Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Happiness Poem

Here is a poem I am working on, inspired by dharma talks and long days of looking at data. It is called 'Happiness'

The plasticity of the brain
Retracting and building neural connections
makes common tasks easier

Therefore, practice happy common tasks
Rejoice at the lovely,
praise friendliness,
Laugh and dance and hold babies
The neural pathways to happiness become superhighways

The backward-lighthouse-beam of information gathered by the eye
Offers billions of bits of information a second
Processed and transformed to serotonin and a smile
To be driven directly to the heart

Ever increasing with light and love

the very neuro-biophysical process itself
destruction and construction
Beijing meets manhattan: the roadmap of a swelling frontal lobe
Medulla oblongata now small country lanes,
little footpaths through a garden

Brain and heart and dancing laughing body
Molded by the patterns and tasks of a joyful life

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Monday, 20 April 2015

A taste of mountains

The wild edible plant of Indian Himlayan Region –Jakhiya or Cleome viscosa is found in tropics throughout the world and is used in traditional medicine in many parts of India and outside. Almost all the parts of the plant are used for treating diseases. The spices grow in the wild or in fallow land of the region. The Indo-Mongoloid Bhotia tribe of Garhwal has traditionally collected it from Alpine and dry temperate forests but also cultivate it in low altitudes.

As Shalini Dhyani writes in a recent article on the plant, "After having satisfied my taste buds with a variety of spicy and not-so-spicy foods, I can say that Garhwali food is undeniably tasty." But it is not easy to get, to taste has to plan a trip to Uttarakhand and look for home-stay options rather than commercial establishments.

A 1999 study by R K Maikhuri of Almora-based G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, published in the journal of Economic Botany on the agro-ecological significance of jakhiya says it is not a commercial crop because most of it is consumed locally. People collect the seeds and gift them to their kin living in areas where jakhiya does not grow. As the unique tang and essence of jakhiya has gained popularity, the demand for its seeds has increased in the region.

According to an article published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry, the high protein, amino acid, and mineral content of this plant can make it a crop of high economic importance. Another recent publication in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology says Cleome viscos can be considered an efficient source of biodiesel. Oil of the plant has all the properties which jatropha and pongamia have. A plant to watch out for both in terms of potential for sustainable economic development and in the struggle for indigenous peoples rights and food sovereignty.

Shalini Dhyani's full article at

Sunday, 19 April 2015

CURLS Summer School 2015

Towards Organic Asia the School for Wellbeing are planning and coordinating the Chula Right Livelihood Summer School (CURLs)
CURLS 2015 takes place from July 24 – August 7 2015 in both urban and rural areas of Thailand. Its theme is ACTION RESEARCH: EMPOWERING 'RIGHT LIVELIHOOD', including the topics of Urban – rural dynamics, food sovereignty and a new world economy in the making; agroecology; seeds autonomy of farmers; food cultures; traditional-indigenous wisdom; cosmovisions. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

When Death Comes – A Poem by Mary Oliver

On my way back from Uganda now after a fantastic and very hot time. It was also a serious struggle with tropical intestinal parasites and a boda-boda (motorcycle) accident - wherein I somehow forgot my Aikido roll, which had saved me in past accidents, and landed poorly on my elbow. - The german doctors have me patched up now but all of this leads me to the clear realization that this body is impermanent. 

I am therefore revisiting one of Mary Oliver's poems that used to be pinned to my dorm room door at Sterling College in Vermont.  

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Friday, 3 April 2015

Reverse Linguistic Imperialism (or) Nature Poems

Animists perceive and talk about the natural world in a profoundly different way than most and thus include nature in their moral community. They do not consider nature to be 'natural resources' to be used and exploited but rather as relatives and ancestors. This animist way of relating to nature may offer important keys to a sustainable future for humans.

In 'YES! Magazine' Robin Wall Kimmerer points out that in her native Anishinaabe language beings other than humans are not referred to as 'it'. She has an excellent point that if we were instead to use more intimate language for the natural world we could begin to transform our relationship with nature. Kimmerer suggests that we develop a pronoun in English as "...a kind of reverse linguistic imperialism, a shift in worldview".

She goes on to suggest that we use 'ki' as a personal pronoun for non-human lifeforms and 'kin' for the plural. It reminds me of the feminist book "Cunt" by Inga Muscio. In it Muscio made the argument that non-gendered people should be called 'Zi'. In 1999 when I first read Muscio's work I was at a small college on Mount Desert Island with very open minded group of young people and we used 'Zi' with our non-gendered classmates. However, the pronoun never stuck in the vocabulary and was very awkward to use anywhere outside of campus. Genderless people continue to search for a pronoun and the commensurate respect and love of the dominant community as does the natural world.

As Gary Snyder says "most kids are natural animists". I know that is it is true for me. As a boy I spent much of my time in the forests and oceans of the Maine coast observing and learning the patterns of the natural world through all the seasons. I also find that it is true for many ecologists and poets, evidence of which is found throughout their writings, as in Alan Watts' translation of Basho's famous frog haiku:

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:

I suggest that we look back to the Transcendentalist and beat writers, our own linguistic and poetic ancestors, and their translations of mountain poets of Asia, for some less gawky ways of honoring nature in the English language. Snyder himself often referred to the plants and animals as 'grandfather' and 'grandmother' which is how this gets translated to me in the field when working with animist teachers.

Here's a poem by Gary Snyder that lends itself to this animistic child-like curiosity called 'They're Listening'

As the crickets' soft, autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees
as are they
to the rocks and the hills.

Read Robin Wall Kimmerer's piece in YES! Magazine: