“all I have heard is silence…until I saw your movie”

December 31st, 2012 by sally Categories: Sally Blog No Responses

People write us the most amazing things.

I’ve thought about starting a “Dear Sally” column where some of what people write can be shared with others. It might give courage and inspiration. I’m tempted to jump into this because it would be fun and inspiring for me too. But right now I just don’t have the time to stay on top of such a column. Perhaps in the future, when more of the administrative tasks are out of my inbox, when the tours are complete, when someone comes along to fund administrative staff, or when DVD sales soar to such a point that we can support another staff member, then I would love to do such a thing.

For now I will just share one woman’s experience, and my response:

Dear Kathy,

Your email is, of course, quite touching to read, as are so many that we receive.

I’ll respond, back and forth, below:

Hi Sally,
Thank you and Timothy so much for making this film.

Thank you, in return, for resonating with the message, the work, the longing to help, to have an impact.

I have a small story of my own to tell. Over the past few years, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what seems are my own paltry and insignificant efforts to contribute to the saving of the planet. I have tried many ways (prayer, consulting the trees, consulting ancestors, therapy, begging, pleading to anyone and/or anything) to discern what my role should be.

But all I have heard is silence…

My heart resonates with all of those expressions of your longing to find your work. And, for myself, all of those expressions of heartfelt longing to help, to be of service, have been important pieces even in the absence of clear answers.

….that is until I saw your movie. The night after watching it, I tossed and turned until finally at about 4:00a.m. Then an idea emerged. I am going to send 50 copies to people I know and ask that they, if inspired and so inclined, will “pay it forward” and send it to 3 other people and request the same of their receivers. I hope they will purchase an additional 2 copies to keep it circulating at a fast pace. I know this is still a very small step, but I have a lot of energy around it so I am going to assume that it is my inner voice telling me to act.

This is the way that widespread changes often happen. Are you familiar with The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell? It’s a very compelling book. Often apparently small actions can create huge changes. He details many examples of that happening. So I would invite you not to discount such an action. Your action, may set into motion, in ways you may or may not see, some other chain of events that does immeasurable good.

I was once in a workshop of Christian activists and heard: “We are called only to be faithful, not necessarily successful.” This is very much the spirit with which Tim and I are acting. We can’t know if our efforts will create the change out there, in the world, in the widespread way that we long for. What we know is that, having placed our picket pins, having decided we must show up with the truth we’ve been given, the change has occurred in us. We have taken our place in the story of The Great Turning. We will show up and do our best. That is all we can do, and it must be sufficient, whether it is successful or not.

Your film is so powerful. I don’t see how anyone could view it and not break out of denial and be moved to act.

Well, believe it or not, people do view it and manage to stay in denial. The wounds of Empire are deep and people are understandably numb, cynical and afraid to feel. But there are also lots of people who view it, and view it again, and again, because they don’t want to be in denial. They want to be awake and in action. They want to step into a larger, more meaningful story than that of Empire. Sometimes these are people who one might not expect. Sometimes people we would expect to feel supported and empowered by our film are instead threatened and angry, because we are not selling easy, hopeful, and only slightly inconvenient answers. It is heartening, though, how many people we hear from who are deeply appreciative. Like you, having seen the movie, they feel supported, empowered and affirmed in the midst of the mainstream culture that says they must be crazy to be so concerned.

In the dialogue circles we facilitate after screenings the conversation is sober, thoughtful, and seems, at times, to touch into the sacred, in spite of the fact the circles often only last an hour or an hour and a half. It would be great if such circles could be available following every viewing. It seems like usually about half of the people who attend stay for the dialogue.

There are, no doubt, many reasons for people leaving. Some of them likely disagree with the information and/or analysis, or flat out wish to remain in denial. Some perhaps feel so deeply moved and vulnerable that they are not ready to sit in a circle of strangers. Some may leave simply because they had other commitments to attend to. The people who stay, though, are largely people who long for connection and for the company of others who are also willing to sit with the information, to sit with the fact that there are not quick, easy, painless answers, that there aren’t authorities “out there” who will come up with solutions, that, in the words of the Hopi elder, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

So, as you take this action, please feel free to refer people to our website, to our blogs and comments to the blogs especially, because that can be a place where people can get additional support, in the absence of a dialogue circle in person. As insufficient as it is to connect via this electronic media, it is something, and may be a helpful adjunct to the movie.

