Category Archives: Peace

Mojo Monday ~ Enjoy Every Sandwich

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As medical director of the famed Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Lee Lipsenthal helped thousands of patients struggling with disease to overcome their fears of pain and death and to embrace a more joyful way of living. In his own life, happily married and the proud father of two remarkable children, Lee was similarly committed to living his life fully and gratefully each day.

The power of those beliefs was tested in July 2009, when Lee was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. As Lee and his wife, Kathy, navigated his diagnosis, illness, and treatment, he discovered that he did not fear death, and that even as he was facing his own mortality, he felt more fully alive than ever before. In the bestselling tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie, told with humor and heart, and deeply inspiring, Enjoy Every Sandwich distills everything Lee learned about how we find meaning, purpose, and peace in our lives.


Here are excerpts from Chapter 18 called Living and Dying Outside the Box.

“We create the world we live in.  Some of us have large comfortable homes with room to grow, and others have tiny, boxlike apartments that keep us feeling small and confined.  When I was younger, I lived in a Neuroimaginal box of depression and anxiety where smart people became doctors or lawyers and relationships were like those idealized stories presented to me daily on television and in movies:  Good people get good things, love is pure an romantic, and bad guys always get it in the end.  At that time, I believed that was all there was to life.  I had no way of seeing outside that limited worldview.  it was my truth.

When I lived in such a small box, I couldn’t imagine any other world or life.  I reinforced my limited world over and over by surrounding myself with people who shared my views, passions, and opinions.  I defined myself by the world I had created. 

I had no desire to leave the little box I lived in, because there was enough comfort, security, and success for me to believe that everything was fine.  I came up with justifications for why I couldn’t change.  I had responsibilities to my wife and kids, to my work.  I had invested so many years to build this life and career that the fear of change was greater than my desire to change.  Maintaining the status quo was just enough to get by, and I told myself good stories of a successful life to avoid thinking about change.  I had solid defense mechanisms.  

I was a physician with a wife, children, and a thriving practice.  Everything was supposed to be great, but a restlessness began to grow inside me. This restlessness became anxiety and dissatisfaction, and although I wouldn’t have used this terminology then, my soul began to call out to me for what it needed: a new self, a new world, something larger.  My desire to change began to exceed my fear of change.

I started to explore other options and ask other people about their experiences.  People around me who had changed their worlds told me, ‘Oh, it’s easy; I did it.  And look how happy I am now.  All you need to do is…’ I thought that they just didn’t understand how hard change would be for me.  I was a successful doctor.  They hadn’t lived my life; they weren’t me.

In retrospect, these people had made substantial changes in their lives, but in doing so they forgot what it was like to be stuck in a world of limitations.  For them, changing their world seemed so easy, a no-brainer, and of such great value that they wouldn’t have it any other way.”


“Birthing a new life, scratching your way our of a confining box, is very much the same; the freedom and expansiveness at the other end make you forget how traumatic and difficult the work of escaping was.  Today I can’t imagine living my old life, but I can say that leaving it behind was not easy.  I have not forgotten totally the pain of delivery.

But pain always seems to push us until vision starts to pull us. In my thirties, the pain of living in my depressed and anxious little box finally surpasses my desire for safety, and I began to scratch away at the lining of the box in which I was stuck.  For years, I didn’t even know where I was going.  I just knew that my old world wasn’t enough.  I scratched away at that box with simple tools: meditation, exercise, rock’n’roll, love, and therapy.  I had no idea what I would find outside the walls of that box.  I only knew that it was too painful to live inside it anymore.  I was living the life I was supposed to live, but my soul was withering.  

So I scratched away each morning, each evening, and each and every day until a small streak of light started to shine through.  The wall had become just thin enough for me to know that there was something outside this prison of my own making.  After I could see that small glimmer of hope, the effort started to feel worthwhile and change became possible.  Inspired, I scratched some more.

After years of scratching, struggle, introspections, and disruption in relationships, the thin opening in my small box became wide enough for me to step out.  What I found was scary, unknown place where all my old emotions and thoughts lived but where they were now accompanied by a new worldview in which thoughts and emotions were just of the moment, not the definition of myself.

This new world I had entered, this new home, was a place of transcendence, anger, depression, and joy , and I had to deal with it all.  There was no shield expect love.  Somehow, without being aware of it, I had created a new home for myself.  It was a safe place both to grow in and from which to venture out into the risky unknown.  From this new home, life became and adventure in which difficulty was just something to dive into. Every time I did dive in, I came out stronger than before.  I came out refreshed and renewed. 

This new house of my own creation has changed and now has many rooms.  I have built it over many years with my practices of meditation, prayer, therapy, and journeywork, and it continues to expand.

This home has a room called depression where I can sit after struggling to walk up our small hill because my postradiation lungs are burned, coarse remnants of the pink, healthy tissue they once were.  In this room I sit and listen to Jackson Browne’s ‘Late for the Sky’ and acknowledge what I’ve lost. 

This house has a room called anger where the frenetic energy of punk rock pushes me to flail about until I collapse, usually of exhaustion, expunging anger at those who have hurt me.

This house has a room called joy, where Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power’ is cranked up to eleven on the volume dial, where I laugh, jump, and let tears of pure happiness flow.

This house has a room called love where ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys plays 24/7 and where I sit and feel the petals of gratitude in my pocket.

This house has a room where my family dances together to Johnny Clegg’s ‘Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World’ and I hold my daughter while hearing Joseph Arthur’s ‘In the Sun.’

This house has a room called peace where I meditate and Tibetan bowls ring in their sweet, harmonious tones and overtones, incense burns, and the world of today disappears in the silence of all that is bigger than me.

This house has a room called busy-ness, where a playlist of Springsteen, the Stones, the Beatles, John Prine, the Replacements, NRBQ, and many others are my welcome sound track to a life of doing.

This house has a kitchen where my friends and family gather and create warmth.  My dad sings Sinatra as we make sandwiches together — many breads, many fillings, much love.

This house has a room called death where some day –maybe this year, maybe in five years, maybe when I am seventy-eight — I will go to lie down and this body will stop and some version of ‘I’ will rest at last.  But the music will play on.

I built this house with practice, experience, and love.  It took years of work. It didn’t exist before me, and it may not be there once I cease to be.

You too can build a house of your choosing.  Like any labor of love, it takes time, patience, and practice.  Even if you only have time left to redecorate one room in your existing house, it’s worth the effort.

If you are confined inside four small walls, it is impossible to see what lies outside.  When you are inside a box of pain, scratch away at the walls.  When you are inside a box of depression, scratch away.  A box of perfectionism, scratch away.  A box of self-pit, scratch away at those walls as if your life depended on it.  Because it does. You won’t know where you are going, or how to get there, or what it will look like on the other side.  But if there is pain or worry or unhappiness, scratch away at the walls that imprison you–scratch away with prayer, meditations, yoga, exercise, laughter, art, movement, gratitude, acceptance, and love.  Scratch away with the knowledge that there is so much more to life that what we imagine it to be.  There is so much more to death than what we imagine it to be.  And there is so much more to living and loving and being than can be seen from inside our little walled-in world.”

“We all have this capacity, we can all learn the necessary tools, and we all have God or Spirit and the shaman within us.  We just need to begin to practice, to scratch away at the old Neurimaginal world we have created and build ourselves a new home. 

Patti Smith was right.  People do have the power.

Facing my mortality, chemotherapy, radiation, and especially the inability to help those whom I love has made this the most challenging period of my life so far, but simultaneously, I have felt more gratitude and more freedom and peace and life than ever before.  

Someday you will face your own mortality.  At that moment, I hope you see that your life has been well led, that you hold no regrets, and that you have loved well.  On that day, I hope that for you, it has become a good day to die.”


Questions to ponder and maybe answer

1) Author Lee Lipsenthal states “We create the world we live in.”  What are your thoughts on this statement?  Are you satisfied, content, happy in your current world?  If not, what changes do you want to make to it?

2) If you are living in the world you want and envisioned what took place to get there?  Was the journey difficult or easy?  

3) Lee describes his new life in terms of building a new home.  He then goes into detail about all the different rooms and because music plays an important role in his life he even shares the soundtracks that play in these rooms.  Consider the various rooms he names: depression, anger, joy, love, peace, busy-ness and death. He also mentions a room where he and his family dance and of course the kitchen, where family and friends gather.  Think about your own life and how you would describe the rooms of your home.  Which rooms already exist?  Which rooms might you add on?  If you are a music lover what songs would be playing in your rooms?  

4) On a deeper level what did you take from that whole section about rooms?  


Lee Lipsenthal, MD, ABIHM, was an internist, trained in the prevention of heart disease and in integrative medicine. A popular and acclaimed speaker and author, he was the medical director of Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute for a decade and has also served as president of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.  Lee died September 20, 2011, just months before his book was published.  He and his family had grow hopeful over the course of two years that he had overcome the aggressive esophageal cancer.  Yet when he learned it had returned the prognosis was that he had only six to eight months to live.  

In August of 2011, shortly before his death, he wrote an article for the Huffington Post called Dying Awake.  Here is an excerpt:

“It may seem peculiar that I am calm while others in my life are suffering. I can assure you their suffering makes me sad; I wish this weren’t happening. Yet after almost 30 years of meditating, I have learned to embrace optimism, gratitude and the knowledge that I am not in control over my life or death. Instead of being mad at the hand of fate, I am focused on what is going on — mentally, physically, and emotionally — with myself and those that I love. In spiritual language, I am awake. 

I have no bucket list of things to do. I have been living my bucket list for some time now, and when I was first diagnosed, it came to me that the real list in my life was not the places I wanted to see, but the list of friends in my life with whom I want to spend my time.”


Here is one last piece by Lee on “Living Fully” as it appeared in his article The Noetic Change Model – Living  Life of Meaning 

Living Fully
Living fully is having an ongoing transcendent experience.
It is not studying and analyzing the experience.
It is not wanting more of the experience.
It is not buying the right clothing to remind you of the experience.
It is not telling the world that you are the experience.
It is being within the experience.
It is asking “How does this experience inform my life?”
It is asking “How does this experience help me to serve others?”
It is doing the work of love without being seen.

Mojo Monday ~ The Story of Time

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Purely Pacific Northwest from John Eklund

“The Milky Way drifts across the sky. Aurora tumble and roll. 
Clouds flow like rivers or undulate like smoke.”

This video is photographer Oregon-based John Eklund’s time-lapse depiction of the Pacific Northwest.  John has this to say about his work, “I choose to shoot locations that appeal to the way I would like to interpret the story of time.”  “Here is the Pacific Northwest, there are endless opportunities to depict the magnificence of the world around us.  I have discovered that when time is the storyteller, a special kind of truth emerges.”  
The video Purely Pacific Northwest is composed of 260,000 shots John took of Mt. Shuksan, Crater Lake, Mt. Bachelor, Mount St. Helens, Oregon’s Badlands, Painted Hills, Cape Kiwanda, Mt. Hood, Lost Lake and Cannon Beach between July 2011 and August 2012.
I am in awe of this video.  There is something about nature, our planet, the stars, the cosmos above, that leave me with a sense of wonder and wow, but also a greater sense of peace.  It reminds me that we are all a part of something so much bigger and greater than ourselves.  It also gives me a comforting reminder of the way we are all connected on this planet.  

Connecting with the beauty of nature has always been a grounding touchstone for me.   Is the same true for you?     


Consider getting out, taking your camera and going for a walk in your neighborhood or a nearby park or if you have more time on your hands, take a little drive and go exploring to find some fall color.  Perhaps your adventure might even call for a hike in the mountains.  

Come back and share photos after your outing.  

Do they tell a story?  

How did you feel during the outing?  
Here is a photo slideshow from the world of nature my family and I have been enjoying the last few days in beautiful Northern California.  

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Mojo Monday ~ Designing A Vision of Peace

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We talk about wanting peace.  What is peace? How do we achieve it?  Is it possible to obtain world peace?  Can we design a vision of peace? 

Israeli designer Ronny Edri is attempting to do just that.  It began with uploading to Facebook a simple poster of him and his daughter, with the words “Iranians we will never bomb your country.  We love you.”  Here is a video of Ronny Edri sharing about how it all began..




If you have yet to discover and “like” the Israel-Loves-Iran facebook page, please visit. I have been following along with this amazing project since it began.  This is a grassroots peace movement that shows how social media is changing how we can connect and see one another as people, not nationalities that are supposed to be at odds with one another.

This building of relationships and connections is incredibly powerful. When the faceless people of a nation suddenly have names and are sharing that neither wants war or mean each other harm, there is a shift that takes place.  A powerful shift.  Is it strong enough to hold back the tides of a war that political leaders may be manipulating into reality?

Thich Nhat Hanh shares this in his book Being Peace:

“During the war in Vietnam we young Buddhists organized ourselves to help victims of the war rebuild villages that had been destroyed by the bombs.

Many of us died during service, not only because of the bombs and the bullets, but because of the people who suspected us of being on the other side. We were able to understand the suffering of both sides, the communists and the anti-communists. We tried to be open to both, to understand this side and to understand that side, to be one with them. That is why we did not take a side, even though the whole world took sides. We tried to tell people our perception of the situation: that we wanted to stop the fighting, but the bombs were so loud. Sometimes we had to burn ourselves alive to get the message across, but even then the world could not hear us. They thought we were supporting a kind of political act. They didn’t know that it was a purely human action to be heard, to be understood. We wanted reconciliation, we did not want a victory. Working to help people in a circumstance like that is very dangerous, and many of us got killed. The communists killed us because they suspected that we were working with the Americans, and the anti-communists killed us because they thought that we were with the communists. But we did not want to give up and take one side.

The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of…[another citizen] we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous-we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don’t do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”

So how do we create understanding between people?  How do find common ground?  I think it is helpful as Thich Nhat Hahn recommends, is identifying with not just one side, but with both sides.  I think there can be much enlightenment when we look back and explore the history of a situation, the back story, so to speak.  What is the history between Iran and the United States of America?  Does the past between our two nations have any affect on the current situation?  If you want to learn more keep reading below.

The Iran Agenda:

I still cringe to this day when I recall George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address from January 29, 2002.  This is the speech in which Bush referred to  Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil.”  I still want to slap my forehead, shake my head and ask aloud to anyone listening, “How in the world did the President of the United States think it was okay to label three nations as evil, and even worse, do it in public at an event where the world was listening?”  

