Archive for April, 2012


I have come to the last known insight of the Celestine Prophecy:  the 9th insight. The text for this insight is not quite complete and it alludes to a 10th insight. It speaks of a higher purpose for humankind, a spiritual purpose: to continue reaching higher and higher vibrational levels until we are able to cross between this world and the next, until we become light beings. It seems those who wrote this prophecy did just that, leaving the text uncompleted. We reach these higher levels of vibrational energy by learning to give energy to all those around us rather than take. The more energy we give the more we find energy flows into us from the universe.

Will we be able to enter and leave freely from this world and the next? This is what I wonder. If all those who learn of the insights and learn to continually give energy rather than take cross to another world and do not return then who will guide those left? Perhaps this is what the 10th insight is about. It seems there is still much work to be done in this world.

This year has given me a glimpse of another way to live. It’s a way of living where the earth is your mother and your teacher and you are guided by a deep trust in the mystery. It is a way to live in the Now, knowing that life is a dance with death and that death is always followed by new life. This is the cycle of creation. With this wisdom one can regain innocence, a wise innocence, an innocence that comes with having looked death in the eye and found that life always follows. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Woman who Run with the Wolves, says that in Spanish, inocente is understood to mean a person who tries not to harm another but who also is able to heal herself of all wounds. To be innocent is different than to be naive. The naive unknowingly is attracted to the good, the innocent has seen all and is still attracted to the good. La Inocenta is the name often given to a curandera healer, one who heals others and themselves of all injury or harm. Innocence requires wisdom. Children who have that wise innocence perhaps still remember the death that preceded their birth.

And so the Sufi prayer goes, “Shatter my heart so a new room can be created for a Limitless Love.”

How do I bring this wise innocence with me back to the other side? How do I not forget and stay connected to the magic and the mystery? How do I share it with those who wish to know? And how do I tread lightly on this earth, leaving only footsteps, but footsteps that last on the heart, soul, and mind of humanity?

And so this story comes to an end and a new one begins.

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I have only been on this island less than two weeks but I am already starting to appreciate the people here. They are a rugged, quirky bunch, for sure, but they are kind hearted and community oriented while maintaining their individuality. I’ve been told that in the summer, when there are many passers through, people don’t pay much attention to you if they don’t know you—they figure you will be gone too soon for it to be worth it for them. It takes too much energy to build relationships with people who only come to take pleasure in this little island for a week, perhaps never to return. But when you are here in the off season, like now, people take a bit more notice. Perhaps you are not just a passer through.

Yesterday I got to go to the last grub and groove of the season. On the first Saturday of the month, from October through April, there is dinner and live entertainment at the community hall. Its just five dollars to get in and anyone can sign up to play music or perform some talent of theirs. There were quite a few people signed up for this last grub and groove, from a marimba ensemble to belly dancing to Bach concertos. The audience was intent on each performer, supporting and encouraging their fellow community members.

Today I went to Anicca’s birthday bike parade. She is Dave, the cobber’s daughter and she turned seven. There was a lively little crew of parents and kids, with a few tandem bikes and makeshift trailers for the little ones. I recognized many of their faces from the grub and groove and quickly was making friends. A little girl of only three, named Selúmia, struck me with her confidence and maturity. I noticed how Sam, her father, treated her with the utmost respect, like she was a fully capable and rationale human being.

The 8th insight talks about how the way we interact will change, beginning with our children. It is about a new way of relating to other people, to children and adults. It’s about naming control dramas and breaking through them and focusing on other people in a way that sends them energy. In this way we will build on each other’s energy rather than sucking energy out of each other. Children, in particular, must never be denied energy. We must give truthful answers to all their questions, in a language they can understand, and they should never be corrected or told no. This is how control dramas are created. Rather, you can help them reason their way to a smarter decision. Or some things they will have to learn for themselves.

