Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Touching Earth Sanga One Day Retreat at Kailash Eco-Village 12/26/15

The day after Christmas, about 10 of us gathered for a Zen-style retreat at Kailash Eco Village. It was co-facilitated by Satya Vayu, and Shinei Sara Monial- both original founders of the Touching Earth sangha. Shinei is now a zen priest at Great Vow Monastery, up in Clatskanie Oregon. Several other folks from the monastery also attended, it was a great connecting time for all. We began at 9am with some sitting(meditation), a little walking and qigong and a dharma talk, before we went inside for lunch. It was a pretty nippy 38 degrees out, so it was a welcome respite from the cold!

Our meal was served in oryoki style, which is a rather formal, silent meditative approach to sharing a meal...it was well-received I think. I know I enjoyed the calm, attentive focus on the delicious food. We had brown sticky rice, steamed squash, tofu stir fry, fresh greens from the Great Vow garden, all drizzled in a creamy tahnini sauce....yum!

After the meal, we went outside again to sit together, and then had a lengthy "satsang"(focused conversation)  about what spiritual practice is actually for. We touched upon such themes related to Buddhist principles, as well as how to function as a beautiful, beneficial Bodhisattva in today's world. A lot of these topics are covered in this 50 page essay by Satya.

How, then shall we Live?

Also, many of the same themes expressed can be heard via several dozen dharma talk recordings hosted on Archive.org.

Touching Earth Sangha Dharma Talks

After the talk, we came back inside the community room, and prepared a more informal meal, having the ability to converse, after observing silence during most of the retreat.

There was also an interesting development regarding Great Vow and veganism. As a monastery, they are vegetarian(eggs/dairy), but one of their members was curious as to know more about veganism, and was looking for resources to share with the community. This would be a pretty major deal if they did shift soon....not many monasteries are currently vegan. Of course , I would advocate this wholeheartedly as there is massive suffering(health/environmental/ethical) even on a vegetarian diet. A couple of our Brooklyn Collective members (staunch vegans) are practicing up there for a few months, so I am hopeful there will be some kind of knowledge imparted...for the sake of all beings.

I am very grateful for the intention and purpose of the gathering...it was a splendid end to 2015, and a wonderful reminder of how much Touching Earth, Zen and associated practice, has had such a profound impact on my life path.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Diving Into Darkness: Winter Solstice Gathering 2015

*Play this while reading

On Sunday, our Brooklyn Collective hosted a winter solstice gathering, one that went deep into matters concerning the darkness we all must face. It was very inspiring and powerful, to hear so many people share their  challenges, both personal and worldly, and how we all share in the same pathos.

Many thanks to my buddy Fallon for leading with facilitating, as well as SaraHope for assisting with the tone, and intention of the process.

Write up for the event:


FaceBook Link

~ Nestled in the shadows of the New Moon and approaching the Winter Solstice ~ join us in creating a container of healing as we face the darkness together. Theme for this gathering will be courageously confronting the darkness in the wide world and that which dwells deep within us. At sunset (around 4pm), there will be a ceremony for entering into and sitting with darkness. Show up with your whole self ready to explore some guiding questions:

* Is there a part of myself I am afraid to show?

* How does it serve me to hide this part of myself?

* What feelings arise when asked to dwell in darkness?

* What is needed to heal the wounds?

* How can we support ourselves & community in times of darkness?

Please bring a vegan dish or non-alcoholic beverage to share. Special emphasis on deeply nourishing & healing foods. Candles would be awesome too!

(reminder: this is 100% sober event)


I shared my deep, globally themed sorrow over the fact so many well-educated, informed and wonderful people have a massive disconnect when it comes to veganism...many I personally encounter on a weekly basis in my alternative, activist circles. While the challenge to illuminate this blind spot is great, I feel hope because the movement is growing exponentially, especially with the help of social media and the Internet. Veganism rising is going to be akin to the shift in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community over just the last decade...looking forward to being at the forefront of it.  I just have to keep myself primed and ready to assist folks in transitioning to a more holistic, and compassionate paradigm.

On the more personal spectrum, I also spoke about the ongoing troubles with a former community member who was active in FNB and other shared endeavors. It has consistently been the lone dark spot on a otherwise joyous year, full of thriving connection and fulfillment...and his behavior has many of us flabbergasted at how exactly to respond. There is however. much solidarity for accountability and safer spaces in activist circles, so we have that to look into for more guidance...it's just a very sad situation all around.

May you face the Darkness with Courage. 

And a Peaceful Solstice to all.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Unist'ot'en Fundraiser Clinton Street Theater 12/15/15

On Tuesday December 15th I went to a fundraiser for the Unist'ot'en camp that is effectively writing the book, on non-violent native resistance against the fossil fuel industry.

