"I'm Starting with the Man in the Mirror... and I'm asking him to change his ways..."
I arrived on February 1st to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a small village in the German Alps, just about an hour's drive outside of Munich, where the Winter Olympics were held in 1936 under Hitler's rule. Postcard picture perfect…snow blanketing the village, fresh crisp mountain air, glacial clean water running from the faucets direct from the Alps, globes of Christmas lights still lining the streets and shop windows, and sleds propped up along houses ready to serve the children tucked safely and warmly in their beds when they wake through the fields of snow to their next adventure.
As my friend Jordan Bloom said when we taught in Austria at the Yoga Conference together a week later, "I feel like I'm living in a snow globe." It was exactly like that.
After a long night counting sheep from my red eye flight and inevitable jet lag, I awoke to Maxim's laughter. Maxim is Nora + Wolfgang's son. I fell hopelessly in love! His crystal blue eyes, soft white blonde hair, rosy cheeks, round face, and his smile that beamed up the entire house and everyone in it! He is just about 2 years old.
I'd heard so much about him from Nora for years now. Nora is my student, friend, and was my host that week. She invited me to her Bavarian village, away from the bustle of the city to teach her students and to enjoy the simple life in the village at the foot of the Alps…and to snowboard! A perfect landing to settle in before the start of a 5 day teacher training intensive the following weekend in Munich.
…so back to Maxim. My new love!
Did I tell you about his tiny little feet running, or rather sliding on the marble floors, as I chased him around the house? We found a way to communicate beyond our language barrier. So easy when laughter is involved! All we did was play that first morning.
Later that night when Maxim was fast asleep, dreaming about his day filled with his kinder care activities in the forest playing in the snow for 4 hours as he does every day…Nora told me it was not always that way for them.
It was only 18 months ago that they brought him back from an orphanage in Gorky Park, Russia. It had been a long, hard, relentless process. To learn more about where Maxim's family was from, they visited many homes near the orphanage in the dead of winter where they also learned about the poverty in that local community.
There, so many families have to drop their children off at an orphanage because they cannot afford to take care of them. The orphanages are government assisted and the care is better for the children's health + well-being rather than at home where many parents cannot afford to provide for them. It's not like in America and other countries where there is a set amount of money for food stamps per child or family, or a welfare check for the family to collect monthly or weekly.
I understood Nora to explain that they have a different system. The families who are in poverty are not supported by society to take care of their children at home, but instead the orphanages are given the money so they know the children will be cared for with those government funds.
So in order to provide their children a safe and warm house with guaranteed food on the table, they must give them up to the orphanage. A much better fate than the meager meals and cold existence of their too often empty stove ovens absent of coal, that when is actually lit causes condensation to form on the inner walls which soon after freeze into sheets of ice! Nora was horrified to see so many homes with inner walls with sheets of ice on them.
Maxim is a lucky boy. Many of his friends who I saw photos of while they were in the orphanage together, will not receive the same luck. They will stay in the orphanage until they are in their mid teens and be sent out into society with a warped sense of love, touch, a limited education, and absolutely no money to fend for themselves….leading too often to a life of teenage prostitution, drug addiction and crime. But for them this is not abnormal….it is all they will know.
Not too different to what is already happening for the so many children of Haiti.
The relief efforts continue, but there are no more live television reports. Newspaper reports continue to update us not only of the continued relief (the Scientologists have landed in John Travolta's jet plane with supplies alongside the other religious charity groups) but also of the after-shocks of the darkness that also exists.
Children are getting picked up at overcrowded orphanages by official-looking members carrying fraudulent documents from other relief organizations, who in actuality sell these children as prostitutes and child servants for Haitian's rich.
Everyday I read from my Kindle changes that are happening all over the world, but even more cries for help, not only in Haiti, but in the Middle East, Africa, China...it's everywhere.
And then I get excited for action. And I teach in our Fluid Power trainings how every action can cause a small or gi-normous response...but it's up to each and every one of us to start. Today. To make a change...and we sing...yep! We sing "Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na, Na Nah" after Michael Jackson's song finishes playing during savasana. And the song continues to echo in our hearts. And now we share it with you..
Here are some ways to make a change TODAY
1. TALK ABOUT IT. TELL EVERYONE.
Spread awareness so change can grow from it. I learned this from a list of what to do about my disgust after reading this New York Times and Amazon Best seller |
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man | by John Perkin.
This title reveals a game that, according to John Perkins, is "as old as Empire" but has taken on new and terrifying dimensions in an era of globalization. And Perkins should know. For many years he worked for an international consulting firm where his main job was to convince LDCs (less developed countries) around the world to accept multibillion-dollar loans for infrastructure projects and to see to it that most of this money ended up at Halliburton, Bechtel, Brown and Root, and other United States engineering and construction companies. This book, which many people warned Perkins not to write, is a blistering attack on a little-known phenomenon that has had dire consequences on both the victimized countries and the U.S.
2. WATCH DOCUMENTARIES ON WHAT MATTERS TO YOU. AND TALK ABOUT THEM WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW. PUT THEM ON YOUR FACEBOOK + TWITTER.
Empower yourself with knowledge instead of living in denial, "Don't Ask. Don't Tell."
Other documentaries to empower + awaken yourself to the "other" Truths.
Sign up for the Newsletters + Take action when called upon....
Checkpoints | Filmmaker Zachary Iscol
A combat decorated Marine Infantry Officer, Zach fought in the November 2004 battle to retake Fallujah. At the time, he believed strongly in America’s mission to export democracy. But during his service, he had the opportunity to live and work alongside foreign soldiers in Iraq and throughout Africa, the Middle East, and into Central Asia. These relationship, coupled with tragic wartime experiences abroad, caused him to ask whether there is a better way for America to interact with the world. He is now writing and directing a film to explore alternative approaches to American Foreign Policy. Zach is also Founder of the Editorial Project, a filmmaker, and a friend.
This is a timely documentary raising questions as to why and was it necessary, especially as we near August 2010, President Obama's pledge in Feb '09 to begin the withdraw of combat forces from Iraq and all remaining troops by December 2011, ending one of the longest and most divisive wars in American history. Zach is a dear friend of mine from NYC, who as the filmmaker and founder of the Editorial Project interrupted the time-sensitive post production editing of Checkpoints to accompany marine forces to Haiti to film, photograph, and blog of the devastation, so we could receive an additional perspective on how we could help from afar.
Prayers go out to Zach and his team for continued success in receiving many film festivals' acceptance + screenings worldwide so we can all continue to stay wide awake by learning of yet another truth.
The Cove | Director Louie Psihoyos
Winner of multiple documentary awards including Audience Award at Sundance 2009. Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renown dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
Food Inc. | Filmmaker Rober Kenner
How much do we really know about the food we by at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
I Know I'm Not Alone | Filmmaker Michael Franti
In 2004 Michael Franti decided to ‘walk his talk’ and traveled to the war zones of Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This wasn’t a USO green zone sponsored visit – Franti and his team organized a trip that would take him to the core of the red-zoned, war torn neighborhoods of Baghdad, the West Bank and Gaza Strip armed with only a guitar, video cameras and the intent to experience first hand the human cost of war. Throughout his journey he shares his music with families, doctors, musicians, soldiers and everyday people who in turn reveal to him the often overlooked human cost of war. Out of this expedition, Franti has produced and directed a compelling documentary film titled I Know I’m Not Alone.
With its guerrilla style footage captured in active war zones, the documentary is unlike the many academic and politically driven pieces in the marketplace, instead offering the audience a sense of intimate travel and the opportunity to hear the voices of everyday people living, creating and surviving under the harsh conditions of war and occupation.
Money As Debt | Filmmaker Paul Grignon
Paul Grignon's video production, Money as Debt, is the best presentation I've yet seen that explains in simple and straight forward language (with supporting animated visuals) the true nature of money and the dysfunctional and undemocratic nature of the global banking system. |Thomas H. Greco, Reinventing Money.com
3. CHOOSE A CAUSE AND TAKE ACTION. OR READ OF OTHERS WHO HAVE TAKEN ACTION.
Tell everyone about it. Take action. Make a commitment towards conscious ACTION. Right now, choose a cause and start now, today, and tell someone because if you keep it a secret, the secret may never get revealed or set into action. NEED SOME INSPIRATION?
Read The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz.
How a lifelong philanthropist aided some of the world's poverty-stricken populations with a shrewd economic plan. Her inspiring story, a former banker who founded Acumen Fund in 2001 to build businesses that serve the poor. In 2001, Jacqueline founded a nonprofit venture-capital firm aimed at reinvesting charitable funding via focused entrepreneurial endeavors. The Acumen Fund's successes include the development of clean water and irrigation systems in India and a bedding-net manufacturer in Africa. She's aspired to change the world since she was young, writes Novogratz, who assembles engaging and insightful stories about her journey toward effective philanthropy.
4. DONATE. CONTINUE TO DONATE MONTHLY.
Once you've chosen a cause THEN Choose a % to donate each month and electronically donate every month…send it to an organization in Haiti, Russia, within your own community,
ASPCA, Unicef, Australian Conservation Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, Kenya Education Fund, Partners in Health, Amnesty International, Parkinson's Foundation …there are soo many to choose from. Just choose one and donate even one dollar or one euro per month. Every bit counts.
