Advocacy, Environmentalism, Feminism

Scanning, Dabbling and Changing the World…

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is more for my own brain dumping edification than for your entertainment. 

Since early college, I wanted to work in/run a non-profit organization. I majored in political communication/campaign management an minored in women’s studies with that intent. I fell in love with Marian Wright Eddleman, Gloria Steinem and Sarah Weddington.  I volunteered  for various women’s groups, political candidates and environmental organizations. I continued volunteering after college while supporting myself by waitressing. And I kept having recurring conversations with my parents that always ended with “you have to get a real job”  “you can’t work for nothing” “you can’t volunteer forever”

So I stopped my volunteer work and went to law school. I think my intention was to skip the trenches (unpaid) and jump to the executive (paid) levels in the non-profit/campaign world. I thought that the letters after my name would get me there (rather than the paying the time + dues + dirty work). Of course, I was wrong. Accordingly, I have never been able to actually land a job with a NPO or campaign that I actually believe in and have passion for.

I have dabbled in all the little things I believe in or want to advocate for without actually fully committing to that profession.

I went to law school because I thought it would open the door to work in Non-profits.  I got an LLM in environmental law, because I  wanted to work in environmental advocacy. I got certified as a yoga instructor because I believe in and want to advocate for the balance of body + mind + spirit. I got certified as a holistic health coach because I believe in and want to advocate for natural, whole foods and a healthy lifestyle in balance with nature and the earth’s cycles. I got certified as a birth doula because I believe in and want to advocate for a woman’s choice for natural birth without unnecessary medical intervention. I trained in Mayan Abdominal Massage because I think every woman should intimately know (and be able to take charge of) how her body works.

I never really wanted to be a lawyer. I never wanted to teach yoga (though I love doing so). I never wanted to be a health coach.  I never really wanted to be a doula, I never wanted to give abdominal massages.  I just wanted to learn. I just wanted to have the knowledge to be able to credibly advocate by/for/about these things.

There is a (ridiculous) saying – those who can’t do, teach. I think the saying should be those who are afraid to do, continue to learn.  I am stuck in a perpetual cycle of learning. Am I afraid of doing?

There has to be a bit of fear in there somewhere… The fear of not being able to find the job that satiates me, not being able to make a living at that job, not being able to make a difference.  The common denominator to those fears, is insecurity, it’s the fear of not being good enough. Not being flexible enough, peaceful enough, healthy enough, strong enough, inspirational enough, articulate enough, just not enough.

My own perception of competition terrifies me.  There are millions of yoga teachers, health coaches, business coaches, life coaches out there. There are 1000s of non-profit organizations designed to save the environment, empower women and fight for healthy options. The idea of having to be as good as any one of them terrifies me.  What will make me unique? What will make what I do special? Stand out? Make a difference without taking away from something or someone else?

I’ve read the Fire Starter Sessions, I’ve read A Course In Miracles, I’ve gone through B-school, I’ve Dream Mapped, I’ve Surrenderd. I am well versed in the laws of attraction and abundance and theoretically understand that there is plenty for everyone and the right “clients” are out there for me. But I still can’t seem to move past the fear of not being as good as XYZ. I’ve been a passive participant in all of it, without truly taking action.

Part of the problem is understanding my big crazy dream, inside and out.  I can’t narrow it down. I can’t pick just one thing.  It’s so large and vast.  I think the common thread in all of it is advocacy on one level or another for the diverse things I am passionate about.

  • I want to create an advocacy think-tank that serves non-profit, heart centered or purpose driven organizations. I want to design + create their campaigns, their branding, and their message.
  • I want to run a non-profit organization that DOES GOOD and that SERVES. But what good things and what service, I don’t know.
  • I physically want to create things using my hands. Dig in the dirt. Recycle, re-purpose, build.

What does all of this mean? How does it all come together? Where is the clarity?

