The gift of sight

by Heather Wardle

 

In a small corner of a district hospital in Tibet, 12-year-old Datso sat crying. She was blind from bilateral cataracts, the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Datso’s short life had been miserable and lonely. “I am blind and don’t deserve any friends,” she sobbed. “I am not capable of doing anything but sitting in my home with my grandparents all the time. Nobody is willing to play with me. I can’t see now and I am afraid that I won’t see ever again in my life.”

Thanks to the kindness of strangers in Canada, Datso received sight-restoring cataract surgery at a Seva Canada-sponsored eye camp in Tibet. Seva Canada is an international, non-governmental organization in Vancouver whose mission is the elimination of preventable and treatable blindness.

In Sanskrit, seva means “service” or “compassion in action.” For more than 26 years, Seva has been helping poor countries help themselves by creating sustainable eye care systems. Seva now works in seven countries – Tibet, Nepal, India, Tanzania, Guatemala, Cambodia and Egypt – training local eye-care specialists.

Datso is one of 314 million people worldwide with serious vision impairment. Of these, 45 million are blind and 124 million have low vision. Yet 75 percent of this blindness is either preventable or treatable. Often, a 15-minute cataract surgery that costs only $50 will restore sight and completely transform someone’s life.

Drew Luyall, SEVAs youngest donor

After her two eye surgeries, Datso was a changed girl. She was free to lead a normal life, see her loved ones, play with friends, go to school and be happy. “I feel like doing everything now,” she said laughing, “but first of all, I need to see my one-month-old brother at home!”

One kind Canadian who has given many gifts of sight is a remarkable 10-year-old boy named Drew Lyall from Kimberley, BC. Drew first heard about Seva Canada’s sight restoration and blindness prevention work in 2006 when he saw a Seva multimedia show in Kimberley. Since then, Drew has raised more than $1,500 for Seva Canada to fund eye surgeries and training in Asia and Africa.

To raise money, Drew has collected thousands of cans and bottles for recycling, often dragging them on his toboggan through the winter snows. Now that his local bottle depot has burned down, Drew is fundraising through local craft fairs and school talks. Drew has a heart of gold. He is full of compassion for those who are blind and he is tireless in his fundraising efforts. He’s paid for a Tibetan eye surgeon to get specialist training in Nepal, funded sight restoration for a child in Tanzania and introduced Seva to many people.

Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, is an Honourable Patron of Seva Canada. “During the last 26 years, Seva has helped to restore the sight of many thousands of people who suffer needlessly from blindness that is both preventable and treatable,” says Dr. Axworthy. “I am exceptionally proud to be associated with the work of Seva Canada.”

Heather Wardle is the development director of Seva Canada Society. 
www.seva.ca.


Saving sight on the roof of the world

Tibetan eye camps are miraculous events. Hundreds of blind patients are brought by their families, sometimes travelling for days. They are led-in blind and after a 15-minute surgery costing about $50 can see again.

Tibet has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world, primarily caused by cataracts. Seva Canada is the leading eye-care provider in Tibet, responsible for two-thirds of the cataract surgeries.

“Cataract surgery in adults is just wonderful. It’s the best bang for your buck operation in the world,” says ophthalmologist and Seva board member Dr. Peter Nash.

Mobile eye camps provide a way to reach the blind in remote areas. Each year, Seva runs as many as 25 eye camps, costing around $12,500 each. Each camp screens hundreds of people of all ages and performs up to 400 sight-restoring cataract surgeries.

Dekyi, a blind woman with six children to care for, received the gift of sight in October at a Seva eye camp in Chamdo. “For the first time in my life, I am happy,” she told the doctors. “Please tell all the people at Seva. They are the ones who have helped me end my bad karma and bring a glimpse of light to my life!”

This holiday season, choose to give the gift of sight. Visitwww.seva.ca or call 604-713-6622 for information and to request a copy of Seva’s Gift of Sight catalogue, an alternative giving guide. You can give the gift of sight on behalf of family members, friends and business associates. With each gift, Seva will send a card describing your gift to the person you wish to honour.

 

Believe it or not

WRITING ON THE WALL by Joseph Roberts

Welcome to the December issue of Common Ground. In this last month of 2008, we look to 2009 with renewed hope for the change that we believe will come.

The great news is that we don’t have to worry about Sarah Pallin ruling the empire to the south, given that Barack Obama seized the day. Like many others, I cried when I saw Obama delivering his speech at the park in Chicago. As the TV cameras panned the audience, both young and old alike had tears in their eyes. And the very eldest wept as they had seen the times when their forefathers were slaves, and they, themselves, had had to drink from a different water fountain than white folks, and forced to sit at the back of the bus. Maybe Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King were watching through the eyes of those elders who are still alive to see the dream come true. Hallelujah!

Although we were hustled along into a federal election a year ahead of schedule, the offending party did not win the coveted, supreme prize of a majority. Former president Bill Clinton spoke at a recent BCBC talk in Vancouver. At the same function, Stockwell Day joked after dinner that the CPC now had a more “muscular minority.” Well, as we are all aware, Bill’s muscular minority got him into lots of trouble with Monica.

In Vancouver, we also saw two provincial by-elections vote for change. Then, to the amazement of many Vancouverites, Vision Vancouver vanquished the prior, ruling civic NPA party, taking the mayor’s seat and all other positions, leaving the NPA with only one seat on city council. During mayor-elect Gregor Robertson’s acceptance speech at the Vancouver Hotel, he made promises for change.

We are the change we have been waiting for; now is the time. And as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

This edition launches a new column titled Independent Media, which will link the important information media issues, such as internet neutrality, keeping media honest, and protecting the freedom of those who do not own huge media empires so they too have their voices heard. We welcome Steve Anderson, organizer of Media Democracy Day at the VPL, an event well worth your participation if you missed it this year.

It seems many among us voted for change and are ready to act to create a more humane and civil society. So why is it that many others misunderstand or fear change? It is partially because we have different beliefs. So why are beliefs so hard to change, and why do governments, corporations and religions invest so much money and effort to imprint and defend their chosen beliefs? Because, to a large degree, beliefs run people’s lives. We get identified with our beliefs. People feel their existence depends on this identity and when their cherished beliefs appear to be threatened, they defend them as if their ego’s survival depended on it. Beliefs become engrained, passed on from generation to generation, or more lately from TV to video games to Facebook. These fossilized thought programs fundamentally stop people from questioning. Thus, they defend their belief systems with the full force of their survival instinct. Useful if you want to start a war and needs lots of soldiers.

This can be gold to the small but powerful group of leaders who want to rule the world’s resources or economy, especially if they monopolize most of the mass media. When people are threatened, the fight or flight response kicks in. Whether the terror is real or imagined, the physical response is the same: the heartbeat goes up, cortisone increases and the mind focuses on the perceived threat. This phenomena is aptly captured by Mark Twain’s quote: “I have been through some terrible things in my life…some of which actually happened.”

People react if they believe a threat is real. They stop looking at all the options; they don’t check the accuracy of the statements and they hunker down into their mental bunkers to fight or weather the storm, (or hurricane, as in the disaster in New Orleans), believing help will come soon.

Smart and powerful people manufacture belief in terror and derive consent to a “there-is-no-other-choice” solution, which always robs people of their money, rights, resources or property.

It is not much different today as it was in the Dark Ages, the Industrial Revolution, numerous hot or cold wars, dropping the big one, YK2, WMD or the current economic terror. If Henny Penny believes the sky is falling, Henny Penny’s eggs can be stolen.

In other words, we are lied to in order to believe a lie so that those who lie can benefit from their fraud. And they need us, the middle class and the huddled masses, to buy into their con because they need us for cannon fodder.

Another way of describing this relationship was coined by Dr. John Gofman, the scientist who isolated the first gram of plutonium. Gofman worked on the Manhattan Project along with Albert Einstein and others to develop the first atomic bomb. People like Einstein had agreed to develop the bomb because they were promised it would not be used on people, but rather exploded off-shore as a demonstration to the Japanese to induce their surrender. The agreement was with president Roosevelt, who died in office and Harry Truman took over and immediately signed the directive to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These eminent scientist, some of them pacifists, were taken advantage of by powerful forces that lied because they wanted to use the discovery for their geo-political purposes.

The scientists were played the same way the public gets played. Gofman noted there are two classes of people. There is no longer the left or the right, nor the north or the south, but rather the screwers and the screwees. Truman worked for those moneyed interests who wanted to show those pesky Russians (remember the same ones who were our allies to defeat Hitler) who were running the world. So they demonstrated US might by desecrating not just one but two cities in Japan. The victors wrote the history books and conveniently rearranged the facts and left out what they did not want us peasants to know. Because part of their game is to keep us believing that they would never do bad things to good people. And that they would always tell us the truth about who the good guys and bad guys are. Who the invaders and the liberartors are. Who the saviours and the sinners are. The game unfortunately goes on until their lies are no longer believable, which requires a fair amount of delving into what is really going on.

Hopefully as the curtains close on 2008, we can see the light returning after the solstice at the end of this tunnel vision.

So it is with great hope that our dreams for change and for fairness, compassion and justice will actually happen.

Raising a village, one cup at a time

by John M. Darch

For more than three decades, I have been involved with numerous natural resource projects in North America, Africa and Asia, meeting many interesting (and sometimes unsavoury) people. None, however, compare with the intriguing and friendly Thais. Like most Western entrepreneurs in Thailand, I was mostly involved with the established business society. It was not until 2006 when my Thai friend Ponprapa Bunmusik introduced me to the Akha hill tribe people of Doi Chaang near Chiang Rai and I spent time with them that I began to understand their struggle for dignity and their desire to be more than a tourist attraction.

Their story seemed incredulous: a hill tribe living in Doi Chaang Village (primarily of Akha heritage) had, through sheer determination and dedication, created a viable business cultivating an outstanding quality coffee. I was surprised that coffee was even grown in Thailand, never mind that it was being achieved with no government assistance or donations.

I learned that the villagers wanted to expand their business internationally and my friend wondered if I would be interested in another Thai business venture. I agreed to meet them out of politeness and was introduced to Khun Wicha Promyong, the man responsible for leading the Akha tribe in their quest to be self-sufficient. Wicha, a former world-travelled entrepreneur, comes from southern Thailand and having enjoyed the privileges of education, healthcare and wealth, he gave all of it up more than 30 years ago to live and travel with Thailand’s hill tribes. His home is now with “his people,” the Akha hill tribe in Doi Chaang village and his “mission” is to help them have dignity and to become self-sustaining.

L to R: Brother Wicha, Doi Chaang village leader Piko Saedoo, John M. Darch

When we met in Bangkok, Wicha explained how the many hill tribes originally migrated from southwestern China, eventually settling in scattered, isolated communities in the mountainous regions of Laos, Vietnam and Northern Thailand. Apparently, at one time, the hill tribes of Northern Thailand sustained themselves through slash and burn horticulture, but the increased population of the last century depleted the land and many of the hill tribes resorted to cultivating opium for survival.

Rich in culture and tradition, shrouded in myth and legend, the Akha people have no official written language, but maintain a detailed, oral history and live life according to the “Akha Way,” a spiritual, moral and social philosophy that governs behaviour and emphasizes strong ties to land and family. Yet, of all the hill tribes, few were as downtrodden, shunned or as impoverished as the Akha people.

Traditional handcrafted Akha Silver Headdress for ceremonial occasions such as marriage and harvest.

Arriving at Doi Chaang village (literal translation: Elephant Mountain), I was expecting the familiar destitute village that had become the symbol of the typical hill tribe community. However, here was an energetic farming community, complete with rudimentary electricity, running water, a school and a medical clinic. Some 20 years ago, in the hope of steering hill tribes away from cultivating opium, His Majesty the King of Thailand directed the farmers be given coffee plants. Sadly, because the farmers were acting independently and were inexperienced in business practice, their lives barely improved. To sell his beans, each farmer had to transport them some 70 kilometres to Chiang Rai, the nearest city, where the international coffee dealers kept the farmers divided and paid them minimal prices. In frustration, the Akha villagers turned to Wicha, who lived in Chiang Rai, for help. As a first step, Wicha encouraged all the Doi Chaang farmers to become a co-operative, thereby making it impossible for the coffee dealers to play one family against another. His next focus was educating the farmers in the importance of quality and productivity. In just over six years, this once small, isolated, poor village was transformed.

In my meeting with Wicha, he pointed out where clear-cut sections from past farming practice are now being reforested with a variety of trees, bushes and plants. The reforestation supports the production of various crops, which not only provide food, but are also sold to help support and diversify the village’s economy. This cultivation method maintains soil quality, as the canopy protects against the sun and the rain and eliminates the need for continuous weeding and the use of harmful chemicals. The result is rich, fertile soil that sustains diverse crop production for present and future generations.

I couldn’t help but feel somewhat guilty. My own business ventures have been in natural resource development where the resources are eventually depleted, projects with a finite life that has inevitable consequences for employees and their families. I was now presented with a business that could expand without depleting resources or exploiting workers and their families. So what did the people want with me? Wicha didn’t ask me for money and I didn’t offer. Instead, he wanted a business relationship for his people. As I learned, Doi Chaang’s success was such that production had exceeded demand in Thailand, and Wicha, forever the visionary, wanted me to introduce their coffee to the North American market. There were two conditions: to ensure the villagers’ self-esteem, their coffee had to be sold under the name Doi Chaang (Elephant Mountain) and the label had to bear the words “single-origin.”

It is important to understand that these people do not want charity, but a fair price for their coffee. The Akha farmers told me they want people to buy their coffee for the “quality,” not out of sympathy, as beyond improving their lifestyle; the most important thing to these people is respect and recognition of their achievements.

Wicha told me that international investors and coffee buyers constantly approach these people, looking to invest and control their coffee production. Their intent is to blend the beans with other coffees and market them under a different name because “Doi Chaang” sounds too ethnic. The potential buyers argue that they must have control and that it would be too expensive and difficult to market internationally a single-origin, Arabica coffee from Thailand, essentially unknown outside Asia.

