When I woke up on Tues, Dec. 16th it was to the news of over 100 children and 46 adults gunned down by the Taliban. Later at work someone told me about ISIL and what they do to young girls (I won’t repeat what I heard because it’s too horrific. I don’t want anyone else to carry that, though I’m sure some of you know. I’m sorry.)

On that Tuesday, my response was to to pray for everyone, throughout the day: for the grief-stricken families, the injured, the community, and I also included the Taliban. If their hearts are so shut down that they could murder children, they need prayers too.

I had just the day before been reading about Tonglen: breathing in grief, breathing out peace. I’d heard of Tonglen before, but I hadn’t practiced it in a very long time. All day I breathed in grief and fear, and breathed out peace and love.

Why pray for bullies? Years ago I read about a study in Japan that showed molecular changes in water when people prayed over it. Since humans are over 70% water, doesn’t it make sense that prayers help? I remember seeing pictures of both positive and negative prayer over water — seen microscopic pictures of the water’s structure. The positive is sparkly, snowflake-like, starry pictures, whereas the negative is cloudy and out of balance. (Dr. Masaru Emoto, 1999 “Messages from Water”)

Isn’t that what evil is: life out of balance? Evil is Live spelled backwards, a life upside down. Don’t the men of the Taliban and ISIL feel they’re holy men? To me they look like bullies and thugs. What if we all prayed for them? Could we melt their frozen hearts? (I hear a song).

Killing them is just the same energy they exude. Love is the only answer, the only way out of this madness we find ourselves in. Whether you believe in God or Buddha, or your dog or cat, we can all send love to the thugs. Love the thugs.

My resolution for 2015 is to seek joy — to stay in joy as much as possible. I believe joy is our birthright, and that being in joy contributes to love and peace on the planet. Certainly this doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or impatient, or sad or frustrated. Seeking joy means I return to joy whenever I’m able. When I’m present for my life, and I see a tree seemingly for the first time, on a road I’ve traversed hundreds of times, I know joy. I feel joy, and am so grateful for the bare branches that let me see the tree’s grace.

Pray for the thugs. Pray for the hurt, the hungry, and the lonely. Pray for yourself. It’s a wild and wonderful life, and I wish us all joy on our journey. Safety and enough for everyone.DSC_1349


DSC_1747Over the past year I spent a lot of time organizing a conference that brought together over 150 people. On the second day, right after lunch, a laptop and projector were missing from the workshop room where they’d been left. My response was panic. I ran around for about 30 minutes, in a red fire engine drill panic mode. Finally, the equipment was located, and I could take a deep breath and relax.

In reflecting about that 30 minutes of stress, in the midst of a lovely two day conference that I worked hard to enjoy and relish in, I wondered if it would be possible for a calamity to occur in my life without me going immediately into panic. I can take some things in stride, like traffic jams and other inconveniences, but when it involves other people’s property, I’m not as serene.

A friend reminded me that I’m human. I may not ever achieve buddhahood in the midst of a disaster. A few hours after my panic time, I had the opportunity to read Queen Latifah’s article “who you callin’ a bitch”. She wrote an award-winning song by that name, and the 3 page article had been assigned to my daughter for her community college reading class. It’s a wonderful article which I highly recommend. I’ve always liked Queen Latifah, and after reading her article, I now more fully understand why. According to her, every woman is a queen: every woman who has high self-esteem, who values herself, who defines herself, and who has “grace in the midst of adversity.” Oh, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Grace in the face of adversity. Grace. I love that word. To me it implies ease, serenity, peace, smooth flowing along.

One of the most important books of the past century (according to Ashley Montague and me) is “The Chalice and the Blade” by Riane Eisler.  It’s a historical, anthropological study of our history which proves that humans once lived without weapons and without war.  I think that’s a really important fact to know.

If we lived without war in the past, we CAN do it again.  It seems many people believe that violence is inherent in humanity — but it’s not.  It’s learned.  Don’t they say that if you know history, you’re less likely to repeat it?  Well, I don’t know about that, but I think knowing that patriarchy, and our culture of domination and violence, is only about 5,000 years old comforts me.  It’s a brief speck of time in the continuum….and we can feel the tides turning to a time of growing cooperation and sharing.

Until 1973, it wasn’t illegal for men to rape their wives. Until 1920, women didn’t have the right to vote. Not long before that, women didn’t have rights to own property or go to school.  While women are gaining certain rights, the worldwide scale of violence against women doesn’t seem to be receding, like you’d think it would if women were truly empowered.