I plan to keep a tracking record to see how many people actually see it as a result of this small step. I’ll keep you posted if interested.

Please do, absolutely, keep us posted.

Thanks again,

Kathy

Our very best regards,
Sally

Horror Movies and Other Things I Don’t Want to Believe are True

December 2nd, 2011 by sally Categories: Home Page Blog, Sally Blog 23 Responses

Tim Bennett and I have just returned home from two screening tours of What A Way To Go. We toured 13 communities in the Northeast during August and 23 communities in the West and Midwest during October and early November. I’ve now got a finger on the pulse of current levels of awareness in the US about the seriousness of our global predicament. Our audiences I believe are the cream of the crop. They are the best, the most tuned-in, the most concerned. It was a pleasure to be with them. They shored up my waning fondness for humanity as a whole. But despite the obvious goodness of the ordinary people that I witnessed, I am not encouraged about our prospects.

I can say this with a fair degree of confidence: save for the few who are already fully awake, most people who are now looking at the world are just waking up to the four horsemen that we address in What A Way To Go: Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Species Extinction and Population Overshoot. They are just waking up and they have no accurate idea how late in the game it is.

What’s the game I’m talking about? The game of “civilized, industrial, technological life as we know it.” We are at the end of that game. And people are just beginning to wake up to the fact that it’s a game.

I’m talking about The Apocalypse, which, I’ve come to learn, literally means The Unveiling. We are on the verge of The Unveiling. We are beginning to pull back the curtain and see clearly what our civilization has actually been up to over the past two centuries and eight or ten milenia.

The Unveiling is upon us and only a small percentage of the people are waking up. Those that are, are waking up at the last minute. And they are waking up rather slowly and reluctantly. Most still imagine the full unveiling and revelation of consequences must be decades away. They believe it’s at least a generation or two off. Most, even after they see our movie, continue to think there’s time to create a mass awakening, a popular uprising, a reformation. They want to believe that there’s a revolution afoot, that “green building” and “hydrogen cars,” will save us, if only “we the people” will demand those things. They continue to think there’s decades yet ahead in order to turn away from catastrophe, that it’s possible to solve our energy and climate and ecological holocaust. But you don’t solve a holocaust. At best, maybe you survive it.

Hello. It’s not generations away. It’s not decades away. As Tim says in voice-over early on in the movie,  “Turns out it may be just around the corner.”  In fact, for most of the community of life, apocalypse is right now. Today, for two-hundred species, life ends at midnight, or noon, or even as I write this.

Two hundred species a day we are losing. Two hundred. As Daniel Quinn says in the movie, “This is calamitous.”

Many who have been studying peak oil for years now suggest that the “peak” may have happened a year ago. You can tell yourself that hundred dollar a barrel oil is just corporate gouging. That we can somehow make them stop the rising prices. But that’s delusion. No doubt the oil companies are going to make as much as they can manipulating the prices. But the prices are going up. And up. And up. There may be a few manipulated blips on the upward curve. But demand will outstrip supply, if it hasn’t already, and the price will continue to climb, blip, climb, blip, climb.

Likewise, the evidence that climate change tipping points have already started to tip is also mounting. Summer sea ice levels on the northern ice cap hit record new lows this summer, new lows that far exceeded past predictions. Extinction continues unabated, as does rising human population. Richard Heinberg, who published The Party is Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies in 2005, has just published Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines. The party is indeed over, and not just for oil, but for all the things we’ve become accustomed to, for all the stuff the culture has eaten up and spit out and landfilled and is now trying desperately to recycle.

People have no idea how late in the game it is. And, sadly, many don’t seem to want to know. If people wanted to know they would walk from a screening of What A Way To Go to their local library or independent bookstore and start ordering and reading books from the authors we interviewed. They would find our website and click links to the many sources of energy, climate, extinction and population information. They’d find and read  The Oil Drum and Energy Bulletin. They would immerse themselves in the information because they’d want to know. But the truth is, most don’t want to know.

Having toured 36 communities with our movie in the last three months and having sat with over a thousand people in post-screening dialogue circles, I find myself sad and sobered. And I thought I already was sober. I thought I had a clue about how little consciousness exists with regard to the extent and consequences of our human impacts on the world. I thought that was the whole point of making a no-punches-pulled, hard-hitting, wide-lens documentary in the first place. We knew people were sorely uninformed and misinformed about how dire the situation is. But we were naive.