I was captivated and immediately contacted Wayne Fallis, a colleague in Canada with extensive experience in food exporting and importing. I convinced him that I had found a project that would offer more than a financial return. We then sought the opinion of Calgary-based, Shawn MacDonald, well known for his extensive knowledge of coffee. MacDonald not only confirmed that Doi Chaang Coffee was a “world class” coffee, but he agreed to join our venture as Roast Master and vice-president of operations. And so we began what is probably a unique business arrangement in the coffee world. The farmers maintain total ownership and control of their own Thai company and domestic sales. In addition, they would also have a “carried” 50 percent interest in the Vancouver and Calgary based Canadian company, Doi Chaang Coffee Company, created to roast and distribute Doi Chaang coffee in North America. My colleague and I agreed to personally provide 100 percent of the finance required for all aspects of the Canadian operation leaving the hill tribe to focus on production, quality control and expansion.

This structure provides the hill tribe people with a no-lose business arrangement. We buy the green beans from the farmers, for cash, at a price in excess of the recommended price, which gives them an immediate profit and the ability to continue their coffee production. And because of the ownership in Doi Chaang Coffee Company, they also receive 50 percent of the Canadian company’s profits without any cost to them.

I am proud of how the Akha farmers use their coffee revenues to improve the standard of living for their community and the quality of their coffee. Having been isolated and impoverished for so long, they are now recognized and praised for their achievements, held up by Thailand officials as a “role model” for other hill tribe communities. In 2007, the farmers demonstrated their commitment to their community by building the Doi Chaang Coffee Academy, at their own expense. All hill tribe farmers may attend at no cost to learn about co-operative business practices, diverse crop production, quality control and sustainable agriculture. The farmers are also taught personal money management skills and the importance of education and healthcare. The ultimate goal is for the hill tribes to be accepted and welcomed as productive, contributing members of Thai society.

I am determined to make Doi Chaang Coffee a success in North America because I strongly believe that this is an alternative and viable way of doing business with the coffee farmers. I believe in the Akha hill tribe’s courage to persevere and I believe in their determination to better themselves and take control of their own future. I believe in their children, their community, their potential and their ability to sustain and grow their own business without any negative impact on their culture, community or environment.

John Darch is the chairman of Doi Chaang Coffee in Canada.www.doichaangcoffee.com

Stella

THIRTY SOMETHING by Ishi Dinim

Life as I know it will never be the same. My heart has been broken open and filled up with new love. I’m the elated father of a sweet baby girl. I’ve lost track of time and the outside world, and I’m happier for it. This whole experience continues to confirm that magic is real and exists in our lives.

I think being a parent is making me become more patient and compassionate. I’ve starting seeing each person as someone’s precious little one. I find myself staring at strangers, wondering what their life has been like, who their parents were, and what their relationship was/is like. I was having a coffee with my friend last week and he said, “You know that feeling that you’re having? Can you imagine if everyone had a baby at the same time? There wouldn’t be anybody left to fight a war, they’d all be loving their new babies and excited for the other people going through the same thing.”

My wife told me an interesting anecdote that my mom had told her. It was something along the lines that people who are parents are far less likely to become the perpetrator of a violent crime. I can’t throw any fancy stats to verify that comment, but those who share the feelings that are coming to me these days probably agree that once you make a life it would be a lot harder to take one.

Making a baby isn’t an option for everybody but there are plenty of children to adopt or connect with. In my love drunkenness I’m still lucid enough to concede that maybe parenting for peace might not work. However the extremely strong connection that a new parent feels could be something to draw on. We lack connection in modern cultures; we’re really plugged-in but rarely meaningfully joined to anything life affirming. Make a choice to bond and grow with your baby whatever that looks like for you.

I remember, at some point in the process, the rush I got when I committed to making a life-long choice, the very first truly all-in moment in my thirty years. The old cliché that every parent tells people, that having their child was the best thing they ever did, is true. I know that whatever may come in life I am a success and I’ve found a purpose greater than myself.

Cinema:
The Fall
Wordplay
Style Wars
Fela: Music is the Weapon

Ishi graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2001, with a BFA. He makes films, collects cacti, and ponders many things. Currently he is doing what he can for himself, his family and the planet. contact: ishi@yahoo.ca

Raw revolution

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

The raw foods movement is making headlines. Why? Reasons include awareness about the environmental impacts of our food choices, interest in going organic and the desire to eat lower on the food chain. And across North America, people are viewing their expanding waistlines with horror. Centring one’s diet on raw plant foods offers a mighty appealing solution.