Then again, women and children aren’t the only victims. Violence affects all of us humans, and the rest of the planet as well. In fact, many believe that if we don’t stop the violence against the planet, all these other issues will just be academic, cause we won’t be here to see anything evolve to a higher consciousness.

What can we do?  Some well known person once said “when 10% of the world’s population meditates, we’ll have world peace” (not IF, but WHEN).  OK, this translates in my mind to mean that if we calm our busy minds, if we bring peace between our ears, our planet will be more peaceful as a result.   Believing this helps me make the time to meditate.

Hearts Aligned for Peace


As a result of doing a grief ritual about my daughter, i began a daily gratitude practice 21 years ago. Two years earlier she was born not breathing, and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. With all the specialists involved in her life, the focus was always on what she wasn’t doing. I did the grief ritual to let go of who I’d expected or wanted her to be, and to accept her exactly for who she is. In the midst of creating this ritual (well, first, I threw away all the developmental charts), I realized I had much to be grateful about her, such as how healthy she is, and that she wakes up smiling each and every day.

I went from focusing on what she wasn’t doing to being grateful for what she WAS doing, and for her inherent beauty, strength, and perserverance. (I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather people focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses.)

Gratitude morphed from a theory to a life-saving daily practice. Before that, I thought gratitude was some lofty concept – I didn’t realize it was something I could practice as a way to focus on the positive. I know people who write gratitude lists every day, either in the morning or at the end of the day. Me, I’m a verbal gratitude lister:  I begin the day speaking my gratitudes aloud (often in my car on the way to work), giving thanks for a variety of blessings.

After years of focusing on all that I am grateful for, it occurred to me how much our culture, and thus us, focus mostly on what’s wrong: what’s wrong with my body, what’s wrong with other people, what’s wrong in the world. Gratitude, then, is an act of love that has the potential to heal many of our ills.

I’m reminded of what I heard the Dalai Lama say when he came to Portland: that he was astounded at how much people in the U.S. hate themselves. He told us that people in Tibet (and other countries) do not hate themselves as a general practice. That was amazing to hear: self-hatred is not natural for humans. It’s learned, and thus, it can be unlearned. I believe gratitude helps us love ourselves.

What if you grew up hearing about all your strengths, wonders, beauty, and gifts? What if no one criticized your mistakes, because we know we all make mistakes. Gratitude is truly vital to our future, because it has the enormous potential to transform our lives from ones of negativity, into focusing on what’s working…and we know that what we focus on grows.  I hope you will grow a gratitude practice.  If you’re not feeling particular grateful, start with the ability to see and to read.

Today I’m particularly grateful that 20 of my labia sculptures are in Los Angeles at a Portlandia event.  They fly home on Monday.



I knew I never wanted to see the movie “Prisoners” when I first saw the trailer.  A couple years passed, and someone recommended it highly, so one Saturday night we watched it.  I feel violated and abused mostly by the content, but also by the ending, and how badly the movie was put together.

It leaves me wondering:  what is the percentage of movies and TV crime drama shows whose subject is the rape, abduction, kidnapping, torture, etc, etc. of women and children?  We learned as long ago as “Clockwork Orange” that movies not only reflect society, they CREATE society.  Gangs of boys recreated the rape scene in Clockwork Orange.  Aren’t young men the target for Hollywood movies?  Are these movies, then, a kind of training ground for perpetuating the woman-hating and life-hating violence that permeates our society?

Where are the positive movies, about love and cooperation?  That when a natural disaster occurs, neighbors work together, to share food and resources, and support each other?  How about movies that show a positive future where nuclear war is averted forever; the war machine is dismantled; and there is no more war?  Where people learn how to communicate about their differences with love, or at the very least respect?  (I do know there are peaceful movies, but they’re generally not the blockbusters that everyone knows about; we need to share the titles with each other, or they get missed. I’ll share two now:  “Larry Crowne” and “Interstate 60”.)

Just today a close friend told me she thought war was in our DNA — to which I adamantly refuted her by quoting “The Chalice and the Blade” by Riane Eisler (one of the most important books of the last century per Ashley Montague, and me).  In this book, she proves that before the current wave of patriarchy (which is only 5,000 years old), humans lived cooperatively, with plenty of cultures experiencing no war, no weapons, and no domination.

We can do this!  We can live without war.  We can live peacefully, cooperatively, kindly, in service to each other.  The founder of Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg, talks about our innate drive to be of service to each other.  THAT’s what’s in our DNA.  Our culture devalues that quality, but it’s there in each of us.