My own take on those events is that the administration was beating the drums of war and building their case to convince the American people that more wars would likely be necessary to protect their homeland.  The war in Afghanistan had begun on October 7, 2001, less than a month after the events of September 11th.   Then on March 19th, 2003, after many accusations that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, the United States, accompanied by the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland attacked Iraq.

Even after Bush’s axis of evil pronouncement  in 2002 a number of nations were alarmed at this statement. Mohammed Khatami, who was President of Iran at the time, had made a concerted effort to tone down hostile rhetoric toward the U.S. as part of a more pragmatic foreign policy, but he condemned Bush’s demonizing of Iran as “meddling, warmongering, insulting and a repetition of old propaganda.”

Many Iranians expressed sorrow and support for the United States after 9/11. There were even candlelight vigils held by Iranians.  What was also very fascinating to read in a book by Reese Erlich called The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis is how “the Iranian government cooperated with the United States in its efforts to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan.  This may come as a surprise to those who want to neatly place all Islamic fundamentalists into one group, but Iran solidly opposed Taliban rule.  The Taliban murdered nine Iranian diplomats in 1998, almost leading the two countries to war.  Iran had supported the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban.”  Iran was going to assist in the alliance to invade Afghanistan. The US initially praised Iran’s “constructive role” in the meetings.  “In January 2002, Iran pledged $560 million for Afghan reconstruction aid, the largest amount offered from a third world country.”  According to the author Erlich, Iranian officials told him “that they expected the United States to extend the contacts over Afghanistan into a wider dialogue about U.S.-Iranian relations.”  Instead President Bush proceeded to denounce Iran later that same month as part of the “axis of evil” and this effectively shut down relations.


An organization called Just Foreign Policy includes on their web site the following statement: “The Bush Administration has deployed a rhetoric of confrontation against Iran, including the threat of military force without United Nations or even Congressional authorization. Many of the Bush Administration’s claims that Iran is a threat echo claims used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq and rest on similarly dubious evidence. Policies have been approved, such as authorizing the killing of Iranian officials in Iraq, that could easily escalate into a broader military confrontation.”  In addition they state “Americans are being told that Iran is on the brink of developing nuclear weapons, supports terrorism, is helping to kill American soldiers in Iraq, and is determined to destroy Israel. Therefore, the reasoning goes, we must prepare to attack Iran.”


Stephen Kinzer, the award winning author and former foreign correspondent for the New York Times rejects this argument. He, along with a diverse group of other experts on Iran, Congressional leaders and military experts have been traveling across the country to present other perspectives and options for a more rational foreign policy towards Iran. You can read more about their ideas at the web site The Folly of Attacking Iran, which is also part of the Just Foreign Policy organization.

My understanding of the history of Iran was greatly illuminated by reading Stephen Kinzer’s gripping book called All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. In great detail the book shows how the United States has played an active role in Iran for decades, often in ways resented by Iranians. The USA organized a coup in 1953 against the popular and democratically elected Prime-Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh had been considered a problem by the British for many years. The British over the years had gained control of various assets of Iran, including their oil. While the British in Iran lived in beautiful homes with manicured lawns and enjoyed swimming pools and such, the Iranians who worked for the oil company lived in squalor. Repeated requests to the British to share the profits more equitably with Iran and to improve conditions and wages for the workers were always met with disdain and no change.


As Iran began to question the British involvement in their county things grew more heated. The British were unwilling to be diplomatic or negotiate. They even tried to convince President Truman to help them overthrow Mossadegh so they could replace him with someone they could control. President Truman wanted no part in their imperialistic desires. The British were almost ready to just attack and take over Iran but world opinion kept them at bay a bit longer. When Truman didn’t run for office again and President Eisenhower was elected the British suspected the USA might be more amenable to involve themselves in Iran. They were correct. Certain members of Eisenhower’s administration were very open to the idea of choreographing regime change. The overthrow of Iran in 1953 is considered to be the very first coup that the American CIA organized.

After the coup, the monarchy of the Shah was reinstated and supported by the United States. There are many who believe that Iran could well have continued on the path of democracy if it wasn’t for the meddling of the USA and Great Britain. The irony is that America is supposed to be the great supporter of democracy and yet it overthrew a democratic prime minister in order to give a monarch full control of the nation.

Years later the people of Iran rose up to remove the Shah, who some say ruled with an iron fist. Under his rule he created a domestic security and intelligence organization called Savak. According to articles in Federation of American Scientists and TIME magazine, SAVAK “tortured and murdered thousands of the Shah’s opponents. It has been described as Iran’s “most hated and feared institution” prior to revolution of 1979, for its association with the foreign CIA intelligence organization, and its torture and execution of regime opponents. It’s “torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails.” After the 1979 revolution, a CIA film was found which had been made for Savak security forces on how to torture women.

In the Bush years there were alarming headlines in the news in which the Bush administration accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons.   A decade later this topic continues to make headlines and is sometimes a topic of debate, as we saw in the sparring between Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan.  Iran has however consistently maintained that they are only seeking nuclear power to improve conditions in their country and they are adamant in insisting that other countries have no right to dictate that they cannot do so. 