Why is this a solution? One reason is that some of us consumers have trouble being moderate. For example, if there’s a bottle of wine or a case of beer handy, we’ll chug-a-lug or sip our way through the whole thing. To save ourselves, we join AA, where there’s a clear line. No alcohol at all. Period. Similarly, if we have cigarettes around, we can’t resist smoking. Our only way out is to quit, with no cigarettes in the house.

When it comes to food, we can’t stop ourselves from eating the whole loaf of fresh bread, chocolate cake, bucket of chicken or bag of chips. Yet, if we want to quit, how do we manage? We can’t enrol our higher power in helping us to abstain entirely from food. We must eat something!

Raw food to the rescue. It allows us to draw a clear line. Bread, butter, cake, fried chicken and chips all are on the other side of the line, where we don’t go. Yet we have plenty to eat.

At first glance, this looks far too radical. But doesn’t giving up alcohol seem radical to a boozer? It seems that the person’s entire social life will vanish and there will be no way to relax. But after taking the leap, new horizons open: one discovers non-drinking friends and finds excellent ways to reduce stress.

With raw foods, what are our choices? We head for the market’s colourful produce section. We load our cart with every type of fruit and explore all the veggies that can be eaten uncooked. Then we veer over to the nuts and seeds department.

If a raw, or mainly raw, approach interests you, several opportunities for information are available this month: a Raw Food Revolution event takes place in Vancouver on November 20 with my delightful co-author Cherie Soria. This is one fit, slim, vibrant woman and does she know how to tantalize our senses with amazing food! On Saturday November 22, Cherie offers a FUNdamentals of Raw Nutrition Intensive course. (Location: Langley, 40 minutes east of Vancouver’s city hall, plus you’ll see the WindSong Cohousing Community, an architectural achievement.)

I had the pleasure of taking courses at Cherie’s school in Fort Bragg, California, midway between San Francisco and the California-Oregon border (check out www.rawfoodchef.com). These courses changed my relationship with food. Novices and experts from Washington DC, Tokyo and from across America and Europe flock to this school. Some train as raw chefs. Others learn new ways of eating for disease prevention or weight loss. We are fortunate to have this master chef here.

Also in Vancouver, on the evening of Wednesday November 12, two colleagues from Cherie’s school, Karin and Rick Dina, present an Introduction to Raw Food Nutrition. On the following weekend (November 15-16), they present the Science of Raw Food Nutrition – it has had rave reviews – in Langley.

Raw doesn’t have to mean chilly. Here are a few tips that help raw enthusiasts through colder months. We can start our day with muesli or a crunchy buckwheat granola or cinnamon oatmeal, adding fruit and warm almond milk. We might choose sprouted grain bread (See recipes in our newRaw Food Revolution Diet, also titled Raw Revolution Diet.) In smoothies and blended soups, we can use warm or hot water. We can wash or soak our produce in warm or hot water for a few minutes. We begin our meal with a cup of warm miso soup or ginger tea. We snack on almond butter with apples or bananas. And for some, it works best to combine a mainly raw diet with baked or steamed root vegetables or hearty bean and lentil soups.

Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian (www.nutrispeak.com) For further details about these and other raw events, visit www.rawbc.org or call 778-737-8852.

Weed wisdom

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

A weed is a wild herb springing 

where it is not wanted. 
– Concise Oxford Dictionary

Weed seeds arrive with birds, on the wind, on our shoes and clothing and on a pet’s fur. They are persistent, lying dormant until conditions are just right for germination. Digging the soil brings weed seeds up to the surface, which helps them germinate. Perennial weeds can spread quickly by division when each little piece roots into a new plant. These are two good reasons to practise no-dig gardening and regular mulching.

Tip: Hoe weeds before they set seed and multiply your problem.

A garden will always have weeds, but there’s a great deal to be learned from observing them. There’s always a good reason why weeds spring up in the first place. An infestation points to an imbalance in the soil, such as poor drainage, lack of aeration, low fertility or a mineral deficiency. Weeds often thrive in poor soils, which indicates that the soil is deficient in the essentials for healthy plant growth.

Many perennial weeds are deep rooted, penetrating into the sub-soil where they access trace elements and minerals. When they decompose, their leaves and stems enrich the soil with these valuable elements, which may not otherwise be available to shallow-rooted plants. It’s important to return weeds to the soil for this reason, either by composting them or turning them under to decay in the garden. Deep roots also penetrate to aerate soil, helping with drainage. Dandelions, which thrive on heavy clay soils, are great at this.

Weeds can be used as indicators of general problems and they can even correct imbalances and deficiencies Weeds disappear when these conditions are corrected and soil conditions favour the growth of other plants – hopefully, not other weeds. The solution to a weed infestation, therefore, is to improve soil fertility, not to zap the area with soil-destroying herbicides. As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, a weed is a “…plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

What weeds can tell us:

• Daisies, rich in calcium, thrive on lawns lacking in lime. When daisies decompose, they add calcium to correct this deficiency.