We were not naive about the lack of awareness. We were naive about the lack of desire for that awareness. People don’t really want to know. And a surprising number of people acknowledge that. They don’t want to know because they realize they are already depressed. They are depressed and discouraged. And they believe they would rather be numb and distracted. They don’t see a way through the depression and discouragement so they turn their backs and resolve not to look.

I’ve come to see that there’s a major paradox we now face, having made a documentary that is as comprehensive and thoughtful and hard-hitting as ours is, in the context of a populace that is as dumbed-down and disheartened and disempowered as America’s. I thought it would be an unequivocally good and empowering act to make a movie that is smart and compelling and that moves people emotionally. But in fact, for many, the movie actually becomes part of their sophisticated denial system. Having seen it they believe what is not true, and what is true seems to go right over their heads. Maybe it’s too smart. And paradoxically, maybe it’s too compelling. Most people don’t seem to want to think that hard. And they don’t seem to want to feel that much, either. So they don’t watch it again and again, as we have, to make sure they won’t go back to sleep.

As we listened to people, all too often we had the scary sense that they liked our movie because they wanted to get other people to watch it. They wanted other people to wake up. They wanted to believe that because the movie had been made it was an indication that things are getting better. They wanted to don a blank, hopeful, smile and declare weakly “People are waking up!”

Other people. Because it’s always other people that need to wake up. Not us. We already know. We are the choir. We don’t need preaching to. We get it. If we can just get this movie seen by other people, the people who really need to wake up, the masses, the leaders, the rest of the population, then everything will be okay. If only we can get this movie seen by everybody, then everything will be okay.

It’s not going to be okay. It’s too late for everything to be okay.

Soon after we had finished the movie, Marc Maximov wrote that What A Way To Go is an “ecological horror film”. When we read that comment in his article we laughed. We thought it interesting and startling that he would describe the movie that way, given that we had interviewed such luminary scientists as William Schlesinger and Stuart Pimm, and such amazing thinkers as Derrick Jensen, Daniel Quinn and Chellis Glendinning. I mean, who would have thought that Thomas Berry would appear in a horror movie?

But now I think Marc was on to something important. I think he astutely observed that in spite of the scholarship and intelligence and poetry in What A Way To Go, many people will respond to it as if it were a horror movie rather than as a documentary. When people don’t want to wake up to the nightmare, but are faced with an accurate and compelling assessment of their condition, they can, and will, relegate that experience to the file they’ve created in their heads labeled “Horror Movies and Other Things I Don’t Want to Believe Are True.”

Human beings are extremely creative when they want to be. That includes being psychologically creative. That includes being creative about constructing defense and denial mechanisms that serve to keep them numb and asleep. They seal off accurate knowledge about the world just as they’ve sealed off a thousand other real and unreal images that they’ve been exposed to via the media. They relegate the feelings that arise when confronted by the four horsemen of This Apocalypse to the same realms they relegate feelings elicited by Stephen King’s fiction, by terrifying dreams, and by the boogey man under the bed. They unwittingly label this documentary the way they labeled The Shining: Just Another Horror Movie. And, having filed the experience away, they then go back to sleep. They step into the fantasy that “green business” is selling: the solution to our environmental and social and resource problems is to be good consumers and to buy more stuff, green stuff. After all, people vote with their dollars don’t they? Wow, lacking real elections this is the deal: You can vote by spending! So the more you spend the more powerful you are. Wow. This is great! We can step into our powerful identities as consumers and accept our full responsibility as citizens. We get to vote every day we buy something. What a great fantasy: the destruction of the world will be stopped by spending more money.

The answer to these problems is simple, and everyone can be involved: one can shop. Because shopping is fun. And shopping can happen even at home or on the airplane. One can look adoringly at advertisements for hybrid SUVs. One can admire how Chevron is going green! One can fantasize about someday living in that wonderful solar heated, natural green home of 3-5 thousand square feet, with imported rugs on comfy, cozy, water-heated slab floors. And that next bedspread? Well, do consider hemp! That will make a real difference. Best of all, considering the time of year, it’s time to vow to make it a Green Christmas: buy beeswax candles and exotic fruit baskets and yoga mats. Buy imported things and support indigenous cultures. Buy big things and small things, green things and live things. And in so buying, we can all pretend that things will get better. That things are getting better. All one need to do is shop correctly. After all, shopping is fun. And stopping the destruction of the world should be fun.