Here is a brief introduction to the history of the nuclear program of Iran as taken from Wikipedia.  Iran’s nuclear program was “launched in the 1950’s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program. The participation of the United States and Western European governments in Iran’s nuclear program continued until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran. After the 1979 revolution, the clandestine research program was disbanded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had serious religious reservations about nuclear weapons, which he considered evil in terms of Muslim jurisprudence. Small scale research restarted during the Iran-Iraq war, and underwent significant expansion after the Ayatollah’s death in 1989. Iran’s nuclear program has included several research sites, two uranium mines, a research reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include three known uranium enrichment plants.

In a January 2012 article in Salon Magazine, Glenn Greenwald,  noted the “killing of at least five Iranian nuclear scientists during 2010 and 2011, by unknown attackers, with no apparent outcry in the Western media.”  When researching about Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence agency, more details were forthcoming about how “Mossad has been accused of assassinating Masoud Alimohammadi, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan; scientists involved in the Iranian nuclear program.”  Per Wikipedia, Mossad “is also suspected of being behind the attempted assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Fereydoon Abbasi.  Meir Daganwho served as Director of the Mossad from 2002 until 2009 – while not taking credit for the assassinations, praised them in an interview with a journalist, saying ‘the removal of important brains’ from the Iranian nuclear project had achieved so-called ‘white defections,’ frightening other Iranian nuclear scientists into requesting that they be transferred to civilian projects.”

“In early February 2012, Mossad director Tamir Pardo met with U.S. national security officials in Washington, D.C. to sound them out on possible American reactions in the event Israel attacked Iran over the objections of the United States.”


Author Stephen Kinzer also addresses the nuclear issue in the preface to his book All the Shah’s Men: “The only way Iran can reasonably be expected to curb its nuclear ambitions would be through some kind of ‘grand bargain’ in which its own security concerns would be addressed.  That would probably require a solution that goes beyond Iran’s borders and creates a new security architecture for the Middle East.  It is not reasonable to expect Iran to abandon its nuclear program as long as its main regional enemy, Israel, and its main world enemy, the United States, are nuclear-armed and issuing a stream of barely veiled threats to Iran.”

I think that the Just Foreign Policy organization summed it up well when they stated the following “The recent history of relations between the United States and Iran has been marked by misunderstanding and mistrust shaped by the unjust use of violence and threats of violence. Violent conflict has not served the interests of either country. Military threats deepen hostilities and resentment and future conflict becomes more likely. Serious diplomacy between our two countries is needed.”

I would add to the need for greater diplomacy the following: 

  • The healing of old wounds. 
  • The releasing of the past.  
  • Forgiveness.  
  • Living in the present.  
  • Connecting. 
  • Finding common ground.
  • Choosing Love.
  • Choosing Peace.

I have written before about Iyanla Vanzant’s prescription for working through an issue, which is to Feel,  Deal, and then Heal.  Feel.  Deal. Heal.  Do you think we could get her to do an intervention for some heads of state?  Have her give them some straight talk and get them to play nice with one another and work together to make a peaceful world our reality?  

In the meantime let us join the thousands of people sending in their photos and sentiments of wanting there to be peace, compassion, friendship, love and understanding between us all.  While some may be lost in a world of revenge, greed, fear, anger, hatred and ignorance, those of us who see there is another way will continue to design a vision of peace.

Please visit the Israel-Loves-Iran Facebook page and add your part to this campaign.  There are other pages now too, such as America-Loves-Iran that you can also visit, “like” and share with your family and friends.  It is through such positive sharing and enlightening that we tear down walls and bridge gaps of misunderstanding and fear. We can all be a spokesperson for peace.  There can never be too many.  





If you can take the time, below is an incredibly eye-opening and informative video with Rick Steves who makes traveling documentaries.  In this video he visits Iran and allows us a glimpse into the lives of current day Iranians, while also sharing some of the rich history of this fascinating country.














Mojo Monday ~ Shhhhh….

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Turn down 
the volume of demands
and listen
to the grace of
the small,
the silence,
the whisper.

~ Mary Anne Radmacher


Does the pace of the world ever seem frenetic to you?  

Do you ever find yourself struggling in order to keep up with emails, texts, blog posts, facebook posts, on-line classes, and phone messages?  

Do you ever find yourself filling every moment of your day with the many forms of communicating and social networking that are now possible?

While driving or at stoplights do you talk on the phone, text, check email, or surf the web?  

Do you ever feel inundated by too much information and too much stimulus?  Perhaps too many offers to participate in this or that teleconference or amazing life-changing workshop?

Do you ever take time to just sit?

Do you ever take time to just think?
Do you ever carve out quiet time?


Does the idea of quiet time seem far-fetched, because of the demands of your life?
Is quiet time something you long for or is it something you would dread?

This piece started to percolate in my mind after reading that a favorite author of mine by the name of Brene Brown was struggling with being on all the time.  She was finding herself checking emails or the web at stoplights.  She was filling every moment with communicating in some form or other. 
Just the thought of doing those things sounds crazy making to me.  I wondered, when does she get down time, quiet time, time to just think? It made me wonder how other people balance out being busy, with taking necessary time out for oneself?
Once a week, for work, I have an hour drive out of town and then I turn around and do it again in the afternoon to return home.  While the drive can sometimes get stressful due to driving conditions, for the most part, I use this time to simply listen to music and think thoughts.  I may come up with a new idea for an article.  I may ponder something.  I might imagine a new painting.  I may try to work out a problem in my mind.  The idea of using that time to communicate with others is not at all appealing. This for me is a perfect time to be unreachable.  


Is quiet time at all important?  Are we humans missing out on something if we fill our days with constant stimulation such as pinning pictures, reading status posts of friends and family, texting till our fingers are numb, talking on the phone at all hours, or signing up for every teleconference that hits our in-box?  

In wondering about this very thing I came across this quote by the Dalai Lama:

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, 
we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

Why would the Dalia Lama believe such a thing?  Would a violent free world really be the result of all the children meditating?  Would meditation really change them and our world that much?  

Cynthia Dawn,  a writer, children’s meditation facilitator, raw and vegan food enthusiast enthusiast, and co-creator of The Intention Tree Project, shares this about meditation:

“Meditation is a powerful adeptness for anyone and we are learning (remembering really) that when we have this modeled to us as children the reverberations are profound!
On a physical level, scientific studies have found that meditation:
* increases levels of immunity
* prevents and/or reduces cancer and autoimmune disorders
* improves hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders
* alleviates respiratory disorders and digestive problems
* reduces the severity of asthma and panic attacks
On a mental and emotional level, experts have found that meditation:
* encourages a healthy sense of self
* promotes well-being and self-esteem
* increases focus, concentration and problem solving skills
* fosters awareness and creativity
* instills connection, understanding, and compassion
On a Universal level many believe that meditation is a large part of the solution for world peace. When we are at peace with ourselves and no longer fighting a physical, mental, or emotional war ~ we can be true peacemakers within our world.”
The sentence that really impacted me from above is:
 “When we are at peace with ourselves 
and no longer fighting a physical, mental, or emotional war ~ 

we can be true peacemakers
within our world.”  



I also came across this report about meditation in public schools:

“A University of Michigan study concludes that two, ten-minute meditation sessions per day in a public school setting reduces stress in children and teens and promotes emotional stability.  Participants within the study group were found to exhibit less verbal aggression, anxiety and loneliness.  Based on this study, a growing partnership of Detroit area parents, teachers and physicians are now calling for schools around the country to offer meditation breaks each day.  ‘It wouldn’t be difficult,’ a spokesperson said, ‘and it requires no expensive equipment, no special outfits or footwear.’  Since meditation is not a religion, proponents claim that meditation would be an appropriate stress reliever in the schools.”

It seems that with meditation or even just the practice of getting quiet regularly, allows you to center yourself.

BJ Gallagher at the Huffington Post wrote a brief post titled Buddha: How to Tame Your Monkey Mind that explains more.


Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention. Fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.
Buddha showed his students how to meditate in order to tame the drunken monkeys in their minds. It’s useless to fight with the monkeys or to try to banish them from your mind because, as we all know, that which you resist persists. Instead, Buddha said, if you will spend some time each day in quiet meditation — simply calm your mind by focusing on your breathing or a simple mantra — you can, over time, tame the monkeys. They will grow more peaceful if you lovingly bring them into submission with a consistent practice of meditation.



Do you long for more peace in your heart and mind?

Are there things that feel unsettled for you?

Do you feel content and happy most of the time?

Do you have time in your life to just be, to dream, to imagine, to just breathe?

What would it really take for you to start a meditation practice of your own?

What would it take to simply ensure that you get quiet time regularly?



“If we have not quiet minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.”

~ John Bunyon

“We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly…spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.”

~ Susan L. Taylor




Mojo Monday ~ What if…

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by Michelle Fairchild


What if…

Your purpose was simple?

What if…

Love is all that matters?

What if…

Our collective purpose on this planet was Love?

“Love Thy Neighbor” by Kay Smith

What if…

All we really had to do during our time on this planet was to love one another?

What if…

After Love, everything else about having a purpose was secondary?

What if…

We discovered that living and breathing animals all want to live as much as we do?

What if…

We began to live our lives as if Love is all that matters?

What if…

We didn’t take things personally?

What if…

We realized we are perfect as we are?


What if…

We forgave yourselves…and everyone else too?

What if…

We gazed into the eyes of our former five-year-old selves?

What if…

We set anything painful from our past down and give it a loving kiss goodbye?

What if…

We all released our fears?



What if…

We took exceptional care of ourselves?


What if…

We took exceptional care of our planet?


What if…

We loved ourselves?  Really, really, really loved ourselves?

What if…

We had only a year to live?  A month?  A week?  A day?  An hour?

What if…

We realized that we are all connected?


What if…

We finally understood the mysteries of our world and the universe?


What if…

It was revealed that every single one of us on this planet is a part of God?



What if…



Mojo Monday ~ Be the Change

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I look up at the stars and I feel both small and big at the same time.  Gazing at the stars leaves me with both a sense of wonder and a realization that we are all on this planet together, connected.  This week’s headlines in the world news left me feeling sad.  Headlines that feature violent acts, which in turn illicit fear, anger, misunderstanding, disconnection, and calls for revenge and yet more violence.  Such stories can lead people to grow fearful of people that they don’t even know and it can lead to beliefs that there is an “us” and a “them.”

Recently my husband and I saw a bumper sticker that read “I am already against the next war.”  Yes, indeed, that is how we both feel.  Yet, what can we two small individuals do in the big scheme of things to prevent something as big as war? 

I have been reading a book in bits and pieces, as there is much in it to contemplate and digest.  The book is by Ed and Deb Shapiro and is called Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World.  The authors include amongst their own stories the stories and words of more than one hundred meditation practitioners.  Those included vary from Oscar award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn, to Jon Kabat-Zinn who is director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, to best-selling author and inspirational speaker Marianne Williamson. 

In one section entitled “What One Person Can Do” here is what is written:

“One person can make a difference, as we have seen many times throughout history.  Usually, the only thing that stops us from stepping out and taking action is our own sense of inadequacy or doubt.  Rama had a vision of bringing people together, and, as a result, nearly 10,000 Soviet and American citizens have participates in her Citizen Summit programs.  And yet when she began this work, she was a housewife and a yoga teacher with no idea how or if she could do anything.”  Rama Vernon shares this about her story “The Cold War was at its peak.  The Korean Airlines disaster had recently occurred, bringing us very close to a nuclear war.  As I put my children to bed, they would ask, ‘Mommy, are we going to be blown up?’  ‘No, of course not,’ I would reply, reassuring them as much as myself.  ‘Our government would never let that happen.’  And then, through my yoga-teaching work, I was invited to travel with thirty others on a Peace Mission to the Soviet Union.  So, quite unexpectedly, I was in Moscow, standing in the center of what Reagan had termed the Evil Empire, behind what Churchill has called the Iron Curtain.  I was raised to believe that our thoughts create our reality, and what scared me most was that I was not alone in my fear, that thousands of Americans shares those same fear, and that if enough of us continued to hold those fears, we would create the very thing that we feared most.  I realized that the only way to change such a stereotype that we have been conditioned to believe is to bring people face to face with one another.  We could not take the Russians to the United States, so I resolved to bring the United States to Russia.”

While there is a great deal of depth in this book, there is also sometimes humor.  One such moment is when Ed Shapiro’s shares a personal story about him and his wife Deb’s private meeting with HH the Dalai Lama: “After some thirty minutes of discussion, I was feeling so moved by this gentle, simple, and loving man that I just wanted to stay there and learn from him.  I did not want to leave!  I was completely in love with the compassion and wisdom emanating from this delightful being.  Finally, I said to him, ‘I don’t want to leave; I just want to stay here with you!’ I thought he would say yes, how wonderful, I recognize your sincerity, but instead he just smiled and said, ‘If we were together all the time, we would quarrel!’”

It was both surprising and refreshing to hear that a revered spiritual leader and icon like the Dalai Lama could admit to at times being quarrelsome.   It also led to a brilliant realization by Ed when he shares this about relationships:

“So, relax, if HH the Dalai Lama, someone who meditates for a few hours every day, can quarrel, then so can we!  Inevitably, there are going to be times when a relationship is troubled, when differences collide and egos clash, when stories and histories intrude, or needs are not met.  But the holding on to such disagreements and the ensuing shame, blame, and hostile silence is the real problem.  There will always be times of flow and times of discord.  Having a disagreement or even getting angry does not make us an angry person; it is not the whole of us.  Who we are is still basically good; we needed to make a point and just may have done it in a rather unskilled way.”

Interfaith Peace mandala
When Deb and Ed Shapiro were with the Dalai Lama they also asked him what they could do to help humankind to awaken to caring and kindness.  The Dalai Lama said that people of different religions should come together in peace and respect and talk openly, honoring each other’s differences and similarities. 


Do you meditate?  If yes, do you do it regularly and why? 

What are your thoughts about being the change?  Do you feel empowered to create change? If yes, how?  If no, why?

What do you think you could do to make a difference? 


In the midst of events taking place on the larger political scene there are things that give me hope and that demonstrate how people from around the world want us to come together in peace.  On elephantjournal.com I came across a slideshow of photos taken at a pro-USA demonstration in Libya following the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  You can find the slideshow of photos by clicking here

I have also been following the Israel Loves Iran campaign on Facebook.  The photos, letters and stories that continue to be published on-line are incredibly touching and show the very personal side of people who do not wish to be at war with one another.  Here are a handful of the photos that have been shared.





Hillary Clinton also made powerful remarks in light of the recent violence.   



If you would like to read more about meditation and transformation ~  Here are some more stories that appear in the book Be the Change:

Sylvia Boorstein – “The point of meditation is to keep the mind free of confusion. Meditation, past calming our nerves, past being good for our blood pressure, past allowing us to work out our own internal psychological dramas, which it does, past helping us to get along with our kin and our community, is a way of really deeply seeing the truth that the only way to ameliorate our own suffering and the suffering of the world is to keep our minds clear.”

Robert Gass and Judith Ansara – “We can get lost in the story, which usually has fault or blame attached to it—I’m feeling this because this happened or you said that—and so we have learned to just drop the story.  Even when we are not in the place that we would like to be, we do not process about how we got there or about how we are going to get out of it; we just stop, because otherwise we can start tearing at each other.  Usually, one of us will say, ‘Are we having a conversation that is contributing to the greater good?’  We get connected first and then talk about what was disconnecting us, rather than tearing at each other from a place of disconnection, thinking that will get us connected.”

Seane Corn – “First yoga changed my body; then meditation changed my attitude.  Then I realized that whether my practice was fifteen minutes or four hours was irrelevant because it was not about how yoga changed me, but how I, through this practice, can being to change the world.  What I really felt was how dare I not step into the world and hold that space?” 
“I first started by working with child prostitutes in Los Angeles.  I did not know how my life was going to change when I entered the shelter, but I met my shadow there.  I hated those girls —and it wasn’t just girls, it was young boys too—they were so arrogant and defiant as they were so wounded.  They were also like a mirror in which I saw the part of myself that had been abused, and how I had nto dealt with my own defiance, arrogance, or wounding.  They really did not accept me at first.  Are you kidding?  This big-mouthed, floppy-headed white girls from new Jersey bounding in to tell them how to do yoga?  They slaughtered me!  It was the most humiliating experience I had ever had because I went in trying to fix them.  I did not go in there recognizing that I am them.  They took one look at me and were totally unimpressed.  No way I wanted to go back.  I sat in my car and cried and cried. The next time I went, I was way more humble as I had recognized that we were there to serve each other.”

Ajahn Sumedho – “We are not isolated entities; we do affect each other.  The more we experience this in meditation, the more we recognize how our own relationship to society need not be one of just being critical or putting up with or ignoring it, but of using our abilities, intelligence, and talents to serve each other.  If I feel a sense of ‘me’ as a self-centered isolated being, then I will just think of my own immediate pleasure or needs and I have no relationship of sensitivity to anything else.  But as I open to the truth of our connectedness, then I have a respect for all life; I no longer see others as just there for my own selfish exploitation.”

Kirsten Westby-  “I needed to mediate before I could even leave my room in the morning.  It gave me the strength to recognize that suffering is the human experience that we all have in one form or another, and not to feel overwhelmed by it, not to lose my balance…I worked with Urgent Action Fund for five years, traveling into war zones and listening to stories of what was happening to women and girls…More than anything else, meditation released me from anger.  I could feel anger coming up, but I knew that my way of surviving and working in this context was to let it go, to know that these boys were not the enemy, but were just as much a victim of this whole machine of war, forced into the army at such a young age.  Really there was no enemy; it was just a whole environment of people who had been used and abused.  I would constantly remind myself of their human qualities so I could start the day without any aggression.”

Joseph Goldstein – “There is one basic understanding that helps us in every dimension of relationship; that each one of us is totally responsible for our own emotions.  Some time ago, I was in a relationship with someone and as we were having a little argument, she turned to me and said, ‘Stop making me feel aversion.’  I started to laugh, which, of course, did not help the situation, but nobody makes us feel anything.  How we feel and how we relate to what we are feeling is completely up to us.  Generally, we blame others for how we feel; we think others are responsible for our mind states.  If we all took responsibility for our own emotions, then most of our interpersonal relationships would be a lot easier.”  “If we have the view that other people are responsible for how we feel, then we are turning over all the power to them.  We cannot control what other people do—their minds, their attitudes, or their behaviors.  But if we understand that how we are feeling is completely up to us, then we can reclaim that power.  Then, no matter what anybody else does, it is up to us how we react, how we relate.  Nobody can make us feel a certain way.”

Mark Matousek – “Albert Einstein described human self-absorption as a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.  Our obsession with physical survival prevents us from seeing beyond this primitive level, which is why meditation is so mind blowing.  Dropping below the animal level, we discover another way of seeing and being that is more vast, inclusive, loving, and durable than the fearful, self-protective mind we use ordinarily.  With meditation, prayer, yoga, or some tool for reaching through the selfish mind to our greater nature, we are doomed to remain in the animal mind.”