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,

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