Robert Reich: Is Donald Trump a fascist?

Robert Reich’s video on the difference between authoritarianism and fascism, and the question of whether Donald Trump is a fascist. (Spoiler: He ticks all the boxes.)

The last generation that experienced fascism in Europe before and during WW2 is now on the way out. They saw and experienced the horrors unleashed by fascism, while most people alive today have not experienced fascism. I can’t help to think that’s why some – even many – these days seem drawn to fascism, both in the US and Europe. They don’t know its horrors.

In addition, they don’t seem to be able – or willing – to learn from history. If they did, if they set out to learn about and from history, I can’t imagine they would want to try it again. It’s an experiment we know the conclusion to.

Not to speak of the utter idiocy of spending time creating yet another distraction from the single most important issue in our time, and perhaps in the history of humanity: our global ecological overshoot and ecological crisis.

The only way for us to survive

When I worked with sustainability in Madison, Wisconsin, I remember providing an abundance of locally produced organic food to the chef at a local college so he could create a full organic meal for an event. I contacted him several times in the lead-up to the event and noticed he seemed to have a dismissive attitude. At the event, it turned out that he had only used the organic produce for a tiny soup and not for the main dish. When I asked him about it, he said: “You can’t make a whole meal with organic food”.

It has stayed with me because it seems to reflect a modern mindset that sees anything organic or sustainable or natural as a kind of fringe hippie thing and not something that’s workable or realistic.

It’s a mindset I have trouble understanding, although I understand that many have been misled by the systematic “better living through chemicals” marketing. In this case, the local organic food was of far higher quality than the chemically-produced food from the supermarket that had traveled thousands of miles that he chose to use for the main dishes. Also, we have eaten organic food for the vast majority of human existence, it’s only in the last few decades it has changed. The best chefs around the world have used locally produced organic food.

Our civilization operates on systems that assume that nature is infinite. It assumes that nature has infinite resources for us to use and that it has infinite capacity to absorb our waste. That’s obviously far from reality.

We live as part of a finite planet with a finite capacity to replace the natural resources we use and a limited capacity to deal with the waste we produce.

Our systems need to reflect that reality, or it will lead to a collapse of our ecosystems and, along with it, the collapse of our civilization.

We are in a global ecological overshoot. Our civilization is using far more natural resources than our planet can replace. We would need two or more planets to support our current way of life. It’s similar to spending more money from our bank account than what is replenished through interests, and there are no other sources of income. It looks fine for a while until we reach the bottom of the account, our lifestyle cannot be supported anymore, and it all comes crashing down.

It’s a simple calculation that even a child can understand, and often do. It’s more often the adults who deceive themselves and pretend it’s not so serious, or a hippie thing, or for someone else to deal with.

Fortunately, we have the solutions. We know the systemic changes necessary, and we know many of the more specific solutions as well. Unfortunately, making the change requires a collective will and we seem to be far from having found that yet.

Lyla June: 3000-year-old solutions to modern problems

We became what the world calls a keystone species, or a species upon which entire ecosystems depend. Our cultures became keystone cultures refined over time. Last year, much was made about the positive environmental effect of the pandemic. As more people stayed home, pollution levels dropped, and animals began to reclaim habitat. The logical leap that many observers seemed to make was that the earth would be better off without humans. I reject that leap. The earth may be better off without certain systems we have created, but we are not those systems. We don’t have to be, at least. What if I told you that the earth needs us? What if I told you that we belong here? What if I told you I’ve seen my people turn deserts into gardens? What if these human hands and minds could be such a great gift to the earth that they sparked new life wherever people and purpose met?

– Lyla June in her TED talk “3000-year-old solutions to modern problems”

Permanent awakening?

I sometimes hear people talk about permanent awakening, or even full or complete awakening.

To me, that seems like the human being – the psyche – responding to awakening, or what it interprets as awakening. It seems that it’s the psyche attempting to find a sense of safety by pretending it’s permanent, full, complete, and so on. It seems like an attempt to fix – in the sense of making permanent – something that’s inherently fluid. It’s an attempt to hold onto the river even as it’s passing between your fingers.

How can you know it’s permanent, or full or complete?

Isn’t it much better to align with the always-changing nature of everything, including this?

The reality is, this psyche doesn’t know. It cannot know. And there is an immense beauty there.

To me, that seems less stressful.

And if it happens, if parts of the psyche tries to pretend it knows and that something is permanent, that’s fine too. That too is part of the always changing nature of it all. It’s an appearance that comes and goes.

An island of ephemeral forms in space

How is my experience of the world these days?

There are a lot of old things surfacing, as usual for me. My system wishes to process whatever wasn’t fully processed in the past, so it comes to the surface to be felt, seen, loved, examined, and for it’s nature to be recognized.

Otherwise, the main noticing is that all is space and this human self and the environment he is in is like a kind of ephemeral island in space.

This space is not really the same as physical space. It’s more space for whatever is here, including physical space.

Also, the island of ephemeral sense phenomena is made up of this space.

It’s what we can call awake space or consciousness, and it takes all the ephemeral forms that are here.

There is no real center in this field of sensory phenomena and no real edges.

In a conventional sense, there is a kind of center here that comes and goes and is placed somewhere in or around this human self. This center is really a center of attention that’s here when this human self is doing things, including right now.

To others, I obviously appear as a normal person, which I am. Perhaps a little shy and I rarely talk about these things or anything even in that realm. Because of the fatigue and brain fog (CFS), I likely sometimes come across as someone with some challenges, which is also true enough.

As anything else, attention shifts. Occasionally, it gets caught up in old pain and trauma that’s surfacing. (Doesn’t happen very often but it did happen once last week.) Often, it’s on noticing all as consciousness. Sometimes, it goes into the emptiness aspect of it all, finding it all as emptiness taking the form of consciousness and all the other ephemeral forms. Sometimes, it’s on a task. Sometimes, it’s on a story told in writing, images, or spoken words.

Healing from emptiness

These days, when I do the form of healing (distance healing, energy healing) that comes naturally to me, it seems to be a healing from emptiness.

Attention goes into the system of the person / being I am doing healing for, and notice it’s all emptiness – that system, this system, anything else. It’s a blank void that takes the form of all the shifting ephemeral forms. I find myself as that emptiness.

Then, there is a slight intention of healing – or whatever the divine wishes, and staying with noticing all of it, emptiness taking these ephemeral forms.

This is not very different from how the healing has naturally happened here since my teens, the teens of this human self. But it is a shift in emphasis. Where before, the consciousness side of it all was more in the foreground, now, the emptiness side is far more in the foreground.

When this shift happened, after the Amma experience last fall, it was a bit disorienting, also because the focus of the sensing was more on the emptiness than the forms. Feedback from those I have done healing for seems to suggest it works very well, with almost no effort from my side. Of course, it’s the divine doing all the work anyway, all of this is the divine – this system, that system, the tuning in, the emptiness, whatever shifts happen.

This is all very difficult to put into words. Not so much because it’s very special or out of the ordinary, because it’s not really. But because words are never able to capture what they are about. They depend on evoking certain memories and experiences in the person hearing or reading the words, and in this case, I am aware that not too many have references to draw on for this, so words fall short.

I do know others who describe it with similar words when they do healing. I received a few sessions from someone like that a couple of years ago, and I wonder if that didn’t initiate or support this shift for me.

The three I know, including myself, all have natural healing abilities and we have also all taken quite a few Vortex Healing classes. I suspect those classes, and the work it has done with our energy system, is part of it.

Looking at possible tags for this post, I am reminded that I have written about oneness healing in other articles. This is a form of oneness healing, just with a different aspect of our nature in the foreground.

I should also mention that this is not anything that happens intentionally. Engaging and inviting in the healing is intentional, and the rest is noticing and remaining with and as that noticing.

Reforestation & carbon credit cooperative

Carbon credit is a hot topic these days, and a lot of businesses are buying carbon credits to make up for some of the damage they are doing to our ecosystems.

These carbon credit projects typically involve reforestation, with the idea that trees will absorb and store greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. There is a great deal of difference between these projects. Some use sound ecological principles, use native plants, focus on creating biodiversity and good wildlife habitat, and so on.

Other projects plant whatever wherever without much consideration for the native ecosystem. (It may be faster and more convenient since nurseries typically don’t have many native plants.) In an ecological context, these may do more harm than good.

CURRENT CARBON CREDIT REFORESTATION ORGANIZATION IN THE ANDES

Where I live in the Andes, there is such a carbon credit organization. They provide reforestation for free to the landowners and sell the carbon credits to corporations.

They seem to do good work. They have a good understanding of ecology. They use a variety of native species. They develop the design in close cooperation with the landowners, and they adapt it depending on the wishes and needs of the landowners. For us, they include food-producing trees along the main path to help create a food forest, and they plant more flowering plants along the same paths for scent and pollinators. For others, they plant trees that work well with grazing animals (silvopasture), or they design and plant to provide good conditions for growing cacao, and so on.

I am in full support of what they are doing. We have joined their project, are very grateful for their help, and actively encourage others to join.

EMPTY NICHES

Not all landowners want to join their particular project, so there are some empty niches and space for another entity to fill these.

Most of the people who join the current project are people who have moved into the area over the last one or two decades. They tend to be well educated and all for regeneration. In contrast, many of the locals are generally skeptical about these types of projects. They are concerned, likely based on past experience, that they will be taken advantage of, that they will lose control over their land and what’s done with it, and so on. This is a classic dividing line between newcomers and locals in rural areas.

Several people have their own reforestation projects, so joining this one makes less sense to them.

Also, while the current group is planting mostly native plants, they are using a relatively traditional approach. They are not using methods developed within permaculture, syntropic agriculture, and so on.

So why not create a new organization to fill the empty niches of (a) locals skeptical to joining a project run by outsiders, (b) people who already have their own reforestation project, and (c) people who want to use a slightly different approach, informed by permaculture, syntropics, and so on.

A REFORESTATION & CARBON CREDIT COOPERATIVE

It could be a cooperative, and the members would be local landowners who want to reforest parts of their land in exchange for carbon credits.