As I take interest in the people around me I find they take interest in me. Soon Selúmia has taken my hand and is leading me down a path. Her father says I’ll be back to this island one day. Perhaps I will, but I don’t think it will be to stay. I think it will be to reconnect with the mystery, and to remind me of the work that needs to be done in the rest of the world—on the other side of the ferry.

 Tonight I watched Mark butcher a sheep. It was one of the wild sheep on the island that he shot this afternoon with his crossbow. There are quite a few herds of these wild sheep on the island. The story goes that they were introduced sometime in the 1800’s and never left. Now they roam freely like the deer, but some of the islanders do what they can to manage them. If the herd gets too big there will be a food shortage come winter and many of them will die off, leaving those that survive skinny and unhealthy.

This is what happens in the wild; there is a natural carrying capacity of any environment for a given species niche and if the population grows beyond this carrying capacity there is a population crash. What prevents these crashes are some natural check on the population, such as a predator that allows populations to stabilize around the carrying capacity in most natural environments. But when an element is manipulated, such as habitat being destroyed by humans, or a natural predator, such as the wolf, being hunted close to extinction, or any number of other changes then populations experience booms and crashes, sometimes never recovering or sometimes finding a new equilibrium point if given enough time. If the crash is too severe then extinction can follow.

The sheep population in this island seems to growing a bit too fast causing there to be signs of an oncoming population crash as some sheep have started to drop dead of starvation. Due to this people have been encouraged to hunt particularly the adult females to slow their population growth. The females and the lambs roam as separate herds from the males this time of year. It seems the males don’t like to stick around once the kids are born.

It took one arrow from Mark’s crossbow that went clean through a female sheep’s lungs and grazed the heart, to kill it almost instantly. The process of butchering a sheep goes something like this (if you don’t like graphic detail I suggest you skip ahead). First he hangs the sheep by it’s hind legs, putting a dowel between the bone and the ligament on each leg. Then he boils two pots of water, which he will use to periodically clean his knife and hands. Then he chops off the head and the front hooves. Now it is time to remove the hide. He puts two little slits in what would be the sheep’s armpits and begins to pull away the wooly hide. It’s amazing how it separates from the fascia with just a little encouragement from the knife. After getting the front end of the sheep started he then moves to the hind legs and works his way down. If you know what you are doing, which Mark clearly does, the whole skin will come off as one single piece and you are left with the rest of the animal still hanging upside down, held together by the fascia.

Now it is time to remove the guts. To do this he starts at the groin, cutting carefully so as not to puncture any of the organs. Once again his skill shows as he is able to open the core cavity and let all the organs spill out, still intact in their own fascia like sacks. Since he doesn’t puncture the stomach or intestines the mess is actually quite minimal. The only part that gets a little bloody and gross is where the arrow pierced the lungs and heart and seems to have nicked the trachea that contained chewed up grass. Here we see a bit of loose guts.

With the hide and the guts removed I am struck by how much smaller the carcass now looks. Mark finds the ribs to not have much meat on them and not be worth the work so saves only the front and hind legs and the meat surrounding the spine and neck for eating. He also likes to save the liver and heart if he can. This time it looks like he will only get the liver. The rest of the animal he will bury in his garden as potent compost.

Mark considers this whole process part of his Buddhist practice.  I can tell by the look on his face as he butchers the sheep that he doesn’t enjoy the process too much. But he would rather bare the karma of killing and butchering the animal himself then put that on anyone else. And so he hunts for much of his own meat and raises and kills his own chickens. I think this decision is an admirable one. I too, don’t love the idea of having watched the sheep I will be eating over the next couple days die and be butchered, but I feel firmly that if I can’t stomach that then I really shouldn’t be eating meat at all.

 

My family is a beautiful blend of east and west. My mother is Japanese and grew up there. But of my two parents I would have to call her the more practical, logical, and goal oriented one, qualities I associate with a more westernized civilization. Yet she maintains a zen like serenity to her and often surprises me with her intuitive insights. My father, born to a family of New York Jews, took an interest in eastern religions and philosophy at a young age and has actively explored many spiritual and mystical paths throughout his life. Both are incredibly creative with their own distinctive styles.

