“You are like you are, because you tell yourself that you are that way.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Thank you Ramona, Attila, Raluca and Derek for Nyeleni

n

It doesn’t seem like I’ll be writing in depth about my experience at the Nyeleni Europe conference. I have much to say, but I am not motivated to say it … and this post from another participant does a good job of touching on some (not all) of the subjects that resonated inside me.

However, one thing has persisted in me … and I do want to express my gratitude to Ramona, Attila, Raluca and Derek and the interns of EcoRuralis who together with the volunteers that surrounded them made it possible for me to partake in and witness such an event. This was possible for me because 1) the event was held here in Cluj (I would not have travelled for it) and 2) they invited me to be part of the Romanian delegation.

I do not consider myself an activist and I am always grateful for the inclusiveness and embrace I feel from the EcoRuralis team, both personally and in the context of Cutia Taranului. This feeling was with me from first meeting them almost 6 years ago (by randomly walking into their office) and was amplified against the backdrop of the Nyeleni conference. The voice of Nyeleni, as it manifested in this conference, was one of extreme, loud and painfully aggressive activism. It made me appreciate the qualities of moderation, reason and humility of the EcoRuralis team. Encountering them personally during the event created small islands of sanity.

Given that I live in semi-retreat, for me the event was a precious opportunity to witness what activism in Europe looks like (at least around food sovereignity). It was inspiring to see so many people come together around a shared interest, especially given the efforts that I imagine went into everyone converging on Cluj together. It was inspiring to know that this subject is in the consciousness of so many people across Europe (and beyond). It was impressive to realize the large populace that was represented in this forum … given that almost every person present at the conference represented anywhere from tens to thousands (and more!?) of people in their repective countries and communities. It was impressive to sense how a basic need like food can cut through cultural differences and become a shared and uniting thread.

It was also impressive (though in a different tone) to see the ease with which failed constructs in our current governing structures are subtly replicated in activist circles that want to introduce change. I feel we have much to learn and practice in coming and being together before we can take on complicated subjects such as food sovereignity. I do not feel “we” have earned the right to use that word “we” as obviously as some may want to. To make this point more concrete I want to give this small, recent and concrete example.

In the weeks following the event we were contacted by the Crisan family who have since joined Cutia Taranului with a special (sold out) Christmas box and a few variants of meat boxes that will start to be delivered in January. Their farm has been shrinking and collapsing (and they’ve had to take on office jobs for income) because they haven’t been able to market their produce … hopefully that will change now. Both we as Cutia Taranului (who are looking for local producers to bring to market) and the Crisan family (a producer that was looking to find a market) are members of EcoRuralis and yet we did not find each other and connect.

If we did not connect and come together when we were so near and so relevant to each other within a clear and shared context, how can we expect to collaborate on larger (national, European, or international) scales? I do not say this with a sense of blame. I offer it as a sobering observation (firstly to myself), a reality check to what I felt was an illusory sense of community that was conjured up at Nyeleni. I recognize and appreciate that we want to be community, but a group of people shouting demands together with fists in the air does not create community (its sad and scary).

YET … the fact that I was able to travel to the city for 5 consecutive days and be around more then 500 other people was a good sign. It told me that beneath the superficial manifestations lay something potent and valuable. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been there and to have witnessed it. Now, on with connecting producers and eaters … and hopefully a warm winter next to the rocket stove 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in AltEco, Community, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Government as a Platform

n

This may seem slightly off-topic, but for me there is some valuable cross-over of ideas and domains that do relate to Oameni.

This is a presentation by Tom Loosemore about his work in the UK Government Digital Strategy during the 2015 Code for America summit. In it he describes an architectural view of a government that harnesses digital technology.

My main reflection during and after it was:

  1. Can something like this be built from the groundup – grassroots style. Given that governments are not likely to get there very soon, is this not something that civil society can create for itself and then provide to the government as a tool of governance?
  2. Can something like this be built with a view that goes beyond the national … I’m thinking as a planetary platform?
  3. Can something like this be built as open-source packages that can be instantiated many times in many countries / contexts? After all if something like this is good for one country or city, then it must be good for other countries / cities. Can we, as a species, be smart and efficient about how we go about creating this? Can “creating a government infrastructure” strive to be as simple as creating a WordPress site?

Some thoughts I wanted to capture from this presentation:

“New public infrastructure requires new public institutions.”