I bring all of this up because as a graduate student, working toward my Ph.D, I need to make a choice. I need to hone in on a research topic. A subject. A field to become an expert in.  I have had meetings with professors in the Political Science, Digital Media, Communications and Public Policy departments.  I am somewhere between ecofeminism, the rhetoric of advocacy, branding for non-profits and campaigns and environmental communication. How do I pull it all together?  I want to smash the fluffy-bunny-wiccan-men-hating paradigm attached to the ecofeminist movement, to write a revised manifesto for MODERN Ecofeminism.  I want to understand the rhetoric that makes a campaign successful and tell PETA, “you’re doing it wrong.” I want to be the person that designs the words to tell the world “economic growth isn’t compatible with environmental protection, but here’s how we can do better. This is how we fix it.”  I want to start a movement that’s bigger than a Facebook group or a Google + Community that is true high-risk activism.  I want to scream at the online generation that Social Networks are making us apathetic.  CLICKING LIKE isn’t going to change the world. You have to get up off your ass to do that!  I want to be the David that slays Monsanto.

I want to put it in my mouth, chew on it and come up with a thesis statement.

Environmentalism, Spirituality

Celebrating Solstice

Well, it’s 12/21/12.  The Apocalypse or the Great Awakening. I choose the later.  But it’s also Winter Solstice, a time of rebirth.  Rather than pontificate on the New Years and resolutions, I’ll leave you with a cute little story and a little JGB.  They both give me reason to smile today.

Happy Solstice.

Love one another.

The Yule Faries

A group of little Faeries huddled in their home deep under the roots of a giant oak tree. They were safe and snug in their tiny underground cave lined with dandelion fluff, bird feathers, and dried moss.

Outside, the wind blew cold and the snow fell softly down to cover the ground. “I saw the Sun King today,” the faerie named Rose said as she pulled her mossy cloak tighter about her. “He looked so old and tired as he walked off through the forest. What is wrong with him?

“The great oak said he’s dying” answered Daffodil.

“Dying? Oh, what will we do now?”, Little Meadow Grass started to cry, “If the Sun King dies, our little plant friends will not grow. The Birds will not come and sing again. Everything will be winter for ever!” Lilac, Dandelion and Elder Blossom tried to comfort their friend, but they were all very sad. As they huddled together, there was a knock on the tiny door.

“Open up, Faeries,” called out a loud voice. “Why are you hiding instead of joining us in our Solstice celebration?” Rose opened the door and the little gnome Brown Knobby pushed inside, shaking the glistening snowflakes off his brown coat and hat.

“We are too sad to celebrate,” Daffodil said wiping her eyes, “The Sun King is dying, haven’t you heard?”

“He is dead you silly Faeries.” Brown Knobby’s round dark eyes sparkled with laughter. “Now hurry, or we’ll be late for the celebration!”

“How can you be happy and laughing?!” Elder Blossom stamped her little foot and frowned at the gnome. “If the Sun King IS dead, it will be winter always. We will never see the Sun again!”

“Silly little child-Faeries.” Brown Knobby grabbed Dandelion by the hand and pulled her to her feet. “There is a secret to the Winter Solstice. Don’t you want to know what it is?”

The Faeries looked at him in surprise. “Secret?” they all said. “What secret? We are only new little Faeries, you silly gnome. We’ve never been to a Solstice celebration before.”

“Come and see. Come and see. Get your capes and come with me.” Brown Knobby danced and jigged around the room. “Hurry, Hurry, don’t be slow! To the Sacred Oak Grove through the snow!” He danced out of the door and disappeared.

“What did that gnome mean?” Rose asked as she gathered up her cloak of dried rose petals held together with cobwebs and lined with goose down.

“I don’t know, but the Lady lives in the Sacred Grove.” Meadow Grass pulled on her hat.

“Perhaps if we go to see the Goddess, She can explain what Brown Knobby was talking about”.

The Faeries left their snug little home and trudged off through the snow toward the sacred oak grove. The forest was dark with only the light of the Moon shining down through the thick fir branches and bare limbs of maple and hawthorn. It was very difficult for them to get through the snow because they were very, very small. As they waded through the wet snow and shivered in the cold wind, they met a fox.