We will need a strong certification and monitoring process, likely overseen by an independent third party.

We will need full transparency about all parts of the process – to the members, the certification entities, the carbon credit buyers, and the public.

We would need clear guidelines and rules for the members.

MEMBER COMMITMENTS

The commitment for the members would likely include:

Timespan. Likely a commitment to allow the trees to grow for 20-30 years minimum.

Planting guidelines. Following certain design patterns, use a minimum percentage of native trees, use a minimum variety of trees and plants, and plant at the beginning of the rainy season.

Maintenance guideline.

Sustainability. Chemical-free, possibly other sustainability practices.

Focus on biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

Monitoring, reporting, and audits.

Membership fees. An initial membership fee and an annual percentage of their carbon credit income.

Legal agreements.

Agreement to a code of conduction.

Community support. Attend meetings, share knowledge and best practices, etc.

Transparency. Records, audits.

Accountability. Consequences of breaking agreements.

A NURSERY

With our own small regeneration/food forest project, we are seeing that the main challenge is finding enough seeds and saplings for native plants. The cooperative could have its own nursery, either in a central location or distributed on the land of several members. The people in charge of the nurseries would be paid by the co-op.

A WIN-WIN-WIN SOLUTION?

To me, this seems a win-win-win solution.

Corporations have one more place to buy carbon credits, and some would likely prefer to buy carbon credits from a cooperative using sound ecological practices.

The landowners benefit from the extra income.

One or more people may be hired by and work full-time for the co-op.

The co-op and/or individual landowners will hire people to do the planting, initial maintenance, audits, and so on.

The land and wildlife benefits.

It would be a good model for others. A part of the commitment for the co-op would be to share and train others in creating their own cooperative.

I also suspect it may not interfere much with what the current organization is doing. There is plenty of land in the area ready for reforestation. The ones joining their project will likely be a different set of landowners than would join the co-op.

The photo shows the canyon during a rainstorm, I took it when we first came to the area a couple of years ago.

Architecture that feels good

My father is an architect and artist, and I remember he once told me his main guideline for architecture: It should feel good. It should feel good to be in and around the building.

I am trained in architecture (MA program at the University of Oregon), and have also learned a lot about it through my own studies of vernacular architecture, and it’s always stayed with me. For me too, it’s a guideline for good architecture, along with a few other essentials like building with the landscape, sun, wind, and water, building for the climate, using local and natural materials as much as possible, and so on.

I designed the big house on our land in the Andes, which is now close to being finished. Another architect took over and did the details and has overseen the building of the house.

In general, I am very happy with the work she is doing and we agree on almost all.

And yet, there is one thing that is bugging me. I wanted a solid stone or metal foundation for the wood poles outside of the building. (These poles support the roof of the veranda that wraps around two sides of each of the two buildings.) Ideally, I would have liked a strong metal ring to serve as a base. She wanted a very light and almost invisible metal support to make it look like the poles are hovering. Unfortunately, as I see it, her approach won out.

Her approach is a typical modernist approach. With modern materials, we can do things that wouldn’t be possible with traditional materials, and it’s often done just because it’s possible and unusual.

For me, it doesn’t feel good. The animal in me feels that it’s precarious and doesn’t feel safe. Viscerally, it feels precarious, unsafe, and uncomfortable.

Here, as with so much in life, it’s not about what we consciously know or how we consciously see it, it’s about how it viscerally feels to the animal in us.

So why do some prefer it? Why is this type of design so common in modern architecture? I assume it is because so many lead with their conscious thoughts, not how it viscerally feels to the animal in them.

It’s a symptom of a civilization that’s not aligned with nature and with us as animals and nature. (It also doesn’t feel good with unnecessarily tall stone walls around the outdoor shower area since they make it feel like a prison, but I think that may be changed.)

A part of me is annoyed by this, it’s a reminder of this aspect of our culture, it’s a reminder that I tend to put stones in my own shoes if life appears to not go my way, and I know it can be changed in the future.

Often with this Andes project, I have put forward my view and recommendation (usually based on a good deal of experience and knowledge), the others have ignored or dismissed it (as often happens in my life), and they later realize that my approach was a good one, and we try to remedy the situation as best we can.

The photos are from the last few weeks of the building project. The buildings are made with local and natural materials, mostly in the traditional style, with rammed earth (tapia pisada) which is a traditional building technique in the area, and they are mostly built by hand. The “hovering” poles can be seen in a couple of the photos.

Dream fragment: Regeneration and no animals

I am looking at a long artificial reef someone has made to attract sea life. There is no life there.

DAY RESIDUE AND CONSCIOUS CONCERNS

This reflects my waking mind. I am daily – through the day – reminded of the loss of life where I am outside of Oslo and in the world in general. There are almost no insects left. Very few birds. Very few of the many animals that used to live here. It has changed dramatically over just one or two decades, and it’s dramatically different from how it was here when I grew up.

The Oslo fiord is also almost devoid of life. I was in Stavern, a coastal town on the west side of the fiord, on Friday, looked down into the water several places, and saw no life. When I was little, I remember seeing a lot of life in those kinds of places in the Oslo fiord – seaweed, starfish, schools of fish, jellyfish, and more.

This is the collapse of our ecosystem, of the web of life we are an intrinsic part of and that gives us life.

Throughout the day, I see the absurdity in how people live their lives as if nothing is happening. They still drive their cars. They still buy non-organic foods. They still vote for political parties with little to no concern about the collapse we are in the middle of. They still maintain absurdly manicured lawns.

How can they buy food grown with chemicals and toxins when they know that’s a major cause of the loss of insects? How can they vote for parties and policies that don’t take our ecological crisis seriously? Why do they maintain their absurdly manicured lawn when they could have a natural garden full of food and life, and that requires far less maintenance?

I do some of these things too, of course. I sometimes fly, which is the activity that increases my ecological footprint the most. I sometimes buy non-organic food (if I can’t find organic). I maintain a lawn right now since this is not my own house. I sometimes buy clothes I don’t strictly need.

I live in this system too, a system that’s set up to not take ecological realities into account. A system that’s out of alignment with the fundamentals of living as part of a finite planet and ecosystem. A system that’s inherently insane and where what’s easy and attractive to do is also what’s destructive for the life we are part of and the life that gives us life.

I grieve what I see and what is happening with the world. I grieve for the many beings losing their homes. I grieve for the birds not having insects to eat. I grieve for the loss of the insects. I grieve for the animals that lived here – hedgehogs, badgers, snakes, reptiles, crickets, butterflies, lacewings, swallows, wagtails – that are no longer here because it’s all lawns now. I grieve for the Oslo fiord dying. I grieve when I see people living as if nothing is happening, voting for more of the same that is destroying our ecosystems and us.

ALL PART OF ME

One side of dreams is how they connect to my daily waking life. The other side is seeing it all as representing parts of me.

How does this dying world mirror me? What do I find when I imagine into it, when I connect with these parts and dynamics in me?

I find it uncomfortable to connect with, it’s not what my personality wants. It goes against certain identities my personality likes. (Exploring it is very good, it reminds me of more of the fullness of what’s here.)

I find that when I do things not enlivening and meaningful to me, it is as if parts of me are dying. They don’t receive attention. They are not engaged with. They are not enlivened.

In general, I feel more alive when I… Do qigong. Eat alive foods. Am in nature. Learn more about regeneration, permaculture, syntropic agriculture, food forests, reforestation, soil, and so on. Develop house designs for our project in the Andes. Draw. Bring in what’s juicy and alive for me in conversations. Connect with friends. Am authentic and sincere. Connect with what’s true for me, and especially what I know that I don’t want to know. Engage in quality rest with Simba the cat.

Also, parts of me lose their aliveness when my system gets caught up in identities. Large parts of me are excluded.

The same when I get caught up in reactivity. Yesterday, I had anger come up in my system following a healing session. At times, I did get a bit caught up in that anger. That leaves out large parts of the wholeness of who and what I am. It’s as if these parts of me are dying – or even dead and gone – when that happens.

My sense is that the dream reflects exactly that. At times, I got caught up in the anger dynamics. I got caught up in reactivity to it. The consciousness I am got caught up in it and identified itself as certain views and identities related to the anger. Everything else – the rest of the alive fullness of who and what I am – became dead to me.

Just like in the dream, it became a dead ecosystem.

If I were to write this section again, I would start with that. Although I think I’ll leave it exactly as it is. It shows the process I went through to arrive there.

WAKING LIFE AND INNER LIFE

It seems the dream points to two significant things in my life over the last two days.

One is seeing the dead sections of the fiord on Friday, and being very aware of the loss of life here and around the world.

The other is what happened yesterday when I, in a few moments, got caught up in reactivity to the anger surfacing. When that happened, it was as if large parts of who and what I am became dead to me.

The photo is from the Stavern trip on Friday, from the Fredriksten area.

UPDATE: It’s the next morning, and I remember dream fragments that were reversals of this one, nature with an abundance of life. It may be that my psyche wants to balance out from last night and remind me of the reversal. It may also, and likely is, because yesterday I did not get caught up in reactivity so the wholeness of who and what I am is more alive. It’s present with me and included in my conscious orientation.

Tilda Swinton on identity

This is a good snippet from Tilda Swinton on identities and that it makes sense to not be too tied to any identities.

It’s out of alignment with the reality of the infinite richness we are. It goes against the reality of the world as our mirror, and that whatever characteristics and dynamics we see in the world we know from ourselves. It artificially narrows down our life and possibilities.

Of course, it’s also not that simple. It’s well and good to have a conscious view of wishing to be free of the confines of identities, and it can help us in some areas of life and some circumstances.

And as we know, most of what we operate from is outside of our conscious awareness and any kind of conscious control. Innumerable different parts of our psyche live their own life, and many of those will still be tied to and operate from and within identities.

That’s where exploration and intention comes in. It takes bringing this into conscious awareness with a dose of intention to invite these parts of us to shift and reorient.

Fortunately, there are many many ways to do this.

Of the ones I have explored, I find a few especially helpful: Inquiry. (The Big Mind process, The Work of Byron Katie, and The Kiloby Inquiries.) Heart-centered practices. (Tonglen, ho’oponopono.) Trauma work. (One aspect of trauma is that parts of us are tied strongly to identities, as if life and death depends on it.) Somatic explorations. (Breema, tai chi, qigong, etc.)

And then what’s more essential than any of these approaches: To notice. To have sincerity. To be tied to what’s genuinely more true to us than our habitual views, whatever we may find.

As I hinted at above, there is a big difference between identities and being tied to them. Identities are not a problem. We need those now and then to function in the world. What confines us is being tied to them and taking them as describing the fullness of who and what we are. To the extent our system does that, we make ourselves and our life artificially small and confined.

And as I also mentioned, this is not so much about our conscious view. That’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s far more about how our system operates based on its experiences and the ways it has found – often in early childhood – to try to protect us and keep us safe.

How we relate to situations

In my teens, I had a brief conversation with a much older man in a waiting room. I happened to mention that I find that how I relate to a situation is as or more important than the situation itself. That’s what shapes my experience. He seemed upset and said “Shut up until you are dry behind the ears”1. I took his advice and decided to not talk much about these things.

I know he was right in a few different ways.

THE REAL ADVICE

He shared that he had a serious illness, and he likely felt scared and vulnerable. I gave him unasked-for advice, as the enthusiastic teenager I was.

The essence of his advice for me is good, although I would phrase it differently: Don’t give unsolicited advice, it’s usually not what people want or need.

When we share something vulnerable, most of us just want to feel seen, heard, and loved. We are not asking for advice. Receiving advice can feel like a kick in the gut.

He was completely right, although the phrasing wasn’t as skilled as it could be. It’s up to me to rephrase it so it’s genuinely true, wise, and kind for me, and advice I can use for myself.

I DIDN’T TAKE MY OWN ADVICE

I didn’t take my own advice in that situation.

I allowed my wounded response to shut me up instead of relating to the situation in a more kind and wise way. I took it as a confirmation that I shouldn’t talk about these things, and in general, not say much.

I could see that it came from a wounded place in me, but that was not enough to change the course of how I responded to it.

This wound in me – to be not seen, not heard, not taken seriously, to not have anything worthwhile to share – was too challenging for me, and it’s still a theme in my life.

ON THE APPARENT TOPIC

On the topic of what I said to the guy, which is peripheral to what I just mentioned…

It’s often not easy for us to change how we relate to situations. Our system operates on habitual responses, and it’s easy to get caught in it. (These habitual responses are essential for us to be able to learn and function, and they also can make it more challenging to change.)

In that situation, I decided to talk about it in a more everyday language. I find it helpful to notice how we relate to situations and see if there is a more kind and constructive way to relate to it. One that brings in healing. That’s one aspect of it, but there is something more essential.

What’s more essential is my perception of the situation itself. That’s created by my own mind, it reflects my own biases and hangups, and it’s often created by unexamined assumptions. It’s good to notice it’s happening within my sense fields and within and as what I am, and it’s helpful to identify and examine any assumptions behind it and find what’s more true for me. That, in itself, shifts how I relate to it. I don’t need to work on relating to it differently, I can instead find a more true and kind story about the situation.

NOTES

(1) I had several similar experiences at the time. One woman in a bookstore seemed angry that I bought an anthology with Jungian essays about the shadow, she thought I was far too young to understand it although I understood it then about the same as I do now. A Norwegian teacher at the Tibetan center got angry when I shared my direct experience of tonglen, which was from within a context of oneness.

Documentary: The Gullspång Miracle – do we trust truth?

I watched the documentary The Gullspång Miracle by Maria Fredriksson a few days ago. If it’s not obvious that stories from real life are often far more mysterious, intriguing, and baffling than most fiction1, this is a good reminder.

It starts as a miraculous and happy story. A series of odd events leads to an astonishing and unlikely meeting of sisters who previously didn’t know of each other’s existence.

That’s when the filmmaker gets involved, with no idea of the weird twists and turns the story would take.

A sister had died years before and the family thought it was suicide. Meeting her previously unknown twin revealed more of the story. At the time, the police judged it death by natural causes but had not informed the family. From the scene and witness testimonies, it seemed far more likely to be a murder. Someone seemed to have tried to cover up by making it look like a suicide by putting medicine packaging around the body. (There was no trace of medicines in the body.) The police had inexplicably not followed up on any of it. How could the police be that incompetent? Why didn’t they follow up on it now?

They had thought the sister who died had committed suicide because of embezzlement, but it was likely murder, and she had earlier told someone that she was being falsely accused and set up for it. This seems to be worthy of a follow-up as well.

The reason given for why the twins were separated seemed flimsy and involved WW2 Nazis. In the documentary, there was no discussion or follow-up on this.

The sisters never seemed to discuss why they were half and not full sisters. What’s the story?

DNA tests were oddly and inexplicably contradictory. Did someone do something fishy?

One thread through the story is the tension between a traditional conservative Christian orientation and a more modern one. For instance, the Christian part of the family saw the act of suicide as terrible. (To me, it’s far worse if someone feels that’s the way out. Wasn’t Jesus all about empathy?)

It all ends as it started, with a striking synchronicity: a chandelier crashes to the floor right on the spot where the filmmaker had just been. It happened at an emotionally charged moment, just after new and disturbing information came to light. This seems to have been the last straw for the main characters, and they use it as an excuse to abandon their pursuit of the truth.

It’s a story full of loose ends, as life often is. One of the many questions I am left with is if the filmmaker will continue to pursue this story. It seems there is still a lot to uncover there, and that some are invested in it not being uncovered.

To me, the essence of the story is whether we trust and prioritize the truth. Is it more important to us to keep things as they are and not rock the boat, or to find the truth? Do we trust the truth? Do we trust we can handle it and that it will all work out for the best if it comes to the surface?

Do we trust, as Byron Katie says, that truth is kind?

NOTES

(1) Of course, there is always an element of fiction in stories from real life. They are told from a certain perspective, are based on limited and sometimes wrong information, enhanced for effect, and so on. There are also essential elements of real life in fiction. Good fiction has truth in it about human life and dynamics and the world.

Why is bird song comforting?

BIRDSONG IS RELAXING

It’s not surprising that birdsong is relaxing and comforting, especially when we experience it live in nature. We have probably all experienced that1.

It’s also not so surprising why it may be so. Birds sing when they are safe. Their song signals that the environment we are in is likely safe for us too. There are no intruders and no sudden changes.

We know this through our collective and personal experience. Our culture tells us about that association through stories and art, and we have likely have those experiences ourselves as well.

It’s also very possible that we, through evolution, are hardwired for that association, just like we seem hardwired for having some fear of heights, snakes, and a few other things.

NATURE SOUNDS IN GENERAL

That’s why nature sounds in general are relaxing. In nature, when it’s normal and safe, we have the breeze through the trees, bird song, a clucking creek, and so on. It’s quiet with a few soothing sounds.

All of it signals to us, to the animal we still are, that where we are is safe. It’s OK to relax.

THE SOUNDS OF OUR CIVILIZATION

It’s also why other kinds of sounds – especially loud noise – create stress in us. Loud sounds indicate to the animal we are that something is wrong, something potentially dangerous is happening.

We are hardwired for that reaction, and a lot of research has found that connection. (Even if we don’t think we are bothered by, for instance, city noise, our physiology tells a different story.)

That’s why most animals and birds avoid loud sounds. They get stressed by it.

We are the only ones that sometimes tell ourselves we are OK with it, whether it’s loud music, machine noise, traffic, or other sounds of our civilization.

Very likely, we are also the only species that intentionally use external noise (music, TV, machines) to mask our internal noise, created by believing unexamined stressful thoughts.

Our particular civilization is built on the assumption that we are somehow separate from and different from the living systems of this planet. (Apart from seeing it as an unending resource to maintain this civilization.) That’s far from reality, and our physiological responses to the noise of our civilization is one of many reminders.

THE ORIGINAL RESEARCH

See more about the initial topic in Birdsongs alleviate anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants published in Scientific Reports.

NOTES

(1) It is possible, of course, to have the reverse association. I am sure some do, if they experienced something traumatic in such a setting. I am just talking about the general pattern.

Chronic fatigue: What has helped me the most?

I have lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for a few decades, so I thought I would share some of my experiences.

What has helped me the most?

I find it’s a combination of several things, mostly the basics along with one or two more specific ones.

PACING

I have learned to pace myself better. I rest before, during, and after any activity.

I typically split up activities into 5-10 minute sections, with rest in between.

I schedule rest days before and after any significant activity – going out for an errand, having a visitor, cleaning, and so on.

I schedule in extra rest since things may happen so I’ll need to spend more energy than planned.

This has helped me enormously and I am still learning about how to best pace myself. It has helped me avoid crashes and generally stabilize.

REST

When I rest, I aim for quality rest – a quiet room, dark, cool, and so on.

Any activity takes energy, including listening to something or watching a movie. I still watch videos or movies, but not if I need or want to rest more deeply.

DIET

I find that eating fresh and low on the food chain helps me a lot. Ideally, it’s local and organic as well.

I also minimize and avoid certain foods: Refined or super-processed foods are often not very nutritionally dense. Refined sugar causes my energy level to go up and down too much. Caffeine gives a kind of “false energy” that masks when my body needs rest. Dairy makes me feel bloated and sluggish.

When I eat like this, I find that my system is far better at handling the exceptions since I, on special occasions, will eat just about anything.

I aim for a good general diet, and it’s good to be flexible.

WATER

I drink a lot of water, mostly in the form of herbal and spice teas and water with lemon. I aim for clear to lightly colored urine.

My highest intake is in the morning and early afternoon, and then less in the late afternoon and evening. That helps me not need to get up in the middle of the night.

I find that this too helps me a lot.

CLIMATE

I find that I feel better and have more energy in dry and warm weather, with occasional rain.

If it’s too cold (less than 15 c) or too hot (25-30 c and above), it seems that my body needs to use a lot of energy to regulate, and it’s not very good at regulating in general.