I realize I’m on a bit of a tear here. I can’t help it. I sat with over a thousand people and I’m more discouraged about the awakening in the world than ever. And mostly I’m sad. I’m sad that as a group we are not getting it.

And the rest of the community of life is at risk. No. Wait. See how easily denial slips in? The rest of the community of life is not at risk. The rest of the community of life is being wiped out while human population numbers continue to increase, and shop.

On our tour, after the screenings, we avoided the typical Q & A. After all, while we admit to some extent of knowledge as a result of the last four years spent deep in research and analysis, we really aren’t experts, or authorities. We’re pretty smart and we’ve peeled off many layers of denial. And because of that we’ve let the magnitude of the global predicament hit us in the gut, over and over. But we don’t pretend to have answers or authoritative prescriptions. Not that anyone does. In fact we hold that anyone who says they have the prescription to stop the destruction and reform this system in order to make it work is either extremely ill-informed, lying, and or flat out delusional. There just aren’t any easy answers other than shutting down the industrial infrastructure yesterday. And that would not be easy.

So we didn’t do Q& A after screenings. We refused to be set up to be hit with people’s understandable projections and anger at all the authorities and experts who continue to confuse, disappoint, and exploit them.

Instead, on these tours, we invited people to pull chairs into a circle and talk with us and each other as concerned peers, to respond to the movie by expressing their feelings, by talking about what moved them, what emotions were touched. We knew this might be a stretch for many people. Most of us have been emotionally dumbed down as well as intellectually hobbled by this numbing and stupid culture. So we offered a menu of sorts to help people identify their feelings. We gave them a short list of the basic five: Glad, Sad, Mad, Scared or Ashamed. Turns out, this was a good thing to do. People actually reported on their feelings. They took the risk to do what is anathema for most Americans: they expressed their feelings, and they often did so in clear and heartfelt ways. I was touched and impressed. Circle after circle, people did this. They talked about their feelings with one another. Often it was quite moving. And on occasion I think the experience was not only cathartic but transforming for certain individuals. And probably it planted a fair number of seeds. I wonder, though, how many of those seeds will ever germinate into any kind of action. Despite the genuine expression of feeling in the rooms on those evenings, I don’t get the sense that the majority of these people went home to start radically changing their lives.

I say this because by the time the tour came to an end I began to see something that was fairly disturbing. The most frequently reported feelings were sad and glad, followed by ashamed and mad, with only the rare expression of people being scared. I think that’s backwards to what would best be experienced. I think if people were really letting the information sink in, if they were letting it past their denial and defense mechanisms, that they would, first and foremost, be scared.

Let me explain. If a person is not scared when confronted with the immanent demise of their lifestyle, then clearly they aren’t looking at it. They are relegating the information to the “horror movie” file and continuing to pretend. They are telling themselves that all this is going to happen in someone else’s lifetime. But, in fact, all this is happening RIGHT NOW. Preparations for dealing with this, for responding, for surviving it, for helping to heal it, needed to begin 300 years ago or 30 years ago. Or at least yesterday.

But my sense is that people aren’t preparing. They aren’t even considering what making preparation might mean. Way too often what I witness is that people see the movie and then continue to talk about careers and retirements and the future. Like the future will in any way resemble the past or even the present

I genuinely liked most of the people we sat in post-screening dialogue circles with. Their expression of concern and caring for each other and the rest of the community of life evoked fondness. I often said that the circles convinced me that the human species, at least some percentage of it, is worth saving. But I have to say that I don’t really think that one viewing of the movie or one sharing of heartfelt concerns actually changed very many people in any significant way. I still feel fondness for these members of my species. But I don’t hold any illusions that this movie is changing people, or moving them into action with any kind of appropriate speed or conviction.

So I feel compelled to say something. I hope many people who have seen What a Way To Go, or who will see What A Way To Go, will take this to heart:

Our movie is not evidence that things are changing. Once you’ve seen our movie, that does not mean you don’t need to radically and rapidly change your life in preparation for utter upheaval of how you’ve been living and what you’ve been planning and working for.