Most of us have heard:  it starts within.  Or lately: that’s the only place change occurs.  OK, I believe it starts within, but I do not believe it ends there.  I do believe every moment I am peaceful within, free of anger, resentment, and worry, I contribute to peace on the planet.  That doesn’t mean I shut down my feelings.  What works to help me be in a truly peaceful place (rather than in denial) is to practice gratitude and acceptance.  When I get angry, I now know it’s because I’m not getting my way, and when/if I can remember that, I can move into acceptance.  I’ll write about my journey with gratitude in my next blog.


Anniversary trip to Cape Cod & Somerville 151As a little girl, I learned my mom grew up in upstate New York in a farmhouse without running water or electricity.  It was years later that I realized this meant a cold outhouse in the middle of snowy winter; kerosenes or candles for light; no quick meals; having to rely on a wood stove, etc.  But no matter how poor they were, she was proud to announce that they always had dessert.  It might’ve been meager, but dessert there was.

I grew up with dessert every night after dinner.  Everything made from scratch:  cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, etc.  I learned to bake cookies before I was a teenager.  On most days since I’ve been alive, I have eaten sugar.  Since I seem unable to quit, I guess that means I am a sugar addict.  There, I’ve admitted it.  I can hardly go an afternoon or evening without craving something sweet.  It’s my “treat” for the day…whether I had a good day or a difficult day, whether I played or worked, or both…I feel I deserve a “treat”.  It’s a “reward”.  Over 20 years ago, a body worker told me that sugar removes fluid from our joints.  I read “Sugar Blues” close to 40 years ago.  I know all the facts.  Now that I’m older, however, I’m FEELING the facts:  my neck hurts every time I eat sugar; my shoulder joints don’t like it much either.  So I’ll go a week or more without sugar, and the pain is gone, and I’ll forget….just like any addict.

I’m not alone in my struggle with the white powder.  That’s heartening.  This morning as I finished meditating, I lit a candle with a prayer that “the craving for sugar is removed…..well, no, how about that when I have a craving, I remember that sugar is not my friend and that it’s NOT a treat….OK, so help me recognize the craving, and have the strength to say, no thanks, I prefer my health.”

Now I need help finding replacements.  Here’s what I’ve heard and tried so far:  avocado, pecans, cashews, any kind of protein.  If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  This does feel a little bit like not polluting the earth, on a smaller level of course. Maybe that thought will help too: I don’t want to pollute the earth or my body.

But, gosh, those brownies sure look good…….”I’m only human after all”….. the real message I want to convey here is:  Be kind to yourself, be gentle with yourself, no matter how many times you do what you don’t want to do.  We fall, and then we get back up again, over and over.  We learn through our falling.  Rather than berate myself for falling, I’d rather give myself a hand back up again.  I hope you will too.


As I’m reading more about sex trafficking, and that it’s estimated there are over a million enslaved women and children worldwide (UN estimate 2001: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/slaves/etc/stats.html), I begin to wonder why every time one of them breaks free, we don’t see it in the news. Wasn’t it last year that the man in Ohio was found to have enslaved three of his daughter’s high school friends for over 10 years? That was HUGE news. We were all aghast to think of the kind of life these young women had to endure, living as they did with no freedom. Here in Portland, Oregon, the #2 sex trafficking hub in the country, I now know there are lots of women, girls and boys unable to leave, who have no freedom. These are women, girls and boys who are forced to prostitute their bodies to scores of men every day (up to 40 times a day – eeks.) No freedom to feel the sun on their face, to eat what they want when they’re hungry, no walks around the block or to the park, no telephone calls with family and friends.  No freedom, enslaved.

Used to be, everyone thought that sex slaves were imported to the U.S. from other countries, usually under false pretenses (jobs, marriage, etc.). Now we know that vulnerable girls and boys are courted in malls and other places where young people congregate. Poor and neglected children are especially vulnerable. It’s almost too hard to comprehend — don’t you think?

Portland State University is hosting a Take Back the Night action on April 24th starting at 5:30pm in the Park Blocks (http://www.pdx.edu/wrc/take-back-the-night-2011)((yea, it says 2011, but it’s really about 2014)) — it would be nice to hand out leaflets with steps everyone can take to address this issue. If I can keep my attention on this topic long enough to figure out what steps we can take to shine light on it. Maybe I’ll see you there? Bring your flashlight.

take back the night