Personal https://www.a-fro.com/ en Enter the Mystery https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/enter-the-mystery <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Enter the Mystery</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 01/15/2022 - 14:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2022-01/moon.jpg?h=a10861b7&itok=PnWA6Fve" width="1596" height="684" alt="Half-lit moon on a jet-black night" loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2022-01-16T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">January 16, 2022</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I work for <a href="https://paulkingsnorth.substack.com/p/blanched-sun-blinded-man">the machine</a> three days a week, making money to provide for my family and playing the game. It is soul-sucking work, not because it is inherently bad or wrong, but because every fiber of my being knows that I am called to something much more aligned with Life. Most of us are living lives of quiet desperation, trapped in the matrix despite seeing our plight. Knowing is not enough. <span class="pullquote">The structures needed to support the new world still mostly exist in the minds and hearts of our future selves.</span> And so we wake up each morning, pinching our nostrils like young children trying to lessen our disgust as we force the bites down. At the same time, we know that a moment will arrive when we will be ready for the change for which our hearts are longing. When will that time come? Could it be now? Am I ready?</p> <p>Roughly two months ago I noticed a slight shift happening in my mind and heart. I began to notice friends’ and acquaintances’ murmurings from afar—though faint and distant—that change is afoot. And so I began searching, at first online, but soon after in the quiet, secret garden within. I noticed, with great surprise and delight, the signs that dawn was approaching in that cold and dark place. Can you sense it, friend? As we approach the 2nd anniversary of this lockdown, the energy is finally shifting. We are reaching, or maybe have already reached, the breaking point.</p> <p>The spell is broken, and the wheels are coming off. It’s not yet clear that we have reached a wider tipping point, but it will come. For now, let it be enough to allow your heart to open to the mystery that is dawning. Each morning, I lie in bed against the bare skin of my beloved and I sink deeply into this space of trust. Our hearts attune and we abandon ourselves to presence. Within that space, where the mind goes silent and the heart reigns, we are finding deep wells of trust.</p> <p>Can you feel it? The goosebumps pepper my limbs as I open myself to the ever emergent, unfolding Now. We came here to meet this moment. And though we are still encountering our fear in painful ways, we can also discover how much bigger our love is than we ever imagined. <span class="pullquote">You were not called to this life, and this moment, only to discover that your heart is inadequate.</span> There is no scarcity here. There is only the fear—hardened by  years of society’s reinforcement—that you will not measure up.</p> <p>What gets uncovered as we sink into the heart of the mystery is that hope is an illusion. Hope exists within the dualistic mindset that believes in success and failure. The more beautiful world exists on another plane. You will not find it with your mind. You must sink into the heart space to experience it. Close your eyes for a few minutes, following your breath and listening with the ear of your heart. Allow your consciousness to sink, down and back, to the space I recently heard called “the seat of our ancestors.” In the field behind your heart you will find a spring, and the nourishment from that spring will awaken your soul and quench its thirst.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2022-01/IMG_2349-2.jpg?itok=_BiOoxhb" width="1600" height="543" alt="Dawn breaks in a swath of purple, orange, and blue over a sandy beach" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dawn is breaking, even as all hope appears to be lost. Our minds will not and cannot rise to meet this moment. Only our hearts, and the mystical presence of mystery, are big enough to witness what is truly unfolding.</p> <p>Stop.</p> <p>This moment.</p> <p>Enter the mystery.</p> <p>Let go.</p> <p>Allow.</p> <p>You were born for this. We all were. It’s ok to be afraid. But remember that you are not alone. And as you find your song, your courage will rise to carry you, and others will witness and join you. Together, we will find our way through the darkness and into the new light that is dawning. </p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 15 Jan 2022 14:29:21 +0000 admin 19 at https://www.a-fro.com Love, Rekindled https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/love-rekindled <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Love, Rekindled</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 12/27/2021 - 11:34</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/IMG_2368.jpeg?h=02b5d948&itok=Wdd3BWaB" width="1596" height="684" alt="Light reflects from the large, picture windows of a tiny home in the woods." loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2021-12-27T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">December 27, 2021</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Walking, hand in hand<br /> On a glorious winter’s day<br /> Sun warming our faces<br /> Naked trees smiling down.</p> <p>Look, it’s the white stag!<br /> She exclaims, staring in wonder<br /> At the bare limbs of the majestic Sycamore.<br /> Her radiant smile ignites my tinder heart.</p> <p>Behind us, a stretch of shadows<br /> Blankets the forest floor<br /> Cast by the low winter sun,<br /> And two decades of parched longing.</p> <p>We are learning to drink again.<br /> Moisture beads on our cracked lips.<br /> We have a long way to go,<br /> Even as we dance in this new arrival.</p> <p>Love, watering this dry, dusty soil.<br /> Life, sprouting from ancient, cast away seeds.<br /> Had we pulled the tether of our deep roots<br /> We might have found our way back long ago.</p> <p>Instead, we wandered,<br /> Alone, afraid, resentful and aching.<br /> In the darkness, we found a silent strength<br /> That could carry us through the night.</p> <p>By daylight, we learned to move,<br /> Footfall by slow footfall,<br /> Never realizing our vast arcs<br /> Might lead us back together.</p> <p>Under this bright winter sun,<br /> With the forest as our witness<br /> We smile and gaze into pools,<br /> Both long forgotten, and newly discovered.