Until recently I would say I found myself to be more similar to my mother in my way of approaching things—I tended to be a bit skeptical of spiritual, mystical, and ethereal ideas, desiring proof of things before I would except them. I was drawn more to the disciplines of science and mathematics for most of my schooling as well. That is why building attracted me: it is concrete, functional, and tangible. Although this year has been about exploring natural and alternative building I have somehow, subtly, inadvertently also been taken on an unexpected spiritual journey. A journey that is hard to put into words and not in any way tangible. Recently I find myself seeing meaning where before I may have seen none, and I follow my intuition even when it seems to lack or even contradict logical rationalization. It’s a different way of thinking, but I find myself intrigued and at peace with it, at least for the time being. I haven’t quite yet figured out where all of it is leading me but I trust that it is taking me somewhere of some importance. I find myself surrendering to the mystery.

Soon I return home, to family and old friends. The moon is almost full. It is a time when intuitive powers are strong. What will the last week of this chapter in my journey bring?

The age demographics on this island are shifting. In the 1960’s there were fifty or sixty kids in the school here. Now there are barely twenty. It is becoming harder for young people to move here as prices of land have risen and cost of living is generally higher on this island due to the cost of bringing everything from the mainland.

Perhaps my generation will have to create our own version of Lasqueti somewhere. Perhaps it is our purpose to take the ideals and energy of the 1960’s, which seem to be resurfacing with movements like Occupy, and build on them. I hear people talk about the 1960’s as an age of idealism that ultimately failed to deliver much change, creating a least a few jaded, bitter idealists, of which Michael Reynolds might be one of. But I don’t think the 60’s were a failure. Change comes slow, especially at first. As I look at the current energy and interest in sustainability and social justice I see many seeds that were planted in the 60’s and 70’s. Those times were important for making the ground fertile. Mistakes were made and lessons learned and now those seeds are germinating and nearing their time to blossom. I hear more and more people, both young and old, talking of a coming shift. There is a restlessness within the masses. Something is about to change.

The seventh insight says that we must assume every event has significance and contains a message that somehow pertains to our purpose. It challenges us to see the silver lining in every event, no matter how negative, and allows us to see the answers as they arrive. This will only happen though once we have become conscious of our control drama that the sixth insight talks of and find the higher purpose or question that we were born into our family to answer. Each successive generation is meant to evolve a little further than the previous one, bringing all of humanity to a higher vibrational level.  What will distinguish this generation is that we are ready to bring this process of evolution, which has been happening all along, to full consciousness and thereby vastly accelerate the process.

Today 82 chicks arrived, each about the size of my thumb. Mark will raise these chicks into meat chickens, eventually slaughtering all of them before next winter. Each chick costs only a few dollars but by July they will be fat, organically raised, free range chickens, each worth probably thirty or so dollars. But Mark doesn’t raise them to sell. They will all be consumed by people on this property such as himself, other dancers, and interns like myself. In the fall he will start to slaughter three at a time, eating one and canning or freezing the other two so he will have meat to last him till next July, when the next batch of chicks will be grown.

For the first four weeks or so the chicks must be kept in a carefully temperature regulated area, kept not too cold and not too hot. For Mark, this means a little room above his cabin that is heated by the same fire that heats his cabin. What he looks for is that the chicks are not all huddled together trying to get warm but also not all at the edges of the room trying to cool down. Ideally some are huddled and some are spread out, indicating that it is neither too cold nor too hot. To keep the temperature where he wants it he will stoke the fire every two hours, 24 hours a day for the next week at least. Then as the chicks get bigger they will start generating more of their own heat and not quite as much wood will be needed.

After we got the chicks settled in we decide to visit Mark’s neighbors up the road who live in an earthship. Michael Reynolds himself and a crew of about 20 professional builders and 30 or so interns built this earthship last summer in five weeks.

