Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Love as a Practice February 14, 2017

The following is an essay written by my contradancing pal Lynn Ungar, who also happens to be a UU Minister, raiser of show dogs, and a very fine contemplative thinker. It’s reblogged from the UU website; full link below.

She reframes love from an exclusive romantic destination to a daily practice for everyone. I find this very timely right now, and hope you benefit from my sharing it here. As you read Lynn’s suggestions, please also consider how you might add small acts of kindness to the earth. Done out of love, these changes of behavior can turn in the heart from a burden to a joy.

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faceted-ruby-heart

         Valentine’s Day, by 

I could be wrong, but I rather suspect that Valentine’s Day is the most widely despised holiday in the country. Really, unless you’re in the small minority of people who are in the throes of romantic passion, what’s to like? You don’t get a day off of work, there’s no religious ceremony or significance, and for weeks ahead of time the stores are filled with a boatload of pink and red crap that nobody needs, and hardly anybody actually wants. Jewelry store commercials aside, the number of lives that would be improved by the gift of a heart-shaped diamond is, I suspect, shockingly small

Worse than that, for many people the holiday is an affront. If you are single, it’s a reminder that society expects people to pair up, and a suggestion that you are probably a loser because you’re alone. If you’re in a long-term relationship that has become more centered on helping with homework and making sure that there is milk in the frig than on lust and making googly eyes at one another, it’s a reminder that popular culture is obsessed with passion and falling in love, and no one will ever make a blockbuster movie that looks anything like your life. If you’re gay or lesbian or in any kind of non-traditional relationship you know that there probably isn’t going to be a card in the drugstore that is in any way designed with your kind of love in mind. And if you’ve recently been through a break-up, or your relationship is going through a rocky period from which it may or may not recover, or your spouse has died, well, then Valentine’s Day is pretty much designed for your own personal torture.

So here’s my suggestion: Maybe a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by buying candy and flowers would be to embrace the fact that love is often difficult. Rather than a day about romance, why not a day for concentrating on loving something or someone that makes you uncomfortable?

You might want to start by loving your crooked toe, or your stretch marks, or the flabby skin on the back of your arms. Anoint them with lotion, and a long, loving look, and consider the possibility that they really don’t need to be any different than exactly what they are.

You could try loving your neighbor who plays loud music and leaves his RV parked so that you can hardly get in your driveway. Maybe the music is his only stress reducer after caring for elderly people all day; maybe the RV is the only place his son has to live; maybe he’s so busy trying to hold his life together that he forgot to consider what would be most convenient for you.

You could work on loving your daughter’s crappy fourth-grade teacher who doesn’t appreciate your child’s unique gifts and has failed to teach her the structure of a paragraph. Chances are good that there are too many kids in the classroom to give each their due and the teacher is exhausted simply from trying to maintain some semblance of civilization until the bell rings.

You could try to love the person ahead of you in the line at the grocery store who has 27 items in the express lane, or the punk who cut you off on the freeway, or the customer service representative from the cable company who does not appear to have the slightest idea what “service” might mean. Just for today, since it’s a holiday.

You might even go all out, and work on loving your ex, or the person they left you for. Not necessarily forgiving, and certainly not forgetting, but just a little warmth, a little bit of an open heart for someone who, like everyone else in the world, is trying to find happiness in the best way they know how. Which isn’t necessarily a good way, but there you have it.

Just for this one day you could practice love not so much as a feeling but as a choice, a discipline, a practice. You could start with the conviction that everyone certainly needs love, and the possibility that everyone deserves it. Not because they have earned it, not because they are loveable, but because each of us is capable of being an instrument of grace, which is another name for the love that we don’t have to earn or deserve.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And good luck.

 

–by Lynn Ungar.

See this and more of Lynn’s excellent writing at the Unitarian Universalist Collective’s blog, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uucollective/author/lynnungar/ . This essay was originally posted there 2/14/2014.

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Solabaration! 2016 December 17, 2016

Filed under: Announcements,Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 12:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Folks along the Front Range of Colorado, come drive the cold winter away tonight with dance, song, story, cheer, xtreme juggling, a mummers’ play and more. All ages are welcome.