</p> <p> </p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 27 Dec 2021 11:34:01 +0000 admin 18 at https://www.a-fro.com We Swim in a Sea of Love https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/we-swim-in-love <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">We Swim in a Sea of Love</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 12/25/2021 - 10:14</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/stars2.jpg?itok=U-SDcRoO" width="1596" height="684" alt="Blues and purples of the boundless sky and stars above the dark horizon line" loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2018-11-29T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">November 29, 2018</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--portrait-right component--portrait paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/portrait/public/2021-12/birth_0.jpg?itok=mv8UbAh7" width="400" height="579" alt="Holding my son, David, for the first time back on October 16th, 2001" loading="lazy" class="image-style-portrait" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>There are moments in life when our hearts reawaken to the centrality of love. If you have children, perhaps you remember the moment when you first held your newborn. In that liminal time, your heart sang and called out its reminder for you to live from your greatness—your best self. If you don't have children, perhaps you remember the experience that unfolded after the death of a loved one. My first touch of death happened when I was 9, and my cousin, David, died after a tragic battle with leukemia. He was only 6, but the love and openness he shared during his short life touched many people. Even at that young age, I remember thinking about how my life would be different because of him. I deeply yearned grow into a person whose life would express the fullness of this gift we've been given. Death and birth are two experiences that can open the window of our hearts, and let the breezes flow through and enliven our spirits.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>Inhabiting the Gap Between What We Do and What We Yearn For</h2> <p>In the intervening years, I have repeatedly failed to live into the expression of love that touched me so deeply through those experiences. And in the gap between the one I yearned to be and the person I had become, I discovered deep wells of shame and sadness. To cover those feelings, I became a master of deception and misdirection, projecting the shadow of the things I hated about how I was living onto others, and believing it was Truth. Resentment, judgment, martyrdom and addiction became constant companions. I was the embodiment of samsara, a cycle of suffering that seemed to be stuck on repeat. </p> <p>Like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog's Day, most of us are prisoners to an endless cycle of repeated patterns. Our minds are perpetual motion machines, reinforced by the patterns in our daily lives, the people we live with, and especially, the stories we tell ourselves. And like the movie, we try, again and again, to get out of the repeating cycle. Much of our effort, though, is like the flailing limbs of someone who doesn't know how to swim. <span class="pullquote">We have to work with the water in order to stay afloat, just as we have to work with our hearts if we want to embody the love to which we are called.</span> </p> <p>We swim in a sea of love, even as we mourn our isolation. This, I believe, is the central human predicament. We have been cast out of love's garden because we continuously eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Another way of putting it is that our minds, and their obsession with judgment and separation, prevent us from experiencing the fullness of love that is both our birthright and our highest expression.</p> <h2>The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change</h2> <p>As you probably know, last week the government released a report on the impact of climate change. The media narrative that has emerged is that our president was trying to bury the report by releasing it on Black Friday. The deeper story, however, has nothing to do with Trump. Black Friday is the perfect day to release the report, because it embodies the world we have created, in which our greatest addiction is that we substitute <em>things</em> for what really matters. We fill the void in our hearts with bargains we find on shelves, and for a brief moment it works. And if you're one who has seen through that illusion, and stayed home on Black Friday, then perhaps you might notice how good, strong and powerful you felt as you judged those shoppers. It's seductive, but similarly pollutes our systems.</p> <p>Yes, we need people who can fight the many horrific manifestations and distortions of the systems we've created. Politics and economics are key drivers of the climate that is killing us and destroying our future. But <span class="pullquote">if anger, disillusionment and despair are the energy sources that drive our change, then they will also be the sources that power our future</span>. </p> <p>It was this recognition, I think, that inspired the retreat I attended back in 2010 and <a href="https://a-fro.com/blog/inner-dimensions-climate-change">recently wrote about</a>, a retreat called "The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change". At this time, as we face the darkness of the coming winter (both literally and metaphorically), we must also learn to embrace the dawn that is rising within. At the retreat, two of the participants felt moved by one of Rumi's poems and created the song below. "Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do," said Rumi. "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-item field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"><article class="media media--type-soundcloud media--view-mode-default"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-soundcloud field--type-string field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden">Soundcloud</div> <div class="field__item"><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/536221698&visual=1&auto_play=false&hide_related=true&show_comments=false&show_user=false&show_reposts=false"></iframe> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>Find Your Song</h2> <p>Teresa and Cam transformed Rumi's poem into a work of inspiration, and another participant of the retreat recorded it and then shared it with me. As Teresa affirms and invites midway through the song, "You gotta let your heart sing loud, and find your song, then everyone else's harmonies will come along..."</p> <p>New possibilities are emerging, for me and, I think, for all of us. We are being called, first and foremost, to transform our hearts. Yes, we need a revolution. We need it desperately. But if it is built on the patterns of revolution we were taught in school, it will still lead to the same outcome. Instead, go deeply into your heart's capacity to love the world. Step outside and gaze up at the stars if you can see them, or the moon if you live in a place you cannot. Remember the moments in your life when your heart was fully open, as it pondered the magic of new life, or its ending.<span class="pullquote"> Allow yourself to see that your life and heart are being called to a new and different way of relating to the natural world, the people around you, and especially, yourself. </span></p> <p>Live into your capacity to experience and offer a love that is so much bigger than what you thought was possible. </p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 25 Dec 2021 10:14:41 +0000 admin 7 at https://www.a-fro.com Cubicle Killing You? How I Brought Mine to Life https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/cubicle-killing-you-how-i-brought-mine-life <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Cubicle Killing You? How I Brought Mine to Life</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 12/25/2021 - 10:08</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/before-after.jpg?itok=CR7BpK0L" width="1596" height="684" alt="On the left, the lifeless cubicle experience from before, on the right, a vibrant and life giving space filled with natural beauty." loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2018-11-12T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">November 12, 2018</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I used to dread going to work. My office space, originally built as a temporary partition, had become a long-term work "environment" that I experienced as dark, stale and lifeless. As a web developer, I yearned to spend less time in front of a computer and more time outdoors.  I set up a part-time remote work arrangement, in part because I couldn't fathom spending 5 days a week there. Inspiration struck, however, and I found a way to not only transform my lifeless space, but also my experience of work and life itself. I now look forward to going to work most days, and smile every time I open the door to the sight and smell that awaits me upon arriving to my office.</p> <p>I've come to realize that my daily life and experience is profoundly affected by the spaces I inhabit. <span class="pullquote">If I spend my time in spaces that are deadened and lifeless, I both absorb and reflect that deadened experience.</span> But at the same time, inspiration abounds a few clicks away, and the skills needed to complete a given project are just a youtube search from my fingertips. The transformation of my office cubicle described here is one of the best $100, 2 day projects I've ever imagined. Don't be fooled; I'm not an expert builder, and you can do this yourself with little more than a circular saw, some screws and a cordless drill. Here are the simple steps that made it possible, as well as some thoughts on the broader impact in my life and the world.</p> <h2>Step 1: Look for ways to bring the outside in</h2> <p>Let's start with the simple reminder that our ancestors evolved in nature, and therefore one of the best ways to enliven our spaces is to bring natural elements into them. Modern home and work environments are filled with manufactured products. Fire retardants, carpets, metals and plastics abound, and even when they're done tastefully, in my experience they don't offer the tranquility of wood, clay or stone.</p> <h2>Step 2: Become a frequent visitor to your local reuse center</h2> <p>Upcycling feels great! I love <a href="https://ithacareuse.org/">Ithaca ReUse</a>, and I go there often just to keep an eye on what's available. I'm also on the mailing list, so I know when sales are happening. Two years ago, I found a set of weathered and broken sections of fencing during a 75% off building sale. I bought the lot for about $100, and it has proven remarkably versatile in application (as further described in <a href="https://a-fro.com/blog/from-ux-to-youx">From UX to YouX</a>). I'm particularly lucky because I have a barn to store things that I'm not ready to use, but if you've ever seen a show like <a href="https://www.blackdogsalvage.com/salvage-dawgs/">Salvage Dogs</a>, you'll know that even window shopping at reuse centers can be a source of inspiration so consider making it a habit. However, you don't need to find the perfect source for your materials. I've seen people do amazing things with pallets, which you can likely find regardless of where you live.</p> <h2>Step 3: Engage your imagination</h2> <p>I've spent hours wading through Pinterest searches, just to get a lie of the land, so to speak. There's a gap, however, from the things that others have built, to the particular space that you want to enliven. Your imagination fills in the gap, as it envisions what is possible for a space. Give yourself time to just let your mind wander in your space and the possibilities, and then embrace playfulness as you begin to close in on an idea. Daydreaming is your friend.</p> <h2>Step 4: Sketch and plan</h2> <p dir="ltr">Limits are helpful to the creative process. Here's a list of some of the things I knew about my project:</p> <ol> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">Nothing could be screwed into the "walls" (it's basically a glorified cubicle, even if the walls extend up to the drop ceiling).  I decided to take an "ask forgiveness not permission" approach. It was therefore essential that it be self-supporting, allowing me to assert that "it's just decoration" if the need arises. That being said, I did discuss it with my boss; so it wasn't a complete surprise.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">Given that nothing would be screwed into the walls, I therefore wanted some right angle supports to provide stability. I also wanted to use my desk as further support, and didn't want to waste wood by filling in spaces below the desk, for example. This led to the idea of the small footer in front of my desk, as well as the back wall section.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">Having only the one small window, I wanted to incorporate a mirror into the design, so that I could "add a window" to my office.</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">The facilities team didn't want to pay the supposed $800 to hang the white board, but having it propped on my desk was uncomfortable so I wasn't using it. I was also told that I couldn't hang it myself. Now, though, it's not hung on the wall. It's just supported by my decoration. ;)</p> </li> <li dir="ltr"> <p dir="ltr">Many barn wood accent walls are made of shorter pieces. Since I had longer pieces to choose from, I preferred to keep them long so that it would be quicker and easier to build (requiring fewer 2x2 framing strips) and also would be more versatile for reusing them on future projects.</p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr">I drew up some simple plans and measured the cuts. As all novice builders learn, "measure twice, cut once" is not only sound advice, it's also remarkably challenging at times. It happened numerous times that my repeated measurements were simply wrong, especially when the cuts were not perpendicular. It took me a few hours to cut all the boards, and another few hours to build the frames for the mirror and whiteboard. Most of that work was done with a simple circular saw, though I also used a table saw to rip the trim and a miter saw for the 45 degree cuts on the frames. It's surprisingly simple work, and my basic building philosophy (as a novice) is that by choosing natural materials, it alters one's  expectations and increases my tolerance for imperfections. The boards themselves, after all, are far from "perfect."</p> <h2 dir="ltr">Step 5: Build</h2> <p>The hardest part, by far, of the project, was simply negotiating the long boards up the staircase, through doors and hallways. I did this project by myself, and a helper would have made it easier for sure. But it was totally doable on my own. I used mostly 2x2s as the framing material, though I also grabbed a couple of old 2x4s so that I could better join the frames of the mirror and whiteboard to the surrounding wood pieces. After sliding the desk away from the cubicle wall, I slid 2x2 framing strips behind the desk and pushed it back into place. I used decking screws to attach the wood to the frame, which are definitely worth the extra money to me since they're practically impossible to strip and will easily allow me to take the decorations apart when I need to in the future.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/office-collage.jpg?itok=xEYq0aww" width="1600" height="589" alt="A collage of images throughout the build process, including partial walls, framing the whiteboard and attaching the mirror to the 2x4 strips." loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>Step 6: Transform the world</h2> <p dir="ltr">The most rewarding aspect of this project, by far, is the time I get to spend each day in my transformed space. It's impossible for me to know for sure, how much of my personal journey is being transformed by my space, and vice versa. What I know is that my experience of life is flowering exponentially at this time. When I walk into my office, the smell of wood is overpowering. The space has a warmth, depth and tranquility that passers by frequently remark about. I feel joy, repeatedly and regularly, while I'm at work. Going to work is no longer something I dread.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, other aspects of my life are changing as well. I've started walking to my office most days rather than taking the bus, and I really cherish the time I get to spend in nature. I see possibilities, where before I only saw stress, anxiety, annoyance and problems. During those walks, I also wax philosophically about the world. You don't need me to tell you that for most of us, it's a dark time. What I notice, however, is that the world we've created is a reflection of the spaces we inhabit, both externally and internally. As I've learned to embrace my space, I notice clearly that the world I pay attention to is different that it was before. Rather than sitting on the bus and reading the dreadful clickbait news of the day, I'm <a href="https://a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_width/public/2018-10/IMG_1729.png">walking through Ithaca's gorges</a> and enjoying the changing fall colors.</p> <p>Yes, we need to engage with the world that exists and the problems that we've created. But we also need to more fully embrace the world that we've created for ourselves. As more of us do that, the world cannot help but be transformed. The places that were deadened and deadening us will be less ubiquitous. The choices we make, both personally and collectively, will be <em>life-giving</em> choices, and we will subsequently be more alive, more joyful, and more grateful for the many blessings that we receive and create.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/office-collage-2.jpg?itok=6iQ-JMFe" width="1600" height="589" alt="A collage of the final version of my transformed office space, with the desk and wall on one side, mirror and whiteboard on the other, and an image of fall colors in the middle" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 25 Dec 2021 10:08:50 +0000 admin 6 at https://www.a-fro.com Yes, Vote on Tuesday, but Also Be the Change You Seek https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/yes-vote-tuesday-also-be-change-you-seek <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Yes, Vote on Tuesday, but Also Be the Change You Seek</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 12/25/2021 - 10:06</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/dsc_0970.jpg?itok=cUd5pGSp" width="1596" height="684" alt="Two figures sit by the fire with the moon rising and the year 2018 written in light" loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2018-11-04T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">November 4, 2018</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I'm not going to tell you who to vote for, or how important this election is. As the old parable goes, "who is to say what's bad or good?" Feeling angered by that statement? This article is for you, then, because the larger story is so much bigger than this election cycle. The world we've created, and in which almost all of us are participating, is a reflection of the inner state we cultivate each day. As Einstein said, "no problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it."</p> <p>Humans today—each of us—are participants in a very old story. <em>You have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear.</em> Millenia of wisdom teachings echo with similar messages about the deeper truths to which we can awaken. "Each of us walks with two wolves," says the grandfather. "One is the wolf of compassion, of right relationship, gratitude, abundance and love. The other is the wolf of greed, suffering, competition and dishonesty. They battle within us, inviting us to see reality from their respective viewpoints." "Which wolf wins?" asks the grandson. "The one that we feed," responds grandfather.</p> <p>How are you feeling and responding to this week's news that <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018">60% of the earth's biodiversity has disappeared</a> in the last 50 years? There are many possible responses, but two are primary for me. The first is grief. We must <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Coming-Back-Life-Updated-Reconnects/dp/0865717753">learn to mourn</a> the messages of destruction that surround us. We cannot build a different world without feeling the depth of sadness that arises from what we have done to this one. The second response is to ask, with humility and sincerity, "<span class="pullquote">what is mine to do in the face of this destruction?</span>" There is no one, single and simple answer to that question. I believe that each of us has a unique role to play in this great unfolding. What I do know, however, is that any answer that ignores or minimizes our participation in the unfolding destruction is ultimately impotent.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/wire.jpg?itok=jEB2VtS6" width="1400" height="1000" alt="Light and plants fade behind some rusty barbed wire" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The change that our system needs will not come at the polls. It will come from our hearts, as each of us hears the cry of the planet for new and different relationship. We cannot continue to fill the void in our lives with products sent via Amazon Prime, liquids that have been distilled and bottled, or political battles that ultimately support the status quo. The earth is desperately calling for a different relationship on nearly every level. Growth, itself, is the evil that is killing everything, and almost all of us are playing out that story every day of our lives. The earth needs us to embrace right relationships, starting with ourselves, radiating through our communities, and rebuilding and reshaping all of our current systems, including our culture, our economy and politics. We don't need to go right or left, politically speaking. We need a U-turn. And we need it yesterday.</p> <p>Yes, in many ways I am a hypocrite as I write this on my expensive laptop, surrounded by empty products I've ordered and struggled to pay for along with the mountain of debt I've also accumulated. <em>You have eyes but do not see</em>. This unfolding story, of my life, is changing rapidly. A year from now, I hope to be free of all these "debts". <span class="pullquote">Ultimately, all debt that we take on at this point is simply borrowing from future generations.</span> I see that now, and I'm not afraid of feeling the pain of that recognition.</p> <p>If a new future is to emerge for humanity, then you and I <em>must</em> be the ones to create it. I don't think it currently exists, or at least, not at the scale that is required for our survival as a species. That is a terrifying realization, if you truly let it sink in. I don't know what role I can or will play in that unfolding. I believe that a time will come when many more of us will realize the truth that the world is simply mirroring back to us what is in our hearts, and therefore, we <em>must</em> start by transforming what is within, and let it ripple out.</p> <p>If this message speaks to your heart, then join me in this transformation. We are the ones the world is waiting for. Yes, cast your vote. But before, during and after, soften your heart in a way that unfetters its vibrant source of love, joy and gratitude. <span class="pullquote">Be the change. Start the revolution.</span></p> <p><em>Photos by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/efrotography/">Eli Froehlich</a>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 25 Dec 2021 10:06:37 +0000 admin 5 at https://www.a-fro.com Your Happiness Set Point is a Myth https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/your-happiness-set-point-myth <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Your Happiness Set Point is a Myth</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 12/25/2021 - 10:03</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/stars-silhouette.jpg?h=83758abf&itok=u5jrrMO-" width="1596" height="684" alt="Silhouette of a young man looking at the starry sky" loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2018-10-30T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">October 30, 2018</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Perhaps you've read the hype: each of us is born with a "genetic set point", which roughly determines our lifelong, baseline level of happiness. It's typically expressed as roughly 50% of what makes up our specific level of happiness, along with 10% life circumstances, and another 40% "personal outlook". Maybe you read <a href="http://www.shawnachor.com/the-books/the-happiness-advantage/"><em>The Happiness Advantage</em></a>, watched some <a href="https://www.ted.com/topics/happiness">TED talks</a>, started a gratitude practice, journaling or meditation. You found some temporary respite, but all evidence pointed to the sad reality that you drew the short straw around your happiness set point. Life, inevitably, returned to its baseline. Perhaps, like me, you even wished that some fatal illness or accident would take you from your misery. After all, <span class="pullquote">who wants to endure a lifetime of suffering and then look back on your death bed at the wreck of a broken life?</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/stars.jpg?itok=2EbBvK5e" width="1600" height="682" alt="Greens, deep blues and purples of the night sky shine behind branches of a crooked tree" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I'm not going to tell you the research is flawed, because frankly, it feels pretty irrelevant when it contradicts personal experience. What I am here to tell you is that it's possible to find complete freedom from the tyranny of your mind and the suffering it causes. I know it's possible, because it happened to me. </p> <p>Now, the bad news. I don't really know <em>why</em> or <em>how</em> it happened, though I have some good guesses and can offer some insights. The best I can do, I think, is to offer the promise of possibility. I can, however, describe <em>what</em> happened. </p> <p>I was on a 6 hour road trip, listening to Eckhart Tolle with the cruise control set and miles of pavement ahead. I've listened to <a href="https://soundcloud.com/thepowerofnow_part_1-2/01-practicing-the-power-of-now"><em>Practicing the Power of Now</em></a> dozens of times over the years—a roughly 4 hour, condensed version of his best selling book. As I drove, he was talking about the pain body, which is his label for the energetic patterns that become crystalized through our life experience and often manifest in our relationships. "The pain body" is what causes us to respond in disproportionate and predictable ways to situations. They are "the buttons" from the phrase "(s)he really knows how to push my buttons". </p> <p>The moment of awakening, for me, came from the simple realization that I had become addicted to my pain, and to the story that my mind told me about my life. I was actually <em>choosing to suffer</em>. <span class="pullquote">Somehow, I had mistaken my unhappy story for my life</span>. I want to be clear here: you are not your unhappy story. As long as we believe the story, the lie, our happiness set point is in effect. Once we see the illusion, however, a whole new world of possibility emerges. </p> <p>This moment of clarity happened roughly two months ago, and in the intervening weeks, I've awakened into a new reality that is nearly devoid of suffering. Yes, I feel pain, even more acutely at times than before. Pain and suffering are not the same thing, however, and I'm happy to leave the latter behind. If I were to list the things in my life that previously felt very real and heavy—but are now almost entirely absent from my experience—that list would include:</p> <ul> <li>guilt</li> <li>shame</li> <li>resentment</li> <li>inadequacy</li> <li>anxiety</li> <li>addiction</li> <li>irritation</li> </ul> <p>I offer that as a promise of what's possible, not what's inevitable. The main takeaway, however, is that for my entire life, the emotions and experiences in the list above were the defining contours of my emotional life. They were my set point, and provided the experiential boundaries of my happiness.