Discovery, Discernment, and Deepening

2012 shall be my year of discovering my voice and more ways to offer my gifts to the world. A year of discovering better ways to care for myself. A year of discovering more joy and more love.

2012 shall be a year of discernment. A year of considering the cost versus value added for all aspects fo my life and myself. It shall be a year of letting go of those aspects that do not serve me and help me serve others. It shall be a year of discerning and living my truth and my passion.

2012 shall be a year of deepening my confidence in myself, my service to the world, and my connections to the people I value. It shall be a year of seeking deeper understanding from my experiences in Kabul and my life in general. It shall be a year of looking deeper into my motivations and my fears and a year of deepening my spiritual practice. It shall be a year of dreaming deeper and manifesting those dreams.

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I am __________. You are _________.

Liberal or Conservative. . .Wealthy  or Poor. . Labor or Management . . .  Sunni or Shiite . . Straight or Gay. . . Male or Female . . .Us or Them

Labels can unite.

Labels  can divide.

Labels can  link us to social networks and to tribes where we find support and comfort.

Labels can serve as walls that alienate us from others.  

Labels can give us shortcuts for letting others begin to know us and for knowing ourselves.

Labels can prevent us from coming to know others and ourselves more fully.

Labels can empower.

Labels can harm and even destroy.

Label can open doors and lock them.

Labels help us chart our passage through life in a society that has fewer and fewer rites of passage. Labels can keep us from moving on.

Labels are a blessing and a curse.

No one should be defined by a single label. We are all more than any one of our parts. We are even more than the sum of our parts.  Labels can help us tell our own stories but they should be the start of a conversation not the end of accusation.

Now if you will excuse me I am off to see conversations about and tribal connections with those who share or are curious about some of the labels that currently play a part in my story —  edgewalkerethicurean, scanner/renaissance soulworld citizenpronoiacgeek, teacher,  INFJ, and disaster preparedness/response volunteer. I’ll also be working on the courage to add writercoach, and advocate to my story and making peace with academic being a part of my past.

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Non-goals and new beginnings

The last part of 2010 and all of 2011 were about major transitions in my life. The result is that my life is headed in a new and fascinating direction and this blog will play an important part in that journey. Yet I haven’t been sure how to begin the story here — not until today. Not until I saw post about non-goals by Joanna Powell Colbert of Gaian Soul who was inspired by Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks blog who was inspired by Erin LoGooechner of Design for Mankind.

Erin defines non-goals as “action items that I’ve already put into practice, or things about myself that I want to stay the same this year.” She points out that these non-goals balance the change many of us seek in the new year with stability. They also serve as self praise. I think most of us could use a bit more of that.  The authors of the posts that I read wrote the non-goals  the third person. I think that part of their power comes from letting yourself “hear” the rather than simply “saying” them.

Non-goals and a look back suddenly felt like the right way to begin the journey here. First a bit of context may be helpful. In July of 2010 I accepted a university administration position in Afghanistan. Given that my only experience in travel out of the US had been an academic conference at a high end golf resort in Australia, my time in Kabul was eye opening to say the least. When I came back to the US in the summer of 2011, I made the decision not to return to Kabul for a complicated combination of reasons and found myself in uncharted waters and no plan for the journey forward. One thing led to another and I am now doing a year of service through AmeriCorps to gain some experience outside of academia in general and in the non-profit sector specifically. Given that the last time my life did not revolve around a school or university I was four years old, it has been quite a change but I am enjoying the discoveries and new challenges.

My 2012 non-goals are:

  • You followed your inner wisdom even when others thought you were crazy.  It took you where you needed to be! Be sure to keep listening to your wise self but don’t forget to let your inner-child out to play from time to time (she is pretty wise in her own way).
  • You opened your mind and your heart to the adventure that is life and to living in the present and you started learning to be yourself.
  • In less than four weeks, you gave more than 300 hours of your time to help the victims of Hurricane Irene flooding in New York.  Folks noticed how good you are at handling chaos and taking care of what needs to be done. The praise you received on the job were well deserved. Disaster response work matters to you and you are awesome at it so keep up the good work and take advantage of opportunities to increase your credentials in that area.
  • You made nineteen Kiva loans to empower women around the world and here in Indiana you are helping students develop job skills which will increase their opportunities.
  • Of the 28 students in the first graduating class at the university where I taught in Kabul, six were in one of my two classes.
  • The courage to take the position in Kabul and putting up with the less than clean showers was worth it. You paid off all your consumer debt!! Celebrate the freedom that comes from getting rid of it!
  • Good job on the purging and letting go of stuff. It feels so good to create space in life for new treasures so keep it up.
  • You are finally starting to believe in yourself and to see what others see in you. You have valuable things to offer the world. Keep up the good work in finding your passion and your voice and offering it to the world.
  • You are becoming more comfortable with letting others closer to you. Having the courage to care and to let others know you care feels great.
  • You discovered that life that has room for more than work is pretty amazing and that sometimes creating the life you want requires coloring outside the lines.  Don’t forget those lessons.

As for the look ahead, I will be focusing on discovery, discernment, and deepening  as I weave  my passions for knowledge (learning & teaching), the natural world, empowering people & communities, and everyday miracles & beauty into a curious life.

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Happy Holidays

As my network of friends and experiences has grown, I have become aware of the wonderful cornucopia of reasons to celebrate the things that really matter. Many of those reasons cluster in the coming weeks. When I use the phrase “Happy Holidays,” it is not to demean or take away from what a holiday or Holy Day means to any one set of people. Rather it is to enlarge the circle of celebration to make room for all of the people about whom I have come to care.

If I were talking to you one on one, I would try to offer the greeting specific to what is important to you though I might pronounce it all wrong. When addressing a group or when I don’t know what holidays matter to you, I opt to be as inclusive as possible in my best wishes. I do this because I believe that the world needs all the joy, peace, hope, healing, and tolerance that we can spread.

So please know that for me “Happy Holidays” includes a wish for any and all of the following plus heart-felt wishes for any other holidays you celebrate in the coming weeks: Peace and Condolences to those observing Ashura; chag Chanukah sameach to those observing Hanukkah (for the record that is not a Jewish Christmas and is not a major holiday in the Jewish calendar); Solstice Blessings; Merry Christmas (whether you celebrate that on Dec. 25 or on Jan. 7 as observed my many Orthodox Christians); Habari gani to those observing Kwanzaa; Happy New Year if that happens for you on Jan 1 (including those observing the Japanese New Year) or the 23rd if you are observing the Chinese Lunar New Year). This list grows longer as my experiences and network become more diverse. (note: order of holidays is based on occurrence not any perceived importance)

So whatever you are observing: Happy Holidays and if you happen to have a birthday in the near future Happy Birthday too! I hope your special days help you reconnect to family and friends, to meaningful traditions, to your most heart-felt beliefs and that they provide blessed memories for you to carry forward.

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Guilty as charged

Me curious?  Well let’s see curious can be defined as:
  • eager to learn or know; inquisitive
  • arousing or exciting speculation, interest, or attention through being inexplicable or highly unusual; odd; strange: a curious sort of person; a curious scene.
  • Archaic usage-made or prepared skillfully done with painstaking accuracy or attention to detail: a curious inquiry
  • Archaic usage-marked by intricacy or subtlety

I plead guilty to those charges.

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Power to the People

I am thrilled to see more and more people standing up to say ENOUGH! Enough to greed and to profit mattering more than the planet and justice. Enough to sitting by and merely complaining. Enough to growing inequality.

But marching, chanting and occupying public spaces is just the beginning. For change to really happen people have to back the protests by changes in how they live. I personally think the changes are rewarding, worthwhile, and long over due even beyond playing a part in taking back our power from corporations and a privileged few. Here are some ideas for places to start:

  • Shop small, independent merchants.
  • Choose family owned businesses over chains even if it cost a few cents more or is a little less convenient.
  • Before you buy it new, consider the possibility of buying second hand, trading, or borrowing things.
  • Look for ways to barter and trade for goods and services.
  • Choose relationships and experiences over things.
  • Explore the public spaces and events in your area — parks, libraries, old cemeteries, festivals and fairs, historical sites, river banks and beaches. Find one you really like and volunteer to help out there.
  • Tell people about the discoveries you make in your own communities. Local businesses and attractions don’t have huge advertising budgets so help them out by word of mouth and through social media.
  • Pick a passion and find a way to volunteer with a group that is related to that passion.
  • Say hello to your neighbors but don’t stop there – get to know the people in your community.
  • Turn off the television.
  • Celebrate music. If you can’t make it yourself, support independent artists and local musical events and groups. Music not your thing then support your local theater groups as a member of the cast or crew or as an appreciative audience member.
  • Don’t settle for soundbites; educate yourself about the issues of the day. I bet the reference librarians at your public library would be thrilled to point you to good resources.
  • Slow down and consider your actions and the implications; challenge yourself to think of the alternatives.
  • Choose natural foods that are in season and produced as close to you as possible using sustainable and humane methods.
  • Rediscover simple pleasures and delights.
  • Find or create a group to discuss the issues and work toward solutions. Places to look might include the transition town movement, green drinks, etc.
  • Learn a new skill and then teach it to someone else.
  • Stop judging people by how they look, what they earn, and what they own. Evaluate actions, character, and what people give back to the world.
  • Treat others with humanity and compassion — smiles and hugs are free, produce no pollution, and can change a person’s day and sometimes even their life.
  • Reject mindless conformity and celebrate creativity and individuality.
  • Ask hard questions and don’t settle for non-answers.