Earthships are ingenious in there design features—A totally self contained unit, they can heat and cool themselves, catch, store, and treat their own water, collect solar energy, and even grow their own food. It is essentially a self sufficient organism, once built. They are made largely of tires and bottles and cans, materials that would otherwise be going to the dump, or at best recycled. These are all great features, but like anything, it can sound good on paper and even look and feel impressive but be carried out in a way that undermines most if not all the sustainability goals.

Take this Earthship on Lasqueti. The owners are a wealthy family seeking to do good. Not knowing much better they hired Michael Reynolds crew to build them a prepackaged, pre designed earthship. This is what the Mike Reynold’s crew does, and they have gotten so good at it that they can do it in five weeks. But the tires and bottles all come from New Mexico, as did the lumber and concrete. There was no time for thoughtful site selection before the excavator was brought in, and the crew left mounds of trash when they packed up and left. The daily work schedule seemed to be based around the crew’s drinking schedule and many of the interns left a bit jaded about the whole process, feeling as if they had been somewhat mislead and used as free labor. Perhaps that will be the end of their foray into alternative building techniques, which would be a shame.

So, yes, an earthship is a wonderful concept but does the end justify the means? I want to be careful here and say that I think Michael Reynolds and earthships have done a lot for many people and the alternative building movement. They have helped rebuild areas ruined by natural disasters and Michael Reynolds worked hard to make some impressive headway when it comes to building codes and permits for alternative buildings.

And, there is still much room for improvement. I hope those interested in alternative building will continue to look critically at themselves and realize that there is probably not any one single solution for all climates and all locations. This movement gains strength from innovative and critical minds, such as the one looking to build the first earthship that does not use concrete. This modified earthship, being built in Argentina, will attempt to replace all concrete typically used in these structures with cob. That is the kind of innovation we need.

A Lasqueti Story: Part 7

 Today I picked up a book that lay on the table. It is called Women Who Run With Wolves and is written by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It contains myths and stories of the Wild Women Archetype. Suddenly I remember something a man on San Juan Island said to me. “Miwa… Miwa… doesn’t that mean wild woman is Swahili?” I laugh and tell him maybe, but that I only know it to mean harmony and beauty in Japanese. I had never thought of myself as a wild woman, but maybe I am.

Mark tells me about the free store and the library on the island. The library is where this book comes from. Both are totally open access: you can go in and drop off whatever you want and you can take whatever you want. There are no late fees or fees at all for that matter. The amazing thing is that, rather then slowly being depleted, both the library and the free store have a constant excess. One of Mark’s volunteer jobs on the island is to take books that aren’t getting much use back to the mainland in order to make room for more books. He takes about three boxes each month. “The world is full of abundance,” he says. “It is just a matter of finding it and redistributing it.”

You could almost say that this island is an experiment in anarchy. There are no police on the island, there is no building inspector, and there is no hospital. There is one ambulance and because of Canada’s healthcare system anyone who is seriously injured is airlifted out by helicopter at no fee to them.

Some on the island are finding life gets a bit harder as they get older, but the community has come together to find a solution. Soon there will be a centrally located place where people can go if they can no longer take care of themselves and the community will take care of them.

 The fifth insight tells us that the universe has all the energy we need if only we can open up to it. Opening up to it requires coming from a state of love.

Mark works more like an artist attacking a canvas than like a builder following architectural drawings. He responds to what he sees and feels as he builds, planning basic concepts and structure but open to being inspired as he creates. And he seems to be deeply connected to some creative energy source as his process is fluid and easy.  Perhaps it is all the meditation, Tai Chi, and contact improvisation dance he does. All these practices require being connected to an energy, whether that be a cosmic energy, your own energy, or the energy of your dance partner.