Please don’t watch our movie and then be glad that change is happening. Because the most prevalent change that is happening is that things in the real world of plants and animals and water and soil and climate are continuing to get worse. Rapidly worse. They’ve gotten worse since An Inconvenient Truth. And they’ve gotten worse since Al Gore got the Nobel prize. They’ve gotten worse since our movie was released on DVD and since we’ve traveled the country touring with it and sitting with people in circles to process it.

Things are getting worse and they are going to keep getting worse until industrial civilization either grinds to a halt or is stopped. Only when that happens will the great bulk of humanity that is enmeshed with industrial civilization stop destroying the community of life through the inexorable consumption of everything.

All evidence I see is that there isn’t going to be a popular mass uprising. So don’t be waiting around for THAT to happen. There isn’t going to be a technofix. And the aliens, if there are any, are not going to intervene and clean this up for us. It’s time to pay the piper, or the rats are going to continue to overrun our village.

So please, don’t wait for someone else to “get it.” Don’t wait for the leaders of your country, or company, or community to get on aboard. Don’t wait for someone else to wake up and make the changes happen. Because they aren’t going to get it.

I think what Upton Sinclair said is more true than we want to believe: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.” How many people’s jobs depend on them NOT understanding that capitalism is a dead end, that consuming is folly, and that technology is a hoax? Don’t depend on politicians or business people or even academics to understand what’s going on when their jobs, and their mortgages and their plasma television sets and probably their marriages depend on them NOT understanding it.

And don’t depend on yourself understanding it if your job and your current lifestyle depends on NOT understanding it. Denial is real and alive and most of us continue in it’s stranglehold.

Only when we wake up to that understanding will we begin to have some choices. Work your way to that place. Watch What A Way To Go thirty times or more, like we have. Read a bunch of books and websites. Choose to step out of delusion. It will probably mean you have to plan to quit your job. And maybe move. It will probably mean you have to consider a very different kind of life.

The good new is that, probably, a very different kind of life will be a life which has meaning and purpose and is grounded in the reality of soil and water and other living, breathing, feeling creatures. In some ways it will be a harder life that you’ll have to choose. But it will be better.

Feel your way into where you want to be and get there. Focus on the basics: water, food, non-fossil energy. Focus on how you can help to stop the destruction and start the healing. Listen to the voice-over at the end of What A Way To Go:

“The waters are rising. We’re going to have to let go of the shore.”

Listen to it again and again, and again. Until YOU get it. The waters are rising. It’s time to build an ark.

It’s time. Don’t wait. Build it now.

Wisdom from A Hopi Elder

August 28th, 2011 by sally Categories: Introducing, Sally Blog No Responses
rushing river

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!”

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.

“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

“The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

~ attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona

Right now I hear a call to non-action: to simple, clear awareness, and to the willingness to sit in that awareness. Thats the call I hear. I want to create space for that, for myself and for others who hear a similar call. Most other activity at this particular time feels like struggle to me. And struggle is the word the Hopi Elder advises me to banish from my vocabulary.

As I listen, as best I can, to my own true impulses, to the often subtle and delicate feeling of what is right, here and now, what feels right is to be quiet, small, and simple. To notice the simple beauty and pleasure that is available to me in wearing this sweater I’ve knit from thrift store yarn recycled from a sweater vest, and from some donated from a friend’s culled stash. Simple. A candle, some tea. The sound of Tim’s fingers tapping rapidly on his keyboard telling me the words and images of a story are funneling through him.

I need space to simply “Be.” The world, it seems, is unraveling, like that sweater vest I took apart to re-use. I sense there is mystery, too, that unravels in the world, beyond my ability to know, much less to control.

I feel the river running ever faster now. I can only intuit my part in a chaotic system beyond control or prediction. There have been, and will be, beautiful vortexes emerge as droplets such as myself join currents and gracefully, rampantly, terrifyingly, sweep around and over the rocks and boulders, by the banks, into the flood plain. I am not called to control this one whit. I can’t.

I can relax and surrender my self, to become part of this wild current. I can, maybe, if I stay alert, keep my own head above water. Apparently, that will not happen by struggle. The world is not in my control and efforts expended in that pursuit feel wasted.

I can feel the joyous longing to find my place in this crazy rushing movement, and I can surrender to the likelihood that there is no guarantee of any particular outcome.