I’m honored to be one of the three dance callers.

Solabration Click on the sun for info.

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Climate Crisis Solutions conference October 19, 2016

I’m pleased to be one of the presenters in Ohio this coming weekend at the 63rd annual conference put on by the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. It will be held at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, from October 21-23, 2016.

The presentations cover a wide variety of topics related to climate change.

 

Climate Crisis Solutions: Charting a New Course

100916conferenceschedulewebwithtimes

 

My two presentations are:

PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOP:

Stones as Mentors: Spiritual Ecotherapy    Tina Fields

As you face the big issues like climate change along with figuring out how to best live your own life, have you ever wished you had a wise elder around to give you perspective and advice? Engage in an ancient and powerful animistic practice that works with the oldest parts of the earth – stones – to gain insight into a life question. Participants will experience how the natural world can serve as spiritual advisor.

and

Fostering Nature Connections and Joy as a Resilience Strategy     – Tina Fields

Along with structural alternatives, psychological and spiritual resilience need to be cultivated in order to effectively meet the enormous challenges and coming changes posed by climate change. Allowing the feelings that arise to be recognized and flow though us is a key element – both the harder feelings of pain, fear, anger and denial, and also the joy and mysteries of being alive at this time. In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to express their feelings about the situation of climate change, and to explore their own deep and abiding connection with the more-than-human world.

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I’m especially delighted that two of my former students will be attending, and one, Catherine Phillips, will assist with the Stones as Mentors workshop.

Hope to see you there!

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Square Dance in the Rural West: An Oral History July 26, 2016

Don & Fay promenade

Check out my new article in the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) online journal. It’s based on interviews with my elders, who can really tell a story, and contains small photos of those faboo 1950s dance outfits.

Best of all is getting to witness how community dance like square dance or contra dance forges community.

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“Square dancing hit its heyday in the far west during the 1950s, and many elder members of my family were heavily involved in it. Hank Fields, my dad, was a popular square dance caller long before I was born. I follow lightly in his footsteps as a contra dance caller today; thus my interest in what the dance scene had been like for him. What are the similarities and differences with dance today? And what got so many people so passionately interested in square dancing back then?

“At a Fields/Glascock “inlaws & outlaws” family reunion held on my cousin’s ranch in rural Idaho during the summer of 2003, I spoke with a number of older folks who had been active in the square dance scene back in the 1950s, asking about their experiences.”

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 To read the whole thing, go to:

CD+S Online, vol.1

Or get directly to my article itself

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 I hope you like it! Please leave comments here.

 

Anthropology of Consciousness July 5, 2016

“Huge thank you to Tina Fields the 2016 SAC keynote address for her talk, ‘I am He as You are He as You are Me, and We are All Together’ — Fostering Ecopsychological Relationship with Place.  Here is a snippet from an interview at Naropa University in 2012 on culture, consciousness, and conditioned assumptions about reality.”

That was reblogged from the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness (SAC)’s Open Access blog. It was a great honor to serve as their Keynote speaker.

If you are interested in exploring issues of consciousness with a group of very smart, kind interdisciplinary thinkers who look at wild topics with both rigor and open-minded humor, SAC may be the group for you.

The interview they spoke of follows below. I’m posting it here for the first time on my own blog (what a concept!) Perhaps you’ll like it too.

Source: SAC in 2016

 

student loan saga February 2, 2016

student loan feeling seal

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It’s done.

I just lovingly placed every paper related to my student loans in the recycling bin.  They are paid off.

It only took me 14 years. (:-0)   My hair is white, just like the jokes say, but by George, they are paid off. The balance due, once over $45,000 USD, is now zero. I sit in a bit of stunned silence. I now have no debt whatsoever. I am free.

This is a bit of a surprise, I’ll admit. When I graduated, I joked they could sell my body parts when I die to finally pay them off.

Thinking about how many of you folks are in the same boat, I decided to write this. Perhaps you will benefit from hearing some of the small strategies that helped get me here.

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My Student Loan Strategies

  •  While still in school, spend time and energy seeking out other sources of money too. My loans, while huge to me, were not as enormous as they might have been because I also went for every fellowship, scholarship, and the like that I could.  The best one was the California Graduate Student Fellowship. When I entered grad school, I took the time to fill out the mountainous forms very carefully. It took days to hunt up all the data they wanted. And then I waited. When the envelope came, I was very excited… until I opened it and found I’d been rejected. This was a major blow. I scraped up my last savings and took my first loan, and attended school anyway, scared of the debt I was accruing. That fear did impact my joy in my studies. The next year, I halfheartedly filled out the form again with mostly repeat data and sent it off. To my surprise, this time I got the fellowship. Thousands of dollars, repeated for four years.

  The message here is: stick with it. Apply more than once. Fellowship boards apparently value tenacity. Repeat applications show that we really want what they are offering. In fact, speaking from hindsight, it seems to me that tenacity is one of the major gifts of attaining a higher degree. A Ph.D. in hand proves that its bearer can finish something, even when the process grows teeth-grittingly frustrating and tedious and all you want is to bail; to go to movies and read bad science-fiction novels and have a life again. You stuck with it. Stick with the application for money process, too. It’s worth it.

Different scholarships and fellowships skew for various criteria. Some are place-based (for, say, residents of a particular US state). Some are diversity-based, with desire to support people of certain demographics such as immigrant ethnicities or a populace that they view as under-represented in higher education. The American Assn of University Women (AAUW) likes to support young women going into STEM fields and older women returning to school after a break for child-rearing or other work. One reason I think the Cal Grad people chose me is that I am the first person in my family to go to college. Be sure to apply for the ones whose criteria relate specifically to you: the odds are better, since the pool of applicants will be smaller.

  • Pay the loan principle off as fast as you can.  I  noticed that when I paid what I thought I could afford from my modest wages, the actual amount of the debt never went down. In fact, it was still going up. How maddening!!  I felt like Sisyphus, doomed to eternally labor for the bank’s benefit, never to gain my own freedom. This wouldn’t do.

  My way out was to ALWAYS pay more on the principle than on the interest. It takes a bit of calculation to figure out the number, but it’s worth the effort. Even $10 per month adds up on your side of the ledger, thereby reducing the interest that accrues – in geometric proportion. When I sold my car in order to take a nomadic job where I wouldn’t need it or have a place to store it, the money went directly to the principle on those loans. Do stuff like that.

Incremental additions directly applied to the principle pay off. I never paid huge amounts each month, never more than I could afford, and yet now the loan is GONE!!!

It’s a good idea to consult with a representative of the loan company to determine how much extra principle to pay each month in order to get that amount down, based on your own means and comfort level. This can be complex to figure out on your own, as their calculations of interest vary from day to day.

  • Keep your honor. I’ve heard some students and grads say that they never intend to pay their student loans off. Bailing on the loan was never an option in my mind. My family is big on honor, and given the vagaries of economic status and other aspects of life, I figure that integrity is all I’ve ultimately got. Really.  I was given the option to accept the loan, which allowed me to gain a wonderful education. Surprisingly, this then led to interesting jobs that I would never have otherwise gotten to do. I owe the money and there was no question that I’d keep paying it back – if only so I could sleep at night. Again, I knew it might take so long that they’d have to take the last bits out of my dead hide, but I was determined to continually do my best to hold to the responsibility I accepted. If you take loans or gifts of any sort, please treat the exchange with honor. 
  • If you have to, take a Forbearance. This allows you time to not pay on that loan for awhile when your financial situation gets rough. In 2009, I not only lost my job, I lost my entire workplace. Three college campuses were brought down in flames by the institution’s disastrous leadership. And that was right when the “Great Recession” hit the USA, so no new jobs were to be had either. It took two years before I found another full-time position that paid enough to not be scrounging for food (see a fun post on that) and running down my savings just to avoid becoming homeless, let alone pay off this loan. The Forbearance allowed me to stay in good graces with the loan company while keeping my money in my pocket. Keeping good status in their eyes is important if you ever want another opportunity to borrow big money, such as buying a home.