I know this is individual. For instance, I have talked with people with CFS who do better in cold climates.

ASKING FOR HELP & SAYING “NO”

CFS has helped me be more authentic.

It has helped me be more transparent, ask for help, and say “no” when I need to.

Asking for help and saying “no” is easier the better those around me know and understand my condition. Sometimes, it helps to refer to an authority like doctors or organizations that provide thorough and accurate information about CFS.

REDUCE STRESS / CLARIFY

In general, it (obviously) helps to have a stable life situation, reduce stress, find meaning in life, clarify our priorities and what’s really important to us, and so on.

In general, find what’s nourishing for you, and nourish that. Notice what drains your energy, and minimize or eliminate that.

Some of the approaches that have helped me are heart-centered practices (Tonglen, Ho’oponopno, all-inclusive gratitude practice), inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby Inquiries, the Big Mind process, the headless experiments), neurogenic tremoring (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises / TRE), training a more stable attention, and basic meditation.

I have written about this in other articles so won’t go into it in detail here.

MINDFUL MOVEMENT & NATURE

I find that gentle mindful movement – in my case Breema, Qigong, and tai chi – helps me feel more whole and myself. I feel better and can relate to situations better.

It’s the same with being in nature. I feel more alive, more myself, and more connected with the rest of life.

FOLLOW MY INNER KNOWING

I have learned to follow my inner knowing and guidance more consistently, although there is still room for improvement!

I have lived with this body my whole life, and with CFS for a few decades. I can generally feel when I am about to do too much, when I need rest, and how complete that rest needs to be. I can also imagine into situations and get a sense of how my system is likely the respond, and make decisions accordingly.

HERBAL MEDICINE

I take Siberian Ginseng (eleuthero) and echinacea for energy and my immune system. These days, I also take Lion’s Mane for my memory (impacted by long-Covid). I buy the powder, fill my own (000) capsules using a capsule-filling tray, and take 3-4 of each daily.

At times, I also take cod liver oil and/or vitamin D capsules, vitamin B12 sublingual tablets, magnesium, and/or a few other things.

ENERGY WORK

About eight years ago, I discovered Vortex Healing which is a form of energy work that can be done in-person or at a distance. I was skeptical at first since many healing modalities seem too strong for my system, but was favorably surprised. I have taken the trainings (up to UAP so far).

What I benefit from the most these days is receiving energization sessions. I notice a clear difference before and after. They provide me with a very welcome boost.

VH also seems to help with detecting and removing sub-clinical infections, strengthening the system in general, and working through any emotional issues (identifications) impacting general health and the energy system.

It also helps if I crash. It seems that my system gets very disorganized when it crashes, and VH helps boost the energy and helps it get more organized again.

For me, it hasn’t been a magic bullet but it has helped me greatly. I also feel calmer knowing that a VH session can help stabilize and boost my system.

WORKS TOGETHER

I listed these from the most basic to the more specific, not by order of importance.

It’s not so easy for me to rank these, mainly because they all work together. They all contribute.

If I were to rank, I would do as I did here and put the basics first: pacing, rest, diet, climate, and relationships.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

Some or all of this may be different for you. What’s important is to find what works for you.

Notice what you do, and notice the effects. Or explore it more systematically.

I have done a combination of both and there is still a lot for me to explore and discover.

The image is by me and Midjourney

Elizabeth Gilbert: Choosing the curiosity path

As Elizabeth Gilbert suggests, this is not about having curiosity or fear. We all have and are both and much more.

This is what we consciously align ourselves with, here and now, even in situations our minds may tell us are small and less important.

What’s here is important. What we consciously align ourselves with is important.

If I notice I align myself with fear in a particular situation, that’s OK too. I can have curiosity about that. I can find receptivity in that situation. I can wish to explore and get to know and understand it better.

Kurt Vonnegut: Practice any art… to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

– Kurt Vonnegut

Life – the Universe, Existence – is inherently creative. It has formed itself into matter, molecules, solar systems, living planets, us, everything we know. It’s still forming itself into always new things.

It’s how life gets to know itself. It expresses, explores, and experiences itself in always new ways.

We are made out of creativity. So why not consciously explore it?

When I was passionate about art in my teens and early twenties, it was for that reason. I loved exploring what would come out. I got to know myself in new ways.

This is not only about what we think of as art. It’s all of life. Learning, experiencing, having a conversation, making a meal, dealing with a conflict, gardening, going for a walk, playing with a dog…

Whatever we do is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways through and as us.

Stages of grief (?)

Yes, this likely fits most people’s experience more than the neat little diagram on the left.

Stages used for grief are more aspects or flavors of the process. The different aspects can happen in just about any sequence, several can happen at once, and each aspect tends to return more than once.

More accurately, at any one moment, one or a few may be in the foreground while others are in the background. There is a fluid change with different ones coming into the foreground at different times.

The grief process itself is fluid. Sometimes it’s more in the foreground and then more in the background of our attention and life. It depends on the situation and the dynamics in the process itself.

It’s not a neat process, and it’s often messy, confusing, and humbling.

It’s an opportunity to be more authentic and transparent with ourselves and others. To let go of facades and certain identities that don’t fit with the grief and messiness. To find genuine empathy with ourselves and others. To ask for help if we need to and have been in the habit of not asking for help. To take responsibility for how we relate to life and our experiences. To viscerally get that we are in the same boat as all beings in grief (and our essential hopes and fears). To deepen into our humanity. To mature a little.

There are some general and common patterns in how the grief process unfolds over time. For instance, it’s typically more intense at first and then we find more peace with it. (Unless we are caught up in strong trauma.) And yet, when we are in the middle of it, it feels and looks far more messy. Also, we are all different and each grief process is different.

Life is always more than and different from our ideas about it.

Underground houses for hot days

The traditional buildings where we are in the Andes1 are built to stay cool on hot days. They have thick rammed earth walls, tall ceilings, large doors and windows to provide draft, wide corridors for shade, and are often in the shade of big trees.

We have built that way too, although it still gets hot on hot afternoons, especially in the dry season.

I am thinking of building an underground building with a living roof near the main houses. It will function as a living room on hot afternoons, and perhaps even a bedroom on warmer nights.

Building it into the ground will keep the temperatures down, as will the living roof.

As for details, I am thinking of a round room, 4-5 meters interior diameter, with stone walls, and with the wall facing out also in stone with a large door. It will likely have ventilation shafts to create a nice draft.

The walls will need a water barrier, and the roof may need extra insulation in addition to the soil and plants.

The main space is down a few steps from the entrance level. This allows the building to be built further down into the ground, and it will create a space to collect the cool heavier air that sinks.

I will have to explore what plants are suitable for the living roof. They need to have relatively shallow roots and be drought-resistant. A variety of succulents may work well.

We will also plant trees for shade, and create a multi-layered food forest around the house to further reduce the temperature.

It will not have a kitchen or bathroom since those will be in the main buildings. This is more of a retreat and/or cooling space.

Daytime temperatures are typically between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius, with rare days above 30 degrees. Night temperatures are typically in the mid teens to low twenties. I slept outside during the hottest time of the year, and it was comfortable. I suspect the temperatures in this room may be between the high teens and low twenties.

Why don’t they traditionally build into the ground in this area? I assume it’s partly because they don’t need deep foundations (no frost) so they don’t have basements2. And it has also not been necessary. These days – with climate change, increasing temperatures, and more extreme weather – it makes sense to include at least one underground room. For all I know, this may be the first in the area built in this way. (Some friends of ours have outdoor toilets built similarly, but it’s not a living space.)

The drawings above are two quick diagrams I made of the plan and elevation.

(1) Barichara at 1000 meters above sea level and 6 degrees north of the equator.

(2) When the ground freezes, the foundation needs to go deeper than the frost. In cold climates, that means it makes sense to have basements since they already dig quite far down so you may as well make use of the big hole in the ground. In climates without frost, the foundation doesn’t need to go very deep into the ground, so the hole is more shallow, and it makes less sense to make a basement out of it.

From the archive: a few early drawings

I have found a few early drawings, mainly from my teens.

When I was nineteen, I was accepted into a prestigious juried exhibition in Norway (Høstutstillingen) with a self-portrait in charcoal made when I was sixteen. The drawing has been lost, but I did find this copy of a newspaper article and slides of the drawing.

These are a few of hundreds of drawings where I copied the old masters. I suspect the second drawing is from life or a photo I took of my father.

I think this may be a copy of a drawing by Michelangelo.

A composition sketch from – I think – an etching by Rembrandt.

From the archive: A few books from teens & early-twenties

I am going through storage boxes from my teens and early twenties and found a somewhat random selection of my books from that time.

Here is No Boundaries by Ken Wilber which I found at Norli bookstore in Oslo in my lateish teens. It was the first book that clearly outlined and described what had been revealed here in the initial oneness shift when I was sixteen. I had found a book by Meister Eckart that showed that he perceived it too, but it was shrouded in the cultural differences between us and likely his attempts at aligning with Christianity. Ken Wilber’s No Boundary was a bit on the intellectual side, of course, but from a contemporary who described what was and is alive here. I absolutely loved the book and read it several times.

I found Jung before Wilber and loved his books and approach. Here are a few of the books I read by him at the time. I was especially fascinated with his books on synchronicity, dream work, archetypes, and alchemy. I still remember reading his book on synchronicities on the tram in Oslo. He described writing an essay on fish symbolism in religion and dreams and experiencing a series of fish synchronicities. As I read that, a man sat down on opposite me and put down a plastic bag facing me on the seat directly across from me. On the bag was a large colorful print of a big fish.

I also felt deeply at home in Jes Bertelsen’s approach. I read all his books multiple times and put the exercises into daily practice. His approach closely matches what I had found for myself at the time: A balance between head, heart, and life. Practices from Buddhism and Christianity. Working with energy. Using the depth psychology of Jung and his followers. And so on.