These brave warriors up in "British Columbia, Canada"(you will understand quotes if you watch the videos) have been holding firm for YEARS...so inspiring!

They showed several short videos made about the camp(links below), and a volunteer who visited the camp even gave a short Q&A session during the intermission. Portland Rising Tide and 350.org PDX were also helping to facilitate the evening, and I ran into a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in awhile!

I was actually a little hesitant about going as it was a fundraiser($5-20 suggested donation), but the Clinton Street theater is amazing at living in the gift, and allowed to participate after I explained my practice.(I did bring a can of corn as  a token offering...lol)

My only critique comes from my always present vegan lens.... The Unist'ot'en, like most first nations cultures, are reliant on animals to survive. In this case in particular, they are very dependent on salmon, as well as moose and other creatures they glean from the surrounding area. Which is laudable if it wasn't for the speciest sentiments steeped in the culture of "honor and reverence." I appreciate the latter as it's better than not recognizing the sacrifice animals make, but it still is a form of traditional rationalization for causing suffering, oppression, and exploitation of fellow sentient beings.

Fellow vegan blogger at Veganism: A Truth Whose Time Has Come sums it up nicely:

People have been eating meat since millions of years ago, so it must be the right thing.

People have been participating in wars, rape, hate crimes, and slavery since a million years ago....are those things we should continue the tradition or something we should work towards ending? We have reached a point in human evolution that we are able to live vegan. Our ancestors did not have the same opportunity.
North American Indigenous people ate meat and they respected the animals.
Most of us are no longer limited by the circumstances that our ancestors may have needed for survival. (Some native North American tribes ate a predominantly vegetarian diet including the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Aztec, Zapotec, and others; but was lost in time and colonialism.) We are fortunate to have a wider range of choices available to us. Paying someone to farm, exploit and kill animals today certainly is not necessary, and therefore is not respectful. Saying prayers or giving thanks to animals that are killed for our unnecessary use may appease human ears, but these acts are meaningless to those slaughtered. Only through choosing not to exploit or harm other animals do we show them genuine respect. Many long-time vegansare proving that healthy living does not require taking the lives of other animals to sustain our own, and are thriving in a diversity of cultures all over the world.
(*More problematic is I'm not certain they even could transition to a vegan diet in some of these harsher climate areas(case in point Inuit)...so there are limitations, perhaps.)

I don't want to detract too much from the wonderful efforts the Unist'ot'en and supporters are doing, but I feel obligated to shed light on this particular subject for the aforementioned reasons...we need to all strive to erase cognitive dissonance/disconnection, and turn towards the honor and joy of awakening into veganism.

Facebook Event Details

Unist'ot'en FB Page

Clinton Streeet Theater(<3 <3 <3)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Basic Income Portland Meetup 12/14/15

On Monday December 14th, myself a few other folks met to discuss strategies about Basic Income at Fostervillage community, I've kept track of this groundbreaking concept for a few years now, especially with the news of Switzerland seriously considering this not too long ago. I agree with many of the principles of BI, such as; freeing people up to engage/offer what comes alive for them, providing a stable safety net reducing the all-consuming suffering of making ends meet, and redistribution of wealth from the 1% to the commons.

We had some insightful sharing of information and ideas, riding the wave  of  the recent proposal for Finland to start experimenting with BI in the coming years. One person brought up the interrelated Carbon Dividend; whereby citizens get money from this plan.(Read more in the latter hyperlink)

 I look forward to connecting more with this group, and other like-minded people pushing for this kind of paradigm shift. 

Portland Climate March/COP21 Solidarity 12/12/15

On Saturday the 12th of December, several hundred fellow climate activists braved the nasty weather and assembled for a rally in solidarity with fellow engaged people all around the world, as the Paris climate talks concluded.

We marched across the Tilikum Crossing, the brand new car-free bridge spanning the Willamette. Very proud of our showing this day!

More coverage:




Ironically, the next day this happened in North Portland.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Solsara Introduction 12/6/15

On Monday night,  I went to a Solsara: The Practice of Opening introduction, along with my good friend Amber, and about 25 others. I was inspired to go from  the good word put in by my community mates, people who I see as well-rounded, compassionate, wise souls....fellow light workers.

We started the evening with a little guided meditation, setting the intention and tone of the evening to be in touch with our thoughts, and emotions. Then came a series of intimate connections. First, we started with silently gazing and holding hands with whomever crossed our path, as we all rotated about to each other every couple minutes or so. This was rather intense...focused, directed eye-eye contact isn't something I'm super comfortable with....but the more I went with it, the easier. and comforting it became.

After that round, we then started with sharing something that was alive in us with the other person, such as feeling anxious, calm, etc. I found myself not offering much insight, rather taking in a receptive stance instead. In the final phase, the other person offered insight into what they saw in us-a few examples I received:

"I appreciate a young male so interested in such a compassionate way of being"
"I notice strength right away...and serenity borne from solitude" 
"I feel so at ease and grounded sharing space with you"
"Strong and stoic" 

We closed with a sharing circle of what we took away from the gathering. I recognized the spirit of the gift(donation based) in their offering, making Solsara accessible to all. Even the multi-day immersions are completely free if you so desire, they just hold a $150 refundable deposit to make sure you commit to the process, There is one coming up in Portland on the 8th of January I might attend, though I will need to get coverage for Food Not Bombs Friday/Saturday...might be a tall order.

It was a rewarding experience all together, though at times I felt a bit constrained with the outline of how we were supposed to connect and share...felt a bit forced, and unusual compared to how most strangers typically interact. Still, I would heartily recommend exploring it for fellow authentic, heart-centered folks

Solsara: The Practice of Opening

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Activist Circle 12/2/15

On Wednesday December 2nd, I was joined by about 10 other activists for a time to share our triumphs, struggles, concerns and reflections on our efforts. It was  insightful and rewarding to be able to check-in with a whole new group of like minded folks.

It was held at the The Cascadia Center for Social Ecology near 22nd/Burnside. I had no clue this place even existed...and it reminded me a lot of the GuildHall at Community Supported Everything up in NE(now sadly defunct). These "activist hubs" are really critical in building solidarity

The Cascadia Center offers education, training, and support for effectiveness and enjoyment in our work for social justice and ecological regeneration.
We each went around introducing ourselves and our main cause. I said mine was environmental/veganism, and noted I lived primarily without money in order to to be a full-time change agent.

Next, we had a time to connect about the positive and negative aspects going on in our work. I noted the accelerated rise of Veganism, especially in mainstream and online culture, with particular note to growing awareness among environmentalists, notably with all the climate change and conference talk in the last few weeks. I also mentioned my Brooklyn Collective housing situation being very supportive and nurturing in my endeavors, by both providing an extremely affordable room price, but also fostering bountiful synergy with heart-centered, wholesome community members. To close, I brought up Food Not Bombs always being  a solid place for radical elements in PDX to mingle, and has helped keep me engaged in helping myself, and other with our food security needs.

On the negative spectrum, I did mention right off the bat the issue with a problematic person who used to be in our circles, and is now actively harassing and generally burdensome behavior. This "self-policing/call-out/accountability" theme is something many groups have to deal with, so there were many nods of resonance. I also mentioned that while intersectionality is growing across movements, I still see lots of disconnects and cognitive dissonance among activists, especially when it comes to lifestyle. Many are pretty unwholesome (e.g. lack of veganism, aggressive language/pontificating, substance abuse etc), and not clued into the holistic perspective on life, I see as critical for meaningful  transformation across a vast range.

There was also a person who seemed like they were going through some hardship, and was requesting more support on the housing/community side, so I'm looking forward to assisting with that.

Lastly, I got a chance to formally talk to Alexander Baretich, designer of the Cascadian Flag, and staunch contributor to the bio-regionalism movement. We had been friends on Facebook for a couple years now, just hadn't really met before. I usually make a point to not add anyone on FB unless I have met them in person, though I am starting to open it up more recently to bolster our respective missions. Might just hit 1,000 friends by the Spring?(sitting at 717 currently). But I digress...Alexander I both keyed in on the upcoming Food Stamp benefits being dropped for Able-Bodied-Adults-Without-Dependents(#ABAWD) in January 2016, and how it's just another #WaronPoor and #Austerity measure adding more suffering to the world.(I'll be making a blog post about this soon once I gather more intel).

All together, this was a worthwhile use of our precious time and energy, and I hope to stay in touch with the space, as well as my fellow activists.

More event info:

Activist Circle FB description:

Confidential sharing space for recharging, reflecting, supporting, and understanding our various forms of activism and change work. 2249 E Burnside. The plan: 6:00-6:20 Mingle. 6:20-7:40 Circling. 7:40-8:00 Mingle. BYO dinner or snacks to share, or not. Facilitated by Tod Sloan (aka Theodor), Cascadia Center for Social Ecology To rsvp or for more info, write tod.s.sloan@gmail.com

xTrue Naturex One Species

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fur Free Friday Protest 11/27/15

Left side, green sign, orange jacket.

On Black Friday myself about 30 others joined together to protest the selling of fur and other animal based materials at Nordstroms, next to Pioneer Square in downtown Portland. It was super busy as you could imagine being the mecca of all things consumerism, on the busiest shopping day of the year.

The overall crowd response was generally positive, lots of honking cars, thumbs up etc. Only had a few nasty individuals who were mocking us, but that's par for the course.

More info on Fur industry

Video from back in October at  DxE Toronto action(Graphic image warning).