It feels cold at first, this river, as exhilarating as it is frightening. And it is frightening. But as I relax, my body learns over and over again to quiet, to surrender to the inevitable rather than to fight and grasp. Every time I try to seize a low hanging branch or to hold fast to a rock, I become exhausted from the effort. Gladly, exhaustion overcomes the fear and I can’t help but surrender again.

Sometimes I cry, screaming “It’s not fair!” But then I let go the struggle for a handhold and instead become a part of this natural force. Then, even when my head goes under, I relax again into the fury, and then my simple intention to keep my head above water seems enough. I come up and catch a needed breath, and another, and another.

Sometimes this raging current hits a landscape where the river spreads wide and the fury abates. I am able to look around and see there are others in this river as well. There is a temptation to swim to shore, to find a place to stay, to call to these others and suggest we build a settlement or, at least, a raft. But before I can gather my voice, another storm cloud lets loose, the flood plain resolves again into a narrow canyon and the furious current returns again to take me over.

The sight of the others stays with me. For brief moments either memory or vision arises and I feel my sweet longing for companions, for the hearth, the fire, the bowl of hot food and the touch of arms and hands, tender kisses of hello and welcome. But those flashes of past and future I can’t hold for long because this crazy river keeps rising. My focus is captured by learning to relax and be carried, to calm rather than tighten my body, like I imagine fish do, to learn the balance between swimming and being swept, to respond from intuition rather than plan or rational thought. I gently hold the intention to keep my head above water but I learn to not insist on that. For most times to insist requires too much energy and struggle. Best to quickly release myself, to surrender, again and again.

This is what it is like for me when Tim tells me the climate news of the day, or Dan sends the reports of unemployment graphs, with not only unemployment increasing but the rate of increase itself increasing. I can’t make plans in this river. I can only imagine there may come a time of respite from the storm, or a time when the storm, all storms, are over, when my intention to keep my head above water doesn’t hold, when this huge river either spreads and slows and I easily float to shore, or else I am led down to the depths and not allowed the breath I had intended. Then my body will be released from all struggles. There will be no choice or intention for these arms and legs, for this back and chest and belly and skull. Then, what I thought I was will be carried with no effort at all, carried back to its elemental state. And the fears and longings and passions and desires of that form will no longer be there.


This is what facing death is, what facing being fully alive is, for me, right now, in this time.

But what about the Hopi elder’s counsel to know my garden, and where my water is? What does that mean? How do I have a garden and at the same time let go of the shore?

This year, having lost the garden spot I’d prepared in the past, I tended a garden on land that belongs to an elder care residence. A nice symbolic event: gardening on the land of elders. That was an unplanned experience of knowing my garden and letting go of the shore at the same time.

A garden is what feeds my deepest hungers and water is what quenches my soul’s thirst. In the midst of this raging river of change, what feeds me is letting go, into the exhilaration of change, being present so far as I can to each person, moment, and season, planting seeds while holding a vision, but letting go all attachment to, or guarantee, of harvest. What feeds me is seeing others in this river too, seeing them and sharing with them brief calls and greetings, no wasted time with long explanations or justifications for how we got here. Smiling, yelling, even tearful protests followed by quick recovery. I love these people and then I let them go as a another bluster erupts and the sky opens and I am in the canyon, a new canyon, even more narrow, with absolutely nothing to hold on to, no commitment, no plan, no program in place, just the willingness to learn how best to be, when I’m not in control.

Look around. Who is in there with you?


Tim Bennett is about to give birth….

August 17th, 2011 by sally Categories: Blogs, Introducing, Sally Blog 8 Responses

As is often the case, childbirth gets very intense at the end.  Tim is exhibiting all of the symptoms of being there:  He forgets to breathe and immediately calms down when he remembers.  He has an intense desire to push and be done with it.  He feels the immensity of this time and needs quiet and focus to accomplish this last part of the creative process:  Actually getting the baby into the world.

Tim Bennett is about to publish his first novel, All of the Above.

As his spouse and one of his editors I am, of course, excited and pleased.  Last week I visited the Blue Hag Books website to find this tagline of Blue Hag’s purpose:

New Stories for the Next Paradigm.

As soon as I read those words I felt something shift inside my gut.  All at once Tim’s  journey of the last two years, my journey alongside him, and now the publishing of this book became connected to a greater purpose than simply telling a good story, selling some books and supporting the next effort.  All at once, all this effort felt connected to a much larger purpose that resonates deeply and runs as a deep current through my life:  We are part of a quantum shift from an old paradigm which is culminating in social and environmental  destruction of unfathomable scale to something else, some new way of being that will come next.  We don’t know what that will be because paradigm shifts are that way: so profound and different that while in the throes of the current one it is impossible to know what the next one will be.