I loved and love the Heart Prayer or Jesus Prayer and did it as a practice throughout the day in periods. I also noticed how the prayer started living its own life, including through the night. I also loved and love the Christ meditation where you visualize Christ (as a light or presence) in all the six directions and in the heart. These are two books and a journal central to my life at the time. The Way of a Pilgrim describes the Heart Prayer and some of it’s effects. Kristen djupmeditasion by Wilfrid Stinnisen (he has many very good books). And the Epiphany journal issue on ecospirituality.

I remember finding these two Danish books (Politikens Forlag) fascinating and a good synthesis, one on a holistic worldview and the other on reincarnation.

I loved and love Taoism and Taoist practices, including these and more books by Mantak Chia. I did many of the practices described in these books and noticed an immediate and strong effect – both in my energy system and life. I unfortunately didn’t continue after I left for the US. I found these books and practices while living with my parents so it must have been in high school or just after.

Read More

What’s the personal in rewilding and regeneration?

I watched the trailer for Wilding, a documentary about a rewilding and regeneration project in England, and I found myself very moved watching it.

Why? Because there is something very personal in rewilding and regeneration.

We have our own regeneration project in the Andes so that makes it personal for me, but that’s not what it is about.

When I see the beaver being released, I can vividly imagine myself in his or her place. Being captured, scared for my life, released into an unfamiliar place, and hopefully making a life for myself there.

I imagine myself in the lives of the millions of beings living their lives in this new wilderness. That is profoundly moving.

I am a part of this living system we call Earth. I have grown out of it like like anything else. I am part of this seamless whole. What happens with Earth is deeply personal. I am the Earth grieving itself, I am the Earth wishing the best for itself, I am the Earth regenerating itself on that little piece of land in the Andes.

Rewilding happens within me in two different ways.

It mirrors something in me. I am in need of regeneration and rewilding. I am harmed by certain aspects of our civilization, just like Earth is. Parts of me have been made into a monoculture. Parts of me have lost the natural and mature lushness, aliveness, and vibrancy of a healthy ecosystem, or never was able to develop it.

My world happens within me. It happens within my sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and so on. It happens within and as the consciousness I am. What I am forms itself into it.

It’s good to notice how something – anything – that we are drawn to, moved by, or engaged in is personal. If we are moved by it, if we are even curious about it, it’s because there is something deeply personal there.

What if this would never change?

What if this would never change?

I woke up this morning with discomfort throughout my system and world. Most likely, this is from having semi-crashed earlier in the week and also doing more than planned yesterday. It has brought up some of the crash symptoms of the CFS.

The question came up: What if this would never change?

And I noticed a shift – from some identification with a part of me that wants things to be different to finding myself as the whole of what’s here.

It’s a shift into finding myself as what’s already here and what I already am.

There are other ways to talk about this.

When I ask myself the question, I invite myself to explore how I can find peace with what’s here. If the situation and discomfort won’t and can’t change, and it doesn’t seem acceptable to parts of me, then what can and must change is how I relate to what’s here. How can I find more peace with it? How would it be to find more peace with it?

Instead of trying to change the discomfort itself, I can shift how I relate to it. Discomfort comes and goes and takes innumerable forms, so it makes sense to shift how I relate to it. (Of course, when I do, the experience of it changes too.)

This can be a shift within two contexts.

In one context, we still viscerally take ourselves to fundamentally be an I or me or something within the content of experience, and that’s fine. That’s very helpful.

In the other context, we viscerally and wordlessly find ourselves as what forms itself into what’s here. This softens or releases identification out of any content of experience. (The two cannot really be active at the same time.)

And a couple of more things.

When I said “throughout my system and my world” earlier, that’s because that’s the experience. Any state – including discomfort – fills my world. It is my world. It colors the whole sense field.

Also, I should mention that this is a familiar pointer and exploration for me, as is finding myself as the field as a whole. If this is early on in these explorations, I am sure the process will look different, as it should. We explore and discover slightly different things in different phases of the exploration, and there is an infinite amount to be explored for all of us.

Hansalim documentary trailer

Hansalim is a cooperative established by producers and consumers to provide safe, eco-friendly food in harmony with nature and create a civilization of life and peace through mutual care. From a single rice store in 1986, it has grown to include 2,300 producer members and 900,000 consumer members who trade directly through 240 stores and an online shop. As a national movement they organize education, social action, sharing, and research to awaken society to the sacred life in all things and build a more loving world.

Eating to 80% full

I noticed I have put on a bit of weight over the last few weeks, and I wondered why.

My whole adult life, starting from my mid-teens or so, I have eaten to about 80 percent full. I don’t stuff myself but leave a bit of room at the end. It helps me avoid feeling full and heavy after a meal, and, in general, it just feels better. I also naturally seem to eat slowly, which helps me enjoy the food more and for longer, and it also helps me notice when I get to 70-80 percent full. (I am usually the one who finishes the meal last.)

This started at some point in my teens when I noticed others stuffing themselves on special occasions and at special meals like Christmas, New Year’s, a birthday, and so on. To me, it made no sense. Yes, the food may be delicious, but it’s not more delicious if I stuff myself. On the contrary, it’s just uncomfortable.

At the Zen Center some years later, I was happy to see that they have a similar philosophy. The meal in the Zendo during retreats is called oryoki – which means “just enough”, and the instruction was to not eat until full but to leave room at the end of the meal.

I later learned about the term hara hachi bu, a Confucian guideline to eat to 80 percent full. People have noticed its beneficial effects for millennia.

So what happened over the last few weeks? I have noticed that when I cook my main meal of the day – usually at midday – I think to myself: fill up so you don’t need to make so many meals later. Since I need to save as much energy as possible for clearing out the house, and I am alone in that project, and making meals takes a good amount of energy even if they are simple, I decided to fill up to reduce the need to make further meals and save energy.

It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It only makes me feel too full and heavy, and it has very likely caused me to put on 2-3 (?) extra kilos. But it has been an attempt to save energy for the main task at hand.

As I woke up this morning, this insight came to me and I will – from now on – return to my habit of eating to 80 percent full. It feels far better, avoids the heavy feeling, and will likely bring me back to my normal weight which also feels much better.

I should also mention that I generally eat low on the food chain, eat only or mostly when I am hungry, and don’t eat so I feel very full. I also drink a lot of water, mostly in the form of herbal and spice teas. I am also not too strict and take the opportunity to, now and then, enjoy just about any kind of food.

The image is of my breakfast one year ago today: oatmeal porridge with fruits and berries. Looks like I used some kind of chocolate sauce on it, which is very unusual to me. I likely used it since I found it in my parents’ house where we were staying then. It showed up on my Facebook feed just now, so I thought I would use it here.

Update: It’s now about ten days later, and it feels very good to be back to the familiar 70-80 percent full way of eating. I don’t feel tired after meals as I did for the short period when I ate more, I feel generally lighter in body & mind, I am losing the little extra weight I put on, and it feels better all around.

US presidential election: the simple essence (?)

Following a disastrous first debate between Biden and Trump, he is down in the polls and many are calling for him to step down as a presidential candidate and leave it to someone else.

I understand and personally would love to see someone who is not an old white guy running. (I would also love to see someone prioritizing reducing our global ecological overshoot but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. For now, we have to go with the least bad option in these kinds of elections.)

I also don’t quite agree with the demand for him to step down.

This was one debate, and he may – and, based on other performances, likely will – do much better in the following debates. We are still months away from the election and people have a short memory.

More importantly, people vote on how the country is doing – especially the economy – and not so much on personalities and even less on a brief one-off debate. They vote on governance. And polls are very much not an election. (Polls are volatile and people tend to vote more safely.)

The historian Allan Lichtman has studied US presidential elections and developed thirteen Keys to the White House. He has also been able to predict every presidential election for the last four decades or so. (Apart from the Gore-Bush debacle which was decided by a court.)

According to these keys, Biden is likely to be re-elected, mainly because the country is doing relatively well. If the Democrats go with another candidate, they will reduce their chances of winning the election.

To me, that makes sense. People vote on governance, not on performance in one debate. Most people also understand it’s the staff and officials who do most of the actual work, not the president.

Because of the infinitely complex nature of the world, there will likely eventually be an election where the keys don’t predict the actual winner. But it does seem the best current system for understanding how and why people vote in a presidential election.

Historian Explains Why Dropping Biden Won’t Help Democrats – Wall Street Journal

Should Biden Run??? | Lichtman Live #55 – Alan Lichtman’s YouTube channel

Biden can ‘absolutely’ win the US election | Professor Allan Lichtman – Times Radio

UPDATE

It’s now a week later, and more and more Democrats are calling for Biden to step down. It’s one of the many things in the world that’s baffling to me. It’s clear that debates do not decide elections, and polls are not elections.

As Allan Lichtman has demonstrated over the last forty years, his thirteen keys to the White House do predict who will be elected. Why not go with the evidence? Why go with your gut feeling instead of a proven system? It makes very little sense to me.

As I see it, these people are doing the work for Trump and Putin. They are paving the way for a new and far more terrible Trump presidency.

They choose to attack Biden and (directly or indirectly) say he is unfit for the presidency instead of reminding the voters of how terrible Trump is.

As Allan Lichtman said in a recent podcast, Democrats Self-Implode. It’s not a pretty sight, and it’s difficult to understand why they do what they do.

Don’t they realize they base their approach on whims and unfounded gut feelings? Don’t they see that they are eroding support for whoever will be the candidate for the Democrats? Don’t they realize they are distracting the voters from the real issues in the election? Don’t they realize they are running the errand for Trump and Putin?

Here is a podcast from Reich on similar topics: Why aren’t we talking about project 2025 instead of Biden’s age 

UPDATE: It’s Sunday, July 5, 2024, the morning after the previous update and hours after someone fired a shot at Trump. This is the kind of thing that will bring naive folks in the US to support Trump. Combined with the self-defeating infighting among the Democrats, it will certainly boost Trump’s support. He will milk it for all its worth and use it to fuel his martyr complex and the victim complex of many of his white followers. At the same time, it doesn’t say anything about what will happen at the actual election, five months (!) from now. A lot will happen between now and then. I would say that Lichtman’s 13 keys – the fundamentals people vote on – are more important and decisive than these events.

