor’ Homes
by Leonard Doyle
The Shock Doctrine in Action in New Orleans
by Naomi Klein
What's happening in New Orleans is a prototype for domestic militarizing and plundering, soon coming to an american city near you!
Posted by Baruch at 12:26 PM
18 December 2007
On the phone this morning with a friend here in Montana (an amazing person, one of the folks who started the clinic in New Orleans) we were talking about how, in this winter time, we just want to stay inside and nest. I have come to treasure this time around Yule, as it draws me inside. No matter where I am, the progressing darkness, short days and long nights, pulls me inside. It used to be depressing, and it is still sometimes a time when grief rises to the surface and moves out. And yet, this year, I am charged with some big pieces of work during this period. I am designing a number of workshops for Israel and Europe, putting together my online class in healing, and working out the logistics of traveling in 2008, which means finances, animals,, tickets, etc. Whew!
The point of this is that I found myself saying to my friend how amazing it is to have this job of coming up with ideas, taking them out into the world, offering them to people, and having all that make a difference. It is an honor.
I'm sure my process is different than other peoples. For me it involves a lot of doing nothing; just eating, relaxing, sleeping, reading, watching videos, standing outside and feeling the place, watching the weather and the mountains, being with animals, etc. Just living, just being, makes space for creativity to emerge. I can't push it.
I have been settling into this house for 9 days; getting used to the place, organizing the psychic space, listening to more music. Gradually I have been reaching into the idea pool, and emailing with colleagues in these ventures. Last week was the final week of the term at BVU so my class ended and there were lots of papers and exams to grade. That helped me transition into this work mode. Now that's done, and I still expect to be involved with writing and thinking every day, so those creative juices are now focused on this creating.
My current conundrum is whether or not to bring Lasky to Europe with me. Chloe will come. I can't leave her again, and a cat is easier to travel with than a dog in terms of size and overall impact.
My fundraising efforts have borne some fruits. A few people offered to send some money, which is great. That will take a week or so to get to me. Someone also offered me a computer! Wow. It is amazing to feel supported by people while I am in this work mode. I think sometimes that what I'm doing now might not look much like work to strong work-ethic minded people, and yet this is a full time job, believe me. I think I am still coming to terms with this form of work.
Gratitude and winter healing!
Posted by Baruch at 10:05 AM
14 December 2007
I'm having a blast in Montana. It's real winter, which is beautiful (and Lasky is loving it!) and the Bitterroot Valley is one of my favorite places.
I put out a fundraising appeal earlier this week, and some folks have responded (thank you!!). I went through an interesting process sending out this appeal. I asked myself a lot of questions like, why should anyone give me money? Why don't I go out and just get a job? Am I entitled so being supported by others? It's a weird, somewhat uncomfortable position to be asking for support, and I wanted to really look at what I am doing. The answers I came up with, to those questions, are...no one SHOULD give me money, no one owes me anything. If it feels right to someone to gift me, then I accept that gift because it allows me to do my work (see below). If I go out and get a job, it would take away from the work I am doing, which feels valuable and important. I am no more or less entitled to support than anyone else. I am fortunate to know people who see value in what I do in the world, and who care to help me do it. I've said it before and I'll say it again; I am so fortunate to know the amazing people I know.
The work right now consists of putting together curriculum for the various classes I am preparing to offer in Europe and Israel, as well as the online course. It is a wonderful gift to have the time and place to sleep, eat, be warm and dry, to sense and think my way through creating these classes so that they can be valuable for others.
The work is progressing nicely. I just sent a bio and class descriptions to Israel. The online class materials are coming together. I'm getting excited for this next teaching tour to get underway.
Here's a song for you from Billy Bragg called The World Turned Upside Down.
Posted by Baruch at 9:30 AM
12 December 2007
I am hoping you will be interested in supporting my work with a tax deductible donation.
What is my work? I teach a variety of consciousness classes in the US, Europe and Israel.
Why am I seeking financial support? The classes pay enough to feed me and transport me regionally, but there are a few things that the class tuitions don't cover.
1. Getting me to Europe this spring...I need to raise about $2000 for travel expenses
2. Computer infrastructure...my iPod died and my computer is aging, looking to raise about $3700 to replace these.
I am currently earning money teaching through a college in Iowa, and am planning my own online course through my website http://www.healingmagic.org but I am very low on cash for things like...buying my ticket to Europe, and getting my computer stuff squared away, and frankly right now I am low on cash just for food and gas. So I am asking for help.
The tax deductible part comes into play thus. You would make a donation to the non-profit that I work with and they would funnel the funds to me.
Please email me email@example.com if you would like more information about my work, or for the address of the non-profit organization where you can send funds. Thank you!
Posted by Baruch at 1:41 PM
10 December 2007
Hamilton, Montana. Light snow, temps in the 20's, nice! I'm staying in a house up the hill looking over the Bitterroot Valley. There are five cows to feed, a wood stove, great views, lovely quiet, heat, hot water (!) and it's very comfy. Lasky is enjoying the snow.
My gut feels about 99% better, another big cheer!
I've put myself out as a massage therapist, hoping to make some money for the drive back to CA, and for food. It's interesting living so hand to mouth. It has its own stress that goes along with it, but it's less stressful than having huge overhead and being behind on tons of bills, as I used to be.
I do need money, and I don't want to work a lot...a dilemma. Friends and family have been more than generous. Now what? Money, I invite you to come to me in forms that allow me to live the way I love, to do the work that I am called to, to be enough to meet the needs of me and the critters in terms of food, health care, transportation and housing.
A friend was talking to me about money magic, and part of the concept is to write a list of 100 things one would do with money if one had an unlimited flow. So far this is my list:
1. buy out weapons industry and convert it to plowshares
2. fund clinics in neighborhoods
3. fund gardens in neighborhoods
4. buy out chemical farms and convert to organic
5. fund libraries and schools
6. fund ecological transportation
7. fund telecommuting for schools and jobs to organic ag based communities
Posted by Baruch at 10:49 AM
02 December 2007
I’ve been doing it again. Reading and posting in discussion forums in the online edition of the newspaper in Burlington, VT. The Opinion page always has letters about everything from taxes to the war to road conditions to climate change to politics to art. This forum draws posts mainly from a number of individuals who are pretty right wing in their opinions. They tend to be pro war, pro poverty (one person wrote that going hungry is a good life lesson for a child), pro Wal-Mart, pro Bush, and yet when they post it is usually to deride people on the left or their opinions with name calling and put downs worthy of a 9 year old in the schoolyard. They rarely ever actually discuss an issue on its merits.
Sometimes I post in these forums, anti war, facts about bush and cheney & co., my own opinions and also links to articles on other sites. This always results in a few posts that call me names, and which don’t address the issues I raised at all.