“Where are you going, Faeries?” the fox asked.

“To the sacred grove,” they answered, they were cold and shivering.

“Climb on my back and I will take you there swiftly.”

The fox knelt down so the Faeries could climb up. Then he raced off through the dark.

“Listen!” Lilac said as they neared the Grove of Sacred trees. “Someone is singing happy songs. A LOT of someones.”

The beautiful music carried over the cold, still, moonlit air. It was the most beautiful music the Faeries had ever heard. The fox carried the Faeries right to the edge of the stone altar in the center of the grove, then knelt down.

“Look!” said Elder Blossom as they slid to the snow covered ground. “There is the Maiden and the Mother and the OLD Wise Crone, and many other Little People.”

“They are all smiling and happy,” said Lilac as she looked around at all the creatures.

“All the animals are here too,” whispered Dandelion. “Why are they all looking at the Mother?”

The Faeries moved closer to the three Ladies seated on the altar stone. The Mother held a bundle close in Her arms, smiling down at it. The Maiden reached down and took the Faeries gently in her Hands. She held them close to the Mother so they could see what She held.

“A Baby!” the Faeries cried. ” A new little Baby! Look how he glows!”

“He is the newborn Sun King,” said the Maiden smiling.

“But Brown Knobby and the old oak tree said the Sun King was dead,” the Faeries answered her. “How can this little baby be the Sun King?”

“That is the great secret of the Winter Solstice.” The Old Wise One touched the baby’s cheek with her wrinkled hand. “Every year the Sun King must come to the sacred grove during the darkest days of winter where he dies. I take his spirit to the Mother who gives him new life again. This is the way for all creatures, not just the Sun King.”

” You mean everything lives and dies and lives again? the Faeries looked down in wonder at the baby Sun King, nestled in the arms of the Mother.

” Yes, Little Ones,” answered the Old Wise Crone. “There is never an end to life. This is the great mystical secret of the Winter Solstice.”

The Faeries laughed because they were so happy.

“I think the little Sun King should have gifts,” said Rose. “I will show him where the wild roses bloom in the early summer.”

“And, I will teach him to call the birds and listen to the songs of the wind,” exclaimed Dandelion.

“When he is older and stronger, ” said the Mother, “then the flowers will bloom at his touch, the birds will return to sing their songs, and the air will be warm from his breath, and winter will be gone for a time. Then the Sun King will run and play with you in the forest.”

The little Faeries sang to the Baby Sun King, songs of the coming spring, the sweet smelling flowers, the bumbling bees, and all the secrets of the forest. And all the creatures within the sacred grove sang with them. Then the fox took them back to their snug home under the roots of the giant oak tree where they dreamed wonderful dreams, waiting for the warmth of spring and the fun they would have with the little Sun King.

Advocacy, Environmentalism, Spirituality, Yoga

Happy Earth Day, go hug a tree!

Happy Earth Day, Pretties!

I hope each and every one of you are taking the time today to get out side, hug a tree, reduce your carbon foot-print, recycle and give homage to Mother Earth!  I just read a Cherokee proverb on Facebook this morning it said Walk gently in spring, Mother Earth is pregnant. Beautiful, right?

I think earth day is a fabulous thing for general awareness, but we should have awareness of our impact on the earth every single moment of each day. A few years ago I wrote an article for Real Mama, Inc  an environmentally minded moms organization. This article went out in their newsletter and was never published on my blog. Rather than filling blogspace with one more Earth Day entry on recycling. I have just decided to post my article. I hope you enjoy.  🙂

Building Sustainability: Taking your Yoga off the Mat 

Every woman leads a busy life. We juggle careers, children, families, volunteer responsibilities and every so often we are able to obtain the ever elusive personal time. Many of us turn to a yoga class for our self care and to find the calm in our hectic lives. This calm doesn’t have to dissipate when we leave our favorite yoga studio. We can bring it with us in our daily routines by incorporating yogic philosophy in our everyday lives. Building your yoga practice off the mat can not only help you slow down allowing you to care for your self and your families but it will create a natural evolution of caring for the earth as well. This evolution fosters sustainability contributing to a healthy, green and safe environment for your children and generations to come.

Ahimsa: Non-Harming

Yoga is the union of body, mind, and spirit; the integration of body with mind and mind with soul.  It balances the outer and inner and nature and spirit on an ecological and planetary level.  One of the main tenants of yogic philosophy is the practice of Ahimsa- non-violence, non-injury and non-harming to all living things. Ahimsa asks us to not cause harm in thought, word or action and requires that we begin by not cultivating habits that cause harm to ourselves or others. When we embrace the concept of Ahimsa, we honor ourselves and the world around us. As you bring Ahimsa outside of your asana practice and into your daily life, you connect yourself to your children, community and the earth around you. You may begin to understand and live your life with the inherent connection between yourself and nature.

In honoring the environment around us, Ahimsa is cultivated. As you bring Ahimsa into your life, the connection between body and earth will unfold naturally.  In vrksasana (“tree pose”) our feet root into the ground, we connect to the earth which provides balance and strength. Off the mat, the connection between body and earth will become stronger as we notice what we take and what we give back to ourselves, our family and our community.

Practicing Ahimsa in our daily lives is sustainability. The actions we take to enable something to last.  Shopping at the local farmer’s market, supporting local agriculture, choosing meats that are free range and organic, using green products in our home for our children’s health and safety; each of these choices embraces sustainability; non-harming to our bodies and non-harming to the environment around us, which at its core is Ahimsa.

When we cultivate Ahimsa in our lives through thought and action the same will come naturally to our children. It will be second nature for our children to make non-harming choices fostering their own connection to nature and cultivating sustainability. Bringing yoga off the mat and into our daily lives we live in a manner that promotes the environment and the earth as one body, with each living thing as a part of the greater whole.

As yogis, it’s our responsibility to live with ahimsa, to take our yoga off the mat and to act as responsible environmental stewards. What are you going to do, change, be….in order to tread lightly on Mother Earth?

Environmentalism, Health

Touching the Button

I “hike” 3-4 times a week with Stella. We usually wander through Hartsorne Woods or Huber Woods. It’s nice to be on the trails in the woods, meandering up and down little hills, watching the chipmunks scamper around. H&H Woods are both within 4 miles of our home, making them extra convenient.  I’ll be honest though, wandering through the wooded parks of Monmouth County, NJ is a little like walking in circles, blindfolded, around the base of Coon Mountain.

Whiteface Summit

Coon Mountain is not one of the 46 Adirondack Peaks, which means it doesn’t have a geodetic survey marker. Every time I hike one of the 46 ADK peaks, finding the marker and touching it with my hand is like icing on the cake. When you get to the top of the mountain and touch that little button you know you’ve accomplished something.

Coon Mountain is only a mile to the summit and while there is no surveyor button to touch in triumph, you are rewarded with an amazing view of Vermont, the Adirondack Coast and the High Peaks.  I adore Coon Mountain. It’s the hike you want to do when you don’t have it in  you to go 4000 feet.  Aside from it being in my home town, the thing I love so much about Coon Mountain is the view. When you get to the top, you actually feel like you accomplished something, you can stand on its little bald summit and still feel like you’re Queen of the World.

I have yet to find anything in Jersey that makes me feel like I am Queen of the World.  Hiking here just seems to be so anti-climactic. There’s no button to touch and thus far I haven’t found a peak or a summit anywhere. I remember when I was in law school (in Delaware) my professor, Jim May told the story of the first time he drove into NJ. It was night, he was driving on 95 from the GWB and he saw what he thought were the “hills of NJ.” Only they weren’t hills. Well, not natural ones anyway.

I don’t mean to harsh on NJ. If I hated it, I wouldn’t live here. But sometimes, and by sometimes I mean daily, this Adirondack Mountain Girl longs for the mountains…or at least something that resembles a mountain.

Last week I posed a question to my Facebook friends… ok Jersey. Tell me where I can go for a good hike. I am willing to drive an hour + to find something that resembles a peak. HELP!  I received tons of replies including Highpoint State Park, Bear Mountain, Garret Mountain, Harriman State Park and Worthington State Park.  We settled on Worthington State Park because I’ve driven through the Delaware Water Gap many times, it’s so pretty. I presumed there would be some great vistas and I would have a sense of accomplishment even though there was no button to touch.

We settled on a hike up Mt. Tammany, a 3 mile hike (round trip) to the top of an actual Mountain! We got to Worthington State Park (about a 90 minute drive from the Shore) and it was jam packed with hikers and tourists. In the chaos of the people, we accidentally started up the wrong trail head. I knew we were supposed to follow the red dot trail markers, but all I saw were white dot trail markers. I figured there would be a trail split somewhere along the path. Little did I know the red dot Mount Tammany trail was on the opposite side of the parking lot.

Sunfish Lake, Worthington State Park

We followed the white dot trail, (a portion of the Appalachian Trail) makers for almost 4 miles. The Hubs wanted to turn around numerous times, knowing it was the wrong trail and we were embarking on more of a hike than he bargained for, but I’m obsessive about trails and hiking. I need to reach my destination. Turning around to me is too much like failure! After coming upon a beautiful meadow and AT camping site we finally reached the trails destination, Sunfish Lake. It was absolutely beautiful, (yet totally unfulfilling as far as summits, peaks and surveyor buttons are concerned).  We had 2 options to get back to the parking lot; back down the white dot trail or the green dot trail. A gentleman we met along the way told us the green trail followed a little river back down through the valley. So that’s the one we settled on.

Hubs and Miss Stella

The hike “down” was a bit more challenging than the hike “up.” It was riddled with small rocks that kept making themselves known through the soles of my shoes. And there were no less than 4 stream crossings. I love hopping rocks across streams, but it’s a new scary challenge for a 5 month old great dane!

In the end we hiked about 7 miles through Worthington State Park. It was beautiful but the Adirondack Girl in me was still left unfulfilled. There was no peak, no summit, no beautiful vista to look out over and feel like Queen of the World.  Dare I say it’s like sex without the orgasm? Fun enough, but just not WOW.

The Hubs wasn’t happy with me for my trail choices so I had to appease him with grilled, processed meat.  We went to Hot Dog Johnny’s post hike (he fell off the Vegan Challenge wagon after day 5).  I ate french fries (a total nutritional failure) and Stella slept in the car.

Next weekend (if I make it through Rebel Race tomorrow) we’re going to head back and actually hike the Mount Tammany trail. It will be nice to see what sort of vistas Jersey actually has to offer.

Environmentalism, Food, Health, Spirituality

Crazy, Sexy, Change

It’s that time of year again… Vegan Challenge, 21 Day Jumpstart, whatever you want to call it….30 days meat, egg and dairy free. April 1st is V day!

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this time around I’m taking a different approach.

I think I may have even talked the Hubs into doing it with me! I know, pick your jaw up off the floor. My former junk food vegetarian turned insatiable carnivore husband has tentatively agreed to do this year’s Vegan challenge with me. I am beyond shocked and completely ecstatic. Do you have any idea how hard it is to be vegan with someone who demands meat and cheese not only daily, but with practically every meal?!? Don’t get me started. I am simply grateful and counting my blessings that he’s choosing to join me.

This isn’t my first time in the vegan rodeo, I’ve dabbled and experimented here and there. However this is the first time I am taking a spiritual approach rather than a health coach approach. I have begun to feel more and more that meat is inhibiting not only my yoga practice, but my spiritual growth in general. I have been told by friends that eliminating meat from my diet will improve my meditation practice. I’d like to explore that.