UPDATE: It’s Tuesday and it seems that early impressions of the assassination attempt may be accurate. The one trying to assassinate Trump was a young man, a member of the Republican party, bullied in school, and likely severely traumatized and in mental imbalance. All of that combined with easy access to absurdly powerful weapons (owned by his father) likely led to this outcome. I also don’t find much empathy in the comments from his family members. I have deep compassion for him, and if this scenario is somewhat accurate, I see what happened as a symptom of the US culture more than anything. It’s a combination of alienation, poor systems for helping those struggling, and a(n absurd and dangerous) gun culture. The readiness to use violence is amplified by the language of violence promoted by Trump and many of his followers.

A CFS/ME livestream

A livestream about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) from the husband, friends, and doctors of Dianna Cowan (Physics Girl).

CFS is a seriously under-researched illness. Maybe because it’s difficult to know where to start. The majority of people with CFS are women. And the ones who get it are often so sick that they (we) don’t have the energy to become activists.

The recent pandemic, and the subsequent and predicted pandemic of people with long-Covid, will hopefully bring more attention to CFS and fuel more research.

What are the symptoms of CFS? Common symptoms include persistent and unexplained fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest, post-exertional malaise (PEM), heightened sensitivity to chemicals, light, and sounds, difficulties with memory and concentration, sleep disturbances, muscle and joint pain, headaches, sore throat or tender lymph nodes, dizziness, unrefreshing sleep, flu-like symptoms, digestive issues, heart palpitations, and swollen lymph nodes.

How does it feel to have CFS? For me, it feels like having severe influenza without a runny nose, coughing, and so on. The brain fog takes the form of a combination of a feeling of “cotton in the head” and reduced executive cognitive functions such as the ability to focus, take in information, remember, talk coherently, write longish texts, and so on. It’s very difficult to process information. If I want to watch a movie, it typically has to be easily digestible and in short portions. My sleep has been severely impacted in periods, although it’s better now after my condition became more stable. My system has trouble regulating itself, including heat and cold. I have digestion problems and need to avoid many different types of foods. I have chemical sensitivities. I have strong sound sensitivity and get exhausted in a noisy environment. It’s very difficult to impossible to schedule anything in advance since I don’t know how my condition will be on any one day or time of that day. (Although a lot of rest for several days, if not weeks, in advance, makes it more lightly I’ll be able to do a little.)

It has nothing to do with depression, although I have had sadness, grief, despair, and anger come up because of all the limitations of CFS. It can also be profoundly scary, especially in bad periods. For me, it brings up survival fear since I don’t know if I’ll be able to take care of myself or have someone take care of me.

It severely limits our life in the world and puts our life in a very different course from how our lives used to be and what we had planned. As I mentioned, grief and fear often come up in response to our new life situation.

Others often do not understand. Friends have taken it personally if I have to say “no” or cancel. I have had several experiences with people refusing to take it seriously (including professors and advisors at the university). My main doctor did not take it seriously for a long time, although that changed when he got a medical student in his office. As recently as last year, I went to a medical specialist in an unrelated field, and he literally rolled his eyes and scoffed when I told him I have CFS.

Living with CFS also makes it very clear that we live in a society designed by and for abled people. For instance, before the pandemic, I asked my doctor if we could do appointments over the net and it was immediately rejected. During the pandemic, when abled people were impacted, it was suddenly very easy to do appointments over the phone or the net. The same happened with the energy work classes I have been taking.

There is also the other side. The friends I have now understand and are supportive. My family now seems to understand. I have found doctors and others in the medical world who are knowledgeable, understanding, and supportive. I have had the opportunity to find my value independent of my activities in the world and what I produce. I have found more peace with what is, as it is, and even profound appreciation and gratitude for it. I have found a simpler and more natural way of exploring who and what I am, including meditation. I have found an even deeper appreciation for life and the simple pleasures and joy in life – including the sun, rain, a cup of tea, music, silence, and so on.

What causes CFS? Nobody knows for certain. It may be a combination of factors, or it could be just one simple one. In many cases, it seems to be triggered by a viral or bacterial infection, or other severe physical stress.

In my case, I suspect the CFS came about from a combination of a viral infection (Epstein-Barr) and possibly continued EB virus in my system, stress, mold, and perhaps genetics, although I don’t know for certain and I don’t know the mechanisms.

What helps? Since there is no medical solution, a holistic approach seems to be the best we can do. For me, what helps is a combination of… Reducing my schedule to a minimum. Quality rest – in silence and darkness and ideally in a cool room. Pacing – which includes resting before, during, and after any activity, and extra, and also schedule in rest days before and after any activity. Asking for help. Diet – which for me means eating fresh and whole foods low on the food chain as much as possible, and minimizing or avoiding dairy and refined and processed foods (especially sugars). Herbal medicine – Siberian ginseng, echinacea, etc. Ginger powder in hot water to help my digestion. Hot spices in food, like cayenne. A warm and sunny climate is best for me. Nature and being in nature. Mindful movements – for me, Breema, tai chi, and qigong seem to help the best. Simple pointers to help me notice and rest in and as my nature. Inquiry to examine stressful beliefs and find what’s more true for me. Energization through energy work, which in my case is Vortex Healing.

Will there eventually be a medical solution? Maybe, if we put money and time into research.

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Daily activity in nature: gardening & regenerating ourselves and our ecosystems

We are made for being active in nature daily. We are literally made for it. Our bodymind is made for it. That’s how our ancestors lived going back to the initial single-celled organisms.

So it only makes sense that daily engagement in growing food in our garden has multiple benefits. It makes us feel more alive. It helps us move. It stimulates our minds. It reminds us that we are nature. It reminds us of the life we are designed to live.

That’s another reason why monocultures, including in our gardens, are less nourishing for us. It’s not very meaningful to have and maintain manicured lawns and hedges. It’s not very stimulating to the senses. It feels meaningless, apart from living up to current social norms and expectations and “what will the neighbors think”.

Having a nature garden and a small food forest is something else entirely. It feels far more like the nature we are designed to live in. It’s far more stimulating to the senses. It is far more meaningful since it produces food, provides food and habitat for a myriad of species, and mostly maintains itself after it’s established.

This is regeneration not only of nature but of ourselves. It’s also a small part in regenerating our society and culture.

The real alchemy: the transformation inherent in existence itself

I started listening to the Elixir episode from Something Rhymes With Purple, which is about alchemy and alchemy terms. Alchemy is essentially about change and transmutation.

I love alchemy as a metaphor for our inner transformation, as Jung so beautifully described and explored.

And yet, the ultimate alchemy is not done consciously by humans. It happens all around us and it happens as us all the time. It’s the alchemy of existence itself.

Existence is change. It is transmutation.

This universe is transforming itself continuously and inevitably – from energy to particles, from simple particles to complex, from general uniformity to areas of more density, from these areas of more density to solar systems with stars and planets, from non-living matter to life, from life to life that’s conscious and conscious of itself, and so on. (We even have consciousness consciously aware of itself as the universe bringing itself into consciousness.)

So much of what we take for granted is the most amazing alchemy in action. We are it and we fully depend on it for our life.

Just look at the amazing alchemy of soil and seeds becoming plants, and the amazing ecological succession from pioneers (which we often think of as “weeds”) to eventually a mature and rich ecosystem.

What we humans do with alchemy is just one tiny subset of this far more vast and grand alchemy that’s always in process.

That is hinted at in the word itself. The word “alchemy” is thought to derive from the ancient Egyptian word “khem” or “kem,” which means “black.” This may refer to the rich, fertile black soil of the Nile Delta, which was crucial for agriculture and associated with creation and fertility.

I woke up and noticed a decision

I am going to the cabin today to drop off a few things and do a small and much-needed repair.

Yesterday, I wasn’t sure whether I would go for one day or several. The work I need to do there is all outdoors (repair, tar the walls) and the forecast is for rain from Thursday of. (It’s summer so it’s difficult to know what the weather will be.) I also need to do a couple of things here at the house.

I decided to sleep on it. This morning, when I woke up, I noticed a decision: Go for the day, drop off the things, and do the small repair. Then you can go for longer when the forecast is more clear.

That’s how I prefer to do it, if possible. Gather information. Consider different options. Imagine myself into the different situations and options. And let the decision make itself. It may take some time, and it comes when the time is right.

This is really how it is with it everything. There are thoughts, feelings, words, actions, choices, ideas about this human self and a me and I, and they all make themselves. They live their own life. They all happen as everything happens.

The image is from the way home after the trip, at half past ten at night.

Humanizing villains

There is a lot here.

I would say that one important benefit of humanizing villains is that it’s more true. We are all diverse and rich and have many sides to us. Some of the worst villains in history – and the ones who did the most horrendous things – were good fathers, husbands, friends, and so on. We are all infinitely more than what any, or all, labels or identities can capture.

Few of us are villains in our own story. We typically think we are doing the right thing. (Unless we have created an image of ourselves as a terrible person and do our best to live up to it.)

Whether someone sees us as a villain or not obviously depends on perspective. I think Simba the cat is cute, while the bird he is hunting will likely not agree. My neighbor with the noisy machines and the manicured garden likely thinks he is a good citizen, and I see the end of civilization in his mindset.

Humanizing the villains makes the story more interesting, whether we call it a story of reality or fiction. It makes it richer and more nuanced and there is more to explore and discover in and through it.

Humanizing the villain makes him or her more relatable. As the quote suggests, we can more easily see ourselves in the position and role of the villain. We realize it could be us, in another life, in another set of circumstances (as Sting says).

More to the point, the world is my mirror. I can take whatever story I have about anyone or anything or any situation, turn it to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how and when it is true. I am what I see.

There is another sense I am what I see. My world is happening within me. It’s happening within my sense fields. What I am to myself – what a thought may call consciousness – forms itself into the world as it appears to me. My world is, in an immediate and literal sense, me. (And it always changes. It’s always new and fresh.) There is no separation. There is no “I” or “other” separation could come from.