I haven’t been home now for eight months or so. But my travels have also kept me in North America. And yet I feel like these eight months have taken me further from home then any trip I have taken to Bolivia or Japan. My way of looking at the world feels like it is shifting, and with it so are my goals and aspirations. My mind seems to see and think differently now. This year has been a spiritual journey just as much as any other kind of journey. Will home still feel like home? Or will I feel lost and like no one speaks my language?

It seems the world has conspired around me to show me on this year that a different way of living is possible. But this different way requires a total paradigm shift. We are talking of a world not based on consumption or competition. We are talking of a world where wealth is not measured by how much money you have in the bank or by material assets but by a myriad of other things, such as social connections, knowledge of plants, animals, and the land, skills you can barter or trade with, and things like spiritual knowledge. How do I share my experiences with people living in a different paradigm?

I know some will think I have lost touch with reality, but to them I ask who makes your reality? Is it not you? I think what this year has taught me, more then anything else, is that we all have more control then we think. We have the ability to tell our own stories, thereby creating our own paradigms and creating our own worldview, choosing on any given day whether or not to feel happy. Do not mistake me though, this does not mean that we should choose to be happy every day. There are things that deserve our anger and times when we need to feel sad. Recognizing this need and allowing this feeling is, in itself, a choice. But by choosing not to resist these emotions we no longer are a slave to them, and we can begin to see the ever changing quality of these emotions. This is the teaching of Buddha: Anicca—Everything changes.

The sixth insight talks of a control drama that each of us have. This drama was created in early childhood and is repeated unconsciously throughout our lives. If we become conscious of it we can free ourselves of this need to control and then we will begin to find the higher purpose in our lives.

Mark left today for a short overnight trip to Vancouver to pick up some tongue and groove wood to complete the dance floor, so it is just me holding down the fort until tomorrow evening. I start my day by reading a bit more of Celestine Prophecy.

The Third Insight describes a new understanding of the physical world. It says we humans will learn to perceive what was formerly an invisible type of energy. In other words, the basic stuff of the universe, at its core, is a kind of pure energy that is malleable to human intention and expectation in a way that defies old mechanistic models of the universe. It’s as though our expectation itself causes our energy to flow out into the world and affect other energy systems.

I flash back to the healing work my grandmother does and the little bit about auras and energy work that I was reading and learning while staying with her six or so months ago.

So yes, much of this stuff isn’t new, but the idea that enough of us might be having these insights at the same time to actually cause a global shift now, in the early part of the 21st century… That is exciting.

The sun is starting to feel warm and I am ready to leave this wind sheltered structure. I decide to take a walk down the road and try to find Dave’s place. He is a cob builder on the island. I am not quite sure how to get there, especially since the directions I received from Dave, who I met briefly yesterday, and those I received from Mark seem to be a bit different. But I decide I will try my luck, as I want to go for a walk anyway.

As I walk briskly, I realize that all of Lasqueti’s roads seem to be dirt roads. I don’t think I have seen a single paved one yet. I recall yesterday, backing down one particularly bumpy dirt road with Mark to pick up some logs and him saying jokingly, “I think you would have to go to Northern Pakistan to find a lifestyle like this.” His comment may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but a lot about this island feels more like places I have been in rural Bolivia then anywhere in the industrialized world. And the amazing thing is most of the people living here left an urban, more modern lifestyle and chose this one. Mark has made very clear that it is, indeed, a lifestyle choice, and that it takes work to live here, but for him and the others on this island the rewards are well worth it.

With no watch and no cell service on this island I am not sure how long I have been walking, but it has been a pleasant, quiet walk on these dirt roads. I have come across piles of sand and clay, which must mean cob is nearby. Indeed, there is a little footpath, which I follow to a cluster of cob structures.

Dave is at work in a cob greenhouse, hanging some laundry out to dry. But he welcomes me and says he was about to take a break for lunch and asks if I will join him. Over a simple, but yummy meal of soup and crackers we begin to talk. Dave is a gentle man of probably mid forties who is in the process of moving from Vancouver to the island with his 7 year old daughter.