It’s a guilty pleasure. Posting there is sort of like baiting folks who can’t discern for themselves what is actually happening. I have a hard time crediting some of these folks with much smarts since they never actually say anything except put downs and party line. What do they really think? Do they understand what’s happening and not care, or perhaps they do not comprehend, due to some limitation, what is happening.
The missing ingredient seems to be compassion. The folks who post in this forum do not write about having compassion for people, for Earth, for anyone or anything. Everything is about putting people down, blaming liberals for their woes, plenty of criticizing, no critical thinking.
In my life I’ve borne witness to many situations and people. I have observed that the issue of our time is compassion. The world seems to divide into those who have it, who are empathic and relational or are evolving in that direction, and those who seem to lack compassion and are not empathic, seeing people and the world as commodity. Maybe some of these folks too are evolving in the direction of compassion. I don’t assume one way or the other. I’m sure I have all of that within me, compassion and lack of compassion, so I do see it as a part of my own growth to be more empathic with the rest of the world, seeing myself as part of the world. Maybe it’s this feeling of actual connection that makes me feel safe enough to stray from the square box. I am amazed, though, at people proudly proclaiming their compassionless positions and opinions as if they were great virtues. Giving obeisance to killing, suffering, cruelty, destruction, brutality, and every other word that belongs on that list, and mocking those who speak for life, for a future for Earth and all her children, for generosity and caring.
There is so much more to existence than that which the two dimensional mechanical view of the universe offers. The thing that sucks about it is that the folks who see things in that linear object oriented way are into so much destruction. The mechanical view has no respect for life, so, as has happened throughout history, the compassionless hold way too much power in the society.
Well shee-it. This ain’t right.
Posted by Baruch at 8:13 PM
30 November 2007
Interesting to sit in a café and listen to two guys, around my age, talk about guns and the bible and "everyone's got to fight sometime" and stuff like that.
I'm pretty excited about the online class I'm offering starting in March through healingmagic.org. There have already been inquiries and expressions of interest. I'm putting the materials together and I think it's going to be fun and pretty interesting. There will be participants from various countries, so that will make it even more dynamic!
Still dealing with bad gut stuff. Latest possible diagnosis is salmonella. I haven't been this thin since I was in my 30's. Today I was listening to KPFA (kpfa.org is a must listen) and the report was on folks living in South Africa with no good water, food, sanitation, shelter...they said that there are 1 billion people on Earth right now living this way, not by choice but because of politics.
Posted by Baruch at 11:24 AM
24 November 2007
Oh happy day! My gut is much better, and has been for a few days now. My fingers are crossed, it looks like I am nearly complete in recovering from the bad water experience. I did have stool samples and blood samples analyzed, all came out with negative findings, in other words, no detectable pathogens.
I am very grateful for the experience. I have always had good water to drink and to wash in. This is the first time in my life that I have had the experience of not having easy access to good water. And it was still relatively easy...I just had to drive down the mountain to get decent water. I'm fortunate. There are many people on this earth who do not have access to good water, period, end of story.
I shared this holiday with dear friends and their kids and grandkids. Not a Norman Rockwell family, they have their struggles, but there is love and caring and generosity and gratitude for all of what they DO have. It was very lovely to be with them, the food was all homemade and delicious (and organic!) and they love Lasky which is nice. I love watching her with other people who enjoy her. It's very sweet.
I'll be heading to Montana on Dec. 5 to housesit until New Years. More to be grateful for. Winter with snow! A wood stove! No ticks! And of course, good water!
Thinking of the many people I love, who I consider to be family, and sending out loving vibes and appreciation to you all!
P.S. My 2008 teaching schedule is available now. Click on Healing Magic.
Posted by Baruch at 8:58 AM
18 November 2007
Last night I was lying in the yome in the dark, feeling my belly gurgle, asking my intestines for a night of NOT running out to the shitter every 15 minutes...and I got what I asked for. I slept and dreamt. Thank you gut! Today I am still sick with whatever it is, or at least the purging from within continues.
Back to last night in the dark, remembering the ritual death that precedes the rebirth of the shaman, embraced being in the dark, aware of "my situation." I have removed myself pretty far from mainstream america. I don't work at a job like most people. I don't have health insurance (well I guess that's pretty mainstream now). My bank accounts are nearly empty. I don't own "real" property. I have less possessions than at any previous time in my life save infancy.
All that brings me to an interesting crossroad in identity, in self concept. I could be afraid of being in freefall, of "not being ok." And I do have a touch of that, but mostly I feel the satisfaction of being on the right path. I have viable plans for 2008 which are congruous with my values. Relationships with people, animals, plants, and places all supersede my relationship with materialism. Life is good.
I've written two pieces recently and submitted them for publication. One is called "Hope in Troubled Times" and the other is "Setting Limits on our Sociopaths."
Posted by Baruch at 11:54 AM
16 November 2007
Thanks to the folks emailing about my gut with concern and remedy suggestions. I just got test results...no parasites. Waiting to hear about bacterial infection. Still dealing with the same symptoms. There is a stomach flu going around here with similar symptoms, but it doesn't make sense to me that I would have gotten it right after starting to drink the nasty water, and that the symptoms would persist for so many weeks. We'll see, eh?
In other news, if you haven't been to http://commondreams.org lately, I suggest you check it out.
Posted by Baruch at 12:46 PM
14 November 2007
Currently dealing with digestive problems from bad water. The water tank where I stay turns out to have contained, in addition to water, numerous dead mice and lizards. My gut has been a mess for weeks. Today I went to the local ER and left some samples for analysis. I hope they find and identify whatever is making me sick, and prescribe the appropriate drugs ASAP. In the meantime I feel crappy. Literally. Not fun.
Other than my personal digestive drama, I've been quiet a lot, listening to my thoughts, clearing my head. That feels great.
I continue to keep abreast of the political situation(s) with a combination of morbid fascination, horror, disappointment, and understanding that there is a lot of momentum in play.
As more and more americans make it clear that they disdain the dictator Bush and his crew, I expect Bush will keep tightening the screws. Pakistan is like a preview of coming attractions.
What I really don't understand is the collaborators. How can Nancy Pelosi, or Diane Feinstein, just to name two, sleep at night? What have they been promised?
Posted by Baruch at 2:31 PM
07 November 2007
During one of the three Samhain rituals I've been part of this last 10 days, the priestess asked "What breaks your heart open?" It's this world, and everything in it, everything about it, breaks my heart open, brings me to tears of grief and joy, fills me with the inspiration to keep offering and experiencing and being.
What breaks your heart open?