• Equisetum (horsetail) indicates an acid, clay soil in need of drainage. If the soil is drained and fertility increases, horsetail will disappear.

• Docks, sorrel and thistles indicate heavy, badly drained and acid soils.

• Dandelions indicate that the soil lacks essential minerals and elements.

• Clovers, medicks, vetches and wild peas (legumes) indicate a nitrogen deficiency and can correct this condition in the soil.

• Creeping buttercup thrives in heavy, poorly drained soils.

• Bindweed generally thrives in sandy soils.

• Stinging nettles prefer light, sandy soils. High in nitrogen, nettles stimulate the growth of plants nearby.

• Chickweed, groundsel, chicory and lambsquarters are shallow-rooted weeds that grow in fertile conditions. They indicate an improvement in fertility.

Comfrey and stinging nettles make high quality liquid fertilizers. By extracting minerals from the sub-soil and storing them in their leaves, nettles and comfrey become rich in nitrogen, potassium and calcium. Nettles are also high in iron. When nettle leaves are steeped in rainwater, the resulting concentrate can be used as a feed, releasing nutrients to plants.

Nature never leaves the ground uncovered. In winter, weeds give protection from rains and their roots penetrate to aid with drainage. They also provide a store of food for soil bacteria, which can then remain active to provide food for plants in spring. Where groundcovers remain and flourish in winter, the result is increased soil fertility.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. She grows her certified organic “Seeds of Victoria” at The Garden Path Centre where she blogs The New Victory Garden online.

Positive change

THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle

If you find your life situation unsatisfactory or even intolerable, it is only by surrendering €rst that you can break the unconscious resistance pattern that perpetuates that situation. Surrender is perfectly compatible with taking action, initiating change or achieving goals. But, in the surrendered state, a totally different energy, a different quality, ows into your doing. Surrender reconnects you with the source-energy of Being, and if your doing is infused with Being, it becomes a joyful celebration of life energy that takes you more deeply into the Now.

Through non-resistance, the quality of your consciousness and, therefore, the quality of whatever you are doing or creating is enhanced immeasurably. The results will then look after themselves and reect that quality. We could call this surrendered action. It is not work as we have known it for thousands of years. As more humans awaken, the word work is going to disappear from our vocabulary and perhaps a new word will be created to replace it.

The quality of your consciousness at this moment is the main determinant of what kind of future you will experience, so to surrender is the most important thing you can do to bring about positive change. Any action you take is secondary. No truly positive action can arise out of an unsurrendered state of consciousness.

I can see that if I am in a situation that is unpleasant or unsatisfactory and I completely accept the moment as it is, there will be no suffering or unhappiness. I will have risen above it. But I still can’t quite see where the energy or motivation for taking action and bringing about change would come from if there isn’t a certain amount of dissatisfaction.

In the state of surrender, you see very clearly what needs to be done and you take action, doing and focusing on one thing at a time. Learn from nature. See how everything gets accomplished and how the miracle of life unfolds without dissatisfaction or unhappiness. That’s why Jesus said, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin…”

If your overall situation is unsatisfactory or unpleasant, separate out this instant and surrender to what is. That’s the ashlight cutting through the fog. Your state of consciousness then ceases to be controlled by external conditions. You are no longer coming from reaction and resistance.

Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change the situation, improve it or remove myself from it?” If so, take appropriate action. Focus not on the one hundred things that you will, or may, have to do at some future time, but on the one thing that you can do now. This doesn’t mean you should not do any planning. It may well be that planning is the one thing you can do now. But make sure you don’t start to run “mental movies,” project yourself into the future and so lose the Now. Any action you take may not bear fruit immediately. Until it does, do not resist what is.

If there is no action you can take and you cannot remove yourself from the situation, use the situation to make yourself go more deeply into surrender, more deeply into the Now, more deeply into Being. When you enter this timeless dimension of the present, change often comes about in strange ways without the need for a great deal of doing on your part. Life becomes helpful and cooperative. If inner factors such as fear, guilt, or inertia prevented you from taking action, they will dissolve in the light of your conscious presence.

Start by acknowledging that there is resistance. Look at the thought process involved. Feel the energy of the emotion. By witnessing the resistance, you will see that it serves no purpose. By focusing all your attention on the Now, the unconscious resistance is made conscious and that is the end of it. You cannot be conscious and unhappy, conscious and in negativity. Negativity, unhappiness or suffering in whatever form means that there is resistance, and resistance is always unconscious.

 

 

Adapted from The Power of Now, copyright 1999 by Eckhart Tolle. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA, 800-972-6657 (ext. 52). Visit www.eckharttolle.com.

