Are we really so separate?
Love the world.
To simplify and summarize, our brain has three primary motivational systems – Avoiding harms, Approaching rewards, and Attaching to “us” – that draw on many neural networks to accomplish their goals.
Lately, I’ve started to realize that a fourth fundamental human motivational system could be emerging as well.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors depended upon their habitats for food and shelter. Today, over 7 billion of us are pressing hard up against the limits of Lifeboat Earth. To survive and to flourish, cultural and perhaps biological evolution are calling us to love the world.
The world is near to hand in the food you eat, the air you breathe, and the weather and climate in which you spend your days. And then in widening circles, the world extends out to include complex webs of life and the physical characteristics of the land, the sea, and the sky.
I’ve known this world in all its splendor and breakage for a lifetime. Or has it been a moment, the blink of some cosmic eye that let’s anyone still enough see the script of history all at once. I only know that when the forces of life and I move too fast, we author violence. When we stop and open, we discover a softness at the center of all things that gives rise to a music of acceptance. Very few things evoke this soft equanimity, which feels like a violin exhausting itself at the center of a symphony when the composer has spent his creative storm and is wondering if there’s anything left to say. Every day, the things we love sprout and emerge, or break and wither, as the vine grows quietly up the wall toward the light. Perhaps this is all we can hope for. The other day, we watched a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, it’s wings still wet. It had to wait for its wings to dry before it could flutter its way into life. Perhaps loving ourselves and each other and life itself is how we dry and open our wings.
A Special Note from John Perkins
I just finished speaking at the Colours of Ostrava music festival in the Czech Republic, am now headed into the Amazon rain forest, and then in September to Omega in Upstate New York to facilitate an experiential workshop: “Soaring with the Jaguar: Shapeshifting with Plants into a Better World.”
Question: What do these three seemingly different venues share in common?
Answer: They empower us to raise our consciousness, to steer our space station Earth to the future we want.
When I was a Peace Corps volunteer deep in the Amazon in the late 1960s, Ayahuasca saved my life – and forever changed it. Today, shamans, plants, musicians and speakers at many different forums inspire us to change our lives. A large part of the message involves honoring our connections with nature and to being good Earth stewards.
When the question arises, “Why write? Why create?” I’m drawn to ask, “Why breathe? Why climb to a place where you can see the horizon? Why look for things soft and durable to wrap around a wound? Why call into the canyon between us to see if anyone is there?” Because all these efforts help us live.
Repeatedly, we’re called to engage experience as a way to manifest what we carry within us, bringing what is dormant into the world. As the tree that a seed carries breaks ground in time, reflection, dialogue, and writing are seed-like forms by which we release our inwardness into the world. This is why we listen and express. This is why we write, why we create. Because expression is like sunlight that emanates from within. It causes the soul to blossom in time.
Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo left a trail of unfinished art greater than anyone else in modern history. Still, they are regarded as two of the most talented artists who ever lived. They are extraordinary examples of how the journey of expression is more important than the final product.
William Blake is another inspiring example. Toward the end of his life, Blake endeavored to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy, the medieval epic poem that follows Dante’s transformative journey through Hell and Purgatory into Paradise. Blake created 102 watercolors, planning to engrave them all, but he only had time to begin seven.
More than his immense effort to create art, Blake’s innate devotion was to immerse himself deeply in the thickest currents of life. Though he couldn’t finish engraving his illustrations, I imagine that, at some point, the life-force Blake was so devoted to began engraving him. What more can any of us ask for but to be created by the very thing we feel compelled to create? This is where the holy work of effort leads, regardless of its trail.
What does “home” mean to you? A place? A group of people? A memory? Or is it a feeling deep inside that touches your heart and soul? All of these perhaps. Our own life experiences define what home means to each of us. I grew up in Illinois, later lived in California, and then settled in Massachusetts for more than 30 years. Massachusetts is where I met my life partner, Anne, and where we were married. I’ve always loved both coasts, but I didn’t realize how much the Northeast had become home for me until I moved away and then returned for a visit.