Posted by Baruch at 9:16 AM
02 November 2007
I’m reading a book called “The Well of Rembrance” by Ralph Metzner. It was given to me by a friend who thought it would be helpful to me in gaining more understanding of the pagan history and legacy of Germany. I’m enjoying the book very much, and finding some of my own roots in the descriptions of migrations and divine forms. It gives me plenty to think about, including my experiences in Germany this past spring and summer.
I’m starting to make my plans for traveling to Italy in the winter and staying there for a number of months. I’ve been offered a housesit in a small medieval village between Genova and Nice FR, and after some very difficult decision making, choosing between offers of wonderful places to be, have decided to go to Italy. It’s too good to pass up.
For now I am still in California. Here are a few photos of my abode.
Posted by Baruch at 12:03 PM
30 October 2007
Blessed Samhain..all hail the mighty dead without whom we would not be here. Survivors, progenitors, speaking to us, whispering in our DNA, in every cell and molecule of food and water and air. We have some big work to do, and we need the wisdom and creativity of those who survived the devastations of their times to assist us.
The salmon and tuna populations in the pacific off the coast of northern California are crashing. If you're eating pacific tuna or salmon, you're eating the last of them.
The warmongers continue their bloody dance. The ones elected to the US congress nearly a year ago have shown their true colors as collaborating warmongers with the murderer in chief. Now we know. The US is lost. What happens next?
And with all this ecological political tragedy there is still hope. Nothing dies forever. There is no end to life, in whatever forms. Out of ruin will come forth something else. Something smarter. It's good. My job now is to be as kind as I can, to reduce my footprint, to witness and feel and connect.
I'm staying in the yome still. I'll be here for a few more months. I am seeing wonderful people, sharing visions, riding the wave.
Posted by Baruch at 2:20 PM
15 October 2007
Warm rain in northern California. Visiting friends in Ukiah, speaking with a Psych class that one of my friends teaches tomorrow at a Community College.
I feel good. I see more than I used to and I am relaxing into a flow that will carry me for a while. Maybe all the way. I no longer choose to be in resistance, but to do my part of living in harmony with Earth and Life as much as I can. The old is collapsing, it will fall away, and some of what will be left will make different, healthier, choices. The ethical and moral midgets in power cannot hold us all. Life is free wherever it exists and it will continue to exist.
It continues to happen again, still, more, that I am offered choices between wonderful places to live for a time. It is truly an embarrassment of riches to be offered the opportunity to witness and be part of life in so many places.
Lots of gratitude, all the time.
Posted by Baruch at 12:07 PM
06 October 2007
Ah yome sweet yome. I'm back on the ranch. It's great to be here. I feel very welcomed home. There have been some changes since I left in January. One person is gone, two other people are here as caretakers, there are more chickens and less vegetables in the garden. The apple trees are overflowing with great fruit and there are still figs on the tree! Lasky and Chloe are right into their routine. There is less water.
It's great to see the people here, and the land. I am already starting to unwind, though there is more quiet relax time ahead which is great!
The trip across country was amazing, with wonderful companionship, great visits, effective work, adventures, adversity, etc. Much gratitude!
Posted by Baruch at 5:50 PM
04 October 2007
Mendocino County, off in the hills, off the grid, sunshine, warm, quiet. We left Seattle on Tuesday and got here Wednesday afternoon. It feels good. Up north the rain and low pressure were getting to me. Here, I am decompressing.
I'm so in love with the green man. He's all around. There's so much life and juiciness, even in these drier lands.
Tomorrow I'll head to the ranch.
Posted by Baruch at 11:45 AM
24 September 2007
Just past equinox, and still in Montana. I never want to leave, whenever I come here. I will head out on Thursday...I think.
Personally I'm experiencing some major shifts. I've received Reiki attunements which feels like something has been accelorated in my field. I've been running the energy, especially with Lasky due to her skin issues. I've also been experiencing reviewing old stuff, relationships with unresolved or funky endings, seeing more of where I could have done things differently, and where I see I really did do the best I could have.
A major unresolved relationship issue comes from my teen years when I first was in love with someone, which experience left me with some deep wounds around my sexuality. It is rare for me to feel those sort of feelings for someone, and there is someone I know now, who lives near where I am now, who inspires a similar kind of love in me. What's different now is that the other person is not shaming me or being rejecting, but is loving and a friend. We saw each other over the weekend, and what's happened for me is that the wound I've carried is healing, is in fact not feeling like a wound anymore. There is a longing I have lived with which seems to be transforming, or is just gone, leaving space to love. This person is not interested in anything beyond a friendship, but without the shaming and rejecting, so I get to feel loved and accepted and valued, even if some of how I would express myself isn't something the other person wants.
Today is sunny, autumnal, quiet. I feel soft and open. Being here with some of my chosen family is so good; cooking together, sharing meals, tobacco, conversation, ideas. Great good fortune, and much gratitude.
Posted by Baruch at 1:15 PM
21 September 2007
Western Montana with family from the clinic, reunited with Chloe who yowled for the 7 months we were apart and now, after forgivingme some for leaving her, she has quieted down.
It is so beautiful here. The mountains, the sky, the people, all so nourishing for me.
I continue to ponder where to live, where to settle, what is my work...and north america , the land, offers so much to me energetically. The political environmental spiritual climate calls to me, to the training I've been receiving my whole life in preparation for...
Returning from Canada a few days ago, I experienced the most disturbing border crossing of my life coming back into the US. There was a border officer who was so sarcastic, hostile, mean, suspicious. I'll call her "Lily" and she works at the Sweetgrass Montana border crossing. Besides being completely unprofessional, it was clear that she is a hurting person, probably a heavy drinker (she had that look in her face) and she was determined to make everyone who crossed her path as uncomfortable and intimidated as she could, and she's very good at it. Vindictive is the word I thought of as I watched her harass, criticize, needle, and go through people's vehicles just because clearly she didn't like or approve of the person. I'm not even talking about the treatment I received. It was gestapo tactics for sure.
I continue to learn about generosity, faith, the great power in the web of connection that we all share when we tap into it.
A dear friend has been sharing the Reiki attunements with me. I feel like an organizing principle has been introduced into me, which allows the channeling of healing loving energy to happen in a different way...hard to describe exactly, but very wonderful. Another blessing!
My iPod died...bummer...looking for another one.
The class I was to student teach in CA has been postponed until February so I am heading west at a more leisurely pace, which is nice. I'm looking forward to camping along the way from here to Seattle.
Posted by Baruch at 12:04 PM
17 September 2007
I've been thinking about a few things. Here they are.
1. The US has just upgraded Alberta, Canada from 21st to 2nd most important oil reserve, and US oil and gas companies are aggressively pursuing these materials. One focus is the Alberta Tar Sands, which you can google and read about. Besides the environmental devastation that would be caused by mining the tar sands, it will take a significant amount of energy to remove the oil from the bitumen in these sands.
How much energy will it take relative to how much oil is produced?
How much of the oil that is produced will be used to wage war through weapons manufacturing, military uses, etc.?
2. This is a set of questions we can all ask ourselves, and which should be posed to politicans at every opportunity:
How much money have you made, through investments or otherwise, from the war in Iraq?
What are you doing with that money?
Do you still have investments in the war machine? If so, why?
Today I read that the current estimate of civilian deaths in Iraq due to the US invasion and occupation has reached 1.2 million people. That is 1.2 MILLION humans killed due to the war of aggression being prosecuted by the United States against the people of Iraq. That is twice the population of the state of Vermont.
I will refer to this as the Iraqi Holocaust from now on.
Posted by Baruch at 5:30 PM
15 September 2007
Edmonton Alberta, teaching Iron Pentacle with a wonderful witch here and a lovely group of people. It's so beautiful on the prairie. Last night we slept in a park with the buffalo. Tuesday we head south, pick up the cat in Montana and then head to the coast!
i am well. I am tired from driving over 3000 miles in 7 days. I am very happy to be traveling with a dear friend and brother who I met in New Orleans. I am adjusting to being back, and pondering the many options before me.
I see that people are realizing the dire situation with the corrupt US government, the untenable war situation on earth, the environmental disasters starting to domino, etc. It is gratifying to see awareness rising. It seems to take a lot to wake people up, but it does happen.
Posted by Baruch at 9:30 PM
10 September 2007
We're in northeastern Minnesota near lake Superior, where they had a super hot dry summer until a few weeks ago when it started dumping rain. I got here just as the rain ended, a couple of nights ago, but it looks like rain again. It's quiet and beautiful, and gives me a chance to hear how much noise is inside my mind. It's not loud but it's there. I'm definitely looking forward to being quiet for a while.
The advanced EAT originally scheduled for October has been postponed until February, so the event driving my early October arrival in northern California is no longer a factor. I'm thinking...hmm...now what? I head to Edmonton for a workshop, but after that, do I continue to go west? Do I go back east? Italy?
I did a tarot reading and it was intense. Basically what's in front of me is my life...all of who I am, all of what's happening within me and around me...the world is there and where should I be in it? My friend here asks, where am I most effective? I felt very effective in Europe, and in Israel.
I have $50, and a check was sent to my account in Vermont and should clear any day now. I am facing the reality of bottoming out financially, and wondering how to respond to that.
Posted by Baruch at 4:54 PM
07 September 2007
On the road in eastern PA. Hot weather, all kinds of drivers, beautiful scenery. It's interesting to be on my way again, still. I'm looking forward to seeing people along the way and once I get to CA.
I had some brilliant thoughts while driving but they all seem to be escaping me now.
Last night I stayed in Watkins Glen NY. They were haqving their annual vintage car grand prix nearby, and lots of the folks with old cars were in the campground. The smell of auto exhaust was heavy until late in the night when they turned off their cars and went to sleep. Fossil fuel culture.
Me driving...fossil fuel culture.
Posted by Baruch at 10:11 AM
02 September 2007
I'm in Vermont for a few more days seeing friends and family, then I head to New Hampshire to visit friends and then I head west, first to Chicago, then Minnesota to see a friend in the wild land, then to Edmonton Alberta in Canada to teach Iron Pentacle...then to the west coast, Seattle, Portland, and back to California to student teach with Starhawk at the advanced EAT.
I have been offered a housesit in Italy for a year starting in October. I won't be able to get there until February, but then I will have most of 2008 to be there in a small medieval village
between Genova and Nice. Yay!
It's been wonderful to stay with my brother and his kids, to see dear friends, and to be in Vermont. Lasky and I just went to our favorite swimming hole near the place we lived in Bolton. COLD water! Clear mountain stream, beautiful pool...so nice.
The camper is on eBay and getting a lot of looks and questions. I hope it sells this week.
I am looking for a camp stove, something small...preference for a coleman 1 or 2 burner propane stove. Anyone along my way who has one they'd be willing to lend or donate, please give me a holler! Other than that we are all set to go. The truck is packed, the camper is empty and cleaned out, the truck will get an oil change and break check Tuesday, money is coming, and I'm ready. Lasky is always ready.
It's sad saying so long to people. It was hard to leave my brother and the kids, and there are more partings coming up, but the connections stay strong, and each parting leads to the next greeting so it's ok.
Posted by Baruch at 1:35 PM
30 August 2007
29 August 2007
Back at my brother's in Vermont...just went swimming in the pond with the kids, in the hot summer day, so nice!
Plans are shaping up. The camper is almost emptied out...I am getting 150 miles more per tank of gas without the camper, wow! I'm reducing the load of stuff yet again, and it feels good.
I've been continuing to volunteer as the webmaster for the clinic in New Orleans, http://cghc.org. The site is getting a lot of traffic, and donations through the web site are increasing.
As I prepare to head west I am in a fund raising process for gas and food. It occurred to me today as I was driving back north that perhaps people would be interested in making a donation to me in support of the web work for the clinic, so I thought I'd mention it here. Anyone interested, drop me an email, and thank you. I'd like to raise at least $500 in the next week or so.
One thing that has taken a more solid form for me in the last 6 months is a concept of my job. My job is to be the name Baruch, which means blessing, or blessed. I am blessed, there is no question. I meet fantastic people, have amazing experiences, and am alive. To be a blessing means to me to bring as much joy as I can into my interactions, to be helpful where I can. The former is easier and easier. I find myself feeling friendly towards strangers, and enjoying the little moments as well as the bigger moments with friends and family.
As I travel the part about being helpful changes form, and being a guest in so many homes offers the challenge of becoming tired of being a guest, wanting to just be, and yet going from place to place where it is incumbent upon me to be helpful, beyond what I feel like doing. That got tough for me towards the end of my stay in Holland, which was pointed out to me, so I am looking at that.
So that's my job. The paycheck is sporadic, the benefits are very interesting, and the work itself is amazingly gratifying.
Posted by Baruch at 3:13 PM
28 August 2007
I've been back in the US just over a week. It's been great to be reunited with Lasky and many of my human family friends. I am fortunate to be connected with so many great people!
Vermont is as beautiful as ever, so green, such great mountains and rivers and farms...really a special place.
I officiated at a very sweet wedding on Saturday. The magic was strong, the couple's intent and love so clear and beautiful. It was a pleasure and an honor for me to be part of that.
I have outgrown the camper, so it is off the truck and for sale. I'll be driving across the continent starting September 4 or so, getting better fuel efficiency w/out the camper, and happily not lugging this huge thing around. It was a great transitional object after selling the house, but it's no longer needed. It's nice to see progress within myself.