 Requesting Forbearance status means you are being brave and upfront about your situation (see “honor” rant above) so the loan company understands what’s going on. It signals to them that you are not just taking advantage of them by casually skipping town; you are a responsible person who still intends to pay eventually, and right now you’re doing the best that you can. While this plan elevates your status in their eyes, this plan is still not ideal, as the interest on your loan continues to accrue. 

  • Work at the same time you’re going to school in order to keep your loan amount down.  It’s good to have some money coming in from other sources.

…But don’t do what I did. At one point, while attending grad school full time, I had six (SIX!!) jobs. They were all part-time, but still. That was too much. My body finally gave out and I got sick. Extremely sick. So sick that I had to drop out of not only school, but work, and life itself for a year and a half. I was literally broken. This is actually why my student loans wound up being so high: because I couldn’t work, I took out even more loans to pay off the high-interest Visa bills I’d run up for my rent, food, and health care costs. Ugh.

Take care of your health and sanity first and foremost. Hold to certain boundaries regarding workload. You’ll need those habits even more if you become a college professor.

  • Some might say that the best strategy is to not take any loans in the first place. If you can pull that off, I agree. It was pounded into my head from a young age to never go into debt: “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it.” But three big purchases don’t fit within that category, simply due to constraints of time: a house (who has the kind of money to pay full cash upfront?), health concerns (if you wait, there may not be a you left…), and education that you’d like to gain and apply now. These are investments in a stronger, happier future. That said, it’s still good to invest wisely: don’t get in way over your head. Don’t buy a McMansion if you can’t afford the payments and taxes. I took seven years to complete my B.A. degree in order to avoid taking any loans. But I decided it was worth it to take loans on my Ph.D.
  • There are some ways to get forgiveness of part of the loan.  Check out the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. It’s meant to encourage newly minted college grads to take public service jobs like government or nonprofit work, recognizing that tons of loan debt may turn grads off from taking lesser-paying but otherwise satisfying positions in the service industries.

I applied for the smaller but similar California GradAPLE after completion, a program for new grads willing to serve full-time as a college teacher in certain settings for three consecutive years. Applying involved another terrible series of California state forms, with updates for each year. But once attained, it allowed forgiveness of $2000 of that student loan debt skimmed right off the top. So the hourly wage worked out well.

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student-loan-ancients toast

Larger Societal Concerns

Now, all of this said, I know well that I’m not yet addressing the larger societal concerns that underlie the existence of these large student loans in the first place.

Contrast my experience with that of my then-sweetie when we were in grad school. He is a Swiss national. Once he passed a battery of tests proving his ability and desire, he received education clear through to the Ph.D. that not only was free, but he was paid a living wage to do it. He did not need to take six menial jobs in order to survive while studying. He could focus on his studies and thereby really get good at his field (which was theoretical astrophysics. As you might imagine, extended time to focus just on that was useful.)

The fact that most American scholars have to take out what amounts to a mortgage on our brains in order to gain higher education, particularly at the B.A. level, is appalling. It’s a national race to the bottom. Given the questionable economy and job market, fewer and fewer people are going to be willing to gain a liberal education under those conditions – and with good reason, given the squirrely economy and questionable job market. That trend is a detriment to us all.

Increasingly, students are being viewed as consumers rather than scholars or learners. The sort of education that is seen of most value focuses on technique: electrical engineering; MBAs. Don’t get me wrong. Technical training is a great thing. But it should not be the only education we value and seek. And tech edu should also have a component that builds human beings’ capacity for a better life, not just a bigger wallet.

Education should not be solely tied to current potential jobs.  We need a populace who is trained to THINK; to question, to seek meaning, not only to be good cogs in an existing economic structure. A liberal education is worth getting. It makes for a happier, fuller, more examined life. It gives you a fuller perspective on whatever is happening around and within you. And it remains yours forever.

The current constant-growth capitalistic structure will dramatically shift within the next thirty years anyway, because it’s not sustainable. Constant growth is the ideology of the cancer cell, not of a thriving living being or system. If American standards of consumption were to be exported everywhere at the current rate (as is increasingly happening), Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute conservatively estimated that it would take at least 1.5 earths to provide the raw environmental resources alone. So the indefinite continuance of “business as usual” is obviously not going to happen.  This means the available jobs will also change. There’s no guarantee that a job you train for today will even exist in ten years. Many of the top-paying jobs today, such as those in the tech industry, didn’t even exist in imagination thirty years ago. That field was pie-in-the-sky nerdville when I was a teen. So choosing a field of education based solely on current perception of its earning power may not ultimately pan out.