The guidelines within which this vision was developed:

“The public has expectations:

  1. Services so good they were previously unimaginable.
  2. Services which work first time in real time.
  3. New services set up in weeks, and run at fraction of today’s cost.
  4. Ministers can see if their policy is working as intended within days or weeks, not decades.
  5. Those on the front line can focus their effort on supporting those who need help the most.
  6. Fraud to be “designed out”; Security to be “baked in”; Defences against both evolve to meet emerging threats.
  7. Services to be highly responsive to feedback from their users.
  8. Accountability should be crystal clear & people able to give instant democractic feedback.
  9. Services should only use “just enough” personal data; The citizen should be in control of how and when their data is accessed.
  10. Open public data is canonical, infrastructural, and immutable; Services use open standards and create open standards.
  11. Services should gracefully span local, central and devolved governments … provided the user consents.
  12. Policies and rules that are visible as code, and you can validate them as a citizen.
  13. Everything is available through an API for 3rd party use … provided the user grants permission, and it’s secure.”

And this architectural view which is explained in the presentations:

governmentasplatform

Also worth checking out these Design Principles

Keep tabs on Richard Pope and James Stewart

Posted in AltEco, Business, Community, Design, Open Source, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Back to Her Man

n

Damien Rice homage to Leonard Cohen

 

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

The American Dream!?

n

This powerful piece about the Unnecessariat describing an out-of-view America and explaining how Trump happened. I was surprised, given that I come from a different background and reality to find that I resonated with this part:

“To know that nothing more is expected of you, or your children, or of your children’s children, than to fade away quietly”

I have written before about how, during my last years living in Israel, the conversation about lack of money in my life transformed into a lack of relevancy. I became more concerned with not being relevant or needed in my society, then about not being able to extract money from it. I came to Romania to create space between myself and that question … to gain perspective. I found some relevancy here … it is both precious and fragile.

“… The number of overdoses in 2014? 47,055 of which at least 29,467 are attributable to opiates … families are being “hollowed out” with elders raising grandchildren, the intervening generation lost before their time … neighborhoods are collapsing into the demands of dying, or of caring for the dying.

Suicide is up as well. The two go together: some people commit suicide by overdose, and conversely addiction is a miserable experience that leads many addicts to end it rather than continue to be the people they recognize they’ve become to family and friends … Both suicide and addiction speak to a larger question of despair. Despair, loneliness, and a search, either temporarily or permanently, for a way out.

… Its no secret that I live right smack in the middle of all this, in the rusted-out part of the American midwest. My county is on both maps: rural, broke, disconsolated. Before it was heroin it was oxycontin, and before it was oxycontin it was meth. Death, and overdose death in particular, are how things go here.

And yet this isn’t seen as a crisis, except by statisticians and public health workers.

… In 2011, economist Guy Standing coined the term “precariat” to refer to workers whose jobs were insecure, underpaid, and mobile … The term found favor in the Occupy movement, and was colloquially expanded to include … unpaid interns, adjunct faculty, etc. Looking back from 2016, one pertinent characteristic seems obvious: no matter how tenuous, the precariat had jobs. The new dying Americans, the ones killing themselves on purpose or with drugs, don’t. Don’t, won’t, and know it.

… Here’s the thing: from where I live, the world has drifted away. We aren’t precarious, we’re unnecessary.

… Utopians on the coasts occasionally feel obliged to dream up some scheme whereby the unnecessariat become useful again, but its crap and nobody ever holds them to it … what if Sanders (or your political savior of choice) had won? Would that fix the Ohio river valley? Would it bring back Youngstown Sheet and Tube, or something comparable that could pay off a mortgage? Would it end the drug game in Appalachia, New England, and the Great Plains? Would it call back the economic viability of small farms in Illinois, of ranching in Oklahoma and Kansas? Would it make a hardware store viable again in Iowa, or a bookstore in Nevada? Who even bothers to pretend anymore?

Well, I suppose you might. You’re probably reading this thinking: “I wouldn’t live like that.” Maybe you’re thinking “I wouldn’t overdose” or “I wouldn’t try heroin,” … This isn’t the first time someone’s felt this way about the dying. In fact, many of the unnecessariat agree with you and blame themselves- that’s why they’re shooting drugs and not dynamiting the Google Barge … You’ll get there too.

If I still don’t have your attention, consider this: county by county, where life expectancy is dropping survivors are voting for Trump.

What does it mean, to see the world’s narrative retreat into the distance? To know that nothing more is expected of you, or your children, or of your children’s children, than to fade away quietly and let some other heroes take their place? One thing it means is: if someone says something about it publicly, you’re sure as hell going to perk up and listen.”

via Sam Muirhead

 

Posted in AltEco, Business, Intake, Intellect Run Amok, Money, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Practice Reflection – Fall 2016

n

This reflection is long overdue … but my writing motivation is still low and my ability to do so fragile … I hope I can recall some of the subtleties that appeared along the way.