I am looking for ways to make money. Traveling makes this challenging, but I can do web sites from anywhere, and can offer online teaching. I am thinking of putting together an online course and offering it, not through any organization but just myself. There are so many things I can teach in this format, but I am thinking of a course that involves magical practice integrated with some psychology stuff. More on this as it develops. Anyone need a web site developed?
I feel it, being in the US, driving down the road in a country at war led by a dictator who serves as a puppet to hidden greedmongers, while so much looks "normal." The shadow looms though, and people feel it. People who used to be "mainstream" are disgusted and angry and afraid. Even republicans are talking about martial law here within a year, and they are not liking the idea.
It's gorgeous and sunny and I'm headed out with a friend to the farmer's market.
Posted by Baruch at 6:50 AM
24 August 2007
I'm in Vermont! Yesterday was a day full of driving, from Brooklyn north. The upside of that was being with a dear friend who came to NY to pick me up and bring me to my brother in Vermont. That was great!
I got here last night. Lasky was happy to see me, and I was happy to see her. She's such a sweet creature. Today we head to Burlington, prepare to officiate a wedding tomorrow, and do more visiting.
I am freaking out a bit because I have very little money and am planning to drive across the country. I've listed myself on craig's list as a ride offer, hoping for someone to share expenses.
It's been grey and rainy since I got back to north america...it was grey and rainy most of the summer in northern europe...this is probably the wettest summer I have ever experienced. Flying across the atlantic on Sunday it was solid clouds below the airplane for the entire crossing.
Posted by Baruch at 3:30 AM
21 August 2007
Brooklyn, New York; rainy, warm, so different a city from Amsterdam, or Paris, or Tel Aviv. It's great to be with friends, one of whom is about to give birth any day. It's also interesting to be back in the states; both familiar and strange at the same time.
I'll be heading north to Vermont in a couple of days, then heading west in a couple of weeks. I'm driving across the northern states and will be in Alberta, Canada. Any friends along the way...if you'd like a visit from Lasky and me, drop me an email!
Posted by Baruch at 9:50 AM
18 August 2007
Traveling again, west now to north america. Loreley camp was great. Very intense, challenging in some waqys and very affirming at the same time. The path I co-taught with a really good 1st time student teacher went extremely well, very congruous with my vision of it months ago, which is affirming and inspiring.
I feel very at home in europe. We'll see what happens next!
Posted by Baruch at 11:53 PM
03 August 2007
I'm really feeling in the "home stretch" now as my return to the states is soon. I'm packing up a box to mail home so I can travel a bit lighter...now to find a box!
Yesterday was good. A friend in Amsterdam had arranged for me to be interviewed on video by a guy called Luc Sala. He's an interesting fellow, into a lot of things. The place where lives is the top floor of a really cool building with a great pyramidal ceiling. It's his studio, living/space, where music happens, workshops, video stuff, so there are lots of comfy places and a big stack of really nice looking drums. I wanted to get my hands on those! I've been drumming more lately and really loving it. Anyway Luc interviewed me about Reclaiming. The video will be available on this blog in the near future. The interview was fun and interesting. He spent a few minutes before the interview coming up with questions, and they sparked a good Q&A and some discussion. Three friends came with me. Our idea was that he would interview the group, but he wasn't into it.
A few weeks ago I offered to mediate a conversation for some folks who'd had a falling out. That happened yesterday afternoon. I think it went well. There was movement of energy between the people, so that's a good thing. I have no perspective at all on what I do when I function as a teacher, mediator, bodyworker...the process for me is one feeling what's happening with the people and listening inside myself for instructions, spending a moment comprehending the instructions, and them going for it. I amaze myself at what I'm willing to say and do; things that can only be effective when there is trust present. And there is...perfect love and perfect trust...and I keep meeting people with whom I share this. It kind of blows me away.
It's still sunny here in Holland...wow! I have a tan from sitting in the Dutch sun.
Many thanks to all the people who sent love and energy and prayers for my healing. My back is at about 95% which is really great! Om Shanti!
Posted by Baruch at 4:27 AM
31 July 2007
Hanging out in Koedijk this week after being in the east of Holland participating in a sweat lodge, witnessing a very fun and lovely handfasting ceremony on Friday, and a few days of camping. This is the final stretch of relax time before Loreley Camp. Then back to the states.
I have this feeling of coming to the end of a journey...and preparing for the start of another. NYC, VT, then head west. So far there are two possible workshops...Denver and Edmonton. I hope those happen...that'd be a lot of fun. Pick up Chloe the cat in Montana, see friends there, and then head to...Seattle? Bend? Portland? I'd like to go through all those places on my way to California...we'll have to see what works out in terms of money and gas.
Part of the plan is to sell the camper...if anyone reading this is interested, or knows someone who might be, please let me know. I am keeping the truck, just selling the camper. It slides into the back of a pickup truck. It has some wear and tear, but is in great shape generally. Everything works, and it's been a lot of fun. In addition to the two burner stove, mini-sink and 3-way refrigerator (LP gas, 12v, AC) it has a solar panel and invertor and 4 marine batteries, so if you are in a sunny place you have some electricity. Here are a few photos. It's a Palomino, was new in 2001 I believe. I can deliver, depending on location. I'd like to sell it ASAP...last week of August, or early September. Make me an offer! I am looking for something in the vicinity of $2000, but will accept the best offer I get.
The sun is shining...I'm going out to sit in the garden.
Posted by Baruch at 6:03 AM
22 July 2007
What is culture? How does it affect us? How much of what we value and believe comes from culture "whispering in our ears"? How much of what culture tells us ends up being the impetus for conflict? And to what extent and in what forms do humans need conflict as part of our inspiration and motivation? I've spent some time with a friend whose conversation is always fascinating. I came away with some thoughts.
I've been working on this concept of peace, of disparate peoples finding peaceful ways to co-exist, and questioning how this can be possible. I was taught to value life, to see violence as wrong, to see killing as wrong. But what does it say about our spiritual beliefs about life and death if we avoid death? Or maybe we are avoiding cruelty but not death. Certainly in the west there is much fear of and denial of death, even in societies where the dominant religions promise paradise, or heaven, or some such afterlife.
I know this is a bit of a mishmosh, but bear with me.
I was impacted by a news story I read about a family in Iraq that had pimped out their 9 year old boy so they would have money for food, and then the boy was executed by enforcers of sharia law. I was horrified. When I discussed this with the aforementioned friend her response was "That's a mercy killing." I really had to think about that. I said "I don't think it was intended as that" but she said that it was a mercy killing anyhow, just think about that boy's life.
Whether I agree or not isn't the point. The point is that what culture whispers in my ear is different than what culture is saying to the people who killed that boy.
If you are raised to see this life as just part of existance, then what's the problem with this part coming to an end? How many people joke about sending a mosquito on her karmic way when we slap them? Is it true for humans as well?
One of the benefits of traveling is that I do get to see how culture is imprinted within me, and how different culture imprints the people in the places where I go. This awareness is coming upon me in some new way, because I have this sense of culture as an overlay that we are all subject to, and which directs and guides our lives far more than we are generally aware of.
The values I hold, of kindness, non-violence, peacemaking, honoring life; I like these values. They feel good to me. They allow me to see myself as a "good" person in the world, someone who avoids causing suffering. They allow me to see the world as a place where it is possible for kindness and love and pleasure and community to thrive. But what if culture is really a discrete set of beliefs that has no bearing on any kind of objective "truth" or "reality"? Furthermore, even if our values are the product of culture, that does not necessarily invalidate them or make them less congruent with who I (or anybody) is as an entity, a self.
My thoughts on all this are far from organized, I feel like I just had a veil removed and am taking in the different view.
Different topic...or is it?
I just learned that bush signed an executive order making it illegal to disagree with or question the administration's Iraq policy. Here's an article that describes in detail this latest turn of events.
Posted by Baruch at 3:34 AM
16 July 2007
It's sunny and warm in Holland. It's even been hot and humid. What a relief after all the cold rainy weather!
I'm still very much in "take it easy" mode, hanging out with friends I am staying with, sleeping late. It's good. My back is improving daily. Yesterday I walked 4 km in the woods. It's really great!
My plans continue to crystallize. US in August, out west for the fall and winter, then head east and get to Crete to set up shop.
Part of the plan is to find a small property on Crete and build, with a friend, a couple of naturally built houses. To that end, I want to announce first here in this blog that in September 2008 we'll be hosting a natural building session for a few weeks to build some stuff. It would be great to have a team of 15 to 20 people working on these structures, learning together how to set up a low impact low cost high effiency permaculture homestead in a short time. All food and tenting space will be provided. So dear reader, if that lights something up inside you, consider coming. Let me know if you're interested and I'll be providing more details as we have them.
I obviously have internet access where I'm staying, and I've been indulging my media jones, and reading what's happening politically...wow. I guess what astounds me most is the high level and degree of corruption that is evident in pretty every government, multinational corporate dealings, and generally in the management infrastructure of our world, and that people stand for it. That's the part that gets me. It's not that the corruption exists...that's not surprising, people are corruptible, and in general the people drawn to those power positions are less developed empathically and, I think, spiritually, so they of course succumb to corruption. It's that the general population allows it to continue that's so mind boggling.
Of course it's true that a lot of people are doing amazing things that buck the status quo. I don't want to underemphasize that. One really amazing thing is a project I just heard about rosesforchildren.com
I'll be driving east to west across the US in September, and I'd love to offer workshops to any communities along the way that are interested, preferably with a local co-teacher. I haven't mapped out my route, but I am headed from Vermont to Montana so the deep south is probably not where I'll be.
Workshops include Iron Pentacle, Pentacle of Pearl, Three Faces of Betrayal, Guerilla Healing, Pentacle of Air, Advanced Energy & Bodywork, Concensus, Magical Activism, and if you need something else I would be happy to develop a new workshop.
Posted by Baruch at 4:57 AM
12 July 2007
Sadness and anger. Lodged in my lower back. Sending fire down my left leg, into my foot. Fire and ice, at the same time. Yesterday two friends lovingly challenged me to feel what's in my back causing me pain, calling for my attention.
The time I spent in Germany was powerful for me. That's also where this particular spinal incident started. All the feelings I have about Germany, growing up as an ethnic jew in the US, being a political person and a peacemaker, learning about the genocides that have taken place and are taking place around the world...all sitting in my lower back.
When I came back to Holland a few weeks ago and blogged about some of my feelings re: Germany, I ended up apologizing (that's how it felt) all over the place, in my blog, to my German friends who were offended by my stating some of my feelings. Really I just wanted them to get it that my feelings about Germany had nothing to do with them or how they cared for me when I was with them. I responded to something archetypal as well as personal. A friend just sent me a book called The Well of Remembrance by Ralph Metzner. I'm looking forward to reading it.
My feelings are still there. Sadness and anger; a deep well of sadness for all the suffering felt by so many, inflicted by so many, through time and all around this beautiful Earth, and teeth-gnashing rage at how mean people can be. I feel these things when I think about Jews and Gypsies and Queers and Catholics and Africans and disabled people and Native Americans (the list goes on) and the nazis, and the kkk, and all the haters. I feel sadness and anger when I think about Palestinians having their houses bulldozed, their ancestral olive grove destroyed. I feel these things when a car bomb goes off in Britain, when a suicide bomber blows up themself and others at a Tel Aviv café, when skinheads beat up a Jew or a Gay person, and this list also goes on. I feel these things when people I know hurt each other with lies, shortsightedness. It's all the same stuff to me...the ability of humans to be so blind that we don't even see the scope of what we're doing and how we're hurting each other.
Do I get to feel how I feel about any and all of this without apology? Do I need to go out of my way to make other people comfortable with what I feel?
In my efforts as a people pleaser, which is certainly part of my psychological profile, I can go out of my way to try to make sure everyone is happy with me, but that doesn't work. I need to go through the experience of feeling what I feel, letting it pass through me. I understand that, just like when I have reactions to stuff, people react to me and what I go through. I am a mirror for them, an opportunity to look at their issues, just as others serve as my mirror. Looking into the mirror of Germany I can see my own cruelty, my own denial, my own suffering, all of which is (in my world view) universal, stuff we all have within us. One thing I have learned is that it is me being cruel to me if I deny my feelings and experiences. It's challenging to let myself have it knowing that there are people I love who may have a hard time with my expression.
So I sold my house, left my home, traveled, had all kinds of experiences, came to Europe, traveled some more, eventually going to Israel and then Germany, both places of significance within my own personal mythology. I felt what I felt in those places. I try to make sense of what I experience. Going to those two places and having my physical body respond is it did, I am left with a lot to interpret. Are my interpretations correct? Do they trigger other people? What do I need for my own healing, in relation to all this?
Yesterday two friends challenged me lovingly to be with what is in my back, to give attention to those feelings. I am doing that. I am not overwhelmed by what I feel, just aware that there is sadness and anger, and a strong desire for transformation of all this.
Posted by Baruch at 5:09 AM
10 July 2007
It's raining. The sun is shining. I'm moving slow. Sleeping late, slowly doing some back exercises and stretches. I am in day 2 of this. I think it's helping. I will do this everyday and see what happens. My tendency is to just want to rest but it's not actually the best thing for this kind of lower back thing. I found a great website called spinehealth.com
I'm staying with friends in Den Dolder which is near Utrecht. I'll head back to Arnhem tomorrow, then on Friday teach Iron Pentacle as a one day workshop in Amsterdam, then more unscheduled time. It looks like I may actually make it to Crete for the first week of August, which is very exciting.
What am I learning right now...well there is the part about the body and limitations and motivation. I am definitely encountering that. There are the interesting questions and ponderings in conversations with friends. There is my own sense of uncertainty about what the future holds, but also excitement about that, and really...just flying from trapeze to trapeze. There continues to be the kindness and generosity of friends. That's the most prominent and consistent thread through this whole journey. Everywhere I go people have been really wonderful. Everyone's working on their own lives and having visions and following truths they perceive, and everywhere I have gone people have also made space for me, fed me, talked with me, shared life with me. I'm extremely fortunate, blessed, in the right place at the right time, however one wants to look at it.
Thinking about settling down again is really a trip. The plan is for me to actually go to Crete in March and get a room and start to make money and find a piece of land and build on it and make a home there. Before I get there, though, I have an autumn and a winter to experience, still not really settled in, so I am working on how to make those months as comfy and lucrative as I can.
But then to get a place on Crete and start a new daily life, and see what unfolds, that feels huge. I have been continuing to really feel how connected I am to Turtle Island, North America, where I've lived most of my years. It is so beautiful in so many places and ways, and there are tons of people I love there. And yet I am choosing to make a home elsewhere and travel to North America for periods of work and visiting.
I have learned that 6 months is too long for me to be on a teaching tour. 2 would be perfect. 4 is fine. 6 is a bit strenuous.
I think something I'm learning is about pacing myself, not trying to lift the too-heavy stone in a figurative sense, since I have already learned not to lift the literal stone. If I can live in a low key way, warm, good simple food, a pace that does not involve rushing, enough work to pay for simple overhead, then I can maintain a level of energy and productivity that feels good and nourishes me, rather than taxing and stressing me.
Posted by Baruch at 5:37 AM
03 July 2007
A few days ago I taught a workshop on Concensus Process in Amsterdam. In the time leading up to and preparing for the workshop, I gave a great deal of thought to the subject of concensus. This is something I started to write before the workshop, and have since edited some. I'd love to know if this makes sense and/or is useful to anyone.
Concensus is the thing that, as a species, we are working towards.
Humans, in fact all life, is in a constant conversation. Each does what they do, showing who they are (whether we mean to or not) and attending to others, listening and perceiving. In that way we are all participating in this great conversation.
Concensus is the organic state an entity, or group of entities, reach when all voices have been heard and have grokked that they have been heard, and all people have listened and grokked their listening. When we are honest about ourselves and what is inside us, and when that is received by another or others, and it is really received without judgment, something shifts inside the one sharing and inside the receiver. More space is created to receive what others share. In this way, concensus is a process of nourishment being shared outwards in an ever-expanding spiral.
Concensus requires full participation. We must each speak our part,and we must each listen to all the other parts we can. To be fully present, to fully present all of who and what one is to another, is an act of choice. Te be present and to fully receive what another shares, putting aside one’s personal reactions, judgments, agendas, is an act of love. It requires the willingness to see the other for who they are, and to simply accept...not like, or disllike, or come from subjectivity or self interest.
Once all parts have been heard, and we have each listened to the best of our ability to all we can hear, then something will happen. Perhaps the world will change.
In a group of people when this happens, one can feel it. Something manifests. It isn’t agreement, or shared values, or anything so mundane as that. It’s a state of organic beingness that one feels in moments of grace or enlightenment. In a group it is exponentially greater. To really feel part of something, even something that briefly vibrates with this state of grace, is ecstatic. That’s why many people become hooked on “high” group experiences.
If each life form is actually the universe experiencing itself from yet another perspective, then the great conversation is the universe communicating with itself from all perspectives. The microcosm of this is the individual who works to “know themself in all their parts” whether metaphorically in a spiritual context or literally by learning to know how things work in the universe. But this microcosm, personified in Cartesian philosophy, in Feri practice, in the study of physics and anatomy and language, and on and on, this microcosm is a reflection of the macro, the universe engaged in this process of becoming, becoming aware, becoming aware of self, becoming aware of other, and ultimately becoming aware that self and other are one and are separate. This paradox lies at the heart of our conflicted nature. It is this paradox, seeing that which one holds abhorrent embodied in another person, while yet seeing that person as a legitimate person with the right to exist, that confounds us.
In this context, the process of concensus between individuals, including but not limited to individuals from polarized groups, is of critical value to the whole field of life. The more people do this work, the better. All concensus work makes a difference to the whole organic field of concensus as a social psychological/spiritual phenomenon since every additional node of concensus work is an indication that more of the whole group is participating.
Posted by Baruch at 6:10 AM
02 July 2007
A quick entry here to say that the workshops in Amsterdam this weekend were really wonderful. They were fun, deep, people took risks and did real personal work on making themselves more available to participate in groups, political or otherwise, with a greater sense of how to be effective. The weather cooperated more than once with sunshine. The space we were in is a beautiful kindergarden with a wild forest garden in the middle of the city. All in all, very positive.
Posted by Baruch at 1:10 PM
27 June 2007
This new thing on the blog where people can make comments, I like it. I'm glad to have set this up. It's wonderful to see what people have to say and to hear from loved ones with such loving and interesting messages.
This flu, which I have learned is going around, has seriously kicked my ass for a week now, and I am starting to feel it lifting. Whew! Periodically I do get these high fever sweat-it-out sicknesses, and this one has been a real winner. I will be so glad when I can focus more on other things.
In that vein, it's sunny out and I think I will go to the store in a while...that'll be nice.
So much has happened since I started this blog, since I came to Europe in February even. I considered writing a post about my reactions to the news etc., as I used to do quite often, but it doesn't feel right. Somehow, I want to honor and acknowledge the changes I've experienced by doing something different.
This weekend I am fortunate to have three interesting events to be part of. The first is a meeting with a group who wants to start a ritual circle, and has asked if I would be willing to sit with them while we discuss how to do that. The second event is a day-long workshop in Concensus, and the thirds is another day-long workshop, this one Magical Activism. I was wondering if this flu was going to knock me out of attending, but the flu is winding down. Yay!
Concensus is, in my mind anyway, a much misunderstood word. To me, concensus is an organic process of transformation, much like fire. Fire isn't a thing, it's a process of transforming matter from one state into others. Concensus does the same thing with people by making space for each person in the group to be heard and seen, to be grokked really, without any foregone conclusions as to where this will lead. By making space for everyone, what eventually emerges is a recognizable organic sense of the values, directions, and actions of the group. Sounds simple, and it can be. It can also be time consuming and slow, which some personalities respond to with more patience than others. In other words, concensus process tends to bring out one's learning edges.
Magical Activism is a really fun set of exercises for a group to assist them in clarifying values and discussing value differences, envisioning viable and desireable futures, and fostering creative approaches to being a person actively engaged in creating solutions. This workshop is one of those "the more the merrier" events and I'm really glad that a bunch of folks are coming.
After the workshops I'll have a brief visit on Monday with a friend from Canada, then head off for a weeklong housesit where I can hopefully sit in the sun, be quiet, get my strength back some more, and do somemore brainstorming.
Rereading the comments from Shakti and deborah oak in the context of what I just wrote is interesting. This great discussion that we're all part of is an ongoing concensus meeting. It's happening globally. We're all participating in it all the time.
Posted by Baruch at 2:10 AM
25 June 2007
I am hoping this post makes clear my appreciation to the really wonderfully generous kind people I stayed with and near in Germany who helped me during a difficult time. I don't know how I would have made it without them.
I also want to be very clear that my personal experience of physical pain, whether it's simply mechanical or psychic or both or neither, is not about my interpersonal experiences in Germany. It is not about the beauty of the countryside. When I refer to the painful part of my experiences and interpret that, I am not blaming or holding responsible anyone I met, stayed with, hung out with.
I also am clear that I did have a very intense experience which I am still processing physically, emotionally, and psychically. I would not be true to myself if I said that Germany does not and has not cast a shadow in my life. It has. That is not anyone's job, nor does it lie within anyone's ability, to heal or reconcile. I am not looking for or expecting that from anyone. That is my work to do, hopefully with support, and I experience that support from many people including, and sometimes especially, friends who are German.
I made a comment a few entries ago:
"One thing I am learning, which I can articulate at this point is that, despite my lifelong pursuit to see humanity as one, right now I see that we are made up of different groups, with real differences, some of them possibly irreconcilable. I have always rejected this view as an impediment to peace, but now I am thinking...it’s true. There are real differences. What that means for the possibility of peace, I do not know."
I know so many people who are committed to peace, and I understand that for me to make a public statement like that is uncomfortable for some folks. I am learning. I am questioning. I ask uncomfortable questions. I always have and it's gotten me into trouble more times than I can count. I, too, am committed to peace, and I have questions about how it does and does not exist, how we do/can and do not/cannot manifest it. I do not know the answers, but I see what I see and it makes me wonder, so I ask.
More than anything I want my presence in the world to be one that spreads love. Sometimes I am really good at this. Sometimes, not so good. At free camp in 2006 we worked with the 3 faces of betrayal; betraying others, being betrayed by others, betraying ourselves. We worked with the reality that we each experience all three, and despite that we need to love each other and ourselves in order for there to be peace. I continue to work with this lesson.
Posted by Baruch at 9:53 AM
23 June 2007
Yesterday I had acupuncture which has helped my low back and leg immensely. The guy took my pulses and said "herniated disk." I came back to the place where I am staying and went to bed and spent 24 hours sweating out a fever, dreaming, waking, sleeping, sweating, etc. Today I feel better. I can have a conversation, I can sit at the computer and write, I may even eat something.
My last entry drew many responses from friends. All responses conveyed concern for my well being. Some folks had a hard time with my focus on the history of Germany and wondered about the genocides elsewhere, and did I think what happened in Germany was worse than what happened, for example, in North America. One friend was saddened that I didn't write about the beautiful places she showed me in Germany, and the places where there was resistance.
I am working something through. I don't know how to say it but I will try.
I had a physiological response to going to a place. I went there with some thoughts in my mind, of course, of the history, but I had no idea, plan, or desire to have this physical breakdown. But I did. Maybe my disk herniated and I got a virus. Maybe psychically I tuned into the ancestors of the place and my own ancestors and that relationship.
When I traveled across North America through Indian lands, I thought, and felt, and wrote in my blog, about that genocide. I cried. I listened to music of the people. I went to native lands, went to a pow wow, made offerings. It was deeply moving for me. I did not experience a physical breakdown. My body just didn't respond that way.
When I saw the beautiful places in Germany, and learned more of people who had been in the resistance and what happened to them, I was moved. I was glad to see the beauty, and saddened by the pain people experienced, but it was second hand news. It didn't enter my body.
When my back went kaplooey in Otterstedt, and then after coming to Holland I got this exhaustion flu-like thing, these were in my body. I felt like a witness to these things, not like I had any choice but to ride them out.
I think that we all have feelings about the behavior of our ancestors. I have ancestors who were bloody killers, if you read the old testament. Probably most if not all of us alive on Earth now have ancestors who killed, raped, pillaged. I feel shame about how Israel treats the Palestinians. When I was in Israel I was aware that as an american jewish male I was in a privileged class. The privileged classes are usually the perpetrator classes.
My earthwalk in this life is one of learning. Right now I feel that I am in the middle of a learning piece. I don't have an overview of it yet. It isn't complete. I'm in process.
I write this blog to share with friends my news, to share my process, as a kind of therapy tool for myself. A friend who is also a writer told me "You think you know what you've written, but you don't. You've created a structure and then people plug into it with their own stuff." I really sense that strongly right now. This is so huge for me personally, it makes sense it would hold energy for the people who read this, mostly people who love me.
So I welcome comments. I welcome the opportunity for dialogue. I am learning, and I am not putting down in this blog, the wisdom of the ages. This is all part of one person's journey.
Posted by Baruch at 2:37 AM
21 June 2007
Solstice! It is grey and chilly in Holland today.
I am beginning to get some perspective on my time and experiences in Germany and how I am feeling. I am more exhausted than I can ever remember being. I feel like I have been severely beaten for days; sore, achy, tired. I am rediscovering my own aliveness.
I relate to life through my body. I am of the earth and am very identified with Earth. The energy in different places has an effect on me. The earth in Germany is soaked in the blood of centures of violence and torture, and especially the attempted genocide on my tribe, my relatives, in the last century. It’s real. I feel it. It’s not a cognitive experience, it’s an embodied experience. The kindness of my friends there is real and I treasure those friends, but it doesn’t change the reality of the history and how that works in me.
Maybe for someone with no Jewish ancestry, it would feel different. Maybe other Jews have had similar experiences...I would love to hear about them if anyone wants to share.
One thing I am learning, which I can articulate at this point is that, despite my lifelong pursuit to see humanity as one, right now I see that we are made up of different groups, with real differences, some of them possibly irreconcilable. I have always rejected this view as an impediment to peace, but now I am thinking...it’s true. There are real differences. What that means for the possibility of peace, I do not know.
I want to make Jewish food, chicken soup, kugel, who knows what else.
Posted by Baruch at 10:08 AM