I just reread Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr (side note, I have an uber girl-crush on her from her infectious energy to the hot pink streak in her hair) I plan on watching Vegucate and sneaking in one more Jivamukti master class to amp myself up for spiritual veganism.

In addition to cutting out meat and dairy I am committing to a daily meditation practice and continued affirmations. I’m going to need support in this

Here are other things I will be doing:

  • Looking to friends and wish-they-were-more-than-facebook-friends for support.
  • Taking it one day at a time.
  • Juicing!
  • Upping my orders from Suburban Organics. Large Fruit and Large Veggie boxes here I come!

While I am approaching this challenge from a spiritual perspective, here are some things I will NOT be doing:

  • Getting all PETA crazy. As time goes by I am developing more and more compassion and trying not to turn a blind eye to the way animals are raised for food in this country. I’ve eaten organic, grass-fed, free-range for many years. I know that its not really enough and I AM getting there. In my own way, in my own time.
  • Turning into a proselytizing vegan. Who knows how I will come out on the other end, vegan or 90/10 (I’m currently about 80/20). I will promise you, and all my IIN alum that I will never turn into a militant vegan. What works for one may not work for another….and it may not work forever, only time will tell. I DO know, this ADK Jersey Girl don’t play dogmatic!

I have day dreams of going raw. I am hoping that timing this challenge and the change of season will conveniently lead me to a high raw diet for the summer. I just need a new dehydrator for that one!

On a side note, I’m running the NJ Rebel Race on April 14th and I’m curious to see how my vegan diet will affect my energy during the race and in post race recovery. Any vegan endurance/obstacle race junkies out there??

Signing off from my IPhone (and in bed!)
Peace and INspiration,

Environmentalism, Health, Inspiration

Spring Cleaning…

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.

-Jan Glidewell

People like “stuff”. We tend to hold onto it year after year. We save and stock up on things that we don’t know what to do with anymore. Maybe we keep things because they hold precious memories of days gone by, or they remind us of our parents, grandparents, past loves or childhood. To part with these precious possessions seems out of the question. A wise mentor, Katie Graham once told me you have to throw out your holy socks to make room for the new. There’s a lot to that metaphor.

I never knew how much I had that I didn’t need until recently. Since Cheybees passed, I have been living between two apartments. The majority of my belongings are in the old home I shared with Cheybees and my housemate Tatum while the stuff I use daily is in my new home with Stephen. I really never knew how much I had that I didn’t need until this experience. This realization has been a blessing. I now know what I require and what is actually excess. Excess is going to be sold at an upcoming yard sale and anything that doesn’t sell is going to be donated. I am clean-sweeping the excess in my life and making room for my happy and healthy future! Clearing your space annually, otherwise known as spring cleaning is a great way to say goodbye to your past and refreshen and revitalize your life. With the birth of spring, it’s time to welcome the new energy of your happy, healthy future!

For good mental and physical health, we actually have two “houses” that need to be spring-cleaned: our physical homes and our physical bodies. Just as we accumulate “stuff”-in my world it’s old Yoga Journals, ticket stubs, clothes and chotchkies that I really don’t need, – our bodies also accumulate old food residues and toxins that need to be cleaned out.

To spring clean your body, give it a break from rich and complicated foods by either cleansing or fasting for a short period of time. Cleansing means paring down your food to just simple fruits and vegetables, lots of water and perhaps whole grains. Fasting means limiting most foods and drinking lots of water, fresh vegetable and fruit juices, teas and soups. Without much energy going toward digestion, more energy is available to the rest of your body and mind. Cleansing and fasting can sharpen your concentration, help you gain insight and promote spiritual awareness. It can also bring improved immune function and better digestion.

While you’re cleaning out your body and home, don’t forget to spring-clean your heart. Throw away negative thought patterns and habits you’ve been harboring that no longer serve you. If your heart and mind are cluttered, there is no room for life’s gifts and surprises to enter. A clean, open heart will allow you to receive all the good that awaits you each and every day.