What doesn’t rust?
Enjoy the good that lasts.
So many things change. Leaves fall, friends move away, children leave home. My dad died a year ago, and my mom about ten years before that. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting older (darn, there is no fooling the mirror).
The world changes, too. Evolving technologies alter jobs and lives. Elections happen and different people take charge. New restaurants open while others close.
Experience itself is always changing, right at the front edge of now. So are the neural substrates of this moment’s experience, fleeting coalitions of millions of synapses coming into being even as they disperse, while the molecular structures of individual synapses themselves are dynamically constructing and deconstructing in the blink of an eye.
I just got my December issue of O magazine featuring Oprah’s favorite things….that got me thinking about MY favorite things…the things I use nearly every day.
While many of Oprah’s are quite pricey, mine are mostly in the $20-$30 range and they are what I consider “small luxuries.”
These items bring me joy, beauty, comfort, and ease.
Get some for yourself (and they make great stocking stuffers!)
I LOVE this delicious smelling and creamy moisturizer that always puts a smile on my face. And, it’s a good solution to dry, winter skin!
More than 30 years ago, a new friend invited me to her apartment for a visit. As we sat in her cozy living room, she served me tea in a delicate china cup that was placed on a beautiful mahogany tray that held a tiny silver teaspoon, a small plate of petit fours, a shiny silver vase holding one perfectly shaped pink rose, and a white lace trimmed cloth napkin. I felt like I was having high tea with royalty!
I told her she shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble as I would have been just as happy with a mug of tea and a paper napkin. She smiled sweetly and said to me, “Darling, this is how I serve myself tea every day.” This elegant woman then explained to me that life is short and that we must insist on having as much beauty as possible in our lives, in every way possible.
When I was a child, I used to lie on the living room rug and gaze up at the ceiling, imagining it as the floor. I pictured how it would be to live in an upside down house and walk from room to room stepping over the doorway arches. My partner Anne used to do the same thing when she was little, even though she grew up in an entirely different part of the U.S. Is this something that all kids do, or just a coincidence? I found myself wondering if it is a genetic code within us for novelty and reinvention, which somehow gets lost as we grow older. How do we keep our vision of the world fresh in an adult world that teaches us that physical reality is solid, unchanging, and that facts and predictability are the basis for living a safe and orderly life?
At an early age, children often aren’t interested in order and rigid perceptual rules, unless they have had it already instilled in them via parental fears. What if, at heart, we aren’t either? What if our souls really want imagination, improvisation, and exploration? The element of surprise. After all, we came to this extraordinarily diverse and beautiful planet to live our human lives fully and completely. Who wants to live it in a box of repetitive, expected events and experiences? I’ve always intuitively felt this way. That’s why I’ve moved and traveled so much in my life, from coast to coast and continent to continent. Every time I went somewhere else, I saw the world with fresh eyes. I loved it. I still do.
The old painter tells me that he loves to drive through small towns, so he can sketch the light and strike up conversations with the young woman who pumps his gas and the lobster fisherman who lets him bait his traps. He loves to meet life as it bubbles up between troubles. Last summer, he wanted to meet that poet from Nebraska, the one who speaks so simply of all that matters. He didn’t want to bother him, just to say how grateful he is for what his poems open. Eight hundred miles later, he was asking for the poet in the old bookstore. Then he drifted into the antique store in Garland where he bought four lanterns. It’s there the owner said, “Oh Ted, he lives in Dwight.” So the painter took his lanterns and drove the back road to Dwight where he left a note on Ted’s window that read, “Your poems matter.” Once home, he set up the lanterns and confessed that he needs more light as he talks to death. The next day, he painted a barn he saw in Dwight and sent it to Ted. In telling me this, he’s all aglow, a lantern himself. He takes my hand and wells up, “I love this life.”
