Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Beyond Boundaries has reached its midway point, and the pilgrimage continues!  Our intergenerational group of eight social and environmental activists, artists, educators and community leaders has traveled together well, listening, collaborating, and offering ourselves in service.  Our inquiry leads us into the needs and work of our times, we explore ways to offer support and leadership in local and global sustainable movements.  

I write to you to share a little about our journey, which is now in its sixth month.  I invite you to read more about us on our website, and ask for any support and help you might offer.  Part of my task is fundraising, a beautiful challenge and learning for me.  My goal is to raise $10,000 for Beyond Boundaries, and I need your help!  Any donation will help, even $10 will provide support and enable us to complete the last four months of this journey.  This is our modern day way to walk with an empty bowl and reach out for those who will walk with us.

The Pilgrimage
Committed to caring for ourselves, each other and the earth, our service-based pilgrimage brings us to 'watering holes' on our planet, communities and organizations committed to regenerative, sustainable and holistic ways of being with the Earth.  We came together in June in Big Pine, California, where the School of Lost Borders, a wilderness rites of passage school that we are connected to, is located.  We spent our first month forming community, preparing for the journey ahead, supporting a Youth Rite-of-Passage, and volunteering on projects with the local Paiute tribe.  Together we have entered into the Ojai Foundation in California, Tamera in Portugal, Damanhur in Italy, and Findhorn in Scotland.  These centers and peoples are a few amongst many emerging movements dedicated to regenerative work.  They were selected by Gigi Coyle, who envisioned Beyond Boundaries as an offering and sharing with different cultures and communities, an opportunity to bear witness to and participate in a growing global community of conscious living.

Still fully immersed in the process, I am aware that I cannot claim to have any answers or formulated reports.  I am in the thick of it, absorbing and learning from many models of sustainability.   These communities, for the most part, do not claim to have the only or final model, but offer up their visionary experiments for the benefit of all.  I have seen four different composting toilet and bio-digester systems.  I have learned about different co-housing systems called 'nucleos', 'families', and 'neighborhoods' ---and even one gang!  I have seen so many alternative building projects; diverse straw bale constructions, earth bags, tree houses, and even one revolving home, fully self sustaining in energy, water catchment and purification and waste. I have had the opportunity to listen and try on different lenses through which to view eco-villages and intentional communities.  Moving between communities there is a unique opportunity to bear witness to and become part of a bigger story that everyone seems to be involved in.

I have deepened into a new understanding of sustainability, recognizing how whole complex systems are and need to be.  These communities see the need for and are working on models of economic, environmental, social and spiritual sustainability.  These whole systems are truly holistic; each pillar is interdependently woven with the others.   I find myself increasingly drawn to the social element; looking closely at the ways these communities sustain their work through spirituality and relationship.  Sabine Lichtenfels from Tamera wrote in her book Grace,  "The revolution in the outer world has to go hand in hand with a conscious revolution in the inner world".  This ideology is reflected in the day-to-day life of Tamera, where the social experiment is given as much attention as the outer work of solar technology, permaculture, global peace work and education. 

Above all, I value the practice of council, a deep-listening communication process offered by Gigi as a shared practice and way of being with each other and the world.  Committed to listening and speaking from the heart, we have met weekly to share our experiences and learnings.  During our time at each community we meet in 'sessions' to discuss areas of focus that we feel are essential elements of healthy, whole, and sustainable living.  I am deeply grateful for the gathering of information, sharing of experiences and widening perspectives.

Independent Studies
We are currently engaged in independent studies, following our interests and callings into service around the world.  As I volunteer and lend my support to the Ojai Foundation in California my cohorts are supporting the WILD9 conference for global environmental conservation in Merida, Mexico, working with peace efforts, council and community in Israel, interning with the Living Machine project (biological waste water treatment system) at Findhorn, and collaborating with a musician and youth leader in the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil. 
As we follow our paths, we are connected in our inquiry into service and our own roots and ancestry.  My independent time began in Germany where I visited relatives in the region where my family originated. Through their deep generosity I learned a lot about the German culture and how to accept unexpected love.  I discovered passionate dedication to sustainable alternative ways of living at two German eco-villages, Zegg and Sieben Linden.  The communities met my stereotypes of German efficiency and organization, and surprised me with their beauty and emphasis on self-care.  I worked hard there, and also learned to relax during the institutionalized tea times.  

My time continues here at the Ojai Foundation, deepening my knowledge of council with the land while supporting the staff who as with every NGO, have way too much to do. In a month I travel to India, offering myself in service with two pioneering community movements.  Shikshantar is a unique research institution committed to transforming education, zero-waste, and the gifting culture.  THREADS in Orissa is a network of tribal eco-villages dedicated to ecological sustainability, non-violence, women's empowerment and honoring indigenous knowledge. In January I will join up with the team again to complete the last three months of work and travel together.

Supporting me and Beyond Boundaries
An essential piece to my independent study is fundraising.  I have raised $5,940!  I am still shy of my goal, $15,000, which will enable me complete this pilgrimage.  This is a challenge, and an opportunity for me to learn how to fundraise and face core issues about money.  In addition, we have been gifted a small flow fund to give to other individuals, communities and projects we meet along the way, a further opportunity to learn about the flow of money and the importance of collaboration in this work.  This is yet another opportunity for building community, forming partnerships with those who have different resources.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you, through ideas, practices, information, and resources. This entire pilgrimage is be funded by individuals like you, corporations and grants.   Beyond Boundaries is a project of the Biosphere Foundation, a non- profit 501 (c) 3 (  All gifts are tax deductible, and an official thank you letter from Biosphere Foundation will be sent for your tax record.  The budget includes all aspects of the itinerary, in particular appropriate compensation to hosting organizations.  

I am calling out to you as my network, and I need your help to succeed.  I know many of ‘my people' do not have a lot of money to give, so I ask you to look to your people as well on my behalf.  Who do you know who might be interested in the work we are doing?  Who might have the resources to support us on our pilgrimage?
Upcoming Events 
Three of us pilgrims will be in the San Francisco area December 3rd and are planning an Evening of Slides and Stories …this is a fundraising event. Emilia Dahlin, one of my cohorts, will be in New York December 15 hosting a night of Story, Song and Circle.  Any and all are invited.
We’ll send out a separate invitation soon.  Please RSVP. 

I am so grateful for any support and the opportunity to do this work.  I want to thank each of you for reading and hearing my story.  And thank you to all of you who have supported me with your words and donations.  

With Gratitude,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Aaron in Maine, USA

alone in Maine on this Global Grace Day , Emilia launching off to Brazil soon. I am at the Carpenter's Boatshop on Pemaquid Point. They are a spiritual community, founder spent 4 years at Findhorn, have run into a carpenter, Steve, who worked for my former life's work, the non-profit Rippleffect out on Cow Island. My friend Andrew introduced me to this place a few weeks ago and it is a beautiful secret, the apprentices do not pay for their time here. They are given room and board, and the fruit of the work, the amazing wooden boats, provide 40% of the income needed to keep the place afloat. The other 60% is fundraised by the charismatic founder , Bobby, who survives his amazing wife Ruth, struck by a brain tumor a few years ago.

I attended the Farmer to Farmer conference this past weekend, 250 organic farmers in Maine gathering to swap stories and ideas and energy. It was very powerful; I felt home with everyone. Huge numbers of young people, and so inspiring to see. Saw my old high school friend Ken, who moved to Brooklyn, summers on Nantucket Island, and was a rapper for a decade. He is now farming with draft horses on the New Beat farm. Hip Hop Farmer, baby. Had a dream last night I was shot under the right collar bone by a .22 in an urban gang fight. My ruffrida friends didn't want to hear me whine, so I mostly kept it to myself. Went into the dirty apartment's small tiled bathroom, took my shirt off and looked at the little bloody hole in the stained toothpaste splattered mirror. So vivid. I fingered at it a bit, hurt, but I knew I'd be ok. Decided to get back to work. Woke up.