Human beings are myth-makers and story-tellers.  And now the insights of quantum physics point to something we’ve only begun to understand:  That our stories actually create our reality.

How incredibly important and vital at this particular time, then, to be creating and telling new stories.

Even the “story” that “Our stories create our reality” is a NEW story.

My background in counseling and psychotherapy, on both sides of the couch, underscores on a personal level how important it is to find a new story.  I’ve witnessed, personally and in the journeys of scores of clients and friends, that when a core belief or story changes, everything changes.  Victims become heroes. Perpetrators become fallible, wounded egos with souls worth saving. The rich become poor and the poor become strong.  Everything turns around.  I’m no longer the wounded daughter of crazy, insecure, isolated parents.  I’m the noble soul who came to help unravel a family system based on fear and scarcity, to heal a generations-old story of abuse and neglect embedded in a social system of exploitation and dis-empowerment.

We are living in exciting and frightening times. As people alive during unprecedented social, political, and environmental upheaval, it feels exciting to step into what becomes possible when we shed stories of victimization, exploitation, helplessness, and domination and step into new stories of transformation, evolution, and the power of consciousness to change circumstances.

All of the Above is a wonderful part of that movement into new stories.  This book tells the engaging story of an intelligent, caring, courageous woman president, elected on a platform of truth and integrity, who actually lives up to her promises.  She’s not a bimbo or a puppet. And she refuses to tell less than the truth.  How different a story is that?

What about our own personal stories?  What unquestioned core beliefs run our personal, economic, political, and social realities?  What if we can change outcomes by changing what we tell ourselves, by rewriting our own stories?  What if we are way more powerful than we’ve been schooled to believe?

I hope you will celebrate with us this new baby that Tim is about to deliver.  I hope you will be inspired, and also challenged by the story, willing to examine and question personal and cultural beliefs and assumptions, just a the protagonist Linda Travis is.    I hope you will step into your own new story for the next paradigm.

Come “Like” All of the Above on Facebook and be one of the first to get the birth announcement, hopefully early next week.  It’s going to be quite a celebration!



The Truth Shall Make You Free, But First…

June 28th, 2011 by sally Categories: Introducing, Sally Blog No Responses

“See things as they truly are without delusions or distortions
for all things change.”
~Buddhist teaching

Our world is in need of healing at every level.

We as a species aren’t going to survive, the way we are going. If we don’t heal ourselves, evolve a new consciousness, and fundamentally change the way we live, human beings won’t make it. Sadly we will continue taking out other species by the thousands along the way.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”~Jesus of Nazareth

I am an economically, educationally, socially and politically privileged member of the species of homo sapiens. While, as a woman I don’t profit from the privilege of elite white men, nonetheless I’m still a card-carrying member of the death-dealing, consumption-addicted, planet-wide, environment-eating  Empire. I’m in recovery.  But I still drive a car, occassionally board an airplane, watch way too many movies, and type on a totally unsustainably-produced Mac. I feed the birds outside my window, which is delightful.  But the sunflower seed is part of monoculture food production.

It’s not my fault. And it’s not yours. We were born into this. For myself, I see no easy or simple or cheap way to jump out of this mess and still make the contribution to change, to healing, to evolution of consciousness, that I feel called to make.

“Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.~ M.Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled

What I can do, at the very least, is to acknowledge and talk about the fact that my personality, ego, has been seriously wounded by Empire.  Along with the natural world that feeds and houses and clothes me, I too am in need of healing. In my opinion, we all are, as creatures reared in, and conditioned by, Empire.

It’s okay to admit that. It’s a relief, in fact, is it not?  To admit to our wounding? Our frailty, our blindness and emptiness?  In admitting those experiences fully, rather than wasting energy in the attempt to hide what is so obvious, there is freedom and new access to energy.

Healing means to restore whole and balanced functioning to an organism. When gaping wounds heal they are replaced by scar tissue, stronger than the original. Likewise, the rampant growth of a virus or a bacterium is halted and levels are returned to a balanced, non-interfering state, often with immunity granted into the future. The out-of-control growth of rogue cancer cells is contained and reduced to an imperceptible level. And not only is the physical level sometimes enhanced by going through dis-ease and re-balancing, the psyche expands into new arenas of strength and gratitude.

When we look at Empire and it’s impacts across the board we can see gaping wounds, infection, and rogue cells in abundance. Never before has there been so much opportunity for healing and growth.

In our emotional lives, healing means the whole functioning and connection of mind, emotions and desire expressed in the lively and full expression of one’s uniqueness. At the level of the group, the family, or the community, healing entails establishing cooperative interaction: individual actions support the full and balanced functioning of the group and the group’s actions in turn support the full and balanced functioning of each individual member.

Empire represents deep dysfunction. A few individuals grow out of control as the rest of the organism suffers. We witness this daily in the gross profit-taking and wealth-transfer occurring as global banking reaps unprecedented profits while housing forclosures skyrocket along with unemployment.

Speaking ecologically, to be healed individuals, in a healed community, in a healed world, would mean to become a vital part of a climax ecosystem where individual members of a great variety of species cooperate to thrive over countless lifetimes by the ecosystem’s vibrant and balanced functioning.

Can the sharing of my ideas via electronic media create and facilitate this? I don’t know. It’s tricky business sitting in front of a screen with fingers on a keyboard, eyes glued to a screen, apart from direct connection with soil and sun, wind and water. What would happen if a significant percentage, say 5% of Americans, spent more time with hands in the soil instead of on keyboards? Healing is at the forefront of my heart and mind right now. It seems like we either find ways to heal or we will die off, as a species, and tragically, as a biologically complex world.

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”~Winston Churchill

A year ago when we moved from Vermont to Maine, I moved two jam-packed liquor case boxes of old journals, written over the past 15 years. Even though I read them only rarely, I’m not ready to let go of them. Those journals represent a huge amount of self-reflection, inner dialogue, dreams, visions, and, over the last few years, my own soul-searching through the nightmare of the culture of Empire. My journal writing has been a means of great healing for me over the years and at times I see it has also helped others. On occasion I have shared journal entries with clients, friends and family and have seen that intimate sharing of my writing can help, can heal, and support others to heal.

But its a very different experience to read one’s personal journal to someone face to face than it is to publish words to a screen miles, often thousands of miles, away. This electronic medium of sharing does not allow us to impact one another with countless and subtle, often seemingly imperceptible bits of information that our limbic brains wordlessly exchange with one another when we are actually in each other’s physical presence.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.” ~Aldous Huxley

As you read these words on the screen your limbic brain will not register the quality of light in my eyes, the almost imperceptible change that happens when tears arise, which allows a moment of shared emotion. Nor will you will hear any quiet sighs. We will exchange no actual glances of recognition and resonance. There will be no hugs and no yelling. No visible or audible expressions of grief over the loss of 200 species a day. No cries of outrage at the fact that the extinction rate is a thousand times greater than the losses would be without current human impacts on the environment.

It’s just not the same as sitting in the room with someone, one on one; or sitting in a group, feeling, talking and listening with the rapt attention of the whole triune brain, cerebral cortex, limbic brain, and basal ganglia. You may not want to hear this, but interacting over the internet is not the same as sharing a meal, praying in a sweat lodge, holding the hands of a friend in grief, or witnessing first hand the birth of a child. I worry about how much life is being missed as Americans sit in front of screens.

Still, this is a medium that is available to reach out widely and, in a limited way, to make contact, to offer reflection on how I have learned to approach, thoughtfully, and with great feeling, our current world catastrophe.

Perhaps this can be an avenue to offer connection and support to fellow travelers who are in grief, outrage, numbness or denial, about our current global predicament. At least the cerebral cortex, if not the limbic, feeling brain, of others will know:

“I am not alone. Others feel the enormity of this as well. Others grieve and feel outrage. Others are confused and frightened. Others get numb and complacent. I’m not crazy.”

My intention in writing is to offer that, at the very least. And that has been the most fulfilling part of producing What A Way To Go: people report to us that they no longer feel completely alone or crazy.  We haven’t stopped global warming or economic collapse.  But we have alleviated some unnecessary suffering.  And if you were sitting here with me right now you would see my face flush just a little, and your limbic brain would note a change in how my eyes glisten with gratitude to have been able to be of some service and to have connected with others in ways that have been helpful.