</p> <p>I don't have a 5 step program to offer you, on sale now! One of the recommendations I can make is to cultivate a meditation practice, if you don't already have one. Despite the enduring pain of my unhappy self, I've been putting "my tush on the cush" as a friend used to say, nearly every day for 20 years now. I've never "been good" at meditation, but I fondly remember the moment, decades ago now, when I decided that I was going to stop trying to be good at meditating and simply return, as often as I felt able, to the present moment. For me, letting go of the struggle was a key ingredient, even if a quiet mind remained elusive. It's also a good metaphor, I think, for this transformation that has happened in my life.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/sunrise-silhouette.jpg?itok=Fl9qZTsc" width="1600" height="610" alt="The silhouette of a young man as the sun crosses the horizon" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>My daily reality is now profoundly different than before. I've learned the truth what it means that "it's heaven all the way to heaven, just as it's hell all the way to hell." If I want to avoid dying the sad, bitter and resentful old man that I've always feared, the best (and perhaps only) way of doing that is to stop being that person in the present moment. By letting go of the story of my unhappy self, I now see how much beauty each moment holds. It's not a gratitude practice—it's the joy of being, expanding fully into my mind, heart and present moment awareness. It's there, dozens if not hundreds of times each day, if I let it. I'm not following a script or set of rules. I'm simply dropping the old, repetitive story. My "buttons" are no longer activating predictable and repetitive responses. My "happiness set point" has reset. Stop believing the lie. Wake up to the life you've always wanted for yourself. You may find, as I did, that you already have it.</p> <p><em>Photos by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/efrotography/">Eli Froehlich</a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 25 Dec 2021 10:03:42 +0000 admin 4 at https://www.a-fro.com From UX to YouX https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/ux-youx <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">From UX to YouX</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 12/25/2021 - 09:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/img_1780.jpg?itok=nhH_1C5P" width="1596" height="684" alt="Transforming a cubicle of sadness into a space of joy" loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2018-10-23T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">October 23, 2018</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>Embracing your ability to transform your experience of life</h2> <p>Many of us in the web development industry have been pushing pixels around screens for decades now. If you're like me, you find a lot of satisfaction in the creativity you are able to bring to your work. For me, though, nothing in my career truly prepared me for the insight that was hiding in plain sight all this time, just waiting to be embraced: how profoundly I could transform my experience—my YouX—simply by bringing my creativity and love of building off the screen and into the real world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--portrait-right component--portrait paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/portrait/public/2021-12/img_0369.jpg?itok=gf4y0UBh" width="500" height="667" alt="The cabin shell upon arrival" loading="lazy" class="image-style-portrait" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Over the past 2.5 years I've been quietly plugging away at projects in the real world, and hardly noticing how it was rapidly transforming my life. It all started when I convinced my wife to let me buy the shell of a small cabin I'd seen online, so that we could turn it into an <a href="https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14865440">airbnb rental</a>.</p> <p>I knew practically nothing about finish work, but took a natural building workshop with an amazing local couple, where I learned how to work with clay. We built a cob oven and I learned how to plaster with clay, creating rich, earthen walls. We were hosted at a local shiitake mushroom farm, where we harvested and prepared the clay for the oven and the cabin right from the bed of the stream.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--content-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_content/public/2021-12/img_0530.jpg?itok=5tg2aRL_" width="700" height="394" alt="Working with Matteo of Cob Therapy to build an oven" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-content" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>By the end of the summer, I'd managed to plaster the walls, add trim out the windows, install and naturally finish maple hardwood flooring, while also adding a simple outdoor shower and outdoor kitchen. My skills were growing, and I was getting consistent appreciation from the steady stream of guests that were now staying in our bnb.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--content-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_content/public/2021-12/img_0814.jpg?itok=naVLCNuh" width="700" height="394" alt="The finished cabin interior, including all naturally finished maple wood floors and clay-plastered walls" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-content" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Around that time, I made an innocuous purchase at Ithaca ReUse, which was having a building sale. There were about eight sections of wood fencing that were in somewhat poor shape, as far as fences go. After freeing them from their posts, however, they've proven to be remarkably versatile in their application. My next project was a meditation space, desk and ladder in my bedroom, pictured below. For months, there was a "wow" factor each time I walked into the room, as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I had been able to build something so simple, elegant and life-giving. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--content-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_content/public/2021-12/img_0565.jpg?itok=g8jdg02r" width="700" height="394" alt="A bedroom transformed, with plants, meditation space and rustic, barn wood standing desk" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-content" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--portrait-right component--portrait paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/portrait/public/2021-12/img_1632.jpg?itok=0-ZhGS1D" width="500" height="667" alt="Black locust posts and timbers support the living reciprocal roof" loading="lazy" class="image-style-portrait" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Since then, I've been working on a steady stream of projects, from a reciprocal roofed gazebo (prototype for an eventual hobbit house, if everything works out), to helping with a friend's Tiny House (adding to our <a href="https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20720176">bnb offerings</a>), to my most recent (and the true catalyst for this article), the transformation of my cubicle office at work (pictured at the top of this article). What I'm discovering is that the sum total of these small(ish) projects has been a complete transformation of my life experience.</p> <p>Once we start looking for ways to bring our creative selves more fully into our lives, we may eventually discover that the life we've always yearned for has arrived. Most nights, if we don't have guests out in the cabin, I stay there myself. My wife, Celeste, often joins me. We sit by the campfire and play guitar, before heading to bed in the earthen-walled cabin and listening to the crickets sing us to sleep. Most mornings, like today (and despite the 40 degree chill in the air), I take an outdoor shower with on-demand hot water under the canopy of trees. I meditate in the tranquil space I built with my own hands, and then I walk through one of the gorges near Cornell campus (Ithaca <em>is</em> gorges) pictured below. I marvel and sink into gratitude for the many, amazing blessings in my life. I've also learned simply to look for them as often as possible, and in places where they're lacking, I look for ways to "refactor".</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/IMG_1729.png?itok=CQiKK-Q0" width="1600" height="354" alt="This gorge trail is my daily commute to and from work" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--portrait-right component--portrait paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/portrait/public/2021-12/imagejpeg_0-2.jpg?itok=DLMOsJe2" width="500" height="889" alt="The barn wood accent piece that guests made after being inspired by their stay" loading="lazy" class="image-style-portrait" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Yes, I still have lots of challenges to overcome on a daily basis (parents of teens, anyone?), but my <em>experience </em>of life has changed so dramatically that it's become easy to remember goodness and gratitude. There's a lot more I could say, and hopefully will, but I'll leave you with this anecdote: last week, after a particularly challenging experience, I was sitting in my office at work when I got a text from a former cabin guest who had been inspired by their stay. I'd offered the couple some of my old, reused barn wood, and though they didn't have a lot of space in their NYC apartment, they were excited about a project and we looked together at some options on Pinterest. A few months has passed, and I'd forgotten all about their visit. Then last week, just at the moment I was feeling down, their text arrived, with a thank you and an image of their finished project. I don't know what their experience is, but I have to believe that it is richer and more life giving for having built something so stunning, simple and beautiful.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Sat, 25 Dec 2021 09:55:28 +0000 admin 3 at https://www.a-fro.com The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal/inner-dimensions-climate-change <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span>admin</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 12/24/2021 - 10:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-representative-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/large_21_9/public/2021-12/dsc_0080_0.jpg?itok=u72W52Nc" width="1596" height="684" alt="View of the clouds from an airplane" loading="lazy" class="image-style-large-21-9" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-published-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2018-10-27T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">October 27, 2018</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-components field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h2>A 2010 letter to my future self</h2> <p>This morning I stumbled upon a reflection I wrote back in 2010 but never published, and was struck by the relevance in terms of recent conversations. It felt like a letter I had written to my future self. In it, I discussed three key insights: 1) Being the change we wish to see in the world, 2) embracing our gifts and offer them to the world, and 3) simplifying our lives by consuming less and appreciating more. These insights feel more true for me today, and also more possible, than I ever could have imagined.</p> <p>I spent a beautiful and transformative weekend participating a conference called “The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change: A Retreat for Young Contemplatives,” held at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, NY.  The retreat was sponsored by the Global Peace Initiative of Women, and brought together about 50 participants from around the country to experimentally explore the relationship between action and contemplation, between spiritual change and climate change. While there, I met a diverse and lively group of passionate young people—all with a committed contemplative practice—and stood in awe of the dramatic ways that silence is speaking in the world today. I’d like to offer three insights that I think capture some, but not all, of the key strands of conversation that took place at the retreat.