Dare to be you

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

This above all: to thine own self be true and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare

Many of the clients I work with experience frustration as a result of being people pleasers most of their lives. Generally, this process begins in childhood because it serves a purpose for ego. However, for many people, dissatisfaction and even resentment set in at some point in adulthood.

Very early in life, a child learns that behaving in ways that make others happy brings rewards. He also learns that behaviour that annoys or upsets others brings the opposite. For young children, regardless of how much parents express their love, an angry or upset parent is associated with a loss, or, at the very least, a disruption in the flow of love to the child.

Children are very adept at reading parental emotions, body language and facial expressions. If parents react with anger and judgment to a child’s misbehaviour, rather than accepting the child but correcting the behaviour, the child will feel rejected. Not liking this feeling, the child learns what to do to gain acceptance, which is associated with being loved and lovable. Without acceptance, the child feels both unloved and unlovable.

For some, this association between disappointing others and being unlovable persists throughout life. This is especially true for those who are quite sensitive or who have low self-esteem. The gauge for their value exists outside of themselves. It is like looking at the thermometer outside the kitchen window and assuming the reading applies to the temperature inside.

This is the perception ego develops and it is reinforced repeatedly. In school, the answer the teacher is looking for is more important to the child than his own creative response. Dressing like others takes precedence over putting together unique ensembles. In later years, it is more important to agree with others than to speak one’s truth and risk offending anyone. Doing what others want becomes a greater priority than honouring oneself.

After years of performing for the external audience, it can be hard to know who the real self truly is. Many would not even know what they would do in their lives, or what they would be passionate about, if they were no longer dependent on the good opinion of others. Yet they begin to feel a growing frustration and resentment and the sense they are not fulfilling themselves. This nudging could well be the work of soul, which knows that a very important aspect of our time on Earth is the full realization of our own uniqueness.

Our essence, or essential self, is like a seed that wants to grow. Unfortunately, for so many of us, the people in our lives did not nurture that seed. Instead, they tended to the garden in their own mind about who we were or how we should be. Under these conditions, the seed of our true self could not even begin to germinate.

Time, however, moves on, and soul realizes that a good portion of our time here has elapsed; it is time to get on with knowing and expressing our authentic self. Slowly but surely we become restless. We begin to notice that what we are thinking and feeling inside does not match what we are doing or expressing on the outside.

We begin to feel conflicted, and perhaps, for the first time, realize we are responding to external signals rather than to our own inner signals. There may follow a confusing and tumultuous time as we grapple with which signals to follow. The inner signals reveal what we want to do; the outer, what we think we should do. As we begin to validate our inner voice – our own truth and knowing – we begin the journey back to self.

It is not always easy and others may balk at our changes, but it is the road we came to travel, and it is waiting.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For articles and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

Break out and break ins

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

Scene from The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

There was not a preview of the teenage rites-of-passage comedy Growing Op before we went to press, but the film should garner more interest than the average Canadian production which is typically in and out of the cinema before you can say “hydroponic lighting system.” Writer-director Michael Melski, who hails from Sydney, Nova Scotia, drew inspiration from news stories of Vancouver grow-op raids. However, while the action takes place in a suburban grow-op, the film is not about drugs. It’s about a teenage boy Quinn – home-schooled and uncertain – trying to find his way in life. Says Melski: “It’s a story about Nature—about a young man growing through change, about the inexorable pull of first love, and the power of family. The long arc of the film is Quinn discovering his true nature.” Growing Op stars Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction), Rachel Blanchard (Flight of the Conchords), Wallace Langham (Little Miss Sunshine), and a newcomer Steven Yaffee (MVP). The soundtrack features many up-and-coming Canadian bands such as punk rebels Teenage Head, Matt Mays and El Torpedo, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Classfied, Jill Barber, Amelia Curran, and Nathan Wiley.

Still with Canadian films, Deepha Mehta’s latest Heaven On Earth is out this month, and has had mixed reviews. The film tackles the subject of arranged marriages through the story of Chand, a young woman who gives up her comfortable Indian community to move in with her socially sanctioned but abusive husband, Rocky. Deeply unhappy, Chand retreats into an inner life based on myth and fairy tales, creating a movie that some critics have called a “muddled” mixture of reality and fantasy.

Fresh from winning last month’s audience award for best film at the Vancouver International Film Festival comes I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime). A family drama of guilt and grief, it follows Juliette, a woman coming to terms with her past and present after being released from a 15 year stint in prison. The slow-burn story follows Juliette’s (Kristin Scott Thomas showing excellent command of the French language) gradual rapprochement with her family after her younger sister Léa (Elsa Zylberstein) invites Juliette into her family’s home.