The consequences of making higher ed prohibitively expensive is that fewer and fewer American people are getting the kind of liberal education that helps one to make sense of life and to enjoy living it to the fullest.

It also means that fewer will gain the critical thinking skills that allow us to begin to understand whole systems and how to effect some change within them.

I suppose some politicians like this idea of keeping the majority uneducated in how to really think, because it means the people across the country will be more easily malleable and swayed, making their own personal wealth agendas easier to push forward. When reading the news, it’s always worth asking, who stands to gain from this situation? 

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Concluding Remarks

Anyway. While we have the situation we have, I applaud those of you who decide to educate yourself despite the hardship. Whether you do it via traditional schooling or by investigating on your own, the time and energy is worth it.

Education is one investment that can never be taken from you by others. 

And I hope that the small strategies I offer here for getting out from under student loan debt help you out as they helped me.

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What my students learned this semester December 6, 2015

Unknown

Start paying attention

The difference between me and you (or anything, for that matter)

is the thought that creates that reality.

 

I need to be radical in my love, my thoughts, my actions, my acceptance and surrender – to get to the root,

the seat of life and growth, which is the seat of quintessence.

That’s where i want to be.

 

[What I’ve learned has been] both extremely helpful and devastating:

How unconscious most humans are, but that it can change!

I uncovered some of my own self-defenses that keep me from action.

The application of psychoanalytical theories to understand the great complexity of our environmental situation.

I developed more clarity and compassion, for myself and others

Context for the madness

A lot less anger

At once, I feel the urgency to act and the need to be patient and not act forcefully

To learn to live with and through the earth, not just on her

Gratitude that I owe to my family

 

Humans’ connection with nature

A sense of oneness

Enmeshment within the natural world

Being an integral part of the macro interdependent-system that feels itself, knows itself, and heals itself

Ecological identity

This has forever changed my life

 

I look at all that is around me a little differently now.

Knowing it is all of the earth, and perhaps more importantly that it will go back to the earth, changes the way I operate in my days.

 

This sense was deepened and became more embodied

An exchange in breath: as the plant was breathing out, I was breathing in

Increase my awareness and widen my perception

Eventually feeling the reciprocal awareness of nature

How incredible these realizations have been for me.

 

Awakening has been the most beautiful process I’ve ever endured.

Thank you Earth!

Healing source

Never ending story

 

These are the truths that have become my mantras from being absorbed in ecopsychological concepts.

These are incredible supports that I rely on when feeling distressed, confused, and at times, hopeless.

 

I will continue to live mindfully in respect to nature.

Being conscious about what I purchase, what I waste, how and what I eat etc.

“No matter how big you get, don’t forget to take out your own trash.”

 

So grateful to walk this path with you

and share what I can with whoever will listen.

A challenging(!), engaging, deepening, fulfilling and respectful round of studies

I’m so grateful to be receiving wisdom

Like candy for my soul.

 

I bow out to a transformative journey

I and the moon bow in thanks

Your wisdom and beautiful hearts

 

Just bloom.

 

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These words are from first-year students’ final self-reflections on their learning in my Ecopsychology class, part of Naropa University’s M.A. program in Ecopsychology, early December 2015

collated into a poem by professor Tina Fields

I composed this as a gift back to them, a lens on what happens in this program, and a reflection for teachers to turn to when times at work get rough. To help us remember that what we do matters.

Students whose words are in here: Katie Poinier, Thompson Bishop, Melanie Gajewski, Colleen Kirkpatrick,  Karen Delahunty, Lauren Mangion, Anne Gordon, Sierra Robinson, Erika Dearen, Bekah Turner, Tessa Stuart and Jakob Ledbetter.

I am extraordinarily fortunate as a teacher, so often getting to feel awe at the depth of my students’ thoughtful engagement with their learning, their passionate desire to care for the planet, and most of all, their souls.

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