So what suggestions would you add to the list?

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Saying Enough

I am thrilled to see more and more people standing up to say ENOUGH! Enough to greed and to profit mattering more than the planet and justice. Enough to sitting by and merely complaining. Enough to growing inequality.

But marching, chanting and occupying public spaces is just the beginning. For change to really happen people have to back the protests by changes in how they live. I think the changes are rewarding, worthwhile, and long over due even beyond playing a part in taking back our power from corporations and a privileged few. Here are some ideas for places to start:

  • Shop small, independent merchants.
  • Choose family owned businesses over chains even if it cost a few cents more or is a little less convenient.
  • Before you buy it new, consider the possibility of buying second-hand, trading, or borrowing things.
  • Look for ways to barter and trade for goods and services.
  • Choose relationships and experiences over things.
  • Explore the public spaces and events in your area — parks, libraries, old cemeteries, festivals and fairs, historical sites, river banks and beaches. Find one you really like and volunteer to help out there.
  • Tell people about the discoveries you make in your own communities. Local businesses and attractions don’t have huge advertising budgets so help them out by word of mouth and through social media.
  • Pick a passion and find a way to volunteer with a group related to that passion.
  • Say hello to your neighbors but don’t stop there – get to know the people in your community.
  • Turn off the television.
  • Celebrate music. If you can’t make it yourself, support independent artists and local musical events and groups. Music not your thing then support your local theater groups as a member of the cast or crew or as an appreciative audience member.
  • Don’t settle for soundbites; educate yourself about the issues of the day. I bet the reference librarians at your public library would be thrilled to point you to good resources.
  • Slow down and consider your actions and the implications; challenge yourself to think of the alternatives.
  • Choose natural foods that are in season and produced as close to you as possible using sustainable and humane methods.
  • Rediscover simple pleasures and delights.
  • Find or create a group to discuss the issues and work toward solutions. Places to look might include the transition town movement, green drinks, etc.
  • Learn a new skill and then teach it to someone else.
  • Stop judging people by how they look, what they earn, and what they own. Evaluate actions, character, and what people give back to the world.
  • Treat others with humanity and compassion — smiles and hugs are free, produce no pollution, and can change a person’s day and sometimes even their life.
  • Reject mindless conformity and celebrate creativity and individuality.
  • Ask hard questions and don’t settle for non-answers.

So what suggestions would you add to the list?

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the end of a chapter

A slightly different version of this post was originally posted on http://pomegranateveils.com/.

Two days ago, I resigned from my job in Kabul. It wasn’t the security concerns, the third world conditions, or the health risks associated; though each of these has been a reason for concern during the last year. I resigned for reasons associated with my job. I went to Afghanistan thinking that I could make a valuable contribution to the organization for which I worked and hopefully to the people of Afghanistan. Sadly this was not the case. I reached a point where I was no longer willing to be treated with profound disrespect and to tolerate such extreme inequities. Before anyone points fingers at the gender norms of Afghanistan, the main problems did not stem from Afghans.

For now, I am back in the US trying to regroup and find a position that will actually allow me to work for the greater good and using the skills and talents that I possess. I am not sure what will come next for it or for me. My experiences in the Kabul have made me even more committed to women’s rights and to working to end inequality. Whether that work will take place in the US or abroad remains to be seen. Who knows, I may even find myself in Afghanistan again.

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Regarding the explosion in Kabul: I am okay

This post was originally posted on http://pomegranateveils.com/.

I am okay. Evidently sometime around midnight there was either a rocket attack or an explosion in Kabul. Seems to have first been reported as explosion and now being reported as a rocket. Nothing from our security yet but it is the middle of the night here.

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I am still alive and still in Kabul

Posted originally on http://www.pomegranateveils.com

I don’t have a post of any substance to make but wanted to say that I am still alive and still in Kabul for those of you who keep track of me here. I have been ordered to limit what I say about things connected to my work life here. Since I live in work provided housing and spend all of my time with people from work that pretty much means saying anything about my direct experience is off limits. The pace of this time of year and the deteriorating security situation mean that I haven’t been out and about to take photos or have non-work related experiences. Hence the lack of posts. What I can say is that being here gets harder every single day and I can’t really see that my being here is contributing anything useful. Therefore, silence may be the best thing to offer here. Hopefully things will shift and at least photos will appear again before too long.

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