When I used to take walks at my favorite nature sanctuary, Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I often thought to myself, “This is paradise,” as I gazed up at the towering oak and maple trees and listened to the varied birdsongs. Now that I live in Florida, I find myself feeling much the same way. Each morning after sunrise, I walk the nature trail that encircles the perimeter of the community where we live, enjoying the palm trees and flowering bushes and the calls of birds that make Florida home. This morning at the end of my walk, another walker passed me, said “Good morning,” and commented, “Another day in paradise.” I laughed and agreed with him. Most people I pass on my walks make some similar comment about the beauty of the day.
We as humans have a natural tendency to ruminate. We seem to excel in turning small issue's into large challenges and then we obsess over these.
Okay, can we take a look at the elephant in the room, the one we avoid, the one we pretend isn’t there? Specifically, the white-haired elephant, otherwise known as ageism. Ageism affects us all at one time or another in Western culture. Women get hit by it around 35 or 40 when the first white/gray hairs appear, and we are encouraged to run for the hair dye. Around the same time, makeup ads advise treating those new wrinkle lines with cover-ups, serums, and lotions so they don’t become permanent. Later, Botox is the treatment of choice.
Men get the wakeup call if they begin to bald early. Ads urge them to get hair transplants, or the trend now is to shave their heads. If their hair starts to lose color instead, they may receive a few years of deferment with the “distinguished gray” perception. However, eventually they too are faced with the white-hair stigma. The idea of just allowing our physical bodies to age gracefully and naturally—with a healthy diet, exercise, and a stress-free lifestyle instead of some kind of intervention—still remains on the outskirts of the collective consciousness. We live in a culture that promotes “youth” relentlessly.
Peace + Prayer + Someone Else’s Country provided me a powerful experience that continues to shape me today. It happened two years ago in Japan at the base of Mt. Fuji. Twelve thousand (12,000!) people come every year to celebrate peace and pray for peace regardless of weather. Every country’s flag is brought to the center of a natural outdoor stage with Mt. Fuji in the background, and all the people pray for peace for the country of their choice and also for the optimal potential of that country to manifest. Everyone is given a laminated plastic flag of their choosing to use during the ceremony. When the flag of their country is brought out, they hold the image over their heads. It was wonderful to see the colors of so many countries held up again and again throughout the ceremony. I wanted to hold up all of them.
Linda and I returned the next year, and I had the same surprising, wonderful experience. I had expected to celebrate my own country’s flag and pray for the peace and potential of my own country, but I had not expected to be thrilled by praying for every country’s flag! They were all so important to me, so rich and so full of promise and potential. The sea of colors in front of us filled me with awe and wonder – at the uniqueness of us, the beauty of us, and the love of us. We were all “us.” I knew that in my thoughts and in my heart, but I felt it and I saw it those days.
Every year, I pick a word that is the guiding theme for me. Last year it was “santosha,” which is Sanskrit for contentment. I even had a special rock made to keep on my desk as a constant reminder.
When I selected that word, I had no idea just how important finding contentment would become. 2017 was, in many ways, one of the most difficult years of my life. Both my husband and my mother had multiple hospitalizations and life-threatening illnesses that many times required me to be in two places at once. All of that, on top of the chaos in the world, created a lot of havoc. Daily reminders to “seek and be contentment” were a lifesaver.
No matter the circumstances, we are being reminded to live fully, love deeply and open our hearts to even the most unlikeliest of individuals because each of us matters in this greater unfolding of life.
It was another bucket list moment. Not long ago I was at a gospel brunch celebration at Oprah Winfrey’s home for the launch of her new book, "Wisdom of Sundays: Life Changing Insights From Super Soul Conversations,” a compilation of heart opening and profound insights and grace shared by thought-leaders and writers from her Super Soul Sunday television series. (It’s one of those books you should have on your nightstand to set your inner GPS every morning or infuse you with the spirit of peace and gratitude as you end your day.)
A lot of movers and shakers in the entertainment and personal development fields attended, however, my husband Panache had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it.
So I went in his place. Alone.
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