A different kind of captivity is examined in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas(opening on 14th), a powerful holocaust drama based on John Boyne’s bestselling young adult novel. At its centre is Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a high ranking nazi officer at Auschwitz who goes on boyish explorations of a nearby “farm” where all the workers wear “striped pajamas.” In his travels, Bruno befriends a bald-headed boy his age on the other side of the barbed wire fence called Shmuel. Their friendship brings about a sequence of events that leads to a moving and, not unexpectedly, tragic conclusion.

If you are looking for something lighter, Happy Go Lucky is an unusually optimistic, feel-good movie from British director Mike Leigh, who also gave us the excellent but bleak Secrets & Lies and Vera DrakeHappy Go Lucky was developed using improvisational techniques of Leigh’s previous work, with its emphasis on deep characters. The film revolves around Poppy (Sally Hawkins) a chirpy, elementary school teacher in London, England who takes up driving lessons after someone steals her bicycle. When Sally finds herself stuck behind the wheel with a socially awkward instructor, the polar opposite of herself, it is an opportunity for her to shine. The film does depend on you being won over by Polly, but for most people that won’t be a problem. Oscar nominations are already being talked about for Hawkins.

Robert Alstead maintains a blog at www.2020Vancouver.com

Vote for vision

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

Once more unto the vote, dear friends! On November 15, we get to vote for a new municipal council – the mayor and councillors who will represent us for the next three years, carrying the hopes and dreams of our communities.

But why do so few people vote? Is it because municipal elections can get pretty dull when candidates are full of vague generalities? “Vote for me! I promise to improve the quality of life and retain a balanced budget…” Blah, blah, blah.

Does blah stand for “Boring Long-winded Abstractions,” sucking the life out of what should be a stunningly exciting period when we debate the future and choose new leaders? Maybe they should be called “blandidates,” but beware, their blandness is often code for “I will ensure that business continues as usual and do nothing to rock the boat.”

If you scratch your average blandidate, you’ll find a conservative politician who keeps a close relationship with older voters more concerned about keeping their golf games up to par than about any dramatic vision of change or social justice.

But we do need change, and urgently. So what should we look for from the candidates for municipal office? Look for specific commitments that can be measured by results. Look for personal passion and a deep commitment to change, such as:

100 percent zero waste by 2030: San Francisco is showing it can be done. The city has already reached 69 percent waste reduction and is aiming at 75 percent by 2010 and zero waste by 2020, without resorting to incineration, which turns waste into toxic air pollution. See www.zwia.org

End homelessness by 2020: Calgary has set a goal to end homelessness within 10 years, which, as well as ending human suffering there, will also save the city $3.6 billion. Vancouver and Victoria must do the same. See www.endinghomelessness.ca

Increase cycling to 10 percent of all trips by 2015: In Davis, California, 17 percent of all trips made are by bike. In Copenhagen, Denmark, it’s 36 percent and the goal is to reach 50 percent by 2015. This means planning for safe, long-distance bike routes throughout the city where bikes do not have to compete with cars. It’s totally achievable if we put our minds to it. See www.copenhagenize.com

Contribute to the province’s goal of 100,000 solar roofs by 2020: That’s only a five percent rate of roof coverage. For a city the size of Vancouver (pop. 612,000), that’s 15,000 roofs generating solar electricity or hot water, or both. See www.solarbc.ca

50 percent of all cars and light trucks to be electric or plug-in hybrid electric by 2020: Israel and Denmark are planning for the widespread take-up of electric vehicles through the project known as “Better Place.” Paris, Berlin and Stuttgart are planning to get there under their own steam, through the leadership of their city councils. We need to begin planning right now for a future without oil, before we are left stranded, unable to heat our homes or travel by car. See www.betterplace.com

A community garden in every neighbourhood: We know that locally grown, organic food is better for us, the climate and the planet, so we must create space to make it happen. Seattle shows what’s possible with its P-Patch Gardens, and in Oakland, California, the Food Policy Council’s goal is that 30 percent of the city’s food be produced in or near the city. See www.cityfarmer.org

Engage everyone in the community in reducing their carbon footprints: If we are to make any progress, every household, business, school and organization must start going green. In Britain, the villagers of Ashton Hayes reduced their collective carbon footprint by 20 percent in just one year. If they can do it, so can we. Seewww.goingcarbonneutral.co.uk.

And that’s just the start. In Vancouver, Gregor Robertson and the Vision Vancouver team of candidates (council, school and parks boards) has, by far, the best chance of achieving a similar agenda, but only if we vote them all in. Elsewhere, you’ll have to choose them individually, candidate by blandidate. See www.votevision.ca

 

Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, editor of EcoNews and author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change and other titles. He lives in Victoria. www.earthfuture.com