Yesterday I went to visit Mark Fulford, the Garlic Guru . He is the father of Galen Shaw, the co-Founder of Biomatrix Water of Findhorn whom I will work with later this month. Mark lives far off the land (strangely lived in a Copperthwaite yurt for 20 years (but doesn't know him), read below) and is a true homestead farmer. He and his wife grow medicinal herbs, have orchards, chickens, and he is experimenting with an ancient technique newly discovered of planting rice and wheat in a manner that uses 1/10 the seed and half the water of conventional methods. It is called SRI and was rediscovered in the Phillipines, freeing them from Monsanto's clutches. The poor Fillipino locals chased the local Monsanto rep from their land 3 years ago, telling him that if he returned, he would not leave alive. MArk and I transplanted winter wheat plugs all afternoon while we spoke. We discussed the project that I will be supporting with Galen and Mark, a full cycle farm in China offering agricultural products and eggs, with 10,000 chickens, growing grain and bedding onsite, solar and geothermal refrigeration, and water and wast management in a truly sustainable manner. The human workers health and life situation is even being considered as part of the farm's health (not common in China). Feeling honored and so excited to be at the table for these dialogues

The weekend before was spent on North Haven [island] with Jen Porter (Gigi's goddaughter), her husband Dieter at their farm project, my brother and his new girlfriend may work on Jen's farm. They are funded by a well to do gentleman out there, reviving 18th century farmland, which stares across the Fox Isle Thorofare, a nice little inlet between two islands, now looking at the 3 newly erected wind turbines that will power the island communities.

Tomorrow I drive to Castine, outfit the kayaks for a paddle Downeast Maine into the millpond of Dr. Bill Copperthwaite, yurt foundation guru and handmade life professor. My friend Andrew will come with. I will spend a whole day ensuring that our safety gear is in order and we have what is needed to come home safely from a jaunt on the brisk Atlantic this time of year. She is a fickle mistress, that briny dark blue green Mother Ocean.

It will be good to see Bill again, been many years. He lives a dream that is an inspiration to many, a daily prayer, his industrious life akin to the rhythms of the deer and beaver and bobcat that make his land home.

I am sore and hairy and have not had time for yoga or meditation, still getting over my flu/ cold. Thinking of my team and their journeys, what a huge tapestry of energies this part of the journey is weaving, eh?


Global Grace Day - November 9th

On this day, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Today, this day marks a growing event that remembers and motivates peace in the world, Global Grace Day. This began as a movement by one of the founders of Tamera, Sabine Lichtenfels. She defines Grace as being "the power that may overcome all violence because it is at home in the hearts of all human beings.” Today we honor that power and invite you to be part of the movement. I've pasted a meditation text for today below, written by Sabine. I share this with others in my world and will take a time of quiet meditation today to focus on Grace and it's potential within me and the world. WILL YOU JOIN ME?
November 9, 2009: Meditation by Sabine Lichtenfels 
Where there was pain, let healing awaken. 
Where there was anger, let the power for change emerge. Where there was fear, let safety and trust grow. 
Where there were enemies, let the awakening of mutual compassion begin. 
Where there was oppression, let freedom reign. Where nations were divided, let sympathy for planet earth lead to shared responsibility. We have come as a reminder: If we want planet earth to survive, then all the walls of separation must fall, the walls between peoples, between Israel and Palestine, between Europe and Africa, between the so-called first and third world. And likewise with the walls that we have erected in our own psyches, the walls between the genders, and the walls between humans and all creatures. 
May all displaced people find a home. 
May the pure indigenous wisdom and source gain recognition and respect. 
May the people who are willing to risk their lives for truth and justice receive the protection they need. 
May the voice of justice and truth and compassion and solidarity with all beings be heard all over the world, and may it spread and become a powerful movement that stands for the protection for life and planet Earth. 
May the seed of peace communities blossom and may the first self-sufficient communities be a sign and show that it is possible to develop societal systems which resonate with the universal laws of love and compassion, and of truth and abundance of life.  
May we become carriers of hope for all who come after us. 
May we set visible signs which show that the eternal life will win over all systems of wrong power, of destruction and exploitation. We have come as a reminder of the original beauty and truth of life: 
Every living being has a right to be free and to unfold, a right to love, and a right to genuine truth and trust. Let us set examples for overcoming violence wherever we are.  
Let us stand up for life and for love so that fear can vanish on earth.  
Let us form a worldwide circle of power to safeguard all creation. In the name of all those who had to give their lives, in the name of justice and truth, in the name of all that has skin and fur. In the name of all creatures, and in the name of GRACE and the movement for a free earth. 
May this prayer or something better come to be. 
Thank you and Amen.