Soon we are talking about Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, and Taker and Leaver Societies. I share a bit about Celestine Prophecy, which alludes to a similar need for a shift in worldview but attacks it from a more spiritual angle. Dave shares of another book called the Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff that looks at two tribes basically living untouched by modern civilization. He tells me how the author, after living a few years with these tribes, concluded that there was something different about these people. It took her a while to put her finger on it but eventually she realized it was that they were happy. And so she spent the rest of her life figuring out and synthesizing what allowed them to be happy in a way that she rarely saw in modern society. The book explains her conclusions.

These books and other experiences have led Dave to make a conscious, political decision to try and not feed or support the current system, which he has judged as dysfunctional, and instead look to an alternative. This island and cob building seem to be part of his solution.

I ask him if he ever lived in any intentional communities and how he finds living on the island similar or different to living in these communities. He thinks for a bit. Then responds that that he appreciates the question and that yes, he has lived in a few intentional communities and in his experience they didn’t work because there was still a power structure and those in power would end up wanting to keep that power. After a pause, he added, “It’s ironic, the people on this island seem to come seeking independence, but they end up inadvertently creating community.” Perhaps it is that once their own needs for independence, self-sufficiency, and happiness are met, they have more to give others?

The Fourth Insight exposes a human tendency to steal energy from other humans by controlling them because we so often feel depleted of energy due to being disconnected from the larger source of energy. We are stuck in a kind of competition for each other’s energy, which we gain by controlling and manipulating each other.

The next morning I awaken to the sunlight and wander into the bowels of the beast. At about 8am Mark shows up and we sit for an hour of Vipassana Meditation. A morning and early evening sit will be our routine here.

Before we get started with work that day I have an opportunity to walk around a bit and find some of the other structures lurking in these woods. As I wander through the forest my eyes, recently well trained by Ryan, see that this is a young, transitioning forest that was probably heavily logged in the last hundred years. The trees are dense and mostly about the same age, and the undergrowth is also dense. There seems to be a lot of blow down in this forest as well, typical for a young forest where many of these trees won’t make it past the hundred year mark. The pines are often the first to go, a pioneer species, they have just about served their purpose. Then probably the grand firs, leaving a forest of mostly Douglas firs and some Madrona. Even the Douglass firs here are way denser then one would see in an old growth forest. Mark tells me later that this island was indeed heavily logged a few times, and that the last logging boom was in the 1950’s. Apparently some of the actual first settlers to come to the west coast found forests where huge, nearly thousand year old trees grew on average 60 or so feet from each other.  How different this is from what most of us know as a forest today!

Now it is time to build. Mark’s style of building is somewhat on the opposite end of the spectrum to Ryan’s. He is a utilitarian, it seems, and he keeps things simple. Walls are left un-plastered and floors are rarely level. He builds quick, barely even stopping to measure. Posts are placed on top of rock so the bottoms won’t rot, but there is no real foundation to most of these structures. A spike is put at each intersection where two pieces of wood meet and each right angle is stabilized with a diagonal to make a triangle, and its as simple as that. Or at least that is how it seems. But given the huge structure he created for the dance floor and his attempts to explain how it stands I know that he is obviously quite skilled to a level beyond my comprehension. By the end of the day the structure for an entrance gate to his property is up. Tomorrow we will put up the walls as he wants to have a little enclosed area where groceries and other items can be left. It’s simple, rustic, and functional.

It’s funny how often when someone is doing something right they make it look easy and effortless and its only if you see someone attempt the same feat without the same know how that you realize how skilled they were. I am sure as I begin to build my own structures I will appreciate the skills of my teachers even more as I will flounder at times where they made things look simple.

Now it is time for meditation, dinner, and bed. Mark likes to retire to his cabin for the evening just as dusk begins and he is up long before the sun in the morning.

I decide to take an evening walk before returning to my cabin. Tonight my cabin is so warm that I am tempted to sleep naked, even though it is only March and the outside air is chilly.

 

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