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/dsc_0360.jpg?itok=cpzZM0BQ" width="1500" height="1000" alt="One of the larger waterfalls in Cascadilla Gorge, which runs from Ithaca to Cornell campus" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>“<span class="pullquote">Be the change you wish to see in the world</span>,” said Gandhi. In a world that is hurting, <em>really hurting, </em>it’s easy to find a cause to fight for and to begin marshalling support for that cause. Yet Gandhi did not admonish us to “fight for the change we wish to see in the world.” That would have been a very different teaching. Instead, we’re called to embody the change we seek. </p> <p>Whenever I find myself standing in righteousness and pointing out some “evil”, I try to add “just like me” to the end of my condemnation. “People are so wasteful,” I exclaim… “just like me.” “Americans are so greedy,” I cry out, as if I’m not one of them. Our suffering world is a mirror that reflects the state of humanity, which is really a reflection of my own internal state. I often remind myself that “we teach what we’re trying to learn.” I find that particularly instructive, and often humbling. As I learn to more fully embody the change that I seek in the world, I am discovering a deep well of integrity that yearns for expression. It takes courage and commitment to embody our deepest longings, but I believe it is exactly the change that the earth needs in the face of the devastation that humanity is doling out.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--content-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_content/public/2021-12/img_1157.jpg?itok=VeneqEO4" width="700" height="394" alt="The changing leaves outside my bedroom window" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-content" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The second theme of the weekend, for me, was the call to embrace my gifts and offer them more fully, in a spirit of service. There is a beautiful story from Michael Jones, a Canadian pianist. For many years he left his passion for music in lieu of the business world. Late one evening, while playing piano for a few minutes in a hotel lobby, an encounter with a stranger changed the trajectory of his life. After playing, the stranger asked him about the unfamiliar tune. “Just something I wrote,” said Michael, adding that he was not a musician, but just there at a conference. “<span class="pullquote">Well if you don’t play your music,” the man asked, “then who will?</span>”</p> <p>Richard Leider defines a calling as “the inner urge to give your gifts away.” Over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle is quoted as saying “where your talents meet the needs of the world, there lies your vocation.” It’s a simple notion, but has been painfully difficult at times to embody. There exists an apparent tension between the desire to follow our dreams and embrace our calling, and our need to pay the bills. One of my takeaways from the weekend was a reminder that in a world that needs so much, there are countless ways to offer myself in service. The heroes’ myth figures so prominently in the Western mind that we forget most change is initiated by many small elements working in tandem. As I embrace my gifts, even in small ways, I become an agent of transformation that ripples out into the world. This has a powerful impact, as evidenced from the anonymous insight that “if you think you’re too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--full-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_max/public/2021-12/img_1688.jpg?itok=CeMcRCUz" width="1333" height="1000" alt="Sunrise over a river in the Adirondack mountains" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-max" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The third key insight the weekend had for me was the call to recommit myself to simplifying my life, consuming less, and appreciating more. One day I was walking through the forest, and randomly picked up a stick along the path. My mind was absorbed in chatter, and I began swinging the stick gently as I walked. Each time the stick struck something, pieces of it broke away and flew through the air. I thought of my own life, and how I, too, feel stretched too thin. Like the stick, I often feel delicate and fragile, and pieces of my life seem to fly haphazardly through the air as I navigate the everyday ups and downs of relationships. Then, a point came when I could no longer break the stick; as it shortened, it became stronger. So on the one hand, I feel called to figure out ways to trim the chaff of my life, and return to the inner core of strength that I possess.</p> <p>Upon deeper reflection, I realized something that felt even more important: that brittle stick had once been connected to a living tree, allowing it to be both strong and flexible at the same time. In my life, simplifying is one of the essential ingredients, but even more so is the need to remain connected to the source of life, however we experience it. Contemplative practice grounds me and nurtures me, nourishing my body, feeding my soul, and enlivening my spirit. I am at the same time deeply interconnected to the earth and yet so delicately aware of that interconnection. As I more fully embrace my relationship to both nature and silence, and how the two enhance and support one another, I find the strength and flexibility I need to “play my music” in the world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="component component--content-width paragraph paragraph--type--media paragraph--view-mode--default"> <img src="https://www.a-fro.com/sites/default/files/styles/full_content/public/2021-12/img_0243.jpg?itok=_lLRgIfH" width="700" height="394" alt="Calligraph reading: There is no doer, nothing to be done, nothing to be lost, nothing to be won" loading="lazy" class="image-style-full-content" /> </div> </div> <div class="field__item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--rich-text paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I’ve been on many retreats in recent years, and the return is always bittersweet. Yet something feels different this time. I notice that it’s a bit easier to forgive myself when I’m feeling angry with my kids, and just allow the emotion to be there without judgment. I feel a new sense of empowerment, allowing me to more fully embody the deep well of wisdom within me—that source that I so often ignore. And most of all, I feel a real sense of hope, both individually and collectively. I often feel alone in my practice as a young contemplative. Our technologically over-connected, stress-inducing, work hard/play hard, it’s-all-about-me consumer culture is so seductive. It’s counter-cultural to embrace silence every day, but by committing to “get my tush on the cush,” as one friend puts it, and in knowing that I am not alone in the silence, I am discovering a radical sense of hope in humanity, even at this dark hour.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Tags</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="https://www.a-fro.com/blog/personal" hreflang="en">Personal</a></div> </div> </div> Fri, 24 Dec 2021 10:55:29 +0000 admin 2 at https://www.a-fro.com