Relationship with Practice

My allergy period this year ended somewhere around mid-July. It lasted slightly less then two months. It was overall easier, but I don’t feel it was due to internal circumstances. I do feel that is mostly due to numerous early frosts that destroyed much of the spring flowers which resulted in less pollen in the air.

I tried, during the allergy period, to stay in touch with practice but it was a futile attempt. With breathing at the heart of practice and my breathing severely compromised practice is difficult to access. Attempting to stay with it formed an additional layer of aggravation due to the instability of practice itself. Letting practice go was a practical decision, not a deeply conscious one.

However at one point I realized that I lost not just the practice but also the wanting to practice. That brought with it a subtle anxiety. One of the things I experienced in the period of practice prior to the allergy period was that the practice was somehow embracing, holding me. I had a very stable period of practice that came with little effort. Now that was gone, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t come back. My fear was “confirmed” when my allergy got slightly better and I tried to get on the mat (maybe too soon) and again met heaviness, friction and instability. Once I WAS able to practice, I, to my surprise and relief, fell quickly back into the embrace of practice.

Breath First

When I resumed practice I resumed the same practice I was doing before the allergy period … and physically it was fine. But when it came to my pranayama, I was exhausted and could not tap into my breathing capacity.

So I started an experiment, that to some extent, is still ongoing. I starting tuning my practice into a more cikitsa version. It took a few days of transformations .. and with every transformation (reduction and softening) in the asana sequence I found a growing space for re-inhabiting my breath. Over a few days the breath developed: just ujjayi breathing allowing the breath to expand, re-introducing holds, resuming pratiloma with less holds and less repeats and within a few days I was back to my full pratiloma practice.

Over the first month of steady practice I got reestablished in the breath and gradually re-introduced modifications that brought me closer to my full asana practice. At that point I started to feel a sense of vitality again. I experienced a feeling of lightness in my practice. I distinctly recall the feeling of coming up from various forward bends with a sense of a strong center and a lighter body … as if I was lifting up less weight … a lighter version of me.

Energy and Core

At least a couple of times during this period where I had a distinct experiences of energy in my core (abdominal area) as a foundation for … well … almost everything I am and do with my body.

A prominent experience was while working on the earthbag cellar. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out (I was in a healing cycle), but the weather was nice and I wanted to give it a try. I attempted to lift something (with some substantial weight, bot not too heavy, and not something I hadn’t lifted many times before) … and it required much more effort than usual.

As I observed this and a some following movements I realized that I felt weak in my center. I wasn’t able to activate my abdominal muscles. I didn’t have a feeling of grounded center from which I could move, extend or leverage. I rely mostly on my center for strength and stability, I am not a very athletic or physically large or strong. With the center gone, I had to rely on my peripheral muscles … and that gets tiring fast. And even though I can get away with it for a while, the quality of movement is lesser … less precise, less reliable, less stable, less enjoyable. Within a couple of minutes I realized, acknowledged and communicated that I was not up for working.

The initial experience of lack of core energy became a fascinating reference point for experiencing its recovery. I could witness, almost every day, a slight improvement. It is in everything … in standing and walking … in a sense of stability … vitality. I witnessed life and strength return to my abdominal area. The change was so drastic that it was clearly not a biological change. I don’t think it was (is)possible for me lose or gain muscle mass or flexibility in such a short period of time. It felt much more like an energetic shift.

It was refreshing and empowering to go back out after a few days and feel … centered and vital again. Losing it was an invaluable experience to appreciating it.

Life Again (… and again)

I have taken up this post after another few weeks of delay since I wrote the initial part … and that is the essence of “life again”. This has not been a period of “life throws things at me” but rather me inviting things into my life. The overall experience has been a sense of depletion. But not deep depletion. Rather cycles of depletion during which I take something in and incorporating it, digesting it, consumes enough of my energy to leave me in a disturbed state. A state I felt a need to recover from … sometimes with clear physical signs of illness, sometimes with only subtle physical signs, sometimes with an emotional fuzziness … in all cases reduced clarity.

I am now exiting a period of sickness . Together with the intensive 5 day event (Nyeleni) which I attended, that may become another three week period without on-the-mat practice. Though my energy may support a soft practice, my breathing (blocked, broken and limited) does not leave me space for an engaging practice. Attempting to practice in this way creates more friction then flow.

I am also heading (hopefully!) into a period with few distractions. I feel a turning inwards as winter sets in. Starting to settle into a raily routine with more time indoors, regular lighting and feeding of the stoves. I am looking forward to reconnecting with a regular and inward moving practice.

 

 

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment