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February 28, 2015

Today we went to Kim and Adam’s house in Ballard for brunch with the Loewen family, minus Matt and Todd. In the morning I made some France-themed booties for their unborn daughter, Mirabelle, and Mike hung out with Neige. After brunch, we picked up a table from a 2-year-old’s birthday party in Magnolia and battled traffic back home while listening to Aye by Davido. I fed Neige while Mike and Dick picked up more tables at the Bear Creek Country Club. I napped on the couch with Neige in the afternoon and later Mike and I cooked dinner at the big house while my parents were out.

At the end of the night Neige did something new: Sustained high pitched screaming, not because she was upset or anything, it seemed like she was just learning her voice! SO CUTE.

Favorite parts of today: waking up early with Neige and starting a fire; making vocal music with her on Ableton; bath; hanging out with Adam and talking about new-dadness.
Looking forward to tomorrow: Going on a long walk! Maybe playing water polo! Having an outdoor fire!
Today I learned about the fire in our hearts – we don’t give fire to other people’s hearts, but when we get closer to them both of our fires burn hotter.

Favorite parts of today: napping with Neige.
Looking forward to tomorrow: Seeing how the new stain turns out on the tables.

Carcassone and Around

by Azure

After our hike in the Causses du Quercy, we decided to head down to Carcassone and explore the region and revisit some friends we made a couple years ago. Here is the slideshow link from that part of our trip. Again, if you want to watch the slide show with captions on, click “show info” in the upper right corner of the screen.

Morning walk on the beach
Bonus photo! Mike meditates at the Mediterranean at sunrise.


by Azure

I used a different format… I’ve put a link to a slideshow I made in Flickr with captions on most of the photos, some interesting, some not so much. In order to watch the slide show with captions on, click “show info” in the upper right corner of the screen.


Coldest morningBonus photo! This is me on the coldest morning in my sleeping bag. I love this thing

Day 1- Day 4

by Azure

Checking the mapMike checking the map day 1

Day One

We took the train from Toulouse to Martel to start our walk. After a LONG lunch, we set off around 3pm for our first walk. After climbing a hill, we made our first offering of salt (salt is the ancient currency for trading of this region, so we are making all spiritual offerings with salt) while overlooking a small settlement of about three houses. We continued on, crossing the Dordogne a little before 5pm at a place called Floirac. In the town, we met a golden lab. It was friendly and started walking with us. At several times, we tried to get it to go home, but it wouldn’t and since it was getting dark, we needed to find a place to put our tent for the night. We hiked up the hill through one of the many oak forests, the dog with us the entire way. At one point there was a clearing that revealed a viewpoint, the first we had seen since leaving the town. We realized that it overlooked the entire valley. We could see and hear everything, even the bells from the church below. The dog, our loyal companion, laid down and so we took it as a sign that we should camp there. We set up camp on the edge of a bluff and ate the bread and cheese we had brought from Toulouse. I laid in the tent listening to the sounds of Mike and the dog playing and enjoying each other’s company. read more


by Azure

About a week ago, I received an email from Mike that said, “We’re doing something different this year – a combo walk-about and pilgrimage in Southwest France. I suspect I might have had a past life in the region, so we’re going to head there and just walk. Right now we’re talking about arriving in Bordeaux and walking to the Mediterranean, though this plan might change by the time we get on the plane tomorrow night. Who knows. The reason we’re walking is that we’re going to be putting ourselves out there to be in as much contact with the land and structures and people as possible. We’re taking sleeping bags and a tent, so we’re hoping to sleep on the ground. The trek is around 350 miles.”

I was sitting in the living room of Travis and Aliya’s apartment in NYC when I got it. Mike was on the couch and I turned to him and said “Did you really just send this out to like 100 people? You know this means we have to do it now, right?”

The truth is, I really don’t think much about what we are doing, I leave that part up to Mike, but I am the logistical one in the duo and so I started thinking about how we’d get where by what means and what we would need to take. Ten days and many trips to REI/Decathalon later we are about to begin this walk-pilgrimage thing and I still have a few nagging concerns.

#1 It is the dead of winter. Today, the temperature was in the thirties and at night it gets below freezing.
#2 Neither of us has ever hiked for one whole day in our lives.
#3 Neither of us has ever camped other than out of a car.
#4 Overall ill-preparedness in general

The things we do have going for us are that we did do a one-hour test walk around the chateau grounds. Luckily it was just as cold and rainy as it will be for the hike and we survived the test. Later, Mike had a dream about trees or stars or something and ended up finding his way to this specific tree and at the base was a giant ring of mushrooms. The internet revealed that it was called a fairy ring and mythically it is where elves congregated, so we had to set up our tent in the middle of the ring and sleep out there during a storm. All in all, both tests seemed to go alright, so off we go.

In all honesty, I am excited for this hike. We returned the rental car early and I must say the feeling of freedom really shocked me. Usually I associate having a car with freedom, but right now, I feel empowered to walk anywhere, even if there are no roads! I have never had the chance to just walk somewhere like this. I like to think of it as my very own Oregon Trail type situation. Would I have made it or started crying and stopped? We’ll see today!

We aren’t bringing our big camera on this walk (too much weight), so for the most part, it is all imagination.

Heading to France

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.” – Theodore Roethke

“Still, if I’m going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful so many of those moments are nice.” – Kurt Vonnegut

A few relevant links

1) God bless the photographers. An analysis that puts compassion at the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “What is a revolutionary idea?” [No Caption Needed]

2) God bless the photographers. A photographic essay that explores how our use of every day items has an enormous impact on people around the globe. “The true price with a hidden cost.” [lens blog @ NYT] Part of the At What Cost exhibition.

3) God bless the photographers. A photo of a wet panda. [I have seen the whole of the internet]

I have never paid the full price for a cup of coffee

Here’s the post I wrote for Alex’s blog:

Alex asked me to write a blog post about what to do in Haiti and that’s turned out to be a really fucking complicated task. Haiti is such a persistent source of frustration, anxiety and astonishment to the world that Haiti is not just Haiti the place. We can’t look at it that way anymore because it’s clearly something more profound to us. It matters to us, it has its hooks in us. So I’m trying to go about exploring what Haiti is by starting with what it represents psychologically. That is, assuming we manifest this, what personal characteristic is dark enough to be Haiti, and what kind of person are we humans?
Click to read more

Stories, roles, etc

Yesterday, Sunday, was about the exploration of stories and roles. When you have some important information, how do you share it in an ethical way? It would be easy to stand on the street corner with a sign that says, “WE ARE ALL GOD!!!” but that’s not going to work. You can’t force messages, and the messages would be meaningless anyway without the person actually experiencing something.

Sunday I spoke at Anne’s ministry in her Woodinville home. (Thank you so much, Anne!) Here are some things I learned from that:

1) It was a situation where people came together by choice, which gives permission to speak about these touchy subjects.

2) I’ll learn as much new information from the audience as I put into the speech.

3) Everyone has their own thread of a story going on right now. Some of it will make no sense to me and I’ll have to listen closely to empathize, but some of it will make perfect sense.

4) Public speaking can be a trap. If this is the way I’m choosing to help people heal, then I need to make sure I’m approaching this as a conduit for the healing and not as the source. That is, don’t get an inflated ego from helping people.

After that I went to the Occupy Seattle protests with Ben. We did an interesting role playing game where one person acts as a banker or police officer, and the other is a protestor. Ben and I were each paired with a person we didn’t know. Here’s what I took from that experience:

1) an effective way to communicate when you anticipate a confrontation is to ask, “Why do you think I’m here?” This takes the attack element out of your side, it asks the person to empathize with you, and it also shows them that you care about what they think. Brilliant little maneuver. However,

2) I discovered, to my disappointment, that most of the people there had warped views of what the upper-middle class thinks. Which isn’t to say that I know what they think exactly, but I’m pretty sure they would never say to my face, “I’M RICH AND YOU’RE POOR AND YOU CAN GO FUCK YOURSELF.” Many of the protestors seem to believe that this is the position of the rich. It’s fucking ridiculous. They are putting all people with jobs & comfortable lives into a box, not giving them space to play a role in something they might actually agree with. They assumed that $=lack of compassion, and of course that’s wrong. The upper and middle classes are playing roles in a game in the same way we are.

3) Clothes are important. So many of the protestors were dressed as the counter culture. Here’s my question: If you are presenting yourself in a way that is a statement about separation from the mainstream, then how can you expect the mainstream to identify with your movement? I have no doubt that – say – 80% of Americans think that a major change needs to happen. But if my window washing clients can’t see themselves in the protestors, they’re not going to think there’s space for them in this movement. Not a lot of people want anarchy, but many people want corporations and government to be more separate. When putting on your costume for the day, consider channeling the “no corporate government” self, not the “destroy all property” self. Then when you have a stronger movement, hijack part of it and destroy all property, if that’s what you want.

4) Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of vision at the protests. Many people have positioned themselves as the enemies of “bad people” when I know in my heart from traveling and being a window washer and coaching and spirituality that there’s no such thing as a bad person, only a sick person, and you don’t heal a sick person by attacking them. I’m disappointed that this movement isn’t taking advantage of this moment to INVITE bankers to come have a genuine dialoge without wearing costumes; to INVITE middle class people to speak and offer their insight; to INVITE the Tea Party to try to find common ground and work past all the perceived conflicts.

The word I kept coming back to was COMPASSION.

    Where’s the compassion in this movement?

It just looks selfish when all the talk is about money. This shit is about JUSTICE. We should be positioning the UNJUST and their defenders as our opponents, not just “the rich” or “the bourgeois.” This isn’t us against them. It’s all of us against a story that tells us we all have to be this way. We all – every single one of us – can benefit from shedding a story that doesn’t serve us well.

5) I learned that in a conflict, the people who are trying to impose new boundaries will inevitably fail to accumulate support, even from me, who is very very friendly to the movement. The people who are trying to dissolve boundaries, who are inclusive and have compassion for their “opponents” have a better chance at success.

Suffering = pain * resistance. If we remove the attacking dialogues that demand resistance, then the pain of a major shift will be bearable.

Finally, Ben and I were talking about humor and music. I told him that I think music is a technology that allows people to communicate spiritually with one another. He said that humor (for example, a joke) is less of a construction and more of a transmission of an emotional state. We’re saying the exact same thing.

Effective communication focuses on the transmission of an emotional state. You need to use all your tools (body language, context, clothing, props, listening skills, facial expressions, content, audience participation and words) to that end.

Good power, bad power and our power

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a best book ever, Michael Pollan explains an aspect of the ethics of eating an animal: Does the animal have an opportunity to express its animalness?

A farmer is raising pigs and chickens and cows to be sold for food. While the pigs are alive are they able to express their pigness? This would mean rooting around, rolling in mud, some trotting, some fucking, pig stuff. Lots of places keep pigs in buildings and feed them corn and make them shit through metal grates. Those situations do not let pigs express their pigness, which makes their treatment (and our purchase of their bodies) unethical.

What’s going on here is that the pig has some core Self, some set of behaviors that it instinctually expresses. A farmer using good power lets the pig’s life align with its behaviors. A farmer using bad power tries to control that behavioral expression.

In the same way, we have power over other people, and they have power over us. When do we ask people to not be themselves? When do others try to control us?

I also have power over myself.

I can use it poorly by trying to control what I am, how I feel, etc, or I can use it well by aligning with my core Self.

Was that a knock at the door or just the wind?

When we were in the forest the other day I was getting annoyed with the mosquitoes. I wondered why they came to me more than anyone else. Azure said that she feels like she made a deal when she was born that the bugs would leave her alone (in exchange for something), so I decided that it was my time to go make a deal. I wandered off and laid down among a bunch of ferns in the deepest neighborhood of mosquitoville and meditated.

I ended up getting distracted by the ferns. I tried to sense the ferns with my eyes closed. I saw the inside of an immense cathedral, the roof made of fern fronds, it was lit up like they were stained glass. After a while I realized that the mosquitoes had completely left me alone all that time, which was unprecedented. I came to understand that the mosquitoes have been sent throughout my life to pester me about being so separated from nature. I hope I can keep my end of the agreement and that they will keep theirs.

Similarly, my blood pressure has always been an issue. Last night I decided to look at that. While meditating I tried to pick out which beat was coming from which part of my heart. I was able to distinguish three parts of my heart – the one at the top (toward my neck) sometimes being the loudest, but the lower left part also sometimes being loud, beating hard. I asked my heart to calm down a little, and it did.

As I focused on one part, I was startled by the strangest vision: a small leaf falling onto a flat rock. I’ve NEVER had a mental image that clear, and I’ve never had a mental image of that subject matter. Usually it’s a swirl of scenes, or if there’s something that arises out of the subconscious it’s some association with travel. This was different – it was like I was seeing something actually happening somewhere else.

When I focused on another part of my heart I felt a very cold wind, though I was in a room with no open doors or windows. Another moment I felt the pressure in my ear suddenly drop, then rise again, and another time I saw a bright flash of light in my left eye. Again, nothing to explain this stuff. Well, science would make an effort to explain away my experiences, but I’ve stopped respecting science as an authority over me.

What I need to do now is two things: 1) I need to pay closer attention to which part of my heart I’m focusing on when different phenomena occur. 2) I need to pay closer attention to the things that pester me. I need to look directly at them, listen to them, be open to the idea that maybe they’re delivering a message .


Some pictures from our 2009 trip to France.

Claude shivers in a surprise snowstorm. We had to rush to get all the nets up because if the olives freeze then their oil is ruinedish.

Philippe examines a rifle, one of the pillars of his spiritual life on Corsica. For a goatherd and cheese maker, he and his family live very comfortably.

The neighbor watches the belts that roll the immense stone that crushes olives in the ancient stone mill. The gears used to be turned by water from a diverted stream, but they are now run by motor.

I was editing photos last night in preparation for a project and noticed the similarities among these three.

Turkish Folk Music

by MIke

This took place in the basement of a restaurant in Rize, Turkey. One of the men here has taken it on himself to collect, celebrate and distribute important pieces of Turkish & Ottoman culture. You can see in the background that there’s a table of women enjoying the show as well – definitely a sign of a liberal establishment. Most of the men playing the instruments are college professors, apparently, so this is a progressive group.

They had a book with over 5,000 songs – it was a hand written book with pages falling out and notes tucked in… Somehow they knew all the songs. Apparently Turkey has 14,000 folk songs. This was a contrast to what we’d just experienced in Haiti – a culture that has only been around for a few hundred years (though some folk songs surely reached back to West Africa). Point is that countries with indigenous cultures just acquire more songs, culinary and medicinal traditions, art, unique lifeways… they’ve had more time to be where they are. I prefer traveling in places like that.

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