5. JOIN A SOUP KITCHEN OR JOIN AN ORGANISATION THAT PROVIDES FOOD FOR THE HOMELESS.
Meet my friend Edo's mum, Ronni Kahn, was named Australian of t he Year last month for taking the Angel Harvest model in Los Angeles and implementing it in Sydney and Canberra, creating OzHarvest. OzHarvest is a non-denominational charity that rescues excess food which would otherwise be discarded. This excess food is distributed to charities supporting the vulnerable. To date they have rescued over 5 million meals. delivering 100, 000 meals per month with a fleet of six vans.
OzHarvest believes that good food should not go to waste. In fact, by distributing it to those in need, they turn excess food into a resource and save thousands of kilograms of food from being dumped as landfill each year. She is now empowering others to create business models to do the same with their cause.
6. THINK OF THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF YOUR OWN EATING OUT ACTIONS.
If the raping of the sacred earth and trees of the Amazon, or the climate change that is decreasing the amount of fog that the Redwoods in California rely on each year during the warmer months is not okay with you then STOP USING PAPER TOWELS + NAPKINS unconsciously. Please start CARRYING A ORGANIC COTTON LINEN NAPKIN when you eat out, USE REAL ORGANIC COTTON TOWELS in your kitchen instead of paper towels, and RAGS FROM OLD CLOTHES to pick up spills + to clean your homes, and AFTER WASHING YOUR HANDS IN PUBLIC BATHROOMS AIR DRY or shake your hands in the air or run them through your hair or on your clothes (your hands are clean + your clothes will dry).
7. LOCAL TO GLOBAL CONSCIOUS ACTION THROUGH PRAYER CIRCLES.
What happens when you hear or read something in the news about a Palestinian family calling for help to their local government for their 12 year old daughter who returned from her employer's home beaten and battered to death. Her employer said she fell down the stairs. FOLLOW THROUGH. PRAY FOR THEM.
JOIN A PRAYER CIRCLE.OR EMAIL SOMEONE ABOUT IT WHO CAN MAKE A CHANGE. EMAIL AMNESTY or find a local organization that you can donate time, energy, resources to protect children from being beaten for ANY reason and educate families on how to ease the stresses that cause that intolerable action.
Empowering yogis with resources and tools to create this change. OTM uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change. They do this by facilitating personal empowerment through leadership trainings, fostering community collaboration, and initiating local and global service projects.
9. HEAL WITHIN YOUR OWN SELF.
Body. Mind. Heart. You can't go taking care of anyone else if you are not coming from a healing or healed place as well. Eventually your Source will deplete and you won't be able to help as you'd like. See a therapist, healer, practice yoga, meditate, keep filling your cup.
10. PRAY IN GRATITUDE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN.
Pray in gratitude for what you do have…start with every time you begin a meal. Take a breath or put your hands in namaste (even if it is under the table at first and eventually anytime anywhere with anyone around) and take a moment of gratitude.
MULTIFAITH MEALTIME PRAYER (Jewish, Muslim, Native American Christian, Earth-based, Buddhist)…If food is for the nourishment of our bodies, then prayer must be for the nourishment of our souls. And what better appetizer to a delicious meal could there be than a prayer of gratitude?
And not only that your food is on the table, but your lights go on, your toilet flushes, you can turn a knob in your home and heat your food, your home, lock your doors and feel safe, be safe, and to open a closet full of clothing that is appropriate for the weather outside (and maybe decide to donate some of that clothing you want to shed and share to the Salvation Army USA or Australia
Earth-based Prayer | Magdalen 6
Blessed be the Earth for giving birth to this food
Blessed be the Sun for nourishing it
Blessed be the Wind for carrying its seed
Blessed be the Rain for quenching its thirst.
Blessed be the hands that helped to grow this food,
To bring it to our tables
To nourish our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Blessed be our friends, our families, and our loved ones.
11. LOOK IN THE MIRROR EVERY DAY TWICE A DAY AND ASK YOURSELF...
In the morning ask | "How will I making a difference today?
Before you go to bed ask | "How did I make a difference today?"
In fact write it across your mirror eye-level with whiteboard marker. Read it out loud.
…and ask for help. You are not alone. You are never alone when you are on a path of service.
As H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji told me in an intimate meeting immediately following the Yoga Aid Melbourne event this past December, "There are three types of people in this world, 'One. It's all about me. Two. It's all about you. Three. It's all about serving, I am just a channel that it is being done through."
I ask you now…. WHICH TYPE OF PERSON ARE YOU? OR DO YOU WANT TO BE??
Then start now….This is the time.
That's all we really have.
May Goddess Continue to Bless You, to Bless Us All