Why would some not want to explore this? Why can it seem like a threat to humanize a villain? I assume that if we are used to a black-and-white view of the world, and casting some as villains and others (likely ourselves included) as heroes, it can be confusing to shift perspective. It may go against our subculture. It may require a big shift not only in our perception but in our life. Also, it would require us to find ourselves in the villain, which will dislodge our familiar identities and require us to find other and more inclusive identities. (None of which are what we more fundamentally are.)

The reality is that even if we try to make the world fit neat little boxes of villains and heroes, we still see ourselves as both. We see ourselves as heroes in some areas of life and some situations, and as villains in other areas of life and in other situations, whether we admit that to ourselves and others or not. The reason we do this is that it’s true and somewhere in us, we know it. We know all can be found in our life.

If I have resentment towards someone, I may see myself as a villain in that situation and area of life. Somewhere in me, a part of me says that having resentment is not kind, it’s not what a kind person would do, so I – sometimes secretly – see myself as a villain. If I squash a bug, I know that from the bug’s perspective, I am a murderer, and it’s true. If I eat meat, it’s the same. We know this. We know we – in some situations and some areas of life and from some perspectives – take on the role of a villain. So why not acknowledge it? If it’s already here, that makes more sense.

As we explore this, the labels of villain and hero, and really any other label, start to be recognized as labels and not much more. They are convenient pointers, at most.

Disinformation campaigns to turn people away from renewable energy

I am seeing people who love nature shift their attitudes against renewable energy. Why? Most likely, largely because of successful online disinformation campaigns.

Our civilization requires a huge energy consumption to maintain itself, and that energy has to come from somewhere. The best way forward is improved efficiency combined with renewable energy. Of course, it impacts nature and our ecosystems as everything else we do. In general, the impact is minuscule compared to the other impacts of our civilization. Even if we covered all our energy use from renewable sources, it would be a small part of our collective ecological footprint.

In terms of energy, the impact of renewables is far less than oil and nuclear energy. (Oil fuels climate change. The waste from nuclear energy is something tens of thousands of generations into the future will have to deal with, and it will inevitably get out into our air and soil.)

Misinformation is derailing renewable energy projects across the United States – NRP 2022

The right is firing misinformation bullets in its climate war on renewables – here’s a way to fight back – The Guardian 2023

Inside the right-wing conspiracy to thwart the clean energy transition – Canary Media 2024

How to stop oil and gas industry misinformation – David Suzuki Foundation

Unveiling Big Oil’s Campaign of Lies – Natural Resources Defence Council 2024

Big oil dumps billions into misleading advertisement campaigns – EarthRights International

The Oil and Gas Industry Is Behind Offshore Wind Misinformation – Center for American Progress

And….

How the oil industry made us doubt climate change – BBC 2020

Hatred is a problem, love is not

This innocent and beautiful post was celebrated by many, although it unfortunately also got some bigoted comments. (Which is good, in a way, since it brings the bigotry out in the open.)

Hatred is a problem, love is not.

Two people showing affection and love for each other is something to be celebrated. It’s what we need more of in the world.

We definitely do not need more bigotry and small-mindedness, although some people seem to wake up in the morning and think “That’s exactly what we need more of”.

As I have said in several other articles:

There are so many far more important issues in the world today – poverty, people dying from treatable illnesses, global ecological overshoot, and so on. Why not spend your energy on those?

If you found yourself as a minority in an area of life, how would you like to be treated by others? You may already be a minority and likely are, and you may also find yourself as an obvious minority at any moment.

The way we view and treat others is inevitably the way we view and treat sides of ourselves. Do you really want to treat yourself that way?

Homosexuality is found in hundreds if not thousands of species. It’s natural. Homophobia is found in one species.

Image of the soon-to-be Olympic climber Campbell Harrison and his partner Justin.

Weeds? Pioneers? Foreshadowing a mature and rich ecosystem?

I am taking care of my parents’ house these days, and am doing some minimal garden work – mostly some weeding in the lawn and on the gravel in front of the house. (Since I prefer to minimize the work, I use hot water to get rid of whatever grows in the gravel.)

Our modern Western culture is obsessed with monocultures, including lawns. These are sterile and do not support much life. They are not very resilient or stable. They require a lot of maintenance and energy input.

What some call “weeds” are pioneer species doing the first step of transforming a desert – as lawns and gravel areas are – into a more diverse, healthy, mature, and resilient ecosystem. When I see these pioneers here, I see a beautiful old-growth forest in the future. They are doing invaluable work. They are amazing plants, far more valuable than the exotic ornamentals most people plant in their gardens here in Norway.

If I lived here, I imagine I would create a nature garden full of diversity – native trees, fruit trees, berry bushes, wildflowers. It requires more planning and input at first and much less after a while. It supports a wide range of life – insects, birds, hedgehogs, and so on. It’s beautiful, smells wonderful, and sounds wonderful in the wind. It stimulates the senses. These places make me feel alive.

I let the grass and flowers grow in May. The photos are of some of the wildflowers growing here at the end of May.

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Short film: Grey

This movie by Glenn Berkenkamp is worth a watch. Not many can do what Grey did in this story, but we can all bring it into our life a little more. When someone is scared and reactive, how do I respond? When something in me is scared and reactive, how do I respond to that part of me?

Do non-humans know when they will die?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is accurate.

The day before our beloved Merlina died, she followed me around everywhere and touched me the whole time. I commented on it because although she was a loving cat, her behavior that day was very unusual. She died unexpectedly the following morning.

It’s important to collect these stories, even if they are anecdotal. It’s the first step in science to explore a topic. Of course, anecdotes are subject to recall bias, confirmation bias, selection bias, and more. If a non-human friend behaves in an unusual behavior and nothing happens, we tend to forget. If they behave in the same way and they die, we remember. (Recall bias, survivor bias.) We may also interpret the behavior in that context. (Confirmation bias.) If they die without any unusual behavior preceding it, the story is not told because there is no story to tell. If there was an unusual behavior, we may tell the story, and people like Rupert Sheldrake have a story to collect and publish. (Selection bias, publication bias.)

To arrive at more solid conclusions, we would need to take it one or two steps further, for instance, through prospective studies. Also, there is a difference between knowing or sensing you will die if you have a serious illness or knowing or sensing you will die from an accident. The first makes sense within a materialistic worldview, the second requires something else.

The characteristics of what I am

What am I to myself?

What are the characteristics of what I am?

RELATIVELY SIMPLE

I usually mention this in the context of something else, mainly since this side of it is quite simple, and the human side is far more complex and – in many ways – interesting.

FAMILIARITY

It’s also something quite familiar to me.

In one sense, it’s all we have ever known so it’s inevitably familiar.

It’s also what I was between lives, which stayed with me into this – and came to the foreground in strong flashbacks in my childhood.

It’s what was revealed strongly in the initial oneness shift.

It’s what I have kept noticing since.

Aspects of my nature have come strongly into the foreground in different phases of the process.

It’s also what I have explored more thoroughly through meditation and different forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, sense field explorations, the Kiloby inquiries, and so on.

A FEW CHARACTERISTICS

As what I am in my own first-person experience, I find…

My nature is capacity for what’s here – whether it’s what a thought labels consciousness, awakeness, states, anything related to this human self (dullness, confusion, clarity, sadness, joy, etc.) and the wider world as it appears to me, or anything else.

It has an inherent awakeness, which – I assume – is the normal awakeness inherent in any consciousness.

It has no beginning or end in space. It’s what allows the experience of space to appear.

It has no beginning or end in time. It’s what allows any ideas of beginnings and ends of time and in time to appear.

What I am forms itself into any and all content of experience. It forms itself into what’s here – these hands typing, the computer, the sounds of the birds and cars in the distance, ideas of past and future and present, ideas of space and extent, ideas of this human self, and so on.

Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as what I am, so it all has a kind of dreamlike quality. It’s all made up of the consciousness I am.

THIS HUMAN SELF

This human self responds to this as it responds to anything else, and how it responds to it varies with circumstances and changes over time.

There is a kind of getting used to it and, maybe, maturing into and as it.

Also, many parts of this human self were formed from and within separation consciousness, largely through mimicking others in childhood. Many of these are still here and it’s an ongoing process for these to surface, be seen – and loved, examined, reacted to and struggled with, and so on – and eventually realign and reorganize more within my nature noticing itself.

ONGOING EXPLORATION

There is always more to explore – in my nature, in this human self, in how this human self relates to it and lives from and as it or not.

My nature explores itself by expressing and experiencing itself in always new ways, as the experience that’s here.

And it also consciously explores itself, through these explorations I write about here,

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Am I certain God exists?

Are you absolutely certain God exists?

I would answer yes or no depending on the context and what they mean by the question.

If, with God, you mean reality as it is, then yes, I am certain God exists. For me, God is a name for the fullness of reality as it is.

If, with God, you mean any of the images that humans have created of God, including the images I have of God, then I am equally certain God does not exist as these images says. God and reality can never be captured by any of our ideas about it.

That means that when I say reality as it is, I am fully aware that it’s different from any of my ideas about it.

God and reality is always more than and different from my ideas about it.

That’s why I don’t really trust these kinds of surveys. How can I know what people meant when they answered what they did? When I have answered surveys, I am pretty sure my answers often come from a different place than how they are interpreted.

At the same time, it is likely that many people in Europe and North America answer this question based on Christian images of God. They probably understood it to mean: Are you certain Christian images of God are accurate? If that’s the question, I would answer: I am certain they are not accurate. Just as I am certain no mental representation about anything is accurate.

It’s not about God or not, it’s about the relationship between our mental representations and reality.

Thoughts are questions about the world. They help this human self orient and navigate in the world. They have practical value only, and a limited and temporary value.

That means my mental representations about anything: an apple, my parents, my spouse, my best friends, myself, situations, my nature, the nature of reality, and anything else.

When I say I am certain, it’s because of the phrasing of the survey question. In that context, I can say I am certain no mental representation is ultimately accurate. At the same time, they are more or less accurate in a limited and conventional everyday sense. It’s not one or the other.

Including children in daily activities

Yes, this is the natural approach. (I am not sure we have been “lied to” since many still include children in their daily activities.)

This is how we humans have evolved. In a tribe or small village, children are naturally included in daily life activities to the extent they are able, and – in most cases – it’s enjoyable for both the adults and the children. It’s also important for the community as a whole since that’s how knowledge and experience are passed on.

If the joint activities are limited to play and recreational activities, it can still be enjoyable, but something is missing.

I have often thought about this. As a child, I wanted to be included in my father’s activities much more than I was. He enjoyed doing things on his own – gardening work, repairs, restoring antique furniture, building birdhouses, etc. – and rarely included me or anyone else. The few times I was included are still some of my favorite memories from childhood.

This may have contributed to feeling excluded, an outsider, that others know things and I don’t, not trusting my own abilities and knowledge, abandoning my own inner guidance, and that I don’t have anything to contribute. That’s still a theme in my life.

Dream: Black vessel in the ground

I am in Latin America and have been innocently convicted of something along with several others. There are several large round ceramic vessels in the ground with only the opening visible. We are all to spend ten days in a vessel like this, either alone or with one other. The woman overseeing it all is surprisingly friendly and kind.

INITIAL ASSOCIATIONS

A few things come up right away:

In the dream, I am in Latin America, which has been an important part of my life in recent years. This dream brings up associations with nature and shamanism, and the dream feels shamanic and nature centric.

The night before, I read in the news about a Norwegian couple convicted for a crime more than two decades ago, and they are trying to have a retail since a lot of new evidence has surfaced since then. I suspect they are innocent, as I did even back then. A part of me has a fear of being falsely accused.

The woman is surprisingly kind and friendly as if the process is not inherently as terrible as it may seem.

The vessel in the ground seems to point to a kind of shamanic or alchemical process. It’s in the Earth – which gives us life – and is a kind of womb. A vessel for a kind of gestation process.

When my attention goes deep into processes in me, and when certain things come to the surface, it is a bit like being underground. It’s the nigredo phase of an alchemical process, the blackening.

I am not alone. Several others will go through the same process. I may even share the vessel with someone, if I am lucky, someone tells me.

The ten days seem symbolic. It’s a round number in the decimal system. In terms of fingers and toes, it’s a complete number.

MORE DETAIL

And a bit more detail:

Do I falsely accuse myself? I likely do, even if I am not always aware of it. Parts of me may accuse me under the surface, creating stress and tension. This is an angle I want to be more aware of. I may accuse myself for not being good enough, not sociable enough, and so on, mainly based on childhood experiences.

Do I falsely accuse others? I sometimes do when something in me gets triggered, and it mostly happens in my own mind. (It spills out into the wider world occasionally.) When I get triggered, it’s good to notice if and how I falsely accuse others.

When life goes against the wishes of my personality, and when old trauma and unhealed things come to the surface, my mind can interpret it as being falsely accused and punished by life. I don’t deserve it. I didn’t do anything to make it happen. Even if that’s true, it’s beside the point. This is life. Life sometimes goes against what we wish and hope for. Life sometimes brings up pain. It’s universal. It’s shared by all living beings.

The kind and friendly overseer may be a guide – a sophia (wisdom figure) or a psychopomp (guide of souls). Like everything else in the dream, she represents a part of me.

My life situation is creating a kind of vessel for me these days since I am mostly alone, reflective, connected with nature, do qigong, notice my nature, and so on.

Going into the Earth for ten days and then re-emerging is a kind of death and rebirth. It’s a birth from the womb. It’s a reminder that I am from the Earth, or – more to the point – that I am the Earth taking this temporary form.

I am not alone. Several others are going through the same process. That’s certainly true in life. What I experience is what innumerable others have experienced, with slight variations in flavor. It’s universal. The essence of it is likely shared by all living beings, by all consciousnesses connected with a living being. Also, I am not alone in that I have a partner, friends, and family.

The ten days is a finite and relatively short number, similar to a vision quest. Maybe it’s a reminder that this phase of the transformation process – which seems frightening and undesirable to parts of me – is more finite and short than parts of me fear?

ACTIVE IMAGINATION

When I go back into the dream and feel into it… Fear comes up. Fear of confinement. Claustrophobia. Fear of not being in control. Fear of being at the mercy of others.

When I imagine myself in one of the vessels… It feels difficult to breathe. I feel enclosed. It feels the way it does when some deep unresolved issues come up in me and they seem to fill my whole world. (Anger, sadness, anxiety.)

The woman, just through her presence, is encouraging to me. She helps me relax into the process.

It feels like a process of maturation. The best kind of humbling. Earthiness. (Letting go of ideas of light and ideals.) It feels brave. Real. Earthy. It feels like joining non-human fellow Earth-beings in their matter-of-fact way of living their life. It feels like being soil, dark crumbly nourishing life-giving soil.

Soil is soil, it doesn’t try to be anything else. It has no idea of wanting to be anything else. It just is, and nourishes and gives life. I can find that in myself and explore how it is to live from and as it.

In a very literal and real sense, I am Earth. This living system we call Earth takes this temporary and local form. The soil itself takes this temporary, local, and mobile form. It’s not poetry or a metaphor, it’s how it is.

The image is created by me and Midjourney. In the dream, the vessels were completely buried in the Earth with just the opening above ground. This illustration is a cross-section to show the shape of the vessel.

Using AI for programming

I use ChatGTP 4o as a programming assistant these days. It’s to create a web interface for a plant database for our regeneration, reforestation, and food forest project in the Andes. (Google Sheets + Google Apps Script.) In general, I find the AI assistance very helpful. I am also using it to fill in the information for the database, including ranking plants on a variety of dimensions. This info needs to be checked for accuracy, of course, although it generally looks pretty good.

AI PROGRAMMING PRACTICES

First, a few things I have learned about working with an AI programming assistant.

In general, as with all programming, it’s important to be methodical, do it stepwise, and communicate clearly with your programming assistant or partner.

At the beginning of any new dialog, I give the AI any relevant files and ask it to analyze and examine the project. It helps me, it may help the AI, and it helps identify things that can improve the coding or user interface, including finding duplicate code.

Stay on topic. I keep different subprojects in different dialogs. If I have a question not directly related to the current dialog, I start a new dialog for that question. (In a different tab.)

If the current dialog has been going on for a while and/or the AI starts to forget or mix things up, I start a new dialog for a fresh start.

Since it takes a while for ChatGPT 4o to generate a response, I typically ask for only the section of code that’s updated. That makes it go faster. I’ll ask for the full file if there are several updates throughout the same file, or if I am not sure if the AI is working with the same version of the file as I do.

Sometimes, I ask the AI to give suggestions without producing any new code. This can be helpful with troubleshooting, and for finding a strategy to implement a new complex subproject.

I stay involved with the troubleshooting. The AI seems to have a one-track mind to troubleshooting and tends to repeat the same strategy over and over. So I like to take a step back. I examine the code and give suggestions for other things to try. I ask the AI for ideas of other things to try. I often scrap what we did, go back to a clean version, and ask it to try a different approach. (The last one seems to work the best.)

It’s important to stay involved in general. I like to know roughly how it all works and where the different types of code go and help oversee the implementation and troubleshooting. As mentioned in other places, it will sometimes create duplicate code, put code in a place where it doesn’t fit in terms of the file structure, forget that a file exists, remove vital existing code, and so on.

I am in Europe these days, and I find that working with ChatGPT 4o in the mornings European time works the best. In the evening – after the whole of North America is awake – it seems to slow down and often freezes.

When ChatGPT 4o overloads from what I assume are too many people using it, it freezes, cannot reload, and/or it starts giving weird responses. If that happens, it’s a sign to take a break.

Update: It seems that as the project gets larger and more complex, ChatGPT 4o is no longer able to keep track of the different parts of the code and where it’s located. I need to oversee and direct more in detail and only give the files and sections of code relevant to what we are working on in the moment.

This is all not so different from working with a human assistant or in a team with other humans.

Of course, this is all related to my experiences with ChatGPT 4o. Other AIs may need a slightly different approach, and I am sure much of this will change in the future. For instance, I imagine the AI’s ability to keep track of the project as a whole, troubleshoot, and choose a different strategy when one doesn’t work, will all get better.

PROGRAMMING PRACTICES IN GENERAL

In addition to this, general good programming practices are helpful, of course.

I like to include file information in a comment at the top of the file. This describes the file name, its purpose, and the steps, and it helps me keep track of the different parts of the project. Who knows, it may also help the AI.

When I get a new piece of code, I like to check to make sure it goes into the correct file. I have also learned to regularly ask the AI to check for duplicate code in the files.

Since this is a relatively large project, I put the different types of code into separate files. (HTML, styles, front-end scripts, back-end scripts, scripts for search and sort, and so on.) This prevents any one file from getting too big, and it’s more clear where to put and find the different types of code. (Also, I don’t go overboard with this. In some cases, it makes sense to keep it all contained in one file.)

I make small and incremental changes, one bit at a time. This makes it easier to identify any problems.

I keep track of the versions (deployments). I write down the most recent version that works well and sometimes add a brief comment about what works and what’s left to work on. If something goes wrong and it gets too complicated to figure out, go back to the most recent deployment that worked well and start over with a different approach.

I use extensive logging during development. This helps the troubleshooting.

After I implement something new, I test the website to make sure everything else still works.

I find that if I do this when I am hungry or tired, it tends to not go so well. It’s better to eat, rest, and continue later. It’s amazing how something can be fixed after a good meal or a good night’s sleep.

I expect most of the time to be spent on the fiddly little details that don’t quite work. (The 80-20 rule. 80 percent of the project takes 20 percent of the time, and 20 percent takes 80 percent of the time.)

This is just good programming hygiene in general.

The screenshots are from my current project. The first is one page of the web interface. The look and content is still very rudimentary and needs to be refined. The second is a screenshot of the AI filling in a few columns in the spreadsheet. The third is the code used to retrieve image URLs from Wikipedia to be used to illustrate the text.

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